Defending Margins

TAGS: family dinners, family relationships, white space, personal identity, create space, margins, marriage, discipline, Mark Dugdale, weakness, strength

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As a business owner, when I hear the word margin I immediately think in terms of profit margins. If you can relate, you probably read the title of this article and thought I was going to delve into how to defend your margins to ensure the success of your business. Margins are important, but you don’t take percentages to the bank; you take dollars. But I digress.

This article isn’t about margins in a business sense. I want to touch on an entirely different margin which hopefully exists in all of our lives; margins that apply to life and to lifting. Before I climb onto my soapbox and you exit this page, know that I’m writing as much to myself as I am to you. So what margin am I referencing?


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If you look at life like a book whereby each page is a day in your personal story, how big are the margins? There’s a reason publishers don’t run the words from binding to the outer edge of the page, because it becomes difficult to focus on the narrative or the concept at hand without some white space. It seems we live in a day in which busying ourselves until we fill our margins is a badge of honor. We fill it with work, technology, entertainment, and you-name-it. Busy, busy, busy and we miss the narrative of our own life. I’m as guilty as anyone. So what’s the solution?

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Build Defenses

Men suck at this. Call it the alpha male in us or our ego, but it seems most guys (myself included) think more in terms of offense than defense. I think this mindset traces its origin to the fact that offense entails playing to our strengths, while defense requires acknowledgment of our weaknesses. You don’t build a defense to protect strength; you build it to protect and guard a weakness. Guys hate owning their weaknesses, which is the first step in building a defense.

I’m weak at keeping my margins clear. I’ll fill them with work-related activities to the detriment of my personal relationships. Here are several practical defenses I have put in place to help guard my margins:

  • I put a bullet in the head of any hobby which didn’t include time with my family.  Yes, I sold my motorcycle because I couldn’t take my bride and three daughters on rides with me. My primary hobbies include snow skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer because these activities we can all enjoy as a family.
  • Date night happens every week. Bi-weekly or monthly dates with Christina had a way of getting forced out of our schedule for various reasons, therefore date night occurs every Saturday night. It’s part of a weekly routine to avoid going weeks or months without being intentional with my bride. Without margins you can kiss a healthy, vibrant marriage or relationship with your significant other goodbye.
  • I spend time around men who I respect and can learn from weekly. This happens every Tuesday morning in a local coffee shop at 7 a.m. Yeah, that means on Tuesday’s I get up at 4 a.m. to go train legs to make this happen. Why so early? Because meeting with these men at 7 a.m. takes away all my excuses.  I have nothing going on at 7 a.m., so if I don’t show up it’s on me.
  • John Meadows programs my workouts. I trained for nearly 20 years without guidance, so why solicit his assistance? I don’t want to minimize the genius in which John employs training techniques, but that’s not the primary reason I work with him. John’s programs for me are a defense mechanism. The 12-week programs serve as a guide to ramping volume, rotating exercises and manipulating intensity techniques. They serve as a margin on my training page. Without that margin I would fill the page in my overzealousness for training and end up injured. I know this, because I did it before working with John.

Create Space

Defenses help create space. Without the creation of space in which to engage, you’ll miss important opportunities with your loved ones. My weakness is working too much, but yours might be scrolling Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat. How much time do you spend flipping through feeds in a day? The answer might shock you.  Sure, you’re physically present, but you’re checked out.

We are the most entertained generation in human history, yet things like family dinners teeter on the edge of extinction. Statistically, families who gather for dinner (minus the cell phone scrolling) raise children who are less likely to be overweight, who perform better in school, are less likely to participate in risky behavior, and generally enjoy better overall family relationships. Not a bad tradeoff for turning off Netflix, working a little less, and putting the cell phones away for 30-60 minutes.

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Misplaced Identity

Are you overly astute at identifying weaknesses in others? Perhaps it’s because you view everyone as competition because your identity is too closely linked to your personal performance. You compare everyone and fail to celebrate other people’s success or strengths. I believe making room in your margin is linked to your identity. If that identity isn’t set upon a solid foundation, we tend to cram the margins to prove our worth.

On the heels of the creation account in the book of Genesis it says, “God rested.” We could take that at face value and say that he needed a nap, but I think that’s missing the point of God resting. First of all, God set an example by resting for mankind who might be prone to filling their margins. It’s one thing to dictate to someone, but it’s another to be the example. Resting means that the world won’t come crashing down without you working. Take some time to breathe and leave some margin on your page. It’s okay, really.

Conclusion

In the highly technological age in which we live, a billion things compete for our margins. The challenge set before you and I involves building defense to guard our margins, thereby creating space in which to rest, knowing our identity won’t falter without us pushing 24/7. Don’t miss the narrative of your own life. As one of my favorite preachers once said, “Discipline more than desire determines destiny.” You might possess a desire for white space in your margin, but only discipline will make it a reality.

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