Monday, September 28, 2009

Riding a Dead Horse

Maybe it is a Vegas thing or maybe it is my love of a challenging mental game but I have found myself playing Texas Hold-em lately. I have never played for real money at a casino or on-line and I understand that having REAL money involved changes the dynamics. I usually play online with pretend money that simply measures your progress or I play with friends around a dining table with hundreds of cents involved. But I believe many of the principles are the same. I enjoy playing with a group of friends because you can find a lot about a person by playing games with them, you get a glimpse of what they are like underneath the conversational front we all put on. When I play Texas Hold-em online I don’t learn too much about my competitors from Germany, Japan and Canada (although you would be surprised how much you can learn) I learn more about myself.

One of the things I constantly battle is hope. I know the chances are astronomical that a particular card will come up on the river (the last card dealt) yet I hold out and hope against all hope. What I should have done was recognize the odds at the flop (first cards dealt) or even BEFORE the first cards; that I had a loser hand and give up hoping for that possible flush and fold right away.

There is a Native American Dakota tribal parable that says “When riding a dead horse, dismount.” No matter how you nuance it, it’s dead, get off it! The miraculous Royal Flush may happen against all odds but you cannot live your life hoping for the miraculous, when you are on a dead horse, dismount!

It doesn’t help to buy a stronger whip.
It doesn’t help to appoint a committee to study the dead horse.
It doesn’t help to research what others do when they are riding a dead horse.
It doesn’t help to reclassify the horse as “living impaired”.
It doesn’t help to spend more money or funding or grant research.
It doesn’t help to rewrite the performance standards for all horses.
It doesn’t help to promote the dead horse to management.
Just dismount!

In Texas Hold-em I find myself bored folding most of the hands I am dealt and so I will dive in on one hand just to get some action and lose a lot. OR I find myself distracted and excited by my three Aces and miss the four hearts showing on the table. I think we do that in life too. We jump into crazy schemes because we are simply bored with all the loser hands we have had so far and HOPE that it just works out. OR we get distracted with what looks like a “sure winner” and bet the farm on it.

In games as well as life: recognize the dead horse and dismount!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sometimes you win and sometimes you ...

I am always amazed at the vicissitudes of vacuous individuals. As I near fifty I find I look back my use of funds and feel I failed more than a fair amount of time. Most of the time it is because I trusted the wrong people; or trusted the right people for too long or too short.

I have started MANY businesses in my lifetime with more than a 90% failure rate. I am great at the entrepreneurial START. But once it gets going I tend to become disinterested and bored. Then either, I turn the reins over to another or the business self-destructs due to inattention. But now I know my MO and I look for businesses that can thrive on my periodic attention or on me starting them and turning them over to qualified GOOD people.

I find failure to be an interesting thing. A wizened fisherman sat in his boat fixing his nets at the end of a long dock while a city-slicker in the resort town on a cruise walked out on the dock to get a feel for the local lifestyle. At the end of the dock the city man looked at the support poles going down into the black/blue deep asked the local, “How many people who fall in drown?” The fisherman looked down at the water and then up at the city man and said, “None.” The city man was about to protest but before he could the fisherman finished, “No one who falls in drowns, it is those who don’t get out again that drown.”

It is not: sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It IS: sometimes you win and sometimes you LEARN. I have failed a LOT in my life. In starting new businesses or making bad decisions in current businesses. In starting new churches with new programs or new ministries that never reach people. In investments of time and money in hare-brained schemes. In things I’ve said and done to my loved ones that sounded great in my head but blew up in the real world. The truth is: I’m a loser.

Call me a loser as much as you want and you will probably be right but I pray you never call me unteachable. THAT would be the worst thing to me. I KNOW I lose and fail a lot but I hope and pray I learn from each one of those losses and failures. I pray that I have the grace and courage to get back out of the water and try again after I fall in. People who never fail, never try.

Step out, take a chance, open up: TRY something! Because sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. BOTH are not bad outcomes.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Weed Whacking in Flip Flops

There was probably a warning label somewhere but I never read warning labels. Warning labels are for those idiots who don’t understand that an engine is hot or that you can’t drink Drano. So it caught up with me this week; after 11 years of weed whacking in flip flops I got whacked! It messed up my toes pretty good, but it just took off the skin and left the bones in place so that’s good.

Speaking of that I figured I could only laugh at myself for such a foolish thing. Not the wearing flip-flops foolish thing but the forgetting I am wearing flip-flops foolish thing. So I came up a few positive things about it:

- At least I won’t have to cut my toenails for a while!
- Well it certainly made me forget the other pain I had in that foot!
- Hmmm. Red toenail polish doesn’t look that bad on me!
- I wonder if I could get my other foot to match?
- Four toes on one foot is still better than one!
- My wife always told me my toes were way too long!
- Good thing I did it out on the grass because getting blood out of the concrete is tough!
- Now my shoes fit better!
- I wanted to buy a new set of flip-flops so this shredded, bloody one is a good excuse for getting new ones!
- Being light-headed is kinda cool!

There, now don’tcha just feel a LOT better!

We all do dumb things. We all do dumb things in front of people. The best you can do is laugh at it. They will laugh with you and then it’s done. Running and fighting ONLY prolongs the pain of your embarrassment. So laugh with me if you will, the pain fades faster than the embarrassment, and the prideful heart needs to be knocked down a few levels. Oh, and uh, don’t weed-whack in flip-flops.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

God’s Withdrawal

I have studied scripture for most of my life. When I was young because I HAD to and as I got older because I WANTED to. But there was always something about the beginning in the book of Beginnings (Genesis) that has bothered me and I have looked at and explored many possible options that people have put forward.

Just look at the first two verses of the Torah’s Bereshit or the Bible’s Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

So familiar yet so mysterious. Now I don’t want to get into an argument about how old the earth is based on this passage or whether God created in 7 literal days or over a billion years; that is an argument saved for another time. What I want to know is what happened between the first and the second verse. What happened between God’s creation and the “NOW” where the earth was formless and empty with darkness and chaos? Here are the explanations that I have heard (even used a time or two): 1] Verse one is a “summary” or “explanatory” verse of what begins in verse two. 2] There was a “pre-earth age” where Satan fell from heaven to earth and messed things up so bad they were now formless and empty and God had to create AGAIN. 3] Its just poetry where it isn’t meant to literally be what REALLY happened, it is a myth to teach us about salvation from our worst fear: Chaos!

In my current studies on Judaism I have come in contact with a 12th century Jewish philosopher/theologian who has come up with the best explanation I have heard yet. Moses Maimonides, in his book “A Guide for the Perplexed” (what a great title, right?) wrote that in order for there to be something NOT GOD, because God was and is everything in pre-creation eternity, God had to WITHDRAW to make room for NOT GOD. Or the God of LIGHT had to pull back a part of His infinite light and what was left was darkness and chaos. Or the God of Fullness and Form retracted himself and left a space of formlessness and emptiness. Into that void came what was NOT GOD: darkness, evil, disobedience, and chaos until God interacted with it to give it structure and fill it with all kinds of creatures. An interesting and compelling argument, yes?

Moses continues to write that it is OUR job, or God uses US to bring order, form, light, and NON-chaos into the framework of the world he created. In this chaotic world, I can’t think of a better thing for Jews and Christians to do together.