A Success Story

River StonesI’ve worked for some fine people over the course of my career.  One of the best was my old manager from my past employer, Chuck Reedy.

I worked for Chuck for two years.  He was a good manager, treating everyone with dignity and respect.  He was dedicated, hard working, and pragmatic.  Unfortunately, Chuck was laid-off in November, 2007 due to a company downsizing.

It was only after Chuck was gone that I fully appreciated the quality of his leadership and character.  In the span of one month, I reported to three different managers due to firings for performance.  Chuck had done an excellent job of insulating our team from the craziness of his leaders, never once complaining or blaming them to us.  He was a class act.

I kept tabs on Chuck’s job search through his son, who continues to work at that company.  But as the weeks turned into months and then stretched beyond a year with no full-time employment, I stopped asking about him. I justified myself by reasoning that it was rude to keep asking about such a painful issue – I’d be rubbing salt in an open wound.

Now that I’m unemployed, I see things very differently.  There’s nothing like walking in someone else’s shoes for a while to give you a new perspective.

Recently, I had to phone Chuck to ask if he’d be willing to be a reference for me.  I was nervous calling him – would he be upset that I had done a poor job of staying in contact, that I hadn’t been more supportive? But the warmth in his voice put my worries to rest.  He’s still a class act.

He said that he searched for full-time work for over a year.  Twice he made it as far as the final interview, only to lose out to another candidate or a hiring freeze.  Now Chuck sees this as a blessing.

“I always wanted to have my own business, but never took the time to pursue it.  God opened that door for me, but I spent a lot of time looking at the door He had closed.”

Now Chuck is running his own contracting / handyman service.  He has several remodeling and building projects in the works.  The same qualities he demonstrated as a manager serve him well in his new business.  The work is hard, but he’s happy and fulfilled, and wakes each morning with a new sense of purpose.

Chuck told a story of a recent church study group meeting where the leader asked everyone to share what they’re thankful for from the past year.  “I’m grateful that God led me to where I belong,” Chuck said.  “I never realized I could be this happy.”

Stories From Unemployment 2

Image titled Grand Canyon backpack by Kevindooley.  Click on image to see more of his work.

Image titled "Grand Canyon backpack" by Kevindooley. Click on image to see more of his work.

It’s now a little over three weeks since the layoff.  The past week has been very busy and challenging, but also extremely rewarding.  One of the things this experience has taught me is that the rest of your life doesn’t end just because you lose your job.

For instance, our boy scout troop has a backpacking hike planned for tomorrow.  The boys plan to hike a few miles with full packs to prepare for a longer hike in May.  I’ll be sharing the following advice with them before we set out.  This “Scoutmaster’s Minute” obviously has broader applications to searching for a new job, or any other challenge that life may give you.

A Scoutmaster’s Minute On Hiking

As you set out on this hike, you have a choice to make: where are you going to focus your attention?

The reason why you hike is to reach a desired destination.  That’s the goal.  Having a goal is a good thing.  It gives you a direction and a purpose.  Reaching a goal, especially a challenging goal, is rewarding.  When we reach our goal this afternoon, what do you think will be our rewards?

With so many obvious rewards, it’s easy to see why so many people focus their attention on the goal.

But consider this: what is a hike?  A hike is actually a series of individual steps taken one after the other over time until the desired goal is achieved.  What many people fail to recognize is each one of those steps offers its own special reward, if you allow it.

This is something you can’t be taught from a book or from someone else telling you about it.  You have to experience it for yourself to understand.

Each step is an opportunity.  No two steps are exactly the same.  Each step is necessary to reach the goal.  And each step will reward you in its own unique way if you’re paying attention.

That’s the beauty and the challenge of hiking: you can focus on the goal and receive your reward at the end, or you can focus on each step, receiving each individual reward along the way, and also attain the extra reward of the goal as an extra benefit.  The choice is yours.

So where will you focus your attention?

Skating Into The Moment

Image by flattop341.  Click on the photo to view more of his photos.

Image by flattop341. Click on the photo to view more of his photos.

Sunday our boy scout troop went ice skating at the local rink in Newark, Ohio.  I’m a decent in-line skater, but I hadn’t been on ice skates since I was a teenager.  As it turns out, I’m able to ice skate as well as I roller skate, although my braking abilities leave a lot to be desired.

I’ve always liked skating.  Some of my happiest memories as a teen and as a parent center on visiting the roller skating rink with family and friends.  I enjoy gliding around the oval with a breeze on my face, the music and the noise of the other skaters drowning out my thoughts.  I enjoy the physical exertion of skating for a couple of hours and the challenge of picking my way through the constantly changing cloud of other skaters moving about the rink.

Sunday’s experience on the ice was just like those times spent in the roller rink, only chillier.  A large number of skaters of varying shapes, sizes, and abilities all joined us on the rink.

With so many different people moving in different directions at very different speeds, it’s necessary to be completely focused and present. As I passed through the other groups of skaters, weaving and shifting to avoid collisions and maintain my speed, I once again experienced “flow.”

I intuitively knew where to go.  I adjusted with ease to the constantly changing movements of the crowd around me.  It felt very much like a dance.

My whole world shrank down to the ice immediately in front of me.  My attention was completely focused on taking the next step on my skates, to find a clear path through the other skaters moving and weaving in front of me.

Often my conscious mind would judge the best path to take to maintain my speed and desired direction.  As I flowed around the rink, however, another intuitive voice directed my steps, frequently in a different direction from my judgements.

Each time I followed the intuiti0n, it was right.  The path I had judged as better would be cut off by a change in direction from another skater.  Whenever I followed my judgements, I needed to correct sharply or brake to a stop to avoid a collision, no easy task given my braking ability.

