Current times make it particularly important to remember that pessimism is counterproductive. When we think that things are out of control and that there is nothing we can do, we should stop and consider the simple point: pessimism is counterproductive. There are things we can and should do.
If you’re hoping for a tick up in your mood and energy, join us. your personal Polka Party may be just what the doctor ordered.
There are times in life when we either stay stuck in situations or circumstances that we cannot change or take a deep breath and move on. It really is our choice.
Do well, Be well and enjoy.
The top of the morning to you. … And the rest of the day to all.
Let’s suppose that an organization is functioning in a way that is not leading to good or desired outcomes. Things are just not working out the way we want. What to do?
This kind of dilemma can develop in families, in groups from teams to social gatherings, from corner shops to international businesses. Any time people get together with a goal or outcome in mind, there is the potential for bad or at least less than optimal outcomes. So what is the cause and, more importantly, what is the fix?
The underlying cause is usually some variety of the same issue. To understand how it happens, there are a few points that need our attention.
• Things are always organized and functioning perfectly to get the outcomes we are getting. Were we to start from scratch, wanting the outcomes we are currently experiencing, we couldn’t do better than to encourage everyone to keep up the good work, using only the resources and opportunities available to them today.
What are the key steps for any leader or for anyone who doesn’t want to simply maintain the status quo? Let’s think about that.
First, what do you want to happen? There are three possibilities. You may want things to improve or get better. Next, you may want things to change or be different in some way you define. Finally, you may want to prevent something from happening or prevent some danger or risk from actualizing. In short, you want to improve, change or prevent. Sure, you may want to achieve more than one of these outcomes at the same time.
Second, take a close look at how things are right now. List everything that will be different when you achieve one or more of the outcomes in the first step. What will be different when things improve, when things change or when the danger or risk have been prevented?
Third, step two gives you a list of things that have to be changed or modified. For each of those action elements, what will it take to change or modify each of those elements? That gives you a step-by-step strategy for disrupting the status quo by changing or realigning each of the items on the list from step two to align with the new status from step one. It’s much like remodeling a house. You first envision the newly remodeled house and then determine what needs to be changed or modified in the original house, along with specifying what stays unchanged. You then develop a strategy for making the needed changes or modifications.
How much better would your world be if other people just understood that you seldom intend to say or do whatever is annoying or frustrating them? Let’s think about how that might work.
People seldom intend to be jerks. I think we have all had to deal with someone who is just being a jerk. They are being difficult and impossible to cope with due to their seeming to be stupid, insensitive, hopelessly self-centered or clueless, or maybe all of the above. But are we ever the jerk in the picture? We sure don’t intend to be the jerk but we probably have our jerk moments, at least from the perspective of other people. As reasonable and as appropriate as we try to be, even nice people like us may slip into jerk mode at times.
People seldom intend to do less than their best. Do they always make an effort to do everything they can do as well as they can do it? No, people surely don’t do that. Rather, they usually make their best effort to do as much as they think is necessary and to do it as well as they think it needs done. The problem is that we may not agree that they have done enough or done it as well as we needed it done. Our issue is that we wanted more or better. From our perspective, the other person could have and should have done more or done better. It seems to us that we haven’t gotten his or her best effort. We have to deal with a shirker, with someone who is lazy or is sloppy and half does things. Of course we always give everything we do our best effort, always do things correctly and completely – or do we?
What would you never say to your five-year-old? It’s hard to say exactly what goes on your list but I suspect that things on your never say list all have a negative or critical tone or message tucked in there. I doubt that any of us would tell our five-year-old that he or she is stupid, ugly, lazy, in the way, too much bother, or anything else implying that the child is not valued or not okay. At least I hope none of us would relate to or respond to a child in ways like that.
Even so, there is definitely another side to that coin. Our five-year-old certainly needs feedback, and sometimes, that feed back needs to be negative or critical. Children need to learn how to do things and how to behave. They also need to learn how not to do things and how not to behave. They require guidance, coaching and the opportunity to take advantage of our experience, awareness and judgment. They also have to occasionally deal with a firm and unequivocal “No!” The issue isn’t whether they should receive our guidance and feedback – they should. Rather the issue is how and when that guidance and feedback should be forthcoming.
You may be thinking that I’m about to offer some advice about how you should or should not go about providing guidance and feedback to children. Not this time. Instead, I want to share with you my father’s first principle for offering guidance and feedback to me growing up. As much as I have read about and studied child development and parenting over the years, I have never come across any childhood scholar or parenting expert who even mentioned Dad’s first principle, little lone recommending it. Nonetheless, I think you may find it worth your consideration.
“Don’t miss the chance to do good just because you are having a bad day.” When I heard this earlier today, it sent my mind in two directions. I wonder how often I do that. How often do I hold back or just not help because I’m having a bad day. Probably more often than I want to admit.
