Category Archives: Silence

Why the 90-Day Rule is So Powerful

With the advent of the internet, and then smartphones, we’re able to access the outside world on-demand from just about anywhere.  The flipside is that the outside world can access each of us just as easily.

Friends and colleagues can send us an email or text at any time.  They can use a selection of apps to “ping” us from across the world with information, photos, articles, or project status updates.

And, although rare these days, people can even call us on our smartphone…trust me, it still happens.

In all these instances, the expectation is that we’ll be fully accessible, and ready to respond immediately to any and all issues, questions, or opportunities that come our way.

An immediate-response, immediate-judgment, immediate-decision-making model of interaction is the new norm.  We train our brains to quickly scan complex situations with the goal of rendering snap decisions that we can provide as part of our response(s).

There’s just one problem:  creating this speedy-response capability eliminates the one thing that many decisions (especially complex and long-term decisions) require:  TIME

Time and space are exactly what we need to make our most effective decisions.

Time to absorb information at our own pace.

Time to immerse ourselves in a new situation before being forced to judge it or make decisions about it.

Consider the person who gets a new job.  This new job is going to be amazing.  It’s what they want to do, and it pays a lot more than their last job.

It’s normal to visualize all the ways to be successful in the new job.  It’s normal to think of how to spend the new-found money.

It’s also normal that once the work starts, the new job won’t be as amazing as it seemed.  After the first week, the job and the people at the new job may seem like a nightmare.

Or, the new job is as amazing as it appeared and the people are awesome.  But the work is highly technical and challenging.  Doubts can creep in about whether it’s a good skill set fit.

The truth is, in the first week (even the first month) of new things like jobs, relationships, or workout routines, we don’t know enough to judge.  We may think we know.  We don’t.

This is where the power of the “90-Day Rule” shows itself.  What is the 90-Day Rule?  It’s something I made up that says for the next 90 days, I’ll immerse myself in the new thing (job, workout routine, etc.) without any preconceived judgment, without any pressure to decide, and without any thoughts about alternatives.

If I’ve decided to do this new thing (after days, weeks, months, sometimes years of contemplation), I’m going to give it at least 90 days before judging it.

In the new job example, consider how freeing a 90-day moratorium on judgment will be.  You’re not judging the new people.  You’re not judging the new company.  You’re not judging your ability to perform in the new job.  You’re not even judging the commute.

No judgments means you can focus on what it takes to be as successful as possible in the new job.  All the energy you would have focused on making judgments and other distracting decisions is channeled fully into the most valuable tasks.

What about all that new money you’re earning at this new job?  What if you give yourself 90 days before spending it on all that new stuff?  Have a nice dinner to celebrate the start, and then wait 90 days.  You’ll have plenty of time to spend all this new money on the 91st day.  What’s your hurry?

When was the last time you gave anything 90 minutes before passing judgment?  It’s time to give important decisions at least 90 days before passing judgment.

You’ve decided on this course of action.  Let it play out.  Give it room.  Let it breathe.  See where it goes.

Give yourself the power of time.

Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

 

Begin with I Don’t Know

It’s easy to assume we know everything, or everything that matters.

If not, we can comfort ourselves that at least we know enough.

“Been there, done that,” is our unspoken mantra.

When we know, we feel the need to tell others.

When we know, there’s nothing more to learn.

When we know, listening is optional.

When we know, questions waste our time.

Curiosity and exploration are irrelevant.

A powerful thing happens when we begin with I don’t know.

We listen to others more than ourselves.

We open our mind.

We embrace the potential for change.

Curiosity and questions fuel our journey.

We become interested.

And, interesting.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Fishing and Catching–Bruce Kerner Style

Bruce Kerner loved to fish.  He didn’t get to fish often.  He was a sign painter for various studios and was away working on movies a lot.  He and his family vacationed with us many times when I was a kid.  Back then, vacation time meant Big Bend Resort on the Colorado River and day trips to Lake Havasu.

We’d get a cove on the lake and set up our day camp with a shade, lawn chairs, and coolers.  Bruce always had a bunch of fishing gear that we’d bring ashore.

While the rest of us focused on swimming and water skiing, he focused on fishing.  The pursuit.  The exploration.  Deciding which baits to try.  Changing rigs.  Trying new lures.  Moving down the beach to a new location.  Floating out in a rubber raft to cast near the “proper” pile of rocks.

