The Lessons of the Moment

The lonesome friends of science say

The world will end most any day

Well, if it does, then that’s okay

‘Cause I don’t live here anyway

I live down deep inside my head

Well, long ago I made my bed

I get my mail in Tennessee

My wife, my dog and my family.” ~ John Prine

If you’re a fan of the late, great John Prine, you may know that the verse above is from his last album, The Tree of Forgiveness. If you don’t know Prine, you’re missing out on the poetry and wisdom of arguably the best singer-songwriter of a generation. 

When I first heard his “Lonesome Friends of Science” song, those mid-chorus lyrics: “I live down deep inside my head, [where] long ago I made my bed” REALLY resonated with me.

All my life, I’ve been more head-centered than heart-centered; more future-oriented, than in the moment. In fact, one of my consistent CliftonStrengths themes has been Futuristic: inspired by what can be. I’ve always felt that the future will be better than the past and certainly better than the present. 

I believe that strength, along with others in my Strategic Thinking domain, has made me a pretty good coach, where I’ve been able to energize others with visions of the future

The Lessons of the Moment

But my future-oriented outlook has often missed the lessons of the moment. And I’m realizing, I’m at a point in life where I’ve got less time ahead of me than I do behind me. So paying attention to the present moment may be of more value than looking toward a truncated future.

Living among expats — most of whom are “of a certain age” — we’re seeing friends who are experiencing unexpected disruptions in their lives. These disruptions are usually health-related, and range from the relatively minor to major, life-affecting issues.

My friend, Marc Miller, cautioned us early in our move here, that life in Mexico is experiential. We can’t apply the logic of north of the border to life here. 

This wisdom has served us well as we’ve scheduled home construction projects (“mañana señor”), transferred funds from U.S. banks to Mexican banks (configuring U.S. dollars to Mexican pesos), and dealt with bureaucratic issues like residency requirements. 

Frankly, the vagaries of everyday life here have been relatively easy to navigate. One learns as one goes along. 

But there are issues and experiences where it can be hard to be in the moment and to reap the lessons of that moment. These are issues that can completely disrupt our lives; throw us for such a loop that we can’t imagine how we’ll come out of it.

I’ve had a few of those moments in my life. Some have been career related: being fired by a person who I thought was a friend and colleague. Another was realizing that the career I had cultivated was coming to an end sooner than anticipated. On the personal side, a divorce and the immense financial challenges associated with it was a significant disruption (more like a series of disruptions).

All of these — and others along the way — resulted in incredible life lessons. One big one was to be aware of the “event” as it was happening and determine how I wanted to be going through it. This lesson enable me to have some control: the one thing I could control was my response to disruption.

What About You?

I know you’ve experienced unexpected life/career disruptions. Were you able to stay in the moment and extract the crucial lessons that guided you through them? 

What were those lessons?

How did you use them to guide you through the disruption?

Accounting for those lessons and being explicit about their impact may be just the biggest lesson we learn in life.

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