Meditations for Men Who Do Too Much

'Lazear, Jonathon'

Published by HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD, 1993
ISBN 10: 1855383268 / ISBN 13: 9781855383265
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Synopsis: Quotations from such figures as Benjamin Franklin, Henry Kissinger, and others encourage men to examine their overextended lives and think about how to spend time better

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Meditations for Men Who Do Too Much

January 1

By letting go, it all gets done; The world is won by those who let it go!
the Tao te Ching

That is what so much of our compulsion is about; it is not "natural" for men in this age, in this society, to "let go." We hold on to old models of success, and sometimes to disastrous ways of seeing things to fruition. How often have we clung to what we thought was the life raft of sanity, of our work, of our need to complete a task, for the sake of the task, not for what it brings us.

It will be important for me to keep my real goals in perspective today. I will need to be mindful of what makes me and those I love happy, not just what keeps me occupied.

January 2

Damn the great executives, the men of measured merriment, damn the men with careful smiles....
Sinclair Lewis

In our lives, beginning in childhood, we learn to measure everything. Quantify happiness, measure accomplishment, and meter work, preferably billing by the hour. I do not know if it is strictly a male trait to measure work and dole out pleasure, but now I do know that all men I once wanted to emulate were men who had careful smiles, and used them as techniques rather than honest and spontaneous reactions to pleasure.

I want to begin to see myself as a man who doesn't excuse pleasure, but one who seeks it out and manages to bring it to my work.

January 3

Next week there can't be any crisis. My schedule is already full.
Henry Kissinger

Have you ever felt this way? There was a time, and it wasn't very long ago, that I would look at my schedule, a week in advance, and revel in the fact that there were few formal meetings set. As the days went by, I would always add more meetings until the weekend prior to the week ahead left me with dread because I had so overbooked myself -- and all with the very best of intentions. Always taking on too much, I thereby created crisis.

Today I will listen to my heartbeat -- literally. And I will let that cadence set the tone for the pace of my work.

January 4

One's action ought to come out of an achieved stillness; not to be a mere rushing on.
D. H. Lawrence

A flurry of activity usually looks like work; it most often announces that a great deal is being dealt with, a genius at work, a man who knows how to stir things up to get things done. It is so terribly difficult to be quiet. Especially if you're a man who has been taught that work is noisy, physically and emotionally demanding, thankless, and of course, endless.

So much clarity of thought comes from solitude, from being undisturbed, from closing doors gently and quietly. Once I heard the voice of one of my children very clearly, after he had been asleep for a long time. I heard his voice so clearly because I allowed myself to hear it.

I need to be quiet, to listen, to stop. I will accomplish an inner harmony if l do not drown out the notes that come from within.

January 5

I think in every country that there is at least one executive who is scared of going crazy.

Joseph Heller

I feel so worn down from trying so hard. I think so many men like me are exhausted from being frantic. We attempt to work on our overcommitment, our overwork, but even that takes a new kind of toll on us. Even the effort to become "sane" and to give ourselves balance can leave us drained; nearly as drained as the old obsessive work-'til-you-drop routine.

This problem of fear, of perhaps "going crazy," is not limited to my socioeconomic peer group. It is universal; it is worldwide; it is pervasive, persuasive, and about as frightening as anything any man can think of.

Today I will begin to understand how far-reaching my work anxiety is. I may not beat the anxiety today, but I will begin to understand how many of my peers also suffer from it.

January 6

My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.
Cary Grant

I wonder how often I've known only the moment of being awake, and the minute prior to drifting off at night, to be the only "absolutes" in my day. If I were spontaneous, enjoying chance, and not mindful of my need for "business," I would fill my head with an orderly and forceful view of the tasks that are before me each day.

More often than not, my days are a jumble of activity, often mindless "business' -- predominantly a flurry of things half done, rarely fully accomplished. I'd really rather measure my days by virtue of the richness and variety they offer, not by how quickly they pass.

