Sunday, August 05, 2012

Big Rocks

I have understood the academic concept of "Big Rocks" for years. I read Stephen Covey's "7 Habits" in 2006 after my mom died. She had the book on her bookshelf, and my dad and brother weren't likely to read it, so somebody had to take it. I still have it, by the way.

But there is a difference between understanding the academic concept of something and actually being able to apply it. I read David Allen's "Getting Things Done" in 2005, and am still figuring it out.

I've been doing a lot of running lately. I'm not a fan of running. I don't like it that much, but I've decided I hate being fat more than I hate running. And as I look back over my 38 1/2 years of life, I can see that I've only been able to lose weight and get in shape through two things: the Atkins diet, and running.

Atkins is hard to maintain. So I run. I get bored way too fast on Atkins. And since I have to live in 2 places right now, my budget is even more limited than the last time I did Atkins.


It's August, 2012 as I write this. I went for a run this afternoon. I somehow pushed out 3 miles in the hot afternoon. As I was doing my cool down walk, I had a few thoughts.

For one thing, something I hate more than running is the heat. But I hate being fat more than I hate running or being hot. So I ran. I also realized, on Sunday, I typically run after church. I also do my laundry on Sunday afternoon. But if I don't run, it will never happen. So I come back from church, and run. Before I do anything else.

I realized this is the essence of a "Big Rock". A big rock is something important enough to you that it has its own place in your shedule. It has to happen before anything else can happen. I run on Sunday, in the heat, because if I don't, I won't run. If I have lunch and do laundry, I'll start finding reasons not to run. So no matter how hot is is (at least up to about 96 degrees), I'll run right after church. I also try to run as soon as I get home from work most days. I've had times due to work or weather that I either had to wait until later or skip, but I try.

One big rock that has been a major factor in my understanding is the ceremony that I see at work when somebody leaves. Before I started working for the Marine Corps, I gave little thought to going away parties. If somebody close to me left, I might have tried to say goodbye, but it was never a big deal to me. When I left most organizations, I'm surprised anybody noticed. When I left the Navy, I was rung off the ship. I got two bells, followed by "FC2 (SW) Eric S. Mueller, departing". It's probably the largest production I've seen in my career, which spans more than 20 years now.

But when a Marine leaves, holy crap, they take that seriously! No matter how busy the office is, they find a way to take a few minutes to get pizza, and talk about how much that Marine meant to the office, and wish him (or her) well. Even when contractors and civilians like myself leave, they make sure to fit it in. That says a lot. I'm sure that people on that last 4 or 5 jobs I've done didn't notice I left. Even my last job. I barely got to say good bye to my supervisor in passing. He was just "too busy" (one of the reasons I wanted another job).

In a sense, a "Big Rock" is something important to you, that if not scheduled would not happen. But your life would be lacking if you did not make it happen/.

When our children were little, my wife and I often argued over my "breaks". I reminded her, if she needed a "break" to tell me. I sure told her when I needed to do something. Women seem to enjoy suffering. If I needed a break, I took one. They don't automatically happen. They're like forcing a square peg in a round hole. Big rocks are like that. If you don't force them into your schedule, and basically tell everybody else to get bent during the time the big rock occupies, it won't happen.

During my brief stint as a Realtor 2 years ago, I was told if you want to have dinner with your family, or take time for yourself, just tell other people you have another appointment during that time. If a potential customer wants to look at houses at 5 PM, and that's family dinner, the customer often won't respect that. But if you already have "another appointment" during that time (which is none of his damn business), it will be respected. It's strange, but it works.

I do not believe work hours are a big rock. You may have certain appointments during work hours that are big rocks, but the entire block of time is not a big rock. If you have to leave at 2 for your spouse's appointment, that's a big rock that has nothing to do with work.

One last thought I had on big rocks: when somebody else tried to create a big rock in your schedule, you'll wreck your ship upon it. Somebody else's big rock in your path is a hazard to navigation.

We all have to work. Men, especially. We often identify ourselves by our profession. Even though my job title and classification are "IT Specialist", I still consider myself an engineer. It's a discipline to me more than a job title. Just like there's no such thing as an "ex-Marine", I don't believe there's an "ex-Engineer". I solve problems and I analyze things. That's what I do.

But our work is not our entire being.

So those are the thoughts I had on big rocks while I was cooling down from running. I hope they're useful, and not evidence that I shouldn't run when it's too darn hot out.

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