Archive for April, 2013

How’s your battery life?

I’ve had a cell phone for 13 years. How is it that I can’t seem to keep it charged? The more “devices” I get, the less juice they seem to have. For as amazing as modern technology is, it’s all worthless without the power.

I suppose our biotechnology is similar. We humans have trained our bodies and minds to achieve phenomenal things. Yet life’s dysfunction makes us question the progress. Our technology may be high, but our batteries are low.

Early on, the Creator addressed the human propensity toward a harried and hurried pace of life. Before his list of Do Nots ever gets to lie, steal or kill, he commands rest. Not just once a year or once a quarter. Once a week. And not just for one hour or one morning. All day.

Go back and look: The Creator gives more background and description for the Sabbath commandment than he does for any of the other nine. Bizarre. It seems we could use more elaboration on “Do not murder” or “Do not cheat on your spouse” in this violent and lust-crazed age.

I suppose the Sabbath command is a variation of “Do not murder,” as in “Do not murder yourself by running yourself into the ground.” It’s a reminder that we are small-C creatures, not big-C Creators.

The Creator knew that if we would but rest, the other temptations would wane. Our desires to control, to arrange, to be our own god will dissipate.

A busy life paradox: The more you do, the less good it does. Businesspeople call it the law of diminishing returns. You work more, but you accomplish less.

An example from the people who were given the Ten Commandments originally: In their desert wanderings, God gave the Israelites daily food from heaven. But if they gathered more than they needed for that day, the extra food would spoil.

Likewise, when we try to gather 7 days of productivity from a week or 20 hours of productivity from a day, over time the overtime will do more harm than good.

A good measure of whether you’ve had a day of rest is how you feel at the end of it. Are you refreshed and rejuvenated or did running kids from piano recitals to baseball practices wear you out? Is your mind at peace by day’s end or are 10 or 15 worries weighing it down?

An irony of the modern Sabbath is that the process of going to church can wear you out more than it puts fuel in your tank.

Searching for kids’ shoes; frantically rushing out the door; concerned about how late you’ll be or how you look; a few exchanges of niceties but few meaningful interactions; the race to pick up kids before Sunday School teachers blow a gasket; the rush to lunch before hungry kids melt down.

Whew! Not exactly restful.

We do these and many things in an effort to keep up. To not miss out. To prove something to someone or everyone.

And for what? Not much if we’re not relating well to those around us. Not much if we can’t slow to enjoy the goodness God gives.

“Set aside a day of rest for me,” God says, “and I will return it to you… six-fold.”

 

Read more from Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

What makes San Antonio prosper?

The nonprofit, nonpartisan economic think tank Milken Institute released its “Best-Performing Cities” list earlier this year. Among large U.S. economies, nine Texas cities appeared in the top 30. On the small cities list, Texas boasted seven out of the top 25 (e.g., Midland).

High technology and oil & gas drive much of Texas’ fiscal health. Population growth, inexpensive labor and no state income tax have made Texas a net importer of companies and jobs. Instability to the south has streamlined Mexican wealth into Texas investments.

And while the Eagle Ford shale play has and will boost San Antonio’s economy in particular, a confluence of other factors has made the Alamo City what The Atlantic magazine called “the most recession-proof city in America.” Staff writer Derek Thompson attributed San Antonio’s success to the “meds, enlisteds, eds and beds” effect.

Meds

True fact: one out of every six people in San Antonio works in the bioscience / healthcare sector. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio certainly anchors the industry. But local employers like KCI, CVS Caremark, Mission Pharmacal and Medtronic have done their part.

Others have, too. Biomedical visionary InCube Labs opened its first incubator outside of Silicon Valley in San Antonio in 2010. Advocacy organization BioMedSA has unified many local interests to make the case for San Antonio.

San Antonio has enjoyed “Military City, USA” distinction for years. But the U.S. Army’s decision to centralize most medical training functions at Fort Sam Houston has further entrenched the city’s health care credentials.

Enlisteds

Speaking of the armed forces, the economic impact of having every Air Force trainee come through San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base should not be underestimated. Lackland, Fort Sam Houston and Randolph Air Force Base comprise “Joint Base San Antonio,” the largest base organization in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

From the Joint Base’s Web site: “[The base] services more DoD students than any other installation, has more active runways than any other installation, houses the DoD’s largest hospital and supports more than 250,000 personnel including 425 retired general officers.”

