Autobiographies of Ordinary People

I’m still thinking about “being GREAT” and the intense focus on the “great” men and women of history or of today. Like me, you may read their biographies and autobiographies looking for insight – What can I learn from his life? How did they get to be great? What are their habits? How can I be like them? That’s okay I guess, but it’s not that simple. Great people seem to develop from some combination of circumstances, character and abilities that doesn’t seem easily replicable by most of us.

I’ve figured out that I’m not going to be great by society’s measures. And it’s also the case that many great men have terrible flaws – obsessiveness, arrogance, cruelty, greed, and the like – which may even have helped propel them to fame and fortune. I don’t want to be like that. Greatness at any price is not worth the cost. No, my challenge is to be great at living an ordinary life. How can I be a great husband and dad, a great employee, a great friend? Whose biographies do I read? Whose lives do I study?

Even reading the Bible, I’m tempted to identify myself with Paul, Peter, David, Joseph or some other prominent person. But these guys are amazingly great men of God. All of us simply can’t be like them. Perhaps it would be more realistic for me to identify with someone in the “multitude,” or “crowd,” or among “…the three thousand that were added…” Unfortunately it seems that most anyone in the Bible that gets much ink isn’t very ordinary.

It got me thinking that maybe I should start reading biographies of ordinary people with extraordinary character. Do they exist? I don’t know, but I do know that I’m learning a lot about life from trusted friends. We meet weekly to encourage and guide each other through life’s up and downs as we follow Jesus. We share our stories along with our hopes, dreams and fears. Last week it struck me that I’m hearing their autobiographies – as told by the authors – and they’re hearing mine. And we’re helping one another plan the next installment. Sort of an “autobiography writer’s group” as it were. Cool!

Autobiographies of ordinary people – they do exist. And they’re powerful. Hear a few from people you trust and find some friends to help you write yours. You’ll be glad you did.

Pete

 

Escaping the Pressure Cooker

Generations ago, and in some places still, people’s main source of pressure was survival. Find food. Secure shelter. Avoid predators. Make it to tomorrow. Not so much of that in America today. But even here, modern life has its pressures. Pressure to be “successful,” to be liked, admired, to be beautiful, to fit in, to be accepted, to live a lifestyle. Life is full of such pressure. For many people, perhaps even most, life can be a virtual pressure cooker.

The media, and especially social media, are part of the problem. For professional reasons, I’ve been on LinkedIn more than usual lately and it’s bringing me down. Half the posts in my feed promise to reveal the secrets to being a “GREAT™ _________” (leader, CEO, operator, etc.) and the other half seem to be people revealing to everyone else just how GREAT of a ________ they are. Apparently they’re not too many ordinary people allowed out there anymore. We’ve all got to be Richard Branson or some other version of “GREAT!”

Of course not everyone can be great in the eyes of the world. Very few of us really. I don’t know about you, but I’ve figured out that I’m not going to be one of them. I’m not going to be awarded the Nobel Prize or the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Not going to be on “the 50 most influential people of ______” list. My books are not going to be bestsellers. No one will ever write my biography. Heck, I’ll probably never even have a Wikipedia entry (an essential step on the way to GREAT).

Fortunately the pressure is off. Not because I’ve given up the pursuit of excellence, I’m all for excellence. Life is serious. Results do matter.

The good news is that God does not call me to be GREAT but rather to be faithful. Having been fully accepted by God through faith and by the work of Jesus, I am relieved of the world’s performance pressures, while at the same time God’s Holy Spirit works through me to achieve his results. And he is not about mediocrity. All I’ve got to do is cooperate! (Yes, cooperating with God has to be worked at too but it’s way more pleasant than trying to be GREAT.)

I think that’s a very short version of the gospel of God, which is God’s good news to all of humanity. If you’re feeling the pressure, there is a way out. Jesus is the way. I can’t say why but he chose me; maybe he will choose you too. I hope he does!

Blessings,

Pete

Appreciate the Work… and the Person!

“Thanks for _______. I appreciate it!” We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. Perhaps we even say it a lot; after all, it’s good to let people know that their work matters. But it’s easy to forget that behind the work is a person. And people matter.

Our American culture is one of competition and achievement. Winners are celebrated and results are prized. In business, the public company focus on quarterly results drives a “what have you done for me lately” attitude towards employees from the CEO on down. In the “market” people become just the means to an end, and if the end isn’t perfect, look out. This is the market-driven culture in which we all work (to a greater or lesser extent depending on our individual situations). Do you feel continuous pressure to produce, and to keep producing? I’d be surprised if you don’t.

