Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taking a Break – Recharging to Take Charge

I was recently reading about US military tests in the fifties where they would subject pilots to extreme g-forces to see what humans could endure and to determine what training could improve their endurance.

The tests went like this:

The pilot was strapped into a seat that was mounted on what was essentially a rocket on rails.  When the rockets were ignited, the whole contraption flew down the rails at breakneck speed (it had no brakes) with no guidance necessary as it simply followed the rails it was mounted upon.  At some point, the passenger passed out and was simply along for the ride.

After the motors burned out, the device then coasted for some distance before it came to a halt, the device and its passenger both completely spent.

The rocket motors were reloaded, the passenger rested and the process was repeated the next day.

I wonder if many people today feel like that person sitting upon this rocket on rails – flying pell mell down the rails at the start of the day, with no means to change the speed or direction and being exhausted by the end of the day.

Think of some of the challenges we are experiencing that create pressure in our lives today:

  • We have a booming economy one minute (supposedly) and then it collapses the next minute (with some exaggeration, of course).   The people who either architected it or didn’t see it coming now tell us to trust their ability to fix it. 
  • Ben Bernanke, top man at the Federal Reserve, tells us a couple of weeks ago that all the numbers look great and he sees the end of the recession in sight.  Two hours later, statistics regarding consumer spending, unemployment and such are released and suggest the complete opposite and that the end is nowhere in sight.
  • Governments such as Canada have changed their strategy from economy stimulation to making sure that the employment insurance system can hold up under the strain.  This suggests that they have given up trying to fix it and perhaps want to hold on and hope everything works out. 
  • Billions are spent on airline safety annually while some insiders suggest that this is a facade to make you feel comfortable about travel since weapons still routinely get onto commercial aircraft.  How about the armed hijacker who stormed onto a Canjet aircraft with 170+ people on it yesterday and held them all hostage before local authorities took the plane back?
  • Billions are spent on the drug problem in the US while the flow of guns south and drugs north continues largely unabated.
  • Unemployment and foreclosures are running neck and neck to establish new records of despair.
  • War, pestilence and disease continues in the world.  We have it within our power to fix a lot of this but we don’t make as much progress as we could or should.
  • Global warming is coming with a vengeance despite our meetings and conferences.  Here’s a thought – maybe just talking about something doesn’t fix it.  Action must begin with dialog. Dialog must result in action or it is just that - dialog.

Tough stuff.  Positive thinking experts say that we shouldn’t think about it because it will bring us down.  I think we’re already pretty low.

I wonder if sometimes we need to be brought down, to be grabbed by the throat, so that we can look some of this stuff in the eye, know it and understand it and then take responsibility for wrestling it to the ground.

Not thinking about it doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Maybe we need to absorb all of this stuff and let it touch our holy discontent as Bill Hybels notes in his powerful book by the same name.  After it has percolated internally for a bit and really gotten us stirred up, maybe we can shake off the apathy we feel as we expect someone else to fix it.  Bodie Thoene noted “Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand”.

Maybe we can all work together to fix things instead of waiting for someone else or believing that we have the solution that no one else has, thus preferring to be a one-man-band rather than a collaborator.

I wonder if many of us would take more responsibility if we could only catch our breath from the wild ride that we call Life.

I think we would.  I believe that the average person would love to make a greater contribution to the greater good.

With that in mind ……

We need to recharge to take charge

Many of us say we can’t take any time off because we are needed for this, that and the other thing.  People who believe this who are forced for one reason or another to take some time off discover when they return that the Earth is still here and it is still running as well as it was before.

Perhaps our belief that the world won’t carry on without us is more ego-based – the hope or belief that being essential for the great machine of Life helps us to feel better about ourselves.

The truth is that each of us has an important role to play – none of us have the ONE role that keeps everything moving.

Maybe we need to take more breaks during the turmoil of the day to stop and ask, “How am I doing”?

How about asking this question.

What legacy am I contributing towards for the children of tomorrow and for their children?

I like to take a break several times a day and record observations in my journal about how I am doing in the following areas:

Faith – how am I doing in regards to my faith in God and my faith in the goodness and intelligence of people to create positive, long-lasting, sustainable impact on Earth?

Virtue – how well am I doing today in regards to adhering towards moral excellence (however I define it)?

Knowledge – have I learned something new today that I can apply towards improving my life and the life of others?

Self Control – how much self control am I exercising towards not being distracted by things that don’t bring myself and others closer to our purpose and passion?

Perseverance – am I still driving towards that which is important for my purpose and passion or am I just coasting along, wasting time that can never be recovered?

Godliness – do my thoughts reflect what I think God would think about?  In other words, if one thinks of the Great Compassion as those things that would make God cry or be angry, what am I doing to address them?

Kindness – what am I doing to grow my understanding of others and their actions and do my actions exemplify my belief in compassion and sharing?

Love – what have I done to share love today?  What have I done to welcome love today?  What have I done to encourage this in others today?

In other words, if I don’t stop a few times a day and perform this checkpoint, how do I know if I am on track or if I need to make a few corrections or improvements?

It is easy to allow the day to slip away in activity instead of productivity.

When I make a conscious step to assess how I am tracking and make corrections along the way, I feel like I have made a better difference to myself and others.

This brings a greater sense of fulfillment towards my purpose and with this, a reduction in stress – I feel like I am controlling my Life instead of my Life controlling me.

It helps me feel like I am making a difference for the children.

People criticized President Bush towards the end of his second term, claiming that his actions were digging a hole that President Obama couldn’t get out of.  Whether this is true or not is not the point.

Let’s make sure we don’t do this to our children.

In service and servanthood.



  1. Harry,
    I thought of your 8 characteristics and decided to rank them in order of priority in my life. I placed Love and Godliness at the top since I believe they are our very essence. I next ranked Knowledge for it teaches me about Faith and about developing Virtues to have Self control and Persevere Kindly.

    As I continue my day, I plan to keep all eight characteristics in mind. We are what we think!

    Thanks for reminding us to be present and authentic.

  2. Dear Leonard,

    I love the natural hierarchy that you have created.

    It seems to be a great roadmap - each one contributing to the development of the next one.

    I will "try it on" to see how it fits. :-)

    You are a model of authenticity, Leonard. Thank you for your spirit.


  3. Hi again, Leonard.

    I just hit an AHA moment with your post. If I visualize this list as circular, with kindness producing and being produced by love ... it becomes circular ... so it is not a list to finish but a neverending cycle that strengthens your day.


    Take care,


  4. Harry,
    Life is circular so it stands to reason that the 8 characteristics cycle around. I thought of a circle with an 8 pointed starburst inside. Movement goes around the circle and also inward toward our center.

    I see a book here, Harry.
    Happy writing.