Are you a father to time or a father of time?

Father Time – the personification of time is usually a bearded man of advanced years, wearing a robe and sometimes carrying a scythe or an hourglass. Some say he is derived from the Greek God Saturn or Chronos. I would like to know why he is Father Time and not Mother Time. Why does he not have a female companion on his journeys? Have you ever noticed that many of the Greek virtues are feminine? However, time is always thought of as masculine. While we speak of Mother Earth, we are led by Father Time. Time is the progenitor of life. Without time nothing happens. Eggs would not develop; life would not spring forth to grow. Thus Father Time becomes a key parent to all life. Just as Mother Earth nurtures life, Father Time gives time to life and provides the key elements for life to grow. Life can be seen as requiring both the masculine and feminine elements. The female elements are embodied in nurturance and support. The masculine elements are action oriented driven by time and tasks.

What are the implications of this view of time as masculine? Who is Father Time a father to? What parental guidance or parental role does he play in our daily lives? One might ask what role you as a parent play with your children in respect to time. Do you get them up in the morning to go to school? Do you let them sleep in on the weekends? Do you teach them to be responsible for tasks being done on time? Do you make sure they share their time with others? Do you teach them that time is valuable and not to be wasted? Will they grow up knowing the value of time?What are the parental responsibilities that you transmit to your children in respect to time? What do your expectations teach your children about time? What should you be teaching your children about time?

Do you take time to water and weed your relationships?

“Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.” This was a poem that my first wife found when we were just married. I loved the poem and in some sense it embodied what I felt married life should be about. There were many times during our marriage when I thought about this poem. We ended in divorce after 16 years. I was never sure why the marriage ended. We fought, loved, laughed and suffered through ups and downs with money but none of these things ended the marriage. I once added up all my theories on why the marriage ended and I came up with 32 theories. Many years later, I came up with a new theory and decided that all the old theories are bunk. For years we saw each other and I considered my former wife a friend. However, we have since drifted apart and for perhaps the same unfathomable reasons that the marriage failed, the friendship has since faded away.

I am left with the poem and while I still think about it a great deal, it now is more related to my second marriage and the hopes and dreams I have for it. What a wonderful thought that we can share life together with another person and expect that the best of life is still to come. I am facing old age and looking towards the last 20 years of my life. Yet, I can more easily believe the words of this poem today then when I was young. I now realize that relationships are not made in heaven, they are made on earth. Relationships are like flowers and gardens. They must be nurtured and pampered and tended daily with loving care. There will be weeds and dry days and floods and tornados. Rabbits and other critters will intrude on your garden and eat your flowers. A garden is not fixed in stone. Each year requires renewed effort to bring out the best in it. Our relationships are a lot like gardens. If you continue working on your relationships, they will only get better and better. If you think that your garden will take care of itself and never need replanting or watering, you will soon find that your garden is nothing but weeds and stones.

Do you have faith that your relationships with your friends and loved ones can be better or do you just take them for granted? Do you believe that your life will get better and better if you keep improving it each day? Do you think your life might also be like a garden? What could you do to improve your relationships or your life today? What challenges could you take today to make your life more interesting or more fun? What parts of your relationships with your loved ones need watering or replanting? What weeds do you need to remove in your relationships?

What better way to spend Friday than eating Fish?

Every Friday I look forward to a Friday night fish fry. Ever since I was a little kid, Friday night meant fish. Of course, this was because I grew up in an Italian Catholic family and we could not eat meat on Friday. One might think I would grow up to hate fish but instead I have become so fond of fish that I eat all kinds of fish, cephalapods, crusteaceans, mollusks and other assorted phylum that swim and paddle in the lakes, oceans and waters covering the earth. I have never met a fish I did not like. Too fishy, has no place in my vocabulary. It is like saying beef is too steaky or ham is too porky.

