Summer of my sophomore year in college Dad helped me buy a ’69 Chevelle. Yea, a large block 350 with a Muncie shift, mag wheels and duel exhaust dressed in red with a soft white leather interior. Deal was I’d stop using his car and his gas. Insurance and all the other stuff would be mine too. No big. So I thought.
I discovered very quickly why it was called a “muscle car.” On good days it got about 14 miles to the gallon. Didn’t help I didn’t have much money so you can guess how much gas I kept in the tank—call it fumes.
One day, while in a hurry to get to a supply store to pick up a tractor part Dad used my car rather than his because his car was out of gas. Problem was, so was mine but he never checked the gas gauge. And the two-mile walk back home didn't soften him up a bit before confronting me about his most excellent adventure.
That story is what came to mind this morning during our pastor’s message titled: “Pressure – Exhausted and Overwhelmed"; a universal feeling of running on empty and the behaviors that follow like, resentment, overspending, withdraw, working longer and harder and being easily irritated. This condition also negatively impacts others and just complicates life. I mean, I lost an opportunity to help out my Dad in his moment of need and only complicated things because the gas tank in my car was empty.
Singer songwriter Jackson Browne wrote about this condition back in his day with a song he titled: “Running on Empty.”
Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too
Running on-running on empty
Running on-running blind
Running on-running into the sun
But I'm running behind
It’s cool to think God has a better way to do life. In fact, the story of Mary and Martha in the book of Luke, chapter 10, tells of this better way as explained by David Ashcraft. Jesus basically told Martha to unplug and sit down and talk, (like Mary was doing) instead of hurrying about in the kitchen getting dinner on. The fundamental thing He was looking for in stopping by was relationship—friendship. It's what most of us really want isn't it?
Yes it’s hard to live a life of fullness while living so empty. But it’s a good exercise to imagine what a full life looks like; a life when it’s filled up. Things like, “I love more,” “I make better decisions,” “I’m more creative,” and “I’m more attentive to God.”
Sure it’s somewhat simplistic to just say sit down, take a load off and let’s talk. But it is a start. And what works when life doesn’t always begins with a start; a start in accepting and taking responsibility for the things we can control.
What's the gauge on your gas tank reading? Fumes or Full? Time for a crucial conversation focused on this essential question?
Without gravity we die. It is one of the four fundamental forces in our universe. If this force did not exist then we would not exist.
Our bodies need the pull of gravity, not just to keep us from flying off the face of the earth, but to hold us together and to give us something to work against to strengthen our bones and muscles.
Astronauts lose bone density and muscle strength during space travel because they don’t have gravity to work against.
Champions understand the power of progressive resistance training. They know their body needs a challenger, an opponent, an antagonist; something opposite of nothing to make them something.
Muscles must be used to gain strength and size. When used they adapt and change. Changes are dependent on the type of activity and type of muscle fiber used, the amount of weight or load exerted on the muscle, and the velocity and duration of the contraction. The key to success is using a progressive resistance training program that recruits and activates more and more muscle fibers as they become fatigued.
Champions salivate at meeting resistance head-on. It forces them out of their comfort zone into a construction zone. Without the resistance, the recruitment, the activation, and the fatigue of muscle fibers, little if any, growth or development occurs. It is the same emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Each is a different muscle type and as you fatigue as you meet resistance head-on, you recruit and activate more of what you need but didn't know you had, in order to adapt and change. In other words, resist beyond your limits and your limits become limited. It's the way new heights and distances are reached.
Take away resistance and you take away the distance.
Take away the force and you take away the course.
Take away opposition and you take away position.
Champions become champions when they feed on forces that resist them. It’s what champions do. And it’s what they do because they know…
can lift you UP!
Getting better means feeding on forces that resist your development--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually!
The essential question for this critical conversation is this: are you meeting resistance head-on? Are you feeding on, rather than avoiding or running from, the forces that are attempting to pull you down?
We’re in the land of between, once again, one day removed from our “nest” being empty and this time for good. My wife Holly calls it the end of an era. We both try not to think about it very much although I just had to quietly slip into our youngest daughter’s bedroom this morning and kiss her goodbye, both literally and figuratively, before I left for work. Tomorrow morning at this time she will wake up in a new room in her new home and we will wake up to the memories of her that echo from her empty bedroom down the hallway- the bedroom once occupied by her older sister next to the empty bedroom of her older brother next to the empty bedroom of their oldest sister.
