The April 20, 1953 edition of LIFE Magazine ran a feature on Californian Lawrence Wahlstrom and his “do nothing” machine.
Mr. Wahlstrom was a landscaper. He constantly gathered up discarded gears, shafts, bicycle chains, nuts, bolts, wires, and other pieces of metal. Each night after work he tinkered with his junk collection to create machines. These machines would eventually fill an entire room in his home.
When finished, he could flip a switch and send 3,000 gears and wheels whirring, lights flashing, and bells ringing. When reporters asked him what his massive machine accomplished, he’d answer, “It accomplishes absolutely nothing.” Here was a machine that worked very hard but got nothing done.
Over the years managers have looked at “Wahlstrom’s Wonder” as an analogy of how organizations perpetually operate in a “spun-up” mode and waste huge amounts of time and energy. Such organizations speculate on what direction their parent headquarters is taking them. And to prepare for “all contingencies” they stampede their work forces into a frenzy of activity to come up with all kinds of plans. Most of which will never be executed.
Courses of Action
We deal with this non-stop activity in the Army. A warning order (WARNO) comes down from higher headquarters that a certain operation is forthcoming, but no details are given. Then all our staff sections get spun up to produce an array of different courses of action – the majority of which will never be used. Now, the military can afford to spin itself up preparing for all sorts of contingencies. It’s part of our training – to speed up our reaction time when true emergencies confront us.
But when it comes to our personal lives, getting “spun up” over every challenge that appears on the horizon can wear us out. We know some change is coming—graduation, a new child, new responsibilities, a new job, a new location, a layoff, retirement, etc. But we don’t have any details on the new direction our “higher headquarters” (i.e. God) is taking us. So we get the irresistible urge to race ahead and prepare for all kinds of different outcomes.
We get ourselves spun up like Wahlstrom’s Wonder and create an array of different plans, most or all of which will receive scrapping. In the meantime we’ve worn ourselves out – as well as those around us.
Ask for Help
Wouldn’t it be far wiser and easier to talk to God who promises to direct our paths and open the right doors for us? Doesn’t it make better sense to pray for guidance and wisdom than to rush to failure? Why not go “straight to the Top” for help?
Don’t worry if the future looks blank or bleak. Place the future in God’s hands. “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Ps. 55:22). “Cast all your anxiety upon Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
“Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5–6).
“If anyone lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives generously to all people” (James 1:5). “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. By prayer and petition – with thanksgiving – present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all human reason will protect your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7).
Take to heart these words from an old hymn:
Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake,
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake.
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still my soul, the waves and winds still know,
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.
Dear Father in heaven, please take charge of my life and my future. You alone see what lies ahead, so please prepare me for what’s coming. Give me the wisdom and diligence to work as if everything depended upon me, but – most of all – to pray fervently as if everything depended upon You. Amen.
Information from http://www.craftsmanshipmuseum.com/Wahlstrom.htm