A man watched the driver of a truck carrying a load of chickens stop every half mile, get out of the truck, beat the side of the truck with a baseball bat until the chickens were flying in the air, get back into the truck, and drive off. He watched this routine happen time after time, and finally he pulled up beside the man and said, “Why do you pull over and beat the truck with a bat to make the chickens fly?” The man said, “Well, I have a big problem. I have a half-ton truck and a ton of chickens, so I have to keep about half of the chickens flying all the time.” Have you ever felt like that?
Life is a rat race, and even the animal kingdom is affected. Three snails mugged a turtle. When the turtle was asked what the muggers looked like, he said, “I don’t know; it all happened so fast.”
Life today is “Do more and do it faster.” A restaurant promises lunch in fifteen minutes or it will be free. People are reading “The 59-Second Employee,” a book about how to stay ahead of “The One-Minute Manager.” We have email, overnight delivery, voice mail and cell phones. You can’t go anywhere you can’t be found. Our world is into speed.
I’m trying to get organized. Experts tell me to handle a piece of mail only once. I’m afraid to touch anything. I have so many emergencies that I’ve changed my area code to 911. I’ve discovered that when life is going 100 miles per hour, you can’t control it; you can only aim it. Every time I turn around, it’s “Do it faster” – push the envelope, raise the bar, take it to the next level. I feel like the juggler at the circus, but I’m juggling hand grenades instead of balls.
Everyone has this problem. I knew our society was in trouble when I saw a lady get on the plane and put a laptop in her lap and her child in the overhead-baggage compartment. I am going to slow down. I am going to relax. I’m actually going to relax better and faster. I’m taking relaxation to the next level. Sorry — I got carried away.
I’ve decided to take my mother’s advice. If she has said it once, she has said it a thousand times: “Charles Shelby, be still.” When she used my middle name, I knew it was important because she usually called me by my brothers’ names — or, even worse, my sister’s. So I’m going to be still. The two most important buttons on my computer from now on are going to be “Delete” and “Off.” (Of course, you can’t simply turn off the computer; it asks if you are sure you want to sign off. Yes! I’m sure.)
I’m not saying to drop everything. There is a season of accomplishment, but there is also a season of rest, and there is a season of evaluation. Understand that five times zero is still zero. Some things are not worth doing, even if you can do them five times faster. So I threw away my to-do list. Maybe if it’s not important enough to remember, it’s not important enough to do. I turned off my computer and took a golf lesson.
My golf teacher said, “It’s no wonder you don’t have any power. Your back swing is too fast. I got whiplash just watching it. A pause at the top is what gives you the power.” He was reflecting on what my mom had said, “Charles Shelby, be still.” His emphasis was to be still at the top.
In the early days of aviation, a gutsy pilot accepted the challenge of flying around the world. One day, as he was drifting through the silent skies above the Atlantic Ocean, he heard a sound in the electrical wiring. A rat had climbed aboard and was inflicting damage to the plane’s electrical system with its razor-sharp teeth. The pilot began to worry and anticipate his potential demise. Then he remembered that rats can live only in low altitudes. He flew his plane to the highest altitude he and his plane could tolerate. He stayed at that altitude until the sound stopped. Upon landing, he found a dead rat in his instrument panel.
The lesson is simple: Whether it is planes, golf, or life, take it to the top … and pause. You will have more power, and all the ratty issues of life won’t seem so important.