Embrace Temporary Ignorance

“I don’t like learning new things” ~DMV employee

O Monday I was at the DMV getting my driver’s license renewed.  Before I left, my wife mentioned she heard on the news that the DMV would be working with a new computer system that launched the same day as my appointment.  This should be fun!

After I was called to the counter and told the DMV employee what I was there for, I asked how the new computer system was working.  She gave me a look that made me think things hadn’t been going well, so I let out an, “Oh no!”  Actually, she told me, things were going pretty well, largely due to all the training they had prior to launch.  She said she didn’t like not knowing all the answers to the computer-related questions her colleagues were asking.

That’s when she dropped the quote at the top of this post on me.  She mentioned she’d been doing her job for the last 22 years just fine and knew all the answers to all the questions and would rather not have to learn a new system and feel like she was starting all over again.

I get it.  When we learning something new, we have little experience and lots of ignorance.  It puts us out of our comfort zone, and that doesn’t always feel good.  For me, however, remaining intellectually stagnant, by not continuously learning new skills, is much more uncomfortable.

When learning something new causes me to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, I remind myself that I’ll only be uncomfortably ignorant for a relatively short time.  The discomfort of feeling ignorant will soon be replaced with confident competence.  It’s a cycle that should be familiar to life-long learners.

Don’t allow the discomfort of temporary ignorance to keep you intellectually stagnant.  Embrace the discomfort, knowing that your continued drive to learn the new skill will soon result in competence and the confidence that comes with it.

Making It Happen

For years, I had heard about the beautiful scenery at Waldo Lake in the Oregon Cascades.  I had never been there until Thursday, when wife and I finally decided to visit the lake and do some hiking.  It was a clear sunny day with temperatures in the mid-60s.  Perfect for hiking!  And with regard to the scenery, Waldo Lake did not disappoint.

Waldo Lake

There have been a lot of places I’ve heard about in the past that pique my interest and motivate me to want to visit them.  Waldo Lake reminded me that the only barrier that stands in the way of me actually visiting these places is my own lack of initiative to make it happen.

After visiting the lake, I wondered what took me so long to finally get up there, when the process to do so was so easy.  All I did to make that trip happen was to state to my wife, “Hey, let’s go hiking at Waldo Lake on Thursday.”  To which she replied, “That sounds good to me!”  Taking the initiative to pick a date was all I needed to do to make that happen.  How easy was that?! 

So often it seems like the barrier between us and an outcome we desire is simply deciding that were going to move toward that outcome.  And part of “deciding” includes setting a date and taking the actions to bring the desired outcome about.

Are there any places you’d like to go, things you’d like to do, or outcomes you’d like to see happen?  If so, check and see if possibly, the reason they haven’t happened yet it simply because you haven’t taken the initiative to make them happen.  If you find out that lack of initiative is the barrier, I’ve got good news!  You can squash that barrier by taking action to make it happen.

As my wife stated, “That sounds good to me!”

Thriving Amidst Constraints

Last Monday morning I was enjoying a beautiful sunny walk through the neighborhood before work when I noticed a plant growing out of the asphalt.  “Must be a weed” I thought to myself as I approached the spot in the road where the plant was growing.  I was shocked when I got close and observed that it was not a weed, but instead, a small, beautiful flowering plant!  Its purple and yellow petals a striking contrast against the charcoal colored asphalt.  It was a wonderfully unexpected surprise!

Tenacity

I love the tenacity of that little plant!  Not only the plant, but the seed from whence it came.  That seed was dropped in the least likely place for it to grow.  None the less, it literally took root and found a way to thrive within the environmental constraints it had been dropped into.  No greenhouse.  No potting soil.  Nothing more than an opportunity to succeed.

That plant was a great reminder to do my best with the opportunities I’m given.  Even when conditions might not seem optimal.

Breaking Through

I started playing the electric bass 3 years ago and I’ve really enjoyed the process of learning how chords are made and fit together with other chords to make bass lines and fills.  While I’ve enjoyed the learning process, I’ll also admit that I’d been frustrated by the slow pace at which improvement has come. However, I have to remind myself that consistent effort leads to breakthroughs, whereas quitting does not.

For the past 3 months I’ve been focusing on the pentatonic scale and how to use it with other scales.  What’s been frustrating is that I’ve been learning and practicing these concepts, but have been struggling to put them together in the context of a song.  I’ve practiced the chord shapes, but feel like I have a mental block when it comes to putting it all together.

However, tonight (Thursday) when I sat down to practice, I noticed that the concepts I’ve been learning had come together and I was actually using them in the context of a song!  It’s like my brain finally said, “Oh, I get it now.”  What a breakthrough!  And it’s all the result of consistent practice, even when the results were slow.

Is there something you’re struggling to learn or accomplish?  Are you not seeing the results you’d like as quickly as you ‘d like?  If so, I encourage you to stay diligent in your practice, even when it seems you’re not making headway.

There are 2 things I know for certain:

  1. If you keep at it, you’ll eventually have a breakthrough
  2. If you quit, you wont

Fill Your Own Mind

“The test of a person’s education is that he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind.” 

~ Jacques Barzun

There are so many voices today, clamoring to fill our minds with their thoughts, ideas, or opinions and repeat them as our own.  Since each one of us is blessed to have total ownership of our mind, we should be aware of what we’re letting into them.

We should actually use our minds and think critically regarding the formation of our ideas and opinions.  Our minds are like a garden that we should tend to with care.  We need to give attention to what we allow to take root, and root out anything that doesn’t help to produce the positive mind we’d like to cultivate.  Our minds are too valuable, too precious, to be treated as empty vessels just waiting to be filled with someone else thoughts.  Filling our minds is OUR job.

