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Friday, June 26, 2020

How To Give Up Power Gracefully: Accepting the Possibility of Failure

Recently with the Coronavirus Pandemic raging, I had custody of my daughter for about five weeks.  My daughter was just finishing spring break when her school was shut down for Covid-19.   I had/have been working from home since that time myself.  Until recently her mom wasn't able to do so.  So, she wasn't in a position to do anything except call her during the day to make sure she was on track.  Beyond that her mom works at a hospital, so there was initial fear that her mom could get the virus at work and spread it to my daughter.   After about 4 weeks of work full-time/homeschool, I was getting stressed out.  At that point, her mom asked wanted to switch custody.  This would give me a break from working full-time/quasi home-schooling my daughter.  Obviously, giving my daughter a chance to see her mom and vice versa was a big part of the equation.  However, I paused for a moment and was silently screaming, but I can't give her up now, we are just getting untracked with her e-learning.  I knew that wasn't the answer I needed to say.  So, I said let's work on a transition.

I felt like over the previous weeks, that we had a system in place that could potentially maximize her productivity.  Also, I knew I could help her in some areas which my background is very strong.   For example, math is a very strong point of mine.  Mostly, I felt like I had a beat on her productivity.  I was afraid that she would lose the momentum that she gained with me.  In short, I was concerned I was afraid of losing control.  My intentions were noble.  I wanted her to do well with e-learning and I didn't want her to lose momentum or ready access to my help.   My heart was saying 'no', but my mind was saying, 'you really should transition her'.  

In my brief flirt with control on the issue (and the lingering feelings), I verified a few things I knew and learned a few more about power and control. So, what did I "learn or relearn" about power, control and human nature.

Power/Control Observations.
  • It is often driven by fear--a fear that you are the only one who can do 'what needs to be done' properly.
    • Your assessment may not be accurate.  Often times there is more than one good solution to a problem.
    • Your assessment and actions may discourage others from trying to help.  Why fight someone who thinks they act as if they are the only one who can do something right?
  • Uncertainty or inability to 'read' others whom you would be yielding control to.   It sometimes doesn't matter if others have shown the capability of being responsible, just the chance that it might not be done right, is enough to 'not risk it'.
    • When I'm driving, I know what my intentions and what my capabilities are.   When you are driving, I can't tell if you are aware of 'how close you are' to the person in front of  or if 'know you need to get over'  So, I might harp on you about your driving even when you know you have it under control.
    • When I'm driving, I know where I am going and I know the route to get there.  If you have told me where it is and aren't sure if I know, you might to try to back seat drive.  The fact is, I might actually have a good idea how to get there and haven't really said anything or asked because I knew how to get there.  But your uncertainty might cause you to feel like you need to 'control' the situation and "make sure" I know.
  • The goal can be or seem noble or selfless.  
    • I just want to make sure it all turns out for the best, especially if I'm very experienced at it.
    • I'm looking out for 'your' best interest and I'm am willing to help or do the heavy lifting.
  • The impact however can be negative.
    • It can discourage the other person from even trying.  If you feel like another is micromanaging you and always taking charge on their schedule, it feels like too much trouble to fight assert your role or try.
    • It can remove the opportunity for the other person to learn from trial and error.
    • It can remove the opportunity for a solution that is just as good or better to be discovered.

In my story, in my mind, 
  • I was afraid of my daughter losing her progress or momentum.
  • I was afraid of letting another be in charge of the seeing to it that she got her homework done or the help she needed.
  • I assumed that my way 'would work indefinitely' and not have it's own drawbacks.  
    • Such as me getting burned out or her resisting my pressure/steps to keep her on track.
    • Such as she needed not seeing her mom and pets on her mom's side would have no ill effects even if it was just for a few more weeks. 
  • I assumed that no one else could find a similarly effective path towards making sure she was on track.
  • I had the hubris to think to for a moment to assert that it was MY role as opposed to a shared role.  Even if what I felt was true that I might have a little bit more effective way of keeping her on task, I had to accept that the need to exchange custody was greater.

