Monday, March 3, 2014

The Tipping Point

The older I get, the closer I get to my tipping point. And that may be a bad thing.

By tipping point, I mean the point at which a new job, a new challenge, becomes easy. A habit. Something I’ve always done, or at least have finally grown used to doing.

Take being a Scoutmaster, for instance. That happened back in September, though not really officially until late October. It’s now early March. And it feels like I’ve been doing it for a while.

And what have I done?

Well, helped three boys through the last requirements for their Life ranks, including my own son. Helped scouts earn a ton of merit badges. Gone camping a few times. Planned calendars. And finished my Wood Badge tickets.

But I’m close to my tipping point, and it worries me.

Thankfully, Paul Fairbourn, my assistant Scoutmaster, who has been around a while and who has also been a bishop, helped me recognize my tippingpointingness Sunday as he gave a lesson to the Scouts, turned Deacons for the day at church. We do have a responsibility to help these boys prepare for “real life,” be it school or having their own families and whatnot. We’re not the sole providers of these experiences, but we are providers. And getting to the tipping point as a provider of life experience is not a good thing. I should still be on the edge where I’m a bit anxious, a bit uncomfortable, a bit more willing to stretch myself – and thus the boys – to accomplish the greater things, not just the good.

Same goes for my teaching efforts at BYU-Idaho. I passed the tipping point in that job a while back, and I need to get back to feeling uncomfortable with things so I try harder. I suppose that I recognize I have a problem is part of the cure, and I am making efforts to be more involved, more probing, more curious, more anxious to share good writing and to help my students see their own potential. My teaching group leader challenged me with a constellation of minor, but essential, tasks at which I can do better, and I’m working to follow her advice.

The good thing is I don’t yet feel I’ve reached the Peter Principle point, where I’ll no longer advance because I’ve met my level of incompetence. That’s different than a tipping point. Or maybe it’s that I have reached that level, realize it, and can learn to cope with it as advancement no longer becomes a possibility. That could be a good thing, as it means I could avoid being in a bishopric later in life.

I wonder, sometimes, if the sheer business of life causes those tipping points to approach more quickly. With everything tugging at our shirtsleeves, there’s little time for improvement. Take, for example, the past two weekends:

I did get some stuff done that first Friday, but nothing really improvement-wise. I worked a bit in our basement, insulating the new furnace ducts and starting the drywall, using every bit of drywall I had in the garage. That Saturday was taken up with Scouting, from a merit badge pow-wow to working at the scout office to help with writing on their website. Then Sunday hits, and with church in the middle of the day and Sunday being about the only day I had that weekend to catch up on some badly-needed sleep, there was no time.

Then last weekend. BYU-Idaho stuff Friday morning, and then that midmorning, preparation for the Scout camping trip. Then Friday afternoon into Saturday afternoon, gone with the Scouts. We had a great time; they earned their Fire Safety merit badges, but no real time to sit back and think, well, this is where I need to do better.

Sunday, a little better. I cleaned up a constellation of messes that were bugging me, including sorting through the Scout paperwork so I can get more organized and figure out where the improvements need to happen.

Sometimes I wonder if procrastination is my weakness. That can be it in part. But I have to hope that there is a difference between procrastination and needing a little down time, desire to improve be damned.
And maybe service is the answer. I have one Scout I know who needs service hours in order to advance in rank. And this is what is said in Isaiah (Chapter 40, verses 28-31):

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary’ and they shall walk, and not faint.

Wait upon the Lord – serve him and his sons and daughters. Then the weariness will not only go away, but be replaced by strength.

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