There’s a lot going on in the world today and a lot people eager to do our thinking for us, with regard to how you’re to respond, act, and think.  Let’s make sure that the opinions we have and the actions we take are the result of exercising the super computer between our ears, rather than sopping up what someone else pours inside.

A Quick Though On Sharing Yours

Whenever you’re in a large or small group, professional or volunteer, and the opportunity arises to share your thoughts and opinions, do so!

When we silence our own voice by withholding our thoughts, we willingly hand over the ability to make or influence a decisions to those who do share their thoughts.  We trade in our role as leaders and resign ourselves to passengers on a course someone will chart for us.

You have thoughts, insights, and ideas that could benefit those around you.  However, they benefit no one, if they remain solely in your head.

Even Though It Sucks

On Monday we took our 5 year old Siamese cat Chewy to the vet to be put to sleep.  He was suffering with the last stages of heart disease.  Chewy is the big one in the picture below.

Chewy

As my wife and I noticed Chewy getting worse we made 2 decisions:

  1. To love him well, all the way to the end
  2. To put him down before he was in pain or having trouble getting around

Chewy was a very lovable and affectionate cat, so the first decision was easy to follow through on.  For me, loving him well meant not only petting him and continuing to say nice things to him during his last days, it also meant being with him until his very last heart beat in the veterinarian’s office.  He brought me a tremendous amount of joy, so it was my privilege to usher him out with love.

Following through on the second decision sucked.  We could tell that Chewy’s time had come, but that didn’t make it any easier.  It was hard to scoop him up in my arms and take him to the vet, knowing that for him, it would be a one way trip.  Although we knew it was the right thing to do, it didn’t feel very good.

Letting him go beyond this point, because we didn’t want to do what was hard, would have been cruel to Chewy and would have gone against the first decision we made, which was to love him well to the end.

While we miss Chewy’s presence, we are grateful that we followed through with our decision regarding when to take him in.  Even though it sucked.

Energizing Places

Last Sunday my wife and I went up to Mary’s Peak, the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range.  It’s a great spot that affords commanding views of the Cascades, the Willamette Valley, and the Pacific Ocean.  The day we were there was sunny and beautiful, which made the scene all the more spectacular.

MarysPeak

When my wife and I were dating (multiple decades ago) we used to go up to Mary’s Peak often.  We’d go with friends to have a picnic and watch the sun set.  Those were great times resulting in fond memories.  We’d sit up there and talk about future events and discuss how much we enjoyed living in and exploring the Pacific Northwest.  The views from Mary’s peak always left me feeling energized and excited to be alive.

Our visit last week was no different. As we hiked the summit and sat around enjoying the view, I felt the same familiar excitement I did all those years ago, and still feel today.   It’s an excitement to get out and experience the world around me.  An excitement to travel, try new things, to do my best at work and in my personal pursuits, to be the best husband, family member, employee, friend, and Christian I can be.

Naturally scenic settings, especially on sunny days, have always caused me to feel that way.  There’s something in their beauty that makes me want to do and be my best.  I was glad to see that my excitement by and for these places hasn’t changed.

Are there places that energize and cause you to want to do an be your best?  I encourage you to revisit, or even discover the places or events that get you excited to be alive.  Because the world needs people who excited about doing and being their best.

A Holiday Reminder

By the time this blog is posted, Halloween will be over, leaving Thanksgiving and Christmas rapidly approaching.  As I think about where these 3 holidays fall on the calendar, it causes me to wonder if that wasn’t by design versus merely a coincidence.  It seem that Thanksgiving is strategically positioned.  Here’s what I mean…

On one side of Thanksgiving you have Halloween.  The focus of Halloween, as I remember from childhood, is to get as much candy as you can.  And based on the kidos that come to my door every year, it seems like that focus hasn’t changed.  On the other side of Thanksgiving there’s Christmas, which at least in the US, can have a strong focus toward consumption and accumulation.

Right in the middle of these potentially greedy holidays, we have Thanksgiving.  The focus of which (along with the great food!) is to take a moment and remember what we have to be thankful for.  While giving thanks and gratitude may not be as fun as eating candy and opening presents, I think Thanksgiving serves as an important check point.  Instead of letting our Halloween sugar high propel us directly into the frantic consumptive pace of the Christmas season, let’s use the Thanksgiving season as a time to tap the brakes a bit on consumption recognize all we have to be grateful for.

My guess is the blessings you currently possess are far greater than any present you’ll find under the tree this year.

God Does Good Work

This month my wife and I had our 25th wedding anniversary. Since we’re both big fans of the fall season, we decided to celebrate by going to New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) to see the leaves change colors. We had a great time being “leave peepers” and seeing all the spectacular colors and cool things in the area. I’m sure we’ll be back!

Birches

As I looked at all the magnificent scenery, I couldn’t help being overwhelmed by how creative God is. In addition to all the brilliant leaf colors, we saw everything from incredible landscapes to an amazing sunrise over the Atlantic (we’re from the west coast, so I’m used to seeing the sun set over the ocean). The natural beauty that surrounded us was a constant reminder of just how much detail and creative effort God has put into His creation. I was constantly being blown away.

Since we were on our anniversary, I couldn’t help but think that God put in that same creative effort when He created marriage (Gen 2:24). Just like a beautiful sunrise or brilliant fall colors, God created marriage to be something good, to be enjoyed by people who experience it. I for one am grateful for His creation of marriage and feel blessed to be able to experience it.