What’s the Use

Not all weekends are created equally. This one happened to be especially enjoyable. The weather was gorgeous and we actively took advantage of it. Friday night Kate and I had a long overdue date. The band of some friends of ours was playing at a local bakery and sandwich shop. We found some comfortable chairs around an unlit fire pit and enjoyed conversation with friends while listening to the music.

We made two Aikido milestones Last week. Micah passed his final test for his blue (Sankyu) belt and Jonah was promoted to from the kids’ class to the adult class. The three of us started our Saturday with an Aikido class.

I had an interesting experience, personally, at Sunday morning worship. I ended a seven day fast (lemon detox) with the bread and wine of Communion. I have gone ten days before without food on another lemon detox and three without food or water cutting weight for wrestling in college. (Never do that, by the way. Take my word for it). But I wondered, as I ate the bread what it must have been like to go without food for forty days.
The best news of the weekend came for Kate as we were leaving church. It was the kind of news that trumps anything else that can happen in a day and was the brightest spot of the weekend. But, I will have to wait a few days to share it. For the rest of the day we were walking on air figuratively and floating on water literally.

Greenville, South Carolina is home to the largest kayak manufacturer in the world and one of our friends works there. Just after getting the good news, we went home to pack a lunch before heading to our friends for an afternoon of kayaking on Saluda Lake. Each of us had our own boat but the two Micah and I had are prototype boats that never made the manufacturing line. They are actually not kayaks, but rather, one-person canoes. There is no seat in them. You sit in the bottom of the boat and rest you back on a thwart. From that position, you can paddle either with a single-bladed canoe paddle, or a double-bladed kayak paddle. We had one of each in our boats. I made an incorrect assumption that we would only use the canoe paddle. Unfortunately for Micah. I handed him the shortest kayak paddle and it cost him later. With a slight breeze at our backs, we casually paddled out about two miles. We took our time along the way with a bit of exploration. On the way out, the six of us stayed fairly close together.

Once we made the turn to head back in, there was a shift of mindset. Besides paddling against the wind, we were all thinking of our agenda for the rest of the day. I switched to the kayak paddle and was much more effective than the canoe paddle. The one I gave Micah, however, was too small to use. The clustered boats quickly got strung out into an increasingly spreading line. It wasn’t long before the four kayaks had out distanced our two canoes by a quarter to a half mile. There wasn’t a spirit of competition. We were each enjoying the trip at our own pace but, for a short time, an interesting dynamic happened with Micah.  The more he fell behind the group, the less he paddled. As I watched him, I could completely relate to the feeling.

Sometimes you feel like you are doing all you can and you look around and it seems everyone else is farther along than you. Everything about their lives appears easier. They are gifted with better kayaks and better paddles. Eventually you feel so far behind you wonder,

“What’s the use?”

Micah didn’t stay in that mindset for long. He got back to the dock only a minute or two after I did. I don’t know what changed in Micah to get him going again but it occurs to me that there are three things we can keep in mind when we feel like we are so far behind there is no use trying.

Stay out of the comparison gap. “Better than” is often imaginary. In other words, it often has no bearing on the important measurement of personal and professional life and it puts our focus on the wrong goals.

Set small goals. Big dreams are great but they happen through several small steps. Find a quick win to accomplish and use small goals to build a bigger goal.

Do the next right thing. Don’t trust your negative emotions. They never see the larger unfolding picture and they waste your time and energy. Stay out of the aimless drift. Your time is your life.

Keep paddling and make it a terrific week.


Rick Burris


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