Grace

The last few weeks have been some of the most intensive thinking weeks I’ve had in a long time. I’m working trying to understand some problems and challenges and then trying to figure out the best path forward given those challenges. During these times, I’ve had many important and deep conversations with some colleagues as we’ve talked through these challenges and how to best move forward.

During these discussions, and some side discussions, I’ve been repeatedly reminded about how so many of us tend to think we are right in our viewpoints, directions, and opinions and anyone thinking differently is wrong. Of course we are right, we’ve considered all the facts and made a decision and it fits our worldview perfectly. Plus we are invested in that viewpoint and the idea of us being wrong is nearly inconceivable. Furthermore, the other person and viewpoint are evil.

There is a passage in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament that I’m mindful of these days where in Micah 6:8 where it says:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly

This simple passage in Micah says so much to me.

I’m so tired of people who do not extend the “benefit of doubt” towards others on matters where they have no real understanding. People are critical of things via sms or email across hundreds of miles when they weren’t there to see what they are complaining about. Where is walking humbly? Where is loving mercy? Where is trusting the people you know there at the scene?

I’m tired of people who can not extend grace to others.

Everything in Washington (and on Twitter/Facebook) is black and white and the other person is evil and wrong and should be smashed and obliterated. Where is listening and trying to understand? Where is walking humbly in your thinking?

I’m tired of people who are not invested in a solution, being critical of those who are trying to do the right thing. If you are not willing to be in the arena, then you don’t get a vote.

On April 23, 1910 Theodore Roosevelt said the following famous lines:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Life is hard people. Be kind, for you do not know what battles others are fighting. Let’s learn to listen and try to understand first, second and third.

One day you might need grace from someone. One day you might need someone to listen to you.

Changes to Listening

I’m reading the book Deep Work right now and it too has caused me to rethink about what ‘noise’ is invading my days. And, this month at church, we are talking about the idea of ‘breaking up with your phone’ and in that study, we are hearing a lot of data about how our addiction to our mobile phones is having a dreadful harmful impact on our lives.

Whether it is your mobile phone, television or your computer, we have a lot options to pipe noise into our lives

  • If you listen to cable news network all day long one mostly hears negative views of everyone in all directions: all is bad, nothing is working, everybody is your enemy. (I do like the last story on CBS Evening news which always seems to be a positive story about someone or something that works.)
  • Local news spends a big fraction of their reporting on murders, fires, thefts, corruption and car wrecks.
  • Social Media streams to are quick to point out blame or evil. And in a flash, you can attack, or take sides, or fan the flames.
  • Podcasts are available on every single possible topic on the planet. Many good, many bad, and many that might just not be helpful. A source of true crime and hate messages.
  • True Crime shows are the rage on tv now, but they are just so frightening and gloomy. These can make you want to just stay inside and pack a weapon all the time.
  • Many movies and shows on television are not very good messages to pipe into our heads and the heads of our kids.
  • Facebook is sometimes full of joy (birth and marriages) and other times full of sadness (death, loss and sickness). Unfortunately, it is also a place (like Twitter) where people, who might otherwise seem normal, will bombard you with politics or news that you do not want to hear. The last presidential election cycle was a nightmare.

A while back I referenced the book Factfulness which tells us that perhaps, things are better than we realize. And really, there are lots of good people and organizations around trying doing to do the right things.

So where does all this go and what do I do about it.

  • I’ve cut way back on listening to the news. I’m mostly interested in the weather forecasts (something that might justify another post) and sports. I do try to check in on the national news daily, but I don’t spend a lot of time with it.
  • I used to listen to true crime podcasts and was fascinated with the solved and unsolved cases. However, I got to a point were the scary, negative, sad, awful was overpowering. And, as some of you know, I’m a runner and I would listen to these on early morning runs before the sun comes up. It is not a good mix to listen to these stories while out alone in the dark. Not needed. I’ve stopped listening to this whole genre.
  • On my mobile phone, I’ve turned on screen time app limits to limit social media access daily.
  • As mentioned on my last post, I’ve deleted Facebook and some other apps from my phone.

I think there are more steps to take and I’m on a journey here. I’d welcome hearing your thoughts and recommendations on how to best throttle or control the pipe of news and information that is streaming into my head.

Two Recommendations

However, I did just finish listening to Dr. Death podcast at the recommendation of SL and as a result I’ve decided to never need surgery. I wrote on an earlier post how essential it is to have a medical advocate to support you when going into surgery or serious medical issues. Wow.

