We all work hard, but what are we working hard at doing?
The old adage that we may win a battle but still lose the war applies to all we do.
When a motivational speaker tells his audience that everything is possible, I wonder if the speaker ever tried to nail Jell-o® to a tree? Some tasks are worth committing to because they advance our goals, some are NOT worth doing because they have no reasonable connection to our goals. In other words, it’s the end game that’s important. Our greatest problem is the ones we create ourselves. The ones we foolishly believe we must attain! In truth, they are unrelated to everything our goal requires.
Let’s say you hold a clump of jiggly red Jell-o® against a tree and push a long gutter nail through the gelatinous mass. Then you tap a hammer gently and remove the hand bracing — the Jell-o® will remain attached to the tree. Well, it will remain until the weight of the Jell-o® pulls itself through the nail and falls to the ground.
Let’s pretend for a moment YOU are that Jell-o®. If those few, fleeting moments of success could be suspended long enough to allow you to appreciate the accomplishment. You would simply enjoy and appreciate the fruits of your labor. But, if while watching the Jell-o® dangle from the tree, you might have considered the question: Why did I waste my time trying, and what the heck was I thinking when I took the time to figure out the method?
Actually, the time and method are a function of When and How. You can address these questions by analyzing the time you spent arriving at the means of accomplishing your feat. You can delude yourself into a feeling of comfort by knowing you solved the problem. The question that is missing is Why?
Why do we do some of the things we do? How much time do we take to consider whether the time spent on a task is worth the effort? We need to step back on a regular basis to consider our purpose. To face it. We have all clicked on internet links with the goal of trying to learn something new. Maybe we started by looking up a new way of finger picking a song on our guitar or selected a primer in order to fix a minor leak under the sink. But then, four hours later, we get a low battery warning while watching a YouTube video of a tourist getting chased by a kangaroo at a drive-through wildlife park. At that moment, we usually pause and realize the time we spent was wasted.
Unfortunately, between the plumbing and the kangaroo, there was a vast wasteland of time we cannot explain nor get back. Many of our days are lost in the outback of our lives yet take days to recognize. Thus, we surrender ourselves and our goals. We sacrifice them on the altar of into the oblivion of darkness that is waste of time land.
Yes, I gave nailing Jell-o® to a tree some thought. I even considered water and pudding as the nailed objects. But readily conceded the impossibility and chose not to waste my time. . Oh yeah, I also considered staples …. but the Jell-o® splattered so much — well. you know …
With that said, I challenge you to ask yourself this: Why am I nailing Jell-o® to a tree? Also, what part of my master plan will benefit from the time I’m spending on this task. Then let me know what you come up with.
In the Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote: “The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.”
I sit here watching a master of patience practice his craft. The sun is new in the sky, and the waters of the Assawoman Bay calmly roll in to reach morning high tide in our lagoon. Herman is standing calmly yet focused on his morning ritual. I am fairly sure that Herman never read Sun Tzu, but he clearly and instinctively understands the value of patience as the best way to achieve his goal.
I am not even sure he is named Herman; I just know that is the moniker that was attached to him by Nick, my neighbor. Herman is a Blue Herron that lives in our marina. The neighbors share tales of Herman’s legend. “There was this one time he caught a four foot snake and swallowed it whole.” “Another egret tried to move into our cove and Herman got all vicious and chased him out.” The neighbors watch Herman with the regularity of a bayside reality show. And I would note that Herman is not only a supreme hunter, but he is the only regular resident who has escaped the Home Owner Association dues.
Back to my point. Herman is standing on the cross beam of a broken dock at the wooded side of the cove. He is unfazed by the momma duck and her two children that swim by. He certainly could care less that I am watching him as I type into my iPad. He only knows that the morning sun has illuminated enough of the shallows to give him visibility. He can, I assume, see about a foot below the surface of the water.
His shadow is long on the pier behind him. It is still. His shadow does not betray his position to the prey beneath. The fish swim past unaware that their numbers will diminish by one. Their fate is in the hands of Herman’s desire for nourishment. He alone will decide the moment of attack. “That one is to far left, that one is too deep. When one of adequate size swims in my zone, I will eat,” Herman resolves without movement.
He waits. He knows his plan. He has tested his skill before. He concentrates. He waits. The seagull flying close to him is not a distraction. The gentle ripples in the water’s surface do not seem to matter. His sights are set. He waits.
I wait. A sip of coffee. The gentle smell of salt air. A moment to myself.
Suddenly, without warning… With lightning speed, he plunges his long slender beak into the water and retracts. He comes up empty.
He flies to the other side of the lagoon, and lights on a neighbor’s dock. He stretches his neck casting a long shadow on the water’s surface. He looks up and down the bay. I have seen this before. He is regrouping. He will momentarily return to his post, but he needs a moment to shake off the defeat.
I am walking inside to pour a second cup of coffee.
I am back. He is back on the broken dock.
We wait again.
As I am finishing my second cup of coffee, he moves. In a flash of movement, he darts his head into the water. He is successful. He has captured his morning meal. He downs his prey as I down my final sip of coffee.
All of his learned skills proved victorious. Among them, knowing when to act and how to do so with confidence resulted in a good morning for Herman, but certainly not for the fish. I guess Herman never read any books on Win-Win philosophy, but that is for another day.
Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.
“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
1. a person who believes in or advocates mentalism.
2. a mind reader or fortune-teller.
1. Parapsychological activities, such as telepathy and mind reading.
2. The belief that some mental phenomena cannot be explained by physical laws.