Not sure how I like these kinds of changes that drop me into such a neutral zone and re-arrange the furniture of my status quo, everyday life; the normal life. Normal feels good and it’s not really appreciated until it is taken away or pushed aside by something new or different. Normal feels like pulling on a good fitting pair of broken-in jeans. Changing them out with something new takes a little getting used to. This “getting used to” is the neutral zone, it’s the time needed to let go, deal with an ending, or say goodbye to a loss. So it’s not usually the change that gets us, it’s the transition—not taking the time to work our way through the neutral zone until the new takes hold.
Thank God He created us with an amazing ability to adapt to change. The human body is capable of adapting to climate extremes, altitude, weightlessness, stress, alcohol, financial crises, poor nutrition,obsessive work habits, emotional traumas and other manifestations that we either bring on ourselves or have been brought on by circumstances beyond our control. In Ephesians 3:20 it says, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…”
This is what works in changing times, turbulent times, chaotic times, and even times like saying goodbye to life as it has been known for more than thirty years and saying hello to an empty nest. And in their book titled, “Managing Transitions, Making the most of change", William Bridges and Susan Bridges give us some good advice in transitioning well, particularly in organizations, but also applicable to individuals. They say,
1. Take comfort in knowing this is an area that is well mapped, we’ve been here before.
2. Understand the difference between change (situational) and transition (psychological). It’s important to internalize and come to terms with the change.
3. Understand that transitions start with an ending and end with a new beginning. Deal first with the ending, the losing, the letting go.
4. Find words to talk about it. Unmanaged transition makes change unmanageable.
5. Make up our minds to stop doing things the old way and start doing things a new way. Shift into a new gear!
And always, with crucial conversations, remember how God is able to not just help us muddle through but “to do exceeding abundantly.”
Raised with five sisters, John Moscitta, Jr. had been credited in The Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Fastest Talker, with the ability to articulate 586 words per minute. Also known as “Motormouth” Moschitta said that he needed to talk fast “just to get a word in edgewise.” He’s most remembered for the FedEx commercial he appeared in called, “Fast Paced World.”
Considering the speed gap--the difference between how fast we talk and how fast we listen--with the average person speaking about 135 to 175 words a minute, but comprehending at 400 to 500 words a minute, Moschitta is remembered not for what he said but how fast he said what.
Med Jones once said, “For the desert, a camel is better than a horse.” Seems reasonable. A camel is more fitted for traversing this kind of country. The same can be said for kids when it comes to traversing their environment. In a country obsessed with setting speed records, faster is not the answer to what kids need in successfully navigating their world. They need speed bumps where they live--methods to decelerate speed--because they are slow pokes, not fast folks.
In an article called “Fast Folk”, which appeared in Harpers Magazine, author Louis T. Grant likened our fast paced world to “keeping up with the gerbils.” ‘Illustrating the shallowness of relationships in fast folk families Grant said, ‘“There’s no time in such a family for one another, for intimacy, for communication, for listening. That’s for slowpokes. And'”, he said, "'Children are slowpokes.”’ He said, “this is why kids like grandparents so much.”
Well, it’s my seventeen month old grandson that’s become a speed bump for me recently, reminding me to slow down more in order to fill up more on things that really matter, particularly people and relationships. Some things just can’t be hurried. This is one of them. And the test below, developed by Richard Wiseman and The British Council to examine the pace of life around the world, is a good place to start a crucial conversation in discovering if you are living life in the fast lane.
(Answer using Often, Sometimes, Never)
1. Do people tell you that you talk too quickly?
2. When someone takes too long to get to the point, do you feel like hurrying them along?
3. Are you the first person to finish at mealtimes?
4. When walking along a street, do you feel frustrated because you are stuck behind others?
5. Would you become irritable if you sat for an hour without doing anything?
6. Do you walk out of restaurants or shops if you encounter even a short line?
7. When you are faced with an unfamiliar problem, what do you usually do?
a. Address the problem immediately
b. Think about what to do and then take action
c. Sit back and let things work out for themselves
If interested in a score and narrative of your results go to: http://www.richardwiseman.com/quirkology/pace.html
While vacationing with members of my extended family we took turns expressing what we most appreciated about one another. This is not as easy as it sounds because emotions can sometimes make choosing the right words and the delivery of them a bit difficult. Nevertheless, over the course of three consecutive lunches together we huddled around a table choosing words that would affirm a trait, a behavior, a positive change, an act of service, or an accomplishment that we saw, felt, or appreciated in one another. And those words hit their mark stirring our souls and making our hearts glad. Words are containers; containers hold things.
