No notes for today’s show. You readers will have to click play today. 😉
These 5 books have been on my mind lately. I’ve not re-read them lately, but I’ve ruminated about each of them (and others). Click on any of the images if you’d like to buy any of them. Yes, they’ll be affiliate links earning me a rinky-dink commission. But you won’t mind. Will you?
Some other random useless/useful information about today’s show:
Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson (his latest book)
Here’s the view I looked at for a few days in Arkansas last week.
Thanks for listening!
Here’s one theory about the origin from Wikipedia:
The origins are uncertain, but a common theory is that the expression arose after Conservative Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (“Bob”) appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887, an act of nepotism, which was apparently both surprising and unpopular. Whatever other qualifications Balfour might have had, “Bob’s your uncle” was seen as the conclusive one.
Salisbury is widely believed to be the Uncle Bob that the expression refers to. “Bob’s your uncle” is said to derive from the supposed nepotism of Lord Salisbury, in appointing a favorite nephew, Arthur Balfour, to several political posts in the 1880s.
“Bob’s your uncle” is an exclamation that is used when everything is alright and the simple means of obtaining the successful result is explained.
Here in America, we’d say, “a piece of cake” or “easy as pie.” But I rather prefer, “And Bob’s your uncle.”
Today’s episode was prompted by something that happened one year ago. I recorded the event on my personal Facebook page. Here’s what I wrote.
Grandson #3 (Easton) and grandson #4 (Cason) went with us to see my parents yesterday. On the ride home Easton sees something and the obsession begins. It’s the little marking on the side pillars of the car indicating that there’s a side curtain airbag.
He’s reading out the letters and asking, “What does that say?” All the letters are capitalized though, presenting a new challenge for his reading skills. From the backseat he’s announcing the letters. “S, L, D, E, C, U, R, T…” No break or pause, just reading the letters in straight succession. I quickly realize the problem. The L isn’t an L. It’s a capital “i.”
Me: “That doesn’t spell anything. S,L,D aren’t the first letters to anything.”
Easton: “Yes, it is. That’s what it says, S, L, D, E, C, U…(he goes on to announce every letter for the umpteenth time).”
Me: “That says, ‘Bob’s your uncle.”
Easton: “No, it doesn’t. Bob’s your uncle doesn’t start with S.”
Me: “Sure it does.”
Easton: “No, Bob’s your uncle doesn’t start with S.”
Me: “What does ‘Bob’s your uncle start with?”
Me: “Very good.”
Me: “That second letter isn’t an L, it’s an “i.”
Easton: “But it doesn’t have a dot.”
Me: “It’s a capital i. All those letters are capitalized.”
Easton: “But it’s S, L, D, E…” (again reciting every single letter)
Me: “It says, ‘Side Curtain Airbag.” (I go on to explain what that is)
Then comes a 10-minute conversation on how those airbags deploy. And I interject “Bob’s your uncle” some more along the way.
Me: “When the airbags come out they say, ‘Bob’s your uncle’ on them.”
Easton: “But I’ve never seen them say, ‘Bob’s your uncle.'”
Me: “Because you’ve never seen airbags. They don’t come out until you crash the car. You never want to see ‘Bob’s your uncle’ unless you crash.”
To add confusion, Rhonda inserts, “Cale is YOUR uncle.”
Easton: “Then why does it say, ‘Bob’s your uncle?”
Me: “To let you know the airbags are out. And uncle Cale answers to, ‘Bob.'”
This goes on for about 5 more minutes with Easton growing increasingly skeptical. Rhonda finally tells him I’m “pulling his leg.” Of course, that means she has to explain what that phrase means.
Easton: “I thought so. I knew it didn’t say, ‘Bob’s your uncle.'”
Now, I’m Googling for Bob’s Your Uncle t-shirts in kid’s sizes! I’m also coaching him to call Cale “Bob” the next time he sees him!
I smile every time I think of that car ride.
I wish Bob was my uncle, but I do have a cousin named Bob.
Easy peasy. That’s our hokey American equivalent. Much less clever than, “And Bob’s you’re uncle.”
That’s that. Kinda sorta the same thing.
I don’t know if the story is the correct origin of the saying, but I hope so because that makes it funnier to me. Some ner-do-well fella gets a high position and everybody stands around questioning, “Who? Who? Who got it?” Then some lone voice says, “Arthur. Arthur got it. Bob gave it to his nephew, Arthur.” Then some crusty old politician says, “And Bob’s your uncle!”
So many ideas rush through my punny brain. So many different directions to go with all this, but a few that I don’t want to pursue are nepotism, having a leg up because of family ties, or getting advancement because of who you know, or who knows you.
Easton sat by me during a recent church service. He and his little brother often sit with us Sunday afternoons or Wednesday evenings during worship. As he settles in he shows me a folded-up five-dollar bill. My wife unfolds it asking him which president is on it. He correctly answers, “Lincoln.” She then proceeds to look for where it was printed. We have a U.S. Mint here in Ft. Worth so she was looking to see if it may have been printed locally. While she’s doing that I told him, “In very fine print somewhere it says, “And Bob’s your uncle.” He proceeds to point to every line of fine print and act as though he’s reading, “And Bob’s your uncle.”
I’m pretty determined to keep this bit going as long as possible. Or until I can get him a T-shirt. Or maybe until I can get myself one.
Eventually, he’ll be old enough to understand an explanation of what it really means. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the quirkiness of his confusion.
And of course, I’m adding to the confusion at every turn. Like this past Sunday, I asked him and his little brother, “You know what Bob spelled backward is? It’s Bob.” Cason, his little brother who I nicknamed Road Rash Roy because the kid always has scratches and skinned elbows and knees, says, “No, it doesn’t.”
“Yes, it does. Bob forwards is also Bob backward…”
“And Bob’s your uncle.”
It’s just that easy to confuse 2 little boys who I love dearly. I mess with them so much they know it. They’re learning how to discern it all. Little do they know how important this training in sarcasm will be to their successful future in navigating the world. But I know.
I also know that everything is hard…until it’s easy.
I’m about 20 years into a mild fascination with minimalism. If only I’d discovered it 40 years ago my fascination might be wild, not mild. By the time kids were in college I was too far down the road to clutter and accumulation. Now that it’s just the two of us parts of it seem less daunting, but other parts more so. There is nothing about decluttering that seems worthy of uttering, “And Bob’s your uncle.” It’s insanely hard.
My wife took three days a few weeks to paint the inside of some of the kitchen cabinets and reorganize things. This included purging lots of things. It also included numerous instances of, “Hey, look here at what I found.” There are so many items in a kitchen that haven’t been used in years, if ever. Begs the question, “Why do we have that?” No need to ask, “Why don’t you get rid of it?” because until you dig it out of the back of a cabinet, you have no idea you have it.
Permit me to coach myself through this, with you serving as witnesses. Invisible accountability partners of sorts.
The world tells us lies. Lots and lots of lies. In fact, I dare say most of what we’re told, exposed to, and the stuff that gets shared on social media are outright lies, phony ideas and falsehoods.
For instance, it’s the journey, not the destination.
No, it’s not. It’s all about the destination. Why do we get in the car and drive hours and hours? To get someplace where we’d like to be. Somewhere other than where we were. We endure the journey so we can get to the destination.
