Thursday, 29 December 2011


One of the more heralded studies of leadership in the past few years was the 2010 IBM survey and interviews conducted with 1500 CEO’s from 60 different countries representing 33 different industries.  In spite of the emphasis on the challenge of managing complexity and discovering the value of creativity and innovation, there remains the one constant variable and that is change.   Those CEO’s had said previously that managing change was their biggest challenge.   Whether you are growing your organization, reshaping and redesigning it to meet the needs of the 21st century, looking into the future with strategic visioning and making projections with a refined business model or using different and creative approaches to solving problems, it is still all about change.
A book that has stuck in my head since graduate school days back in the 60’s was The Dynamics of Planned Change by Lippit, Watson and Westley.  (Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1958).  The very first sentence in that book is “The modern world is, above everything else, a world of rapid change.”  How could they have known what lay in store for the world in the next six decades and moreover, how can we know what lies ahead?  Here are a few things I have learned about change over my own six decades of being a professional change agent.
First of all, change is inevitable and universal.  Whether you are talking about an individual, an organization, a community or a country, or the world itself, nothing much stands still unless it’s dead and even then, decay and decomposition set in.  Nothing can grow or evolve or improve or adapt or adjust without changing.  Even if the change is as minimal as altering the internal response to what is going on outside, the net result is still some type of change.  And that internal change may not be so small in the end.  In fact, one has a better chance of changing the internal structures and behaviors than changing the world outside.
I have relied often on Margaret Mead’s words of wisdom, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed  it is the only thing that ever has.”   A lot depends on your needs, your goals and your commitments.  Do you work with a small group of thoughtful, committed people?   If yes, what are the results?  If not, why not?  Would you like to make any changes for 2012?  Can you list them?  What are the top three?   What is your plan to make sure those happen?  Ready?  GO!

Monday, 19 December 2011

WINTER SOLSTICE - December 2011

According to various calculations, standards and clocks, Winter solstice in the northern hemisphere will occur this year at 5:30 AM on December 22, which is 10:30 PM December 21, Mountain Standard Time.  While it happens technically at a moment in time, the recognition and celebration may occur at any convenient time, or period of time, that is near to this point when the sun reaches it farthest journey south along the horizon and starts back on it’s northward trek toward Spring and Summer.
UTC or coordinated universal time or the world clock computed by atomic clocks in 70 different laboratories around the world is one of the successors to GMT, or Greenwich Mean Time, based in the UK.  Both are used and does it really matter to most people which clock is used? Also why isn’t UTC the abbreviation for Universal Time Clock instead of Coordinated Universal Time.  This is really trivial, of little conseequence and in the larger scheme of things rather unimportant to most of us.   The sun continues its movements regardless who is measuring it, how and why.
It is the earth’s rotation around the sun that brings us day and night in the 24 hour cycles that we call a day and it’s the tilt of the earth that provides the various times for observing different seasons and their accompanying changes.  The differing amounts of light and dark vary according to those times in the calendar year.  Two solstices, Winter and Summer, are when we observe the days with the least or greatest amount of sunlight and two equinoxes, Spring and Fall, are when night and day are approximately equal lengths of time. These are times to celebrate our relationship with Panchamama and find ways to celebrate wherever we are.
Because I have the privilege and blessing of watching the sunrise almost every morning from my desk facing east, I feel very connected to the sun and it’s movements across the sky.  Each new day is a gift, open to tremendous possibilities. One comment, attributed to Mark Twain, is “there is nothing that cannot happen today.”  That means we have the unparalleled opportunity to create something new this day or to revisit those things that add meaning, value and purpose to our lives.  The Romans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawless celebration between December 17-25. 
Saturnalia was the most popular holiday of the Roman year. Catullus (XIV) describes it as "the best of days," and Seneca complains that the "whole mob has let itself go in pleasures" (Epistles, XVIII.3). Pliny the Younger writes that he retired to his room while the rest of the household celebrated (Epistles, II.17.24). It was an occasion for celebration, visits to friends, and the presentation of gifts, particularly wax candles, perhaps to signify the returning light after the solstice. Aulus Gellius relates that he and his Roman compatriots would gather at the baths in Athens, where they were studying, and pose difficult questions to one another on the ancient poets, a crown of laurel being dedicated to Saturn if no-one could answer them .
Winter solstice in this hemisphere celebrates the return of the light from the longer hours of darkness, thus Midwinter celebrations that range from Christmas to the pagan rituals celebrated before the Christians adopted the December 25 date set by Julius Caesar and the Julian calendar.
However we choose to celebrate Winter solstice, it can be a time of increasing our “circle of illumination” which is the edge of the sunlit hemisphere. That phenomenon forms a circular boundary separating the earth into a light half and a dark half.   As the hours of daylight begin to increase, we can expand our awareness of the essential connection between us earthlings and that which makes our world such a fascinating place in which to be fully alive and an active participant. 
We have an opportunity to make a connection between our minds and that which we can observe in our natural world and our spirits and that which we can sense in the ethereal realm.  Let that be our personal “circle of illumination” this season, increasing the light and appreciation for these wonder filled celebrations during the holidays.  May your holidays be filled with the richness of renewal, the energy of enthusiasm and the brilliance of beauty.   Such are the gifts laid before us.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


