This is Thanksgiving week here in the US. This week, I am going to
try and share a post each day about something I’m thankful for. We’ll start today with perspective – Why I’m thankful for it and why I think you’d benefit from some looking back with perspective in mind as you contemplate whatever tough seeming challenge is before you. So…
A Gigantic Boulder, a Tremendous Hill and a Big Neighborhood
From the age of 5-12, I lived in a decent sized sub-division. I lived at the bottom of a huge hill, far away from the street. I had huge trees in my backyard, the biggest swamp I ever saw across the street and the commuter train ran behind the house way way off in the distance. I blame my Nintendo and interesting childhood, but I have more outdoors memories of the younger part of those years and recently I made a quick visit to my stomping grounds of childhood. I can vividly remember exploring those deep woods. I can vividly remember climbing that mountain of a hill with such a steep grade. I remember making big treks way out to the train tracks to throw a penny on the tracks. I can still remember “ghost riding” my bike down that hill. I can still remember using the road sand to dam the water coming down to the swamp after a heavy spring rain. It was fun. Once, when we were old enough, I remember foraging deep into the woods and finding a mountain to climb… Well it wasn’t a mountain, it was just the biggest rock you could ever imagine! We spent hours climbing this mountain, running around it and having fun on its summit. I remember spending time hidden in the bushes along the side of the road spying on the cars that would drive by occasionally on our dead end street, cleverly hidden in the thick underbrush. Those were some great days of my childhood. Running around the huge outdoors, playing in the expanse of our suburban wilderness back yard.
So, a few years ago when going down the familiar exit to my home of 9 or so years to visit a client, I had to make a detour on the way home. I wanted to see if I could find my way to that neighborhood. To see how it has changed. See if I noticed any of the neighbors I hung out with or their parents (that was back in the day where you’d let your kids into neighbor’s houses, when you invited your neighbors to cookouts, etc.). I did manage to find my way there. But what I saw shocked me. It made me feel off about something. I can’t even explain that emotion when I saw the neighborhood, but I felt like I was in a different world. I felt like I was huge, or someone shrunk my neighborhood. I had to go back there today when driving down that way again for a different client.. I had to see what happened. I had to see if I could find that mountain I climbed, the one we called “Bum Rock”. Why? Because I already knew I wanted to blog about perspective and I wanted some pictures 😉 — Plus I’m a sentimental kind of guy…
So.. I found that mountain again today. I found the road again today. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So I’ll share a couple:
I did. I grew up. My house was a gentle beach ball toss from the house, not miles. The train tracks? I could have thrown a pebble and hit a train from the back porch. Those bushes I “hid” in? I bet those adults had more fun pretending I wasn’t there than I had thinking I was spying on them. The trek out to “Bum Rock” through the deep woods at the top of the hill? I found it in 20 seconds on a well worn path of leaves to the from the top of the hill. Those distant neighbors? I could have spit on their house if I wanted to. That huge expanse of a swamp we caught bull frogs in? I had to look really carefully to find it
I changed. I grew up. My perspective changed. As a kid those things were huge. Some of them even insurmountable at first. Scary thoughts like, “Up –that– hill without training wheels and without falling?!?!!?”
Why Be Thankful For Perspective?
Many reasons. In fact I think speakers, bloggers and Pastors should go visit where they grew up. I bet they’d have inspiration and illustrations enough for at least a half dozen talks/posts/etc. But I’ll zero in on two reasons in particular right now on why I’m thankful for perspective –
Learning Doesn’t Scare Me
Let me give you a recent example of how my experience with SQL Server has me more excited than scared to learn to play the guitar…
12 years ago, I didn’t know what SQL was. I didn’t know what SQL Server was. I didn’t even know what a database was. Probably 6 years ago I didn’t have an understanding of what column or index statistics were. I didn’t know what to do with that scary looking query plan thing the SQL consultants used 7 years ago. When I started learning to go deeper with SQL Server, I was intimidated by even the basic building blocks. It was intimidating. Today? I teach some of these concepts to clients! I speak on them at SQL Server events. I blog about them. I get paid to help clients out with them as a consultant.
This month, I decided I wanted to learn to play an instrument. My daughter is learning the piano, I like listening to worship music with guitar strumming in it. I wanted to learn to play a guitar, so I bought one and have been talking to people like Rob Farley and Buck Woody about the process. Rob started giving me advice and started talking about musical notes, chords, “chord shapes”, Capos, measures, bridges, etc. I’ll be honest. My gut reaction was, “Feet don’t fail me now! I’ll never pick these things up, I don’t even know the basics!!!” But then it hit me… I was exactly there with SQL Server 12 years ago. I’m not bragging, because I have much to learn still, but “look at me now” with regards to those SQL skills – a lot of changes these past t2 years. That perspective became my deep breath.
I’ve reminded my six year old daughter of some of her “before” attitudes to help her build these experiences with perspective a couple times lately. She is reading certain words, even some of the “first reader” stories. She is even writing some of the “first reader” stories herself. One year ago when she knew she’d be learning to make words out of letters in the coming months or year her reaction was “Wahhh!!! I can’t do it! How can I do it?! I don’t know how to do it! I can’t read!!”. Now she uses inflection when she hits a question mark. She uses exclamation in her voice when reading a sentence with an exclamation mark. I like to do my best impression of her “before I could read” attitude to remind her she’s more than capable.
I Appreciate Where I Am
It’s that simple. When I look at many aspects of my life with a lens of perspective, I realize how much I have to be thankful for. As we continue this week, many of the “I’m Thankful For: ” posts are built on looking at where I am and how I view life now compared to the time I like to call, “then“. I am humbled by things I’ve done, said, or believed in the past. I’m embarrassed by ways I’ve gotten things wrong. I am where I am because of a lot of great people in my life, because of grace, because of providence in a few cases. I have so much to be thankful for. When I look around at the world. When I look at the circumstances so many are in, and see how much I’ve been blessed with, I realize I have much to be thankful for. This perspective can help ground me and realize that I don’t really have any needs unmet. In fact this perspective even challenges me to give more of my time and reousrces to those with less. Be that in the form of child sponsorship, investing in the career growth of another or just loving someone with the same grace I was loved with way back when.
Perspective… Take a look at your past, your journey towards where you are now. Take a look at with the perspective of where you are now. Ever think you’d get to where you are? So why is that new challenge so scary? Why are yo so afraid to make a jump?
- Your Dreams? They Don’t Come Looking For You –> This was my favorite post of the year. I wrote it more to myself when I was in the final decision making process of deciding to jump on my own. Your dreams really don’t come looking for you, and if you let fear paralyze you, you’ll be guaranteed to miss them.
- Are You Planting Asparagus?
- “Captains Mentor and Teach”
- SQL Quiz On Leadership
- I Grew Up Before my Very Eyes
* Bum Rock – This was named by little kids. I think this picture illustrates the genesis of the name…