Another lie, it’s about the process, not the outcome.
No, it’s not. It’s all about the outcome. Why endure the beating of the process unless we’re pursuing the outcome.
I read an article entitled, Why People Who Focus More On Processes Than Outcomes Gain More In Their Life. There’s no proof that this title is correct. But it sounds good. To some. Maybe to many. The article speaks of people who want to lose weight. Okay, just stop and think about this. A person sets out to lose weight, but that’s not the reason (motivation, a’hem “inspiration”) for it. Oh, really? Well, then why do they want to endure the process of losing weight? Because they just want to experience another area of self-discipline that requires sacrifice? No, dummy. It’s because they want to be thinner, lighter. They want the outcome. Just like when I get in the car, there’s someplace I want (or need to) be. Otherwise, I’m staying home! And staying fat!
…and Bob’s your uncle.
Here’s an aside, but it’s important. Do you know the difference between motivation and inspiration? Many people confuse them as synonyms, but they’re not remotely the same.
Motivation is the energy you bring with you to get it done – whatever it is.
Inspiration is the too-often-short-term-excitement resulting from an external source.
Can I inspire you? Maybe. Mostly, here at LTW, I’m working to provoke thought. You can determine whether I succeed or not, but suppose I do inspire you to lean more toward wisdom. That inspiration won’t last unless or until you summon up the motivation – the inner energy and dedication – to do the work. I can’t want it for you enough. Nobody can either. You have to do it for yourself. That’s motivation.
Easy Peasy. Bob’s Your Uncle.
But more accurately, everything is hard until it’s easy.
As I was making notes in preparation for this episode I wrote down three words: create, play, perform. I was thinking about musicians and how that process of making music translates to just about anything else. We create art, music, math, or athletic competency. Then we play or do. We practice the art, the music, the math, or the athletic endeavor. We do it. Over and over and over. Some of us do it well. Others of us, not so much. And we perform. Sometimes, like musicians, it’s in front of people, live or recorded. Like athletes, we have games, or matches, or meets or tournaments. People watch us perform. They look at the results of our work.
There is no “Bob’s your uncle” moment in these endeavors because, unlike a political appointment, nobody can bestow these on us. We have to earn them. It made me wish I had an uncle named Bob. I wish some things – like learning guitar – were easier. But I realized if that was true, then it wouldn’t likely be as remarkable as I know it is. It might be relegated to common, ordinary, and uninspiring.
Another truth appeared as I considered these 3 words (create, play, perform) — excellence isn’t in those outlier performances, but in the ordinary. I was watching (again) that Michael Jordan documentary series. MJ had some extraordinary performances, but as I watched his story – one I was able to see in real-time since I’m so old – I realized that his greatness was in the consistency of his performances over time. His level of performing at his ordinary level was so vastly more consistent than many players, and his remarkable moments were so much higher…he achieved superstar status. Rightly so.
Everyday. Consistent. Discipline. Dedication.
Got nothing to do with Bob being your uncle. Bob can be your uncle and it won’t matter!
Here’s the thing. Some people are waiting for Bob or somebody to bequeath to them success. Or achievement. It could happen in some things, like politics. Or a lucky inheritance. Some other form of chance. But it’s got nothing to do with merit. Instead, it’s favor. It’s getting something easily.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of getting something easily if you can. It’s just a horribly unreliable way to get anything. To wait for somebody to give it to you. It’s the life of folks who embrace that “if only” philosophy. If only I could win the lottery. If only I could get that promotion. If only that company would hire me. If only I had my master’s degree. If only I had their luck. It’s an endless stream of “if only” excuses.
Well, you’re a loser and life isn’t going to magically get better for you. And Bob’s your uncle! 😀
I heard a musician wonder if high achievement were the norm…would creativity lean toward awful? If everybody were bent toward creating remarkable work, would unremarkable work be deemed innovative and creative? Thankfully, we’re not beleaguered with such things because most of what’s produced isn’t all that good. I’ve even heard it argued that the universe rewards mediocrity. Maybe we can’t handle too much remarkability. Maybe average makes the world go round ’cause it’s everywhere all the time! 😉
And Bob’s your uncle.
The phrase evokes a smile. Every time. Because it’s funny to me.
But there’s another side that’s slightly serious. “And Bob’s your uncle,” signifies it’s easy. Effortless even. And in spite of the historical context of the phrase, most things worthwhile require a degree of dedication and hard work. Unless Bob’s your uncle.
Smooth paths. Easy decisions. They’re mostly roads to nowhere, but not always. For example, surrender is a smooth path, an easy decision. It’s not something I’ve done much of when it comes to trying to make a positive difference, but as I’ve leaned toward older age…it’s become increasingly more tempting. More so in the past few years than at any other time in my life. Especially when it comes to groups where people are clamoring for power and authority. My lifelong battle against tyranny has taken a toll I guess. I find myself not caring quite as much as I once did. I’ve had my bouts battling resignation (surrender), but that seems to demand a degree of apathy, which I just don’t have. To any degree.
Apathy may not always be bad though. And it may not really be apathy – not caring – as much as it may be caring less than you once did. Priorities change. Objectives do, too. I think my apathy isn’t true apathy, but my caring less than I once did. And that’s absolutely true about many things, including some group dynamics where I see people wrangle to propel themselves and their opinions forward at the expense of the group. I find myself not caring so much to benefit the group with experience and insight because wisdom has taught me I’m not able, capable or even the right fit all the time. Sometimes, as older and wiser heads always taught me, it’s best to be still and quiet so things can play out. That’s been difficult all my life…until now. Now? It’s not that hard. In fact, it’s my preferred course. And Bob’s your uncle! 😀
We’re now about 4 months into 2021 and I’ve made a number of key decisions for moving my life forward. This phrase has been part of the process as I’ve carefully examined my natural abilities, my opportunities, my challenges, and my ideal outcomes. Sir Ken Robinson wrote The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.
Sir Ken defines being in your element as finding that place where natural aptitude and what you love intersect. It’s not about simply pursuing what you most love because what you most love may not be what you’re good at. Both natural aptitude and passion (what you love) are important.
At my age, I know what I’m good at. I know the very few things I’m great at. And I know what I most love.
Professionally, I’m doing it. Coaching executives and leaders in high-performance careers, teams, groups, and organizations. I’ve spent my life learning these things and now I’m able to pass them on in a non-judgmental way. I challenge my clients to examine their natural abilities (including their personality, their communication styles/preferences, and what they prefer), their opportunities, their challenges, and their ideal outcomes! It’s not easy work, but clients know it’s the most worthwhile professional work they can do – to invest in themselves so they can be a more positive influence for their employees. The bottom line is making the most positive difference possible.
Enter the phrase, “And Bob’s your uncle!”
Last fall I began to wrestle with, “What’s easy? And likely the best course of action?”
I had one specific situation of my life in mind – a group I’ve been part of for over 30 years. I concluded that being still and quiet was now easiest, and likely best. Maybe you can relate because you may be in a group that just no longer has the value it once did. Or one where your contributions aren’t needed any longer. Not a group you’re going to walk away from, but a group where you’re simply going to be a more quiet member. In my case, a very quiet and still member. And it’s fine. Fact is, it’s more than fine. “And Bob’s your uncle!”
