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A Kansas Memory

snow 1

 

 

Ice and snow on the farm.  This picture is not nearly so bleak as my experience that day.

 

 

 

Recently the ranching disaster in South Dakota has been in the news.  Not many people today have any idea what that kind of situation is really like.  As a farm boy in Kansas in the 60s and 70s, I lived through a number of situations on our family farm that were not too different from what those ranchers found themselves in recently.   Reading a facebook post by a cousin of mine sparked a cascade of memories.  This is my attempt to capture the fact and flavor of those memories:

I remember being caught in a sudden blizzard when I was with my father on our West place. I was about 15. The tractor had slid on hard ice and gotten stuck in deep snow. There was no help and no phone.  The warmth of our house and the safety of our farmyard was 3 miles away, not a long way in fair weather.

It was mid-afternoon and we were dressed for the cold, but the temperature was dropping and the wind was picking up hard. Soon we couldn’t see more than a few feet in front in the heavily falling and blowing snow. We found our way to the little gravel road and began to walk.  We walked together down the middle of a gravel road. Between the ice and the snow and the lack of visibility the only way we could tell where the road was was when we fell in the grader ditch. Then we would pull each other out and move on.

Who knows how long that walk took, but finally we reached home. Those 3 miles had taken hours, and dark had fallen. We were wet, numb from the cold, and beyond exhausted. My mother met us at the door, tears streaming down her face saying “Thank God you made it.”

She would have come for us or tried. But, it was our biggest tractor that was stuck deep in that snowy ditch, my little sister was barely 8 too young by far to attempt such a trek and also too young to stay home alone in a blizzard. My mother had food on the table and something hot to drink. I learned later that she had been warming it up off and on for hours, hoping we would get there.

My father’s first words were. “It’s past chore time’” He grabbed a quick cup of coffee and a sandwich, changed clothes and headed out the door never saying another word. A little while later I staggered up to follow him and my mother said “Dad can handle the chores.” My response as I struggled back into my boots and coats: “I know, but chores are my job.” I remember a small pause, as I gathered myself to face the wind, and the cold and the snow again. And the hug my mother gave me.

It may feel hackneyed to say it, but when things are difficult it is important to remember that we are born of survivors.    The truth is simple, if you are alive now you were born to a lineage of survivors.  You can handle it.  They did.

Posted in Character, Uncategorized.


Courage

It all starts with courage.

 The Greeks and the Romans believed that courage was the King of all virtues, because it was the virtue that fortified and insured all the others.  Without the courage to act on your other virtues there is no virtue.

 This same principle applies to your Mission.  To discover or detect your mission you must have the courage to stand naked in the mirror and confront your life.  You must have the courage to see your mistakes. You must have the courage to confront who you are today, who you are now, in this moment.  You must confront the good and the bad, the strong habits and the weak.  You must see clearly both where you want to be and where you actually are. 

It is this unswerving courageous self-examination that will allow you to find and live your Mission.

Posted in Character, Personal Development, Personal Mission, Soul.


Unreasonable Commitment

 You have decided to change things.  You have decided to take the steps needed to charge forward.  You are going to make your life noticeably better, in some significant way.  Yet the sad likelihood is that you will fail.  According to Steve Pavlina  failure is often because you didn’t take the time to develop the necessary habits.

If  Pavlina is right and I believe he is, then how do we build the habits that support our goals?

I believe it starts with Unreasonable Committment. 

What is Unreasonable Committment?  Unreasonable Committment is the strength to hold to a committment with teeth and toenails.  It is a particular strength of committment that won’t be denied.

Is there a simple high leverage habit that would change your world?  That is the kind of habit to focus on. 

If you are a parent it may be as simple as making sure the kitchen is clean each evening.  When you and your children are sprinting for school and work, mornings are best are hectic; at worst they deteriorate into screaming matches of “hurry up you’ll be late for school” or “you’re going to make me late for work.”  Tears and hard feelings are the best you can expect from these situations, and you are often late to boot. 

But, if you make an Unreasonable Committment to cleaning the kitchen before you go to sleep, each morning would start out from a do-able baseline.  You would be more cool headed, and if your kids are like mine when you remove the time pressure not only are they happier BUT they move faster. 

An Unreasonable Committment to a simple action can change the whole morning, and your child’s long-term memory of you.

What does Unreasonable Committment mean here?  It means that you do it.  You clean that silly kitchen whether you get in there  at 7 or at midnight.   It is simple, but it is hard.

 Perhaps you have a morning workout scheduled, but your boss calls with an emergency that doesn’t go well and your workout has to be ditched.  This time you took my advice and you wrote out the “backup rules” before you started your workout program.  You decided that if you had to skip your morning workout that you would get it in before bed.  Now, the evening is here and  you get seduced by TV, or the Drudgereport,  or checking email, and poof the time evaporates. It is now past midnight and your workout is still NOT done.

The Reasonable Man will talk to himself and say…its ok.  At least I got the email done, or I am up to speed on the news, or gosh I am tired and tomorrow will be a big day.  This Reasonable Man will talk himself out of taking the action that he needs to take.  He will tuck his tail between his legs and “bail.”  It is not reasonable to hit the weights, or to go out for a 3 mile run at 1 a.m. 

The Unreasonable Man (or woman) will say “ah shit!”  Then he will crank his lazy ass up and get it done.  This is Unreasonable Committment.

At this level  it is not the workout that is important.  It is the promise to self.   It is the character that we build by making and keeping our promises to ourselves.

The key here is Unreasonable Commitment.  When you look at those dishes or the running shoes or that weight set and the hour is late; the decision is not about clean dishes or getting your workout in.  The decision is about self respect. The decision is about your Character with a capital “C.” 

Now, I am not looking down at anyone here.  I have made the wrong choice plenty of times, just ask my poor wife.  She has seen me crawl into bed, tired and grumpy from having made the wrong choice.  In that moment she has seen me make the wrong choice again,  the choice to stay and sleep.  But, she has also seen me drag my sorry ass out of bed and out the door.  She knows that if I do, even with the loss of sleep, I will be much easier to live with the next day.  I will also be much more productive.

My advice is simple, ” get Unreasonable.”  Who cares if it is 1:00 a.m.?  Go make it happen.  Looking in the mirror will be easier.  Things will get done.  Good habits will get made. Change, positive change, will happen.

Decide to be Unreasonable with your next self project.  To decide means to cut off other options.  Decide.  Change one habit forward.  Change one that will matter.  Create habits that will build and move you forward into the person you want to be.  When that decision becomes a habit, you will have changed your Character.   Choose another habit.  Don’t reach for too many new habits at a time.  Remember the power of One.  One habit. One step at a time.

 (see  my articles the Power of One  and Time: Little Bits Add Up)

Posted in Character, Personal Development, Soul.

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