No alarm clock was needed. I woke up realizing, “We’re in Kansas.” Father’s Day weekend pulled my heart and then my feet home.
We spent Saturday night at Rita’s parents on “the farm.” With my journal and briefcase deposited on the deck, I grabbed my coffee mug fully anticipating time to write. Yep, I might even review some work I brought along, just in case. You know, “Make hay while the sun is shinning,” as they say.
The country morning grabbed my attention tugging on me to come see. Eager to see the morning skyline I moved to the east end of the yard. Soon, like a sheep nibbling at the grass, I began wandering down the drive to the lane to the county road, all paved with gravel.
I grabbed my iPhone – not to check e-mail, my calendar or to consult Google maps – but to capture the story. My unseen Guide said, “See the lone wildflower there in the ditch.” There was the wood fence post dressed in mossy green; highlighted by the sunbeams. The thin patch of Bermuda in the center of the road turned into a million, tiny, green lights as dew reflected the morning sun. It was a well-lit runway. My unhurried feet followed.
What’s the hurry?
“Hurry up, or we’ll be late.”
“Hurry up, it’s starting to rain.”
“Hurry, they’re waiting on us.”
“Hurry up and finish eating.”
“Hurry up or we’ll miss our flight.”
“Hurry!” is an emergency Call 911! But how often is it just the voice of the Urgent silencing the whisper of the Important?
Slow down. Enjoy the Story. What’s the hurry?
When did you last watch the sunrise? Has sunset lost its spellbinding power on your gaze? When did flower blooms last hold you captive with their deep color? When did you last listen to the melody of birds?
The pace of life, ambition, needs and wants, success, information overload, the expectation to do more with less drive your life until they become habit. Can you remember the last time you experienced “unhurried”? When did you last describe your day as calm, casual, carefree?
Fear drives unproductive behavior. It takes effort to identify its source. Why were you in such a hurry this morning? What drives your lifestyle of busy? What does it cost you to live without margin? What is the affect on you physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually? How does it impact your relationships? What about your work performance?
Where you headed?
My “unhurried walk” took me north at the intersection on a “No Outlet” gravel road. As it narrowed, it became less gravel and more path-like until I arrived at Harmony Cemetery in Montgomery County, Kansas.
The tombstones displayed the Story of those who arrived “There” first, most a long time ago — Uncle Glen was buried just last month. Cemeteries and tombstones tell us of earthly life’s destiny and brevity.
Leaving the cemetery, I thought: if this is where the road goes and there is “No Outlet” why hurry to get here? Why don’t I embrace more unhurried days?
It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.
Where are you headed? This simple question is an invitation for you to push back against a life with little margin, against the grind of falling into bed to roll out again. Create space for what matters most in life and listen. That’s the beauty of unhurried walks.
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. - Winston Churchill
When you’re young, you look at television and think, there’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. – Steve Jobs
Our conversation was going quite well, there was a lot of energy and understanding, there was an exchange of ideas and relationship building. As Becky began to move towards ending our phone meeting she apologized, “I’m booked back to back until this afternoon, I must go.”
“Sounds like you may need to create space”, I teased.
“You’re right”, she replied.
We are discussing my work as “the people developer” (executive coaching), my message, and my desire to help more people with their personal leadership development. I had just explained the foundational need to create space and how there is a “conspiracy of time” that pushes back against personal development.
What is the conspiracy of time?
To paraphrase Mark Twain, a conspiracy is a secret agreement within a world system, which seeks to impose what it wants but will not freely reveal it. Let’s call it the “Opposition Force”.
The conspiracy of time is enticement to live over-committed lives. What do you see, are people around you living time-poor lives? Most of the people I know live such busy lives; this is the conspiracy.
The plot against personal development in life is have little time to listen.
The Opposition Force exerts influence when we fill our lives with so much activity we fail to commit sufficient time toward our well being, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
Bottom line: it is an attack on relationships.
