Worst. Advice. Ever.

“A vacation…from my problems!”
-Bill Murray, What About Bob?

Look. I’m starting this article on vacation, because that’s how much I love you. But don’t expect too much, okay? Pfft. I’m on vacation, here.

I’ll share with you three of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in life and lived on this vacation. How they apply to you is yours to figure out; this margarita is slippery with condensation and requires my full attention.

 

Set the Bar Lower

 

Seriously. Every year my wife and I take a vacation where we stay home to improve and enjoy our house. I’ve written about it before. This year the size of the “To Do List” is smaller than other years. This is for three reasons.

Number One: Hey, we’ve been doing this for almost nine years! Stuff can’t break that fast, so there’s less to do.

Number Two: Vacations are for recharging one’s batteries, not battering one’s reserves. We’ve ended a few vacations with more aching muscles than things crossed off. Way to ruin that vacation-fresh feeling.

Number Three: Stuff will go wrong. Projects will take longer. So, if you plan on it, you’re being smart not lazy. Also, if—by some miracle—the planets align and nothing goes wrong, then you add in a bonus project and feel extra good about yourself.

This, Number Three reason to set the bar lower came into clear focus when we were still able to complete our list, get much relaxation, love well and feel accomplished…while spending part of Tuesday afternoon in the Emergency Room for my wife’s newly discovered back spasms. Recuperation is still occurring.

Stuff. Will. Go. Wrong.

 

Stop Trying

 

Being with you is like math; It’s hard, I’m done tryin’.
-Supernova, Math

Do, or do not. There is no try.”
-Jedi Master Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

Let’s do some anecdotal math; Here are two anecdotes and we’ll add their insights together to find the sum of their wisdom.

I was in my class on cultural understanding, excited about the fact that a real life missionary pastor was coming to do a Q&A, and a little bummed that he was a missionary to…Mexico. His stories of hardship and struggle very quickly disabused me of the belief that he was doing some form of “training wheels” missionary work, just because he was still on our continent. None the less, I was surprised at his response to the question “What was the hardest thing that you had to cope with, coming from American culture?” He quickly said, “The pace.”

We were shocked and he explained that, upon arrival, he had offended his neighbor because—in the middle of a hasty repair of his roof—the pastor had needed a tool, knocked on his neighbor’s door, got it, thanked him, and left to finish his work. Simple, right? In Mexico, such a request is not broached at least until the coffee following the invitation to catch up on life together has been cleared from the table. This fine pastor, who faced plague, malice, violence and prejudice lamented at amusing length over the horror that, in Mexico it took three-to four-times the amount of time to accomplish anything.

Add to this wisdom the gentle repetition of “No, you’ll do it, or you won’t.” which my Endocrinologist would use in response to my consistent “I’ll try” following a piece of good advice he had given me. He was right. Things didn’t start working until I stopped trying.

The sum of the wisdom is this: American culture is a driven thing. In fact, we are driven to be driven people by are families, our environment and our value system. Goals are fine, but true finesse, enjoyment and unity with your personal purpose is most often found in the things that you don’t try so hard at. So, stop trying and focus on the things that you simply do, and do them well.

Like me, right now, as I dictate these words to a helper monkey whilst another fans the perspiration from my brow. Viva, vacation!

 

When Things Are at Their Darkest, Give Up

 

 “Multitudes know how to make a living but they do not know how to live.”
-Selwyn Hughes, Every Day Light

So, if you’ve already built space into your goals in preparation for mishaps, then cut out the stuff that you tried to hard to accomplish, the only thing left to consider is what to do when the giant boot of the cosmos comes down, kicks over your pretty sandcastle and pummels your posterior in the same blow.

What to do? Boom. Give the heck up.

When the wife’s back went out, the list became unimportant. All our lists become unimportant hen anything “big” busts into our life. Everything gets refined into one, slim master list. Here’s mine:

1. Keep Family Safe
2. Keep Family Healthy (Emotionally and Physically)
3.
Be Kind

 I’ll look to my fancy to-do list only once those three are met. If one of the big three get bumped, then I bump my whole fancy list. I give up. I urge you to give up, too. Think for a moment about what your master list is. Make it no more than two or three items. Post them in the comment box if you like, but post them in your head most of all. This master list is your One True Ring. Keep it safe. It is your Matrix of Leadership, preserve it. It is your True Love, the most precious thing in all the world. It is your Force, let it be with you. Okay, ran out of geek references, and I need a nap.

Look, of course this was a tongue-in-cheek post. There were no margaritas and helper monkeys. I didn’t even nap. But, the kernels in each of these sections are very valid to healthy living. If you set the bar lower you will practice both self-forgiveness and realistic goal setting and feel more accomplished. If you try less and do more, you will accomplish more, feel empowered and go even further. If you know your master list and live it, you will be a more focused, less anxious and potentially better person in the role or lives of those which you hold dear.

So, you go do these things. Hurry along. Me? I’m on vacation and the wife wants to watch Game of Thrones.

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