Sunday, July 4, 2010

Life's Lessons

Have you ever noticed that people say, "Hey, wait a minute!" a lot when you deliver to them some news which is startling or otherwise impactful?

There's a reason! When we are faced with something unexpected, our natural response is to ask for a brief timeout as we consider the consequences of that event.

This is a wonderful lesson to learn: when faced with a challenge which is new or puzzling or causes severe brain cramping, first pause.

We each have two different systems which deal with the stimuli coming into us. One, the autonomic, processes things as close to the source of the stimulus as possible. Thus, we don't have to think about jerking a hand away from a hot stove--the nerves themselves create that jerk-your-hand-away response. No thinking needed.

When we are brought into a situation where the stimulus is less emergency-like and more a challenge to our cognitive brains to puzzle over, we have the luxury of deciding how much thought to devote to the issue and for how long.

Here's where experience comes in.

Once you have been through this event-processing procedure a few thousand times, you develop habits. With any luck, the habits are based upon what has worked for you in the past. It doesn't have to be that way. Some folks base their habits on what gives them some juice. In other words, they respond in a way which has, in previous occurrences, boosted their ego. That's fine, but it can easily result in a less-than-satisfactory conclusion when the attention is paid to ego instead of toward growth.

Let's say you are mature enough to see when your ego is doing its best to steer you one way, while your experience and considered thoughts take you another.

You will have learned that, all things being equal, your best decision is made as late in the game as you can make it. It's not about procrastination or inability to decide. It's about optimizing the amount of information you have in your hands upon which to base your decision.

Coming to this awareness, the acknowledgement that patience is rewarded, is usually not easy. Younger folks actually have brain function which includes their emotion centers in virtually all decisions, while folks over 30 tend to employ those areas of the brain less when the event under consideration doesn't warrant it.

It's no mystery, given the known physiological differences in brain function, that teenagers tend toward emotive responses, and their grandparents tend to smile ever so slightly and nod, and say something like, "It's not the end of the world. Next year, you won't even remember this crisis."

Where we are going in this little talk is to the place named Patience.

Patience is something which is qualitative and quantitative. There is a quality to the patience of the old person, the willingness to wait in peace, which is absent for most people who are younger.

Just as illustratively, folks who have been on the planet a long time tend toward being okay with awaiting an outcome, even if it takes a long time.

How does this apply as a life lesson for those who are just now beginning to ask questions about life?

It may not apply at all, as all advice from folks who, like me, are older than your parents and full of advice yet seldom find a willing and attentive audience, is subject to tossing.

On the other hand, you may read this and think, "Huh. There may be something to this."

For those of you who have had that thought, think it again, and then again. If you let it sink in even a little, it will help you a lot.

The inspiration to begin this new series (more info here as each post is born) comes from Abubakar Jamil, and thanks to him for being my Easy World agent even if he has never heard of it!


Angela said...


Good grief, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get over here and catch up with you. You've been quite the busy writer I see and what a wonderful message and delivery. I'm going to honor your request and put the previous post up on my blog in the next few days. I'm right there with you and thank you for giving voice to that which can be difficult to express. I will also be replying to the e-mail you sent me. Happy 4th of July to you and Julia. I hope you have a really good day.

Rick Hamrick said...


I'm so happy to see you here!

We did have a fun, quiet-except-for-bagpipes-and-fireworks day, wonderfully mild for Denver (the 4th is often one of the hottest days of the year, but not this year!).

We went to see fireworks, but the weather was uncooperative--really windy and spitting light rain.

We were at my sister's home, though, so we were dry and happy as we waited to see if they would do the show or not.

Just as we were about to give up, the sky burst into light over their house and we hustled outside to watch.

A whole ton of "Oooooh!"s and "Wow!"s later, we made it safely back home and called it a night.

Thanks again for stopping by, Angela!

Preeti @ heart and mind said...


I am glad I found your blog through Abubakar's life lessons series.

You do have wonderful way of explaining patience and life lessons. Thanks for sharing.

Rick Hamrick said...

Thanks for the kind words, Preeti, and feel free to stop back again.

Farnoosh said...

Rick, please don't think that all people who are younger do not care for the advice of those who are older and wiser. I do value the advice from people like you especially on a topic such as Patience, one I struggle about but less so each year....THANK you for doing the Life lesson series. I am working with Abubakar on an ebook based on this and we are thrilled to have your contribution!