Well, we’d better get used to it. The culture’s not going anywhere, and results will continue to matter. So sure, appreciate the work.  But let’s also recognize the individuals behind the effort. Let’s be sensitive to their thoughts and feelings. Let’s understand that they have complex and problematic lives just as we do. It’s not easy being a person. Let’s appreciate them.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate you!

Sincerely,

Pete

PS – Two shout outs: one to executive coach Linda Cobb who helped me to learn to think like this earlier in my career; and another to Pat Morley of Man in the Mirror ministry whom I am appreciating, thereby being inspired to write this post.

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When you KNOW

I worked out this morning, as I’ve done pretty regularly for 15 years. I say I enjoy it, and I do, but I also don’t. It’s hard, it’s strenuous. Pretty often, in the midst of it, I find myself thinking, Why am I doing this? Why don’t I just relax, sleep in, linger at breakfast? Is exercise really so important? No one will judge me if I let go a bit, relax, gain some weight, live how most people live. But then I think, No, I know what I have to do.

It’s the same with eating. Controlling your waistline is quite difficult, as we see from this morning’s CNN report – Obesity among all US adults reaches all-time high. I’m not heavy, but I’m newly refocused on my eating and drinking habits because of a troublesome case of ocular rosacea. I’ve begun supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids, which adds considerable calories to my daily intake, and cutting back on snacks and other less healthy fats. It’s not that easy but, once again, I know what I have to do.

Yet we all recognize that knowing isn’t doing. Most people are aware of all sorts of potentially beneficial behavior changes that they find themselves unable to implement. It’s just too hard. Hence the obesity epidemic. Don’t feel bad if this is you. Hey, I’ve been there myself. And of course I’m still there now for some things in my life.

Behavior change is more of a process than an event. Somewhere in this process a transition from simple knowing, or awareness, to a deep KNOWING, a conviction of what we must do, occurs, and that compels us to action. That kind of KNOWING seems to be what I have. I hope you get it too. But where does it come from? How does it happen? Is it just a matter of time?

Honestly, I’m not sure. We’re all different, but it’s not simply a matter of time otherwise everyone would be getting well. I’m giving credit to the Holy Spirit. God removes my shame. He convicts me of what is good and right, and he provides me with the power to act on that conviction. May he do the same for you.

Pete

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At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we KNOW [emphasis mine] you are the Holy One of God.

– John 6:66-69 NLT

Social Media – More Harm Than Good?

I’ve been pretty quiet on social media lately, reading more than posting, and I’m not feeling too good about it. Decorum and civility continue to decline on Facebook. Sexy and controversial posts are now firmly established on LinkedIn, where boasting and shameless self-promotion have gone off the charts. In Social Media Land memes and provocation are the currency of the realm. Well-developed thinking is in short supply and wisdom is hard to find. Perhaps that’s my problem – wisdom is what I’m after.

Of course social media can be beneficial in many ways. I do like keeping up with friends and family on Facebook, and it, along with Twitter, is very useful for communication in “breaking news” type situations (like the recent hurricanes for example). Linked in has helped me professionally. It’s an address book that maintains itself and a good source of potential opportunities and new colleagues. I don’t want to give these things up, but I’m not interested arguing or jumping in the scrum for eyeballs, likes and shares. I’m after wisdom. How should I live? What’s important? What’s not? How can I be truly well?

I haven’t been posting much lately, at least partially because I feel like what I have to say doesn’t fit in on Facebook or LinkedIn where conversations seem to be happening. Apparently “nobody actually goes to blogs anymore.” Yet writing helps me to sort things out. And hopefully, my thoughts are also helpful to any readers seeking their own physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. So I’m going to try writing more often, posting here on Grace Based Wellness without sharing my posts elsewhere. I just don’t think they fit with the current spirit of the media. I’m also going to close the Grace Based Wellness Facebook page soon. If you’ve been following the blog that way, you may wish to change to an email subscription.

Thank you for your readership and encouragement,

Pete

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If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
– James 1:5-8 NLT

Margin – “Just Enough” is not Enough

Hurricane Irma has got me thinking about margin in critical infrastructure. As we all observed, Irma revealed a number of limitations of Florida’s infrastructure.

The interstate highways, although quite sufficient for normal commerce and travel, could not support the timely evacuation of major coastal cities. It’s kind of a catch 22 – you can only get out if you leave before you know if you need to leave.

Power was a huge issue. The volume of downed power lines/blown transformers prevented a quick recovery. Electrical damage in the Orlando area wasn’t necessarily severe, but it was widespread, and there are only so many linemen. Our power was out for six days, but once they got to work in our neighborhood, we were up in eight hours or so. Apparently we were low priority compared with hospitals and other more vital electric customers. (I’m not complaining, just saying.)

