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Week of 7 April 14: The Lessons of Growing Older

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I didn’t think of myself as “older” until a couple of years ago.  Yes, I look at the calendar and it says I was born in 1950, and yes, I have people working for me that were born in 1990.  But by and large, I have successfully ignored the inevitable.  And I plan on largely continuing this way in the future—warning, you young whippersnappers—this is not a retirement column.

To the lessons, though.  I have found as I have gotten older that in many ways the world has gotten simpler.  This seems paradoxical, doesn’t it?  For surely on a macro level the world has undoubtedly become more complex in the past seven decades, and I would indeed agree that it has.  Yet, on the personal level, that is most of the things we reach out and touch every day, it has not.

Form, fit and function are the most important criteria in the things I touch every day.  Dimensions, governed largely by simple arithmetic, are very important. It doesn’t take calculus to make me happy.  For instance, proper air pressure in the tires on one’s automobile is critical.  Yes, you can impart several layers of discussions in physics on this topic, PV = nRT easily comes to mind, but at its simplest, it is a dimensional problem.  You look at your tires, or the warning light on your dashboard, and notice a dimension needs to be corrected—the rim of the faulty tire is too close to the pavement.

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Many problems in life fall into this category.

Now, one might say that problems whirring about in computers and over the Internet are not dimensional problems, but they are at least form, fit and function problems.  A creaky website is the result of poor coding, for instance.  A shaky Internet connection may actually be a nearly broken wire (but it doesn’t have to be).

However, if you really want to see how simple life is, study a dog (or perhaps a cat, but I am a dog lover and I am writing this column, so we will stick with dogs).  I have always loved dogs.  I think they may be one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind. 

When I was young and immature myself, I tried to impart human qualities on dogs, subconsciously. In other words, I assumed the way I thought about things was the way dogs think about things.  Not true.  It is more likely that the way dogs think about things is the way we should think about things.

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A dog is simple.  First of all, it does not worry about growing old, for its calendar concept is no more than one day long.  We should think the same way (except when we are planning a capital project—there you need a rigorous schedule).  Think about how much useless worrying humans do because they know (a) when they were born and (b) when others were born.  Dogs don’t have this problem.

A dog is rigid concerning the daily schedule.  Our dog, Fred, is so particular about the daily time schedule that you really don’t need a clock.  He even drags me out of my office at 6 p.m. if I have not left it earlier. He sets the bedtime, the wakeup time and several other key times during the day. Fred will tell you if you are off schedule, at least by his standards.

Dogs are opportunistic.  Taking Fred for a walk, it is an adventure of discovery.   Yes, he wants to change routes on each walk, for he knows many paths from our home and gets bored if you always take him on the same one.  However, once out on a walk, the main organ of discovery is his nose.  Lots of investigations start with a sniff.  What are these investigations about?  They break down to three simple things: food, friends and enemies.  Well, then there is the selection of a place to have a bowel movement—Fred is very particular about this.  That’s all there is to it.

When my wife and I talk about Fred’s health, it usually is a simple discussion.  Is he eating, drinking and having regular bowel movements?  He does have some back problems, but they are an ancillary discussion to the main topics. 

So, why do we make life so difficult?  If you think about it, mostly our own inventions complicate our lives.  Fred knows nothing of fine dining (he does like peanut butter and syrup on bread, however), iPhones, alcohol, drugs, money or television.  He cares not what he wears, although he will tolerate a coat (chosen for its style and color by us humans) in cold weather. 

Life is simple.  Why isn’t yours?  You can answer this question in our quiz this week.
For safety this week, we can say safety is simple, too.  It is often our assumptions or attitudes that get us into safety trouble.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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business, energy, environment, Georgia, industry, Jim Thompson, life lessons, mill, paper, people, pulp, safety, success, technology

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