Today I will pause a number of times, not to look at the clock but to take a short walk or stare out the window and think about how I can be more satisfied.

January 7

The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.
Albert Einstein

How do we learn to keep alive those things that are important to us, those things that need to survive a busy day, a schedule crammed with things to do, endless meetings, useless activities? How often do we learn the difference between what is "important" and what can be dismissed? And what part of us dies when we make the decision to be consumed with activity rather than thought, or with "getting there" just so we could say we were there. Men have been taught that they must always move; frenetic activity is the physical evidence of men who do too much.

I want to be aware today of what I have inside that is important. I will care less for what I "produce" and attach less importance to the evidence of being a good or prosperous man.

January 8

Always do one thing less than you think you can do.
Bernard Baruch

Like most men, my eyes are bigger than my appetite. I often give myself a very large menu of things to do, and every morning I'm eager to get to all of it. Bernard Baruch's thought speaks to measuring out our tasks so that we do not become enslaved by them. He suggests that we do less, because, as we've been told over and over, very often less is more. Accomplishing task after task after task is not in anyone's best interest. Think about being the seventh or twelfth patient on a surgeon's list of "things to do today," and suddenly you get the picture. Unless it's an emergency, I'll wait my turn.

Today I will attempt to finish something I've already started. I will remember that seeing something through to its completion can be more satisfying than taking on something new.

January 9

Wisdom is knowing when you can't be wise.
Paul Engle

Change. Move. Alter. Perfect. Rearrange. Keep moving. So many of us put a lid on our wisdom by rarely, if ever, taking the time to reflect on our strengths. It takes a new method of thought and of inner patience to begin to be straight with ourselves about what we can and cannot do. When is it better for me not to be involved, not to make a decision, not to take a stand? I cannot always come up with an answer. Often I cannot deliver a question. Often I will be better off if I do neither.

Today I will be mindful of my limitations, and take comfort in the fact that I do not know everything, never will, and will not have to take responsibility for knowledge I do not have.

January 10

Bring over one of your old Motown records, put the speakers in the window; we'll go up on the roof and listen to the Miracles echo in the alley down below
Rod Stewart

Remember those old songs, the ones we listened to and that meant so much to us, the songs that set the stage for our first romantic experience, our winning seasons on the football fields and baseball diamonds? Whether it was the Beatles, Glen Miller, Roger Miller, or the Miracles, it's music that is often the catalyst for our memories.

Maybe it's time to dust off the old albums and listen to some of the old songs -- static, dust, cracks, and all -- that take us back to our more carefree thoughts and moments. Our old music can bring us back to being the boys of summer, and that would be a great way to spend just about any afternoon.

If there's a rhythm to our work, there's also rhythm to our memory, and many of our memories give us peace. Today I'll let some old favorites play out in my imagination, and maybe later I'll get out the old 45's.

January 11

Four out of five people are more in need of rest than exercise.
Dr. Logan Clendening

It is important to keep one's body in relatively good shape. And it's been proven that certain kinds of activities actually help alleviate some amount of stress. But it is very dangerous to feel driven to exercise, to run as fast and as far as you can, to be obsessed, and yes, even addicted to it. So many of us need to learn how to rest and when to rest; when to work, and when to engage in physical activity.

If you think that you must always find time in every day to do your push-ups you may just be setting yourself up for another form of overindulgence. And your vanity may be winning over your common sense.

Today I will try to find time to rest; to give my heart and my head time to recoup. I will not feel that my idle arms and legs betray me.

January 12

It's the hardest thing in the world to accept a little success and leave it that way. Marlon Brando

Greed, on its many levels and in its many guises, can be found in just about any of us, and it surfaces in many ways. If we are just out for the last dime we can squeeze out of a day's work, we may be secretly disappointed in the outcome of our efforts: too much work, too little reward. Then, next time out, we're driving ourselves even further, desperate for the result to match the effort.