He always had a look of contentment on his face as he stared at that place where the fishing line meets the water.  Constant vigilance, looking for any sign of a bite.  Maintaining soft hands to feel the slightest movement.

It didn’t matter that the fish usually showed little interest in his bait.  For Bruce, fishing was more important than catching.  When he did catch a fish, he was rarely prepared to keep it.  Somehow, his stringer was always left back at the camp.  He knew that as long as we had daylight, he could cast his bait out there another time.

Come to think of it, we fished at night as well.  Down on the dock along the river, after dinner.  A bunch of us would look across at the lights on the Arizona side and cast out.  Our quarry on the river was catfish, and that meant stink-baits and lots of waiting.

Funny thing is we didn’t catch many catfish either.  When we did, we’d get a flashlight out, or flick a Bic lighter, to see what we’d caught.  The stringer?  Usually up at the trailer.  We weren’t prepared to keep anything we caught.

Sitting there in the dark, fishing pole in hand, staring up at the stars, a kid can learn a lot talking with a fisherman like Bruce.  The meaning of patience.  The dignity of discipline.  How the journey is more important than the destination.  How quiet time is a good time.  The way opportunity meets preparation when that fish hits your bait.  How stories about nothing can mean everything when they’re gone.

Bruce was taken away too early from this world by a heart attack, many years ago.  I find him in my thoughts a lot around July 4th.  That was one of the times each year that our families vacationed at the river.

When I think of Bruce, I remember the fishing and the laughter.  I don’t remember the fish we caught.

They weren’t that important.

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash.com, Andrey Trusov

“I’m bored!”

“Thems was fightin’ words” in our house when I was a kid.  If mom ever heard us utter those two words, she had a list of things for us to do.  We learned quickly to find things to do for ourselves, since mom’s list was definitely not a fun list (toilets, folding clothes, raking leaves, etc.).

I remember one summer, probably the one between 7th and 8th grade.  Our little crew had a solid plan every day.  It usually involved taking a mid-day “break” to watch Get Smart at Denis’ house.  I’m pretty sure they ran two episodes, back-to-back.  So, that took care of about an hour of entertainment.  The rest is a blur of football games, hide-and-seek, swimming at Marty’s, riding bikes, and just about anything else that would keep us from having to say, “I’m bored.”

I suppose it’s all those years of training, followed by “advanced” training in college, and then even more in the work environment.

Stay busy.

Keep moving.

There’s always something to be done.

Don’t be lazy.

If you aren’t busy, you better at least look busy.

Where’s your work ethic?

Aren’t you dedicated to this cause?

Focus on the task at hand!

Don’t be boring (even worse than being bored)!

Somewhere along the way, a lack of movement, or a completed task list, started to equate with the dreaded “b” word.  Somehow, a lack of movement turned into an example of laziness.

Is it even possible to do nothing and be at peace with it?  Or, do we have to tell ourselves that this momentary lack of movement is just a quick break before returning to another of life’s endless tasks?

When did doing nothing go from being a peaceful state to one of guilty boredom…or worse, an example of our laziness?  When did life become a task list?

The next time I’m faced with the challenge of doing absolutely nothing, I hereby promise myself that I won’t be bored (or guilty about my laziness).

I will enjoy the peace of that moment with gratitude.

What’s next? (just kidding)

 

Getting Quiet

Hillsdale_Lake

It’s easy to focus on all the details of our busy life.  The errands we run, the work we do, the people we meet, the things we do for others, the things we do for fun, and occasionally thinking about what’s going on in the world around us.

But, what about when things get quiet? When we listen only to our own thoughts.

Getting quiet can be scary. What’s in there? What’s missing? Where are you going? Do you recognize yourself? Do you like the person you’ve become? What’s important?  What do you want from your life?

We can talk ourselves out of just about anything. That includes getting quiet. Here’s a short list, in no particular order, of ways to create some space for quiet time in your (too busy) life:

  • Turn off the radio (and your cell phone) when you drive.
  • Purposely wake up about 20-30 minutes earlier than usual…there’s your extra time for quiet.
  • The next time you’re clicking around the TV channels, click the off button instead.
  • Take a walk, a run, or a hike…without your cell phone.

How should you spend your quiet time?  You decide.  It’s your time.  Meditate, read inspirational quotes, pray, or sit in silence and give your brain some time to slow down.  It may seem a bit awkward at first, but that will pass as you get to know yourself better.

Get quiet.  Listen to your thoughts.  You might be surprised by what you hear.

