In This Edition:
1. The Great Blackout of 1965
2. Give Yourself Permission
3. On the Ground Shortly
4. When Your Mind Hurts
Ah February! Winter can’t be around for much longer… or could it? I’ve just had the good fortune to be told that my forthcoming book, Simpler Living has attracted interest in China and S.E. Asia.
The Great Blackout of 1965
The Brownout/Blackout in New York City and much of the northeast brought back memories. One afternoon after school, I accompanied my father to the Community Center swimming pool. Several days a week, he was head lifeguard from late afternoon to evening. I was a mere lad at the time, and I have to tell you it was cool to have the run of the pool as I often did.
I was in the lifeguard office playing around with the lights while my father was watching the pool several dozen yards around the corner. One of my juvenile games was to flip the lights on and off so quickly that no one in the pool could tell that anyone had tampered with the lights. My father was sharp, however, and after a few times, he yelled out from afar, “Jeff, stop playing with the lights,” and I immediately stopped.
No more than three minutes later, the lights went off in the entire pool area and only a small light from an independent power generator was lit. My father yelled out again, “I told you to stop playing with the lights.” I came out of the office door and looked down the length of the pool. I said, “It wasn’t me.”
We looked outside to the parking lot and saw that no lights were on. I went up the stairs, opened the door, and looked at the rest of the facilities, and all of the lights were off except for, once again, some small lights powered by emergency generators.
The lights remained off for several more minutes, and my father was forced to close the pool. We got a hold of some flashlights and ushered people into the locker rooms. Other staff from around the center assisted people in gathering their belongings and leaving.
On the drive home, we immediately noticed that all street lights and all lights that we normally would see from houses along our path were also off. We learned from a local radio station that the entire city, and perhaps the entire regional area, had gone dark.
By the time we got home, we heard a newscast that said the entire Northeast had gone dark. This was the great blackout of 1965. It was the first time this had ever happened in the U.S., and it was stunning. Until that time, one had always assumed that flipping the switch would result in your lights coming on.
During the blackout, families retrieved their flashlights, candles, and transistor radios, and they made their homes as comfortable as possible. It wasn’t too cold that November evening. I imagine most places in at least my geographic region were comfortable. With no television, family members actually spoke to each other.
People listened to the radio, took walks, or camped around the kitchen table and found what they could eat safely before it might spoil. Such a time! The funny thing is that to this day I succinctly remember my father directing me for a second time not to play with the lights when, indeed, much larger forces were at play!
Give Yourself Permission
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to having what I call “breathing space” in your life — the ability to elect on occasion to simply drop back and punt — is the unwillingness to allow yourself to have it.
I spoke to one group of executives and their spouses and learned from many spouses that their executive husbands or wives simply do not give themselves permission to have breathing space — time to get centered and balanced, take a deep breath and then proceed.
Paradoxically, every shred of wisdom on the issue that I have ever encountered indicates that any executive will be more effective each day, if he/she simply pauses for an extra minute a couple of times each day. This could be done every morning and afternoon, when back from the water cooler or rest room, before leaving for lunch, when returning from lunch, and so forth.
On the Ground Shortly
I’ve flown to so many speaking engagements that I can almost cite the flight attendants’ messages. For example: “Ladies and Gentlemen, in preparation for landing, please take your seats and make sure your seatbelts are fastened securely about you. Electrical devices must be turned off and safely stowed at this time. Please return your tray table to its original, upright, and locked position, and please bring your seat backs to their original upright positions. We’ll be on the ground shortly.” That message, however, delivered in that way, concerns me: I’m reasonably certain that “we’ll be on ground shortly”; it’s how we get there that matters.
When Your Mind Hurts
I told my daughter Valerie, then 7, that my sister is a doctor but not a doctor of the body, a doctor of the mind. She checks your mind. Valerie promptly asked, “Does she check your mind by opening your head?”
Valerie then asked “Do you make an appointment to see her when your mind hurts?” I said yes. Valerie then said, “Sometimes my mind hurts when I cry too much.”
My mind hurts when I try to ingest too much information at once and I’ll bet that your does too!