As I went through four days of mail, not email but real USPS mail, I became aware of the plethora of requests for a year end gift to support just about everything you could imagine.  The invitations to give ranged from Michelle Obama's holiday card asking for a contribution to Barack's campaign to a variety of non-profit, mostly educational organizations and institutions,  to a number of social service causes from a local food bank to work abroad with children impacted by war, poverty and disease.  We also have children here in the good ol' USA impacted by war, poverty and disease.  Whew!

How do you make a decision about where to give, how much to give, what you believe is most important or valuable and what do you eliminate and discard?  Almost all of these were requests for money but there were a few that asked for something else and those caught my attention because they were not asking for a financial contribution directly.  They were asking for my participation and support in other ways.  They wanted my time as a volunteer in whatever way I wanted to contribute, even writing to others to solicit their involvement too, if it was a cause that I believed in sufficiently.  My sister-in-law is especially adept at this strategy as I get those messages from her frequently about the things that touch her most deeply.  The most recent had to do with the missing girls in India.  While appalling and worthy of our attention, even outrage, I feel somehow removed from some of the distant issues although if one is sufficiently and emotionally moved by those, then by all means go for them.  It is just not possible for me to pay attention to all the human misery in the world and the continuing brutality to fellow human beings.  Maybe there is a glimmer of hope with the world wide rebellion against those who exploit others through cruel and manipulative means to control and suppress them.

A friend wrote recently about what to give children in this season of giving, what books to give, what gifts might make a contribution to their growth and development.  I suggested that what I would like to give to children (and to many adults as well) are these three gifts that would keep on giving throughout a lifetime.  First, I would give the gift of courage which enables children to take intelligent risks and persevere in the face of resistance and adversity.  Secondly, I would give the gift of confidence that inspires a positive self-concept and reduces or eliminates the fear of trying something new and different.  And finally,  I would give the gift of compassion and caring that reaches out and touches those in need of a helping hand and heart.  My reasons for these gifts are simple.  They don't cost a lot, they last a long time and they are readily available.

