Posts Tagged 'wisdom'

Winning Combination

lighteningteampartnership

Tom Brady wasn’t a superstar in college. And nobody knew who (coach) Bill Belichick was before they got together. What about: Ben and Jerry. Warner Brothers, Hewlett and Packard, Jobs and Wasniak, Click and Clack. The Wright Brothers. Larry Page and Sergy Brin. The cast of Top Gear or Friends. Simon and Garfunkel. Rush.

All were (or are) great together. Winning combinations.

Here’s another kind of list:

  • Stephen Duffy (Duran Duran)
  • LaTavia Roberson/LeToya Luckett (Destiny’s Child)
  • Michael Dempsey (The Cure)
  • Dik Evans (U2)
  • David Marks (The Beach Boys)
  • Doug Sandom (The Who)

Do you recognize those names? They’ve pretty much been relegated to answers to trivia questions.

History is filled with great partnerships and teams. Groups of people who came together to do something special that the same individuals couldn’t have accomplished on their own. Their power together being greater than the sum of the parts.

Finding a winning combination is magic, like catching lightening in a bottle.

When you find a winning combination, I would encourage you to pursue it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same one your whole life. But it’s so important to see the power in the combo – the team. You can go to new heights, together.

Choosing Battle

battleeyelens

I enjoy playing and watching sports, particularly basketball and football. I enjoy the skill and competition, though I could live without the macho testosterone driven parts. Nevertheless those moments when things really heat up can be revealing.

I remember watching an NBA game one night where the Timberwolves’ player Kevin Garnett, whom I love, and is a respected battler on the court, found himself facing off against a player on another team (I don’t even remember who it was anymore). Kevin’s unintentional body language in that moment revealed even through a wild swinging punch he threw that he did not want to be engaged in that fight. It was so obvious to anyone tuned in to that sort of thing. But of course he had a reputation and pride to uphold, so he went through the motions.

Character is revealed in the heat of battle. Do we really want to be there, or would a quiet escape suit? Do we push through and do our duty, in spite of the risk and fear?

Examine your internal monolog as you read and think about this. My guess is it’s probably coming from a moral orientation. You see failure to step up to the plate as morally wrong, and a shortcoming.

That can be true, but if we get off of our moral high-horse for a moment, we can also understand that everyone has certain things worth fighting for. We just don’t all have the same ones. Sure, some have a higher predisposition toward fighting, but every man can be a coward if he doesn’t believe in either the cause or his chances of winning, or at least saving face.

It’s too simplistic to view character through the polarized lens of black and white, of you have it or you don’t. Character is more nuanced. What is a person’s character telling him or her is the right thing to do? Amazingly, someone could be doing a thing that we feel is immoral, but is actually consistent with that person’s character and view of the world or situation, and not wrong.

Oh, but it is so hard for us to accept this, because we’re so programmed. And we have our own agenda.

 

The Opposite of Success

shortwaybestway

More linguistic stuff here. Common sense would say that failure is the opposite of success. What if you look at it a little differently? Let’s take “failure” and all its baggage out of our vernacular for a moment. Now, what is the opposite of success?

Lack of success? What is that really? We have not succeeded. We haven’t achieved the intended goal. But what have we done? Is it a dead end? Game (life) over?

What if the opposite of success is growth?

Make the leap of faith here with me for a minute and really try it on. If the opposite of success is growth, then how does that make you feel about trying things? What context does it put the risk into? What does it do to the fear?

 

Impressions are (nearly) Permenant

“But what will I tell my people?”

Once someone makes a decision about something subjective, it’s almost impossible to persuade them that they were wrong. Not just because it’s difficult to really be ‘wrong’ about subjective things, or sometimes to even quantify them, but because you’re no longer asking them to remake the first decision, you’re asking them to admit an error, which is a whole other thing.

Compounding this, we often make it awkward for someone who is trying to come around to be embraced, largely because they are hurt that they were rejected in the first place.

The opportunity is to encourage them to look at new information and make a new decision. Give them the story they need to rationalize the change. “Well, I know I said X, but that was before she/he/they listened to me and changed…”

Step two is to celebrate the newcomer, not to dredge up their past positions and wave them in their face.

New Information

newinformation

What do we do with it? New information likely means it’s time to consider or evaluate change, which is often more difficult than it sounds.

To some people, it means admitting you were wrong.

But of course, you weren’t wrong. You made a decision based on one set of facts, but now you’re aware of something new.

To some people, sunk costs are a real emotional hot button, and walking away from investments of time, of money, and mostly, of commitment, is difficult. Add a moral component to this and the weight of change can get dramatically greater.

