Archive for April, 2012

Apr 13 2012

Unfavorable Winds

Published by under Life

The wind doesn’t blow every day. In fact, sometimes when it blows, it’s actually right in your face.

As Lewis and Clark made their way west across the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, life on the water wasn’t romantic most days. In his biography on Lewis, historian Stephen Ambrose describes how their 55-foot keel boat moved:

The boat could be propelled by four methods: rowing, sailing, pushing, and pulling. In pushing, the crew set long poles in the river bottom and pushed on them as they walked front to rear on the boat. Men or horses or ox used ropes for pulling, sometimes from the water, sometimes from the shore.

Of the four methods the boat could be moved, note that three of them required grueling manual effort. Even in fair winds, a river’s current often demanded Lewis and Clark’s men use their bodies to move the boat.

The wind will rarely be at your back in this life. If you only wait for those glorious days, not much will ever get done. The winds and the current conspire against us. The majority of days are INGLORIOUS – headwind, crosswind, head current, still current. The magical tailwind is rare and who can predict when it will arrive?

Explorers aren’t often pushed along by tailwinds. They’re pulled on by destinations. The road (or river) is long and hard and dangerous and exhausting. What makes the grinding, inglorious days bearable is a goal which is glorious. Explorers are willing to pay a steep price because at the top of that price mountain is a phenomenal view!

For too many today, the only real destinations are deadlines – small mole hills – whether at school or work. The payoff when we meet those deadlines is usually disappointing because we endured inglorious days to get there and got so little in return (most of us, oddly, don’t consider a grade or salary a reward – which is proof those are boring).

The way to make inglorious days bearable is to seek a glorious destination. Then day-to-day work can be about getting to that final place – even while meeting “boring” deadlines.

The winds and the current will probably be unfavorable today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. Rowing. Sailing. Pushing. Pulling. If your destination is worthwhile, you’ll find a way there no matter what the days bring.

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Apr 12 2012

Drawing Maps

Published by under Life

Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.
(Seth Godin, Poke the Box)

In our walk through life, we only get to know the NEXT step EACH step of the way, not ALL the steps BEFORE our first step. We can guess what the steps will be, but they’re only guesses. Like all great explorers – Lewis and Clark or Columbus or Magellan – we’ll get our map once we’re DONE. But it’s us who will make it. For now, there’s a big, unexplored country before us called Unknown and we’ll only find out about that place if we set off.

In 1801, Meriwether Lewis (the Lewis in Lewis and Clark) wrote in his journal on his 31st birthday. By this time, Lewis had been in the Army seven years and had just served four years as President Thomas Jefferson’s personal secretary.

This day I completed my thirty first year… I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little indeed, to further the happiness of the human race, or to advance the information of the succeeding generation. I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence, and now sorely feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended.

In future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself.
(Meriwether Lewis)

Lewis loathed where he’d ended up. He wanted to alter course – from himself to others.

In 1803, two years after his journal entry, Lewis began setting his sights on doing something no one had previously – completing a transcontinental trip across North America to the Pacific Ocean – hopefully completely by waterway. On the trip he was to collect information about plants, animals, geology, geography, and Indian tribes.

Two years later, after thousands of pages of notes, on November 7, 1805, Lewis and Clark stepped into the Pacific.

Before leaving they had little idea what lay between them and the ocean. That didn’t matter. Their destination was firm and they committed all of themselves to the vision: Pacific or bust.

Living only for ourselves is boring. That’s why so many people today lament, “I’m bored.” The best way to get off a bad path is to find a new one to get on. Find a destination outside of yourself that builds mankind and commit everything to get there. It won’t happen in a day, week, month, or maybe even a year or ten years. The frontier takes a long time to push through. It’s nearly impossible to know the steps because no one’s been there before!

With success, however, there’s great irony. We can live for ourselves and try to make people remember us (they won’t). Or we can help mankind and be assured they will. History remembers those who draw maps, not those who follow them. Ask Meriwether Lewis.

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Apr 11 2012

On Being a Real Rabbit

Published by under Life

A few hundred years ago the emphasis of “The Tortoise and the Hare” fable wasn’t on the steady progress of the tortoise as we’ve been taught. It was on the indolence – the laziness – of the hare. It was a negative lesson – that we SHOULDN’T be the hare.

In his satirical story, “The True History Of The Hare And The Tortoise,” Lord Dunsany captures the absurdity of praising the tortoise for his victory. In Dunsany’s tale, the tortoise also wins but there’s much more detail and trash talking in his version. At the end is a great rejoinder…

And the reason that this version of the race is not widely known is that very few of those that witnessed it survived the great forest-fire that happened shortly after. It came up over the weald by night with a great wind. The Hare and the Tortoise and a very few of the beasts saw it far off from a high bare hill that was at the edge of the trees, and they hurriedly called a meeting to decide what messenger they should send to warn the beasts in the forest.

They sent the Tortoise.

Hard work is doing everything you’re capable of even when you don’t feel like doing it. Even when there’s “no challenge” (and especially when there is). Hard work isn’t sitting around, thinking about how great you are or how much you COULD do. That’s what the hare did. We look at the hare and think, “What an idiot!” For many of us, it’s a self-incriminating declaration!

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race when there are 10,000 hares running their fastest. In today’s world, slow and steady just makes you slow.

The tortoise wasn’t being awesome. The tortoise was just being a tortoise – going slow. That’s what tortoises do.

But the hare? He was being a punk! He wasn’t being who he was supposed to be.


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Apr 10 2012

Parrot or Pro?

Published by under Life

Speak to a trained parrot and it’ll speak back. But it can only do that because of training.

Speak to a small child and you’ll hear them say things they don’t understand. As master observers, kids pick up on the context in which things are said and repeat them at random times with no real understanding of what they mean.

At your work, school, and mosque/temple/church/synagogue, there are people who talk about things they don’t understand. They use all the lingo. And you feel left out because you don’t seem to understand things in the same way.

It’s at this point we have a choice to make: will we admit we don’t understand or will we become parrots and repeat their words without understanding/true belief?

As we decide which road to take, we need to know that having the APPEARANCE of understanding only means someone is a poser. This is not the time for “fake it til you make it.” The only way to “make” understanding is to admit NOT understanding.

In over your head at work? Tell someone. Don’t understand (or don’t believe) something basic about God that every one else seems to? Admit it. Be honest, ask questions, listen intently, and work hard to truly understand.

Be a pro. Amateurs never become truly great at what they do – either because they’re lazy or don’t have time.

It’s fine to be an amateur but not when it comes to our lives.

Most of us have many years left on our clock and we must decide:
will we be parrots or pros?

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