It easy. And that’s the point. It wasn’t always the case, but today things have changed. My mental and spiritual health matter. They’ve always mattered, but today there’s a renewed focus on those that I know I must pay close attention to because the damage to those can be high if we don’t protect them. For me, stillness and silence are terrific tools of protection for spiritual and mental health.
Fact is, I’ve never been better.
Never been as fit for the work before me. Never been this patient. Or this skilled. Or this knowledgeable. Or had this level of understanding. Or had this much ambition to want to focus on helping others. Because the window is closing and I want to benefit others with what I’ve learned. They can do with it whatever they will, but generations should never pass away without sharing what they’ve learned. Whether the next generation wants to learn it, that’s up to them. Some will. Some won’t. Either way, I don’t get too fixated on that because it doesn’t remove my urge or responsibility to do my part. This is exactly why I’m continuing to grow my coaching practice and lean more heavily into my professional pursuits more than ever. And that seems weird perhaps, given that I’m in my early 60s and not in my early 20s or 30s. But it’s completely true.
For one important reason that I must convey before I finish today’s show. You have to invest yourself where you matter most. As Harry Callahan, aka Dirty Harry, said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” When you reach my age, hopefully, you’ve learned your limitations.
But I think I’ve known all along. My limitations. They’re easy to spot. Learning what I’m best at has been a slog. Much, much tougher to figure out. But I’m there. I’ve been there for the past dozen years or more. Helping people reach new heights in their leadership is my talent. Helping leaders build high-performing cultures is my gift. Shining the spotlight on others while I remain in the shadows is most comfortable. And Bob’s your uncle. These are easy things for me. And at this age, I’m tired of doing hard.
So for me, today, Bob’s your uncle means it’s high time for me to lean more heavily into helping people who most want my help. Serving people who are anxious to achieve new levels of success in their own lives and in helping the lives of those they lead. And to help people who are struggling through issues in life. It’s what I do – and what I’ve done all my life.
I recently posted this diagram, a progression I’ve used almost all my life. I posted a podcast about it here at GrowGreat.com. And I referenced it in a little article at RandyCantrell.com just this week.
I encourage you to think about what you’re good at – really good at. What others see you being good at, not what you most want to be good at, but aren’t. The things where your natural aptitude shines. Easily. And the things you most love. If you’re as lucky as me, they’ll be things that benefit others in some way.
And Bob’s your uncle!
I’m doing some computer work and watching Homicide Hunter on ID Discovery. It’s just on as background noise, but I perk up when the shot includes Lt. Kenda looking into the camera asking about some dysfunctional family behavior that involved murder. He answers his own question with this witty answer,
“I don’t know ’cause I’m not crazy.”
Reasoning with unreasonable people.
Trying to relate to crazy when you’re sane. Trying to influence foolishness with wisdom. Trying to combat hatred with love. Battling sadness with humor. There are many paradoxes.
“I don’t know ’cause I’m not crazy.”
It implies that if Lt. Kenda were crazy then perhaps he could better understand the crazy behaviors he observes.
I catch myself sometimes. Saying things that seem habitual. You know, those phrases or sayings you say all the time on auto-pilot. Without even thinking. Until one day you realize, “I say that an awful lot. I should quit doing that.”
We all have them. Some of us more than others. Mine, at least on this occasion, was, “What do I know?”
What do I know?
I most often say it when I make an observation – not from certainty, but from uncertainty. That is, I really don’t have much of a clue if I understand something or not. Then I say, “…but what do I know?”
Kenda has extensive knowledge of murder and crime. And criminal behavior. But he still doesn’t understand it because it contains a level of crazy. And he’s not crazy.
Don’t we all know that sensation? That feeling?
Two people find themselves needing money. Desperately.
One scrambles to think of what he has that has any monetary value. Something he can sell. He thinks about what he might be able to do to hire himself out. Clean gutters. Rake leaves. Anything.
The other one doesn’t think of any of those things. Instead, he thinks of who has what he wants – money. And how can he take it from them.
I see that first fellow and understand. But I don’t understand the second fellow at all. My mind just doesn’t go there.
Right and wrong. Those are heavily involved in these notions. Kenda can’t relate to the criminal mind. Hopefully, neither can we.
Hopefully, we can’t relate to the immoral mind. The person, who when faced with some serious challenge, thinks that bad behavior might somehow make things better. That alcohol, drugs, and sex just might provide the remedy to make their lives better. It never does. But I don’t know ’cause I’m not crazy enough to think so.
Crime. Immorality. Human degradation.
Degradation is the act of lowering something or someone to a less respected state.
Would a person intentionally lower themselves to a less respected state? Of course. People do it all the time. Some don’t think they’re lowering themselves. Some are too self-centered and just don’t care enough about themselves to increase their respected state. Still, others are plagued by addictions. Some others, by untreated or undiagnosed mental illness. Degradation is a complex issue.
The significant factor here is knowledge. Knowing. More accurately, it’s about understanding, but as Kenda observed – that’s impossible when you don’t suffer the same crazy. Or the same delusion. Or the same foolishness. And honestly, do you want to? Of course not.
It makes solving these problems more challenging. It makes helping – serving – some people almost impossible.
“You can’t reason with an unreasonable person.”
“You can’t want it for somebody if they don’t want it for themselves.”
So many truisms. What should we do then? I wish I knew, but I don’t. ‘Cause I’m not crazy. Or disposed to chasing foolishness. Or bent toward committing crimes or pursuing doing the wrong thing. That doesn’t mean I’m immune from these things. Neither are you. I suppose we could all fall into the wrong things – degrading things. Thankfully, most of us don’t. Because most of us can and do keep our wits about us to prevent us from sliding off the edges.
Then there’s Charlie Sheen. Just yesterday I saw an article entitled, Charlie Sheen took over the internet 10 years ago. He has serious regrets. It was a horrible scene that became a cultural phenomenon with the hashtag, #Winning. In 2010/2011 Sheen was the highest-paid actor on TV at $2 million an episode of CBS’s hit show, Two and a Half Men. But he had serious personal issues including drug and alcohol abuse. The meltdown was very public taking the Internet by storm. I remember thinking at the time, “Nobody can help this guy.” It seemed apparent that he wasn’t in any frame of mind to listen to wisdom. Or accept help. But I didn’t know any details. Here’s a snippet of the article.
‘If I could go back in time…’
“There’s a moment when [former CBS CEO] Les Moonves and his top lawyer, Bruce, were at my house and they said, ‘OK, the Warner jet is fueled up on the runway. Wheels up in an hour and going to rehab, right?’ My first thought was sort of like really … there’s some comedy value to what my first thought was,” Sheen says. “In that moment, when I said, ‘Oh, damn, I finally get the Warner jet.’ That’s all I heard. But if I could go back in time to that moment, I would’ve gotten on the jet. And it was that giant left turn in that moment that led to, you know, a very unfortunate sequence of public and insane events.”
He has many regrets about what he did during that time, especially demanding a higher salary. He says now that he wasn’t being a team player.
“There was 55 different ways for me to handle that situation, and I chose number 56. And so, you know, I think the growth for me post-meltdown or melt forward or melt somewhere — however you want to label it — it has to start with absolute ownership of my role in all of it,” Sheen explains. “And it was desperately juvenile.”
He says he had agreed to do things their way, and he wasn’t living up to his end of the bargain.
