Full To Overflowing–And Getting in the Flow

Two more days left of a week full of class, and my brain is feeling full. I considered myself to be above average on the “self-aware” scale going into this week but the last three days have been full of even more knowledge about how my personality and brain work, and how others perceive me, and how I interact with others naturally and under stress, etc. I’ve also gotten to know others in the class quite a bit better and had opportunities to begin working with my team and finding success. In fact, the first team competition on Monday had our team winning and it was pretty exciting for a compettitive guy like me.

Tuesday near the end of the day Chuck talked to us about “The Flow”…something in the pyschology of “optimal experience.” I would refer to this as being “in the Zone”. It’s when you’re firing on all cylinders and you’re at the top of your game and you know deep down that you’re doing what you were created to do. And then came the homework assignment:

Are you in the Flow? If not what do you need to do to get there? If you are in the flow, what do you need to do to stay there? Be prepared to make a 3 minute presentation to the class with your answer.

Something like this I’d usually be able to do with almost zero prep, but the whole purpose of the EMBA is to raise the level of my game, right? So no more of this last minute impromptu stuff. Mr. Simmons would be proud of me. (Another blog post will have to come later about him, I suppose.) So I did my homework. Here is what I wrote up:

“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” — Proverbs 22:29 (ESV)

When I read that verse I’m struck with it. Every. Single. Time.

The word “skillful” in Proverbs 22:29 is the Hebrew word Mahiyr. Skilled. Quick. Prompt. Ready.

This is what I want to be. A skillful man. A mahiyr man. One who could stand before kings.

This is what bing in the Flow conjures up in my mind…or being in “The Zone.” Am I in the Flow? Yes…quite a bit actually. But not always. I’ve gotten over-extended quite a bit and stressed over the past few years, but rarely on the other side into boredom. When we have a board meeting and I walk in prepared for what’s coming and I’m ready to answer the questions…I’m in the zone. When I get to address the staff in a monthly staff meeting to talk about our culture or a core value, I’m in the zone. When I’m in the flow, like Eric Liddel, I can feel it. I can feel the Lord’s pleasure as I do what I was made to do.

It passes. But how do I stay there or get back when I step out?

  1. Say No. When I’m out of the zone it’s most often because I’m stressed and usually that happens because I took on too much.
  2. Play to My Strengths. It’s easy to leave the flow when I’m doing what I’m not best at. But when I structure my work around what I’m good at, and play to my strengths, it’s second nature. I don’t have to look for the flow…I’m just there. Running meetings, public speaking, talking to the media: all in my sweet spot.
  3. Build the Team. This follows naturally from the other two. I can’t say no and I can’t stay in the sweet spot if I don’t have others to help turn that double play in a crucial moment. People who have complementary strengths who can be in the flow doing what takes me away from it. It means recruiting the right players so that the team is strong…a little like diversifying a portfolio.

And there’s one more thing. Being in the Flow means the top of my game needs to keep improving because as the organization grows my “A game” won’t be adequate forever. That’s why I’m here and why I need this EMBA…because even if I’m at the top of my game, I could find myself out of my league if I don’t keep growing and learning to be better at what I do. That’s what it means to be skilled in my work…that I’m constantly striving for a better game and taking it to the next level. I don’t want to be the best minor league second baseman in a double-A league. I want to be skilled in my labor and play in the show. And I want my whole team to play at that level together.

the flow

It was perfect.  Timed in at 2 minutes, 51 seconds.  Ready to rock and roll.

But that’s not what I said.

Yesterday morning didn’t go well. I got thrown off my groove and I lost my temper with some of the children and it was awful. I walked out the door to walk to class and had to turn around halfway down the block. I couldn’t let it stay that way. I walked back in to apologize.

And it would have been wrong and fake to just give the prepared presentation instead of being truthful: there are a lot of times I’m in the zone professionally. I don’t even know what that’s going to look like at home and it’s embarrassing and awful to say that but it’s true.  As I told my classmates, I live on that top line between the flow and stress at work.  Mostly in the Flow.

But in my home life I can’t remember the last time I could say I was in “the Zone.”  And so I told them that.

You see, I want to be the Bear Bryant of fatherhood.  A better dad than John Elway was a quarterback.  A better leader at home than Jack Nicholson is an actor.

And so that’s my focus right now.  I have class, I have work, I have responsibilities.  But the focal point in my life isn’t getting an A in the next class.  It’s being a better father and a better husband.

So things got real at class today, and I got real.  And now I’m laying it out for my readers:  I’m going to pour my “A game” into being a better father.  I’m going to “bring it” at home, and succeed at what matters most to me as a person.  I am going to, with renewed vigor, pour myself into my family and pray that God will bring improvement there for His glory and for the good of my household.

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