Then there’s supplies – Around the time you decide to get to Publix to fill the pantry and stop for gas on the way home, everyone else is also thinking they should do the same. Hence no food on the shelves and no gas in the pumps. After the storm, food and gas don’t come right back either, especially with the power outages.

Flooding is an issue of course – The seawall is two feet high, but the storm surge is seven feet. The drainage system can accommodate 11 inches of rain in 24 hours, but the forecast calls for 12 inches in five hours.

I could go on, but you get the idea. “Just enough” capacity or “just in time” inventory often isn’t when the system gets stressed. For that we need margin. Perhaps even a big margin.

Honestly, I doubt we’ll get much more margin in Florida’s infrastructure than we have already. It’s expensive and requires foresight, and politicians don’t do these things that well. I could be too pessimistic. New building codes since Andrew have been very helpful, but I think transportation and utilities are much harder to address.

So, I’m concentrating on my personal margin. How do I create the margin to manage through the storm? We actually did pretty well with Irma, but I’m making a few tweaks in our preparations. Mainly increasing supplies and creating redundancy, backups for the backup. Yes, it takes time and money. I might seem a little odd. People might say I’m “going overboard,” “it’s too much,” but when the storm comes too much becomes just enough.

Margin’s not just for hurricanes. There are other storms in life. Job loss, illness, stress. I’ve been fairly stressed out lately, and I’m taking Irma as a more general wake up call and considering how to create margin in other aspects of my life – especially my emotional health. How about you? Many people have little to no margin in physical, emotional or spiritual health. Let’s be different than that. Make some margin for yourself, and as always, let me know if I can help.

Pete

Powerless? – Yes and No

New ceiling decor

Irma is gone but her legacy remains.  Overall we did well through the storm.  Only one roof shingle is gone.  Something leaked, as there is a new water spot on the ceiling in the front hallway.  I think it’s likely just wind driven water through the roof vent, hopefully no major repairs are needed.  The landscaping did pretty well too.  No trees or  large limbs down and my little palms are still happy.  All in all that’s pretty minor damage.  Oh yeah, the power is out.

The power went out Sunday night.  Today is Thursday.  Bummer.  Fortunately we were well prepared with the Prius power project and that has been working well for four days now.  We are able to power the fridge, some lights, fans, devices, and very importantly the coffee maker.  (not all at the same time)  It’s using a little over one and a half gallons of gas a day.  We can cook a bit with the charcoal grill and a portable butane single burner stove.

The water service is operating, although we did have a “precautionary” boil water alert for 48 hours after a water main break in our neighborhood.  This is pretty common for big storms as the roots of uprooted trees break underground  pipes as they topple.  Although we have stored water, it tastes a bit like plastic and we’ve just kept drinking from the tap.

It’s still hot in Florida in September. Yesterday we got to 92 and there wasn’t much of a breeze.  Today’s forecast is a high of 89 with rain likely.  So we sweat inside or outside and wear beach attire at all times. The late afternoon is the worst, and our sleep has been disrupted.

We’re not unusual of course.  Half the state and most of our county lost electricity along with us.  The power companies tell us they are doing the best they can, and they probably are, but everyone’s a bit frustrated by the situation.  In our neighborhood we have little obvious damage, but we have seen no power trucks, and our power company simple says that service should be restored to the entire county by next Sunday night.  There is no information specific to our neighborhood.  So we wait.

Because the power outage is so widespread most people’s internet service is also out as is ours.  Cellular service, which was unreliable for about 48 hours post Irma, is now returning to almost normal.  Our carrier is giving free data to everyone affected for a week after the storm.  It’s much appreciated.  Many other businesses and individuals are reaching out to help others as they are able – sharing ice, air conditioning, wi-fi or perhaps a chainsaw and a strong back.

Our adult daughter and her cats are staying with us as she has lost power too.  We get along with her just fine, although we are all used to our own space and would like it back soon.  Unfortunately her cats and ours don’t mix.  So we have arranged cat segregation/rotation system that allows all of them to share the run of the house, just not at the same time.

So it’s a bit stressful.  Some are waiting patiently – that’s what we’re trying to do – others not so much.  People are upset and frustrated, and they get irritable. Us too, but we are trying to recognize this and to be extra patient with one another and with ourselves.

Yes, we are powerless over a lot.  Not just with hurricanes and not just now.  All the time.  But we do have power to decide what we will do, how we will respond to events.  In that spirit, we are doing the best we can to stay calm and positive, to manage our own sitiuation well, help friends and neighbors, trust God, and to patiently wait on the power company.

Pete

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photos follow:

The Prius power project

Power coming in. Routed through hole to be able to keep the door closed and the cats in!

 

The little plams made it!

The heliconia didn’t. (But they will regrow from rhizomes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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