Shake It Up and Find Capacity

A Lesson from the Sandbox


He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. — Muhammad Ali

As you saw on Monday, it was a great weekend at my house. What made it so great was getting to spend some quality time with my youngest grandchild.

In the article that I published on Monday, there were several things that I observed while playing with him in the sandbox. While playing, I saw a couple of leadership lessons emerge as we played together in the sand. They are worth expanding on a little more and that is the intent of this article today.

Remember, our little sandbox is set up for the grandkids to play in when they are around. it is a typical sandbox and the filling, flowing, emptying of sand from container to strainer to container caused me to think about leadership in ways that I was not expecting.

Shake it up to get more in it

My youngest grandson was diligently trying to fill a red plastic duck with sand. The duck is actually a watering pitcher for a window garden. But on Saturday, it was an integral component of a major sand filling production. He would take a little shovel and try to get the sand into a round hole on the top of the duck’s head. After many little shovelfuls, he had it completely full. Or so he thought. All it took was a gentle shake and the sand began to settle and fill in a few air pockets. Seconds later there was now more room in the duck and it was not even close to being full. So, we filled it up again. And I jiggled it again. And the sand settled again. And we filled it one more time.

What is the leadership lesson?

Sometimes we think we have reached our limit or come to full capacity. But, if we just shake ourselves up a little bit and establish some new habits, we will be able to take on a little more load and increase our individual capacity. I don’t advocate this approach to all aspects of life all the time. But we rarely reach our true capacity the first time that we think we do.

Chuck Norris, of Walker, Texas Ranger fame, says this.

I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish.

One of the biggest obstacles that we face is the obstacle of “capacity.” We often think that we have reached our limit and that we have no more capacity to do anything. We are exhausted. We are done. We feel that we just can’t go on.

There is probably no one who understands this feeling than young parents. Little children, although a tremendous blessing, can make us feel like we just can’t cope another minute. We feel that if we have to answer “Why?” one more time our heads will explode. And I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to be a single mom today.

What can we do to increase our capacity?

Here are a couple of quick ideas that can help you accomplish more than you are able to do right now.

Keep Some Kind of “Day-Timer” System — If you have no idea of what you are supposed to be doing and where you are supposed to be doing it, then you can’t accomplish what you need to accomplish. Much has been written about using a tool like this and most of it is excellent.  If you need help identifying a tool and a system, reach out to me and I can help you find the right one for you.

Schedule Everything — Yes, everything. Schedule quiet study or reflective time for yourself. Schedule time with your spouse and your children. Schedule your work and personal stuff on the same calendar so that nothing gets dropped and time is allotted for everything.

Embrace and Use Technology — Consider a Skype meeting rather than driving across town. Then, redeem that time that would have been spent in the car for something more productive that will help you accomplish your goals for that day.

Unplug at Some Point in the Day — Technology is great. But we can have too much of it and it can encroach on our lives. Find some time in each day to unplug your technology and plug in to your family.

Make a Decision — Sometimes we can’t get anything accomplished because we are just paralyzed by the decision process. Just make a decision. Unless lives really are at stake, make a decision and begin to execute the decision. Nothing gets done while we sit around and think about what we are going to do. Things only happen when we actually DO something.

In closing, here is a bit of wisdom from Mark Twain to encourage us to find ways to increase our capacity and accomplish something in life.

There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.

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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.