In a matter of moments, I had given up 'control' of keeping her on track (and keeping custody).  At first, because I knew I had no right to ask to keep custody so I could oversee her e-learning I acceded quickly to her mom's suggestion.  However, I came to realize soon thereafter that it was, for me, a control issue.  I hated give up custody.  Also, I was nervous that her e-learning momentum could be lost, but I realize that I had to accept the possibility that my daughter would 'fail' at keeping up her e-learning momentum.  I realize a number of years ago that "I can't fix everyone", nor should I try.  Similarly, I had to accept the fact that I couldn't guarantee what I deemed a 'successful' outcome.  To not understand otherwise would be not to understand the idea of letting go of trying to 'control'.  I had to let go and let God.    I was sad to be giving her up a few days later and I was a little nervous, but I knew in my heart that I was accepting the role that laid out rather than trying to be a control freak.

Just some thoughts,

Thursday, June 11, 2020

I will be waiting (brick by brick)

I remember right after 9/11, events were being cancelled, and the things closed up for a period of time, not like with Covid-19, but still. Anyway, the nation was still in shock, we didn't really know what was going to come next and life just seemed surreal. Anyway, 9/15/2001, I went to a Matchbox 20 concert and there was an eerie seriousness in the crowd. The lightheartedness and banter that usually proceed a concert were not there. You could almost cut through the stunned silence. So, the curtain finally raised and what song did Matchbox 20 choose? Why, Time After Time. It was odd choice to me, but strangely appropriate. I think as a nation we were a little lost in the moment and we needed to hear something reassuring. You could almost feel a bit of a shift in the mood. Maybe people held each other a little closer, just realized that they weren't alone in the moment. To me that seemed like one last time we came together as a nation. We can go back and forth as to who is to 'fault' for losing the moment. Maybe, it was unrealistic to move forward indefinitely with that sense of unity and purpose?

I hope one day we can have that sense of unity and purpose again. We can debate whether a (D), (R), (L) or (I) is responsible. We can debate why we lost that moment.  We can debate whether a Police Chief, Mayor, Governor, Representative, Senator, Alderman, President or the constant drumbeat of negativity in the news  is 'at fault' for why we are where we are at this point. But, ultimately it comes back to each of us. Brick by Brick, House by House, Building by Building, School by School, etc. we can either choose to build up or tear down. We can choose to be part of the problem or can choose to be part of the solution. We have to take personal responsibility for loving our neighbor. Our neighbor may have a brick, maybe we can see if they could use help building with that brick, instead of assuming that they that brick is meant for a window? Maybe if more people asked our neighbor if they could help them build with the brick instead of assuming it is meant to tear down. Maybe we can see if they are lost and looking. Maybe if we are open to it, they can find us 'helping hand' in us, literally "Time after Time".

Bittersweet... You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Missing the Middle Ground - Finding answers the hard way.

I know everyone who reads this won't agree with this, but I write in good faith and with good intentions. I don't claim to know everything and I don't claim to be right on everything.  Also, some things I write about, I realize my perception isn't complete.  In other words, maybe I am only seeing part of the story or don't quite 'have it down yet'.   So, where am I going with this?  This is a follow-up to Stereotypes are often not Stereo, but instead Mono.  It was a reflection on the Michael Brown case initially, but ended up being largely about my father.  I guess I just need to reiterate the general concept.

Kids bicker among each other and to their parents and at their parents.  Yes, much of it "I shouldn't have to do this" or "life's difficult" or "Joey hit me" or "Sally made fun of me" or "You don't care about me" or similar.   Frankly, adults do this too, but it doesn't necessarily take the same form, but  I digress.   This can be tiresome for a parent and even grating.  As such, it can easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater.   Lodged inside the bickering and gripping often are points or legitimate concerns.   Now, as a parent you can't just let a kid bully or shame you until you get their point.  However, at the proper time--maybe when the dust settles--it is important to acknowledge their underlying point.  It is also best if you can direct them to do their best to get to the underlying point sooner, make it more clear if possible or not to add dramatics to it.  However, some parents will never get it.  Additionally, some parents don't seem to care if they ever get it as they have in their mind THEIR idea of how kids should think, behave, etc.  Anyway lodged in this process of theatrics is a middle ground.

