Monday, January 26, 2009


Here’s another one of those quirky thoughts that happened to me in the most strange of circumstances. I happened to be taking out the garbage this morning. Now this is a pretty common occurrence for me for the last 40 years or so, but this was a little different. The garbage can has a plastic bag liner in it; you know the kind, with the red plastic draw strings for closing and carrying. Now the can was jammed full of garbage to fit more in and because I was lazy and didn’t empty it before it got too full. So there is a challenge in front of me.

When my mom would make me take out the garbage I would simply pull the red strings and yank the garbage out of the can as quickly as possible, jam back in it what spilled and roughly run it to where it was supposed to go. Inevitably, the bag would burst and garbage would spill all over the kitchen or hopefully, somewhere outside. I remember getting angry at mom, at my brother who deposited the smelly banana peels, and at my dad for not making the dump close enough to toss the garbage out the kitchen window. Then, since no one would pick up my case, I would get another bag, jam it full, finish the job and be angry for a few hours.

All this I thought about this morning as I pulled the red strings on the garbage bag and carefully wedged it back and forth to remove it from the garbage can. Slow at first but it eventually gave completely to me like removing that one great, unshredded piece from the crab leg. No spillage, no broken bag, and a quick tie to bring it outside.

The lesson that came to me was on maturity. I think maturity is like that. When we are young we have all the energy and little experience in garbage and in life. We will “rush in where angels fear to tread.” Life sends us lessons like picking up stinky banana peels where we have to make a decision: do we learn from this or do we get angry and take our foolishness out on everyone? If we learn then we take one more step up the ladder of maturity, and someday may reach a certain level of wisdom.

The fool lamented to King Lear that he should have grown wise BEFORE he became old in Shakespeare’s play. I pray that for all of us.

There are; however, many advantages to youth. As I brought the perfectly removed bag of garbage out and was thinking these profound thoughts I missed the curb on the sidewalk and tripped. The bag broke and spilled all over my driveway. Nice.

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Year’s Day YEAR, Part 3

The steady roar of the tractor pummeled my ears until I couldn’t hear it anymore. It was steady and consistent as I made my way down the field disking last year’s corn stubble into the ground. Disking was a fairly easy job, especially compared to cultivating where you had to watch and concentrate on the position of the tractor related to the crop or you would cut out the crop. With disking all I had to do was make sure the ends overlapped a bit and buzz down the field. But then it came, that slight change in the RPM of the engine. Before the change I wasn’t even registering the noise of the engine but the slightest change in RPM and I was at full attention. I looked behind me and saw corn stalks piling up in front of the disk instead of being chopped up by it. I raised the disk a bit and watched the disk eat the stalks like a shredder chewing paper.

All it took was an ever-so-slight change in RPM of the engine. The engine I didn’t consciously hear before the change. An anomaly jarred my brain back to attention.

While our brains are fantastically amazing they are also lazy. They will not “pay attention” to things that are the same, the usual, or the ordinary but they will JUMP to attention at things that are different, Unusual, or extra-ordinary. Don’t believe me? Don’t know what I am talking about? Tell me if you have experienced this:

You are calmly sleeping with crazy noise going on: partner snoring, fan, trains going by, TV on, etc; and then you hear a “click” of your front door. Tell me you don’t STARTLE awake. Or, you find yourself at work and don’t remember actually driving to work.

Or just maybe last year went by and you hardly even remember it. Nothing different happened, nothing new stopped you in your tracks or startled you, it was just another year that blew by without you even noticing. You lived it, you survived it, your brain filed it away and you were barely aware of it.

Let’s NOT do that again this year. Now there are things that will make your year memorable that are not necessarily good. Things like death, job loss, traumas, or relationship breakups. I would like to suggest a few things to make this year memorable in a positive way. Here’s my list (feel free to add to it):

- Skydive.
- Drive a NASCAR car at over 120 mph.
- Start your own company.
- Take a trip, NOT just a vacation to hang at a beach, visit the pyramids, the acropolis, the Great Wall, or Red Square.
- Go on a mission project of some kind for at least a week: build a hut, bring water to a village, work at a clinic, and play with kids who don’t speak your language.
- Become an expert at a new hobby.
- Start your own website.
- Write a book and self publish it.
- Fast (drink only water) one day a week and pick one week to fast the whole week (water plus vitamins).

