Friday, March 27, 2009

Vision and chaos

Among the key elements of my father's network of enterprises are the fixer-upper houses which he rents out. As soon as my brother and I were old enough to be of use on these construction sites, Dad would take us along.

I hated the messiness of the building process. The floor would typically be littered with drywall chunks. Shattered roof tiles sat in piles on the front yard, and sawdust was sprinkled over everything.

When it was all done, though, with everything cleaned up, I felt accomplished for having been a part of bringing about the final outcome. It was more than easy to forget the messy process that brought about the end result: forgetting was automatic. It actually took me conscious effort to remember what it took to get there.

While I was in the thick of it, it was discouraging to see the mess in front of me, because it just didn't seem possible that everything could be made right again. All I saw was a seemingly intractable mess. My father, on the other hand, never seemed fazed by it. His vision of the end result was not clouded by temporary worry because he was certain of what we were working toward. He saw things not as they were, but as they should be.

Over the years, I learned to embrace the temporary mess, provided there was a plan and a vision for building something beautiful from it. Still, this sort of unflinching confidence doesn't just come at the flip of a switch. It took many messes and subsequent turnarounds to deeply ingrain this kind of optimism in myself. Even now, I need a conscious and intentional self-reminder not to be overwhelmed when confronted with a seemingly insurmountable task.

The boy knows he is a man when he can see not only what is in front of him, but what he's going to make of it.

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