Tag Archives: bob goff

Fast Away

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“You can’t be open to new opportunities if your life is full.” – Bob Goff

I grew up in Arkansas but moved away with my wife and daughters twenty-one years ago this month, and it was obvious that we entered a new world when our move coincided with “Mardi Gras break” in our new hometown.

Everyone has heard of Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday,” the colorful spectacle of parades and beads and general losing of minds associated with New Orleans, but it is a cultural phenomenon across the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. And if you don’t live there, you might not realize that it is this week.

Everyone has heard of Mardi Gras, but having grown up in a small town with very little contact with the Christian calendar, I did not understand the point of the party until I moved in next door. Fat Tuesday, the day of indulgence, precedes Ash Wednesday, the day of fasting that marks the beginning of the season of Lent.

Although I grew up in a very religious environment with a strong emphasis on the Bible, the biblical practice of fasting was practically invisible to me. But I have grown to understand its great value.

We can talk food, of course, which anyone who has attempted any measure of self-control with food can appreciate, but fasting can refer to anything one chooses to do without. And we could all use some help learning how to give something—anything—up. In the workplace, I have heard it said that it is just as important (and possibly more so) to have a Stop Doing List next to your To Do List.

What do you need to stop doing?

Habit is powerful. Try breaking one, and you’ll see. But try flipping it on its head and develop a habit for stopping things. This is the week when the Christian calendar asks us to consider such a challenge.

If the Horse Is Dead, Dismount

“If the horse is dead, dismount” may be my all-time favorite saying, partly because it is all eat up with cleverness, but mostly because there seems to be a lot of us still attempting to ride dead horses. Author and Pepperdine friend, Bob Goff, famously quits something every Thursday, which may be my favorite thing that he famously does. Many of us apparently need permission to stop doing things, so the encouragement is appreciated.

We come by it naturally. We were all taught that quitting is bad, and as long as we’re talking about finishing out a season in little league or performing acts of physical hygiene, then yes, quitting is bad. But if we are talking about, say, repeatedly slapping one’s head against a brick wall, or name your favorite drug habit, then quitting might not be a terrible idea at all.

Those distinctions are easy, but we apparently get a little confused on the acceptability of quitting somewhere between regular brushing and smoking crack.

Organizations may actually be worse than individuals at dismounting dead horses. Organizations run on established programs and processes that, once established, become prime evidence for the power of inertia. Such programs and processes should not be changed lightly, of course, but if “this is the way we do it”—with emphasis on “the”—becomes an excuse to keep doing something that quit working a long time ago…well, someone should call the horse coroner.

Look around your life and your house and your workplace to see if there just might be some things that you mindlessly keep doing for absolutely no good reason. If so, I grant thee permission to quit. You can wait until Thursday if you want. The horse is over it either way.

Choose Sanity

My high school buddies and I had great fun with the imagist poetry phase of William Carlos Williams. Wow, that makes us sound so intelligent. Instead, we were clueless teenage boys with no appreciation for anything resembling culture who simply made fun of the poem in our literature book about a wheelbarrow and chickens.

Now, in my mid-forties, well, not much has changed.

But in my advanced years I do at least make an effort. Each morning when I arrive at the office I read a poem from Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, and a few weeks ago I stumbled across another popular poem from Williams’s imagist phase:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I still think Williams was smoking something.

Regardless, the next poem Keillor shared was a reply to Williams from Erica-Lynn Gambino:

This Is Just To Say
(for William Carlos Williams)

I have just
asked you to
get out of my
apartment

even though
you never
thought
I would

Forgive me
you were
driving
me insane.

Gambino is my kind of poet.

Other than abstaining from your roommate’s frozen plums, please know that this is not an attempt at relationship advice. Instead, I’m aiming at a little life metaphor here when I ask: Are you willing to remove from your life the things that are driving you insane?

I’m not sure about you, but my life is filled to the brim with countless responsibilities, information overload, and myriad relationships, just to name a few major categories. It is more than possible that life can be so full that it explodes like a balloon, leaving an awful mess to clean up—unless, of course, we cull a few crazy-makers along the way.

My guess is that none of us are super hot at giving up the things that drive us nuts—as crazy as that alone is to admit. Author Bob Goff famously quits something every Thursday. I think he is on to something.

If you want things to start looking up, lighten the load by getting rid of some stuff that drains the life right out of you. Even if it isn’t Thursday.

(And, regardless, be careful around plums.)