One of the great things about working at Quakerdale is the investment that our leadership puts into staff at all levels. One of the ways that occurs is through reading books and having discussions with co-workers about how we can make improvements in the areas that are outlined in the book. The Present is a book that we recently went though – it was a very quick read, but had some significant points that were made through the story’s fable. Spoiler Alert – I am going to tell you what the Present is, so keep reading at your own discretion.
The Present has a fable that is the main part of the book, but is bookended by how others introduce the fable to others and use it in their lives. In the fable, there is an old man who gives out wisdom, much like Yoda, a little bit at a time to a neighbor boy as he is growing up and through adulthood. He lets the young man know that there is a Present that everyone can have that will make them happy and more successful, however they define success. The young boy doesn’t understand what the present is and for a long time believes that it is something that someone would give to him. Once he becomes a young man in the business world, he is passed over for a promotion that he expected, even though he did not put in the necessary work. He also has a girlfriend who breaks up with them during that same time.
Through introspection alone in nature, he discovers that the Present is actually the present moment. If he is continually focused on the future – what he will do later after he gets off work, when he get the promotion, after he is in a committed relationship, etc, rather than what he is doing right now, he is distracted and not in the Present. By focusing on what is happening right then, he is able to enjoy doing what he needs to – including doing tasks he put off because he believed them to take too long or be too difficult. He was more attentive to those around him and was able to enjoy relationships more.
After a while, focusing on the Present only got him so far and other conflicts arose. He was working with another person who wasn’t pulling her weight, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get it done by himself on time. He returned to the old man and learned about the impact that the Past can make. The old man suggested to him that he learn from the Past, apply it to the Present, and then move on. The young man went back and addressed his concern with his co-worker, who made improvements to her performance and they were able to work better as a team.
The young man was doing well with learning from the Past and focusing on the Present and he received promotions and increased responsibilities. With the increased responsibilities, he had difficulty prioritizing and he sought out his mentor. The old man talked about planning for the Future – by planning for the Future, the young man did not need to be anxious or overly-focused on the Future. He needed to come up with short term and long term goals to keep him on the right track and engaged in the Present.
Eventually, the old man died, and the young man went to the visitation. He was surprised to see how many others the old man had impacted – there were people of all ages there. After some reflection, the young man realized that the old man had lived his life with Purpose – he was trying to “help others become happy and successful” (pg. 74). The young man then began passing along what he learned to others around him.
Here is a great video that also paints a picture of the book:
The Present has several good ideas on ways to focus on the Present, learn from the Past, and plan for the Future and is worth the time to read. While the book does not delve into spiritual matters, I believe there are ways to incorporate what God tells us. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NIV
When we are anxious about the Future, we can remember the following passage: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34 NIV
How we define success is an individual decision, although God, through the Bible, gives direction. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39 NIV. By focusing and being Present for our lives, we can better do what we’ve been instructed to do in the Bible. How many times have we missed a chance to focus on God in the Present, being thankful for all He has given us? When have we missed an opportunity to serve others because we were so wrapped up in the Past or the Future, we missed what was right in front of us?
Johnson, S. (2003). The Present. New York, NY: Doubleday.