As a country, we seem to miss the middle ground.  We have a problem, an issue, we overcorrect.   We elect a politician who is significantly on one side of the political spectrum and that person drags the country or state heavily in one direction, sometimes too much.  So, what do we do after we realize that?  We elect someone who is far on the opposite side of the spectrum.  In other words, we overcorrect.  What seems to get lost is the middle ground.   We have a tragedy unfold before our eyes in Minneapolis as caught on video.   That was a good moment for raising our voices to be heard and reflecting on where we are as a nation and where we should be without steamrolling everything in the process.  Unfortunately, for many that wise middle ground has been lost.   In a number of cases, what are legitimate and righteous protests have been overshadowed by clashes, rioting and looting with many injuries and death along the way.  I realize that some say that that's the only way that they'll be heard, but really is that what we are shooting for?  I feel the message is getting lost in the optics of the situation.  What I see is many people are largely taking two camps again.
  • You need to literally tear everything down to make your point.
  • If you don't take the stand that I think you should, you are okay with the status quo.
  • Protesters are just trouble-makers,
  • Why should we listen to the message when some take it too far?

In the moment, we have lost much of the middle ground.  Instead of constructive dialog and a serious push for necessary change, it seems like we are just retreating into camps.  To me, it's sad it has to come down to this.  There has to be a good middle ground where concerns are heard and acted on rather than letting them fester and build up.  There has to be a good middle ground where we can push for justice without destroying everything in the process.  

Whether it is in our families, our schools or in our society, we have to find a way to break through.  We have to find a way where we can hold people accountable where necessary, but also not go in assuming that others who aren't fully with us, are acting in bad faith.  Often times unnecessary fights flare between those who could get along.  I think this happens because there is an underlying assumption that the other party doesn't have our interests in mind.  In other words, the other party has their own interests in mind and will not yield for my interests at all.  That is, they are only interested in themselves and their interests and at best could care less about how their stance affects my interests.

Yes, we have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  However, when we start slamming cartons of eggs on the table, we are left with more of a mess than an omelet.   We have to be know about how many and which eggs to break and how to break them to effectively make an omelet.  If we just recklessly break eggs just because we are impatient for an omelet (change), even if we end up making an omelet, it will be a poor quality one and will probably have a lot of egg shells in it.   In other words, if we push recklessly for change, we may get change, just not the change we need.

I'm always for self-improvement as an individual and a society, but we have to be wise about it and avoid going to extremes when there is a good solution that can be had in the middle.  In other words, pick out the eggs that we need to break (the old ways that need to be broken), break them in a constructive way (in a way that doesn't destroy everything else in the process) , add the proper and proven 'change' ingredients from recipes (good replacements for the bad ways) and have a seasoned chef guiding the making of the omelet (trusted leadership overseeing change).  It may feel good to just start cracking the eggs, winging it and saying we don't have time to make it properly.  But, when it is time to serve the omelet, if it is not made properly, their will be additional cost (more pain) to remake it.

I hope as a nation we can find a way to listen to each other and not just talk past each other.   I hope as a nation we can come to a good consensus for necessary change.  I hope as a nation, we can find the moment and seize it, and not use the moment to push without compromise or discussion our position as the only right, complete and proper way.   We don't need to sellout and capitulate just to get a few crumbs, but we can seize the moment and seize the common ground, realizing a win means taking what is there.  The battle for self-improvement as a society will not be fought and won in one day.  We can't tear each other apart if we aren't in complete consensus.  We can't have it be all my demands be met everything gets 'blown up'.   We can't take that extreme position.  If we do, we risk blowing up the message in the process. 

IMHO, MLK was effective because he understood that that unfortunately as a nation that we weren't completely ready, but that we could be moved dramatically in the right direction.   He knew that it was a process.  He could have got frustrated at the pace of progress and pushed more forcefully for change, but he knew it would be best that he find a middle ground, both in tactics and in outcome.  The country wasn't going to change overnight.  So, he took victories when and where he could and continued to peacefully push the envelope.  He knew the path to success wasleaving the agents of status quo no option except to risk looking like extremists while his movement showed peaceful resolve.  

As a nation we still have work to do and I believe in light of the case of George Floyd the moment is available.  I believe however, ugliness of some to tear everything down potentially sets back that moment.   The ever growing list of demands OR ELSE are not conductive to a healthy path forward.  We are losing the middle ground IMHO.   Unfortunately, just like parents who get bullied by their kids the moment is at risk.  I fear that instead of coming to a healthy understanding and path forward, we risk further dividing.  Unfortunately, that means we risk only coming to the answers that hard way..

Just some thoughts,