Getting Focused in 2010

When you were a kid and knew firsthand what an electric shock felt like, did you ever look at a bird perched on a wire and wonder why it wasn’t electrocuted?  I later learned that because birds weren’t grounded to anything, the current wouldn’t flow through them; therefore it was like being perched on a fence.

I have observed that sometimes people are that way.  They are in the right place, even hearing the right things, but the moment flows right by them, never making the connection which ignites their motivation and imagination.  They may be positioned squarely on the conduits of power, yet for them it is nothing more than a place they perch in a perpetual holding pattern.

This usually happens when we continue doing things we have always done, without asking why we are doing it.  Like Tevye in his famous monologue that opens Fiddler on the Roof: “We have traditions for everything – how we eat, how to wear clothes. You may ask, how did this tradition start?  I’ll tell you… I don’t know… but it’s a tradition.” Don’t get me wrong, we all need traditions and we all have them.  But sometimes they perpetuate things that no longer serve the purpose they were established for.  It isn’t using the experience of history to anticipate the future; it is blindly repeating history because we have always done it.

For instance, in 1903, the Russian czar noticed a sentry posted on the Kremlin grounds for no apparent reason.  When he inquired, he discovered that in 1776 Catherine the Great found, on that very spot, the first flower of spring.  She ordered that a sentry be posted there so that no one trampled that flower.  So, a sentry was dutifully posted on that spot for the next 127 years!  Until the czar inquired no one knew what they were guarding or why.  Some traditions die hard.  And, without understanding the purpose, it completely misses the point!

It is like the new husband sitting in the kitchen while his bride was preparing a pork roast for their dinner.  He watched as she cut off both ends of the roast before putting it in the pan to bake.  When he asked why she cut off such a choice section of the loin, she said, “Oh, my mother always cut off the ends and her roasts were great.”  Dissatisfied, he called his mother-in-law to inquire why the ends were severed before baking.  Surprisingly, she didn’t know, but her mother had always done the same thing.  Now determined to uncover this culinary mystery he called the grandmother.  She chuckled and said, “I always cut off the ends of the roast so it would fit in my only baking pan!”

As we enter the New Year, it is good time to review our mindsets and methodologies, personally, locally and nationally.  We need to ask if they are actually helping us hit the target or if we are simply doing what we have been doing, because that is the way we have always done it.

This attitude can cause us to miss the point or even worse to stridently assume what we are right, because we are the one doing it.  As in the instance of the man who heard a news report that a car was going the wrong direction on the freeway.  Knowing his wife was on that freeway he immediately called her cell phone. When she answered he said, “Honey, there is one car going in the wrong direction on the freeway.”  She exclaimed, “One car?  There’s hundreds of them going the wrong way!”