Peeling the Political Onion

I’m wondering if you are finding the state of politics as confusing as I do. Maybe you have it all figured out, but I sure don’t. It’s a lot like peeling an onion, but only sort of. When peeling an onion, I take off one layer and am not surprised that the next level is still an onion. There is not much to be confused about as I peel away to the core. The onion is still an onion.

When peeling away the layers of politics, I suppose it’s all still politics. I can’t figure much else. On the surface, we have the Repubs and the Demos. As best I can tell, the Repubs want as little government and government interference as possible. Since they haven’t always been in charge, government has gotten out of hand, from their perspective. The best they can do is to refuse to support any new regulations or government funded services and eliminate or at least limit as many existing regulations and services as they can.

The Demos Believe that the Repubs are wrong. They believe that government is here to make sure that each of us has a fair shot at health, safety and general well being. Government is the nation’s care taker. To that end, regulation and government funded services are essential for the success of the nation.

Please press “Play” and join me as I pursue Peeling the Political Onion.

Our 2020 New Year’s Resolutions (D)

I resolve to be more thoughtful about when and if people are taking advantage of me and to be more cautious about my tendency to go along to get along. My issue here is twofold. First, an unfortunate element of human nature is that letting people take advantage of me simply encourages them to repeat the behavior in the future. The more people take advantage of me, the more people will take advantage of me. Second, being taken advantage of evokes anger, frustration, resentment, and related energy draining emotions and feelings. Along with being unpleasant, these emotions and feelings are unproductive and divert my attention and energy. For me, the bill associated with letting people take advantage of me is quite simply too high. I still want to be cooperative and helpful but not at the cost of my sense of well-being.

I resolve to be less willing to argue with anyone about anything. I know that people who argue with anyone, anywhere, at any time are attempting to manipulate and control others by confusing them, wearing them down, and by emotionally and intellectually overpowering them. Alternatively, I’ll do a better job of simply presenting my thoughts, perceptions, intentions, or point of view and stop. I’ll listen and consider what the other person is saying, adjust my ideas and plans as I think is appropriate, but then stop. If the other person wants to pursue the issue, they must do so without my further participation.

I resolve to step back some and be less willing to try to take charge of anything or anyone. Sure, I’m assertive and comfortable with my position and authority and don’t hesitate exercising that authority appropriately and responsibly. The point here is that I’ll work to avoid using power junkie strategies including manipulation, power games, and expanding my locus of control at the involuntary expense of others. Will I gain more control and influence over time? Yes I likely will. The remarkable point is that this expanding locus of influence will just happen without any active intent of mine. My expanding influence is thus a gift given to me by others and not something I either expect or demand. If I deserve it, being seen as a leader will come in time. It seems likely that this is a product of my getting better at recognizing and exploiting opportunities to facilitate the success of other people. It’s a function of an extrinsic but essential aspect of other people’s success. They just would not be as successful without me.

I resolve to get better at adjusting to people and circumstances without compromising my values, beliefs, personal style, position, or self-perceived status. I don’t expect others to adjust to or accommodate to me, unnecessarily, inappropriately, or unilaterally. I’ll remain who I am regardless of who is present or the specific situation but will intentionally adjust my behavior and demeanor so that others can perceive and relate to me in positive and useful ways. In this way, I’ll avoid any extraneous emotional or social clutter, thus maximizing the opportunity available with each person and in each situation.

I resolve to be more flexible and accommodating to the needs, preferences, and individual situations of other people. My emphasis will be on “accommodating.” I want to be flexible enough to help meet the needs of other people or at least to not prevent those needs being met. The preferences of other people will always be considered to the extent that they don’t preclude satisfying my needs and interests. The point is that I’ll make room for others and their priorities so long as this does not prevent my long-term success.

Our 2020 New Year’s Resolutions (C)

I resolve to be more positive as I demonstrate my respect for and pleasure with the successes and accomplishments of other people. The key here for me is to respect the achievements of others and actively demonstrate my respect and the pleasure I experience when they do well. Respect in this context includes holding the other person and the action or accomplishment in high esteem, feeling delighted, and actively expressing approval.

I resolve to resist the temptation to expect others to always do as well as they sometimes do. I know that is both unreasonable and counterproductive. The unspoken or perhaps spoken message is, “You aren’t giving it your best effort. You should always do as well as you did before. This applies to a sales person making an unusually big sale, a scientist making a new discovery, a team winning the big game, and so on but also applies to less consequential events and activities. It’s appropriate to expect excellent performance but I know that expecting exceptional or perfect performance every time is a sure way to demoralize and frustrate any person.