A conspiracy is usually a plan involving activity considered “illegal”.
Technically, there is nothing illegal about generally ignoring human relationships. (Obviously, I’m not talking about child neglect.)
Clearly, we are not prohibited from working 60+ hours a week and in doing so neglect the people in our lives: spouse, children, family or friends. In fact, such behavior is rewarded and encouraged with subtle suggestions… “Not now, later.”
It is not criminal to neglect your health. It is not unlawful to even back burner spiritual formation, cultivating a relationship with God.
The Opposition Force promotes over-extending legitimate commitmentsto the point of over-commitment … and all we say is: “I’m sooo busy!” Life harmony is lost and so often the vital connections with others and the care of oneself.
It is impossible to enjoy life harmony when too much time and energy is given to the temporal stuff in life; only people are eternal.
The business of life is people.
The Opposition Force supports us as we pin the badge on declaring: “I’m sooo busy!” When was the last time you heard someone bragging that she left the office “on time”?
What is the best predictor of future success?
One of my favorite subjects is this idea of what predicts personal success. My coaching process and belief is this:
The Best Predictor of Future Success is the
ability and willingness to learn and change
achieved through consistent reflection on
truth found in the Story.
Once you understand the principles in that statement you will recognize the “conspiracy of time” and fight back. You will create spaceto listen; “too busy” doesn’t allow for such discipline.
Creating space for consistent reflection is the key to accelerated personal growth and development. When you hit the ground running and fall into bed the conspiracy is at work. Without time for consistent reflection you will limit your leadership and contribution to the world.
The ability and willingness to learn and change can be activated as we see the truth in the Story. When life is a blur the helpful messages from feedback, experience, success, and failure will be lost and so is the leadership development opportunity.
Then unproductive, self-limiting behaviors create a box and your behaviors keep you from freedom and the high performance you are designed to enjoy.
When life is harmonized, not only will you experience personal growth, but all your relationships will have a chance to grow, too.
When it comes your time what exactly do you want?
What does the Opposition Force behind the conspiracy want?
To keep us in bondage, living lives with ancient behaviors, driven by fear so we show up in unproductive ways.
As Steve Jobs points out, the TV networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. While this is a hard message to hear, it is often true about life; we have what we want. Staying “too busy” allows us to avoid the hard work and responsibility for our personal development.
When it comes to your future, what do you want?
As you think of your personal relationships, what do you want?
When it comes to your leadership, what do you want?
If you want something more, then when will you must create spacefor reflection on your Story?The Opposition Force will say you’re too busy.
Join the conversation, leave your comment below.
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Recently, the topics of technology and hyper-connectivity have come up in my conversations with several clients.
Did you know the first BlackBerry was released in 1999? Then,
…in 2003the more commonly known smart phone BlackBerry was released, which supports push email, mobile telephone, text messaging, Internet faxing, Web browsing and other wireless information services. (Wikipedia)
Yes, my boss was so excited the day UPS delivered his BlackBerry. Now, he was connected. I remember him telling me how the Regional VP responded to his emails within a matter of minutes. It seemed as if this had become a new leadership benchmark.
It a matter of weeks we were excited to receive this new life-saving device … I mean time saving tool.
What does being available mean?
To be available suggests being present for immediate use, accessible. Now I find it interesting that the archaic definition of available is: having a beneficial effect.
According to Dr. Kimerer LaMothe, in her article “What a Body Knows”
…findings published from the Kaiser Foundation’s research projecton children and their media use shocked technophobes and -philes alike. According to the report, kids ages 8-18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day plugged into an electronic device (such as an iPod, smart phone, computer, or television). This figure does not include an extra hour and a half spent texting or talking on cell phones; time devoted to homework, or an extra three and a half hours of media exposure accrued by multitasking.
Are you concerned for our children and grandchildren?
How about you? If you feel hyper-connected, how beneficial does it feel?
