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The Reward of Untangling

There were two big plastic tubs full…. of tangled lights.

You know… the kind where it looks like someone removed them from the tree, dumped them in the box and then stirred vigorously with a giant spoon to make sure they were good and mixed!

The task for Tricia and me?

Untangle, test and then use them to decorate four huge Christmas trees that will grace the auditorium where I attend church for the next month.

If you watched my Friday’s Perspective last week you know my view about live versus artificial when it comes to Christmas trees. (If you missed it, you can click here to watch.)

My experience a few days ago with the four fake ones further validated my position that I’ll take the struggles of real any day!

Since I’ve never put together an artificial tree what I discovered is that you have to literally straighten and “place” every limb on every branch in an effort to make it look uniform and… real.

Talk about TIME consuming.

Several of the trees were pre-lit at some point but those bulbs had long since shed their last light…

What that meant for us?

We had to pay attention to the non-functioning lights to determine where we should place the ones that would light. And even with the lights ON as we strung them, we still couldn’t always tell how well we were doing.

To do that, we had to get off the ladder and back up.

That perspective (25 feet away) revealed the holes.

So, I stood at the tree on the ladder and Tricia directed the hole-fillage: “Up a bit to the right. Over and down to the left.”

(More in a bit on an “ah ha” revealed the next day.)

But when I was home stringing garland on my stair rails later evening the light bulb lesson about what we had just done… went on.

How many times when we’re in the thick of a situation, problem or project are we too close to see the real issue?

An obvious solution escapes us because our perspective is one of being too tangled in the forest to see the trees.

And yet, heels dug in, we’re convinced that our vision is 20/20 because we’re so intimately involved in the details.

I hear examples of it all the time:

· the manager so focused on completing the important project, concerns of the people are missed

· the organization’s leader waded down in the weeds of minutia fails to see she’s the bottleneck

· the rogue, uncommunicative team member is clueless to the stress he causes by not following the agreed upon process

But all believe that they are in tune, on board and fully engaged.

The truth is…. they may be, but they’re too close to see that their lights are tangled.

From time to time we ALL need help to be able to take a step back and raise our nose from the grindstone so we can see the holes we’re inadvertently creating and…. leaving.

But to do that requires a big dose of…. humility.

Being willing and able to ask:

· What am I missing?

· Where am I missing it?

· What do you see from your perspective?

“The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.” ~ Thomas J. Watson

Sounds so simple…. step back and ask the right question.

Then why don’t we do it?


We want to create the illusion that we’ve got things under control and know what we’re doing… because after all, we’re in the thick of it!

Oh, to be able to embrace the wisdom of Richard Thalheimer, “It is better to look uniformed than to be uninformed.”

My other “ah-ha” revealed a day later?

Both forearms were covered in red scratches…from contact with the tree limbs I was straightening.

Creating something beautiful comes at a cost.

It’s true with Christmas trees…. and with people.

But the reward of experiencing the moment of awe when both are fully lit (trees with lights and people with understanding) gives meaning and purpose to the time spent untangling.

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