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From the time I was four years-old, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. That dream lasted until my senior year of high school, when I watched the market drop out of the aerospace industry. I stayed in related fields in college, physics and mathematics, but I never became an aerospace engineer. However, I retained my love for aircraft and beautiful aircraft designs. Why does this matter from a productivity perspective?

At the beginning of the year I bought a desktop calendar, the type where you tear off the page every workday. The one I chose for my work desk has classic aircraft on it. For instance, yesterday’s was of the Supermarine Spitfire, a beautiful aircraft. Today’s is of the Grumman Widgeon, which admittedly isn’t as sleek and exciting, but it still inspires me. Each day, seeing a new classic aircraft picture along with the short write-up gives me enthusiasm and a bit of a boost.

What inspired you as a child and still provides you a positive boost as an adult? Is there a way you can bring it into your work day every day? Is there a way you can focus on it, even if only for a couple of minutes, at the beginning of your work day? If you don’t already have something like that,  try and implement it in your daily routine, even if it’s something simple as a calendar or a desktop background. See if it provides you a positive boost for the day.

I posted a thought on Facebook that my friend, Andy Leonard (blog | twitter), asked me to blog about. Here’s what I asked:

A haunting question: Am I giving my children memories of my love that will be an aid and comfort to them in difficult times?

Another friend pointed out that in his view, building a reliance on Jesus Christ in tough times is of critical importance. We share faith in Jesus and I agree with that. However, even if that is of primary importance to me, I know that my children will go through hard times. I want them to be able to remember that Dad has always been in their corner, has always loved them, and that they can reflect on times where they felt demonstrations of my love.

There is plenty of talk of previous generations of men who barely shed a tear, who hit their emotions behind a wall, and while that may have been the way of the past, I don’t think it’s healthy. Going back to my faith, I can’t find Biblical support for such a position, either. I can, however, find plenty of support for expressing my feelings and my love to my children. For instance:

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:9-11, ESV

The point of this passage in context is that the Father loves His children and wants to show His love. It’s not about getting whatever we want, for those who might want to misapply this, by the way. Applied to my role as a father, it tells me that I need to continually demonstrate my love for my children. The point isn’t whatever stuff they get from that love, but the memories that will be made.

What memories are you leaving for the ones who care about you and who you care about? Are they good memories of love? Is there anything you need to change to leave the memories you want to be remembered by?

Recently, a friend of mine was sharing more about his neighborhood’s resident crime lord. The person in question had been arrested again, but this time wasn’t out on bail. Based on what had been previously shared, I wasn’t surprised. He fit the bill as a repeat offender. He had stayed out of jail because he was able to make bail, even after being arrested with pending cases. This last time, though, bail had been denied. If you’re like me, you aren’t thinking very highly of the “repeat offender.”

Then my friend made an interesting comment, “I think he wants to be in jail.” I’ve heard of those who have spent a lot of time in jail wanting to be back in jail because they no longer understood the outside world and wanted to be back in a familiar place. That wasn’t true of this guy. He had no previous convictions. The only time he had spent in jail was waiting to see if he would get out on bail. Naturally, those of us listening to the story inquired further. That’s when my friend said, “You know, he didn’t used to be this way. Everything changed when he lost his wife and daughter in a car accident where they were T-boned. Then he lost another child right after that; I think to suicide. I believe that’s when he got into drugs and then everything started rolling downhill.”

Did you just take a punch to the gut? I did. The problem with the initial reaction to hearing about this guy is we lacked perspective. It’s just like the well known story of the man on the subway with unruly children. The truth of the matter is we lack perspective on a lot of the folks we meet and interact with. It’s easy to come to a quick judgment on someone. Sometimes we don’t have more time and we have to go with that first reaction. When we aren’t forced into a snap decision on someone, we would benefit greatly if we gave others the benefit of the doubt. We should spend the time to formulate a better perspective. Take the time in your interactions. You’ll see the people around you differently as a result. And you will benefit from it.

Here is where I had a lunch time meeting today:

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It’s another private spot in downtown Columbia, another place to get away. Today’s lunch meeting consisted of an alumni board meeting for my high school alma mater. It was a conference call and it was my first as part of the board. As a result, I wanted to:

  • find a place of privacy.
  • find a place of serenity and quiet.
  • get some sun.
  • steer clear of the office.

The fountain in this location is more prominent and the flowing water is soothing. This particular spot, while in downtown, is located on side streets where there isn’t a lot of traffic. As a result, I was able to focus on the conference call and make good use of the time.

Even when you find private spots, consider what is good and and bad about each one. I could have gone to the spot yesterday, but the amount of background noise would have been in competition with the voices on the phone, even with a headset. This particular spot is slightly less private (more people know about it) but always much quieter, even with people present. That’s why today’s spot was the best place for me to attend my meeting.

I’m in downtown Columbia, SC. Right behind where I’m sitting is busy Taylor Street and I can hear the cars on the road and construction at a neighboring property.