I resolve to be sure I am not using my position or authority to run roughshod over other people. I know to deal with people and problems directly and assertively. I also know that many people in positions of authority like pointing out that they always place the blame squarely on the person who did not get the job done. This is, from my point of view, a sure sign that the person in authority knows nothing about people. When a job doesn’t get done or doesn’t get done as well as expected, it’s obvious that someone didn’t get the job done. It’s also frequently easy to see who didn’t get it done. At that point, the authority junkie is quick to point a finger, “The job didn’t get done and you are the one who didn’t get it done.” Here is the glitch. The authority junkie’s approach usually appears to work. The problem doesn’t recur, performance improves, the job gets done the next time. At the same time, people become more cautious, less creative, and more concerned about avoiding the authority junkie’s ire than in developing better ways to do the job and continuously improving their performance. “Good enough” becomes the standard, good enough to avoid the pointing finger of the authority junkie. For me, the alternative to blaming and finger pointing needs to be automatic. “This is disappointing. You must be at least as frustrated as I am about it. Can we see if we can figure out how to get a better outcome next time? What would help? How can I help?” Sure, enough is enough at times, even for me. People need to be held accountable and deal with the consequences of poor performance. For me though, this needs to be a down-the-road eventuality and never where I start.

I resolve to remember that some people have a short fuse, are highly reactive, and are ready to go to war over anything, while other people are tired, frustrated, anxious, stressed, and atypically touchy and contentious. Either way, I’ll conscientiously manage my interactions, emotions, reactions, and behavior in ways that minimize conflict, animosity, and contentiousness. This doesn’t mean that I’ll hold back, equivocate, or be reluctant to pursue my point of view, opinion, or expectation. To the contrary, I’m typically assertive, clear, and forthcoming. My point here is that conflicts and disagreements are managed as negotiations and not as arguments and battles. Confrontation and power games are seldom the best choice for resolving friction points and personality clashes. I have far better and more effective tools at hand and am going to focus more on taking care to use them instead of resorting to emotionally charged war games.

I resolve to more consistently project a calm, conciliatory demeanor, avoiding any tendency to be harsh or abrasive, even when confronted by animosity or hostility from others. At the same time, I’ll do better presenting an aura of firmness, control, and self-confidence. I’ll work to be more self-contained, neither intruding into the personal space of others nor permitting others to intrude uninvited into mine, thereby letting me process reality with less interference or emotional clutter.

Our 2020 New Year’s Resolutions (B)

I resolve to be even more accepting of and tolerant with people with differing personalities, traits and characteristics, personal styles, individual values and beliefs, and for their idiosyncrasies. I will also work at better managing fluctuations in people’s moods, points of view, and interests.

I resolve that especially with friends, co-workers and family, I will always assume that they will succeed, assume that they will do things correctly, assume that they will give everything they do their best effort. I’m surprised when other people make mistakes, give things less than their best effort, don’t succeed. Since I expect success, I’ll take on some degree of personal responsibility for mistakes of others, lackluster effort, non-success. My first take on the situation is that I haven’t been smart enough or skilled enough to effectuate the right outcome. For that reason, I’ll work with the person to identify the deficiencies. When possible, I’ll modify my performance so that I can facilitate the other person’s success.

I resolve to try harder to accept people as is. My goal isn’t to change anyone. Rather, I’ll make the effort to focus on encouraging and facilitating in ways that enable each person to achieve optimal performance within the context of their skills, abilities, and interests. Concurrently, I expect people to expand and improve their capacities and am ready to help with that process however I can. I don’t expect People to change but expect them to grow and develop.

I resolve to do a better job with remembering to praise my children, friends and family when they do well. I’ll take care not to praise too little but also will try to avoid making it seem like little more than a polite habit. I won’t be stingy with praise nor be excessive with it. I’ll be quick to recognize and acknowledge the successes and accomplishments of others but won’t confuse praise with simple good manners. Please and thank you and noting that someone did a good job or was helpful are not examples of praise. They are rather, merely examples of good manners and are just part of my habitual deportment. Alternatively, praise is an intentional and thoughtful action which privately or publicly acknowledges and commends excellence. I reserve praise for exceptional or extraordinary performance, never missing an opportunity to praise when anyone meets that standard.

