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Oct 8, 2008

Time to Be Quiet

Popular author and speaker Ken Blanchard sometimes tells a powerful story about Red, a corporate president who, as a young man, learned an important and life-changing lesson. Red had just graduated from college and was offered an opportunity to interview for a position with a firm in New York City. As the job involved moving his wife and small child from Texas to New York, he wanted to talk the decision over with someone before accepting it, but his father had died and Red did not feel he had anybody to turn to. On impulse, he telephoned an old friend of the family; someone his father had suggested he turn to if he ever needed good advice.

The friend said he would be happy to give Red advice about the job offer under the condition that the young man takes whatever advice he was given. "You might want to think about that for a couple of days before hearing my suggestion," he was told.

Two days later Red called the man back and said he was ready to listen to his counsel. "Go on to New York City and have the interview," the older man said. "But I want you to go up there in a very special way. I want you to go on a train and I want you to get a private compartment. Don't take anything to write with, anything to listen to or anything to read, and don't talk to anybody except to put in your order for dinner with the porter. When you get to New York call me and I will tell you what to do next."

Red followed the advice precisely. The trip took two days. As he had brought along nothing to do and kept entirely to himself, he quickly became bored. It soon dawned on him what was happening. He was being forced into quiet time. He could do nothing but think and meditate. About three hours outside New York City he broke the rules and asked for a pencil and paper. Until the train stopped, he wrote -- the culmination of all his meditation.

Red called the family friend from the train station. "I know what you wanted," he said. "You wanted me to think. And now I know what to do. I don't need anymore help."

"I didn't think you would, Red," came the reply. "Good luck."

Sorry, I don't know if he took the job or not. But Blanchard reports that, years later, Red headed a corporation in California. And he always made it a policy to take a couple of days to be alone. He went where there was no phone, no television, no distractions and no people. He went to be alone, to meditate and to listen.

The French writer and Nobel Prize winner André Gide reminds us to "be faithful to that which exists within yourself." But how can we be faithful when we don't really know what is inside?

The answer for me is to be quiet. To still my mind...and to listen.
I'll soon know what to do.

-- Steve Goodier

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