Thriving in Troubled Times
“Are we there yet?” seems to be the question we have all been asking after the unusual and crazy times we have been living through. We have had pandemics, economic downturns, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, windstorms, and an election season and we are still in September. We all want to get past this stuff and “arrive” to something better. Rather than just survive, we want to thrive again.
Humankind has always sought to thrive rather than just survive. A few hundred years ago we were relying on muscles to farm and feed ourselves. This was the agricultural age where our own strength and stamina determined if we ate that day. The quest to thrive led to the invention of machines – the steam engine, the cotton gin, tractors, combustion engine, electric turbine, etc. Each of these machines allowed us to do more than our muscles would allow. We moved from the agricultural era to the industrial era.
For over a century, the industrial era allowed people to do more with the aid of machines. Wealth began to grow. We still rely heavily on those machines today but we weren’t satisfied. We wanted to thrive again having become accustomed to the level of comfort we had attained.
We then began to use our minds more and that coupled with machines and computing, we entered the information age. Our economy began to shift from industrial reliance to becoming knowledge workers. While there are still labor intensive jobs and machine intensive jobs, more and more of job growth and creation came from using our minds and using information to make money. Most of America works as knowledge workers now. As a result, we produce less and import more. Our level of comfort and thriving grew and we are looking for the next level of being able to thrive.
From a reliance on muscles to machines to minds, we have thrived. From the agricultural age to industrial age to the information age, we have thrived. What is next in our quest to thrive?
Tim Elmore, an author and speaker, believes the next level of thriving will be the intelligence age and that it will be perhaps the most difficult for people to adapt to. He defines intelligence as the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and to act accordingly. To continue to thrive, we are going to have to develop some intelligence.
Intelligence requires thought. Which of these decisions is right and which is wrong? It is not just a moral question of right and wrong but it is the ability to think, weigh choices and make good decisions or in other words - critical thinking. Creative processing, analytic thought and writing, emotional intelligence and problem solving are all part of intelligence.
My favorite class in elementary school was my time in the extended learning program. We were given the opportunity to think and make decisions. We were encouraged to be creative. We were given problems and some resources and asked to solve the problem. We were encouraged to dream and decide between solutions and choices based on thinking about the positive and negative consequences and weighing them. In hindsight, many of the skills I learned and developed in that program I use every day in my career and life.
As my older children are beginning the process of moving into adulthood, I can only hope that we as parents have taught them to think. We hope that they have developed enough intelligence to not only survive these trying times but to thrive in them.
We are not stuck where we are at. We each can learn to think and develop our intelligence. We can learn resilience, integrity, problem-solving, discipline, communication, responsibility, accountability and commitment. These skills and the intelligence they provide will empower us to progress and thrive in uncertain futures.
Passion and Craftsmanship
In my teens, I spent two summers working at a Boy Scout Camp. My first year, I worked as a troop guide and handicraft instructor teaching the Basketry Merit Badge. My second year, I worked as a troop guide and taught the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge.
The Basketry Merit Badge consisted of learning about safety and first aid you might need while working with basketry tools and materials, learning about and identifying types of baskets and weaves and then making two baskets (round and square) and weaving a seat. It was originally part of the Craftsmanship Merit Badge until the Craftsmanship Merit Badge was split into different areas and different badges in 1928. The first day of class, I would teach about the safety, first aid, tools, materials, types and weaves and then show the Scouts how to weave their baskets. They then had the week to make their two baskets and when they returned to pass them off, they would weave the seat and complete the Merit Badge. The first day filled with classes was busy with the middle of the week free as the Scouts would make their baskets with most of them returning to pass them off at the end of the week. I was in the Handicraft Area for questions and to offer help but most of the time during the middle of the week did not have students.
Next to the basketry area was the wood carving area. The wood carving instructor was in his early twenties and was very talented. I would watch his lessons when I didn’t have students. I was not passionate about basketry. I was not passionate about wood carving either but I was interested. I carved two things that summer that I was happy with and learned a lot from the instructor.
I went on to earn my Eagle Scout and counted Basketry and Wood Carving as two of the many Merit Badges I earned.
Shortly after college I was asked to serve as a Scoutmaster for our local troop. I thought a Scoutmaster should have a nice hiking stick and I decided to carve one. I only recall carving one thing since that summer of watching the Wood Carving Instructor. I pulled out my pocket knife and found a piece of aspen and began carving. I carved an Eagle perched on the top of the stick and then all of the Scout rank advancement badges I had earned. I carved a handle and below the handle I carved the many Merit Badges I earned as a Scout. I took a long time carving. I know I spent over forty hours carving and probably 20 or so painting all the details. I didn’t have a passion for wood carving when I started but as I began to master the cuts and form and shape the wood into a representation of something else it began to become easier and more and more enjoyable as I began to master the craft. That stick is now one of my treasures.
That first stick was carved with a pocket knife. I enjoyed the hobby and bought carving knives and gouges which made it faster and later sticks gave me even more experience. I have carved sticks for those close to me and one for each of my three boys when they earned their Eagle Scout Awards. They are a labor of love for me and are treasured by those who have them. They are as much functional as they are art and are proudly displayed.
I never had a passion for wood carving until I had practiced enough to become good at it. Being good at something creates a passion. As you master something, passion for it becomes inevitable. You grow, move and change as you become a Craftsman and with it develop a passion.
There are a lot of people who say that we should follow our passions – in study, jobs, and life. I believe the contrary. I believe you should pick something you enjoy and are interested in and then put in the hours to master it and with it will come the passion. Such was the case for me with wood carving. Such was the case for me with Taxes and Accounting. I am currently learning oil painting and hope to master it someday. As one instructor taught, “Once you learn the basics, the rest is just miles and miles of canvas.”
Pick your passion and develop it by becoming master craftsman. Mastery is the easiest way to develop passion.
This blog allows you to experience the raw, gut wrenching drama of human conflict through accounting in each of its three stages: preparing to do battle, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.