Eds

Consider this: 1,300,000 people live in San Antonio’s metro area. 100,000 of them attend one of the region’s universities. UT San Antonio continues to evolve from commuter school to full-fledged educational brand, complete with a football team and a hand sign.

While the mainstays continue to thrive (Trinity, Incarnate Word, Our Lady of the Lake), Alamo Colleges has plans for additional community college campuses including one just across the Bexar-Kendall County line. And we Longhorns shouldn’t necessarily forget the inroads Texas A&M-San Antonio is making on the city’s south side.

Beds (i.e., hotel beds)

Finally, tourism helped keep San Antonio afloat during the Great Recession. Families may have cancelled flying trips to Florida, Colorado or California, but they didn’t cancel their vacations altogether.

Many drove … to Texas’ number one tourism destination: San Antonio. Among the Alamo, the Riverwalk, Sea World, Six Flags, there is plenty here to put heads in hotel beds.

In the last letter he ever penned, Davy Crockett wrote, “Texas … is the garden spot of the world. The best land and the best prospects for health I ever saw, and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here.”

If not a fortune, at least a good life.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

It’s hard being perfect

When hiring managers ask, “What is your greatest weakness?” crafty job applicants let the spin begin.

“I work so hard that I have a hard time maintaining work-life balance.”

“I tend to set my goals too high.”

“My extreme commitment to excellence sometimes gets me bogged down in the details.”

“I have trouble taking no for an answer.”

And my personal favorite, “I struggle with perfectionism.”

I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can get you?

What employer wouldn’t want a perfectionist for an employee? Maybe one who’s ever had one.

Mental health professionals disagree over whether perfectionism is a psychopathology. World-class athletes, after all, simply adapt their perfectionism to attain ultra-high performance levels. But what about those of us who simply adapt our perfectionism to really annoy those around us, at best, and emotionally hurt them, at worst.

First, the annoying.

A friend and I were discussing kitchen cleaning. He can whip through a post-meal cleanup in 10 minutes. To his irritation, his wife can’t seem to get it done in thirty. It takes me forty-five. So, I tried to explain that his wife comes across a counter corner that hasn’t been addressed in six weeks and feels compelled to “get the job done right.”

There’s a lot riding on that corner’s being clean, by the way. It could be the difference of $20,000 of property value.

For example, if roaches find sustenance on the counter, they will invite their friends, the termites, who will eventually find sustenance in the walls. Or, if the stickiness hardens, it will permanently discolor the countertop. A potential buyer will notice and forego a top-dollar offer, leaving only bottom feeders to bid.

I have been accused of being so thorough with my pre-wash routine that an automatic dish wash seems superfluous. Maybe so, but in my perfected mind, a thorough pre-wash sure beats egg stuck to a spatula even after a 2-hour wash cycle.

It was on this note recently that my wife (a 10-minute kitchen cleaner) repeated the long lost domestic wisdom of my father, “It’s been sanitized.” Ahhhhh!!! Yes, but who wants to eat Frosted Flakes from an egg-coated spoon???

Before I get in trouble, let me assert that my bride is not hygienically-challenged. I am simply hygienically-sensitive, an offshoot of perfectionism, no doubt.

Then, the hurtful.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about adults’ treating children irresponsibly. While discussing the article with a good friend, we agreed that perfectionism has no place in the raising of children.

More broadly, it has no place in any relationship. The setting of impossibly high standards may make the setter feel in control, but it eventually propels people away. They will get out from under the unrealistic expectations as soon as an avenue presents itself.

Perfectionism has been linked to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, even suicide. And that’s just in the perpetrator. The perpetrated against are likely driven to similar outcomes, and/or to repeat the cycle of perfectionism.

In the end, a perfectionist’s expectations for himself and others are neither about his or their potential, nor his or their good. They are about placating the perfectionist’s need to reduce uncertainty, prevent exposure and cover up weakness.

In other words, perfectionism seeks to eliminate the things that make life interesting and relationships necessary.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.


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