Monday, October 6, 2008

Lift Where You Stand

Before I begin...Lori, your comment made my day.

There have been three speeches given in the history of the world that have changed my life. The first, delivered to the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910, came from Theodore Roosevelt. The topic was citizenship in a republic and what it takes to be a good citizen. From this speech comes the oft-quoted selection, “The Man in the Arena:”

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I will never forget that. While I may not always be the man IN the arena, I am always fully aware of where I stand in relation to the arena. Sometimes I’m a spectator. Other times I’m the imported albino tiger being repeatedly shield-bashed by the loincloth-clad gladiators. Maybe I’m the pickpocket outside or the dude selling various meats on a stick to the audience. And occasionally I really am the one IN the arena, striving, succeeding and erring.

The second was the last lecture given by Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University, laying out a framework for following your childhood dreams. I’ve blogged about Professor Pausch before so I’ll refrain from beating dead horses. Here is the old post.

The third speech was given this past Saturday at the evening priesthood session of the general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I purposely avoid church-related subject matter. Seriously So Blessed houses the holy grail of LDS-centered satire and standard mormoblog parody. I’ll happily let the monopoly rest there and do my own thing. But Dieter F. Uchtdorf delivered a talk entitled “Lift Where You Stand” that spoke to my soul.

He began the talk recounting an experience he had in moving a grand piano from one room to another. We’ve all had experience moving awkward and heavy furniture, oftentimes through openings that have no business allowing, say, a couch to pass by. The group actively moving the couch is always comprised of the same four guys. First, there’s the guy that owns the home. He’s just so happy to have help moving into the house that he refuses to offer suggestion for fear of offending the helpers. Then there’s the engineer…the guy that thinks he is smarter than the other three. “You know, given the dimensions of the available opening, minus the mass of the casing, the natural angle of the couch suggests a counter angle of 39 degrees blah blah blah.” Additionally there’s the muscle man. He’s the guy that knows that “engineer” is just another word for NERD. If you want this couch through the door, you just have to push really hard. And finally there’s the quiet guy that lets the nerd and the jock fight it out, softly snickering all along, then finally suggests taking the feet off the couch or the door off its hinges, which was clearly the right idea in the first place. Elder Uchtdorf’s experience was similar, involving a big heavy awkward object that was difficult to move. And finally, the quiet guy suggests, “brethren, just stand close together and lift where you stand.” The simplicity in this statement was beautiful.

He went on to talk about people in the church organization that are “seeking a crown, or a cave.” Too often there are people in the church that are upset with their current responsibility. There are those that see their job in the library as a complete waste of their ability. These are the crown-seekers…constantly trying to climb that hierarchical ladder. Then there are those that just want to be left the hell alone. They see their job in the library as a nuisance. Instead of welcoming opportunities to serve, they turn them down or do as little as possible to do the job well. These are the cave-seekers.

The aim of the talk was to inform church members that the grand piano cannot be successfully moved if everyone involved is either looking to lead or hide. The function of the church is dependent upon everyone accepting their assignments, and simply lifting where they stand.

But "Lift Where You Stand" can be applied to every aspect of life, not just church. If I look too intently on future opportunities and promotion in the workplace, I could lose focus on my current responsibilities and my performance would suffer. If I ignore the crown and lift where I stand, I will perform and naturally move toward the crown. Instead of looking at the successes and economic position of my friends, I should evaluate where I am in life and buckle down. The crown can wait. Hard work where I am will naturally lead to success, which in turn will put me on the path to the crown. Even something as simple as getting in shape applies. There is no sense in expecting Matthew McConaughey’s body. That’s a blindingly bright crown that could crush my girthy frame with its jeweled mass. If I just focus on swimming every other day and eating saltines instead of brownies, then eventually I’ll earn my crown. It might not be as ostentatious as Matt’s, but it’s still a crown. Besides, Matt talks funny and I could beat his ass at Guitar Hero. And Fool’s Gold SUCKED.

The three speeches that impacted me so deeply all have common threads. Don’t avoid life. Get involved. Work hard. Live in the now. I see the irony here….these are all things I struggle with. But I’m firmly committed to live my dreams, get in that arena, and lift where I stand.


jacksonx03 said...

Your blog is always an interesting read, in fact my mom has linked over from my blog to yours and has become a lurker of Tyler's oddities. My dad and I were just talking about Prof. Pausch today. I want to put a little rock climbing wall in the basement and I kind of thought maybe that was too extreme but my dad used the example of Pausch drawing on the walls and said "that's what houses are for." So, I am going to do it!
Amy J.

krissy said...

This was pretty funny! I am actually giving a lesson on the talk "Lift Where You Stand" tommorow and I love how you described the guys moving the couch, so true! I found some great info on where that quote actually came from. So, are you LDS but don't like to quote it too much or just came across it and liked his talk?

Tyler said...

Hi Krissy! Good luck on your lesson. I would comment on your own blog(s) but you haven't posted in a while. I am LDS (young men's president) and gave a lesson on this talk as well. It went over great with the kids.

All the best!

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