Perhaps even more telling is wondering where I would be today if people had always held back and not helped me just because they were having a bad day. Consider this.
I was eight or nine when I was trying to put the bridle on my pony. I was in a field at the edge of town and Tarzan was not being very cooperative. Instead of standing still and letting me put the bit in his mouth, he picked that time to jerk back and try to run away. I lost my balance and fell, somehow managing to have a stick poke into my leg. Since I could stick my finger into the resulting hole, even at that young age I knew that stitches were likely in my future.
I managed to walk to a nearby house and knocked. I asked the lady who came to the door if I could call or if she would call to get my mother to come and get me. Her response? “I don’t need this today. I don’t believe that you got a hole in your leg and even if I did, I’m not fooling with such nonsense today. You walked here so can walk yourself home.” I suspect that the most important point is that I still remember the incident all these years later. Her bad day turned into my limping walk home.
Like me, you too can probably think of a few times when someone could have helped but didn’t, just because they were having a bad day. What we tend not to remember are those times when someone did help, despite the bad day they were having. The fact of it is that we probably didn’t even know that they were having a bad day. They just helped and nothing was said or hinted at about their bad day.
There is nothing very complicated about this. We all get many opportunities to do good, to help. Sometimes we can follow through and help, we can contribute to the success of someone else and sometimes we can’t for various good reasons. My only point is that we should try to avoid using our bad day as an excuse not to help, not to do good.
I thought we might spend this episode having some fun. Sometimes we hear things from famous people that sound like something useful and maybe even important. When we do, we might do well to ask whether what is said is actually valid or if we just think it is reasonable because someone famous said it. Perhaps even famous people are as capable of silly talk as the rest of us. Let’s consider a few examples, knowing that what we say is as likely to be silly talk as it would were we famous.
I have included a few notions that I think are interesting if not actually exciting. Perhaps you will agree. Give it a try and see what you think. Either way, I’m sure you will enjoy the tune from Kevin.
I suspect most if not all of us know about the notion that we tend to see what we expect to see, hear what we expect to hear and so on. The idea is that we tend to reframe our experiences to fit with our expectations. We may think that we are always objective but we aren’t.
For example, this is in part why two people can hear the same politician speak and go away with quite different impressions. One of us may think that the politician is a great person who speaks the truth and the other thinks he or she is corrupt and can’t be trusted. The tendency to see the world as conforming to our preconceptions is called “Confirmation Bias.” Let’s shorten that to “CB.”
CB reaches out in other ways when we aren’t expecting it. If we go out for the evening for an expensive meal at a fancy restaurant, we are likely to judge the food to be better than the fair at the corner diner, even if that is not objectively true as judged by experienced food critics. If we buy an expensive watch, we tend to think that it keeps better time than the clock on our microwave, despite that it isn’t true.
If our friends or reviewers tell us that a movie is not very good, we are apt to rate it lower than we rate it when no one has influenced us ahead of time. We tend to rate most anything higher when we experience the brand-name version compared to when we are given a generic or off-brand version.
Here is the point. Quite often and frequently unconsciously, our opinions, judgements and perspectives are shaped by other people, circumstances and past experiences and expectations that we are not aware of. CB is real and influences all of us at times. If you are feeling skeptical, consider star ratings that we see for products and experiences such as movies and restaurants. You know about star ratings such as 1 star up to 5 stars. The reality is that they are objectively not very reliable and are easily manipulated by groups and individuals who benefit from high or sometimes from low ratings. We know that they are at best just opinions and at worst statistical garbage. Even so, we still look at them and at least partially make our purchase decisions based on them. What you may not know is that we also base our satisfaction with the product, service or experience to some extent on those star ratings.
Are you old enough to remember Ozzy and Harriet? If so, you will recall that only the children argued and then only in the most considerate and polite way. Everyone was thoughtful and, well, nice.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just think about how well you think other families get along with each other when they get together for a summer barbecue or a winter holiday. If you think they get along great or at least better than your family does, you have bought into what we might call the Ozzy and Harriet syndrome.
If that doesn’t work for you, take your imagination along with you to work. Picture a workplace where everyone is positive and in an up mood all the time. You and your coworkers are always thoughtful, considerate and, well, nice. It’s always a pleasure to go to work and a joy to spend time with your coworkers.
If you are still struggling to get up to speed with all of this, focus on your relationship with your parents, your significant other, your children, your friends or maybe even your neighbors. It’s an Ozzy and Harriet world. Everyone gets along just fine with everyone else and that is especially true for you. You are always easy to get along with and are a joy to be around. Ozzy and Harriet could have picked up some being nice pointers from you.
I send this Special Valentine along to you with my appreciation for the time you spend listening and with my best wishes for you and yours. If this Valentine touches a tender spot in you, please pass it along to someone who matters to you.