Archive for September, 2009

Checked for barnacles lately?

September 29, 2009

Recently I was on board a beautiful new boat with a friend.  While the boat looked absolutely stunning from everything I could see, the owner told me it was time to pull it out of the water and see what unwanted debris was hanging on under the surface.  As any boat enthusiast knows, this is about the time of year when owners pull their boats out of the water and check for those things that are not easily seen from the top.  Over time, various forms of debris accumulate on the hull.  Foreign particles and parasites attach themselves to the hull, hoping for a free ride, but creating increased resistance to the smooth flow of water and slowing down the boat itself.

boat

We all experience this process of build-up, sometimes in ways that are slow and difficult to detect.  Inaccurate beliefs, unhealthy assumptions, lack of faith, succumbing to criticisms and feeling defeated may cause us to slow down and limit our effectiveness.  We may even become numb to our original values, dreams and passions.  A job loss, financial pressure, low self-esteem and feeling stuck can literally feel like barnacles on our hull that drag us down or stop us from moving forward.

“He who cannot endure the bad, will not live to see the good.”  Jewish proverb

Maybe it’s time for you to strip the boat.  Put yourself in dry dock for a day or two and commit to removing all the debris that has accumulated on the hull of your life.  Take a fresh look at where you are and where you are going.  Hopefully you’ll uncover those old childlike dreams once again.  The vulnerability of stripping down to the hull may feel threatening, but it’s not as threatening as continuing to drag along through life with the weight of unfulfilled dreams and the baggage of misdirected activity. 

Business, relationship, financial and health failures often bring us to a point where we feel dead in the water.  And yet it is often in this forced cleansing process that we have the freshest opportunities for new, invigorating growth.  Embrace these times as opportunities for reflection, rest and meditation, confident that on the other side will be renewed strength. 

Is there an opportunity you think you may have missed due to barnacles on your hull?  How could you still capture that opportunity?

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Don’t drop that egg!

September 8, 2009

Yesterday while at the Nashville Zoo with my granddaughter, we watched as the zookeeper offered to let small children hold an ostrich egg.  These amazing eggs are approximately 24 times the size of a chicken egg and weigh about 3 pounds.  But rather than embracing a once-in-a-lifetime experience, almost without exception the parental caution was – “Now, don’t drop that egg.” 

Just what do you suppose was at the top of every little child’s mind as they carefully took that big egg into their arms?  Were they marveling at the size, wondering how long it would take to hatch, imagining using that egg as a volleyball, or basking in the educational enrichment of the moment?  No, I suspect that the thought foremost in their minds was – “If I drop this egg I’m in big trouble.”  I doubt that the teaching experience went much beyond the fear of dropping that egg.   

Fear masks our ability to see the positive.

On March 3rd, 1943 an air raid siren sounded in London.  The citizens of London knew they were at war with Germany and that a retaliation attack was possible.  But with nothing but the sound of the siren, panic and mass hysteria was the result.  1500 people tried to get down the steps of the Bethnal Green train station tunnel for protection.  One lady, carrying her small baby, tripped on the stairs and fell.  Within a few seconds 300 people were crushed into the tiny stairwell.  The chaos lasted less than 15 minutes, but 172 people were dead at the scene, with one more dying the next day. 

No German bombs fell that day.  The largest number killed by any single bomb in the entire war in England was 68.  The crush at Bethnal Green was the largest loss of civilian life in the UK in World War II.  But bombs didn’t kill those people – fear did.

If you’re focused on not dropping the egg you:

  • Will not try for the promotion now.  I’ll just hang on to what I have.
  • Will not start a business in this economy.  It’s too risky.
  • Will not buy a house.  If I ever get behind on payments the bank could foreclose.
  • Will never love deeply.  What if I’m not loved in return?
  • Will not give generously.  There’s no guarantee of return.
  • Will not dream richly.  I’ve got to be practical and realistic in these trying times.

Most people have never held an ostrich egg.  They base their experience on knowing chicken eggs are fragile and break with the tap of a spoon.  Most people don’t know that an ostrich egg has a thick shell that requires a hammer or drill to crack.  Their perception is that the “risk” is much greater than it actually is. 

Maybe the people holding you back have experienced too much pain, shortage and despair.  They may be watching too much news on TV.  They don’t know the thrill of living out your passion.  Don’t let their fear deprive you of completing your “bucket list.”  Go ahead, take that trip, write that book, open that ice cream shop or buy that little house you’ve been wanting.  And if you drop the egg, call 20 of your friends and enjoy an incredible omelet.

“Sitting” for ideas — here’s how

September 1, 2009

Henry Ford once said he didn’t want executives who had to work all the time.  He insisted that those who were always in a flurry of activity at their desks were not being the most productive.  He wanted people who would clear their desks, prop their feet up and dream some fresh dreams.  His philosophy was that only he who has the luxury of time can originate a creative thought.

Wow!  When’s the last time your boss told you to quit working and do more dreaming?  Unfortunately, our culture glamorizes being under time pressure.  Having too much to do with too little time is a badge of “success.”  Or is it?

This week I heard from a gentleman who has spent the last three years hiking and living in an isolated old farm house.  He said he had experienced the “perfect storm” – divorce, unfulfilling job, nasty boss and a 33 year dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  After three years of “sitting” his thinking is now clear, his energy is renewed, his anger is gone, his creativity has been revived and he is ready to map out the next season of his life. 

The Apostle Paul took long walks between cities, using the time to think and talk.  Even when shipwrecked, instead of calling in a helicopter to get him to his next gig, he simply used the unexpected time to create with his mind.  Andrew Carnegie would go into an empty room for hours at a time, not allowing any interruptions, as he was “sitting for ideas.”

Thomas Edison would go down to the water’s edge each morning, throw out his line – with no bait – and then watch the bobber for an hour until his thinking was ready for the day.  Without long walks, an hour here and there of bush hogging, tinkering with my cars, or playing with a grandchild, my writing to bring inspiration to others would very quickly be reduced to dry theories and lifeless words. 

If you are feeling stuck, your solution may not be in doing more, but in taking a break from the “busyness” of life.  Want to be more productive — try doing  less. Go “sit” somewhere for a while!”

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  —  Henry David Thoreau