“I think it was drugs or the residual effects of drugs … and it was also an ocean of stress and a volcano of disdain. It was all self-generated, you know,” Sheen says of what prompted the incident. “All I had to do was take a step back and say, ‘OK, let’s make a list. Let’s list, like, everything that’s cool in my life that’s going on right now. Let’s make a list of what’s not cool.’ You know what I’m saying? And the cool list was really full. The not cool list was, like, two things that could’ve been easily dismissed.”
He sums it up as, “I was getting loaded and my brain wasn’t working right.”
Charlie observes that the media’s view of mental health today is quite different than it was when he was going through his ordeal.
“I was really a guy that needed someone to reach out to and say, ‘Hey, man, obviously there’s a ton of other s*** going on. How can we help?'” Sheen says. “And instead they showed up in droves with banners and songs, all types of fanfare and celebration of, you know, what I think was a very public display of a mental health moment.”
Sheen is like so many others who survive the mayhem of their poor choices and behavior. He has regrets. He can’t believe he behaved so poorly. What’s done is done! He hopes he’ll have a third act – one that’ll allow him to be remembered for his acting prowess and not his oh-so-public meltdown. Time will tell. I wish – like he seems to – that he’d have made better choices. I hope he’s doing much better.
Hulu has a new movie out. An oddball affair but one I found rather captivating. Nomadland. The Atlantic describes it as a “gorgeous journey through America’s promise.”
During the great recession following 2008, in 2011 a gypsum mine and plant out west closed after 88 years. The place became so desolate that even the zip code evaporated.
From The Atlantic…
Though Fern is the fictional center of the movie, her backstory is rooted in reality—she is from Empire, Nevada, which once served as a company town for the United States Gypsum Corporation, before it closed its local mine. An opening title card reveals the toll this shutdown took on the actual community’s livelihoods: The town emptied out so quickly that its zip code was discontinued.
America has a segment of our population who are nomadic. They venture from place to place often taking seasonal work, like Fern, the main character in the movie. Restaurant work, Amazon fulfillment centers, state or national park work. Whatever they can wherever they can to keep pushing further up the road.
I was already pondering Lt. Kenda’s statement when I sat down to watch Nomadland. I couldn’t help but think that I don’t know what it’s like to live as these people do. Some by choice. Others by circumstance. And still others, perhaps like Fern, because of both circumstance and choice!
This is far different than not knowing because I’m not crazy. It’s not knowing because I’ve not experienced it. Watching the story unfold, about Fern and a cast of others who live on the roads roaming from place to place, I felt as though I could understand it a bit. She’s not crazy in the sense that Lt. Kenda meant it. Or the way I mean it. She’s making a choice I wouldn’t make, but that doesn’t mean anything other than she’s living her life, and I’m living mine.
“And my doing this affects you how?”
I say this to myself. Rarely, but on occasion, I have uttered it out loud.
My son started a full-time business a couple of years ago. He’s got a successful home inspection business, RyanInspects.com. He left the field of education after about a decade. A fellow who knows us both asked me what I thought about him leaving education full-time to start his own business. Clearly, he didn’t approve. And I thought to myself, “This affects you how?” but instead I said, “I think it’s great.”
Fern’s decision to live this nomadic life doesn’t affect my life at all. I can feel sadness for her. I can project and feel the loneliness of that kind of life.
She visits her sister and brother-in-law. They don’t understand her choice. Or her circumstances. It’s not like she sold her possessions, got a van, and hit the road. She got caught in the economic crush of the 2008 recession. In time, necessity became her choice. Her family didn’t experience what she did. They didn’t face her circumstances. Perhaps they’d have handled it differently. Maybe not. We’ll never know. We only know what she did – and what she’s doing. She’s not trolling the highways murdering people. She’s doing whatever she can to keep moving on down the road.
Judgment is easy.
Compassion is hard.
All of us are prone to assumptions. Judgments. Harsh critical judgments. Few of us are bent toward deeper understanding though because it’s uncomfortable. It means conversation, even confrontation. You have to go find out if you’re able. You have to ask questions. Easier to sit in solitude and draw conclusions. Fill in all the gaps of what we don’t know with what we think.
Pay attention to the media you consume. For me, it’s weekday radio dubbed sports talk, but it’s really more guy talk. This week Tiger Woods had a bad car crash in L.A. Much is still unknown except that it was a horrific crash causing extensive injuries to both legs. Major surgery. A long rehab schedule awaits.
I listened to this station – my very favorite – and began to notice just how assumptions rule the day. For over 2 straight days each show went on lengthy “what if” conversations. The hosts wondered if substance abuse might be involved. They wondered if he’d had any sleep the night before. They wondered if he’d ever walk again. Or if he’d ever play golf again. They wondered why it took so long to extract him. They wondered why he left his hotel around 7 am to make an hour-long drive to a 7:30 am photo shoot appointment. They wondered why he didn’t have a driver.
Along with all the wondering, numerous conjectures were made. Don’t mistake conjecture for conclusions.
an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information
That’s conjecture. Lt. Kenda made a conclusion when he observed criminal behavior and confessed he didn’t know why people did such things.
a judgment or decision reached by reasoning
That’s a conclusion. You can take issue with Kenda’s reasoning on why he can’t understand – “cause I’m not crazy” – but it’s a logical conclusion.
As for Tiger’s car wreck, I’m not qualified to draw a conclusion beyond the fact that he was driving too fast and was clearly running late. Conjecture is pointless for me. For talk radio, it burns segments and gets people listening. Sadly, it fuels our collective urge to keep on forming opinions with woefully incomplete information. Mostly, it seems conjecture is steeped in assuming the worst.
As a young business leader I knew from experience coming up as a teenage worker that if the boss (a’hem “leader”) didn’t provide a narrative where I could make sense of my work, then I’d write my own story in my head. And it wasn’t good. Ever. So with my co-workers. None of us assumed we’d be getting a raise or some other good benefit. We figured we were in trouble, or we’d have to work late, or come in early. Our assumptions were always – 100% of the time – that the boss would impose on us. And you know what? We were right! 😀
By the time leadership was thrust on me I already had my mind made up that it was important for me to give people a better story. A true story. One where they could clearly and easily see how they made a positive difference. A story where they better understand how they fit into a bigger picture. Because I knew if I didn’t give them that story, they’d write one of their own — and it would be terrible. So it goes with conjecture.
Lt. Kenda doesn’t know – and I don’t know either – ’cause neither of us is crazy. Not yet.
Does it mean in order to understand you’d have to be crazy? To properly understand why a drug addict would kill somebody in order to get more drugs, do you have to be just like him? I’m thinking about these things because of one thing – a quest – to understand.
Don’t focus on Kenda’s reason for not knowing – ’cause I’m not crazy. Instead, focus on the first part of what he said, “I don’t know.” Neither do I, but I wonder if it’s possible.
I’ve got some people on my mind, but I have one particular person on my mind. So let’s see if we can help each other because I know I’m not alone.
Any time I see somebody in a bad way I think of the people in their inner circle. Their family. The people who love them.
TV shows about hoarders, homeless, murderers, drug addicts, and others in all sorts of distressing situations often show friends and family. The stories are often told through their eyes. At least partly. But these are 30 or 60 minute TV programs. I wonder what life looks like for them once the cameras, lights, and microphones are gone. And life goes back to whatever normal is for these people.
