Breaking The Machine

A friend of mine told me an interesting story that was useful to me--I thought I'd share it. 

Early in his career, my friend worked in a manufacturing plant--on an assembly line.  It was challenging work, and he struggled in the beginning.  He wasn't sure he was going to be able to do it.  He was trying to match his pace to the pace of the machine, but he just couldn't keep up with the machine.  

But as he looked around at the old-timers working at their stations, he noticed something remarkable.  They weren't having any trouble at all with keeping up with the machine, because they weren't working at the pace of the machine--they were working faster than the machine.  They had developed their skills to the point that they were always way ahead of where the machine was.  

When he set his goal to be faster than the machine rather than as fast as the machine, the skills he needed to be successful in that job soon developed.

We all have a daily routine--a machine.  Too often we work at the pace of that machine.  We know what we've got to get done in any given day, and we've set our pace accordingly.  And when something slows us down, and our pace isn't quite as fast as the machine, we start to fall behind.  This causes us tremendous stress.  The machine is working at the same pace it always does, but we're behind, and every time something unexpected slows us down we get further and further behind.  

When I started seminary studies, I got a lesson in this concept.  The weekly reading requirements are intensive.  For one class, the reading alone usually takes 5-6 hours per week.  In the beginning I'd set aside an hour a day to read, and take Sundays off.  But inevitably, something would come up during the week, and I'd find myself days behind in the reading and unprepared for the class.  That's because my "machine" was the weekly class schedule--the minimum.  

When I set my daily reading at 2 hours an evening instead of one hour, I was done with my weekly assignments a few days after class usually, and if something came up, I wasn't behind.  But the real discovery was when I realized I didn't have to stop when I hit that weekly machine limit.  I just decided to read two hours for that class every evening except Sunday.  If something comes up and I miss an evening, I don't worry, because I've usually finished all the reading for a class at least a couple months before the class ends.  I set the pace, and I set the pace faster than the machine.   

The machine is not the problem.  The problem is our pace is too slow--we've trained ourselves to move at the daily minimum.  We've set our pace to the pace of the machine instead of setting the pace ourselves.  That limit isn't real.  We always think that machine is running too fast, but that's because too often we're just trying to keep that machine fed, instead of getting ahead. 

~Todd E. Creason