E-mail and Time
Let’s narrow the conversation to e-mail. E-mail is computer-to-computer communication system. (Encarta Dictionary: English, North America)
A Google search for “email and time management” produced over 1 million hits addressing the need to manage e-mail and the overload many feel with their e-mail inbox.
Back to the character quality of availability … making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of others; to live like this, requires boundaries.
Availability speaks to our ability to serve when someone needs help. This is NOT to be confused with unrestricted connectivity and unlimited access to one’s attention.
When it comes to e-mail, what if…?
When it comes to managing your inbox for greater productivity, remember snail mail. Although I have not monitored it, my USPS Mail Carrier consistently delivers our mail Monday through Saturday during a 30-minute window.
Yes, some people lease a Post Office Box, often so they can access their mail earlier. Businesses, especially those receiving checks via mail are willing to incur the additional investment of time and resources for the privilege. Otherwise, we have been trained to wait.
Here are three step to help you manage incoming e-mail and still be available …
Check e-mail at designated times (Think “Dr. Pepper Time” 10, 2, and 4 o’clock). What if you let key players know your plan?
Set the course of your day based on goals and priorities, not what is delivered to your inbox overnight
Use the telephone or text message if an immediate answer is truly needed
Living with the character quality of availability requires clarity in our day of hyper-connectivity.
How do you manage your e-mail inbox?
Please forward to a friend or colleague.
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“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Personally, I’m not a fan of Daylight Savings Time. Frankly, this manipulation of time appears to be another attempt to control. Indeed, “high noon” became subject to man’s command back in 1895; thank you George Hudson. While the practical effects are still debated, March 11 we will lose an hour … at least for a while.
Photo by soham_pablo on flickr
Why the short February?
Did you know February’s limited number of days is the result of one man’s decision? Indeed, ego played a role in February having 28 or 29 leap year days.
All the other months have 30 or 31 days, but February suffered from the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, says (Professor) Stewart. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor he was peeved that his month – August – had only 29 days, whereas the month named after his predecessor Julius – July – had 31. “He pinched a couple of days for August to make it the same as July. And it was poor old February that lost out,” says Prof Stewart.
The messiness of time
What is it about our solar system that presents this need of a Leap Year? According to the website, timeanddate.com …
Leap Years are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds (a tropical year) – to circle once around the Sun.
However, the Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year, so if we didn’t add a day on February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days!
With time pressure and our busy lives, things can get messy. How easy it is to neglect relationships, priorities related to mind, body and spirit … even our values, when we get sloppy with time.
The drift of time
A leap year synchronizes the astronomical reality (365.242199 days per year) with our calendar system which is set up with the same number of days each year; until leap year.
Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, a calendar that had the same number of days in each year would, over time, drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track. By occasionally inserting an additional day…into the year, the drift can be corrected.
Over time, the drift of time, can take us off course. Truth deals in reality or the facts. From a personal growth perspective, the process is to create alignment between “my reality” and “reality”.
Where do you need alignment?
When you understand the affect of time pressure and the inclination to drift you will look for opportunities to re-align. Leap Year is that “extra day” for cosmic concerns; every four years we insert an additional day to correct the drift. But the issue for leadership development is not cosmic, it is personal.
Future success requires creating space to listen to your story for truth so you can close the gaps between what you believe to be reality and reality. Reality checks help us discern the difference between our behavior and our desired outcome as leaders.
Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny. ― Aristotle
Photo by blue2likeyou on flickr
There is a reason why we don’t achieve resolutions with the New Year.
There is a reason why new initiatives fail in business.
There is a reason why we are stuck with behaviors that limit our personal lives.
Are you hallucinating? When something is imagined, but it’s not really present or actually occurring, we say the person is hallucinating. While few deal with the psychiatric disorder or the drug induced variety … many have a false sense of reality – an illusion - and remain stuck with poor performance.
