I’ll Do It Later…Whenever That Is

I have a lot of positive intentions pop into my head throughout the day.  One that I often get is that I should send a hand-written card to someone I happen to be thinking of.  (In the middle of all the technology around us, I still like sending hand-written cards.  Who’d have thought that going “old school” would make you stand out in the Internet age!)  My problem is that I often tell myself I’ll do that later.  All too often, however, “later” never comes.

This week I had the same thought pop into my head regrading someone I though could use an encouraging note.  Only this time, instead of saying I’ll do it later, I took a different approach.

I went to the closet and got out a card and envelop and put it on my desk where I work every day.  Then, I determined that I would get the card written during lunch and placed in the mail that same day.  And you know what?   IT WORKED!  I got the card written and sent!  Who’d have thought!

Sometimes our biggest barrier to following through on our intentions, is that we lack a plan, no matter how simple, to make it happen.  For me, the simple act of getting the card out and naming a time to write in it was all I needed to ensure I followed through on my intention.

The next time your mind offers up a good intention that will bless someone else, don’t just assume you’ll do it later.  Put together a quick, simple plan that will ensure you turn that intention into completed action.

The person you’re blessing will be grateful you had a plan.

Staying Sharp

I saw a job posting for a similar position to what I currently hold.  No, I’m not looking for a change!  I love what I do and where I do it, so I’m staying put.  However, the required skills section of the posting did capture my attention. 

As I looked at the requirements, I noticed there were a couple of topics that I would benefit from learning more about.  In addition, I got a glimpse into what skills other organizations deem valuable in my chosen career field.  It also caused me to add a couple more items to add to my “skills to learn” list.

I think it’s good to sharpen our knowledge of the techniques and technologies in our chosen careers…

so that our skills don’t become stale or dated …

so that we can skillfully apply our skills to the work that we do…

so that we can help our organizations fulfill their missions.

Staying sharp in our careers isn’t just good for us, it’s also good for those we serve.  Plus, it’s more rewarding when we’ve got an intellectual toolbox full of well-sharpened skills that we can draw from in order to solve the problems we encounter.

Thoroughbreds

I’m blown away of the power of our brains and all the good use we can put them to.  What’s even more impressive (aside from the fact that each one of us owns one of these wonderful things free and clear!) is how our brains are constantly running.  I liken our brains to a race horse that wants to run.  Similarly, our brains need to be trained to run where we want them to run, versus just letting them run wild in any they’d like.

Can you imagine the owner of a highly valued thoroughbred race horse allowing the magnificent creature to run through any rocky pasture, hillside, or street it wanted?  That would be a horrific use of such a valuable investment.  Instead, such a horse’s diet, training, facilities, and environment are all conducive top performance, because that is how you treat a thoroughbred.

I think our brains should also be treated as the thoroughbreds that they are, or that they can become.  We should give them the proper care and training that they are worthy of, in order for them to perform for us at the high level they are capable of. 

So, how do we train our minds so they perform like thoroughbreds?  The following items are good places to start: 

  • Monitor the content we’re allowing into our minds to ensure its productive and positive. 
  • Take our negative thoughts (toward ourselves or others) and quickly redirect them toward a more productive line of thinking.
  • Expose our brains to new ideas through books, classes, podcasts, computer-based training, or conversations with others.
  • Continue to apply our brains toward learning new skills we’d like to acquire.
  • Use them to solve problems and come up with solutions and idea.
  • Engage your brain daily.

What a blessing to be in possession of such a creation!  May we treat them (and train them) like the valuable thoroughbreds that they are.

Slowing Down

I’ve been working on learning to play the electric bass part of the song Far Cry from the band Rush recently.  It’s a quick tempo song with some cool rhythmic elements that I think sound really cool.  One thing that became painfully obvious when I started learning to play the song was that I would have to slow the tempo way down, if I have any hopes of mastering it.

When I stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense.  I can’t look at a challenging song and play it perfectly at the same tempo on my first attempt.  There are note progressions, fingering, and rhythms that all need to be discerned and practiced at a slower pace in order to gain an understanding of how they all fit together within the song.  Once those elements are understood individually, I can then integrate them together as I begin to play parts of the song.  Albeit still at a slower tempo.

This slowness feels clunky and awkward.  What I really want to do is pick up the bass and play the tune like a pro on the first or second attempt.  However, that’s not the way mastery of a topic works.  Mastery requires that we start out slow as we begin the work of obtaining knowledge and understanding.  From there we can begin to apply this knowledge and steadily increase our pace. 

Here is where I think most people give up pursing a goal.  They see the talent in a musician, athlete, or some other person that has slowed down and put in the time to achieve mastery and think that this person must have been “born with it” or is “gifted”.  In fact, what they are seeing is this person’s reward for having slowed down and spent the time in that slow and clunky stage. 

What’s lost on many of us is that we too can be considered “talented” or “gifted” if we’re willing to put in the required time in the slow and clunky stage.

What Does Action Look Like

In a recent team meeting at work, we were discussing an initiative our organization is undertaking to create an even stronger culture of inclusion, diversity, equity, and learning.  During the discussion someone asked the question, “What does action look like?”

I thought this was a good question because without specific actions to take to get where we want to go, as an organization or as individuals, all we really have are ideals or lofty aspirations.  It’s the intentional actions we take that will move us toward our aspirations becoming our reality.  Without action our aspirations remain just that… aspirations.

I was pleased to learn that our organization is currently in the process of defining what those specific actions look like.  With regard to our own personal goals and aspirations, we should all be asking ourselves what action looks like.

