Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Binoculars


It's Easier to Choose the Right Path When You Can See Farther Down the Trail



One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." I can relate to his dilemma.  

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I am thankful to live in a time and place in which we have a wide range of options in the paths of our lives. But having choices can sometimes be a little scary.

Who has not felt the heart-pangs expressed in these lyrics from "Far From the Home I Love" in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof"?

Oh, what a melancholy choice this is,
Wanting home, wanting him,
Closing my heart to every hope but his,
Leaving the home I love,

While Yogi Berra's famous counsel - "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." - is good for a laugh, it's not at all helpful with real-world decision-making. When two roads diverge in the woods of our lives, how do we decide which to take?

I have discovered two questions that, used in tandem, give me greater vision and depth perception when I am faced with serious decisions about the direction of my life. Like a pair of binoculars, they help me see further down the forks in the road ahead. They help me study out questions in my mind and get clarity for myself as I prepare to ask for divine guidance.  

The first question is "What is my purpose?" At my very core, what am I really all about? What was I put on this earth to accomplish?

I am deeply grateful to Mary Tomlinson, my friend and my partner at Legacy Planning Associates, LLC (visit, for helping me distill my internal sense of purpose into a clear and succinct personal purpose statement. Her On-Purpose process allowed me to cut through a lot of verbiage and put my finger on the real me - in just two words: Connecting Families.  

Being clear about my purpose has given me greater confidence in my decision-making. When facing a fork in the road I ask myself "Which option is more likely to allow me to stay on-purpose, and which is more likely to pull me off-purpose?"

The second question is "How can I serve?" Which option will provide me the greatest opportunity to assist others and give back to the world?  

This second question keeps my life in balance. It helps me remember that it's seldom just about me; it's usually about making a difference with the people I love and the causes I support. This question helps me maintain perspective, a sense of the depth and richness of a life spent helping others. I see the world more clearly because I am not merely staring at myself in a mirror.

Without the second question, I risk becoming a self-absorbed navel-gazer, vainly thinking that the world revolves around me and that my choices are only about my own self-centered happiness. Without the second question I'm in danger of becoming microscopic and irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.  

I have found that these two questions, "What is my purpose?" and "How can I serve?" help focus, magnify, simplify, and give depth and perspective to my options. They are like a set of binoculars, allowing me to see more clearly the way forward. With them, the right choice is usually pretty obvious.

I believe the essence of an abundant, joyful life is learning to make good choices. This two-question approach has served me well through the years. Perhaps it may be useful to you too

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Vacuums


Unless you fill your time with passion and purpose, worthless clutter will get sucked into your life. 


No matter how we do the math, it always adds up to 168 hours per week. Whether we're male or female; old or young; beautiful or plain; married, single, or somewhere in between, everyone gets the same number: 168.  

The issue is never the number of hours; it is always what we choose to do with those hours.  

Nature abhors a vacuum. If we don't fill our time with worthwhile activity, all kinds of clutter will rush in to fill the void. Before long, all that stuff smothers the life out of us.

During my 66 years on this planet, I have witnessed a quantum leap in the number of ways we can spend our time. While the amount of currency we have in our pockets has stayed the same - 168 per week - the size of the bazaar has mushroomed and the glitter of the merchandise has gotten much shinier.  

Sometimes shinier is not better. Lately it seems that much of what is for sale in the marketplace of life serves only to distract and amuse us, rather than nourish, inspire, strengthen, and connect us.  

If we're not careful, we can end up spending a large chunk of those 168 hours surfing, tweeting, watching sports, working puzzles, playing video games, and mastering virtual worlds. While such distractions may not be harmful per se, they can cut into our capacity to make a difference in the real world and can prevent us from experiencing a more abundant life.   


The hours and the energy we spend killing angry birds (or whatever is our personal drug of choice) are lost forever to doing things of more lasting value, like reading to our children, learning to paint, teaching a grandchild to fish, planting green beans, taking a walk with our spouse, strengthening our faith, or sharing stories with a shut-in.

Unfortunately, an inclination to do good is no longer sufficient to withstand the allure of mindless amusement. Today, the siren call of distractions is so powerful that only those who have found a deeper, more passionate purpose in their being and who use their time to bring that purpose to life are able to resist it.

Discovering why we are here, our purpose for being, is the only sure way to protect ourselves from the curse of shallow amusement. Knowing our purpose fills our life with direction and meaning, and crowds out clutter and drivel.

It also helps us find our passion and learn what makes us come alive. When we are doing what we truly love, we have no need for vacuous distractions.  

It is not crucial whether following our purpose and passion is our vocation or an avocation. What is important is that it engages us, inspires us, and drives us to excellence.  

When we fill the space at our core with purpose and passion, we eliminate the vacuum that sucks in less meaningful ways of using our time.   We are energized and empowered to transform the real world, and we find lasting joy in doing so. The result is a life of greater abundance.