We need to begin to see our success incrementally. Success usually doesn't come in megadoses. It's the small rewards that we need to recognize and life's little triumphs we must claim.

I will be pleased with what I accomplish today and be mindful of my goals, but not overshadowed by them. I will recognize the way in which greed can undermine ambition.

January 13

Wealth is not his who has it, but his who enjoys it.
Benjamin Franklin

Acquisition. Ownership. Public display of wealth. These are words and concepts that speak to the man who has made it but doesn't really know what to do with it. The king is in the countinghouse, counting out his money. It's a lonely picture.

Great wealth for the sake of great wealth is an indication of a bankrupt man. We have been so caught up in acquisition that we do not know what to do with what we acquire, nor why we have it.

We are gluttons -- men with endless appetites for the window dressing that proves our wholeness.

I will look to the people in my life who give me the wealth of kindness and understanding rather than to the things I've acquired over the time I spent filling my life with possessions.

January 14

Run, if you like, but try to keep your breath; Work like a man, but don't be worked to death.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

If some of us are driven to fill our days with work, with accomplishments, with meetings, exchanges of one kind or another, we need to apportion those hours with time for our children, our lovers, our thoughts, our hobbies, our true selves.

It's not that there's anything wrong with being "busy," but there's plenty wrong with being "busy" just for the sake of taking up time. Being "busy" is often a smokescreen, something to hide behind. But what are we hiding from? If we stopped being "busy," what might we have to face?

Today I'll try keep in mind why I'm busy, and I'll do my best not to kick up dust just to look busy. There s too much of great and wonderful interest to fake involvement.

January 15

When did it become necessary to fill the house and office with small appliances? I've lost count of my conveniences -- it's all lust too much. I don't know if I have more telephone lines or television outlets, but I do know that I'm responsible for the brownout in the neighborhood.
Jonathon Lazear

The eighties were unkind to all of us. Many of us got caught up in making ends meet ridiculous conclusions. Always more. Never enough. The definition of the quality of life was being continuously redefined.

Now it's the nineties. And we all know what we knew all along -- that the quality of life is best measured by the time spent reading a bedtime story to our four-year-old and by the expression on his face when he can't stop talking about it. Or by the time spent getting up early for our daughter's nine A.M. gymnastics meet on a wintry Saturday, morning.

They could care less if they're driven to their games in a Mercedes. It's the games they're looking forward to. It's their father they're proud to be with.

Today I will make a list of the things I consider necessities. I will notice how many of my possessions I can easily do without and reflect upon the meaning of "quality of life."

January 16

No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Well, yes and no. It usually takes one man or woman to come up with the brilliant idea, and several men and women to dilute it, dissect it, misunderstand it, misjudge it, and come to the wrong conclusion about it.

Collective intellect is a contradiction in terms. Not only have foolish ideas perished but a lot of wonderful, original, creative, even offbeat ideas have died by the committee's unanimous assassination.

We put so much energy into attempting to convey our ideas, acting as cheerleaders to a group of brain-dead fans in the bleachers, that I've often thought that all the best, most important ideas die not by exposure, but because they're privately maintained in our personal wine cellars.

Too much of my attention and energy is going toward winning the approval of the group. I'll begin to store my energies and direct them to the man or woman who can give me the nurturing feedback I need.

January 17

Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.
Erich Fromm

We are often so locked up in what we think we should be, in what we think we should be doing. Erich Fromm talks about "potential," which implies growth and process, not a static, unchanging self-image. We need to be aware of "becoming," welcome and question our self-image, and accept change as inevitable and healthy.

If I miss my mark today, I will not be defeated. I will understand that life is process and that I can continuously give birth to myself.

January 18

Get in, get into the place that's your nature, whether it's running a corporation or picking daisies in the field, get in there and live to it...

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Meditations for Men Who Do Too Much
Publisher: HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD
Publication Date: 1993
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Good

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