Changing Seasons

As we approach the end of summer with the autumnal equinox, I find myself appreciating the changing of the seasons. Here in Texas we usually have a hot spring followed by a scorching summer followed by a hot fall. Even here, though, the changing of the seasons is noticeable if you pay attention.

Moving into autumn the daylight is getting shorter. The morning temperatures are a lot cooler. The trees are starting to think about changing colors. The Friday Night Lights start to glow (in this region that is actually part of nature). Until I started gardening I did not pay much attention to the seasons. I now find myself feeling more tied to light, darkness, rain, temperature, planting, and harvesting. Just about the time I am getting tired of the long hot days, they start getting shorter and cooler.

The changing seasons are a metaphor for life as well. I have never met anyone who truly loves change, at least not all change. I tend to get set in my comfortable routines and find that any change or disruption to them is annoying, even if the change is ultimately better (which it often is). Even though most of us don’t love change, we have to make peace with it because things change. It is one of the few constants.

Since change is inevitable, I try to get philosophical about it. Perhaps just as I welcome the changing of the seasons I can also welcome other types of change. There are many seasons of life that people experience. We greatly enjoyed the season of life when our children were small. When they started school that brought many changes to our lives and routines. When they left for college we again faced great change. Now that we are empty nesters and see the gray hair in the mirror, yet more change. When we face changes to the seasons of our lives we try to look for the new and exciting possibilities. It is not always easy.

My practice of writing an annual Forward Story (detailed in my book by the same name) helps with this process of change. It actually empowers me to not only think about what changes are coming, but to take some level of responsibility about how I will handle it and respond to it. It allows me to embrace change as exciting and positive. It is a choice I make.

Sometimes change is thrust on us and is most unwelcome. This is true with the death of a loved one. We did not ask for it, but it happened anyway. Many of my friends have suffered change because of a hurricane and flooding that they did not want. Change is inevitable and comes in many flavors. We are in charge of the way we respond to it.

How do you cope with the changing seasons in your life?(leave a comment)

Emily Brontë Died at Thirty

How Old Are You?

Charlotte Bronte coloured drawing
My wife and I recently watched the movie To Walk Invisible about the Brontë sisters. These amazing sisters created some of the most enduring works of English literature.

The eldest sister Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics). The youngest sister Anne wrote Agnes Grey (Penguin Classics). The middle sister Emily wrote Wuthering Heights (Penguin Classics).

Their decision to write and publish under male pseudonyms is an amazing story of strategy and perseverance. Charlotte was “Currer Bell,” Anne was “Acton Bell,” and Emily was “Ellis Bell.”

As with all writers in their day, their work was conducted often by candlelight and always by hand with ink and quill on paper. I am writing this post in an online editor with cut and paste, auto-spell check, and the ability to publish to the world with one click of the “publish” button. It is hard to even envision the painstaking effort they expended to bring these works to readers.

There are many aspects to their story that I find amazing, but perhaps the thing that strikes me most is the fact that Emily Brontë lived only 30 years. In fact, her youngest sister Anne lived only 29 years. Charlotte lived only to the age of 38.

I do not measure myself against women who were among the most gifted writers in the English language, but I do draw two lessons from their lives:

  1. Youth should be no barrier. If anyone told them they were too young, the Brontës did not listen. Some of us seem to be waiting until some magic future date when we are of sufficient age to do something important. Go ahead and do it now. Will you get better at it as you get older? Probably. Maybe. Maybe not. In the case of the Brontës, there was no getting older. Life is uncertain and short. That leads to the second lesson…
  2. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and get started doing something you really want to do and need to do. Don’t wait for later and older. Do it now. Get it started. Do not let resistance paralyze you. If you plan to do creative work (writing, music, art, entrepreneurship), get a copy of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and let it motivate you. The main thing is to act. Now.

I have to confess that while we have had copies of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in our library for years, I have read neither. I am going to correct that soon. I think that as I read them knowing just how young these authors were when they wrote them, it will really reinforce the two lessons above.

Hopefully it will motivate me to act.

How old are you at present? If older than 30, take encouragement from what these young women did at a younger age than you. If you are younger than 30, follow the Bronte’s lead. Make it happen.