As I gained experience trusting to my intuition, I began skating at faster speeds.  It was exhilarating to move so effortlessly through the crowd, skating at the limits of my abilities to maintain control, the danger that I should have felt replaced by a thrilling peace as I relinquished control to that intuitive voice.

What a rush!  I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face as I glided around the rink in a counter-clockwise direction.  I wondered if  others experience this sensation.

As if in answer, a man skated in behind me saying, “I’m going to follow you.  Now I don’t have to think about where I’m going.”

I was pleased that he could see how I was performing, but I knew that he wouldn’t be able to follow me for long unless he also attained a state of flow.  The intuition was very soft, just a whisper or a tickle in my gut; without total focus on the present moment, I wouldn’t receive its guidance.  Sure enough,  it wasn’t long before the other skaters cut the man off behind me and he abandoned his attempt to follow me.

As I turned my skates at the end of the afternoon, that quiet, higher voice whispered one last time to me, “This is what life can be like all the time.”

There are so many people with so many ability levels, all moving together in a chaotic, ever changing mass.  Our task is to be present, living in the moment, forgiving and releasing the past.  In the present we can hear that voice and receive His guidance.

And He will show as how to help, not harm, each other, how to set the example for others to follow, and how to share what we’ve learned with our brothers and sisters in this world.

The Miracle Of Seeing Again

Image by Erika Mugglin, Heath, OH

Image by Erika Mugglin, Heath, OH

The chickens came home to roost this year.

Back when I was in my twenties and my parents were approaching their fifties, I used to pick on them, in a good-natured way, whenever they couldn’t locate their reading glasses.  During visits this past summer, both my father and my mother caught me searching for the inexpensive Walmart reading glasses I’ve needed for the past last year or so.  Both of them took great pleasure in gleefully repeating my youthful comments on reading glasses and old-people’s failing eyesight back to me.

Funny how those comments didn’t sound nearly as good-natured from the receiving end.

So it was with a sense of resignation that I went on my annual eye check-up earlier this month.  I had really become aware of the deterioration of my eyesight over the past few months.  It was impossible to read, write, or work at a computer without using reading glasses.  It also felt like the entire world was becoming fuzzier.  I’ve enjoyed wearing contacts for most of my adult life, but I had come to the sad conclusion that I was going to be getting my first pair of bifocal glasses – it sucks getting old.

So it was a pleasant surprise during the eye exam to learn that I can actually see slightly better than normal with corrective lens.  I was tested at 20:15 for both near and long distances.  After discussing my options with the opthalmologist, we decided to test out a “monovision” prescription.

Actually, that’s not exactly correct.  My distance prescription hadn’t changed, only my close vision, which is normal for my age.  I had requested to continue with my old contact prescription and I would purchase a different pair of reading glasses, but the optical technician took it upon himself to have me test the monovision option.  Monovision is where your dominant eye receives the contact lens for your distance prescription and your other eye receives the lens that corrects for your near vision.

What a difference!  Almost from the moment they were inserted, I could see clearly at any distance without trouble.  I had worried that the monovision would cause me problems with my sense of depth, but that is not the case at all.  I now can do any activity, including typing this blog post, without the need of reading glasses.

Amazing!  To me it’s a miracle.

Beware The False Belief

But what’s most amazing of all is the affect it has had on my self-perception.  I hadn’t realized before receiving my new monovision prescription, but I had begun to think of myself as old and failing.  How exciting it is now to be able to open my prayer journal and write in its pages without needing to fish out those old, tired reading glasses.  I feel twenty years younger.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson about accepting hidden beliefs.  The little, innocent “jokes” I had made as a young man towards my parents had been unconsciously coloring my thinking about myself.  I had begun to accept limits for myself, believing I deserved them, without even being consciously aware of the decisions I was making.

How many other false hidden beliefs am I carrying?  How are they affecting my life, my health, and my relationships with others?   As I strive to live my life from the present moment and to be conscious of my thoughts, I’m beginning to expose a number of these hidden beliefs and old peridynes that no longer apply.  I’ve a feeling these first are just the tip of the iceberg.

I built these beliefs up slowly over time, carelessly adding one on top of another in my younger days.  They may have been correct back when I first adopted them, or they may never have fit properly but I was too foolish to realize.  Now they work below the surface, similar to a virus on a computer.  Without proper attention, they can cause great damage.

What you believe, you perceive.  I had unconsciously accepted the belief that my reading glasses were a first step down the slippery slope of aging.  This belief affected all aspects of my life, from my physical health, to my work, and my relationships.  I expected things to be more difficult, and as soon as I encountered difficulties of any sort it would validate and reinforce my false belief.  I began to back-slide as I made excuses for myself; I was putting myself out to pasture before my time.

Now that this false belief has been brought to light, I feel like I have a new lease on life.  That’s the miracle of new sight.

It’s wonderful to be able to see without reading glasses again.  It’s also liberating to be able to “see” my hidden beliefs, to shine the light of conscious attention on them, exposing them to scrutiny and correction.  The world looks better as the fog of my false beliefs is clearing.

How about you?  Have you been listening to what your inner voice has been telling you lately?  When was the last time that you challenged that voice?  How do you know that it’s right?  All it takes is a desire to become aware and your hidden beliefs will begin to reveal themselves.  They can’t hide from the light of your conscious attention.

Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”  In my life, I’m praying for discernment to see my long-held beliefs that just ain’t so that I don’t know I hold.

May you too find the freedom that release from your hidden beliefs brings.