But of course, ignoring sunk costs is a key to smart decision making.

And, to some people, the peer pressure of sticking with the group that you joined or reinforced when you first made a decision is enough to overwhelm your desire to make a better decision. “What will I tell my friends or family?” “What will they think of me?”

The moral component, if it’s really valid and not just something to hide behind to stay comfortable, is another issue.

A useful riff you can try:

Sure, I decided that then, when I knew what I knew then. And if the facts were still the same, my decision would be too. But the facts have changed. New facts mean it’s time for me to make a new decision. This is not done lightly, without regard for what I was busy doing yesterday, without concern for the people who might disagree with me. It is done because it is right and best for everyone involved that me and my actions be congruous with what I know now. My supposition is that once they realize these new facts, they would be likely to make the same new decision I just did, or to at least understand why I need to. If they truly respect, value and even love me, then they’ll give me the space to make this course correction.

This decision is more important than my pride.

Coin Sides

leaproadcoin

There are almost always (at least) two perspectives through which any situation can be viewed. Anger and hurt are two sides of the same coin. And…

They all have a degree of double-sided logic to them – an obviousness heavily influenced by perspective and context.

As you can see from the numerous links above, this has been an underlying theme throughout the soon ending timeline of this blog. So much of what I have written about reveals my personal view that what we see is a reflection of who we perceive we are.

Most points I have made along the way could be used to further some agenda I may have, or could just as easily be used to combat it. I have seen and understood this from the beginning, even though some have felt the need to point it out as if I am blind to the underlying implications (I welcome the engagement anyway). Over the next two days I will offer another example in two posts that show an issue from two vantage points. Nothing at all special about them. Pretty mundane actually, but want the readers to see them in that context from the get-go. There is usually a kind of truth that emerges, even though it looks different from the two vantage points.

The point is…we’re going to see and do things according to what makes us feel good. Or the least bad.

It’s entirely subjective, and a part of our programming, so debating over nature or nurture is almost a moot point, because it’s all just a form of programming really.

And even once we realize that, there still seems to be no escape. It is what it is. Or is it?

And this leads to another prevailing theme of this blog (I will spare you the numerous examples). What if we somehow muster the courage to make a leap? To do something so audacious it seems crazy. Then, from the new space of possibilities we created for ourselves as a function of living in the new paradigm, would our perspective change, at least a little bit?

You bet it would.

For the better? Would we be more happy or fulfilled? It’s really the wrong question. The question really should be, will we have learned something in the process that helps us hone in better on what’s right for us?

You bet it would.

And what of the risks? They exist anyway. Most people looking back say they wish they would have risked more, not less. There is some wisdom for you. Besides, you’re not totally alone. There is help around, but yes, in the end it’s pretty much up to you, which is why it takes courage, and the will to get over yourself.

Make the leap.

 

 

 

 

What’s under the Peak

buildingsmountainpeakI often hear young people (we’ll use the Millennial generalization for convenience) talking about and doing things to “raise awareness” on certain issues.

Raising awareness…

It makes total sense to them. They have good intentions, and want to see the world be a better place. They think the way to do that is to raise awareness about issues they see. There is a tendency to give a little to a large number of things because they confuse symbolic gestures with real commitment.

They see the peak. What they fail to notice is that it comes with a mountain.

They know something is missing in their lives, but living them out on social media distracts them enough to muddle through.

Raise awareness, the Millennial catch-all, so others can engage in the hard, grinding work to forge the change. Little real sacrifice. Little guts, and ultimately fleeting glory. They’re robbed of the serotonin or oxytocin producing parts, which leads to more loneliness and isolation. People need to do the hard work together. That’s how we’re wired.

Love and Respect

loverespectgirlboat

What are we supposed to do in life? Make babies? Be good?

Two of life’s most fundamental pursuits, apart from self-preservation, are to earn love and respect. Nobody ever told me this. Not religion, not school, not mom or dad.

It aint easy.

Love is often given to us, but the path to earning it can be elusive. Respect is just as complicated, though it may be a little less subjective. It starts, of course, by loving and respecting ourselves.

That’s tricky. Most of us aren’t as happy with ourselves as we often pretend. Self respect and love in ourselves is a lifelong pursuit. We never fully arrive, in part because we, more than anyone else, see our imperfections up close. So we seek the love and respect of others as validation — a kind of Catch-22.

Being good is a start. However, defining what ‘good‘ is can be awfully difficult when circumstances get complicated. You might be able to use as a guide what gives you love and respect from the people you care most about. But that’s a trap if you’re trying too hard to please them. They have their own agendas.