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While I can hear the noise, there’s no one around me. I have this tucked away garden all to myself. It’s like this every time I’ve been here at lunch. This hidey-hole, and places like it, is where I can get alone and recharge.

To get to this particular spot takes some walking. It’s easy to reach in a lunch hour, still giving me about 30 minutes of privacy. Therefore, coming out here serves two purposes: I get a bit of exercise and I get some alone time. For an introvert, the lunch hour doesn’t get much better than this.

Wherever I am, I try to find spots like these. Often times they are hiding in plain sight. Parks and public gardens like the one I’m in now are usually the first places I investigate. Do you have a quiet, private place to which you can flee? Even if you’re an extrovert, it’s still good to have a couple of such places when you just need to get away.

Social media is different from in-person interaction. One big difference is the lack of physical presence. Because of that difference, some folks are rude and mean on social media when they wouldn’t be in real life. Also, social media is notorious for arguments which serve no purpose: folks already knew each others’ positions and no one is interested in considering a change of their own beliefs. As a result, social media can be both damaging and a huge time waster. This is why some people avoid social media, though it can be an effective tool.

This has led me to drafting my own social media interaction rules. I operate by those most of the time now, but by putting them down I have a standard to compare myself against. This is a work in progress. I am sure I will adjust some of these rules over time. Do note, I’m not saying others I have to interact with have to follow my rules. This is my personal code of conduct.

 

  1. I will treat everyone with kindness and courtesy.
    • It doesn’t matter how I’m treated.
    • I will not insult or demean another.
    • I will not retaliate to any personal attacks.
  2. I will have a positive attitude or I will end my participation.
    • When I begin feeling negative is when I am most at risk for breaking these rules.
    • My negativity does not help anyone else.
    • If possible, I will state why I am disengaging, shouldering the accountability.
    • I can state a problem or a disagreement without being in a negative frame of mind.
  3. I will look for opportunities to encourage and build up others.
  4. I will stay out of controversial arguments where none of the following can be accomplished. In all cases I will clearly state my purpose.
    • I intend to learn more about the positions being argued.
    • I can clear up misinformation or misunderstanding.
    • I can add new, relevant information to the discussion.
    • I can share the Gospel with someone who appears willing to listen.
  5. I will attempt to avoid controversial posts where none of the sub-points in (4) can be accomplished.
    • I consider security, especially IT security, posts an exception to this rule.
    • If I am posting to foster thought and ideas, I will clearly state my purpose.
  6. I will remember than anything I post is not private.
  7. I will remember that anything I post can be referred to in the future.

 

As with any standard, there will be times when I fall short. Over the long run, though, I expect those failings will reduce in number.

 

Did you know that Ben Franklin once tried to be a poet? I learned this reading The Autobiography of Ben Franklin. Ben wrote a couple of poems, printed them, and sold them on the street. The first poem, The Light-house Tragedy, was a success. Despite that, here’s Mr. Franklin’s opinion of his work with the benefit of hindsight:

“They were wretched stuff, in the Grub-street-ballad style;”

This despite that bout of monetary success:

“The first sold wonderfully, the event being recent, having made a great noise.”

Based on the success of that first poem, Mr. Franklin thought about being a poet. Thankfully, he had someone to provide perspective, because he certainly didn’t have it.

“This flattered my vanity; but my father discouraged me by ridiculing my performances, and telling me verse-makers were generally beggars.”

Again with hindsight, Mr. Franklin realized his success was due to timing. Mr. Franklin went on to say that because he did not follow this path, he was able to pursue prose writing. That led to his prosperity and fame. Imagine how different things would have been if he had chosen to be a poet. Consider where Ben Franklin might have ended up if he hadn’t been cautious of his “beginner’s luck” and listened to his father.

If you have early success with something, try to understand why. Is it because of timing? Is it because of something else outside of your control? Or is because you have the right makeup (skills, experience, etc.) to repeat the success? If it’s not the latter, you should be cautious.  There’s a lot of advice out there about “following your passion.” Often, initial success causes us to be passionate. Benjamin Franklin certainly was. If we don’t have the capability of repeating the success, our passion could drive us to unnecessary failure and misery. Therefore, the advice to “follow your passion” could be bad guidance for us.

The other problem with initial success is that it can cloud our judgment. This happened to Mr. Franklin. Therefore, we need advocates who are interested in what is best for us and who are willing to and able to share the truth with us. Ben had his father. Ben listened to his father. You and I need our advocates, too. We must be willing to listen to them, even if what they are saying conflicts with what we’re feeling. If the arguments they present are sound, we should heed them.

These two problems are the reason we should be cautious with early success. We must try to understand why we’re successful. Hopefully we will have advocates by our side who can help us discern the causes for our success. If it’s something we can repeat, then by all means we should consider pursuing the path. However, if we determine that success is due to something outside of our control, it is probably best if we celebrate the success and move on.

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