July, 2010

Jul 10

Deeper or Higher?

I just started writing this blog entry today and I am already confused.  Now I’m sure this is not too surprising to those of you who have been strolling along with me on this blog journey for any length of time.

From the very first blog I have been referring to this blog adventure as a journey of out and up; out from behind the walls of our safe little world and up a mountain.

Now I am talking about digging a well.  Am I going up or down?

I think the reality of this dilemma is that to successfully go higher one must go deeper.

Principle I Believe: Higher and broader demands deeper

I believe this is true in all aspects of life – nature, personal, emotional, relational, business, families, organizations, etc.

Height and breadth needs depth for strength and stabilization.

An Example: (Alright stick with me; this may seem a bit boring at first but it does have relevance to both you and me.)

I happen to have the privilege to work with a lot of different kinds of companies.   One of the patterns I have seen is that many companies are very successful while they are small but struggle as they get bigger.  The first symptom of shallowness is the systems and organizational structure is inadequate to support the demands of the business.  This is a relatively simple (albeit painful) matter to solve.

If growth continues the new processes and systems can sustain the company for only a short while.

Now the heavy lifting takes place.  This is where the most difficult challenges occur and organizational character tested.  The bigger the company grows the greater the need for a defined corporate identity, clarity of organizational strategies, succinctness of priorities, simplicity of goals and commitment to values.  These are the roots that support the whole.

The big question is, so what?  What does that have to do with me?  Everything!

Think about it.  The greater the challenges in our lives the more critical it is to know who we are, what’s important, where we are going, and what we believe.

When things are going well in life we have no conscious sense of need to draw from anything beyond the moment.  But how stabile are we in the storms of life?  My guess is that most of us stand the tests of life pretty well.

But then there are times when we are shaken to the core.  It is in these times where we really learn who we are, what’s important, where we are going, and what we believe.  Not only does it tests our roots but strengthens out roots.

“The greater the complexity the simpler we need to be.”

Take off your walking shoes and put on your gloves.  It looks like we will be digging instead of walking for a few days.

See you bright and early Monday.

Jul 10

A Shallow Well Produces Little Water

Howdy, how are you doin’ today?  For a while I was doing terrific (the operative word is was).  But then it happened.

I was typing away on my blog.  My fingers were dancing across the keyboard barely keeping up with the deluge of thoughts.  Words were frantically flying out of me like at ten year old on a sugar high.

I had written several outstanding paragraphs.  I was feeling really good with myself… until.

Side Note: No, I didn’t accidently delete my writing (which I’ve done before).  I wish it were only that simple.  In fact I intentionally deleted what I wrote.

I hate to admit it but I realized that I was plagiarizing someone… myself.  Yep, the insights I was creating started to sound awfully familiar.  I reviewed some of my earlier blogs and to my chagrin everything I was writing had been posted before.

Wow, this slap to the head stopped me in my tracks.  Talk about loosing momentum.   I sat for a long time kinda dazed wondering if this meant that I was a shallow well with nothing more to offer.

Gee, six months of writing and I’m already tapped out.

Somewhere inside I do believe that I have more to say (the operative word is somewhere).  Ugh!  I think it may mean some hard work.  Don’t get me wrong; writing the blog to date hasn’t been that easy for me.  As I mentioned in my first blog, I am not a writer.  Words have to struggle to the surface for the fingers to type.

The hard work will be in digging the well a little deeper.

“The deeper the well the fresher and purer the water.”

So I have to spend the next couple of days before Thursday’s blog digging.

See you Thursday.

Jul 10

Big Arms and a Clear Head

Hi there.  Good to have you visit.

I learned something this week.  I learned that if you think you may be a writer; don’t read a book by an outstanding author.  Whoa, intimidating.

I am amazed at the art of words at the hand of a good writer.  It is one thing to create a picture using a myriad of adjectives and sentences.  It is quite another when a brilliant word artist pierces your mind with a vibrant image using a few simple words.

My first thoughts were a short lived comparison of the masterpiece I was reading and my feeble little blog.  “Jerry, you don’t want to go there.”

