Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Impatient King

One cannot be duplicitous in diverse environments. 

I used to play basketball during lunch on Mondays and Fridays each week.  I really enjoy playing basketball, however, really didn’t enjoy some of the folks that played during this time of day.  The same guys show up religiously each week and behaviors are as predictable as owing the government taxes.  One guy in particular irritated me in such a way that I decided it best to no longer play with this group.  I just didn’t want to be around this type of behavior, especially from grown men that I expected maturity out of.  On a random occasion I was out with a buddy of mine and we ran into this guy who was by generally decent at the time.  My friend walked away with stories of how this guy is such a good guy except on the basketball court.  I remain skeptical of this ideology that behavior in one situation can be isolated and controlled.  I believe every situation has the opportunity to act as a trigger for our behaviors.  While some behaviors are hidden or repressed for the sake of professionalism or any other endless reason when an individual is stimulated by some trigger that sets off this behavior it is in that moment when the natural self is exposed.  This natural characteristic cannot be turned on and off depending on situations, it can only be repressed.  It still exists no matter what.  However, one can, with time and discipline, learn to change a trait that may be otherwise unhealthy or destructive.  In short, one cannot be duplicitous in life.  What you see as bad on the basketball court exists off the court; it is only hidden out of some sense of appropriateness. 

None of this is to say a characteristic or trait cannot be changed, but it is simply saying it’s not like a light switch that can be turned on or off.  With time, self-reflection, and a lot of support a person can change though.  This change will make itself obvious when those triggers no longer release venom into the environment that person finds themselves in.  Basketball is a trigger I have; it is a trigger that releases a part of me I dearly wish would die off.  Arrogance is the ugly knick in my armor, the thorn in my side, the inverse of a great strength.  It is my prescription that all flaws are truly just mismanaged strengths or gifts.  A strength I have is confidence and when that is managed properly it can be a huge asset to situations I find myself within.  When mismanaged this confidence turns to arrogance.  Arrogance is very nebulous in definition and application though.  Arrogance has many disguises and hides just beneath the surface of characteristics we would rather be pegged with.  Arrogances’ best muse in my case is impatience.  I find myself being impatient in life, especially on the basketball court.  I can see it, it is like this huge splinter stuck in my finger that I want to rip out.  Taking this trait away from my character will hurt though, much like removing the deeply embedded splinter.  Impatience is truly arrogance dancing in different shoes.  My impatience with others in basketball with deductive reasoning reduces to me thinking my way is better than others and becoming frustrated when they fail to meet my standard or expectation.  I set myself on a throne as king of basketball when I am impatient with others during a game.  It is unhealthy to place standards on others that may or may not be superior at all.  The superiority of a way of thinking shouldn’t even be a cognitive path one wants to explore anyways.  It is in these little moments that I see my ugly side flair up and become aware and ashamed.  Through self-awareness though it is my strong conviction that change can be made.  Basketball is a trigger for me, however, I know that any characteristic triggered by basketball is hiding just beneath the surface in every other situation I find myself in.  Arrogance applied in other life situations can be more damaging than just becoming frustrated with teammates. 

We all have flaws; we all have ugly traits that flash when stimulated.  Are you willing to be deductive in your reasoning when you see things in yourself?  You cannot have different personalities unless you have a mental illness; otherwise you are only fooling yourself and denying personal growth.  It is important for us as individuals, business owners, employees, fathers, husbands, brothers, co-workers, and fellow humans to embrace our own imperfections and seek to change any destructive expressions to embitter life, in whatever capacity that may be.  Will you join me?  Remember, you cannot live a duplicitous life.  If you’re an ass at work or on the basketball court, you’re an ass at home.  Don’t be an ass, make the change.  At least be willing to call out that flaw and begin working on changing yourself.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Ton of Metal

Taking things for granted results in mismanagement at best and destruction most often.

