Monday, May 18, 2009

There is never a lack of time, only a lack of faith


I learned this lesson over 20 years ago when I wrote case studies for the Darden Graduate School of Management at UVA. My friends would respond whenever anyone asked me what I did for a job that I wrote term papers for a living. And they were right. Writing case studies is like research term papers due every few weeks, loads of fun collecting the data from interviews with C level folks at the company plus hours at the library ferreting out industry data to put the company in context. And then hours and hours of organizing, formatting
, creating tables and writing prose to bring the case to life and thread the pieces together.

There was this one case in particular that was both intriguing and overwhelming in information, facts and figures. It involved Ohio Arts who makes Etch A Sketch and their decision to license the Disney image of Mickey Mouse to create a younger version of the old standard toy where Mickey's eyes would move when the child turned the drawing knobs. I was under deadline as the CEO of Ohio Arts was scheduled to visit the school in a few weeks to hear the students debate the finer points of his dilemma, to renew the license or not.

It came down to the wire, the last night before the editors needed the final draft so they could do their magic, get it printed and distributed in time for student consumption. I sat down that night with only 10 hours left before the 8 am submission deadline. From writing about 15 of these puppies I knew that I had easily, 40-50 hours of work in front of me before the case would be ready for prime time. I was so overwhelmed that I didn't know where to start. I would pick up one stack of facts and then decide no, better start over here with this stack of interview notes and back and forth and back and forth accomplishing nothing!

I decided that I needed to center myself or this constant back and forth would sap all of my energy and not a word would be committed to paper. So I put my head down on the keyboard in front of me and prayed. I stated out loud that I couldn't finish this case alone and that I needed help. That there was not enough time to complete the task and that it would take a miracle and help from a miracle worker to finish it on time.

I was then very still and I let the calm of something other-worldly wash over me and then I heard it. As clear as if someone were in the room, the words came to me, "there is never a lack of time, only a lack of faith." So simple, so poignant, so matter of fact that all I could do was acknowledge the truth in its simplicity.

I sat up and immediately found the exact opening statement flowing from my fingertips onto the computer screen. Every fact or figure or quote that I needed presented itself to me as if it had surfaced from amongst the disarray on my desk on command. The words flowed, the story unfolded in a way that I almost felt like an observer in the movie that was the writing of this case study. I finished with an hour to spare, time for a quick shower and a cup of coffee before I headed to campus to meet my editor.

The case study was finished on time, the students came to the same conclusion that Ohio Arts did (they canceled the licensing deal) and the case study was voted as the student's favorite for that academic year, Etch A Sketch Meets Mickey Mouse. Even the title was inspired. When I read the case later, it was a work of brilliance, one that I don't remember participating in. But more importantly the case was an important lesson in the arena of faith. I have found that time isn't the only thing that we perceive is in short supply.

This simple truth applies to anything we think is in short supply - money, love, abundance, jobs, hope. I have now had an experience of what this looks like and when I remember to apply those wise simple words, the situation transforms itself right before my very eyes. The truth of the situation is that the process or the outcome may not look exactly the way we envisioned it, but whatever needs to happen will happen in the time, money, job or love allotted. And if we get out of the way it will always be better than anything we could have imagined.

There is never a lack of money, only a lack of faith.
There is never a lack of love, only a lack of faith.
There is never a lack of hope, only a lack of faith.
There is never a lack of jobs, only a lack of faith.

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