Now don’t go being all concerned about my damaged psyche or emotional condition.  All’s good.  But it has been interesting to discover what kind of stuff was dislodged and started tumbling around inside of me as a result of all this.  Especially being a person who tends to be pretty protective of what people think of me.

I was reminded that things that grab you by the throat and toss you around a bit won’t kill you but gets your attention and forces you to focus.  It quickly causes one to filter the clutter and grab hold of the center of the issue.

The fact that the author of the book I am reading is an outstanding writer says something about him and his talents, not about me.  I cannot be him and he cannot be me… and I think we are both happy.

“I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam!”

- Popeye

It’s a nice feeling knowing who you are.  That doesn’t mean we settle for being less than what we can be, but not be burdened by being something we weren’t intended to be.

It is amazing how much time and energy we spend in our lives trying to be something we’re not.  It is a great relief and joy to know who you are.  Just like Poyeye.

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So this blog journey I started in January is going well from my perspective.  I’m learning a lot and I continue to type away.

I may not be flowery or create great word pictures but I sure hope I make you think.

Oh, by the way, some of you may be wondering what I am reading.  It is the fiction Peace Like a River by Lief Enger.

A Review:

Leif Enger’s remarkable novel Peace Like a River quietly slipped into bookstores in September. Like the smart kid who sits at the back of the class and seldom speaks, it was very nearly overlooked during the brawling Franzen-Oprah hoopla. However, Peace Like a River is a book worthy of the loudest trumpet fanfare and showers of confetti available. Put this one right to the head of the class.

- Reviewed by David Abrams, January Magazine

Bye, see you Monday.

Jul 10

Fun or Fruit

In Thursday’s blog I talked about how easy it is to forget important things in our lives.  I’m not talking about important things with a small ”i” such as brushing your teeth, recycling and absolutely making sure you don’t miss the last episode of Survivor.

Oddly, it’s the little “i” things we don’t tend to forget.  They are part of our daily routine and are tangible in nature.  The big “I” things are more foundational and abstract.  The big “I” stuff are things such as our core values, our philosophy of life, life priorities and relationships.

Side Note: Although abstract in nature these are revealed in very tangible behaviors.  What’s on the inside comes out in the details of our lives.

I talked about having tangible symbols to remind us of the IMPORTANT things in our lives.  Taking care of the big “I” things strengthens us and breaths life into us because these are the roots of our being.

Just as large trees begin to slowly die when the roots are neglected we to begin to wither when our roots are left unattended.  Tending the roots must become part of our routine.  Activities must be built into our schedule to do things that feed and strengthen the roots.

There are two things that endanger the roots.  The first danger is the most heinous, frightening and common.  Neglect.  We destroy ourselves by neglect.  We are the culprits of our own demise.  We do this by the slow erosion and deterioration of our core by neglecting the disciplines of self care.

Side Note: Unfortunately there is another sad reality.  This to me is almost as scary and frankly just as sad as destroying one’s self.  It is the person who only does just enough tending of the ground to keep themselves functioning.  They function but never know the joy of bearing abundant fruit.

Joy is sacrificed on the alter of ease.

The other dangers are the attacks of things from the outside that invade and destroy.  I live in a small community that is known in our area for our magnificent trees.  The community takes pride in their trees and has in place an ongoing disciplined plan that actively nurtures and cares for them.

But we are having tree problems, not for lack of care but because we are under attack.  There is a very small innocent looking worm that is causing unbelievable carnage to Ash trees.  The Emerald Ash Borer has been on a rampage in our area of the country and these magnificent trees are in jeopardy.

This is in essence the same types of challenges we face in our lives.  There are small innocent looking things in this world that are our equivalent to the Emerald Ash Borer.

And the weird thing about it is that what may be something that endangers me may not be the thing that endangers you.  These are little things that penetrate the protective surface because we have allowed them to bore into our life.

I don’t know what your Emerald Ash Bore is but if you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know a couple of mine… worrying what people think and lack of self discipline.