Happy Holidays.  May your season be filled with joy, peace, understanding and lots of sharing.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The PSYCHE of Leadership

The common misunderstanding of psyche is because the word gets translated most often as mind, thus terms like “mind-set” and “mindful” are often applied to leadership.   Conventional wisdom is that leaders will be more successful if they think intelligently about solving problems, create innovative plans and programs, or new products and services, figure out how to be more efficient and effective, and improve the bottom line through being smart about revenue and expenses.  Productive strategies are indeed desirable and welcome.
While all of those characteristics and behaviors are admirable traits in most leaders, in both the corporate and not for profit world of organizations and activities, there is a different meaning and value regarding the psyche of leadership.  It has little to do with managing the outside issues that leaders must deal with on a daily basis or even on the more macro level of quarterly or annual performance.
When we consider the literal translation of the Greek word psyche, we discover that the word means “spirit” or “soul.”  Consider the last time you had a conversation about the spirit of leadership or, the soul of the leader.   Psyche does have something to do with attitudes and core values and beliefs as these components are closer to the internal landscape of the leader in contrast with externally acquired skills and experience.  The psyche of leadership goes beyond the cognitive and mental abilities of the leader and has more to do with the emotional center and how the leader projects heart and soul. 
Leadership that emanates from spirit can nourish and sustain the soul of the leader and provide a balance between the emotional and rational responses needed in almost every situation.   Genuine and positive energy can be transmitted to every person in the organization through direct and indirect contact and communication.  The psyche of the leader influences the environment as well as the quality of inter-personal relationships that help sustain a thriving organization.
It is important for leaders to be passionate about the pursuit of excellence. It is equally important that compassion and caring are heart-felt. That will make a significant contribution to a strong, healthy and energetic leader whose spirit is visible, palpable and durable.  How’s your spirit?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Conscious Decision to Lead

Deciding to be a leader requires a conscious commitment, and the courage and confidence to take it all on, to accept the mantle of an awesome responsibility for making decisions that affect the lives of others.  Experience along the way helps as does study, reflection and renewal.  Talking with others who are experienced leaders helps, as does taking time out for yourself to gain additional insights that make leadership easier and more joyful.  That is but one purpose of the Santa Fe Leadership Seminars, to assist and support those who wish to move up the leadership ladder. 
In a recent, early morning conversation with a relatively new head of school, he related that one of the first challenges he faced was to mediate a conflict between two administrative colleagues.  Each had a perception that the other was the obstacle to getting certain things done, accomplishing stated goals and achieving a positive, productive working relationship.  Appropriately, the head of school met with each one individually and then the two together and put all the proverbial cards on the table, honestly and directly, with the clearly stated expectation that  each needed to accept what  the job and roles required in addition to finding a way to work toward a more positive and productive relationship.   One of the two made good progress within the next six months while the other did not.  Eventually, it became clear that one was much more the problem than the other and was not in the right seat on the bus, to use a Jim Collins metaphor.   He might have even been on the wrong bus!
Making an executive decision requires a bit more than using that part of the brain called “executive functioning”  …"a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations…"   (from the Encylopedia of Mental Disorders!)
If you are going to be adept at solving problems, and projecting outcomes, one of the three main functions of an effective leader, then it’s imperative that you have the ability to anticipate problems before they become even larger.  You might even call that foresight, something beyond insight.  The other two main functions of an effective leader in addition to solving problems are making things happen and taking a stand.  Those were Nan Keohane’s three requirements of an effective leader. You might see how what you do falls into each of those three categories.  It makes for an interesting exercise!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


One light year is a long time, the amount of time it takes light to travel for one year.  At 186,000 miles per second that would be 31,536,000 seconds which equals 525,600 minutes or 8760 hours.  Reports say the Kepler 22b planet is 600 million light years away.  Whether it’s 600 or 600 million makes little difference to me.  I don’t think I’ll be doing space travel anytime soon.  Interesting factoid is that the Kepler spacecraft project is relatively a low cost item in the overall budget, approximately $600 million dollars. That's just about a million dollars per light year!   Is that a good return?
One report says that this newly discovered planet is eerily similar to Earth and is sitting outside our solar system in what seems to be the ideal place for life, except for one hitch. It's a bit too big.  The planet is smack in the middle of what astronomers call the Goldilocks zone, that hard to find place that's not too hot, not too cold, where water, which is essential for life, doesn't freeze or boil. And it has a shopping mall-like surface temperature of near 72 degrees, scientists say. 

