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Category: Life Insights

The Right Lane

For over two decades, I was a silent vigilante. An anonymous protector and defender of the rules which govern society. I didn’t have a cape or superhuman powers. I didn’t have a sidekick. However, I had a special ability that most people didn’t have.

I prevented drivers in the right-hand lane from getting in front of me in the left lane when it came time to merge.

It didn’t matter if it was a beat up Dodge minivan full of kids or a convertible Mustang with three gorgeous, women in bikini tops with hair blowing in the warm breeze*, I was first in line, everyone else got behind me. Including big trucks and semi-trailers.

You see, back when I studied my tail off to pass the written portion of my driver’s test, I really locked in on the rules of the road. Rules that state that cars needing to merge must yield to vehicles in the other lane and wait until adequate space is available until executing a successful lane merge. Nowhere in the rule book did it say drivers can turn on their blinker and merge in front of an upcoming vehicle, essentially making it the other driver’s problem to allow them in. Gradually over time, the injustice brought on by insensitive or oblivious drivers formed my anti-hero persona behind the wheel. I saw so much lawlessness and vehicular anarchy that I took matters into my own hands with my car. And I fought the forces of evil behind the wheel.

It was a dark time for society. And for me. But something happened to me recently that made me question my allegiance to this aggressive club.

I took a step back from my anger at insensitive drivers and looked at the bigger picture. I started to evaluate how much time I lost on my own drive time with those cars cutting me off in traffic. What I eventually realized was those drivers weren’t slowing me down from my original estimated time of arrival to my destination. Those drivers weren’t creating a dangerous situation where I might rear-end them. In fact, I had actually gotten good at predicting when they would signal to merge in front of me, so I proactively eased up on my accelerator, allowing enough distance for them to safely merge in front of me.

I often hold the door open for others when entering a store, so why couldn’t I “hold the door” for drivers to go ahead of me?

It took an extended period of time with a dedicated mindset to override my knee-jerk anger at other drivers going ahead of me. I quietly moved along with the traffic stream instead of being the boulder in the stream that the water has to flow around. And when those vigilant thoughts started to bubble up inside of me, I was mindful of them, aware of them, and allowed them to dissolve, resigning myself to the comforting thought that I’m not in a rush.

There is no rush.

 

* This only happened once in my life. And the looks on the three ladies’ faces weren’t jovial from my rear view mirror.

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Honoring Commitments

Back in high school, I attended Evergreen Boys State, a week-long conference for young men sponsored by the American Legion. A fabulous keynote speaker said this during this conference:

“I will do what I say I will do when I say I will do it.”

This phrase has stuck with me ever since. It gives me purpose in my life. It inspires me be responsible to myself and others. I feel an increased sense of honor when I live by this maxim. While I slip sometimes, this statement drives my life, both as a professional and as an adult in society. Holding yourself accountable to what you say makes you an adult.

When I make an appointment with a doctor, an auto mechanic, a massage therapist, or some other business, I’m making a commitment to that business to show up at that given time to get help. And, by cracky, I’m going to show up! Unfortunately, many of us make appointments, and don’t show up. Many of us don’t realize skipping an appointment costs a professional money for billable time. When we don’t show up, they lose money because that time slot could be filled with a paying customer who actually shows up. This brings us to society’s current trend where businesses send us reminders by both voicemail and text message to our phones so we don’t forget or skip our appointment. And asking us to reply to the text message. “Studies have shown” that people who text a reply are more likely to honor their commitment to their appointment. Welcome to the nagging portion of cultural history.

One more distraction added to our day. One more task added to our day’s list of things to accomplish; reply to an automated service telling them we’ll make our appointment. Makes me feel like I’m being treated as an irresponsible teenager again.

The more we integrate doing what we say we will do in our daily walk, the more we will improve society around us. The more we honor the commitments we make to others, the more we will be valued. And businesses won’t have to find additional ways to remind us to keep our commitments. Do what we say we will do when we say we will do it.

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The 10-Foot Fogbank

Sing along if you know the words.

Someone says something to you that you weren’t expecting. It catches you off guard, and what they said hurt your feelings. You feel embarrassed or ashamed. Doesn’t matter if the person is family, a friend, or an acquaintance at work. Doesn’t matter if it’s done on purpose or on accident. You’re angry at them, and now your world is clouded with negativity. Perhaps you’re even in revenge mode, calculating how you can respond to hurt them back.