I resolve to resist the temptation to either focus on what is not going well or on what is. It may be a function of human nature to attend mostly to the negative or to the positive, depending on one’s personality; but I’ll keep in mind that this is not a simple matter of choice or personal preference. The key to my success is seeing that neither focusing on the positive nor on the negative is advisable. Here’s the perspective I’ll always try to keep in mind. The reality is that things are continuously transitioning from a past state to a future state. My primary responsibility is to affect the transition so as to actualize the desired future state. To do this, the task is to reduce and eliminate the disparity between the present and future states, without redefining or compromising the desired future state. My focus then needs to be on the cluster of elements that affect the future state either as contributors or as detractors, understanding that neither is more or less important than the other. Focus must be on the gestalt. In short, I’ll be keeping my eye on the big picture, on the way on down the road.

Our 2020 New Year’s Resolutions (A)

I resolve to quit avoiding dealing with conflict, disagreements, and difficult issues for fear of upsetting someone. That doesn’t mean that I’ll just start charging ahead insensitively or inconsiderately. It means that I’ll be dealing firmly with whatever the issue or concern is while remaining sensitive to the feelings and interests of others.

I resolve to take the initiative more and to be less cautious and more willing to take a chance on me. I’ll still be cautious but without becoming paralyzed by the potential downside of speaking up or taking action. I’ll pursue my goals and interests continuously but incrementally, testing and evaluating my progress. I think this approach will better assure moving toward my goals without exposing myself to unnecessary and avoidable jeopardy. I’ll no longer simply play it safe but will play it cautiously. I won’t proceed haphazardly or impulsively, risking not giving myself time and opportunity to process, analyze, predict, evaluate, and modify actions and circumstances. By being cautious while taking reasonable chances, I’ll give me my best shot at being the me I want to be.

I resolve to take the advice of Dag Hammarskjöld to heart. He told us to “Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.” I’m going to put most of my time and energy on staying on the right road, on reaching my goals. I’ll be spending less time and energy worrying about unlikely contingencies and maintaining the status quo. That means less time worrying about things getting worse and more on the possibility of things getting better. My new strategy will lock my focus on the here-and-now. I’ll minimize my obsessing over static or irrelevant data, thus enabling me to focus my time and energy nearly exclusively on goal-centered data, on people and things that really can help me get to my far horizon.

I resolve to make decisions and take action thoughtfully but more quickly. I’ll stop putting off decisions or actions, avoiding or deferring doing what needs done, and stop hesitating or proceeding so reluctantly. My actions and reactions won’t be impulsive or ill considered but they will be more decisive and timely. I’ll be able to do this because I will be working on better tuning into and trusting my judgment and insight. I’ll be getting much better at reminding myself that trusting me is a reliable path to my success.

I resolve to recommit every day to never shirking or avoiding difficult people, challenging tasks or unwelcomed responsibilities. That means I’ll do everything I’ve agreed to do or am responsible for doing to the best of my ability. My guiding principle here will always be this: All of my internal systems and processes will remain on high alert and active. I’m much sharper and better able to perceive and manage things when I’m giving everything I do my best effort. And to paraphrase the poker players, for me, “best effort” is but table stakes in the game of life.

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Most all of us know Twas The Night Before Christmas and like to be reminded of our childhood and Santa. Do you have three minutes to listen again? If so, Oliver’s reading is a fun reminder.

Who Believes?

WOW! A tree in the house, excitement everywhere, and Santa is coming. Yes indeed, the jolly old elf himself. Christmas is indeed a magical time of year.

But when did we start to doubt, begin to loose the faith? For most of us, it was about the time we got to kindergarten. A question here, an overheard comment there and our confidence began to crack.

But that isn’t the most important point. Let’s listen and learn.

Christmas Meditation Remix

Sometimes it is nice to fix a beverage of your choice, sit back in your favorite easy chair beside a quiet fire and just think about Christmas and all that is good in our lives. If that is accompanied by Kevin’s meditative music, life is nearly perfect. Give it a try.

It’s Time for That List … Again

Yes indeed, it’s time for that list again. Yes, that list. You know the one. It’s the one that tracks naughty and nice. Well, as it turns out, not everyone is happy about that list. Let’s hear from Ryan who has what may be some reasonable objections.

Merry Christmas in Three Parts

There are many ways to say Merry Christmas and even more who have shared their thoughts and perspectives on Christmas. Merry Christmas in Three Parts shares many of those snippets of wisdom for our thoughtful enjoyment. In addition, the music is worth a listen all by itself. Merry Christmas!

Thoughts for Thanks Giving

Thanks Giving is a time for family, turkey, fun and tediousness intertwined with joy. It is also a time for a gentle thought or so in the midst of the confusion. Please relax and enjoy.