Today’s post is the featured article from the July 2010 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

john-newIt’s not the summer I expected. Or planned for. Blindsided. On June 2nd, I had my second retinal detachment in six years. Yes, this time the “other” eye.

I didn’t exactly attend summer school for the last two months … but I did learn some things. It was my own “silent alarm.” I would have never chosen it. Nor did I like it. But I certainly didn’t want to “miss” it. You know … the lessons that come with any challenge if we choose to see them. Actually I would have preferred to hit the snooze and just gotten back to normal … whatever that is!

I was simply reminded of some things, saw some old things in new ways, and learned some new things. I don’t share them because they are profound insights. In fact, I hesitate to share them at all … for fear you may think “That’s it? That’s all you learned!” But, I’ll take that risk … knowing they simply are what they are. And just to minimize the risk, let’s pretend there were too many lessons to list here and so I just picked a few … for that holds some truth too!

1. What we anticipate would be our worst nightmare … usually isn’t.

After my first retinal detachment, six years ago, people would ask me if I was scared to death about losing my vision in that eye. I would always tell them that I was amazingly at peace through the whole ordeal. But I would always add, “but if something happens to my ‘other eye’ that would be my worst nightmare.” Six years later it did. It certainly came as a shock, but it was no nightmare. It was just my next experience. You reach deep and carry-on. It is not easy, but it is usually not the nightmare we anticipated either.

2. We do much more work than we need to do to create the results we actually need to create.

A week after surgery, my retina specialist, told me I could do a “few” things for work. (So glad he did not actually quantify “few”!). The truth is … I could only do a little. When you can only do a little … and you are trying to run a business … you pick very carefully. I am convinced we are doing way too much … with often meaningless results. And it comes with a huge cost. We incrementally keep adding on the pile, rarely deleting enough. If you only had 25% of your current capacity, what would stay and what would go? Not only work, but relationships. When you are forced into that reality … the answers become clearer. Why wait for the reality? Take the opportunity to do it anyway!

3. Some things you just can’t rush. You can only set the conditions for them to develop.

Retinal detachments are one of God’s lessons in patience. I guess I must not have learned it well enough six years ago. You can’t rush your vision back to clarity. It is a very slow process … especially when you want to see again. A dear friend once shared with me a lesson from her grandfather … “nothing good happens quickly.” We live in a world that wants immediate results … immediate satisfaction. I would suggest the most important and wonderful things in life don’t happen quickly. It’s true in meaningful relationships, it is true in great companies, and it is true with regaining your vision. It’s also true that if you patiently wait, you will appreciate the final results all the more.

4. It is amazing, when you are forced to keep your eyes closed for several days … what you will see!

There are so much visual stimuli in this world … more every day. I am convinced that our vision sometimes blinds us to what we really need to see. It often keeps us distracted from what is real. It certainly keeps us from what is real important. Ironically, it makes things blurry. If you look within … it becomes clearer what you can really do without. It is no wonder we make bad decisions in business and in relationships. Try closing your eyes … and look around.

Most importantly, I learned to deeply appreciate the kindness of so many people who reached out in so many ways. I have especially appreciated the prayers of hundreds of people as far away as Australia. They have reminded me, most, that you are never alone … which is why it was not the nightmare I thought it might be.