Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. It has also come to be used as a term referring to the mental, physical, emotional, intellectual, and even spiritual capacity required to deal with a situation. In this episode of Calibrate Life we discuss how to gauge, manage, and increase our bandwidth.
This week three things have happened that have caused us to really question our bandwidth. First, our travel schedule is both exhilarating and exhausting. Second, Africa is beckoning with ever increasing intensity. Our involvement with leaders in Africa continues to grow in remote engagement. Third, this podcast takes a lot of time to do with excellence, and we began the day questioning whether or not we have the bandwidth to do all of the things we are trying to do.
We’ve talked a lot about stress thresholds in previous episodes, especially as it relates to the grief process. When you reach your stress capacity you start shutting down. We have to keep our stress levels beneath our stress threshold.
Bandwidth is about how much stress we can handle. It is about how much we can accomplish with the resources we have, both internal and external.
Last week in episode 138 we talked about managing energy and used an analogy of ink cartridges. Printing is done with just 4 colors of ink mixed in various quantities; cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK). The color in the picture will be “off” if any of those colors are depleted. With bandwidth, the analogy is looking at the ink levels, making sure there’s enough ink in the cartridges to do the run, or making sure you have enough cartridges to keep replacing them or refilling them until the job is finished.
Jesus called it “counting the cost.”
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Luke 14.28-30 ESV
Do I have enough bandwidth for what I am taking on? Do you?
What Limits our Bandwidth?
Wiring and Hardware Accommodates Greater Bandwidth.
Connectors, cables, memory, and processing speed limits bandwidth. Media files that are larger than the bandwidth can handle. Thin 30 year old copper wire designed for an analog phone signal accommodates a fraction of the signal of fiber optics.
Our neighborhood was built in the early 1980s. Utility wires and cables were all underground. A couple of years ago a company came into our neighborhood, dug trenches and holes throughout the neighborhood, and installed fiber optics. Neighbors complained on social media about the trenches and the digging in the right-of-ways. Fiber optics, despite the complaints and opposition of select neighbors, exponentially increased our bandwidth.
Bandwidth comes down to how we are wired.
What are our stressor limits? How much stress have we been exposed to and how much resistance have we built up? Do we have a positive or a negative outlook? All of these things determine our capacities.
Growth and Expanding our Networks Increases Our Bandwidth.
In 2008, at the age of 48, I applied for and began a graduate degree in Organizational Leadership and Coaching. I recognized and realized the need to stretch and be stretched.
How Can We Compensate for Limited Bandwidth?
Streaming media files makes it possible to utilize media while the full file is downloading. The entire file takes a long time to load but the media is immediately accessible.
Streaming reminds me of faith. I cannot do the entire task right now, but I start by faith. I can take the next step and by the time I get to successive steps, my faith and perseverance will increase. We do the first things at hand while developing our capacities for the harder things to come later.
Right now, we are doing a lot of “streaming.” I have no idea how a lot of things are going to work out on this great God adventure. What will we do with our stuff—I don’t know, we haven’t come to that yet. How will we make everything work—I don’t know we haven’t gotten to that yet.
What we need will come when we need it. We have counted the cost, but we cannot know everything. You just have to have a positive faith that things will work out, you will figure them out, and/or God will help you when you need help.
Increasing the Bandwidth.
We increase our bandwidth by reading, continuing education, coaching, mentoring, listening, networking, learning. These things not only bring new revelation, but they can rewire our hardware and increase our capacities.
- We increase our spiritual capacity through gaining new insights and revelation.
- We increase our emotional capacity through emotional stressors.
- We increase our physical capacity through stressors called exercise.
James says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1.2-4 MSG
How Do We or Should We Honor Our Existing Bandwidth?
Again, dealing with what we can handle and liming ourselves to what our capacities can handle.
We (David and Donna) are on the edge of our bandwidth. Fundraising challenges, physical challenges, getting a little older; and, add to that lots, and lots, and lots of new leadership opportunities, and all of them are fantastic shiny objects.
The hard part of living, leading, and loving are the things we sacrifice or let go of in order to lay hold on the more excellent thing.
How Can We Measure Our Bandwidth?
Identify and learn to read your dashboard.
The dashboard of your car, or your airplane, if you have one, has gauges or instruments that constantly inform you of your capacities and vital functions. One quick glance at your dashboard tells you exactly where you are in regard to your capacities and their relationships with each other.