One of the NASA scientists said that it’s exciting to consider the possibilities.  Really?  A shopping mall-like zone?  Now that’s really exciting.   Intelligent life on another planet?  I’m more worried about the lack of intelligent life on this planet.  I don’t have time to be concerned about life on another one unless there’s a possibility for brain transplants or something similar that might save this planet.

Do people in positions of responsible leadership seem to be making more stupid decisions than is usually the case or is it just me and the way I am seeing the news?  I just read this morning of a proposed 6 billion dollar new laboratory at Los Alamos, not far from where I live.  For those who work there and others in the respective fields of the nuclear sciences, I’m sure that they can justify the expense.

Of all of the things a nuclear scientist might do, I would like the more significant part of the 6 billion to go toward those things that preserve and protect life as we might like it to be on this planet, never mind all the others.  However, the only vote I have is not how my tax dollars are spent but rather trying to affect who is going to vote on such things and I have all but stopped thinking about how much influence I really have in such matters.  It's not that I am discouraged by the political miasma in Washington; it's more that we most often measure outcomes by results.  Enough said!

600 million dollars there, 6 billion dollars here and the list goes on and on and fairly soon, we're talking about serious money, perhaps even enough to help reduce a national debt.  What price are we paying to retain our position as a world leader = militarily? (so far) industrially? (no longer) scientifically? (perhaps) educationally? (no longer), morally? (questionable) spiritually? (are you serious?).  Weigh the costs against the benefits.  What's your conclusion?

Monday, 5 December 2011


With gratitude to Peter Senge, who talks often about decentralizing the role of leadership in order to enhance the capacity of all people to work toward healthier human systems, I offer these observations, insights and experiences.

As leaders, we are acutely aware of trying to meet the needs of multiple constituencies and I often refer to six – a board of directors, employees, students, paying customers, alumni and the community at large.  We have to learn how to receive, with a measure of appropriate grace and humility, invitations, requests, suggestions, recommendations, ideas, information, bad news, and demands.  The challenge is to attend to the smallest of details while remaining connected to a larger vision, mission and purpose and representing the organization as the main spokesperson, cheerleader, sage and guide.  And, we must not let any of the roles we perform go to our head and allow us to think that we know all the answers.  In fact, it’s very good if we can ask the right questions and help people clarify their own intentions and goals and be sure that we know our own.

I remarked and wrote recently that I found no particular virtue in being busy and that I often marvel at how people seem to measure their effectiveness by how full their calendars are.  What is essential for a leader, according to Senge is “to learn how to manage the precious resource of paying attention.”  What he means by that is that before venturing out and engaging all those other people, places and events, the leader needs to venture inside, and listen, to pay attention and be still.   It is here where we will find the resources and possibilities that will enable and empower us to reach out and connect with those others.

When we pay careful attention to our selves, to others, to the legitimate and genuine needs around us, we are in a much better condition and position to challenge and resist the status quo, to take creative and intelligent risks, and to encourage and support others.  This means we must carve out the time and place for that reflection, contemplation and renewal, be it solo or with a group of like-minded folks with similar needs and priorities.  When we trust our own personal core beliefs and values, our intuition and senses, and our inner teacher, we can learn how to deepen our connections to what matters most.

We are confronted and confounded by many choices every day, not only for this day or that but for the weeks and months ahead.  Do we pay attention and give time and energy to every hangnail that comes in the door or across our desk?  Do we allow our days, or our lives, to become fragmented by everyone else’s concerns, or can we find a way to be in touch with a larger purpose, still attend to the details, and communicate a bigger concern?  Helping others frame their work and give them a larger context could be a great service, not only to them but to those others whom they serve as well.

