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Put Away the Whips and Step Away from the Stocks

It has taken me way too many years to recognize that many of the things about which I beat myself up actually are gifts. Teachers used to yell at me for daydreaming and then tell me I was lazy. I took that in and often felt bad about myself when I sat around doing nothing, or reading science fiction rather than theology, or watching cooking shows rather than writing.

One day, because I felt like I needed to get more done, I asked a counselor what made some people more productive than others. She was the first person to suggest to me that if I wanted to be more productive I should try doing less and being more. She helped me to see that it was those “unproductive” times that brought gifts like being able to turn a scripture around and see it in a new way.

Today, my staff is pretty small, but for a long time I worked with more than 30 people. I know I drove them crazy when we would talk about things but never reach a conclusion. One staff member always pleaded with us to “land the plane,” but I seemed content to leave it circling as long as possible. Now, no one who knows me would ever accuse me of being indecisive or with-out opinions; I simply resist finalizing anything until the last minute.

I’ve always regarded this as a weakness or a fault. So, imagine my surprise when I read the book A Contrarian’s View of Leadership by Steven Sample, the president of the University of Southern California. He wrote:

The best leaders won’t make a decision today that can reasonably be put off to tomor-row. They don’t form opinions if they don’t have to. They don’t force others to do their dirty work. They don’t keep up with the popular media. And they don’t try to copy their way to the top.

Who knew? I didn’t, and perhaps neither did you. So, put away the whips and step away from the stocks. Maybe by the time you are my age, you, too, will begin to discover that the very things you thought were faults are gifts. It is too soon to judge, so be gentle with yourself if you don’t fit the mold of others’ expectations.

Blessings,

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Rev. Michael Piazza

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