I’m from a world of highly effective people. My Dad retired before Microsoft Project and GANTT charts took the corporate world by force. He missed the joys of stupid PowerPoint decks rehashing what had already been covered in e-mails and SharePoint while falling asleep in a conference room chair. I’m sure those meetings happened. Without a digital projector and PowerPoint, some secretary placed a request with the drafting department to create the acetate slides for the pointless meeting. Some things in corporate America are eternal. “Look, Mom, I got paid two days salary to draw graphs of falling earnings projections! Woo!”
So, I know well what highly effective people do. I was so mad at that world from an early age that I rebelled against public school, against my parents, against the system, against the bullies at recess on the school yard, against anybody that wanted to take a poke at me. I wanted to be a Broadway star because it was the furthest thing from engineering and social work my young mind could imagine. It was a big middle finger salute to those seven habits Steven Covey talked about.
I left home at 19 only sure of one thing. I was *NOT* going to live as my father lived. I didn’t know then that I was resurrecting a long piece of family history as malcontented religious zealots. We left our manner homes in Northern Anglo-Land to seek a promised land where we could have it our way (no tomato, mustard & mayo, with cheese, toast the bun). 400 years later I got on a bus for Oakland, CA and my own pilgrimage back to some old heritage down Frost’s path less traveled by.
If you decide to join us down the path less traveled by spoken of by Frost, know this, it isn’t the life of Riley. You are going to work harder than if you stuck with my Dad’s plan of an Ivy League college, a STEM degree, a wife, some rugrats, all that usual. We end up doing our thing for free for a while until we can attract a big enough audience who will let us pimp ourselves out to advertisers. Most of us die unremarked, the thing a polite little hobby the kids knew about. My Dad has his bench in the basement with a collection of unfinished things he tinkered with until he got bored with them.
It’s a well used trope of the tormented artist/writer/whatever. Well-adjusted, risk averse folk do not get excited at the idea of turning toward our path. It’s risky, it’s scary, lots of us end up homeless with a criminal record and an unshakeable addiction. Abuse shows up often as well. It is us, the maladjusted hot messes that see that thorny path and think it is a plan.
37 years after getting on that bus I’ve found a life on that thorny, rocky, risky path. I didn’t achieve the epic levels of torment some achieve. I’m good with that. I did my share of annoying/scaring my family. Some of it is published on this blog if you must know.
I hate Steven Covey because just doing those 7 habits doesn’t assure your desired outcome. I have friends whose fondest wish is a 5th of bourbon and a docile woman. My granddad wanted those and someone who would let him tinker at will. A musician friend of mine imagines a sort of Revelation of John utopia, post apocalypse, in which everyone would volunteer to do things his way. I also hate Steven Covey because sometimes you’ve done all the habits and the thing left to do is to wait.
My sister’s more perfect world is her Mom sweaty from a hot yoga class ready to cool-down at a local café, Daytimer in hand, bursting with a case management plan for my sister. My Mom has late-stage dementia and terminal complications from diabetes. My sister’s way of handling the disconnect is to bicker with my Dad. Surrender, humility, waiting on the lord, are all words & phrases that feel like dissonance to my sister. Steven Covey’s habits are not a help here. Even the most highly effective person still traverses Shakespeare’s 7 stages.
This is the between time between things being scary and things working out. I am in Shakespeare’s justice stage. Making plans, ruminating, dreaming, are all things that keep the crazy animated and dim my relationship to Christ. Steven Covey isn’t the answer here.The answer is silence, stillness. If I must, prayer and lectio divina. This is a time for contemplation on the Lord. Life has a rhythm and sometimes it is time to play the rests.