I remember watching an interview with Jeffrey Dahmer’s dad, Lionel. He admitted that other than extreme shyness, Jeffrey seemed like any other kid. Later, after everything came to light, they learned that Jeffrey admitted riding his bike around collecting roadkill and saving it in bags. He was 12 to 14. Mom and dad knew nothing about that. Friends didn’t either. He hid it. As an adult, Jeffrey made an admission that he knew he was sick or evil…or both.
Lionel wrote a book in 1994 entitled, A Father’s Story. He observes that Jeffrey is a much, much darker version of himself. Both are horribly shy, insecure, and controlling. Lionel went on to be an analytical chemist while Jeffrey suffered a string of failures. People are quite interested still in how a person can end up doing what Jeffrey did. Lionel seems to have tried to help other parents by facing the realities of what his son had done. He appeared in interviews, documentaries and wrote this book. Skeptics might claim he was hoping to profit from his son’s sins. I think that’s horribly cynical and wrong. But that’s just me. I don’t know for sure.
And there it is again. A lack of understanding. Still working to figure things out. Still trying to understand, but not with some voyeuristic curiosity, but to better understand how I might improve. Yes, to first help myself. To understand what I can learn from the past. To understand how to better cope with the present. To understand how to improve moving forward. Like Lionel, I figure if more of us were willing to share such struggles, we all might learn something. And find our own path toward understanding.
As a Christian, most of my understanding stems from my understanding, belief, and conviction about God. In the past decade I often myself going back to look at the life of King David. Nightly I’ve been reading aloud about him to my wife as we study hoping to learn what we can from a person acknowledged by God as being a man after His own heart.
Even unbelievers know about David’s sin with Bathsheba. We wonder how a man after God’s own heart could betray God so severely that he ended up murdering Bathsheba’s innocent husband so he could have her himself. I understand it though because it’s how selfishness and sin work. We’re all capable of being blinded by our own desires. From kings to the impoverished, we’re all capable of suffering from delusions of our own making. King David proves it. Jeffrey Dahmer’s depravity proves it.
The Bible also teaches me that God created us with the capacity to make up our own minds. To do what we choose. God wants us to choose Him because He wants to provide redemption from our sins. He’s the only being capable of that. We alone have the capacity – given to us by God, the Creator – to resist God. To rebel. To instead serve ourselves. Just like David did.
Fortunately, David was sent a close friend and prophet, Nathan, who confronted him with his sin. Immediately, he confessed his sin and begged God to forgive him. Like the famous parable of the prodigal son in the book of Luke, King David “came to himself.” So many don’t.
I think about Lionel. I think about the parents of murdered children. I think about the parents of the murderers. I think about all the people I know firsthand who are enduring grief, sorrow, and sadness because they don’t understand how foolish they’re behaving. Because they lack the capacity to have regrets. People who suffer due to their own selfish choices.
I think about my own regrets.
I think about what Lt. Kenda said and realize there are some things I likely won’t ever understand.
Like how a person can go from one thing to something completely different. From having so many advantages to having none. From having a good reputation to being despicable. From behaving with integrity to behaving with blatant immorality. From being reasonable to being unreasonable. From being a good person to being a terrible person.
Yes, I smirk whenever I hear people claim that “you’re not what you do.” Yes, you are. That’s exactly who you are.
In an old 1980 movie called Carny (I only watched it ’cause Robbie Robertson of The Band was in it, along with Gary Busey) there’s a crazy old carny who utters a great line, which still makes no sense, but I’ve always loved it anyway…
If I had all day, I’d be an astronaut.
Gary Busey responds to the old man’s declaration, “Well, we don’t have all day and you’re not an astronaut. 😀
Indeed, we don’t have all day and I’m not an astronaut.
That’s how I feel about people who utter such nonsense as “you’re not what you do.” Well, then, am I what I think about doing. If I think I’m an astronaut, am I? Am I whatever I say I am.? What makes me an astronaut? Oh, I know. Being an astronaut is doing the work of an astronaut. It’s putting in the work that qualifies me to be an astronaut. So, no, I’m not an astronaut.
That doesn’t answer what I am though. There are many things I’m not. Hopefully, I’m not crazy even though I often feel as though I could be. Like Lt. Kenda, I just don’t know sometimes.
Let me tell you what I do know.
People – including me and including you – can do whatever we please. And mostly, we do.
Yes, I know others impose on us. Jobs, bosses, situations, circumstances, obligations and the like. But each of fundamentally can choose any and all of these. Like water, we mostly find the path of least resistance where we can be most comfortable. Never mind if it’s a profitable direction or not. Never mind if we’re growing or improving. That’s not the purpose of the day. The purpose is usually to get through it and we don’t always do that in ways that ideally serve us. Or others.
It mostly is about us.
“Don’t prepare. Begin. Our enemy is not lack of preparation. The enemy is resistance, our chattering brain producing excuses. Start before you are ready.”
– Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. In it, he talks extensively about “the resistance.” It’s that thing that gets in the way of you doing something difficult, challenging, daring, better. Creative.
Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.
I’ve learned that some people, however, avoid resistance. They don’t resist themselves. The criminals Kenda encounters don’t resist either. If they think they’ll rob somebody or commit violence, they do it. Where most of us (thankfully) resist thinking such actions are even a possibility, these folks not only think they’re possible – they’re doable. It’s called self-control. Discipline. Temperance. Not everybody is willing to let that kind of resistance work in their best interests.
Pressfield uses resistance while writing about fears in creative pursuits – the war of art, specifically creating art (and art is very loosely defined because it could be a book, an article, a poem, a blog post, a podcast, a video, a drawing, a song, a movie, a script, a job, a task…anything productive). I don’t know Steven but I promise he’s not urging people to ignore their fears of murdering people. Or doing anything else that’s destructive to themselves or others.
I’ve also learned that you can’t want it enough for somebody else. Because we each basically make our own choices, we have the capacity to resist influences, especially those we don’t agree with. Watch any episode of Hoarders or Intervention and you’ll see what I mean. The hoarder and the addict don’t care what their friends and family think. Mostly, they don’t listen to them. Not all influences come from a place of others wanting to control us. It often comes from a place of care, concern, and wanting what’s best for us. But it doesn’t matter how much their loved ones want it for them. Nobody can want it enough to bring about positive change if the person doesn’t want it.
Consider your life. Can anybody want something for you – enough to do it for you? I’m not talking about a gift or a prize. I’m talking about a choice, a behavior, or an action that only you can make. There is no human being who can want it for you enough. God can’t want it enough for you. We all know God doesn’t want people to do some of the horrible things they do – but they do them anyway.
Everything is hard until it’s easy. And mostly, we prefer easy.
But sometimes easy grows increasingly more difficult. A person is well-educated. They have a terrific career. And a family. Including kids. Over time it becomes increasingly easier and easier to think of themselves as a victim, deserving of whatever they want. It leads to cheating on their spouse. And more cheating.
There’s alcohol and drugs. Who knows which came first. It doesn’t matter. It’s a choice. They sing the popular refrain, “I deserve to be happy.” We watch the trainwreck they seem unable to see – the one that is THEIR life – and we think, “This is happiness?” Colossal selfishness and destructive behavior too often pose as the pursuit of self…of happiness.
