Poem: Every. Thing.

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Every. Thing.

Simple curved wood.
A few tacks.
Stain.
Shellac.

A place at the table
void of clutter.
A pair of pencils.

Enough.
No more.

In the next room a clock.
The pendulum swings silently.
Time is told.
No more.

Every.
thing.
tells you about
yourself,
about what is enough,
and if you poke at it,
why.

About this poem

After my separation and divorce twelve years ago or so, I moved from a nearly four thousand square foot home to a six hundred square foot apartment. I found simple suited me, and I have spent the time since in a constant battle against stuff. I am no minimalist, but I like things simple and uncluttered. Life included.

But stuff, I have learned, has meaning. It tells a story that is more about soul than stuff. And that is fascinating indeed.

Tom

Poem: Roadbeds

tracks

Roadbeds

Send me. Let me travel the roadbeds
of other’s journeys.
There is no need for me to rewrite maps.
Others have traveled here and know the way.
There is less to explore than we imagine.

About this poem

When I talk to my coaching clients, I remind them that for most things we want in life, the solutions are simpler than we think. Others have traveled their road. The maps are there for us. We make it complicated. We insist on re-inventing the wheel, making it harder than it needs to be.

Whatever “it’ is.

It was a hard lesson for me to learn. But even Mr Dense (that would be me.) finally got it. And life became far easier, far more joyful, far more successful in the ways that matter.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

 

 

Poem: Simple Magic

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Simple Magic

A little less
and a little less.
No need to hurry.
Simply remove one thing
and then another.

Learn
what you need
and what you do not.
The list is shorter than you think.

Give things away.
Release them.
Someone will want them, sure
it is just what they need.

There is magic in it, understanding
how little you need.

There is power in it.
Heaven and happiness grows closer, simpler,
more possible
as the fear of what you might loose grows
less and less
important.

About this poem

When I went through my divorce a dozen years ago, I took very little from our huge old farmhouse in Virginia. My ex kept asking “Don’t you want this (or that)?”  In the moment, I took less because I did not care. I was too broken to care.

But as I healed, I quickly found I liked having less. And life ever since then has been a quest to give things away faster than they seemed to come in. And after more than a decade, I’ve learned what I need and what I want, and I’ve learned I need less than I used to think.

I like simple. It calms me. It leaves room for the new. It leaves room for thought and spirit and creativity to expand and fill the space.

The picture was taken at the Hancock Shaker Village near Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Tom

Poem: A Shaker Chair Maker Speaks

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A Shaker Chair Maker Speaks

It takes just the right pressure, the craftsman explains.
Enough to remove just the slightest layer of wood,
thin slivers that curl as they fall.

The object is to create the perfect thickness,
whether a seat or a leg,
the aim is the same, to create beauty

while leaving strength.
So in the end, what you remove
is as important as what you keep.

About this poem

A poem about furniture, and life.

Tom

Poem: Simple Magic

leaf

Simple Magic

A leaf.
Water.
Light.

Time.

And roots begin.
Grow stronger.
Long. Ever growing,
Able finally to cut through dark earth
and stand on their own.
A living thing.

Way simpler
than we like to admit,
more often getting in our own way
than letting the water and light
work the magic
that was there all the time.

About this poem

Life is way simpler than we make it. I tell this to people all the time. In all the roles I live. The ones that believe flower. The others? Not so much. It’s not magic. It’s just how it works.

Sometimes, it’s good to be a simpleton.

Tom

PS – the picture is not mine, but one I bought from a stock photo company for a project that took a left turn so I no longer needed it. But it was perfect for this poem.

 

Thoughts: On Simplicity

relentlessly cheerful cafe

I like old stuff.

I drove over the Relentlessly Cheerful Diner this morning in my 2000 Isuzu Trooper. If you are not a car guy, the Isuzu Trooper is one of the regional SUV’s. It’s big, boxy, built like a tank and has few of the modern amenities. It is way over engineered. Looks like and rides like a tank. And I love it.

My other car is an old PT Cruiser convertible. It’s kind of the opposite of the Trooper, with 1940’s styling, swoopy fenders and it’s bright blue.

Despite their age and the extra repairs that go with having older cars, I love both of them. Why? They are simple. Simple to drive. Simple to work on. No screens or rear cameras to distract my attention or buzzers going off as someone hits my blind spot. When I drive, I can focus on the pure joy of driving.

I love simple. Walk into my house and you will see it. Old furniture that leans towards the authentic colonial – simple, straight lines, plenty of space, good light and a few pieces of art. GO into my kitchen and you won’t see a ton of appliances on the counter. Want to open a can? I’ll go into the drawer and give you my hand cranked can opener.

Regular readers know I have something of a fetish for small diners and local restaurants. I go to some of the local ones when I am at home to work. I seek them out when I travel. Part of that fetish has to do with the simplicity of them. I could go to a McDonalds or some big chain restaurant and work just as well. All I really need is coffee and the internet. But the small places are invariably less noisy, less bustling, less focused on getting you in and out in the proscribed amount of time. You can focus on things better without the noise. You can have real conversations with perfect strangers.