An artist trying to write a hit song will rarely succeed. An artist writing from the heart can catch the magic, and it just comes. Organic and pure, like good art.

This is why people say to follow your heart. So much stuff out there trying to dissuade us from that, but in my 53 years on this earth I can safely say that the ones who follow their hearts in general tend to be happier than the ones who try to follow the rules. It’s not an absolute, but the correlation is clear. And with that happiness comes love reflected back, because this is a person living true to and being honest with themselves. Just as imperfect as anyone else, but more accepting of what is, and more open to being in the moment and not clinging to things that no longer work.

Like a great song, it often seems to come to you when you aren’t looking for it.

The Marketing Drug

marketpharmasl

Every time I see my dentist he tries to sell me stuff. Various services they provide that will in some way (they claim) improve my life by addressing some shortcoming or concern taking place in my mouth. I never knew my mouth had so many problems!

I’m all for selling people on things that can help them take care, even if they are merely for pleasure or aesthetics (vanity), but like everything else, there can be a tipping point where we sometimes take it too far, or are too manipulative.

It reminds me of how food is marketed. The marketing has become so powerful that some of the people being hurt actually are eager for it to continue. This creates a cultural feedback loop, where some aspire to have these respected marketing jobs, to do more marketing of similar items. It creates a society where the owners and leaders of these companies are celebrated as risk-taking, brave businesspeople, not as the modern robber barons that they’ve become.

The cultural feedback loop can’t be denied. The NAACP, which represents a population that is disproportionately impacted by the health costs these products create is actually allied with marketers in the fight to sell ever more and bigger portions to its constituents.

The crime continues because the money taken by corporations that change our culture is used to fund campaigns that conflate the essential concept of ‘freedom’ with the not-clearly-articulated ‘right’ to respond to marketing and consume stuff in quantities that would have been considered literally insane just three generations ago. And we like it.

[I’ll write the previous paragraph’s point again here to be clear: we’ve decided that consumers ought to have the right be manipulated by marketers. So manipulated that we sacrifice our long-term health in the face of its power.]

We ban accounting that misleads, and we don’t let engineers build bridges that endanger travelers. We monitor effluent for chemicals that can kill us as well. There’s no reason in the world that market-share-fueled marketing ought to be celebrated merely because we enjoy the short-term effects it creates in the moment. Every profession we respect has limits created and enforced by society. These rules make it more likely we don’t race to the bottom as we cut those corners or maximize our profits.

The question is this: are you responsible for the power in your hands? If so, then we need to own the results of our work. If not, someone else needs to step in before it’s too late. No sustainable system can grant power without responsibility.

Just because marketing works doesn’t mean we have an obligation to do it. And if we’re too greedy to stop on our own, then yes, we should be stopped.

And don’t even get me started on the marketing of drugs. The pharmaceutical complex is as out of control as anything humanity has ever witnessed. It’s capitalism, and the battle is to win. At all costs.

 

Reasons or Excuses

newtonsreasonsexcusesflat

When something goes wrong we quickly build ourselves a narrative about it. The story we tell ourselves isn’t objective, and often doesn’t even mesh with reality in more than a cursory way. Let a little time pass and that story becomes the totality of the event. It includes our interpretation of the circumstances, rationalizations for what we did, how we perceive others behaved or reacted, etc. We develop for ourselves a reason that satisfies our need to make sense of it.

Reasons or excuses? What are they, and what differentiates these emotionally loaded terms? Culturally, reasons feel to us like valid explanations, whereas excuses feel invalid and lacking in accountability.

Let me give you some examples. Common excuses for why restaurants, or other businesses, fail include:

  • Our purveyors were cheating us
  • Our concept was too progressive for the market
  • The market didn’t appreciate good food
  • Our landlord was unreasonable

The list is much longer than these few highlights. There are as many excuses for failure as there are failed businesses. If a person were to take accountability for their decisions and their actions, those excuses could be seen as the real reasons for failure, and they would look more like this:

  • We didn’t know anything about negotiating purchasing, and ended up paying prices we couldn’t afford to pay
  • We didn’t research our market well enough to find out what the market wanted, so we ended up giving them what OUR idea of good food was, not theirs
  • We failed to communicate what made us special compared to the competion, and the market didn’t respond  – or – We didn’t realize that our market doesn’t have the same ability to notice quality that we have, and we were really banking on them realizing our food was better
  • We didn’t negotiate a good lease – or –  we didn’t learn enough about leases going in to be able to effectively negotiate a favorable one

Recognizing the lack of accountability in the first set relative to the second is the easy part. Culturally, we seem to lump excuses into a morally questionable realm, almost as if they are lies. Excuse, by definition, connotes an attempt or request to not be held accountable.