It seems when we grow up, we either radically reject the traditions of our childhood or we embrace them with a passion that is beyond rational thought. Many people are surprised at my passion for fish. However, I have found other “passions” both embraced and rejected that I attribute to my growing up. Sometimes, when we do not recognize the history or etiology of our passions, they can rule and perhaps ruin our pleasure in life. Such as when we say “I always do it this way.” We can follow well established paths that can become ruts that blind us to new opportunities and new pleasures in life. Many times we can be chained by traditions but traditions are generally more visible and hence we are aware of them. Being aware gives us more opportunity to change our traditions if we so desire. However, subtle passions that grew from childhood are more deeply engrained and more difficult to change.

How often have you recognized a “Rule” or “Habit” that you follow because that was what you learned when you were growing up. “Haste makes waste.” “A stitch in time saves nine.” “The early bird catches the worm.” Many of these kinds of advice are helpful if not carried to extremes. The problem is they can become habits in our lives that become counterproductive because we take them to extremes. Thus we follow patterns of behavior that are rigid and inflexible. We become the character of our past rather the a character that is in process and shaped by the present.

Today, take a minute to reflect on the habits, manners and beliefs that guide your life. Which of these are helpful. Which are keeping you from moving forward in your life? How many of these spring from the rules and obligations of your childhood? Which of these will you change?

Brother, can you spare an hour?

I only wish I had the time to help. The other morning I was in a coffee shop in Arizona City. This is a local hangout place for philosophers, world affairs experts and low-cost Starbuck’s wannabees. The group will range from right-wing to left-wing depending on the time of the morning. The Curve’s group come in at about 9:30 so the MEN try to be out there by then. No sense discussing politics, sports and world solutions with a bunch of women. This morning my time was bordering between mens time and womens time. Thus, there was a blending of both sexes. One of the world experts and philosophers noted a guy outside who was working his way down the medium strip picking what appeared to be “weeds.” “Whats that guy doing?” “Who is he.” “Does he think he can get all the weeds in town.” “Must be nice to have nothing to do.” I mean look at us in the coffee shop, we are solving the world’s political problems and selecting the best coachs and players for all the NFL, NBA and other professional sports leaques. Why doesn’t he join us and do something useful?

Well after much debate, one of the women in the shop went out to ask him what he was doing. She talked to him about five minutes and returned. All weighty and important world discussions ceased as we anxiously awaited this strange man’s mission and goals in life. I must admit, I was thinking he was doing some kind of good deed that only the retired or indigent have time to do. I was surprised to find that he was gainfully employed, but he donated one hour a week of his time to help make the community a nicer place to live. I had expected that he would be some “do gooder retiree” with too much time on his hands. My rationale for not doing something like this has always been “I don’t have the time.” I was embarrassed to think that someone, anyone of us, could simply go out and pick weeds one hour per week. Do I have one hour per week to pick weeds? I am spending an hour at least three times per week solving the world’s problems with my fellow philosophers. The answer is clearly yes. Funny, I never thought about it. I assumed you either worked and did paid activity or you were retired and did “free” stuff for the world and society. Given that I had no immediate plans to retire, the free stuff did not seem like to much of an option.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I do 12 to 16 hours of work per week pro bono for a business development group locally. I work with small start up companies to help them develop their business plan and marketing strategies. I do not get paid for this and I think it is worthwhile, but it is or seems very different from simply going down the street to pick weeks. One seems professional and important, the other seems mundane. Yet, many of us would rather have more beauty in our lives and perhaps less business.

What if you and I simply gave one hour per week of community service? What if more of us were visible in our community instead of living on our decks or behind our stone walls and increasingly gated communities? This strange man picking weeds has inspired me to go beyond my limits. I now see a big gray area beyond work and retirement. Only it really is not gray, it is quite blue and green.

What will they say about you when you die?

Have you ever written your eulogy? A eulogy is a formal memorial speech delivered when someone dies and usually at their funeral. We have all been to a funeral where we were very moved by the oration that a friend, family member or pastor gave. Most of the time, these were written after the person died. Sometimes they hit the mark and really describe the person and other times not as well. What someone would say about us might not be what we would want to say ourselves. Unfortunately, there is no coming back after the fact to write our own eulogy. Fortunately, you can write one now.

