So I know I have been a little sparse these days... and I suspect that will pick up again soon. To get us back in the game the following is a piece I wrote as part of an application. It fits the theme a little bit here, so I thought I would share it.
"Words to live by. The words that ring in me. The mantras that remind me of the right path. Some days I repeat ‘Be Present’. Other days I must channel Daniel Burnham and “make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir a man’s blood.” The intersection of these two ideas provides a compass for my life.
The first of these thoughts became clear in my mind five or so years ago. Having traveled over half the country to be with my brother on the weekend of his birthday, we were out together catching up. I felt anxious, insecure, and over the course of our dinner I saw what was causing my mood. His questions were not pertinent. His answers to my questions were not relevant. Although I have often tried to appreciate his busy mind, at that time I asked that he adjust it to ‘Be Present’ with me in that moment. His absence affected how we related to each other. I understood, then, how important it is to ‘Be Present.’ I never want to make anyone feel irrelevant by not paying attention or not taking an active part of the moments I spend with them, whether in conversation, in action or in silent stillness.
Being present gives me context. There is perspective to be gained in absorbing everything you can from the moment. It’s easier to understand my place in the world when I see how things are placed alongside me. Listening and observing my own self just as I observe others helps me to see how things fit together and make guesses as to why. Only by living in the moment am I able to experience the nuances that give the people and issues that I care about depth.
I cannot be stuck only in this moment, though. Forward momentum is ultimately what allows me to set goals. I derive that momentum from a quote from Daniel Burnham, architect and Chicago city planner, “make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir a man’s blood.” Daniel Burnham had a vision for Chicago’s potential. His foundation and plan, made public around the turn of the century, still provide the principles for the city’s ongoing development. Burnham’s vision was an urban community where all residents had access to the nature that surrounds the architecture of one of the greatest cities in the world; the lakefront to the west, the plains to the south, the forests to the north, and the rivers that cut through the middle. Chicago has long had a reputation of corruption and elitism yet amidst all that, Burnham gave the best parts of the city to all people. It’s those big plans, and visions that make an impact on the world.
The full quote explains what turns vision into reality. Plans are just the beginning. Action is what makes the mark.
“Make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir a man’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.”
My objective is to live in a balance of these two thoughts of presence and plans. From time to time one may need to advance and hold up the other, but both must be strong in order to move me forward with purpose. ‘Be Present’ has held significant meaning at times when I needed and intended to notice the details of the moment. The whys and hows that are easily missed by thrusting this moment too soon into the next. It’s critical to absorb as much as possible and, if appropriate, engage before moving on. This allows for more informed decisions, not always less emotional, but ones that will hold their truth after the moment is past.
Making plans may seem to contradict being present, but I feel a full and meaningful life is lived in the place where these two meet. In order to improve the world the big picture is paramount. Here is where one needs the other. If I am only present in this moment and do not make the grand plans the impact is limited. If I am always in the planning stage, one or ten steps ahead, the connection to reality is lost. Implementation in response to a need, or to head a need off at the pass, can only be effective if rooted in an understanding of the present tense.
I may never achieve the precision of that balance, but the journey itself is significant. I will always strive to take what I learn from this moment and apply my skills of leadership and organization to implement big plans. This is the way I can give something to the world in a way that will return the gift I have been given. That is, the blessing to experience all the amazing things this earth has to offer and help those around me take part in this gift as well."