Planning Early

My wife and I are going to have some home improvement work done starting in May.  Nothing major, just carpet, floors and interior painting.  It’s going to be nice to have that all done, but what’s really proven helpful has been to start the planning process early.

We started planning this way back in February.  There have been several things to coordinate such as:

  • Getting on the schedules of the people that will be doing the work
  • Selecting colors, patterns, etc.
  • Ordering fixtures and materials
  • Arranging lodging for ourselves and our pets for the time we can’t be in the house
  • Packing things up that we’ll have to get out of the house
  • Saving up to pay cash for the improvements

Starting this project early allows us to manage it with significantly less stress than if we started later.  If we waited until the last minute to get started, we would have had a greater likelihood that contractors would already have full schedules, materials wouldn’t make it in time, or a number of other setbacks that could have been avoided if we just had more time.

If you have a project or task on your horizon, I’d suggest to start it early versus waiting until the last minute.  For the cost of your time (which you’ll have a lot more of early on) you can eliminate unnecessary stress and actually enjoy the process.

When It’s Time To Act

Earlier this week we bought a new washer and drier.  The repair man told us that the bearings on our old washer had gone out, and we’d be better off getting a new washer versus replacing this one.  Initially, we were thinking we’d hold off getting a replacement until May, which would align well with a home improvement project we have scheduled.  However, after the machine continued to get worse, we decided the best option would be to replace it now, on our own timeline.

My wife and I both agreed that as long as we kept using the rapidly deteriorating machine, we ran an ever-increasing risk of it failing in the middle of a load of wash.  I don’t know what your experience has been, but appliance failures never seem to occur at a convenient time, and they usually generate unneeded stress and inconvenience.  Especially if we knew in advance that a failure was imminent.

We decided that, since we knew we needed to replace the washer, we should do it on a timeframe that is convenient for us versus letting the machine dictate a less convenient timeframe via a massive failure.

I think there are a lot of things in life that we can address on our own timeframe, versus waiting for a failure to determine our timeframe for taking corrective action.  These things can range from appliance replacements to adopting a healthier lifestyle to maintaining relationships and beyond. 

Let’s be aware of the areas in our lives where we can take action to mitigate unnecessary risks and damage, versus waiting for things to blow up before they get our attention.  And when we become aware of these areas, let’s actually take the necessary action when it’s time to act.

On Your Timeline

Gyms in Oregon have been closed due to COVID-19 restrictions since sometime in November.  This has been disappointing because for years, I’ve been in the habit of going to the gym to exercise first thing every morning.  It’s a nice way to start my mornings and stets a positive tone for the rest of the day. 

Unfortunately, I hadn’t found a substitute for my morning gym routine, other than walking a few times a day.  However, with all the emotionally heavy events that occurred in the US in December and January, I knew that I had to come up with a solution.

Since I don’t have a bunch of weights and exercise equipment at home, I started looking for options that use your body weight as resistance.  Fortunately, there are plenty of possibilities, so I created an exercise plan and, starting this week, have been back in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning!  I’ve enjoyed being back in the habit, and know it will be a good alternative until the gyms finally reopen.

Although it took me long enough, I’m thankful I finally caused something to happen to get me back in an exercise routine, instead of sitting around waiting for someone ese to decide it’s time to reopen the gyms in Oregon.

If there’s something you want or need, don’t sit and wait for someone else to make it happen for you.  Decide what action YOU need to take to bring it about, and then take that action!

Why should we wait on someone else’s timeline when we can decide to create our own?

You Learn As You Go

I did it!  I potted and started pruning my first Bonsai tree.  Last week I wrote about how I finally caused something to happen to get me int Bonsai.  Now I’m learning that although I’ve discovered much about potting, pruning and shaping, there’s still a lot I don’t know, but that’s not keeping me from getting started.

After I got my juniper start, I was reading how to pot it and discovered that there is a lot written about the soil you should use.  Apparently, there are certain soil mixtures that work best for certain trees.  I found myself getting overwhelmed with what specific kinds of soil to use, where to get it, and whether I was making the right choice.  Ultimately, all these questions were keeping me getting the juniper potted.

Finally, after much reading, and little success finding the perfect soil mixture, I bought a plain old bag of Bonsai soil and got it potted.  Maybe the exact soil would have been a better choice, but for me, the more important point is to just get started and learn as I go.

My plan with learning Bonsai is to gather enough knowledge to take the next step… and then to take it.  I can always check my results and adjust my actions as I gain experience. 

I’m grateful we don’t have to have all the answers before we get started on a new endeavor.  For me, a lot of the fun comes from learning as I go.

A Lesson From A Blueberry Bush

This summer the blueberry bushes at my house have been going crazy! We have 3 young bushes and for the past several years they’ve been somewhat light in the production department.  This year, however, they seemed to have turned a corner and re producing more berries that we can keep up with.  It’s quite a change from years past when they produced only a couple of handfuls per season.

Fortunately, my wife and I were aware that it takes a time for the bushes to mature before they start yielding a large quantity. Therefore, we weren’t mad at the bushes in the early years.  We didn’t put the plants in the ground one day and expect a bumper crop the next.  We realize that it takes time

These bushes remind me that learning something new also involves a process that takes time.  We all know this.  Yet we often become frustrated with ourselves when we expect to be further along in the process after only a short time.  The best thing we can do when learning a new skill is to realize that it will take time… and to be ok with that.  We simply have to put in the effort over time and the results are sure to follow.

Here’s a fun thing you can do to observe the impacts of time on something you’re actively trying to learn.  Write yourself an email that will be sent to you one year from today.  In that email describe what you’re attempting to lean and the level of skill you currently possess.  When you read the email next year, you’ll likely be amazed at how far you’ve come.