The marriage is broken. Give it time and so too is the career. Next stop, homelessness. Boundless immorality. Unbridled drug use. A daily devotion to avoid resistance of all types. “I’m gonna do whatever I want to do and nobody is going to tell me differently.”
Maybe it’s just me, but it sure looks hard from where I sit. Nothing about that nose dive looks easy, but it is self-centered, undisciplined, irresponsible, and unbridled.
A scripture always leaps to my mind.
Proverbs 13:15 “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.”
This is why I’m rather obsessed with improving understanding. It’s why this pursuit of wisdom – getting it right in real-time – is important.
I know it’s hard to have a great marriage, but it’s much, much harder I suspect to have a bad one.
I know it’s hard to have a productive career, but it’s much, much harder to have an unproductive one.
Sometimes the path forward requires us to let go.
Maybe it’s a past. Maybe it’s a thought of what might have been. Maybe it’s a person. Perhaps even somebody we still love very much.
There’s an auxiliary point to this one and that is, we all – every single one of us – must know our limitations. We have to know who and what we are when it comes to our ability to serve others.
I know people who are flathead screwdrivers and to them, every problem – every situation – looks like a flathead screw. They happily insert themselves in every situation, with everybody, because they think they have some obligation to be the fixer or they think they can fix it. Quite often, as you might imagine, they make matters much, much worse. But they rarely see it. Because it’s mostly about them and if they can walk away after inserting themselves they feel better about themselves. It doesn’t matter so much if the person they impacted is left more damaged. They’re not responsible for that. They’re the hero in their story and the story is always about them.
We have to let go by understanding our limitations. None of us are exempt.
Lionel had to let go of Jeffrey. Jeffrey’s crimes aren’t Lionel’s. People can judge him. I’m sure many people have and will continue to. I hope Lionel has figured out how to let go to a large enough degree that he’s been able to move forward. He’s in his 80s as I record this so I wish him all the best.
Millions of parents have to learn to let go of grown-up children. Some are controlling and they need to learn to let their kids be adults because…well, the kids are adults.
Some parents of wayward adult kids have to let go knowing that holding on isn’t helping. The son who is a criminal isn’t served by parents who hold on. The parents just get dragged down with their misbehaving son.
Every summer there are many drownings in area lakes. Very often the story involved multiple victims because somebody jumped in to save a drowning person…only to drown themselves. I’m not saying efforts shouldn’t be put forth to save somebody. But I am saying whatever the situation, we all have to be careful. Two deaths aren’t better than one. No deaths are ideal, but sometimes that’s not possible.
Sometimes people are too far gone. Some have been traveling for years down the wrong road. Do you chase them? If so, you’ll have to follow them because they’re not moving toward you. They continue to move away from you and what’s right. You have to stop. Let go.
We also have to let go of thinking we’re the solution for every problem. Recently, I witnessed a person going down the wrong road, but I said to another concerned person, “I’m not the right person for that job (the job of helping this person find their way back).” I once was, but no more. I had enough wits about me regarding this situation and this person to know that I was no longer the right person for the job. It’s not an easy thing to let go of. I’d rather think – like you – that I have some capacity to be of service. Age, experience, and wisdom have taught me better! That’s delusional to think we’re the right person for every job. We’re not. None of us.
I have a few very unsafe people in my life. I intentionally keep those relationships as shallow as possible. For both of us. No point in enraging people by intentionally demonstrating that I’m breathing the same air they do. 😉
I have other people who are very safe for me. People I trust. People who have, over the years, proven they have my best interests in mind. People who know I feel the same toward them.
Which ones do you think are able to serve me best? Which ones do you think would do more harm to me if they inserted themselves in any effort to serve me?
Well, brace yourself. You are unsafe for some. You are safe for others. Still, others don’t much think about you. You’re a non-factor. All of us have to learn to let go of thinking we can serve people at an individual, confidential level unless we are safe for THEM.
All of this letting go is hard. The thing that makes it easier is to get our minds off ourselves. Too much focus on ourselves prevents us from doing it better.
There are times when we need to turn the page.
This is different from letting go. I only know this because letting go is easier for me than turning the page. Well, sometimes.
When it’s somebody I care for deeply, it’s insanely hard. If it’s somebody I don’t much care about, it’s easy. 😉
Let’s define turning the page. For me, it’s more like closing the book. It’s got a finality to it that I resist. I’m optimistic that things may turn around. They may come to themselves. Maybe they’ll change their mind and change their behavior. Make better choices.
Then I look at the wake of destruction and sometimes I just have to conclude that the damage done is so severe I’m powerless to influence any repair. The self-inflicted harm and the harm done to others is just so vast and extensive, my optimism wanes. All the king’s men were unable to put Humpty Dumpty together again. And I find myself inching toward the point where I suspect we all must get to if we’re going to move forward and save ourselves from drowning in the problems of those we love. Like Lt. Kenda and every other homicide detective who is able to close the murder book on a case, I have to turn the page – close the book. But for me, it’s not because it’s been solved. It’s because I don’t understand.
I don’t know ’cause I’m not crazy.
I stare out the window. The trees have dropped all their leaves. Fall fell. Now it’s winter. But I’m in north-central Texas so that isn’t quite what it is to you guys who live in Canada or Minnesota or Maine. I’m craving a change of scenery. Not just the kind nature provides, but the kind that puts your head into a clearer space.
So away we go to a spot we often frequent. About half-a-day away by car. Not bad.
Piney woods. They affect me in the most positive way.
Here I am sitting on the covered back porch with an overhead radiant heater. It’s chilly, but I’m comfortable. I’m staring at a golf course, the 6th hole. I’ve got a clear shot of the tee boxes and the green. Almost a straight-on view, which allows me to track the balls the golfers hit from the tee.
I’ve been here before. Back in the summer when I didn’t need a heater. Or flannel shirts.
It was then, during the summer, when I told my wife, “I could spend quite a lot of time here.” She immediately responded, “Yeah, I could, too.”
Then we engaged those dreaming wheels in our heads. They’re not really just dreaming wheels though. They’re more like pondering wheels looking for a path forward, working out a way to make it happen!
You daydream. Imagining what it might be like to be in your favorite place. Maybe a beach. Maybe mountains. Maybe lakeside. Your mind drifts to your life and where you’re at versus where you’d most like to be. Some success that isn’t reality. Yet. Some achievement that’s unrealized. Some lifestyles you don’t currently enjoy. You ask yourself the same question you’ve asked most of your life.
Wouldn’t it be great if…?
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a lake house?
Wouldn’t it be great if our business were twice as big?
Wouldn’t it be great if we got a new car?
Wouldn’t it be great if we got married?
It’s a question we ask ourselves about anything and everything. Like a can of lighter fluid on our wildest dreams, we engage parts of our brain that feel like we’ve neglected for too long. We easily embrace it and go with the flow of imagining what life might be like if our hypothetical were real.
Wouldn’t it be great if…?
You’ll never say, “No, it wouldn’t be great.”
Your mind will always think, “Yes. Yes, it would be great.”
Because during such times, in our head we work things out so everything works out beautifully. No snags. No problems. No downsides.
We do the same thing with the choices we didn’t make but wish we would have. We assume the choice we didn’t make would have worked out marvelously. We never think, “Good thing I didn’t take that other path ’cause that would have been a disaster!”