So to be successful on this journey I must constantly nurture and feed my core and to guard against the small critters that want to destroy.

Honestly it takes work…  and I have a choice… to experience the joy of bearing more fruit or take it easy and wither away.

Humm, I choose JOY.

See you Thursday.

Jul 10

Forgetting Reminders

I don’t know about you but I forget things… important things.  I get caught up in the routine of life and some of the most important things tend to evaporate from consciousness.  I have not lost them in my heart, just in my head.

“The most important thing,

Is to keep the most important thing,

The most important thing.”

-         Stephen Covey

There are all kinds of important things that if not careful get lost in the side eddies of life not by intent but by default.  The really sad thing about it is that I have placed reminder objects around me to keep these important things front of mind.

But like anything else they become part of the landscape of my life and pretty soon they are lost as they blend into the surroundings.

What brought this topic to mind is that I noticed a nicely framed message that hangs on my office wall.  I hate to admit it but it has been hanging in my office for over ten years and I rarely look at it.

The sad thing is I put it there.  I wrote the message, printed it, and framed it to be a reminder of things I need to remember.  The message in the frame is a list of core philosophies of life for me to live by as I go about my day.

These are key points that I developed for me to help me become better at what I do.  These were not off-the-shelf messages but points that I knew were important.

Here is what I framed. (full disclosure again… uuugh!)

Challenges & Personal Learnings

Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them. Elisha told him, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.’”                    II Kings 13:18-19

Side Note: This scripture challenged me to be willing to push the limits and not set my expectations low.

  • Be Bold
  • Go against your tendencies
  • Don’t Do – “Just Enough”
  • Abandonment NOT Tentativeness
  • Do the best you can
  • There’s always time to do nice things
  • Be professional and gracious
  • Make it happen but don’t force
  • Above all – “BE FAITHFUL”

It’s humbling to look for the first time again at a framed message that has hung on my wall for over ten years .

These are important messages for me personally.   What have you forgotten that you need to remember?  Look around and I bet you’ll see something you need to be reminded of.

See you Monday.

Jul 10

Unsatisfied With My Satisfaction

Humm… I bet some of you are wondering about my title.  Me too as a matter of fact.  I am not totally sure what it means but there’s something there that rings true.

That’s what exploring is all about, following your instincts.  I have found for me that it is not good to follow stuff willie nillie.  But if I am open and sensitive, my “TRUTH” sensors are activated when there is something nearby of significance and meaning.

The key is learning to recognize the subtle signals of truth that have the ongoing challenge of piercing the noise of life to get our attention.

There is something about the title statement that is worth poking at.  We may find that there is nothing immediately to be discovered or we may uncover a real jewel hidden in the clutter.

Side Note: When searching for TRUTH no effort is in vain, even if you don’t discover anything at the moment.  I believe more and more that our heart and head collects meaningless stuff… meaningless in and of themselves.

I guess you could call it the plankton of the heart.  The ocean is full of microscopic plankton that seems insignificant in isolation but in essence form the foundation for ocean life.

Over time in our search, the details and clutter of thoughts and information feed larger ideas and concepts.  So let’s take a gulp of plankton and see what happens.

Unsatisfied With My Satisfaction

On the surface if sounds incongruent.  It is sort of like saying that I am unhappy with my happiness.  But exploring requires me to take it a part and examine the elements.

What is, to satisfy?  You can satisfy a hunger, craving, debt, question, requirement, objection, doubt, offense, etc.

Everyone wants to be satisfied and typically want to satisfy those individuals and things around us that need (not want) satisfying.

According to the dictionary it is a verb that means “to fulfill the desires, expectations, needs or demands; give full contentment to:  The hearty meal satisfied his hunger.”

But what is the Truth I need to take from this?  As I poke at this a couple of thoughts come to mind that may have implications for me.

Side Note: The Truths about this topic that jump out for me may not be things for you.  I in no way want to put any of my baggage on you.  I’m sure you have enough of your own.

A couple of points I believe I need to continually keep in mind.