I will guarantee that if you do these and add a few to it. Your new year will be memorable and your brain won’t be able to file it under a “boring” and “skip over” year.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year’s Day YEAR, Part 2

There is no doubt that God, the devil, and other people are going to throw a slew of “stuff” your way in this coming year. It doesn’t matter whether you work at home or in an office or the field or don’t work at all: stuff will head your way. Stuff happens.

As we begin this New Year together I want you to consider the fact that over the last year you handled the stuff in three different ways.

You REACTED (badly) to stuff.
You RESPONDED (well) to stuff.
You INITIATED new stuff.

Before I had my foot surgery my doctor gave me a painkilling drug and I REACTED badly to it. It just made me dopy (more than usual) and sick and didn’t really take the pain away. He tried a new one and I RESPONDED well by staying clear-headed and pain-free. This year I am INITIATING a new policy of not acting like I’m twenty-something and will turn down playing on the softball team.

I told my warehouse department, all 25 of them, that they had all lost their jobs and they would have to reapply for their old positions under my new job descriptions. Ten of them REACTED BADLY to the news, filed grievances against me, discrimination suits and tried to make my life miserable. Twelve of them RESPONDED well and had their applications in within an hour of the job being posted. Three of them took the INITIATIVE and asked if they could help with the restructure and offered helpful ideas and possibilities for the new department.

Some stuff happens …

Think about what you normally do now. Do you REACT to it? How much of your time is spent REACTING to what people say, do or email?

The rest of your day may be spent RESPONDING to stuff. Responding to emails, requests, facebook stuff. RESPONDING is gratifying, it makes you feel good because at the end of the day your desk is clean and the pile of stuff is in a different spot than it was when you started.

And that’s it. You go home having spent no time INITIATING! We tend to reserve INITIATING for quiet times, good times, down times or desperate times. We wait until our REACTING and RESPONDING is done, which never really gets done, and people go through life never INITIATING a single thing.

I want you to INITIATE this year. I want you to pause your REACTING and RESPONDING and spend some time INITIATING something totally new and different. Some jobs are REACTING jobs and some are RESPONDING jobs but the best jobs are the INITIATING jobs. And here’s the cool part: ALL of us have a job that could take more of our INITIATIVE.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year’s Day YEAR, Part 1

By the end of this year would you like to say that you were “lucky this year!” or would you like to say that you “worked hard this year!”?

Luck is a paradox. Everybody wants it and no one can really catch the lightning of luck in a box. Unfortunately you don’t get to choose luck while effort is something that is totally available ALL THE TIME TO ANYONE!

So here’s a New Year’s resolution for you (most of which I stole from Seth Godin’s blog) in our crazy times.

First: Delete 60 minutes a day of “spare” time from your life. This can include TV, reading newspaper, commuting, computer junk, etc.

Second: Fill those 60 minutes a day with one or all of these:
- Exercise at least 20 minutes at a time.
- Read, relevant, non-fiction book or blog on your job or industry.
- Send three thank-you notes.
- Learn a new productivity tool: spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, graphic design, or new software.
- Volunteer.
- Blog or journal for five minutes about something you learned
- Listen to an on-line or CD class.
- Pray for more than 15 minutes in one sitting.

Third: Spend at least one day a week doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.

Fourth: Only spend money, for one year, on things you ABSOLUTELY NEED to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.

If you somehow pull this off, then six months from now you will be the fittest, best rested, most intelligent, best funded, and motivated person in your office. You would know how to do things other people don’t, you’d have a wider network and you’d be more focused.

It is entirely possible that this won’t change your life at all and you will continue to need more or better luck. But it is a lot more likely that if you simply do these four things you will find luck chasing you down. And you can change your name to Zeus.