In our heads, the choice we didn’t make would have worked out fine. Or perfectly fine. Or terrifically.
We look back and think, “What if we’d made that other choice?” Again, in our heads, we iron out all the outcomes so they’re better than the ones we now enjoy.
The reality is we only know the outcomes of the choices we made. Had we made a different choice…we think we know how it would have worked out, but we don’t really know. We project a successful outcome in our minds. It feels real prompting us to regret the choice we made. Maybe. Or at the least, wondering if the other choices might have been better!
Fact is – maybe it would be great. Maybe it would be a disaster. Maybe it wouldn’t matter. We’ll only know if we pursue it.
So it makes sense that our brains would gravitate to the best-case-scenario. Why not think the best? Why not think, “Wouldn’t it be great if (fill in the blank)?” That’s better than thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awful if (fill in the blank)?”
I’m still sitting there looking out over a golf course with piney woods across the way. Chipmunks, squirrels and small birds are scurrying about in the morning cold foraging for food. I’m pondering life and they’re trying to sustain life. No thought about tomorrow. They’re not even bothered by later today. Talk about a lesson of being present…in the present!
Here’s what I’m not thinking or saying, “Wouldn’t it be awful if we had a place like this?”
People would think I’m the King of Pessimism if that were the case. I realize some people have such a dour outlook on life they may lean toward always thinking the worst, but I suspect even the most pessimistic people dream about the ideal outcome. I sure hope they do.
It’s a real gift and blessing that we’re able to see and feel what great success might be like. No guarantees we’ll achieve it, but those thoughts surely inspire us, don’t they?
For the past few years, I’ve regularly watched this video of a Scottish busker named Natasha Cook Jenkins. She began busking – playing music on the street – when she was 12. She’s now 20, but when she was 17 a record producer noticed her. Her persistence got her into the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, where she lives today. I watch this video more regularly than many busking videos because the camera shows us what she sees while performing. Not many people. Other busking videos most frequently show folks just going about their daily lives oblivious to the craft happening as they pass by. Having never done it myself, I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster of doing what you love only to be ignored. Or worse. I think one reason I so love busking – and have since I was a teen – is because of the courage and determination it requires. And the optimism of the performers. Optimism that they’ll make a few bucks. Optimism that people will notice. Optimism that they’ll get some positive attention that may lead to something more stable and better.
The most famous busker has to be Ed Sheeran. And doesn’t it show when you watch him perform? He confesses that he learned showmanship by busking, trying to get people’s attention and keep it.
From the streets and subways to Wembly Stadium, he’s proof that extraordinary talent and stone-cold determination can result in something insanely successful. Now, I just need extraordinary talent and stone-cold determination. 😀
Wouldn’t that be great? OF COURSE.
In a documentary, Ed Sheeran: In My Own Words, he puts a focus where you may not expect.
Indeed you have to work at it. Persistence. “You give yourself no choice but to get better.”
Let’s focus on what Ed said about getting better! I’m thinking about that because the other day I heard a girl say she most wanted to be “social media famous.” It sparked the “what if” question. “What if you were social media famous?”
Would that be you getting better? Maybe. Maybe not.
Hulu has an ABC News documentary on Only Fans, a social media website made famous by porn stars. It’s touted as the X rated version of Instagram. Some of us think quite a lot of Instagram is already pornographic. But no matter your point of view about such things, “better” is too subjective and relative for many people. Better for whom? That’s often asked.
Maybe you get up at 5 am every morning to go grind away at a very physically hard job for modest pay. In 2019 the median income for an American worker was just over $31,000. In 2020 the majority of American households earned less than $70,000. Mostly people putting in the time to earn their paychecks. Doing work worth being paid for, but not likely too glamorous. Mostly mundane. Average. In every way.
A woman desiring to be an “influencer” can focus on the fame and money and wonder, “What if I were a major Instagram influencer?”
Nobody knows her name. Or face. Or body. So enter Only Fans, a platform where she can become a “sex worker,” by taking off her clothes and having ordinary “fans” subscribe by paying a monthly amount. She’ll get to keep 80% of the money while the platform keeps the remaining 20%. So she begins to take nude photos of herself. And some videos, too. She’s gonna be a big star. Make lots of money.
Is she getting better?
No. She’s giving herself options other than making herself better.
She’s contributing to the worse of humanity. The selfish, vanity that can carry any of us into a pit from which we may never recover. Worse yet, she’s contributing to helping others fall into the same pit of despair and disgrace. And she’ll argue – like modern culture always does – that it’s her right and she’s not going to hear anybody who dares make a judgment about her chosen path. Indeed, she has the right – I dare say the OPPORTUNITY – to either contribute to the good of herself and the world or to contribute to the damage to herself and the world. She’s choosing the latter, not the former. The more she argues about the good she’s doing the more I’m made to realize and understand how low humans can go in self-delusion. Sad.
Sadder still is the question, “Wouldn’t it be great if porn didn’t exist?”
Wouldn’t it be great if humanity behaved with more pride, dignity, and moral goodness?
Wouldn’t it be great if we collectively – and individually – did our very best every single day?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could trust each other for help, support, and encouragement?
Wouldn’t it be great if hubris weren’t so prevalent in the world?
Wouldn’t it be great?
Wouldn’t it be great if we realized God is God and we’re not?
Wouldn’t it be great if broken people could be put back together?
Wouldn’t it be great if we found joy in the help we provided others today?
Wouldn’t it be great if the pursuit of usefulness was more important than the pursuit of money or fame?
As I was preparing today’s show my headphones were playing lots of tunes. Mostly, Tom Petty’s Wildflowers & All The Rest. We lost Tom back in October 2017. Years ago when I was in the record business I remember his 1979 big breakthrough with the album, Damn The Torpedos. He and the Heartbreakers became synonymous with guitar-based storytelling. And I think, “Wouldn’t it be great if Tom was still alive making music?”
I hit play on The Caution Horses by Cowboy Junkies.
Listening to Margo Timmins, the lead female singer, makes me feel…warm. And it’s cold outside. In fact, we may be setting records here in DFW. Just days ago we had a horrible 100 car pile-up that killed 6 due to black ice on the roads. The kind of ice you can’t see. Single-digit temps aren’t common ’round here.
And I think, “Wouldn’t it be great if that wreck hadn’t happened?” It wrecked more than cars and trucks. This weekend lots of families were wrecked by a thin sheet of ice on the highway.
Some “wouldn’t it be great if” questions have obvious answers. Others, not so much.
Wouldn’t it be great if that were true?
Oh, wait a minute. It is.
And that’s worth considering more deeply. Wouldn’t it be great if you were just one decision away from fixing something? Forget trying to fix everything. How ’bout we focus on fixing something – maybe THE most important something?
The day job is helping leaders at the most personal level. It’s not just professional. It’s personal, often delving into their private lives as they confide challenges and obstacles they’d like help figuring out. The work is therapeutic. Always. Because it’s safe, supportive, and encouraging. It’s common for the process to involve many discussions about decisions because the work is transformational. My clients are high performers. Slackards don’t invest in this kind of work. Neither do bosses invest in slackards. Funny how that works.
