My wife, Dallas, and I read (OK, listened to them on tape) three books over the holidays:
- My Grandfather’s Son (Clarence Thomas)
- Big Russ and Me (the late, Tim Russert)
- Quiet Strength (Tony Dungy)
We almost ‘stumbled’ on to each one stopping by Cracker Barrel to look through the racks of books on tape hoping to fill the long hours of a drive from Orlando to Boston and back.
While each story is unique, each has somethings in common with the other. Each tells a story filtered through a unique unique life experience, including each author’s relationship with God and their families. I’m not normally drawn to life stories but my attention was ‘captured’ by each one, which caught me by surprise.
One of the things Clarence Thomas said he learned during his time at Yale Law School from John Bolton, and this was almost incidental to his story, is that he was able to take an entire course and reduce it to an outline that fit on one index card. Knowing what was on this index card would allow him to recreate the entire course.
Here’s what’s on my index card from these three books:
- Everyone wants to win; the hardest part is being willing to prepare to win.
- Stereotypes/mental models can lead to erroneous conclusions.
- Issues of life easily distract from real, bigger issues; never lose sight of the bigger picture.
- Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.
- I did in my time what I had to do; you do in your time what you have to do.
- Be careful of judging what others felt they had to do in their time.
- True friends sharpen each other’s perspectives.
- Life is hard; God is good.
I first heard the term, “reflective practitioner” from my friend, Bill Taylor, but it is a term used commonly in popular writing. When I use the term I mean the skill of thinking through my life experience, including what I have read, and integrating it into my future behaviors, actions, and choices, leading me to a different way of viewing life.
I am very much a ‘practitioner’ driven by my internal compass to ‘act’ and ‘solve.’ From time to time, I do stop to reflect. So my purpose in writing this isn’t to write book reports but rather (almost force myself) to reflect on why God might have given me the experience of reading these three books at the end of 2009. What, if anything, do they say to me as 2010 starts?
I am a product of my life experience. While I am not supposed to be imprisoned by it, I am influenced by it and it is inescapable; the story of my future runs through my past so I better understand it.
Be careful with my mental models and stereotypes that my past has produced: they too easily become a false reality.
Perseverance is a discipline. It’s not easy to persevere when the tide is running in the opposite direction. Reminders of what I committed to, and why I do what I do, are necessary (often daily). But be careful: commitment and perseverance can easily descend into stubbornness that is both unattractive and inappropriate.
Friends are important. I have a friend who always signs his emails to me, “Cheering you on” even if he’s writing to me about a topic we may disagree on. I cannot adequately describe how that makes me feel; there is a level of commitment (our friendship) that transcends the matters at hand.
Nobody knows the future…that’s in God’s hands. But I am here to do the best I can, given the knowledge I have, and do what I am supposed to do (what I think best). Things happen for a reason, and i am part of a larger plan. I am to have confidence that, even if I make a mistake, God can redeem/transcend/overcome my mistakes.
Too often I put God in a box. While I am thinking ‘either/or’, God has determined ‘both/and.’ He may have determined something quite different than I might have planned or thought!
Go ahead and make plans. God knows I am going to make plans and he’s OK with that; my challenge/charge is to let Him determine our steps and feel satisfied with the outcome he has preplanned. One of my friends once prayed, “God, we have planned our day, please give me the grace to accept whatever you send my way today.” Yes…
Are these new lessons? No, not really. But as I start 2010 I am reflecting and remembering what I already know about life and God: life is a challenge, often hard, but God is good. His purposes will prevail in 2010.