And at the recommendation of JE I’ve just finished listening to Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Stevenson. He is coming to OKC to speak in a few days. Must listening. Must read. By the way you should follow JE’s blog here.

Epilogue: Running

So my fierce running partner and I decided to run 1,400 miles last year. I had run 700+ the year before while dealing with a foot injury so it was almost doubling my mileage in the year. We completed the task by mid-December and we made ourselves some medals to recognize the milestone.

And, of course, we’ve signed up to run another marathon this year.

Three Great Reads

I’m considering doing a once per week post on three great things I’ve read during the week. Just considering it. Here are three for this week.

Why You Should Trust People First is a terrific post on why you should take that risk and speak up, ask, be vulnerable, greet, welcome, help that other person. In general, it is so worth it. Highly recommended.

Add Value To One Person’s Life Per Day is another great post suggesting that every single day, we need to find someone to help. Your help of that person will further help and compound as they likely then go on and do something good for someone else. Just get into the habit. Every single day.

You might be thinking that adding value to one person’s life is not enough of an impact. I once thought that too.

Until I realized that adding value is contagious.

When you do it once, the person you help passes it on. The second part happens in secret, though.

“You don’t see the significance of the value you’ve given to someone because the person you helped does it without thinking”

It’s natural that when we’ve seen the power of adding value to one person’s life, we want to pass it on. We collectively end up mimicking the behavior and just forget to label it as “I helped add value to one person today.”

Adding value to a persons life is contagious. Helping people is contagious too.

Tim Denning

The Simple Power of Showing Up is a great reminder that just showing up and just being consistent makes all the difference in achieving one’s goals.

It’s time that people start realizing you can’t be the noun without doing the verb.
You can’t be a writer, if you don’t write.
You can’t be a cook, if you never cook.
You can’t be an athlete, if you never train.
In what areas of your life do you call yourself the noun without doing the verb? It’s time to get consistent.

The Simple Power of Showing Up

Pay and What is Right

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post. Can’t quite find the rights words or even the right way to start. I’m no great writer, but usually I can find the right words. So, I’ll just do this.

It is unacceptable that women are being paid less than men for the same jobs. 

I understand that there are huge complexities is doing large studies and benchmark because of differences in jobs, tenure, backgrounds, etc. but at the simplest level, all employers and leaders, should and must be making active efforts to normalize and level the playing field.  A story in the Guardian earlier this year says:

Sucheta Nadkarni, professor and director of the Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre at Cambridge Judge business school, says that – despite flaws – the figures do indicate men are paid more than women on average. She said: “Whether it is because women are getting paid less for the work that they are doing or because women are not getting equal opportunities to get into positions where the pay level is high – it doesn’t matter what the reason is, but there is a gender pay gap and in most cases it’s an issue of equality and justice. In both cases it’s an issue of an imbalance of some sort.”

Gender pay gap: what we learned and how to fix it

I see three reasons why all of us must work to fix these problems.

First, it is just the right thing to do. I shouldn’t have to explain this one. 

Second, we need all the best people we can find in our workforce and in leadership positions. Any organization that wants to succeed or prosper or even exist, needs the best people it can find on its workforce. Any practice or policy that ‘slights’ or ‘devalues’ one group over another is not doing all it can to succeed. Why would anyone want part of their workforce to feel slighted? Don’t we want to attract the best people possible in all our positions? This applies to race, religion, etc. too.

Finally, the third reason, which is gender specific, is that I do believe we need more women in leadership positions. We need their viewpoints and life experiences informing and driving decisions being made in government, corporations and nonprofits.  Related, I wonder if the #metoo movement would be different or even necessary if there were far more women in leadership positions everywhere. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famous for her remark that ‘There will be enough women on the Supreme Court when there are nine’ which is funny but the principle is valid. I’d be fine with nine women on the supreme court but we would then likely miss the male viewpoint on some key issues.

A recent survey reported that 52% of Americans would feel “very comfortable” with a female president to which I reply why isn’t that 95% or 98% or 100%? 

It is time for men to speak up and address matters that are holding women back from advancement, leadership or equal pay.

May Love Become Light In The Darkness Of Your Grief

pablo

My friend Silas Shotwell does a newsletter about his ministry work. His October newsletter was a reflection on the loss of his wife 15 years earlier and some other losses in his life and the resulting grief. Late in the writing, he says the following:

… and deep-seated grief is the result. I have love, with no place for it to go.