I spent a good portion of my adult years looking like this when someone caught me off guard with their words:

It wasn’t a pretty sight.

A few years ago, I forced myself to take a step back from my anger and let my mind examine why I was feeling this way. I found a quiet room devoid of distractions or noise. I closed my eyes and took some calming deep breaths. After taking a few minutes of letting my mind settle, a unique scene popped into my mind. I was standing by myself in a field, encircled by dark grey fog. About 10 feet of visibility. I stood there for a few minutes, unable to see anything past the fog. Then my mind watched the fog dissipate, revealing a clear landscape of mountains and fields. I could see so much more than before.

It hit me then that the dark fog was my narrow-minded interpretation of why someone hurt my feelings. I was only focused on myself and what I knew. My limited universe of knowledge. After the fog cleared, I realized there was a lot more to their situation. I allowed myself to consider that the other person could be hurting, or stressed out, or simply oblivious to what they say or do to others. I gave them the benefit of the doubt…and I gave myself permission to give them grace for the hurtful words. By considering their situation, I learned that their hurting me may not have been done on purpose. After a couple of exhales, I visualized others whom I could apply grace and forgiveness to.

Perspective is essential for our inner peace.

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Knowledge Bankruptcy

At one point in my life, I owned a huge bookcase stuffed full of books. I bought them online or at used bookstores. Lots of reference manuals, technical guides, and obscure compendia. Big coffee table books on science, mythology, mathematics, zen mindsets, and lots more. Lots of eyebrow-raising subject matter, and loads of knowledge available to be learned. Unfortunately, this bookcase contained a dirty little secret.

I never read those books on my bookshelf.

You see, I was trying to impress people who visited my home. In my imaginative mind, I’d be preparing dinner, and they’d be looking around my place, stop to ponder the titles in my bookcase, and would be impressed with the unique titles and subject matter; some of the subject material in stark contrast to how I portrayed myself in public.

Today, I confess to you that I was a fraud.

While I could talk a good game about those books, I never was someone who you would describe as well-read. In fact, I spent more time reading the user reviews on Amazon.com than I did flipping through the pages of what I actually bought. Eventually, I arrived at the stage of life where I donated all my books to the public library. If I happened to need one of those books, I could easily check it out and dive in. Funny thing, it’s been over a half-decade since I eliminated those physical books from my possession, and I haven’t checked one out yet.

It’s tough for me to put that feeling into words, but I seemed to gain a slight bit of authenticity or integrity by not owning that which I did not actually read.

Just recently, I did the same with my digital online reference arsenal. For the better part of a half-decade, I had been saving articles encountered online. Articles chock full of technology fixes, essays containing inspiring mindsets, and numerous guides to be a better person. I accumulated over 700 saved articles scattered in numerous online solutions; Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, Evernote. You name it, I stored it there. In my imaginative mind, I would be able to flop down in a cushy chair by a warm fireplace, hold a tumbler of whiskey in one hand, and my mobile device in the other, and absorb so much wonderful information. I’d be able to finally do what these online solutions claim to offer – to finally “read it later.”

Nothing but a pipe dream.

You see, I’m a husband, a father, and a technologist in the 21st century with a full-time job. Therefore, I have no time to simply read for enjoyment. So I did something drastic. I consolidated all of those 700+ articles into one location, and hit the delete key. Here’s why:

  • If I need a fix for a tech problem, I know I can find the solution on the web very quickly. Besides, most of the tech articles I saved are now years old. Operating systems and software applications have improved, and what I saved is outdated.
  • If I want to become better at mindfulness, I can Google it and come up with about 1 million potential articles to read. No need to save this knowledge for later.
  • I realized all these bloggers writing about 20 ways to improve my life doesn’t know diddly squat about my life. I know what I have to do, and it’s up to me to improve my situation.

Funny thing happened after I hit the delete key and all those saved articles disappeared. The articles that really meant something, the well-written essays I actually paid attention to, stuck with me. When the time came when my mind dug it up I’d Google the article keywords and save it to enjoy later. But this time it was in a more curated fashion. More deliberately. As a result, I have a personal compendium of my favorite articles to refer to when I need to. On Instapaper. Nicely formatted. No ads. Very few pictures. Just the facts, ma’am.

 

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