Recently I was challenged by something Peter Bregman wrote on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Here are four questions to help you get “it” done. Answer these questions and you know the secret to supporting the change you desire in your life.
First, what is your desired outcome?
Where are you stuck – physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually? Or what new discipline do you want to initiate? Or what project do you want to complete? Specifically identify what you want to accomplish.
Second, how clearly focused are you?
Why do you want to do make this change? What benefit(s) will you reap when you are consistently engaged in the new discipline … or once you complete that project?
How will you do it? What skills or resources do you need? Do you know “how to” to move forward?
Third, where is the resistance?
What do you hear in your head that sabotages your effort? We could call them “excuses”; what does that internal voice, “the resistance” say to hinder your action?
The secret to “unstuck”
For the sake of illustration - let’s say you are ready to begin exercising.
WHY do you want to exercise? What are the benefits you desire?
HOW will you exercise? Do know how to exercise in order to achieve your desired outcome; if not who can help you?
Here’s the point:
When it comes to execution, it is rarely a matter of motivation (why) or skill (how to). Usually it comes down to no plan (the when and where) and no accountability (who) further cluttered by the resistance in our head.
What is “the resistance” inside your head whisper when it comes time to follow through?
It is really about follow through and the need to shut-up the irrational voice in our head; not a lack of motivation.
What is your plan?
As you shut the voices and old thinking it is time to create your plan by asking:
When will I exercise?
Where will exercise?
Who will I be accountable to?
Staying with the illustration my plan which requires follow through:
On M/W/F/S – I will walk with Rita, at 6:00 p.m. for 20 minutes in our neighborhood.
At moments of departure and a change of life, people capable of reflecting on their actions usually get into a serious state of mind. At these moments they usually take stock of the past and make plans for the future. ― Leo Tolstoy
Whether calculated in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years time is fleeting. That is NOT bad news — unless this limited resource is wasted.
Whether considered in years, months, weeks, days, hours, or minutes they are all opportunities to experiencefresh starts. That IS good news, unless the opportunity is missed.
One of my clients recently revealed some of what he wants to accomplish in life. The challenge he faces is the reality of how much time is left to get his list done. Not the feeling that there’s not enough time in the day, rather a growing awareness of his mortality.
To make the most of life is the challenge we all face. One ancient Hebrew verse expresses the very human plea for help from God: Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
What’s your perspective?
My work involves more and more travel; one thing I still love about flying is the view. Flying from Denver to Montana, United Flight 5535 follows along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.
Over the past few months I’ve been in awe seeing the changes from fall to winter. Each trip I am amazed at the beauty, grandeur, and wide open space.
Beyond that, the view from 30,000 feet reframes our activity on earth as busy, ant-like movement of people on pencil-wide trails; symmetrically arranged tiny neighborhoods and cityscapes that look like architectural models … a reality check of sorts.
Wisdom is the ability to see life from a higher perspective. This may look like the ability to make sensible decisions based on personal knowledge and experience. Or decision-making based on your thinking, judgment, and knowledge of life.
One way to gain wisdom is to cultivate a mindfulness of life’s brevity.
What happens when you recognize that your life is a limited resource during which you may take action, live connected, or make contribution?
Perhaps you’ve heard this quote from Steve Job’s Stanford Commencement address:
Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. (Emphasis added)
What changes would you make – moving into 2012 – if you concentrate on what is truly important?
What’s your Story?
Another way to gain wisdom is to look for truth in the Story andbe intentional regarding how you are writing your Story.
None of us can re-write history; but we are gifted with the incredible opportunity to make decisions and take action today that will allow us to write a new story.
Wisdom allows us to see things from another perspective; not only the facts but the people in our Story. How much unnecessary conflict and stress can you eliminate when we choose to see beyond the conflict to see the people?