But now back to what I said earlier.

The best way to deal with grief is to give love some place to go! … So I would say to any of you that are suffering loss, and struggling with grief: Love with word, with deed, and with action.

Love others so fiercely that your love is spent, so your chests are no longer hollow, and the lump in your throat hurts a little less.

Love those around you that are hurting most, who have lost the most, and then love them even harder.

Because the truth about grief is that it never leaves!

It lasts as long as love lasts—forever.

Kathy Parker  says: “May love become light in the darkness of your grief.”

That means a lot to me.

So I say, along with her: “My love, thoughts, and prayers are with those at this time, who have suffered a loss beyond comprehension. I don’t understand, I will never understand. But I know our hearts unite in love for those who have lost so much. May you know that you are not alone!

Very well said and worth some reflection.

I hope you and yours are well.

Excellence

It is easy to watch the news and think that everything is broken. Sometimes, most times, it seems we should just not watch the news.

I’ve had three encounters with excellence in the last few days where an organization, an industry and a group are really seeming to drive towards excellence with enthusiasm and energy and passion.

Endeavor

The College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT) at Oklahoma State University just opened a new undergraduate laboratory building that has been written up here and here.

IMG_3994

The difference with this lab is their intense focus on cross-functional collaborations with different engineering disciplines working together to solve problems and do research at the undergraduate level. It is not just the EEs or the MEs doing their thing by themselves, but it is pulling them together as undergraduates to work together; which is just like the real world. The articles spell it out more, but here is one more at campustechnology.com. I’m anxious to see what OSU CEAT does with this new facility. Very exciting.

Relentless focus on getting better at educating engineers.

Winemaking

I passed through Napa Valley last week and had the opportunity to tour a couple of vineyards. I was simply stunned at the lever of precision and passion wine makers ( the head wine experts) and their wineries have towards their craft. I had no idea. Focus on sun, rain, temperatures, soil conditions, this hill vs. that hill, this side vs that side, this grape vs. that grape, etc. The vineyards are immaculate and well maintained.

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Didn’t meet any of the winemakers, but heard about passion and focus. Many of them walk through the vineyards daily. Amazing. Is this the highest form of Agricultural Engineering?

Fleetwood Mac

I get it. You are wondering how these all fit together. My wife and I had the chance to see Fleetwood Mac at the start of their tour at the BOK Center in TulsaIMG_4111

Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and several new players. While the group was older, they still played with passion and energy.

They did a cover of Free Falling to honor Tom Petty and it was amazing. Neil Finn is a great addition and a great compliment to the group.

They were still great. It was a wonderful evening with lots of memories.

Passion. Focus.

Excellence.

All of three are fun to see and experience. Other places like Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma led by Katie Fitzgerald and by many programs at Oklahoma Christian University led by John deSteiguer all point to people and groups trying to do the right things with excellence and passion.

There is hope.

Time

pablo (2)Found out last week that my Ph.D. advisor back when I was at OSU died in August and that his memorial service was today. I’d not seen him since graduation as my Ph.D. process was one of those troubled stories and when I finished, I drove out of town and didn’t look back for a decade. I had tried to contact him a couple of times via email, but he never replied and I was never sure if I had the correct email address. Learning of his passing was a bit sobering. I changed my plans today and went to his memorial service.

He was a delight to work with and from the service today, he was a wonderful person. I’m very sorry that I hadn’t connected with him.

This plus other things recently have magnified the shortness of life. Time flies by. Some get sick and face months or years of health battles while others age and in some cases, age poorly.

My high school is planning a big high school reunion next year and I’ve not seen any of these people in years. One of our number has a spreadsheet of class members who have died!

This is where my head is today:

  1. Love those you can.
  2. Be kind.
  3. Enjoy the days.
  4. Run! ( or swim, or lift, or play, or move)
  5. Be a good friend.
  6. Don’t worry about what others think.
  7. Find your anchor points and hold tight.
  8. Enjoy the dogs and cats.
  9. Give all you can to those around you.
  10. Let your friends and family know you love them.
  11. You can’t take any of it with you when you die.
  12. Always go to the wedding. Always go to the funeral.
  13. Do the best you can and then let it go at night and sleep well.
  14. Start over again tomorrow.

What else?

I hope you know you are loved. I hope you have a great day.