 

 

The Joy of Quiet Listening

The world can be a noisy place. It can also be a quiet place.

Consider a street corner in a busy city. The sounds can be overwhelming. Honking horns, revving engines, the crazy person yelling at the sky, pieces of ten conversations you overhear as people pass by, music from that guy’s headphones that are turned up way too high, the beeping of a delivery truck as it backs into a parking space. And yet, there can be quiet, if your mind allows it.

Family gatherings are loud. I’m blessed to be part of a huge family. Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings have forty-plus attendees. At any time, there are two or three kids barreling through, laughing and screaming, a bunch of discussion about how best to prepare and serve the family meal, and a ton of conversations peppered throughout the house. I do my best to add to the noise, but I purposely take time at these gatherings to quiet myself and appreciate the moment. I listen, and enjoy.

It can be the same on a trail run. The sounds of birds chirping, the crunch of the ground, the rustle in the leaves as a critter runs away, the wind whistling through the trees, the buzz of a rattlesnake I just startled (it’s as if a big rattlesnake alarm clock went off this week, alerting all rattlers to wake from hibernation), the music in my Pandora feed (Beach Boys, lately). I stopped running with ear buds long ago, simply so I can hear more of the trail. I still have some music playing, but, it’s in the background. The sounds of the trail, and my own rambling thoughts are what I hear the most on a run.

Consider the last meeting you attended. How many people were in the meeting? Were there side conversations? Was anyone checking their phone or laptop during the meeting? Were real, meaningful, and actionable ideas discussed? Were you the one checking your phone? Were you listening, or merely thinking about your next response? Was anyone listening? Who was the quietest person in the meeting? What did they think? Did you take the time to find out?

Meaningless noise can creep into just about any environment, whether it’s measurable on a decibel meter or not. Meaningful quiet can enter any environment, no matter how much noise there is.

You control the quiet.  You control your listening.

Embrace your silence, and enjoy the power of quiet listening…maybe for the first time.

Remembering to Breathe

Nearly all sports are the same (at least on one level).  It doesn’t matter if that sport is soccer, baseball, golf, archery, skeet shooting, curling, downhill skiing, long distance running, ice skating, motorcycle racing, or competitive yodeling.

They each start with the same fundamentals:

  • Relax and stay loose
  • Calm your mind
  • Visualize success
  • Bend your knees
  • Don’t forget to breathe.

One could make a case that each of these fundamentals are of equal importance, but my money is on the last one.  Consciously remembering to breathe puts us in the right state of mind to remember the other fundamentals.

We each face challenges on a daily basis.  Some are small, and some are huge (at least from our perspective).  Here’s a strategy for tackling each of them:

  • Relax and stay loose
  • Calm your mind
  • Visualize success
  • Bend your knees
  • Remember to breathe!

A great thing happened last night…

Our phone, internet and cable TV stopped working.  We used my cell phone to notify our provider and schedule a technician to visit this morning.

Janet had an early morning appointment, so she was up and out of the house early.  Rather than eat my breakfast while watching some Sunday morning show, or something I had previously recorded, I sat out on the patio and enjoyed my Coach’s Oats with a cut up banana…and a hot chocolate.

Far from silence, I was sitting in the middle of a chorus of bird songs.  The flutter of wings, and the squeaks of hummingbirds greeted me as I sat there.  Everything else was quiet, and while I sat motionless, a flock of quail strolled in to sample the seeds I had put out on the hill behind our house.  They didn’t even notice me as they milled about, chirping at each other and eating.

After finishing breakfast, I didn’t check my email.  I didn’t check my news feed in FaceBook.  I didn’t check out my Twitter feed.  I didn’t pop-up Zite.  I didn’t fire up my favorite Pandora channel.

I grabbed my Kindle and read.  This is something usually reserved for the final sleepy minutes of my day, around bedtime.  A big reading session at that time is about fifteen minutes.  This morning, I read for about two hours.  It’s amazing how fast I can read when I’m actually awake and not distracted.

Of course, there were times when the bird action around me was so intense that I couldn’t help but stop reading and enjoy the show.  I also heard an argument going on up the hill from our house between a mom and her twenty-something daughter.  It’s sad that they were spending their early Sunday time arguing.  Seems like a waste of a glorious morning.

I hear the technician arriving out front.  I wonder if I should answer the door when he knocks.

P.S.  Since you’re seeing this post, you guessed it…I answered the door.  We may be back on the grid, but we plan to make this house a grid-free zone on a regular basis going forward.