Manage what is in your control and let the rest go.
I love this concept and try to employ it daily.
What is in your control?
Where is the line between in control and not in control?
Often, we can feel it and other times it’s a little less than murky.
Here are a few stories that live in between.
It was 1891.
Carnegie Hall and Stanford University open their doors.
Nickola Tesla invents the Telsa Coil.
Thomas Edison patents the precursor to the motion picture camera.
The setting for our story is a YMCA Training School that supported the students of the School for Christian Workers. A particularly cold, New England winter did not spare the small town of Springfield, MA. Dr. James Naismith was the teacher in charge of the YMCA facility. Gym teachers have an advantage that isn’t available to most other teachers. There aren’t any desks, and the kids don’t have to sit still.
During this particular week, the harsh temperatures and weather conditions outside severely limited the activities he had at his disposal to diffuse the insatiable energy of the students. Unfortunately, Dr. Naismith’s secret weapon was rendered useless by Mother Nature and her winter storms. He was reduced to a mere mortal, stuck in a small room with his group of students, as boredom soon transformed into an uncontrollable indoor storm of it’s own. He was oscillating between in control and out of control.
As he scanned the room, an idea started to emerge. Out of pure necessity, he pulled together his creative capacity, two peach buckets and a soccer ball to solve his problem.
Thirteen rules later, the game of basketball was born.
Creativity is a superpower.
It doesn’t provide the ability to control chaotic situations.
It supports existence in chaotic situations.
For a parent, it is a basic survival skill.
Fast forward one-hundred years or so …
A rookie Dad in his mid-thirties was charged with a seemingly simple duty.
Take the kids to the store to pick up some groceries. Thinking to himself, I got this, he loaded his three year old son and six year old daughter confidently into the car.
They weren’t even out of the driveway before a tornado of noise began to exercise it’s undue influence on the interior of the car. While the frequency and amplitude were both within tolerable ranges for Dad ears, this was a special kind of noise. It’s the kind that emanates from small humans during the common practice of attempting to make each other miserable through some sort of physical manipulation, verbal taunting or removing an object from the other’s ecosystem.
The power of this audible assault is not limited to merely affecting the blood pressure, heart rate and patience of its victims in close proximity. As a more subtle side effect, it can actually transform the duration of time. Our rookie Dad was experiencing serious temporal distortion, as his ten minute drive to the store seemed like an endless week.
His sanity was at stake.
He had to combat the relentless noise tornado with something other than screaming or threatening severe punishment. Also, according to the Dad rulebook, he hadn’t officially driven the required mileage to use the classic, Don’t make me turn this car around.
It was time for something different.
With progress stalled at a traffic light and his white knuckled hands gripping the steering wheel, an unexpected wave of calm suddenly covered his entire body.
In the space between his thoughts, came an idea that would lead to ultimate salvation.
He found his secret weapon.
With the confidence of a well-prepared general in the middle of a fire fight, he glanced at his kids through the rear view mirror and began to implement his battle plan.
If you guys calm down and quit messing with each other, I’ll show you a magic trick.
You don’t know how to do magic.
He spun up enough intrigue to get them to agree to the deal.
Still sitting at the red light, he told them he had the power to make the red light change to green on demand. The air of skepticism was etched into the sides of their faces by acute degrees of squinting. Their curiosity prevailed and they began watching every detail of their Dad’s actions.
With a deep breath, he set the stage for his magnificent performance.
He opened with an elaborate display of hand gestures and some labored breathing.
He continued with some forearm stretches and adjustments to his neck.
While he furiously rubbed his hands together, he counted down …
With his eyes now securely closed, he flung his hands dramatically at the windshield.
Timed perfectly with his hand gesture, the light turned green.
The jaws of his kids dropped in amazement.
What do you think they said?
Whoooooaa … Do it again, Dad.
Knowing he had them right where he wanted them, he approached the next red light with even more swagger. Hamming it up at this point, he began his flamboyant preparation that ended in the same countdown and the same result.
His hands flew forward, and the light turned green.
With a sneaky peek and the visual whisper from the yellow light guarding the cars in the perpendicular path, our rookie Dad manufacturers a brief element of control in a chaotic environment. The remaining five hundred feet of their ride to the store was happy and even a bit peaceful.
Control is a bit of a farce.
It generates thoughts of grabbing something with your hands and physically making it do what you want it to do. Not many things in the world respond well to this approach. Trying to exert control over an uncontrollable situation usually has negative side effects that present themselves as anger and frustration.
The path of flowing water is natural and determined by gravity and topology. When you are in a river, you will move in the direction of the trillions of water molecules that surround you. Unless you are Michael Phelps or a salmon, you are not going to swim upstream successfully.
You can’t always control the environment, but you can control your experience within it.
Find your peach baskets and use your traffic lights.