Too Many Irons in the Fire?

warmth-fireIdeas are portable and easily shared. In a recent conversation with my friend, Coach Deborah Newkirk, I repeated the familiar refrain: “I’ve got too many irons in the fire.” This idiomatic expression comes from the days when blacksmiths had literal iron bars in literal fires. We now use it to mean “I am really busy.” Deborah shared something that her friend Dr. Jerry George said to her (see how portable ideas are?). Since I did not hear it directly from him, I will offer this as a paraphrase. I am not even sure of the context in which he said it to her, but here it is:

When you have a lot of irons in the fire, don’t be afraid to add more irons. Accept the blessing. – Dr. Jerry George

That resonates with me. Even though I do have a lot on my plate, I need to adjust my attitude a bit and remain open to new opportunities and blessings that come my way. The “too many irons” mindset can become an excuse for not doing something that matters. It may also prevent me from accepting a tremendous new opportunity.

The new approach I plan to adopt is to not be afraid of all of the irons I have heating, but rather to attend well to them while being open to even more irons. Now, not every iron is as important as the others at any given point in time. I may need to focus on some more than others at this moment, but they are all a blessing.

Having a lot of irons in the fire is a very good thing.

If you don’t believe me, just ask someone with nothing to do.

My Dad is a Man

miller-fordMy Dad is a man. I don’t mean he is a male — that much is obvious. I mean he is a man in the sense that he is what we call a manly man.

He was a good athlete. He hunts. He fishes. He has at least one of every power tool ever made…and he has used them all. Heck, at age 76 he still uses them all. He is an accomplished mechanic who restores vintage cars like Ford Model Ts. He welds. He mows. He chainsaws. He is a master with the smoker and grill. His brisket is still the standard by which I measure all others. What I am saying is that by every standard by which masculinity is usually measured, he is manly.

It has always been easy for me to look at him and see what a man looks like, but that is not what makes him so special. There are manly men everywhere. What makes him special is the ease with which he models both his manliness and his sensitivity. From the time I was a small child he was comfortable with hugging me and telling me he loved me. We still hug. We still affirm our love for each other. I have come to realize that not all fathers know how to do that. He is a gentle and kind man. He is a man of faith.

My grandfather died when I was five years old. I still remember him, but the memories are veiled by years and by my age at the time. So, I don’t know if he modeled this physical and verbal form of fatherhood for my Dad to see. I will find out today when I speak to him on Father’s Day. Regardless of where he learned it, Dad decided that he would tell his children that he loves them and that he would embrace them to demonstrate his love. He has been consistent with it. I am grateful for that. It helped me see that there is no contradiction between masculinity and sensitivity.

I have friends who did not have that kind of model in their father. Some of them struggle with showing affection to their children. I cannot blame them because the way we are raised has a powerful impact on how we parent. If you are one of those men who struggles with kindness, affection, and expressiveness with your children, let me challenge you to break the cycle. Find a man who does it the way you want to do it and have a conversation with him. Try it sometime with your children even though it may feel strange. You have the opportunity to start a new family tradition that you can pass along to your children and grandchildren. Boys need to see this positive practice of masculinity, and girls need to see it as well.

There are really no downsides to my Dad’s approach. I highly recommend it, and I try to practice it myself.

So, thank you, Miller Lee.

I love you.

My Responsibility with Regard to My Potential

And Yours with Regard to Yours

We have all seen it before. A naturally gifted athlete with tons of potential refuses to work to develop that potential, and he or she ends up wasting it. We had a guy like that on our team.

It is sad.

I find it easy to get judgmental about that guy and about others who waste their potential.

Yet, it occurs to me that I also have specific and unique talents, abilities, and background that create my potential. The real question is whether I am putting in the work to realize my potential? Am I living up to my potential or am I instead wasting it?

That is a challenging question to answer with total honesty.

I have come to believe that it is my ethical responsibility to live up to my potential and to achieve my ambitions. To do anything less is to waste what I have been given. To me, that would be unethical.

My family, my community, and my world are counting on me to contribute what I can and to be the best version of me possible. They deserve nothing less.

So how do I achieve my potential?

Dan Fogelberg’s lyrics in “Run for the Roses” resonate with me:

It’s breeding
And it’s training
And it’s something unknown
That drives you and carries you home

While he is talking about race horses, I find application there for us. There is nothing we can do about our “breeding,” but the training and the “something unknown” is where we can reach our potential.

So, what is your potential? What is your responsibility with regard to it? What are you doing today to achieve it?

Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther. – J.P. Morgan