Open Wide and Say, “Ah-ha!”
Posted on 13 May 2018
I am in a constant state of regeneration because of the people I meet and the books I read. The past 24-hours were no exception! Life's lessons abound if you remain open to them. Here’s the three most recent epiphanies that happened to me.
Saturday night I enjoyed a fantastic dinner catching up with an old friend. The chosen locale is a historic house that's now a gorgeous restaurant, so the dining arrangements are quaint and close. There was a beautiful large group of young people also in a celebratory mood in our area so I couldn't help but hear their conversation. One of the gentlemen was having hip replacement surgery the next day due to a ski injury. His friend quipped, “Sometimes, we just run out of talent” which was intended to be a commentary on a damaging wreck his ski buddy had survived. I had to laugh because I too knew the pain and terror of running out of talent, both on and off the slopes. While our physical bodies get repaired with joint replacements and physical therapy, our lives can get repaired as well.
What do you do when you run out of talent? Do you put all the game pieces back in the box and put in on the shelf? Do you withdraw and have a lifelong pity party? Or do you adapt, regenerate, and innovate? Every new challenge you face requires a new skill, a new will, and new traveling partners. Whenever I hit the wall, I immediately reach out to my vast array of life experts and hit the books! Suddenly my talent cup overrunneth and I can begin the climb again. I always go back to my favorite Ken Blanchard quote, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” Expand your talent pool. Hang out with smart people and read great books.
A friend of mine recently completed his book. It’s geared toward encouraging and educating seniors on how their golden years can be their best years. He asked me to read his manuscript to provide feedback and I was honored. As I opened the manuscript and began reading, one line in particular stood out, “Experience gives the test first, then the lesson afterwards.” What an incredible way to encapsulate this timeless truth! If only we could fully grasp that everything we do has lasting consequences, some of them wholly unintended, we might live life more purposefully and wisely. I am reminded of the story of the young employee who queried her boss on how she got so successful. The CEO replied, “Good judgement”. The young woman pressed on asking, “How do you get good judgement?” to which the CEO replied, “Experience.” Undaunted the young woman asked again, “Well, how do you get experience?” To which the CEO replied, “Poor judgement.” As a species, we tend to be slow learners. We are impulsive and selfish. We want what we want now, with little or no regard for what comes after. Any of the men I conduct prison book discussions with would wholly agree. However, when we pause and consider what comes after the experience, we gain a tremendous perspective beyond just our immediate gratification. We become more compassionate and conscientious humans, and that makes up for a better collective humanity.
One of my favorite critical thinking exercises is to “argue against your future self.” Whenever you are faced with a decision, consider the worst possible scenario that could happen and then ask yourself, “would I still make a decision to take this action?” If the answer is “No”, you have just opened your mind to learning a life lesson without having to touch the hot stove. Before you make that decision, get council and read up on the pros and cons. You’ll save yourself some lesson learning time in a big way.
I adore the teachers at my church because they dig deep into the word and have such robust application. If I can immediately apply what I am hearing, I will remember it. Learn it; live it. Sunday’s message was titled Raised from the Dead and used Paul's writing in 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 as the expository text. Physical death is something our society is working hard to eradicate. From cloning, to digital uploads of your consciousness to the cloud, to cryogenics, there's a real resistance to facing the one real certainty in life. There's a song by Peggy Lee that I heard as a little girl titled, Is That All There Is? I can remember the lyrics today as clearly as I did then because even as a youngster they struck me as melancholic and fatalistic:
“Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is."
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians echoed this sentiment in vs. 32, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” We all die in numerous ways before our final departure from our earthly shells. Our hearts can die from pain; our trust can be burned up because of betrayal, we can lose all that we once held near and dear to us. And yet, when we adopt a regenerative nature, we can resurrect ourselves like the phoenix from the ashes. Indeed, Paul's opening words are "IF the dead are not raised". When your darkest fears become a reality, are you dead and gone? Or are you dead and gone on? When you’ve taken a mortal blow to the ego, heart, or spirit, read how others have resurrected from even more dire circumstances. One of my father’s favorite quotes is, “Things don’t go wrong to break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all you were intended to be.”
These truths struck a particular chord with me not because they were new truths but because my ears and mind were open and my mouth closed so I could hear them in a new context. This week, listen to what’s being said around you. Open your mind and let those ah-ha moments pop and multiply. Read something a friend has written or recommended. Sit under the tutelage of a wise expository teacher. You’ll be a different person come next Monday because of the people you heard and the words you read.