Indeed, fear drives us to exhibit ancient behavior – survival mode; this means we tend to run for our lives or kill the opponent when in conflict. However, there is a third option: stay and engage as people…people with a story which includes fears, hopes, and dreams … ideas and solutions when we are encouraged, accepted, and loved.
Wisdom allows us a fresh perspective and the ability to see the possibilities.
Exercise: Think of a relationship conflict
Imagine sitting with me on that United Flight departing Denver; see the Rockies, gain that perspective. Notice the “size” of even the Rockies, not to mention the cars, buildings, and cities; gain the perspective.
Now, back to the “problem” – the conflict with <name of person> … think about your answer to these questions:
What do you want for this relationship; control or influence?
What is your desired outcome?
What do you wish for the other person?
What are you accepting as true in the situation? Is it true? How do you know it is?
What assumptions are you making?
When we ask ourselves such questions – especially in emotionally charged situations – we are creating space for some wisdom.
Wisdom not only helps us recognize the brevity of life but what matters in life: people.
How do you grow as a leader and enlarge your influence? Develop a heart of wisdom.
Happy New Year!
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This past weekend provided me a lot of opportunity to remember.
Memory is vital to personal growth … memory isour ability to retain information or knowledge from past events or experiences; that capacity to recollect and retrieve information.
Last Friday, Rita and I returned to my hometown of Neodesha, Kansas. (Don’t worry, very few have heard of Neodesha.)
Some things have changed: the grade school and high school I attended have been replaced; there’s a new $2.1 million dollar swimming pool and a new ball park covers the old public swimming pool. There are vacant lots where small frame houses once stood; demolished after the last flood or just because it was time.
By mid-afternoon we loaded up to explore familiar stories and paths…
…the Mill Creek Street Bridge, where my friend Rick Elkins and I slid into the icy cold river when the ice gave way
…North on 8th Street past the brick-lined ditch, the scene where I was thrown from a horse; after a trip to emergency room and no broken bones, I came out with a “Zorro” mark on my left arm, then the
…the neighborhoods where we played and rode our bikes, back in the day when we were free to explore and roam.
What an entertaining excursion down memory lane.
My parents, James and Vivian Laswell, live in what was once my grandparent’s home. My dad’s birthday is March 26; we were able to convince him to go out for dinner to celebrate #82. Dad believes a home cooked meal is the best meal AND the best value!
Yes, the trip provided me plenty of evidence, time is slipping away.
The next day we headed north for Wichita, Kansas. Pam is a member of our extended family, it was her special day. We gave the gift of our presence and enjoyed re-connecting with family and friends at her wedding and reception.
(Things sure have changed since our three daughter’s weddings. Note: future Father of the Bride – here’s some good news: it appears expectations are becoming more “reasonable” regarding what makes a great wedding day.)
Participating in their wedding sparked my recollection of Sunday, September 12, 1976. To this day, my gratitude for God’s gift of Rita and our story of 35+ years remains; “…for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, so long as we both shall live.”
My weekend trip down memory lane has me continue the conversation of my past two blogs…may I invite you to reflect on life and how you think about time?
To summarize the key points -
Live today: we don’t know what will happen tomorrow
Lighten up: we’re not really in control
Value the moment: life vanishes quickly
Slow down: time doesn’t fly, we do
Learn to say “No”: we’re responsible
Now, let’s add one more thought to this matter of life and time.
What’s your posthumous impression?
Have you noticed how much time and energy can go into managing one’s image? In fact, the bigger the stage or ego the greater the effort required … or so it seems.
There is an impression retained by others after our earthly life is over; the “posthumous impression”.
How do we make a great posthumous impression when by definition, we’re no longer present to manage it? Let me state the obvious: our posthumous impression is predetermined by how we live today.
When we live in the present… lighten up… value the moment… slow the pace… and learn to say “no”, our ability to remember and our memories may improve.
Live well this day then how you’ll be remember will take care of itself.
Mother Teresa reminds us of time’s reality, may we choose wisely…