|This Fluid Life||
When I was a kid, this question represented something amazing and awesome. There I was, without a job, without any means of obtaining anything on my own, without so much as an empty bank account, but someone was asking me, without qualification (which would come later if the request was too big)...they were asking what I WANTED! WOW!!!
I remember stacking the Sears and JC Penney catalogs (standard AND Christmas editions) under my arm, lugging them with great effort and determination into our family’s living room. I can still hear the distinct thud of them hitting the floor as I prepared to spread them out in front of me. This WAS Amazon.com in the 1980’s. I was on my stomach with a good six inches of pages containing the mysteries of hope, desire, and happiness. There were rainbows in the sun sending streams of light through the window onto my face. The birds chirping content sang about how the world was mine and all I had to do was circle pictures to find the perfect thing that was going to make my life the most amazing life you’d ever seen. What was the thing that would make the neighborhood kids come running to play? What was the thing that would make me a superhero - if not for real, at least for after school and on the weekends!? I wanted to find the thing that was going to bring me happiness beyond that which any child could have ever imagined...and, trust me, it could all be found right there, somewhere between page 96 and page 144 of the Sears catalog!
Actually, the real promise started on page 108 (96-107 were the younger kids toys and dolls - YUCK!)...but page 108...man...you’d never seen such wonder. There were BB guns, bikes, slingshots, racecar tracks, model trains, science labs, micro/telescopes, then….gaaaaaahhh! ELECTRONICS!!!! I found the promised land and my head exploded! Game systems, cameras, tvs, walkmans, boomboxes, oh...my...sweet...mother...of… Then, after page 144, it usually went downhill pretty fast...pillows, bedding, sheets, shower curtains..and out of season lawn furniture, car batteries, and mowers in the back...crap like that that no kid cared about even a little.
As a kid, all my hopes and dreams around the holidays were unbreakably bound to about 36 pages of a catalog that weighed as much as I did. Sometimes I got what I wanted, and sometimes I didn’t. But, the promise at the start of the holiday season was almost always more excitement than I could contain.
As an adult, with children, I feel a nostalgic let down when I see my kids unexcited, uninspired, and relatively unaffected by the knowledge that they get to have nice things, without having worked. It’s not that I want them to have jobs to make the things feel paid for. That’ll come soon enough for them. No, I just want them to have an appreciation for what they do have...I want them to experience wonder, excitement, and joy. A new Atari or Nintendo video game for me meant a paper route, money saved from birthdays and Christmas, or a lot (and I mean a LOT) of begging.
Jesus said it is hard for the rich man to enter the kingdom of God. I think I’m getting a glimpse into why that is today. As a child who had little, in a time when little was to be had, I think I appreciated the things I did receive. The wonder of salvation is a GREAT wonder to someone who recognizes it. To someone who thinks they already have everything they need (or are entitled to get it), ehh...who needs God?
You buy a stale bag of chips one afternoon for lunch. You don’t know they’re stale when you buy them, but they are.
My stale bag of chips caused me to think. What is the true cost of this mistake if I attempt to seek justice for this lunch-time wrong I have suffered.
I paid $0.75 for this bag of chips. One might argue that the trust cost (and loss) is merely $0.75. But, it’s not that simple if I elect to pursue justice.
If I clock out for the 15 minutes it would take me to return to the point of purchase and claim a replacement bag, assuming a wage of $10 per hour, the cost to me then becomes $2.50.
Because my employer expects a return on investment, it’s not likely I’m going to remain employed long if I don’t bring in more to the business than I cost. So, let’s say that margin is only 10% (I hope it’s higher, but for the sake of argument - and easily rounded numbers, we’ll go with 10%). So the cost to my employer is my wage + 10% return, which equals roughly $0.25 profit lost.
Consider the loss to the restaurant who sold me the $0.75 bag of chips at a markup. If their cost was $0.60 per bag, then they also lost $0.60 when they replaced my chips with a bag I did not pay for. They may recover that cost, they may not? (How much of their staff time is it worth to recover $0.60?)
So, the total cost of this particular bag of chips?
$0.75 Original Purchase Price
$2.50 Wages Lost
$0.25 Productivity Lost
$0.60 Replacement Cost Lost
This one bag of chips could have cost AT LEAST $4.10 today. More if I earn more than $10/hr - and more if the restaurant invests resources and time to recover their $0.60.
Why did it cost this much? The expiration date on the bag was still good, so the restaurant couldn't have known they were stale. No, somewhere along the line the quality assurance process broke down. Maybe the bag wasn't sealed correctly at the factory, maybe a careless stock person sliced the bag with a box knife, or maybe it was just a fluke batch of chips and I happened to pick the wrong bag.
Ultimately, there are at least two lessons to be learned here.
First, mistakes happen, and even a small mistake can cause big problems further down the line. It’s important not to cut corners. It’s important to adhere to quality (and process when it makes sense). It’s important to care about your job and do the best you can for your employer (Lays certainly doesn't want this to become a habit.)