I had just dropped my wife off at the airport and was returning home.  It was around 5:15am and the roads were peaceful and empty.  Considering how peaceful it is at such an early hour I wondered if my fellow interstate drivers were considering the same sense of black top serenity.  No sooner than the sounds of waterfalls and ambient music started as I considered this roadside peace I was reminded of reality and humbled quickly.  Without a turn signal a car in the adjacent lane cut me off.  Naturally I just gave him a little flash with my brights, as if to say in car language, use your blinker next time.  I didn’t lay on the horn or high beam him for 30 minutes.  There was no anger or aggression in my action.  Again I was on the interstate doing about 70mph and there was no traffic.  Much to my surprise I was greeted quickly with brake lights and had to slam on my brakes to a point of doing a mere 20mph.  Again, we were on the interstate at 5am, there was no traffic around warranting such a volatile braking.  It was obvious what his gesture meant.  It was obvious he didn’t appreciate me high beaming him.  It was also obvious that he was pretty reckless so I got in the other lane and continued homeward bound.  This should be the end of my little story, however, he sped up quickly and got so close to my bumper that I could almost not see his headlights in my rearview mirror.  His high beams were on and I was a little surprised by his recklessness at such an early hour.  I decided to ignore him, flipped my mirror up to dim the high beam lighting, and continued driving. My best logic told me that if I did he would leave it alone, however, and again, I was wrong and surprised.  He followed me like this for probably a couple miles, although it felt much longer than that.  Eventually he had to get off and go to wherever it was he was headed and it ended.  What he lacked in common courtesy he made up for in inspiring a thought though.

Isn’t driving fascinating?  I mean, be honest, get past the fact that you drive a ’92 Land Cruiser with no a/c and only one working power window, and consider the complexity of what is really going on when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle.  There are several discussions happening in the automotive world currently concerning the lightest production vehicle, however, to generalize it, let’s agree that your vehicle is around 2,000 lbs at a minimum.  This guy was driving a Dodge Nitro, which weighs in at 4,162 lbs.  It is powered by gasoline.  The engine is lubricated with all sorts of oils.  The amount of flammable liquids in this 2 ton machine is enough to do some damage.  Then you have the problem of velocity.  We listen to the radio, steer, and know what the appropriate amount of pressure is to either decelerate or accelerate.  We have the understanding of distance to keep a safe amount and not just end up running into objects.  I could get a lot more involved and detailed; however, this is a pretty good starting point for me.  Do you see how complex it is to drive a vehicle?  It is complex and we do it like second nature, often not ever considering the complexity of it all.    When we are not appreciative of these things and are not grateful for all that goes into driving we take it for granted.  When we take it for granted we abuse the good to cause bad.  It is very good to drive, it is good to have all these systems and liquids working in such a way that we can transport ourselves at a greater efficiency to places we desire to travel to.  When we do not appreciate this and take it for granted though we abuse the good and cause it to become bad or destructive or discouraging.  That’s the story of my angry morning driving friend.  He took the complexity, full of dangers and risks, and abused it becoming destructive in behavior and what could have been destruction physically if something would have happened. 

I’ve carried around that thought for hours and internalized it in such a way to consider, what is it that I take for granted and when I do what does the destructive output look like?  When you see or hear yourself engaging in destructive behavior you most likely can use deductive reasoning to lead you back to the source of your behavior, a mismanaged good.  A good taken for granted.  If it is taking things for granted that leads to destruction than the inverse is simple.  The inverse logic would lead one to believe that being grateful leads to constructive behaviors.  We all have things we take for granted, but do we consider what taking it for granted causes?  Are we destructive beings?  Are we grateful?  Are we appreciative?  Do we take more than we should for granted?  So many questions, but isn’t that the point?  To be self-reflective and consider such things is what sets our minds apart from that of an animal, even if sometimes we act like one, most notably a jackass on the roads. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hope Springs

I’m confident that some if not all of my neighbors think my wife and I are crazy.  We are the new kids on the block.  We bought our first home in an old neighborhood at the heart of the Arts & Design District nestled away on a quaint little cul-de-sac.  We’re the youngest couple by far.  There are actually some original homeowners still living in this neighborhood!  When weather permits we walk to as many things as we can in the District.  One of the many things we have done and continue to do is yard tours.  Julia loves gardening and nature, so with great excitement she grabs my hand and walks me around the yard during the summer to show off her handiwork.  Our yard is beautiful because of it and I truly enjoy these tours.  If you’re in Indiana then you know it has been an unusually warm “winter” this year, so much so that last week on one of the nicer days Julia took me on a spring tour.  With enthusiasm she pointed out the buds on tress and her prized bulbs breaking the ground surface.  All this made me think of one word, hope. 

The glimmer in her eyes matched the pep in her step and joy in her voice as she took me on the tour and pointed out new birth beginning to show signs of spring.  She was so excited because these gave her hope for spring.  This got me thinking, what makes me have hope and what is it I am hoping for?  To extend that to you, what do you hope for and what triggers enthusiasm for that hope?  Julia hopes for summer, she loves summer days full of gardening, cheap beer, grilling out for dinner, and time spent together under the sun.  When she sees signs for what she hopes in she is filled with excitement.  Some hope in a god, some in a season, and others in a vast universe of other possibilities.  So what is it that you hope for?  What excites you for things to come or the arrival of what you hope for?