Why would anyone want to write their own eulogy you might ask? Not because you will be better able to tell the truth about yourself; though this would be a pleasant change from the usual glowing eulogies. The answer is because it can help you to see what is most important in your life. It will help you to address the question of whether you are really working towards what is important. When you are dead and buried will you be remembered for what you were trying to accomplish in life? Perhaps not! But perhaps thinking about what you would like to be remembered for now can help focus you on your goal and the real purpose of your life.

This is a common exercise in many human relations classes. It is very simple. Just imagine that you are at your own funeral. The speaker is up on the podium getting ready to talk about you to the assemblage of friends and families. What would you like that person to say about you? What activities, events, goals and aspirations do you want to be remembered for? Write them all down. You have now written your own eulogy.

Now for the hard part! Looking over your eulogy, how does it sound? Is it realistic? Do you think someone would really say that about you now? Why or why not? What would you have to change in your life to make your eulogy real? How much time do you have to change your life around? It is never to late too start!

How does process time affect your life?

Process time is a common term in business. When I first started doing TQM (Total Quality Management) consulting, it became very important to start thinking of everything in business as a process. The key to process consulting was to believe that all processes could be improved if they were first understood. Using TQM methods, we could understand our organizational processes and continuously improve them thereby lowering costs, improving productivity and increasing customer satisfaction. The “atom” of business was the “process” and to understand the business, you had to understand the core processes. The business DNA lay in the unraveling of the process steps and metrics.

I soon came to realize that these same concepts could be used to improve my personal and family life. I began to see that everything we do in life is a process and that by better understanding the key processes that affect my life, I could also continuously improve my family and personal life. There are communication processes, argument resolution processes, financial processes, vacation time processes, family together time processes, personal growth processes, child rearing processes, retirement processes and many others. The more I understand them and how they can be continually improved, the better my life is. Indeed, by applying the same principles to may life that make a business successful, I have learned to improve my personal life. Whatever affects my personal life affects my business life and vice- versa.

The task of “process understanding” is not an easy one. In fact, it is never ending. There is always more to be understood when studying a process. The major value is that you never have to be perfect. The more you understand the better things will become. We spend all of our lives engaged in process time activities. It only makes sense to look at what we are doing and try to find a better way to do it. What key processes affect your life? Which of these are you improving and which of these are you ignoring? Why are you ignoring them? What processes could you do more work on to improve? How could you start? Would it make a difference in your life? Then why not start now? Who could help you get started?

Are you managing your downtime or uptime?

Downtime! How that one word strikes joy in our hearts. Historically, it is derived from a machine or system that is no longer up and running. Today, it means that your computer system at work has crashed and you cannot get anything done. When IT systems crash today, we are all in a quandary with what to do during downtime. Nevertheless, there is real joy during periods of enforced downtime.

The opposite of downtime is uptime. When was the last time you heard anybody excited about uptime? As in, “boy, I hope we can have more uptime today!” Not very likely! Uptime is taken for granted since uptime is when things are running normal and we are expected to be creative, productive and industrious. We cannot goof off during uptime since the machines and computers are running and all systems are set on go. Thus, we go, go, go. We become like machines ourselves except we cannot turn off between 9-5 unless we have lunch or a scheduled break. Downtime gives us a brief but unexpected break from our daily tedium.

We may all need more downtime in our lives. However, downtime is not promoted as a value or as something to aspire to. Have you ever heard of anyone negotiating downtime in their contract? Have you ever heard of a Union arguing for more downtime? Downtime is regarded as the enemy of productivity. Vacations, holidays, time off, sick days are all a form of “planned downtime.” However, many of us are too busy to take “planned downtime.” Some of us run and run until stress or illness forces downtime. The body takes over and says “enough is enough.” We all know people who never take breaks or who seem to always be on the go. Then the day comes when their system crashes and illness or stress puts them in bed or the hospital. Many of us do not take good care of ourselves to prevent stress and thus avoid “system downtime.”

Do you ever plan your own downtime or do you wait until either you or your computer crashes? What stops you from taking a needed rest or unenforced period of downtime? Are you really so essential to the job or activity that you cannot take a break? Can the world live without you for a day or so? Stress is a major cause of illness and most of us have too much in our lives. Perhaps if you plan your own downtime today you can look forward to your uptime tomorrow.

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