Second, it’s only a bag of chips. Is seeking justice really worth the $4.10 it would cost? Maybe if you’re really hungry, but how you spend your time is important. Sure, I was robbed of $0.75, but if I let that run my life today, it turns into at least $4.10 in just 15 minutes. What if I take 30 minutes, an hour, or stew about it for days?
So, that’s enough writing about this. Lays, I forgive you. I have more important things to do.
In work, I’ve found there are usually seasons of stress and high demand, tempered by seasons of relative calm and the ability to focus on important projects. The ebb and flow of work make a paper to do list feasible. However, when the flow doesn’t ebb, the workload doesn’t rest, and the demand increases, I found the paper list just becomes another thing to have to do.
This is coming from someone who has almost religiously ascribed to the practice of a weekly to do list for years. It’s one of the things I did on Fridays to prepare for the next week. Increasingly, though, I found myself having to do it over the weekend, or worse…not doing it at all…then just crossing my fingers and hoping I wouldn’t forget something.
So far I haven’t completely messed up on anything, but I do feel like I’m hurling down the work highway with post-it notes on my windshield – they’re blowing away as we pick up speed, and I have no idea what they said.
So, here’s what I did about it. I adapted. In the last few weeks, I’ve ditched three things that were core to how I worked before:
This may not sound like a big deal, but you have to understand, I’ve been using the same system (or one very similar) for nearly a year - and a variation of it for as long as I can remember. It was successful. But, no more.
I thought about how my work originates and is delivered. Nearly everything I do has something to do with an email (and sometimes a phone call). It seems to make sense that I should just embrace the tool I use the most – my email inbox. I did a little quick research into email management and pieced together a system that has worked very well for me so far.
I have four email folders. I process email into those folders (or immediately answer them if it will take me less than 30 seconds to do so – or if it’s obviously urgent). Then I work my folders. (If I receive a request during a meeting, or over the phone, I simply email it to myself and process it in the same way.)
These are the folders I use for email that doesn't get processed immediately:
This has been a liberating experience I have enjoyed quite a lot. It's a simplification of the process to be sure, and I'm all about simplifying process.
I know I’m a big ole’ nerd, but maybe this will help someone else who is drowning in a sea of “to do” tasks to find their own way to jump ship and swim for shore. If you have any questions (or suggestions to make this better), hit me up on Twitter or send me an email.
We went to the Oklahoma State Fair this weekend. It's not a tradition for us, but we do go every two or three years. Over the years, we've come to have certain expectations. This year did not disappoint.
Here are a few of those expectations that were fulfilled:
After about two months of driving it, there are a few things I’ve noticed:
The first three months of this year I ate a vegan diet. I was militant about it and did not waiver from the commitment even one day. These three months witnessed 30 pounds of weight loss, and I felt better during that time than I remember ever feeling.
I am diabetic, and the video I’m sharing below is what first inspired that effort. And, it worked. My measurements went down in every way. But, I fell off the wagon (if you want to look at it that way). It only took one pepperoni pizza, and the following 6 months became increasingly “normal” again…and I’ve gained back 10 of the 30 lbs lost.
I’ve prayed about this quite a lot and I’m going to do it again. I don’t know why, but I like starting things on Mondays. Tomorrow is a Monday, so I’m going back to the vegan approach. I don’t have any specific goals with this other than to regain some feeling of health, if not actual health.
There's something amazing about these folks. They, each in their own way, inspire me to action...to doing something outside of this place of comfort I call home. I thought I'd share that with the world here...for what it's worth to you.
This next one isn't in the same window as these, but it is "big-picture" inspiring all the same. I do often wonder what God thinks as he looks at us. This doesn't quite get there I'm sure, but it's a pretty neat way to see a glimpse.
This is what my home writing space looks like. I used to have this wish for a grand room with a mahogany desk surrounded by book cases and paper and pens and an old typewriter on the corner of the desk for inspiration...I might even use a quill and inkwell from time to time - blotter and all.
No more. In fact, when I can find the time, I plan to spend about $30 in materials and build something like this. Not sure when it'll happen, but that's the new "want" I suppose. (I'll post an update if I ever get it built.)
I used to feel more creative with a messy workspace, but something changed for me a few years ago. I'm not really sure why, maybe it's my kids and all their messes. These days I completely prefer, admire, and strive for an almost crazy simplicity.
Disclaimer: If you are a creative type and thrive on, and derive inspiration from, environmental chaos, I do not judge you. I'll confide in you now. You should know that I LOVE walking by your desk and seeing the landscape. I wish I had thought of putting hot wheels in front of the monitor with pinstriped parking spaces...seriously, I have like 50 of them from when I was a kid and still get them out to play with them (ahem...with my kids). And, by the way, if you have three squishy balls, toss them to me and I'll juggle for you. I don't mind borrowing the chaos and participating in it from time to time. (And, truth be told, I might just have three squishy balls in a drawer...maybe.)