Yes, timely, well placed words have a way of unlocking doors and stepping into rooms of the heart that have been vacated through years of neglect. Timely, well placed words are inviting, inspiring, motivating, and fill us with life."A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Proverbs 25:11
We enjoy sitting down with these kinds of words, chewing on them, digesting them and savoring their aftertaste. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
The Bible mentions the word “tongue” 129 times, the word “words” over 500 times, the word “lips” over 100 times and the word “mouth” over 400 times. Had a former football coach of mine once say that if you could control your tongue you could control the rest of your body. Another former coach of mine once told me to shut my mouth because he was tired of hearing what was coming out of it when it came to making excuses for not performing as instructed. And he was right in doing so.
“Catch ‘em when they’re good” is a saying used in education circles intended to affirm good behavior in others when it is seen. All it takes is a second or two using a word or two. I can still feel the effect of Dad’s words on me as a boy when he said, “good job son”, “I’m proud of you, my son.” I felt those words warm their way up my spine making me feel tall, respected, love, and appreciated. How few parents and partners and supervisors and managers and CEO’s and others in leadership roles today put into play, “catch ‘em when they’re good.” Words are containers; containers hold things.
Perhaps its time for a crucial conversation about the words we use in our conversations with others. And the essential question is this: what kind of aftertaste do they leave?
What Matters Most? is a most important question--a crucial question--that must be answered honestly if we are to get at the end of our lives with fewer regrets and our integrity intact. What Matters Most cuts to the core of what we really value. And what we really value becomes our target of guiding principles--like a north star.
Years ago I was challenged to write down a personal mission statement. I was told to ask myself what was going to be important to me at the end of my life. And that the answer to that question would clarify my values and guide my life choices. It did.
I wrote, "I will have considered my earthly existence to have been wasted if I cannot recall a loving family, a consistent investment in the lives of people, and an earnest attempt to serve the God who made me, because nothing else makes much sense."
I must admit there were times I wanted to amend my statement. I wanted to exchange service for self, acquisition and gain for God, and status for family. Thankfully, with the help of Almighty God, a loving, caring wife, and intervening circumstances, for the most part, I stayed the course. And I am glad I did. So very glad because I know I'd regret today if I had not done what I had done in my yesterday.
So let me ask you, what matters most to you? If you haven't done so yet, write down this essential question and asterisk it. It's called an essential question because it's absolutely necessary you answer it. And that you answer it honestly and thoughtfully.
Get to the core of what you value. Write it out. Inscribe your values on your heart. Turn them over in your soul. Feed on them with your mind. Place them before you as your north star to guide you. Ask yourself what's going to matter most at the end of your life and subscribe to it. Make it your mission.
Watching a cow devour freshly minted hay may appear mundane but the process of digesting it is more than just a rudimentary exercise. In fact, it's a relevant example of the significance and value of reflective practice.
Each bite is chewed just enough to swallow it where it then travels to the first of two stomachs to be stored until the cow feels full. After a brief rest, the cow later begins to cough up bits of the unchewed food called cud to chew on it again until it is fully broken down and swallowed again. It then lands in the third and fourth stomachs where it is fully digested.
According to Professor David Boud, effective learning will not occur unless you reflect. To do this, you must think of a particular moment in time, ponder over it, chew on it again, and only then will you gain new insights into different aspects of that situation which can then lead to trying out new ideas about ways of doing things in the future.
High performance individuals, coaches, and teams have known this for years. It’s the reason practice and game film is so frequently used. The cycle of learning—observation, self awareness, critical analysis, synthesis, and evaluation—are powerful tools for getting better.
When is the last time you took the time to practice reflection? Who or what have you used in place of practice or game film?
A lot of attention has been given to the importance of recording events and experiences using reflective diaries and journals. High performance individuals turn that attention into implementation.
So, get chewing!
· Set aside time for writing.
· Allow time for sifting thoughts and ideas.
· Don’t worry about grammar and style or presentation.
· Remember the purpose is to facilitate reflection on practice. It should be honest, useful, a cue to memory, and enjoyable.
· Find evidence to back up your thoughts or for what you have just written.
Some crucial questions to ask in getting this conversation started:
· What was I trying to do when I did that?
· What did I actually do? How would I describe it?
· Why did I choose to do what I did?
· What information informed my practice?
· What was I really trying to achieve?
· What did I do next and what were the reasons for doing that?
· What was the outcome and was it successful?
· What assessments am I using to evaluate success?
· What alternatives were available?
· Could I have done any better and what would I change if I could do it all over?