Your capacities are not isolated, they are all interconnected. You can sometimes draw from one to aid another, or you can wreck one while trying to over compensate for the other.
Respond and adjust according to your gauges.
We decided to watch ALL of the Star Trek episodes. I’ve only randomly watched them and a couple of the series I’ve never seen at all. We started with the original series, moved to Star Trek: The Next Generation, and we are on the third season of Voyager, which I’ve never seen at all. We’ve been working through them for at least a couple of years now.
A couple of series wide common occurrences: Diverting power from other functions to either power the warp drive or the shields. A couple of times they even diverted most of the life support resources to the warp drive or a containment field or something mission critical. Hey, a ship only has so much power and if you are running from the Borg, you need all of it devoted to speed.
You CAN pull excess strength from another area to strengthen a weak but critical area. You CANNOT pull strength from another critical area to its long-term detriment.
Every system has its own capacity and demands.
In the short-term, look for ways to temporarily divert resources from a strength in order to regroup and raise the level of a weakness.
We faced a situation where the nursery ministries were in the tank and it was killing the church. We pulled from the strength of our broad leadership team and diverted some of everyone’s focus to the nursery for a season to give us an opportunity to make it stronger. We couldn’t do that forever, but everyone was willing to give some of their energy to the critical need for a season because we had a plan to lift it in those few months so it was not a permanent commitment.
In life, sometimes we take a strength and burn through it in order to compensate for a weakness. We crash when we “redline” our emotions or our physical health to constantly compensate for something this is just beyond our bandwidth.
For long-term health, we have to build and grow our capacities to increase output, not just rob from other vital systems until we destroy them.
Honestly, one of our concerns, and we’ve talked about it several times is whether the time and effort it takes to do this podcast is taking resources that are needed to fuel the efforts that we must expend in funding the mission to which God has called us. Sometimes I feel like Scotty on the Enterprise trying to squeeze out just a little more power for the warp core. We remain committed to this podcast, but it is stressing the system, so the answer is to spread out everything we are doing, look at all the gauges, decide where we can and cannot pull resources, and determine how it all works in a healthy way.
This is life, this is calibrating our lives against God’s standards of creation and wiring.
Identify your gauges.
An airplane has a lot of gauges on its instrument panel. Here’s five critical gauges for a pilot.
Airspeed, because air has to move over the wings fast enough to give it lift. If you go too slow you stall and go down.
Atitude, because it tells you your relationship to the horizon. It’s easy to get disoriented in a plane, and particularly if visibility is zero. Are you going up or down? Are your wings level or tilted.
Altitude. It measures your height above sea level, and might I add that it is important to know the altitude of the ground as well.
Vertical Speed. How fast are you going up or down? It measures the rate of climb and descent.
Heading Indicator. You know, we might get so wrapped up in the wonders of flight and instrument panels that we forget that the purpose of an airplane is to take us where we want or need to go. A heading indicator doesn’t seem all that fancy, but without it the airplane loses its primary purpose.
What are the Gauges on Your Dashboard?
Think about your gauges. Our Calibrate360 coaching framework has 6 related to personal transformation and capacities. You’ve heard us talk about them before.
- Spiritual Life (Your spiritual capacities and health.)
- Life Passions (Your emotional capacities.)
- Resources (Empowerment, finances, etc.)
- Relationships (The health of key relationships.)
- Life Development (Your intellectual development, capacities, and strategic growth.)
- Life Practices (Your physical actions, habits, and practices.)
What if you actually drew out a set of six gauges and marked on the gauge where you are in that life function? Are you in the green zone, the yellow zone, or are you redlining? It would be great if we could open our iPad and just check an organic set of gauges as a diagnostic of our overall health.
Take a moment to gauge, or rate on a scale of 1 to 10 your well-being in each of those 6 areas, then simply answer why you chose to rate that area as you did.
- Can you draw some energy away from a strength into a weakness?
- Can you “stream” and just manage smaller amounts over a longer period of time?
- Consider the long-range and how you might actually increase your bandwidth in that area. What would it take to grow and increase a given capacity?
Identifying your gauges and learning to read them will help you manage and increase your bandwidth.
Your gauges may not be the same as ours. Half the fun is identifying your own dashboard. What are the functions and capacities important to you, to your mission, to those you love and lead? What does health look like to you in each of those areas? How will you track and think about those areas?
How’s your bandwidth? Are you in over your head? Are you trying to do more than your capacities will sustain? And finally, which one will you work on today?