Furthermore, bringing this all back to a personal level, in life, are you someone who offers hope?  Are you a person that offers signs of hope to others?  Hope that people are kind?  Hope that people forgive?  Hope that good manners aren’t just a state of nostalgia your grandmother lives in?  Hope that humanity is decent?  Hope that integrity still exists?  Hope for love?  Hope builds and gives life.  If you’re not offering hope what are you offering?  Like the aura of delight surrounding Julia as she shows me the tip of a daffodil coming up  on a day in late February, do you cause joy in others?  Random thought while walking around the yard I know, but one so simple and powerful that shouldn’t not be considered.  Do you inspire hope?

Value

How one determines or considers their personal value or worth is directly connected with how they interact with their environment, whether it be personal or professional.

I went to lunch with a couple friends who do similar jobs within an organization. Both departments and roles affect the other so they are familiar with each other’s’ jobs. As they heatedly exchanged words about their perceived value I sat back in my seat seeing a bigger picture than they realized they were painting. Maybe it’s just because I’m so analytical or a big picture type person, but the theme I saw developing in this discussion was one of value and how an individual perceives his or her own value. Both sides saw themselves as more valuable than the next and the argument continued to go in circles because each was only putting out arguments attempting to prove their superior value. As I so often do, I stepped in as a mediator and gave my best objective view of both sides, trying to explain to each how the other felt while also acknowledging their opinion and point of view. I provided both with confirmation of their values and tried my best to help each other appreciate the other’s value. The lunch was intense but ended with laughs and hopefully a little understanding.

I often times find myself just watching others and paying special attention to how they treat each other. In my professional experience at a fortune 100 company I’ve been discouraged to see unkindness and impatience. The larger a group of people gets the tougher communication becomes. This is because the differences between so many people becomes exponentially larger than they truly are. When this happens people stop thinking of each other and turn their focus inward. This inward focus creates a natural desire to prove one’s worth or value to others because they don’t feel valued. If others won’t value them they go on a mission to prove their worth.

A brilliant quote from a surprising source:

“You are never as good as you think you are and you are never as bad as you think you are.”
-Mike Tyson

One side of this quote is from an individual perspective; don’t whole heartedly accept your own perceived value. You are your worst critic but can also be your biggest fan. Both extremes are equally unhealthy.

I am a hopeful romantic of sorts I suppose. I am hopeful in people. I view the majority of people as well intentioned citizens looking to discover or confirm their own value. I don’t think when Bob snaps at Mary in a meeting he is intentionally, in that moment, consciously intending to hurt Mary’s feelings by having a rude tone. Mary of course only feels devalued and takes immediate offense. Things could and often do get out of control and quickly. It’s important in moments of conflict to consider 2 things. 1, remember that people don’t intentionally hurt each other (unless there is a mental illness or a behavioral problem), give everyone the benefit of the doubt and 2, consider confronting the person who offended you. How you confront someone can make all the difference. I am in no way promoting “going off” on someone because you were offended. In the heat of the moment at the height of your emotional reaction is not the appropriate time to consider confrontation. After you have cooled down and really processed the offense, calmly approach the offender and only talk about how you feel. Tell them how they made you feel only, do not prescribe anything to them about themselves, but rather focus on telling them how you feel, talk about yourself. How the offender responds is 100% their responsibility. You have no control on how they will respond, but as long as you were professional in your confrontation then you are in the clear and should not carry the burden any longer.

Resolving the conflict of perceived value is important to success, both personally and professionally. Considering others as valuable in unique ways, different than your frame work for value is important to respecting others. Without respect we cannot value others and if we fail to value others we will receive equal reciprocation, meaning others won’t value us. If we don’t feel valued by others we will fall into the ugly downward spiral of trying to prove our value at the expense of others. Don’t try to prove your value to others by devaluing them. Look for value in others, when you do that it will be reciprocated appropriatley thus ending the ugly cycle of individuals seeking to prove their value to the world. Do you value others? Do you value yourself too much? Do you value yourself too little? By considering the theme of personal worth or value we can change the trajectory of what can sometimes be a rocky environment. We can improve the professional and personal world by doing so.