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Valuing the Past

There’s nothing wrong with the status quo.

The details of how we arrived at this pivotal moment, can be found in the ideals and the decisions made in the past, and the limits we find on our capabilities today are only a matter of challenging what is, with a clear understanding that people — good, hard-working, passionate people were responsible for the changes they made that got us to today.

Even if they seem stale and stagnant to us — the next generation.

Looking back — if we’re willing to see the status quo as it was before it became the status quo — we will see people just like us, challenging the “old guard,” and looking for ways to push beyond the place things were to find a better way.

We cannot stand still. 

But we cannot move forward without honoring the wisdom of those who have come before us.

We cannot get discouraged — real progress only comes when we’re here for the long haul.

Yes, you’re right, it shouldn’t be this difficult. Times have changed. Times are always changing.

What happens next is up to us.

Because when we find ourselves standing where they are, and we discover that we have become the status quo, we cannot forget who we were before we (suddenly?) became them.

Valuing the past ensures that someday, we too will be appreciated for the things we contributed to move our community, our country, or society forward.

The only thing we cannot do, is give up — on finding a way — on creating a future that we can be proud of.

Numbers Don’t Lie

No matter your station in life, you’re going to be faced with the truth that numbers bring to any discussion.

But if we want to make a difference, we have to be willing to read between the numbers.

We have to see the people that those numbers represent.

When we look solely at the economies of scale, and the safe bets, we’re asking the numbers to do the work, instead of our hearts.

After all, if a market has proven itself, it’s easy to nod in agreement and throw one more vote, or dollar into a project.

If we’re wrong, we can blame the numbers. Hedge our bets, avoid the risk.

Who are we to disrupt what’s always been working?

Those who want to make a difference, have to be willing to see beyond the numbers. We have to be willing to take the risk, invest the emotional labor that listening requires, and make the hard decisions.

We have to begin to trust more than the numbers. We have to be willing to trust ourselves.

It’s the unproven, raw instinct that doesn’t get much attention from the numbers.

The family that just needs to make ends meet this month but doesn’t “qualify” for assistance from the programs that are based on the numbers.  How do we help them?

The passionate minority that seems to be pushed to the fringe because the majority rules. How do we see them, and forge a way to begin to provide a more equitable path?

It’s not a political debate whether people matter, but when we add the numbers into the equation, politics rule the day.

If we’re going to make a difference, we have to be willing to listen in between the numbers. There may be no financial or political reason to care about the little guys, but there might still be a reason.

It’s called the human reason.

Believing Again

For the record: I don’t wear rose-colored glasses. I don’t believe in unicorns and I understand that not everything is sunshine and rainbows.

I struggle with the same issues everyone else does, and I try to consider where ugliness and disrespect come from before I disregard the negative and critical voices that use social media to voice their concerns, without filters or any consideration of the person they are directing their thoughts (often unfiltered) toward.

I do believe there’s a way to communicate that respects ALL parties (yes, even the parties that I don’t agree with, and even to a degree those parties that seem to forget their manners).

And I believe if we want something to happen, there’s a right way to go about it. And it requires face to face, in person conversations.

Social media is powerful. (And it should be considered more and more as a means for connecting to the fringe, and to understanding how to convene the ideas of our communities – by showing that we care about the ideas people – regular, everyday people – are sharing).

It is not perfect – it’s powered by people, so it’s never going to be any better than we are.

There’s a lot of work to be done.

I guarantee it will never (yep, that’s the word – never) get done without people accepting, listening and respecting one another.

We are responsible for the carnage of the words we write. And we can reap the rewards of the hard work that human connection requires.

The hard part – the work that matters is recognizing that the people we don’t agree with – the so-called “keyboard warriors” are the very people we need to bring close, listen to openly, and determine how best to build trust with them.

The trust is eroded. We can’t build a strong foundation without trust.

Whenever we decide to start, we can begin believing again.

Tuning out the Critics?

Make Sure it’s Not a Cop Out

“Don’t worry what other people think — you can’t make everyone happy,” has been common advice I have received in my life.

Admittedly, I am a bit more sensitive than apparently, most of the world, and I have needed to strengthen my thin skin over the years. So, I am not arguing that you can (or should) strive to make everyone happy.

However, since I come from the other extreme, I see this advice as both helpful and potentially dangerous.

Helpful, because of course, we need to be able to recognize that we will not be able to satisfy 100% of world, 100% of the time. Even I agree that is unrealistic. 🙂

But the application of this logic is also dangerous because — especially in the business world and in the organizational leadership roles many people play —  the attitude, if taken to the other extreme can result in a very cynical and isolated way of thinking, leading someone to the mindset, in which “My way or the highway,” becomes the way she thinks and acts.

Dismissing someone who disagrees with us, or failing to listen to constructive criticism can be just as dangerous, as worrying about what everyone thinks.

Creating a tribe that supports you, but also can share their concerns and carry on a healthy debate, without threatening you, or your trust is a sign of true leadership.

The trouble is, we’re so polarized and afraid of the critics throwing potshots from the sidelines, that we’re likely losing valuable insight from some people who might have a valid point, and simply want to help you see the gap that you might not realize exists.

So, while I agree, and personally continue seeking a balance between these two ideals, I caution against completely dismissing someone’s viewpoint that contradicts your own. In fact, I have found the best way to address this is to ask trusted advisors (outside the organization, or at least distanced from the decision making) for their opinion.

Seeking input from a different perspective, and consistently trying to see things from the other side, can prevent all or nothing thinking from pervading the culture of the organization.

Exit the Echo Chamber

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As long as we keep asking for opinions from the people who already agree with us, we’ll continue living (safely, and “right”) in an echo chamber of our own creation. We shouldn’t want everyone to agree with us —  honest, respectful and productive conversations are essential for growth — be it as an individual or as a community.

The very concept of Leadership, demands that we listen — not just to those who agree with us, but also to those who see a different story than the one we have painted and therefore believe — through our familiar lens.

We can’t grow without listening to another perspective.

But, if we don’t really want another person’s perspective, what’s the point of asking a question in the first place? Why have a public forum?

It might surprise us to discover that those with different opinions simply want their voices to be included, and once we’ve listened to all perspectives we can begin to make progress.

Begin by asking for feedback, and continue this process until it’s no longer uncomfortable to listen to a different opinion. It might take a while to get to the kind of openness that we seek, but it is possible — and essential.