Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Lessons: Curtis Winkle

One of my favorite things about the musing carnival is that it gives me a platform to introduce you to some cool people. Over the holiday weekend, a few of my favorite people will share ten(ish) lessons they’ve learned over the past year. We’re not claiming to be experts. But these people are trustworthy because they walk around with their eyes open. They write things down and most importantly, they ask good questions.

I can’t think of a better guy to lead off than my friend Curtis Winkle, who leads a fantastic team of creative folks at a noisy, little publishing company outside of Oklahoma City. I’ve been around their office a time or two and have witnessed his leadership firsthand. Beyond just being a good boss, I can tell you that, after spending countless nights on his couch, he is an even better family man.

Mr. Winkle loves the written word and you’ll dig his thoughts below. Curtis has the rare privilege of allowing other people to tell their stories. For once, I’m honored to return the favor.

If you’re into thoughtful political discussion, English Premiere League soccer and great books, I highly recommend following Curtis on twitter. To find out more about his day job, click here. - Eric

Fine things are (sometimes) worth the price tag.

I’m admittedly a cheap person. I typically work with plastic pens, cook with supermarket-brand cheeses, and buy my clothes at Target. But this year I wrote on a nice journal, with a quality pen (a gift), and the experience was more pleasurable than I expected. So much so that it actually changed the way I wrote. I won’t start splurging on cheese just yet, but I’ve realized that sometimes when you pay for quality, you get it.

Parenting is not for cowards.

My wife and I were blessed with our fourth son this year, and as we worked through this transition as a family, I was reminded again of how much care and attention children need, and how self-serving I really am. In my house someone always needs fed, changed, engaged, played with, broken up, or hugged. This leaves little time to bow at the altar of Curtis. The broad road, the natural one, is this: grow frustrated, yell at my children, argue with my wife, wallow in my misery. The narrow road, the spiritual one, is this: die to my self, keep my eyes on the big picture, pray for grace and patience, and be consistent in both discipline and affection.

I have wretched penmanship.

I mean awful. Part cursive, part print, sometimes all capitals, sometimes all lower case. I’ve made a resolution for 2012 to write at least one letter every week to work on this. Handwriting is a skill fast being replaced by typing and coding, and I’d like to do my part to keep it alive.

I can affect change.

I can sometimes put up mental barriers and believe there are things in my business, my family, or my church that I can’t change. But, as victories this year have shown me, the reality is if I do my homework, frame my proposals well, strike the right balance of respect and assertiveness, my ideas can be embraced, and I can improve the world around me. The only real limitations are the ones I impose.

MRIs are terrifying.

I lay flat on my back, strapped to a plastic bed. “We’ll see in you thirty minutes,” said the nurse. The bed lurched backward, sliding me headfirst into a tube just about wide enough for my torso. I closed my eyes. Then opened them. The gray plastic casket stared back, five inches from my nose. I pressed the panic button she had generously provided. Several pep talks and a Xanax later, I slid back in and they got their photos. If you ever have to have one of these, take my word for it: swallow the pill first.

Growing up is good.

Through a book club on Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood this fall, I was challenged to put away childishness—in my thought life, language, behavior, even my dress and tastes—and to appreciate fully the experience of adulthood. Activities that have taken me much time and energy this year—studying scripture, reading thick books, debating big questions, cooking and eating more complex foods, attempting to get into classical music—have also proven the most rewarding and brought more richness to my life and mind.

Making things with your hands is intensely satisfying.

Inspired by a good friend, I began making bread this year. It began with sandwich bread for my family, and since then I’ve tried my hand at apple-cinnamon, chocolate yeast, sourdough, and honey-wheat loaves. At a time when as many as ten of my sixteen waking hours are spent at a computer, handcrafting something physical has proven a great joy.

The end is frightening.

Not that “end,” but the end of a project. Sometimes I (and often my clients) have a project I’ve been working on for months, even years, and I like working on it, I like to romanticize it, grumble about it, and say I can’t wait to finish it…but I don’t. Because if I finish it, I will have to subject my creation to the opinions of others. Frightening indeed.

There are many parallels in parenting and managing a staff.

Both children and staff members need you engaged in what they’re working on. They need to be recognized when they do well. They need to be developed so they can grow in their understanding. They need a long-term vision painted for them. And they need to test their boundaries. They need to do as much as permitted, and at times cross those lines. And like a shepherd I must be faithful to reprove and guide them back to safety.

God’s power is manifested in my weakness.

When I have been unfaithful, he has taught me faith. When I have been unwise, he has supplied wisdom. I can only boast in this: whatever good I’ve accomplished this year is because of Christ’s sanctifying work in me.

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