Recently, I have been asking myself why the simple appeals to me. I am definitely in the minority. Many of us like the idea of simplicity, but somehow, life seems to conspire to make life complicated.

Years ago, I made the decision to simplify. Not just my life (less stuff), but my work, and how I do things. It easy enough to begin. It’s proven harder to keep it up.

That is because simplicity is hard. It’s not just a matter of paring stuff away. It’s about paring the RIGHT stuff away, and then putting processes in place to help that simplicity in place.

A fair amount of my work is built around simplifying. I help my design and business clients simplify workflow. I help some of my coaching clients learn how to simplify their work and lives. A few of my pastoral parishioners end up talking to me about simplifying life in a complex world. They are all surprised at how hard it is to simplify well.

The reason it is difficult has to do with the amount of introspection and honesty it takes. Simplifying is the art of self-examination, of coming to understand what is important and what is not important. And that is often harder than most people thing. It requires us to be honest with ourselves about what is important, and what is peripheral. It often means letting go of things we value, but which are, if we are honest, not very important.

And that is hard. It is hard for us as individuals, and it is hard for us as companies and organizations.

We live in a world of more. Cars have a zillion things on them. TV used to have three channels, now they have hundreds, not to mention on-line viewing. We used to get our news from the papers and the seven o’clock news, not there are a thousand ways to get news. Everything is about more and more and more. Buy more. Get more. Do more. Life is fragmented. Our minds become cluttered.

The end result is that we come to think more is what we want. That we have to have everything. Every feature. Every option. Every opportunity.

And yet…..

Some of my work in helping companies grow involves going out and simply talking to customers. It’s an old-fashioned way to do things in this world of big data and gleaning information by tracking people’s activity on the web.

The thing about big data is that it can tell us some things, but it rarely tells us what’s really important to people. It gives us indications and data on behavior, but often it misses what’s going on in a person’s heart, and it’s a person’s heart you want to win when you are trying to build a loyal clientele. There is still nothing like a conversation to turn data into wisdom. So I talk to people.

Inevitably, I find that the reasons people deal with, or don’t deal with a company or organization boils down to two or three things. And they are almost never the two or three things the organization think they are.

Knowing that, we can focus, not on a thousand things, but on the things that make a difference.

I find the same thing with my coaching clients. Contrary to popular believe, people who invest in personal life coaching are not failures trying to make it. They are almost always people with good, successful lives that want something more in their lives. And often, that something more involves simplifying life down to what is important.

It’s a harder process than you might imagine, getting to the place where we understand our life and our heart well enough to know what’s important. Much harder. But once THAT work is done, the work of actually getting to where they want is relatively easy.

It’s hard work. We fight a complicated, we have to have and do everything culture. We fight our own hoarding nature. We fight through the clutter. It takes time.

And it is so worth it.

For my corporate and organizational clients, simplifying inevitably means less stress, more productivity, and better bottom lines. For my design clients, simplifying translates into less stress (see a theme here?), more creativity, and better work.

And my coaching clients? Similar to my own experience, they find simplifying life brings them less stress, and more joy.

No one enjoys driving more than I do.  There is nothing to distract me in my simple old cars. I have less stuff in my life, which has translated into less to maintain, less expense, and less time just dealing with stuff. When I have a conversation with someone, I can be totally focused on them and the reward of that is immeasurable. When I eat, I savor. I have fewer clients, but I can take far better care of them than I did when I had hundreds of clients, which breeds extraordinary loyalty.

And when life goes berserk, as it always does? Then I am not already stretched to the limit when the crisis hits. I am better able to deal with the craziness. Did I mention less stress?

Simple is not for everyone. I’ve learned that. There are some who thrive in complexity, in crisis, on cramming as much activity into as small a time as possible. There are others who don’t want to take the time and deal with the hard work of true simplifying.

Why am I writing this? Because, if you are thinking about simplifying life, or yearning for a simpler life, I want to encourage you. No one’s life, and I mean no one’s, is more complicated than mine was a dozen years ago. Hard charging career. Active in church. A growing family. Big house and yard. A struggling marriage. Aging parents. Continuing education.

I got to simplicity the hard way. A divorce. Suddenly moving into a tiny apartment. Giving up my church leadership work. Deep, deep depression.

But as I worked through all that, I found the benefits of my simpler life. And as I emerged, I did not try to recreate my old life with all its busyness and stuff. I spent time, a lot of time, rebuilding something simpler, more in tune with what was important to me. And it’s paid off. Simplicity has become a tenet of my life, and it’s become a big part of my work.

And anyone can do it. If a broken guy like me can get there, so can you. Believe it. Begin. I’ll be in the background, cheering you on.

Be well. Travel Wisely,

Tom

PS – The picture above is The Relentless Cheerful Diner, which is just my name for it. The actual name is The Trolley Stop in downtown Poultney, Vermont.

 

 

 

 

Poem: An acute lack of straight lines

 

round barn

An acute lack of straight lines

There are no right angles here,
no straight lines.
If ever there were,
they have been ripped away
by age and storms,
by the earth shifting under it’s foundation
one time too many.

About this poem. 

Life should be simple. It rarely is.

The picture is of the round barn in Shelburne, VT.

Tom