Living close to the land in northern New Mexico, I continue to learn a lot about the uniqueness of creation.  Every animal, stream, forest, and tree is unique.  No two animals or trees or branches or streams are the same.  As human beings, we are expressions of that same creation and just as those expressions are essential parts of the eco-system, we can show our uniqueness too.  We would not ever think of a tree or a bush as being lost, or  confused, so why should we be any different?  We may forget from time to time or we may even get lost on occasion but if we remember who we are and what we are about, and from whence we have come, we can find our way back.  We can let go of the “delusion of separateness” so that we can learn to express ourselves in a way that is more connected to our nature.  We must let our own creation find us and in so doing live and work more completely, more congruently.

I watched a bald eagle fly gracefully upstream and down, low over the river yesterday; picked up an injured American Coot and let him or her float downstream to either health and recovery or to an imminent wet or dry ending; walked in the snow, anticipating skiing down the mountains; marveled in all that the universe offers up every day. At times I feel a little like Dr. Doolittle, talking to the donkeys, chickens, dogs and cats.   I have a place where I live in between the mysteries that unfold each day.  For each of them I am immensely grateful and glad and hold them up for recognition and celebration.

I can assure you that if we participate in these exercises, besides knowing of our vulnerability and imperfection, we will come to our rightful place in the world and be very much at home with ourselves. For many of us it has been a continual journey of inner exploration and discovery in order to be somewhat useful for outer exploration and discovery.  None of us can know the end from what was begun, thus we have to trust the evolving and unfolding while perhaps nurturing it along the way.  We can only contribute to the extent that we have developed the inner resources to do so.  Therefore it makes such great good sense to find the place, take the time and pay attention to the development of the inner world of being.

It is here that we will know not only what we can do, but more importantly, who we are.
When we discover our authentic selves, we can express the uniqueness that is ours and ours alone, and we will then be able to fulfill the imperative from the Oracle of Delphi of Know Thyself.   Equipped with such knowledge we are then prepared to know others in the context of meaningful, productive relationships.  And that is what makes all the difference in what we do because of who we are.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


On my computer, I have some 33 choices under "System Preferences", neatly organized into 5 categories and it all seems to work to serve my needs and support my work.  Cool beans!  However, I have run into another system which is certainly organized as part of a bureaucracy that is beyond belief.  Do we need less government?  Yes, or maybe it's that we need a more efficient and a less wasteful government.  Regardless, it's no wonder we're bogged down in DC and little progress seems imminent.  Here is but one small example of a system that goes on largely unnoticed by most of us.  

According to the Office of the Federal Register, in 1998, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the official listing of all regulations in effect, contained a total of 134,723 pages in 201 volumes that claimed 19 feet of shelf space. In 1970, the CFR totaled only 54,834 pages.  Our lives and those of our children are being "regulated" daily without our recognition or approval in every area from food and drugs and agriculture to planes, trains and automobiles right down to the label on furniture that says it is illegal to remove it and each of us has probably taken great pleasure in doing so. It's a miracle that we and our children actually survived without seat belts and car seats for kids.  At least my truck has U Connect, a hands free device that allows me to hear and talk on my cell phone through the radio speaker.  Consider the following.

The General Accounting Office reports that in the four fiscal years from 1996 to 1999, a total of 15,286 new federal regulations went into effect. Of these, 222 were classified as "major" rules, each one having an annual effect on the economy of at least $100 million. [Source: Costs of Federal Regulation, the Heritage Foundation]  Wonder how many have gone into effect since 1999?  There are 50 general categories that regulate just about anything that moves, lives or breathes.

While they call the process "rulemaking," the regulatory agencies create and enforce "rules" that are truly laws, many with the potential to profoundly effect the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans. What controls and oversight are placed on the regulatory agencies in creating the federal regulations?

The Clean Air Act, The Food and Drug Act, The Civil Rights Act -- examples of landmark legislation requiring months, even years of highly publicized planning, debate, compromise and reconciliation in Congress. Yet the work of creating the vast and ever-growing volumes of "federal regulations," the real and enforceable laws behind the acts, happens largely unnoticed in the offices of the government agencies rather than the halls of Congress.

