Monday, May 25, 2015

Sixth Graders Have No Time for Silly Stuff

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on……………………"

Welcome back from  the Memorial Day weekend.  Summer is a month away but the season starts now. While other times of the year are sometimes more stressful, stress and anxiety in work knows no holiday.  Things seem to get more complex and with that the pressures and stresses seem to grow too.  Some stress may arguably be good; but it can easily lead to anxiety and become the enemy of sound business practices, affecting decision making, productivity, your ability to recognize the key variables in challenges that need to be met and in fashioning smart responses to those challenges, as well as your capacity for leadership, and the morale and vision of the organization itself.

Stress.  Hard to avoid.  On a daily basis, in the struggle to shepherd our organizations, we face innumerable challenges and obstacles.  In the task of navigating  treacherous pathways to keeping things running smoothly, there are often simply not enough hours in the day to get done all that needs to be done. And this takes a toll on us all.  This is, after all, our lives we're dealing with.  And what we deal with is of crucial, critical importance.

Think back to when you were in the third grade.  Not too many memories from that long ago, but you may have some general impressions of life at that age.  Even then, there were daily issues and challenges that you faced that may have caused you anxiety and worry:  Someone may have accused you of having "cooties", or some other offhand remark may have set you to fearing what it might mean.    You fretted and worried about things  back then too.  The point is that there were issues for you that to you seemed earth shattering; issues of the greatest impact and importance; stressful issues.

Now think back to when you were in the sixth grade.  If someone had asked you then if all those third grade matters of great importance still seemed important, your answer would invariably have been: "No, of course not, the things that seemed so critical back then were silly.  I was a baby."  And why would that have been true?   Because you were then occupied with truly grave matters - the really important things only a Sixth Grader could appreciate.  Third grade stuff was nonsense.

And so it goes as you grow older.  All the issues, the problems, the challenges that seem so important, so critical go by the wayside and recede into the background because you are constantly faced with ever new problems to solve and issues to face.  The crises of your teens become not so earth shattering when you are well into your twenties; and the concerns of your twenties take a back seat once you move into your mid thirties.  The past always seems not so frightening as it did when you were in its midst.  Oh and when you get into your fifties or sixties, if you could only share with your children this secret that time has a way of dealing with things. and that most of what causes us anxiety and stress at any given point in time, turns out -- not too much later -- to not have been so threatening or important after all.  In hindsight, things are always more easily managed and successfully handled.  Hindsight makes it easier to see the answers and solutions and the right path. But everybody has to learn this lesson for themselves and its all but impossible to make people understand until they have experienced it for themselves.

And there is the lesson.  All the stuff that makes you crazy and messes with your mojo isn't as critical as you think it is at the time.  Easy to say, much more difficult to internalize as a lesson and a tool to use to face the present.  For the present always seems far more intimidating and difficult.  And important.  But if you can embrace the lesson that only hindsight will verify for you - that the issues you have to face aren't as heavy or large as you think they are -- life becomes much easier, and your ability to successfully deal with life in the moment becomes much, much better.  

I've told this story before, but it fits here:

One of my closest friends has gone to the opening day baseball game of the Giants for years.  It's a kind of tradition.

When his two boys were very young, on one of these opening day occasions, there was a problem with the day care for that particular day.  Unable to find a substitute, my friend decided he would take his youngest son (who was then only about four years old) to the game with him.  He knew Ezra wouldn't likely last the whole game, but he thought he would have fun for a few innings.

So he announced this plan to Ezra the night before at dinner.  Well, Ezra was NOT thrilled with the idea; rather he was adamantly opposed: "I don't wanna go.  I'm not going.  I don't wanna."  He made quite a fuss, much to the confusion of his parents.  But in this contest of wills, a four year old has limited leverage, so Ezra lost, and to the game the next day they went.

When they got home, Ezra's mom was in the kitchen fixing dinner. She asked Ezra how he liked the game, and he told her it was alright; and quickly added that he had ice cream, and a hot dog, and some peanuts too.  Then he looked up at her and said:  "You know what mom?  They're not so big"  And then he scampered out of the kitchen.

His mom was a little confused, but then it dawned on her.  The GIANTS.  Ezra didn't want to go  because he thought they really were giants.

He learned a valuable lesson that day.  What scares us may turn out to be nothing at all.  In fact, often times we suffer anxiety and fear based on false impressions.  The same is true in our business lives.

So when things seem very dire to you.  When anxiety and stress creep up on you (and that happens to us all from time to time), try to put it all in perspective and remember that very shortly in the future you will look back on it all and wonder what possibly made you think any of it was worrisome at all.  Even the big issues in life when you are in the Sixth Grade seem kind of puny and foolish once you are in high school. And so it goes………...

All those issues and challenges and earth shattering, draconian things that can go wrong?  They're not so big after all.

When you need it, take a deep breath.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit
Barry


1 comment:

  1. There is a different lesson I would add to that: Its not just that the things we fear turn out to not be what we thought they were, but that WE turn out to not be impacted by them in the way we thought. Its not that we were necessarily wrong or deceived about the world, but that we were not as objective about ourselves. We turned out to be different from the person we assumed ourselves to be. We thought we wouldn't like peanut butter, but amazingly we did! We thought that tying our shoe laces was hard, and now suddenly its not. The problems are the same, just the person who confronts them is no longer stuck....

    The issue as I see it is that we are more likely to view our own selves as static and that it is the world which changes around us, or that merely our impressions of things shift. The truth seems more that the world is what it is, and while we can be right or wrong about it, what we can't often help is that we ourselves, the person interacting with it, will be changed by what we experience and what we come to understand. We make ourselves different as we evolve and amass new information and experiences. It is WE who are changed most.

    Similarly, it has always struck me that an artist's main project is working on herself, and that the things we put out into the world are the side effects and symptoms of that change. How are we looking at things? What are our interests? When we make our art we are expressing something from within, and as different things get expressed the difference inside us is revealed.

    How this relates to organizations is unclear to me, but it seems as though there has to be some insight we can take from this. So, while "what we deal with is of crucial, critical importance", it also perhaps makes sense to turn the lens around and look at ourselves. WHO is dealing with things is also of crucial and critical importance.....

    Or, maybe at least its worth thinking about......

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