Saturday, November 30

Wishing for thoughtfulness

There was a lot of conversation about a recent article in Huffington Post about an annoying airplane passenger and the individual who tweeted about the event. Many of us have sat next to or near the annoying passenger.

Such a passenger can be a distraction on a flight. It's possible such a passenger can be a danger to the safety of nearby passengers and/or crew members.

Those who don't travel often are more impatient with delays. Weather is pretty much out of the hands of the airlines. Infrequent travelers don't realize or don't care to realize the ripple effect of bad weather which means that planes or crews aren't where they're supposed to be. Of course, airlines often use "mechanical problems" as an excuse though it is often a legitimate reason for a delay. No one is going to mess around with a mechanical problem.

What I don't understand is not only lack of compassion, but lack of awareness. This woman on the plane, yes, annoying, even quite rude. And yes, I would have been really aggravated had I been on the flight with this individual. But it wasn't until the end of the story that Elan mentioned the medical mask and then I wondered if the breathing and tension was about the fact the annoying passenger was actually a frightened flyer. It's entirely possible she is just a nasty person who didn't plan well, but it's also possible that she is afraid of flying and, for reasons no one will ever know, she couldn't leave on any day but Thanksgiving. Her responses to everyone were heightened by her anxiety about travel and about getting where she wanted to be on time.

I don't care for Elan Gale's responses, nor his attitude about this woman. I think Elan crossed a few lines and I think he escalated the situation by his comments and his actions.

Maybe Elan thought he was trying to help when he sent the glass of wine, except for the last part of the note when he said the woman wouldn't be able to use her mouth to talk.  Had he stopped at the line that it was a gift to the woman, his sincerity would have been more believable. But with that last line, it suggests to me that Elan is simply getting attention.

As a result of the Huffington Post article and this other blog posts, Elan is getting a lot of attention. Perhaps not quite the kind he would like.

I wish we were more aware about people and ourselves. I wish we were more thoughtful and less cruel. I wish we were less apt to make situations about us and more alert to the conditions of others. I wish we were indeed more compassionate and more empathetic. I wish we were less self-righteous. I wish we were just nicer people.

Saturday, November 23

Only the (mentally) strong survive

Not too long ago I was on a hike with a friend and we were having one of those series of random conversations. One of us would say something that would lead to a tangent that would lead to another tangent. It was quite fun. One of the tangents included Darwin's theory of evolution, that idea of natural selection or what became "survival of the fittest" which led to discussing what "fittest" meant. So that conversation came to mind when I came across this article Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid. I believe that many of today's fittest are, in fact, the mentally strong.

I love the concept of "failing up." Because sometimes we do fail. Yep, we fall flat on our faces, metaphorically speaking, and we have a choice as we lie there. We can do a few quick push-ups before we get up, or we can just roll over on our backs and whimper. Except for the push-ups part, I try to opt for the getting up. By getting up we say, "This failure does not define me. I will learn from it and I will move on."

What mentally strong people don't do makes sense. They don't:
  1. Waste time feeling sorry for themselves. There could be a moment or two of aggravation, frustration, and those normal emotions that people experience. But there is also a time of reflection--"what can I learn from this and how can I build on the good experience and insight I've gained?".
  2. Give away power. This one can be harder, but it's remembering who you are and what you're capable of doing. Failing can feel like rejection of your talents, but failing in that situation might not be at all related to anything you've done or are capable of doing.
  3. Shy away from change. . .or be okay with your cheese getting moved and perhaps a lot. Here's another thing about change: it's an opportunity to learn that much more about yourself--your capabilities, interests, limitation. I was recently in a position that was clearly not to my strengths. I was all but set up to fail (though not deliberately), but I opted to work towards my strengths to see how I could make the best of the situation.
  4. Waste energy on things they can't control. I was just on a business trip that was fraught with challenges. Weather caused delays which caused missed connections, etc. I could have complained, but that would have accomplished nothing. Instead, when I got to talk with the rebooking agent, I was pleasant with her and thanked her for her help. She was doing her job as best as she could and really didn't need to be hassled.
  5. Worry about pleasing others. I think this can be a tough one, even for some of the mentally strong. There is a fine line between pleasing someone else and being kind or not hurting someone else's feelings, but that is often situational. The flip side is focusing too much on pleasing ourselves, which is a different kind of problem.
  6. Fear taking calculated risks. The key word is "calculated." It's important to envision and even plan for worst-case scenarios, but not get mired in analysis to the detriment of progress.
  7. Dwell on the past. That was then, this is now. Learn from then, and apply it to the now and the future.
  8. Make the same mistakes over and over again. "Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs." I think the hard part is being accurately self-reflective: acknowledging our true strengths and determining how best to manage our weaknesses.
  9. Resent other people's success. Others have talents we don't. We cannot resent that others have taken advantage of presented opportunities or made good choices. That is a waste of energy (see #3) and can lead to wasting time (see #1) and giving away power (see #2).
  10. Give up after failure. Failure is an option. It has to be an option in everyday life. We will not always be successful in every single thing we do. So learning from failure is an important life skill.
  11. Fear alone time. See #8. Being alone, away from all of the noise and white noise, gives you the opportunity to reflect, to do those self-assessments, to examine those risks, and to make those decisions about what can and will change in your life.
  12. Feel the world owes them anything. The "world" has never owed anyone anything. Ever. That victim mentality gets you nowhere fast.
  13. Expect immediate results. Sure, sometimes a new possibility presents itself almost immediately. But sometimes the first thing isn't the best thing (see #6, #8, and #11). That could be rebound option, which might not bode well for you. As you contemplate your next steps, spend that time being self-reflective and examining the possibilities.
As I reflect on this, I think it's important to consider that it's not always the being strong. Sometimes the becoming strong is what matters most.

Monday, November 18

Tyranny of the Urgent: Impacting the Personal

Years ago The Navigator published a booklet titled Tyranny of the Urgent. It is a classic with perceptive insights into time management.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine and I were having breakfast and we talked about how hard we work for someone else and how little comparable energy we seem to put into our own passions, our own work, our own dreams.

We've all experienced the challenges of time management, of the "urgent" getting the most immediate attention. Although the urgent isn't always "urgent." It may be the thing that is demanding the most attention, but it may not be the most important thing to which you need to be paying attention.

A colleague and friend of mine used to talk about working constantly in a "hair on fire" mode. That wasn't good. It was reactive, which meant that people rarely felt as though they had the luxury of time to stop and think through solutions, options, or just do a reality check.

Rafe Esquith used that phrase differently in his book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire; his was the story of a remarkable teaching career in Los Angeles. The phrase bespoke energy and passion, but not without thought and insight.

All of that was brought home recently when I was confronted with a situation that forced me to rethink my own responses to the tyrannies of the urgent and "hair on fire" moments in my life.

This isn't a change like flipping a switch, at least not for me. I know I will have to be consistent about checking my responses to the situations around me and those that affect me. I know I will have to be more consistent about pausing to guard against responding reactively to the urgent that might not be urgent, or responding to the "hair on fire" that might not really be a fire. And I have to keep myself in mind so that I do not stifle my own passions and my own dreams.

I think it's a challenging balance so that I'm not so self-directed that I become inwardly insular, aka selfish. But though I seem to have a deep need and sense of responsibility to take care of others, even strangers, I need to take care of myself to. I need to be the best possible me I can be. Every day.