What are federal regulations? Where do they come from and under what oversight are they written, enacted and, at least once so far, de-enacted? Federal regulations created by the regulatory agencies are subject to review by both the president and Congress under Executive Order 12866 and the Congressional Review Act of 1966.

Executive Order 12866, issued on Sept. 30, 1993, by President Clinton, stipulates steps that must be followed by executive branch agencies before regulations issued by them are allowed to take effect.

For all regulations, a detailed cost-benefit analysis must be performed. Regulations with an estimated cost of $100 million or more are designated "major rules," and require completion of a more detailed Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA). The RIA must justify the cost of the new regulation and must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before the regulation can take effect.

Executive Order 12866 also requires all regulatory agencies to prepare and submit to OMB annual plans to establish regulatory priorities and improve coordination of the Administration's regulatory program.

The OMB publishes this Report of Regulations Pending and Reviews Completed - Last 30 Days. The report is updated every weekday. 
While some requirements of Executive Order 12866 apply only to executive branch agencies, all federal regulatory agencies fall under the controls of the Congressional Review Act.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA), passed in 1996 as part of the   Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, allows Congress 60 in-session days to review and possibly reject new federal regulations issued by the regulatory agencies.

Under the CRA, the regulatory agencies are required to submit all new rules to the leaders of both the House and Senate. In addition, the General Accounting Office (GAO) provides to those congressional committees related to the new regulation, a detailed report on each new major rule.

Should any member of Congress object to a new regulation, he or she can introduce a "Resolution of Disapproval" to have the regulation rejected. Should the resolution pass both House and Senate by simple majority votes, and the president signs it, the regulation basically vanishes.

Since going into effect in 1996, the Congressional Review Act has been successfully invoked exactly once. On March 7, 2001, Congress gave it's final approval to Senate Joint Resolution 6 disapproving the controversial final regulations on ergonomics created by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's (OSHA) and set to take effect in October, 2001

I do not know what motivated the movement of opposition, but someone, somewhere got sufficiently organized to mount a campaign to support the disapproval.  While viewed by many among labor organizations as a worker health and safety issue, the ergonomics regulation is an illustration of the ongoing debate between external control and personal responsibility.   Why do so many people believe that they need someone else watching out for their interests instead of being able to do it themselves?   In the creation of a welfare state, mentality and attitude goes way beyond making monthly payments to people who are economically disadvantaged.

Regulatory Agencies: Agencies, like the FDA, EPA, OSHA and at least 50 others, are called "regulatory" agencies, because they are empowered to create and enforce rules - regulations - that carry the full force of a law. Individuals, businesses, and private and public organizations can be fined, sanctioned, forced to close, and even jailed for violating federal regulations.

I recall being introduced in 1994 to ADA – Public Law 101-336, enacted July 26, 1990, which regulates, among many other things, accessibility to buildings for Americans with disabilities and in my particular case the issue surrounded remodeling a building for use as a private school.   Were we going to have to put in an elevator to accommodate any student who could not use the steps?   Was that, according to the law,  a “reasonable accommodation?”    And who is going to determine the answer to all the questions?

Would we also have to provide designated parking places for people with special physical needs?  Would all the required signs need to be posted in all the required places?

This regulation was on top of all the local building code requirements for a certificate of occupancy which had to be issued after inspections by the fire department, the city building inspector, the state environmental agency, and numerous others.   Frustrating, time consuming and expensive?  Yes.   Impossible?   No.  Did we get it done?    Yes.   Was each requirement fulfilled to the letter of the law?   No.  Did we open the school anyway?  Yes.  Were we fined or jailed?   No.  Did we have lawyers to help us?   Yes.  

In addition to all the Federal requirements legislated and imposed upon us, without so much as a vote or voice from the populace, you can add a myriad of regulations that come down from state, county and city offices as well, all the way down to such minute requirements as those for parking.  If you live in New York or London, try figuring out all the various parking regulations and various signs posted indicating those restrictions.   Or try dealing with some of the state licensing requirements for different kinds of businesses.