“I was late for class because I was held up by a train.” Assuming the statement is truthful, is it an excuse or a reason? As a statement of fact, it fits with being a reason. If there is an implied request to not be penalized in some way, then it starts to feel like an excuse. The moral attitude (with its limitations) starts to surface here: you should leave in time to allow for being held up by a train. Of course, what if the person did, but the train was unusually long? We don’t have to go far down these technical rabbit holes to see that the language and implied meaning can be broken. Suffice to say that they are contextual and judged in the perception of the speaker and hearer, who are not always on the same page because communicating the nuances thoroughly can be difficult and time consuming, not to mention emotionally taxing under some circumstances. Sometimes one party just doesn’t care enough to worry about it.

“I can’t.”  As I have written before, this is often code for, “I don’t want to enough.” Again, the easy ones are statements such as, “I can’t seem to lose weight,” or “I can’t make it to your important event.” The former feels like an excuse, even though we know there can be very valid reasons. The latter feels like it probably has a reason behind it. Thus is how culture and context drives meaning. The trickiness of the second example is often in the desire not to hurt people’s feelings. We dance around and make excuses, when the cold, hard truth probably is, “I don’t care enough about your event to miss out on the other thing I have to do.” Now it sounds even more like a reason (though not very tactful).

There are some things we simply can’t do in life, but most are choices we make.

“I can’t go out with you because I am already dating someone.” Most would be satisfied that this sounds like a reason, but is its really? The word “can’t” adds a weird layer of a lack of accountability, and therefor moves the statement toward feeling like an excuse, even if it’s deemed to be a valid one.

“I do not want to go out with you because I am already dating someone.” That’s closer to owning the accountability of it.

“I don’t want to go out with you because I believe that the risk of hurting the relationship I am in outweighs what I assess to be a very small chance I would be happier with you.” Or, “I don’t want to go out with you because I don’t feel attracted enough to break a date with this other person I like.”

Do you feel how these are getting uncomfortable? Excuses are often an (empty) attempt to keep comfort in tact by avoiding accountability. Reasons cut to the real truth of the matter.

It could also simply be, “I do not want to go out with you.” Sometimes what gets us into trouble is trying to provide a reason, and usually the reason is where it starts to feel like, and often is, an excuse.

Oh, but there is more.

Truth and trust become important currency when you’re in some type of valued relationship with someone. It’s easy to find ourselves caught between two valid concerns:

  1. I want and need to be honest with this person because…
    •  It seems like the ‘right’ thing to do
    • I want to maintain an assessment of trust;
      • It makes me feel good
      • I hope they will respond in kind
    • I believe it is in their best interest to know the truth
  2. I want to be dishonest with this person because…
    • I want them to feel validated, or not be hurt
    • I want to maintain the good feelings we have between us
    • I want to avoid conflict
    • I don’t want them to negatively assess me (as being rude or insensitive, a jerk, an idiot, etc.)
    • I believe it is in their best interest not to know the truth

You’ll decide to lean more toward one than the other, as conflicted of a choice as it may be. We can weigh it all out and try to do the least worst thing, but so much of what we often choose to do really boils down to our own comfort and desire to be liked.

An additional complexity of either of them is that sometimes the hearer just doesn’t buy it, and will believe you are operating in #2 whether you are or not. Now the speaker has lost the assessment of trust, the hearer is hurt, there are bad feelings, and potentially bad characterizations. Thus is the risk of the dishonest route, or is one of the nasty consequences of a weakness in trust and/or a weakness in the hearer’s self-esteem. It could also just be a misunderstanding or faulty assumption on the part of the hearer. In either case, now the tables are turned (insert dramatic music here). Now it is the hearer who must decide between #1 and #2. He can call out his concern to the speaker, or he can move along quietly with the bad feelings. Let it go, or ferret the truth out of it? Tough choice with the same pitfalls.

So this just turned into a post about how vital communication is between people who care about each other. It’s about how we have to accept the flaws in communication, the mistakes we make, and to a degree even the flaws in each other that lead to these mistakes. We need to give the other person grace, to empathize with how difficult it can be to parse through it all to find the right balance on the continuum between brutal honesty and smarmy validation, or between letting the other person save face versus the value of holding them accountable, all in the unavoidable context of our own comfort.


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