Russell and Duenes

My Sons in Iraq, Skills Trump Passion, and Dallas Willard

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Apparently polling data shows that a majority of Americans are against any ground-based military action in Iraq. Doubtless the reasons for this are varied, but I’ll speak as the father of three sons. If my sons were of age and had served in Iraq in the last 10 years, or worse, if one of them had been killed in the fighting, only to be treated to our current President’s squandering of everything they fought for, along with his utter lack of vision or coherent policy for Iraq and the wider Middle East, then I too would be adamantly opposed to my sons going back there. Why throw their lives away in the service of a Commander-in-Chief who is so obviously out of his depth, and who would rather speak foolish bromides than carry out wise and realistic policies? Without a plan for gaining and holding a true victory over ISIS, any further American lives will be throw away also. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to have their sons put in harm’s way with Barack Obama in charge.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. That’s the title of a book by Cal Newport (see his “Study Hacks” blog here), and all by itself it gets me juiced to do excellent work in my vocation. And it really matters little what vocation it is. Go stock the shelves for Target and become so good at it that the higher-ups can’t ignore you. Load FedEx planes during the graveyard shift so well they can’t overlook you. Plan, scheme, ponder, experiment and work diligently and hard regarding the execution of your job, whether you’re a doctor, plumber, IT engineer, maintenance worker or ditch-digger. I’m a newbie to Cal Newport’s stuff (my wife has read much more of him), but from what I’ve read so far, there’s a lot here. I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life considering my “passions,” and it has really been of limited value. Frankly, if I were young and unemployed, I’d rather spend 40 hours a week working so well at McDonalds that they could not ignore me, rather than spending gobs of time in the quest for “my passion.”

In the first chapter of his book, Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard says: “The general human failing is to want what is right and important, but at the same time not to commit to the kind of life that will produce the action we know to be right and the condition we want to enjoy. This is the feature of human character that explains why the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it reality.” Of course, this does not explain all our failings as human beings. We don’t always want to do what’s right. Indeed, often we are quite set on doing wrong, and then rationalizing it as something “good.” Yet Willard’s sentiment describes my life very well. I seem to want what is right and important when it comes to being a husband and father, and yet so often that actions are not there. I respond with anger, impatience, indifference, sluggishness or distraction. My heart gets fidgety and anxious. I don’t turn to God for wisdom. I am not “producing the action I know to be right and the condition I want to enjoy.” Rather, I somehow want to just magically perform when the time comes. It rarely happens. What’s needed in my case, says Willard, is “to learn from Christ how to live [my] total life, how to invest all [my] time and [my] energies of mind and body as he did. [I] must learn how to follow his preparations, the disciplines for life in God’s rule that enabled him to receive his Father’s constant and effective support while doing his will.”



Written by Michael Duenes

August 23, 2014 at 11:21 am

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