  1. Not every point of dissatisfaction needs (nor should) to be satisfied.
  2. Every good and noble need within my span of control should be satisfied.
  3. Satisfaction, if not challenged, can cause complacency and trap you in a safe cocoon of mediocrity… no venturing beyond into the risky world where you might get bitten.
  4. Satisfaction in your cocoon naturally manifests itself into only doing “just enough” in the lives of those around you.  The tendency to never take things to the next level… Status quo.  You end up doing just enough as a spouse, parent, employee, etc.  You and those around you are bereft from the joy and risks of beyond.

Hopefully I have stirred a bit of dissatisfaction in myself… and you.

See you Thursday.

Jul 10

Uncomfortable with Comfort

Bonjour… as you can see I’m feeling a little international today.  There’s no particular reason, it just popped into my head.  Yes, I know, there is medication to help people that have weird things going on in their heads.  But here’s what I say to that, “Je ne veux pas prendre des médicaments pour les choses qui se passent dans ma tête, j’aime la façon dont je pense maintenant.”

Side Note: If you want to know what I said you can go to this link and get it translated.  Just cut the above statement and paste it at http://translate.google.com

For those who are first time visitors I hope I haven’t weirded you out too much.  I just get caught up in the moment.

For those that are regulars they know that I get side tracked pretty easily and they, for better or for worse, end up being dragged along with me to my “happy place.”

This whole blog thing is a journey for me and I have invited anyone to join me who wants to be challenged to step beyond where they are now and explore the possibilities of things outside of our comfort zone… our safe little world.

Exploration can be dangerous business.  It’s risky to put yourself out there for possible failure, criticism and pressure from others to get back in the box they are use to us being in.

There are lots of people who are intrigued by what’s beyond the walls of comfort.  They will occasionally peek over the fence to get a quick glimpse and then quickly retreat back to comfort.

Yesterday I found something I wrote twelve years ago in a journal.  It fits nicely with what I am talking about today.

Journal Entry – July 7, 1998

Human nature leans toward ease.  Difficulty and unpleasant things are to be avoided.  But ease is a deceiver.  Ease robs us of the grander things available to us.

Those of ease who are unwilling to enter in the realm of endurance and perseverance never experience the sweet fruit of overcoming, the satisfaction of accomplishment and experience the strength of endurance. Ease focuses on the moment and traps the unsuspecting from grander things.

We are not taught the discipline of endurance without the reality of discomfort and the inconvenience of “pushing through.”

Our commitment must be toward those things that rest beyond our sight and touch, and not be lulled by the ease of the immediate.

For me, and probably for you, it took a while before I took these words seriously enough to take the larger, riskier steps outside my safe walls.  But over the years I became more aware of the possibilities and joys that await the explorer.

As I said in an earlier blog, awareness is like hugging a porcupine… the closer you get the more uncomfortable you are.  As someone who didn’t like to fail or look bad I became more uncomfortable with my comfort and unsatisfied with my satisfaction.

So as you can see I am on the trail of exploration and discovery.  It’s not been all fun and games but it sure beats sitting in the confines of my old self.

See you Monday

Jul 10

Individual or Independent

Welcome, I see you survived the festivities of the Fourth of July fireworks and feasting.

I have some acquaintances that recently moved here from the UK for work.  I am anxious to ask them how they felt about the massive celebration of independence from their home country.  It will be an interesting conversation.

Independence is the center of our cultural DNA and it permeates our society.  It’s who we are and we don’t want anyone to control our destiny.  The only thing that makes my ears perk and cock my head is the nagging notion that any and all strengths, if carried too far, becomes a negative… even potentially fatal if not kept in proper confines.

In my last blog entry I mentioned that freedom is to and from and one is always dominant.  As a country we sought freedom from oppression and unfair restriction.  If the mother country had not maintained its oppressive stance we no doubt would be flying a flag with at least a portion being the Union Jack, driving on the left side of the road and having our afternoon tea.

But the oppression forced our desire to get away from which opened the door to allow us to go to.

The release from the restrictions unleashed a risk taking group of pioneers to pursue possibilities of individual growth, success and opportunity.