Well, in work that transforms, people want to fix what ails them. It starts with one thing. I don’t think any client has ever said to me, “I’d like to fix this, and that, then this other thing, and oh yeah, then these 5 other things.” High achievers are more focused than that. They’re capable of being preoccupied with a single thing at a time and usually the most important thing – at least, the most important thing to them.
What if a single decision – one decision – could make a GREAT difference?
You already know that it’s possible because it’s already happened to you. You’ve made a decision that had a great impact on your life. You’ve likely made a number of them. I know I have.
Just shortly after I turned 18 I asked a girl out on a date. I never dated another girl. Not quite 3 years later we married. But it didn’t last.
Our marriage has lasted over 43 years. We’re still very in love.
Who knew that a single decision to ask a girl on a date would completely change my life? Who knew that decision would be among the single greatest decisions I ever made?
What decisions have you made that changed one thing…or everything?
Wouldn’t it be great if we knew in advance? Maybe not. The weight of the decision might paralyze us.
Wouldn’t it be great if – in just 3 months – people outside our inner circle noticed improvements (changes) in our appearance, behavior, and performance?
It would be great if we could find the path forward. A path to becoming better. And I don’t mean better looking, or more fit, or more well-off financially – although all of those would be pretty terrific. I mean, we really became better people. I mean wouldn’t it be great if we behaved better? But of course, that’s only possible if we can somehow find a path forward to thinking better. I’m not talking about improving our smartness. Or elevating our IQ. I mean wouldn’t it be great if we thought it was worthwhile to behave with greater moral integrity, enough humility to recognize God, enough dedication to put in the work to improve our character.
I know, I know. Dream on, right?
Jordan Peterson (I’m a longtime fan) observes and admonishes, You need to think through how your life could be properly arranged IF you had abilities you may now lack?
Peterson is a smart, studied, insightful man. He declares that if we make that our goal and move toward it, then we’ll move closer to it. Things inevitably get better when we do that. And it’s not about happiness. It’s about meaning. It’s about transforming into a better person. And it’s difficult. Hard. But we mostly love it because we’re wired for it.
Why then do people chase happiness or security in sameness? Why are some people so resistant to change? Fear. We get scared. Even in our difficulties. It’s that “devil we know” versus the one we don’t. We probably too often presume the devil we know must be better than the one we don’t. I suspect we’re mostly wrong about that though. We may be guilty of making an invalid comparison between two devils without considering that we could choose an angel over a devil.
What I love about the “wouldn’t it be great if” question is the optimism.
Nobody says, “Wouldn’t it be great if things didn’t work out?” The fact that we’re considering something that would be great means we’re thinking of an ideal outcome. And you know how fond I am of the ideal outcome!
Nobody answers, “No, that wouldn’t be great.” At least not to ourselves if we’re asking the question. Others might. They may not share our view or our ideal outcome. Stands to reason. It’s OUR ideal outcome, not theirs.
What are you thinking right now? What are your “wouldn’t it be great if” questions?
This past week was quite typical for me in that I had a number of conversations with people who were facing difficulties and challenges. It wasn’t unusual in that regard, nor was it unusual for them to share those with me. After all, it’s what I do. More accurately, it’s who I am. But in preparing for this episode I reflected on the nature of the challenges.
Problems from A to Z. Problems in their own lives. Problems in making choices about what they should do. Problems in helping others figure out choices.
Sometimes in my professional coaching practice, I’ll ask a client to craft a “wouldn’t it be great if” question – a question aimed squarely at their challenge. There’s power in the singularity of the question, but what comes next is where the real power is found. Answer the “how” of the question. I assume the direct answer to the question is, “Yes, it would be great” or else we wouldn’t be asking the question.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we won $1 million dollars?”
Sure. But we’re powerless to influence how. So it’s just a dream-like, fantasy-filled question. Meaningless. Well, not exactly. It’s quite meaningful actually because it fosters covetousness, which always damages us when the aim of it is self-indulgence. Let’s covet wisdom, compassion, integrity, and other qualities that can make us better.
So we answer, “Yes, it would be great” if our ideal outcome were achieved. But how?
There’s the rub.
General George Patton lived by one motto:
Always take the offensive. Never dig in.
In war and life, he always pursued forward progress. Standing still was unacceptable. The pursuit of the ideal outcome meant a degree of constant dissatisfaction. Complacency was his enemy. It should be ours, too.
What if we were to take the offensive in achieving our “wouldn’t it be great if” dreams? What if we figured out how? Then committed ourselves to it?
Experience has taught me the power of sticking with it long enough in order to figure it out more clearly. Almost never is success fast. Certainly hardly ever instant. Frequently our first “how” strategies prove incorrect. Maybe only slightly. Maybe a lot. So we adjust. We keep aiming at our ideal outcome, but our first few steps don’t end up taking us exactly where we planned. So we move a bit. And see what happens. If we see, feel, or sense progress – advancement, forward movement – then we’re encouraged to continue to push on. Maybe to push even harder now that we know things are improving.
Setting the noble goal and pushing toward it makes things – makes us – better!
Boring is digging in. Not advancing. Taking no chances. Pursuing nothing difficult.
“Wouldn’t it be great if…?”
The moment. The power of the moment.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
That quote by William Hutchison Murray was a longtime favorite of mine for years. No more. Mostly because I learned people were viewing those words through a very different lens than mine. As a Christian, I never viewed the quote as meaning we – mere mortals – have the power to bend the universe to our will. Belief in God forbids any person from seeing these words as human power to attract whatever we want. The law of attraction and the “secret” are rubbish. Delusions of mankind thinking he’s his own god, able to do as he pleases. As though the path forward is through our self-centered hubris.
No wonder Dr. Peterson speaks so frequently against our malevolence.
ill will, hatred, spite; pleasure in the suffering or injury of others
The principles spoken of in the quote are powerful. More so when the context is our human capacity to influence our own lives, which is completely congruent with God’s divine Word.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Maybe it’s our first time. Maybe not. But it’s progress if we’re internalizing the quest when we ask and answer the questions of “wouldn’t it be great if” followed by the pronoun I, followed still by an action verb or some outcome nobler than a selfish desire.
Wouldn’t it be great if I were a millionaire?
Wouldn’t it be great if I were so valuable my work was deemed worth a million dollars by others?
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a vacation home here?
Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to have a place here so others could enjoy this as much as we do? Maybe more?
Once in a while, I have a conversation with people about podcasting because I do so much of it. People clamor for an audience. Greater numbers. More subscribers. More listeners. More shares on social media. More acknowledgments on a job well done. They’re mostly disappointed when I tell them I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and I have very little idea about such things. And I currently produce 3 podcasts regularly – two of which are business-oriented with the desired outcome being greater exposure to business services. More plainly, the quest is to get more clients. To differentiate ourselves from the pack who isn’t out there giving away information, ideas, insights, and sharing experiences.
But I certainly want to expand the reach of this and my other podcasts. Because I’m so important? Because what I have to say, or what I think carries more weight than anybody else? No. A thousand times, no!
Because I’m confident that a word fitly spoken at the right time might just resonate with somebody – maybe YOU.
Wouldn’t it be great if I could help you in a moment where you needed it most?
I live my life like the little boy combing the beach to save the washed ashore starfish, trying to make a difference to just one. For me, that’s enough. And if that starfish happens to you, then it makes all the difference in the world.