And then there is the famous Reg Penna Dept Agr which in my mind became symbolic for all the food labeling requirements.  These are not necessarily regarded as undesirable in terms of intentions but taken as a whole, this society seems to be one of the more externally controlled, restricted and protected of any that I know.  Many would say thank goodness that big brother is looking out for their best interests but you should also know that underneath much of this is the fear that many people harbor that allows them to be manipulated by others even without their knowledge or consent.

I am not talking about any conspiracy theory or paranoia, simply trying to observe a level of awareness or the lack thereof.  How much do we really know or care to know?  What makes sense?  Sometimes all we can do is sit back and laugh (or cry) at so much foolishness and really, so much waste. Waste of time, energy and resources that could all be put toward other things that would be a lot more useful and productive.

The fear is the same kind that allows an inept security system at airports to spend gazillions of dollars with little improvement in real security.  The façade of security is intended to help people believe that they are more secure when in fact, they may or may not be.  The point is that once again we have turned over the control to an external source, much the same as we do with the governmental and other institutional regulations.

The power of the individual rests quietly inside one’s own belief that one can make a difference.  There are many ways to make a difference, to raise a voice in protest, to say that you will not allow foolishness to over rule reason, to actively not accept less than what has been promised and finally, to engage relentlessly in setting things right.

It is not easy and it takes time.  You have to be willing to live with a bureaucracy and do whatever it takes to hang in there, cut through the jungle of nonsense and come out refreshed and renewed on the other side of success.   Good luck and godspeed!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

No Virtue in Being Busy

I receive at least a dozen or more emails, telephone calls or messages each week (I don’t text) that are filled with comments about how busy someone is and I am often guilty of the same kind of remark.   And for those who must travel for work, that adds a layer of time consumption, creating more pressure and stress on the schedule, calendar and one’s self.  Add up the demands and expectations of a family, a specific job or task, running a household, managing a business, dealing with the oxymoronic customer service, absorbing the news, being entertained, using the social media networks, watching and listening to others, and perhaps most importantly and more often neglected than not, taking care of ones own mind, body and spirit.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I set out to winterize our mist away system for the elimination of mosquitoes.  Without going into the details of installation early last summer, let me say simply that it is an engineering and chemical mystery and marvel that sprays pyrethrin (an organic compound) around our house and garden according to a programmed computer system and a 55 gallon drum of the mixture inside a shed adjacent to our house.  It has to be “winterized” and now I laugh at the scene although at the time it was anything but funny.  We had to call the “source” three times to accomplish what should have been a simple task.  It took over an hour and a half. 

I now watch or listen with some degree of amusement as a friend or colleague refers to an electronic calendar to find a slot where a meeting is possible or impossible and I do the same thing although my calendar and schedule have more leeway for the first time in 49 years.  When I served as an interim head of a school last year, I remarked that I was fortunate to be able to work half time.  That was 6 to 6!  And there were those evenings and weekends that added hours of work, most of it meaningful and productive.

Another thing I am fond of saying although it does not resonate all that well with some others goes like this:   A friend or colleague says, “It was a very long day” and I know what they mean but I have the audacity to respond with, “I have news for you. They are all the same length, 24 hours.”  The point is that we all have the same amount of time and it’s simply how we use it, how we spend it, how we choose to invest ourselves in the moment or the hour or in the day that has been given to us.
Maybe there is a way of looking at the day or the week not as something to be filled up but rather as this miraculous and precious gift of time which, in fact, could be our last day.  If that were to be, how would we spend it?  The point is not to create a personal drama but to be sure that we are including some of those things that we value the most and not postpone them until we find the time or have the time.  Now, go put some of those into your schedule and on your calendar and see if it makes a difference.  Go ahead.  Just do it!