Side Note: Don’t worry, this is not going to be a history lesson.  Although its interesting there’s too much here for us as individuals that we must explore.  Remember we are on an exploration journey.

Rugged individualism became the hallmark of our cultural psyche.  The beautiful gift of opportunity allowed individuals to step beyond the barriers of history (class, culture, restrictive government, etc.) and pursue it to the extent of the person’s ability, desire and willingness to work.

Historically this individual pursuit rested on the unified commitment of the masses to protect the tenants that perpetuate the ability for personal growth and gain.  In essence we must have unity but not uniformity.  Unity in our belief and commitment to the core tenants but individual diversity in their own personal pursuits.

The unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion. – JFK

Here’s my concern.  Over the past several years it feels like to me the Rugged Individualism that has made us great has morphed into Rugged Independence.

On the surface that may not seem so bad.  But to me it feels like the fabric of who we are is being dangerously pulled to threads by individuals demanding individual rights at the expense of the whole.  That individual demands and wants supersede and undermine the foundation of beliefs that historically unified the whole.

This is a topic of sufficient sophistication and complexity that it requires a mind greater than mine to do it justice.  Although I am not capable of taking the topic much further I can, and must, focus the issue where it has the most impact… ME and you.

I long for and strive to be an individual.  I want to think for myself and be unique in who and what I am.  I like being different at times.  But individualism that has morphed into independence causes one to believe that they stand beyond and separate from the whole.

The need for control and self expression overrides common courtesy and civility.  The individual knows that they are a part of something greater.  The independent person only accommodates the greater when it happens to coincide with their wants.  Independence breeds isolation.

The question of individualism vs. independence is something I personally continue to periodically test to make sure I have not morphed into an isolated self-serving person.

See you Thursday.

Jul 10

To or From

Hi, welcome.

Unlike Monday I am passionate this morning about today’s topic.  We are just three days from Independence Day.

I am passionate about FREEDOM.

One our top four holidays in the United States is the Fourth of July where we celebrate our independence as a country from the British Empire.

Whenever you look at something like freedom it is important to look at it from both sides.  Both sides?  Yes, both sides.  When seeking freedom it is important to know if we are getting freedom “from” or “to”.  This is a very important delineation as to the core motivator of any action to become free.

I had a friend one time that was planning to take a new job and I asked him if he was leaving from or going to.  This question set him back and caused him to think about what was driving the decision.  He eventually decided to not take the new job because it crystallized for him that he was trying to get away from something vs. go to something.  For him, he knew that he needed to face the issues of his current job and not escape via another job.

There is no question that most of the time there is both a “from” and a “to” when seeking freedom… but one is dominant.

Having a clear understanding of the driving motivator may not change your course of action as it did with my friend but it does provide important context for our actions.

I mentioned last Thursday that a driving passion of a friend of mine is to help a person to become free from anything that keeps them from experiencing the fullness of life.  Over coffee he was trying to challenge me about things that tend to trap me from taking some bolder steps in business (and life).  He was being my freedom fighter.

Side Note: There are a lot of people who will stand on the sidelines and cheer us on and provide encouragement.  But there are only a few that will fight for you.

Think about that for a second.  What did you think of first ?  Honestly my first thought was an analysis of who I know that fights for me.

The bigger question is, are you a fighter or just a supporter?  I believe that there are people around you right now that need someone to fight for and with them, not just an encourager on the sidelines cheering them on.

The most important aspect of gaining freedom is that we have to realize that we are not free.  There are some things that are very clear that we know we need freedom from.  Maybe its an addiction, way of thinking, debt, etc.

But I also believe that there are some things that have us captured to which we are completely oblivious.  It is not even on our radar screen that something has us trapped because it is the world we know.

I freed a thousand slaves and could have freed a thousand more if they only knew they weren’t slaves.  – Harriet Tubman

We are not free yet.  We have achieved the freedom to be free.  – Nelson Mandela

Hopefully I have given you something to think about as we celebrate our freedom.

See you Monday.