Things Move a Little Slower Here

When I was 20 I moved from Kansas City to Taipei, Taiwan to start two years of missionary service. That was the first time I had ever lived in a big city. Getting used to the furious pace of life and the sheer number of people was hard.

Three months later I moved from Taipei to Taidong. Taidong may be the biggest city in its part of the island, but it felt very small compared to Taipei.

The first week there I had several conversations that went like this:

Me: We would like to come visit you and share a message.
Other Person: That sounds fine. Tomorrow works for me.
Me: Tomorrow? Great! What time tomorrow?
Other Person: Afternoon.
Me: What time in the afternoon?
Other Person: In the afternoon. Whenever you come. Things move a little slower here.

It took a while to slow down and relax. Eventually I grew to love the slower pace of life and the way people there thought about time.

While we are living under stay-at-home orders and practicing physical distancing, you may feel some of those same uncomfortable feelings I felt in Taidong. Our schedules are suddenly clear, our appointment books empty, and our extra curricular schedule blank. Suddenly “things move a little slower here” too!

This is a grand chance. We have time for reflection, pondering, and deep thinking, but only if we resist the urge to fill our days with “stuff.” Many people are calling for this to be a time to Get Things Done. I think this is a time to relearn how to be bored.

The magic of creativity and the ability to do deep work comes when we have mental space. Don’t squander this chance to get reacquainted with (or to learn for the first time) what it feels like to live a little slower.

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The Right Way is the Hard Way

Worthwhile pursuits are hard. Work worth doing involves struggle. This is one of the lessons I wish I had learned earlier in life.

This afternoon I saw a perfect example of this. We had a small, Friday afternoon emergency at work. A customer needed a very specific data set that I knew was in our database but that I didn’t know how to retrieve. A coworker stepped up and saved the day.

She has been studying a monster book called SQL for Mere Mortals (public library). This is not light reading. It’s the kind of book you should never read while laying on your back—if you fall asleep and it drops on your face it’ll break your nose. I know studying it has been a chore.

She crafted a query that gave us exactly what we needed. The hard work she’s been putting in paid off.

In a recent interview Jerry Seinfeld said “If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way. The show was successful because I micromanaged it—every word, every line, every take, every edit, every casting. That’s my way of life.”

Embracing hard work and the focus needed to do hard work is unusual. Most people don’t work this way. But if we want to accomplish great things it’s the right path.

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Life, Filled to the Brim with Experiences

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I’ve been thinking recently about how simple situations and actions make for wonderful memories. A fond memory from the time when my kids were young was an evening when my wife made rose tea.

We had a typical day with three young children. This particular day they were energetic kids who tore through the house, asked a million questions, and did “kid things” that exhausted us. (A normal day!)

After we won the bedtime battle and all three were asleep, my wife and I sat together on the couch. It was a cool evening, unusual for that time of year. After making tea, we sat together silently sipping and enjoying the calm. I had a feeling of great contentment. Yes, we had three kids and all of the stress that comes with being parents and adults, but we were safe, healthy, and had each other. Eventually my wife smiled and asked “would you like another cup?” A perfect ending to an ordinary day.

The world is crazy right now. Things we have always been able to depend on are gone or delayed. We must cope with much that is unknown and unknowable. In the midst of this, we have a unique chance to create moments that can shape our life for years to come.

Just like that night with the rose tea, we can create moments and memories that will fuel us for years to come. Don’t underestimate the power of small, meaningful moments.

Use this time of physical distancing as a chance to more fully connect with people in your life. Start new traditions, try new things, and most importantly recognize and remember the moments that touch you.

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