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Routines: How Can Dave Teach Us to Gain Freedom?

His name was Dave. Dave was a participant in our lives at time affectionately referred to by Mrs. Swaim as “the hall of the horribles”. You see, in chiropractic college, housing was in short supply and expensive. Renting out rooms in your home or apartment, to perfect and imperfect strangers, was a financial necessity. And a good move. Most of the time. And we had some characters. Dave was a character.

Dave was in his early 50’s, recently separated, wore a poorly constructed toupee with the seam in plain sight, and drove a corvette. I don’t know if this in and of itself constitutes a mid-life crisis, but if that doesn’t tip the balance, the chronic, weekend and sometimes mid-week karaoke, to “woo chicks”, might be the kicker. Like I said, Dave was a character.

Dave flew jets for Hewlett-Packard out of Silicon Valley. He would glue on his toupee, hop in his corvette, and head south to San Jose to report for work. He would board an expensive corporate jet and fly executives up and down the coast to meetings and to their homes. He frequently flew into Colorado as well. All in a day’s work. It all sounded rather glamorous to me. But Dave liked people. He got bored easily.

So, what did Dave do?

Yep, he would set the controls, leave the cockpit, get a cup of coffee and enjoy chatting with whomever was aboard.

Dave used the same preparatory routine on each and every flight. These routines of flying, of checklists, are non-negotiables with pilots. The redundancies built into those checklists, made flying the jet, to Dave, a no brainer. True, Dave was the pilot, but really the plane did all the flying. Dave just checked and babysat the system. The system, the autopilot, flew the plane. And This gave Dave enormous freedom. Most of Dave’s decisions were made in advanced.

Most of us don’t make great decisions on the fly (pun intended). Better decisions are made in advance and made into a routine.

And that is the point. That whatever and wherever we can automate, routinize, or engage our personal autopilots, we should. This allows freedom. The freedom that we experience from this work, the work of building a routine, is one that requires diligence and constant refinement. And it is important work that only you can do, because it is yours. Think of your routine as your employee. And in a Right-to-Work State like Idaho, you have the power, the freedom, to create and direct and fire any routine that is not serving you well. Routines, autopilots, allow important work to take place and helps to minimize the urgent. Dave performed many important checks, routinely, but rarely did he do anything urgent.

Consider this quote:

What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” D.D. Eisenhower

Dave did the important stuff, routinely. It was built into his job, the system.

I can almost hear you saying “Hey, doesn’t that make Dave a robot? Doesn’t that deprive him of his volition and creativity?”

Actually, the opposite is true. Dave had the freedom to interact with humans and enjoy conversations with executives, hardly a robotic process. Dave had the certainty that comes with a well-crafted routine. How much more relaxed could he be? He could fully engage life because the systems of his work, the ones he knew so well, were well laid out. He wasn’t thinking, he was living.

And living is critical to your health and well-being!

What in your life can you automate? What can be made into a routine that allows you greater freedom?

Start with something small, like automatic bill-pay, then go from there. Keep finding things that can be auto-piloted. You are still the pilot, just let the plane, the system, do the work. And be sure to fire the ones that don’t serve you. Enjoy the freedom that follows.

I think that when you take the time to do the important work of developing and refining routines, you will spend less time being urgent. And that is healthy indeed.

I don’t know for sure, but Dave must have had a killer routine for putting that toupee on and keeping it there, because I never saw him without it. Like I said, Dave was a character.




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