Enlightened Conflict

that we contain our own future

March 26th, 2017




“Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward.”



Abraham Verghese




“It’s the one thing we never quite get over: that we contain our own future.”



Barbara Kingsolver





Thinking about what legacy you want to leave behind can make you start thinking a little bit about what you may want to stubbornly stand for and demand of Life … and what you may decide to compromise with Life to insure you have something … some progress to show at the end.


A significant part of this grand bargain we negotiate with Life is how we decide to compromise with those around us and those who affect the arc of our lives.




That word “compromise.”


Therein lies maybe one of the most difficult topics of the current generation.


The topic is that the concept of compromise … meeting someone half way … is now a nebulous concept.

death of compromise



Because I am not sure I know where the hell half way is.


And I tend to believe a shitload of people are standing with me, on one side or the other, not really sure where the hell half way is.


And if you cannot even see the middle ground how the hell can you figure out how to make a stand on it?




This gets compounded by a massive online communal world in which we all live side by side where even the marginalized people <real or perceived> who now have a place to gather into likeminded groups, share as much a space as mainstream views.

For good, or for bad, online any group of people can organize & mobilize & challenge the status quo … or pick & choose which status quo fits their view.


The internet amplifies discourses critical of … well … any status quo you can think of.  And, as anyone could expect, all the critical discourse triggers a corresponding equal backlash from those who fear an uprooting of their beliefs the nature of compromise miserable<and the self identities that are inevitably attached to these beliefs>.


It just becomes one huge mosh pit of criticism and cocooning of likeminded people.


People … all who are angry.


Within all of this situation & anger … it seems like no one is civil to one another. And maybe worse is the fact there is this ‘digging in’ aspect where we refuse to see any merit in other people’s opinions.


Sadly, I can only conclude that we have lost the ability to converse, discuss, debate and have a dialogue with one another.


It seems obvious <at least to me> but if we could figure out how to come together and compromise, that we could go a long way toward not only creating a better version of society in general … but it may give me, and all of us, at least a fighting chance with regard to where we make our own personal stand … and where we compromise … and how we attain the future that we contain.


As long as people cling to unbending attitudes & beliefs, the divides between us will not deepen … but will remain an unbridgeable divide.


I tend to believe most of us want better that that.

I tend to believe most of us would be willing to work to make this a better and more civil world to live in.


And if you do not embrace this thinking?


I would remind everyone that America is representative of a great compromise. The U.S. Constitution is possibly the greatest Compromise ever negotiated <it created a nation>.



But as a first step to bettering this entire situation we need to figure out how to better define Compromise.


compromise not an act weaknessFar too many loudmouthed people have ripped the meaning out of the word,  twisted the value of the word making it seem valueless, and ultimately created an environment in which  we demonize the entire process of trying to reach compromise.

Compromise no longer means understanding your differences and working together toward a common goal but now it seems to represent weakness, losing and not being strong enough to get what you want.


This unwillingness to work together has wrought havoc to society where the unwavering stance seems to be “don’t compromise, stick to your guns, don’t give in to the other side”.






I find it hard to believe that the majority of America is really that selfish and that stubborn.


Sure. I know the people most passionate about any issue tend to be the ones less willing to compromise on them.

And, yeah, I would guess most of us are fairly passionate about ourselves – what we decide to stand for … as well as what we will decide to sacrifice within compromise to attain some progress.


But within this wacky world where no one seems to want to compromise anything on anything … well … shit … some of us are trying to think a little bit about what you may want to stubbornly stand for and demand of Life … and what you may decide to compromise with Life to insure you have something … some progress to show at the end.


It seems like the situation we are in has arisen because we have permitted the stubborn voices of the radical marginalized <real and perceived> to drown out the pragmatic voices of realistic positive compromise.


If we want society to start working again we need to embrace compromise — and let it retain the positive definition which has served it well through time.


To end this I will go back to the beginning.


The “I” aspect.


I tend to believe all of us, with the intent of finding the best version of ourselves from which our ultimate legacy will be defined, will seek to find the balance of being stubborn and demand that Life bend to us and our principles and compromise where we make a grand bargain with Life in order to continue progressing.




If we believe this … then why wouldn’t we want this in Life and in business and in politics and in … well … everything.


There was a book that discussed this. In The Spirit of Compromise <Amy Gutsman and Dennis Thomson> they note that Americans support general compromise as an idea and like the idea of ‘other people’ working together to get stuff done <statistics support this in a variety of studies & polls>.


Oh shit.




The authors then note that support for compromise breaks down when it addresses specific issues <Americans are much less likely to support a compromise life good want you theycompromise on a specific issue>. As with most things in Life we enthusiastically embrace the conceptual behavior and balk at the actual behavior.


Compromise is complex … and simple.


What I do know is that we contain our own future and building that future demands that we will have to make some compromises.  That is simple.

Making the specific choices is complex.

And while I am mostly interested in my own future and making my own compromise choices … I tend to believe we would all find the better version of ourself contained within … if the society as a whole were more willing to refind the value in compromise.


toil and risk are the price

February 21st, 2017





“Toil and risk are the price of glory, but it is a lovely thing to live with courage and die leaving an everlasting fame.”



Alexander the Great



“The time is always right to do what is right.”



Martin Luther King, Jr.




“I would rather die right then live wrong.”








I believe Alexander’s full quote was:



It is a lovely thing to live with great courage and to die leaving an everlasting fame,

Macedonians!… Why do you retreat?!… Do you want to live forever?!

In the name of Zeus!… ATTACK!

pooh test thought


I tend to call this “selective thoughtful recklessness.”




I am not really sure something exactly like that exists … but whether it has a name or not … it is a characteristic of winners and ‘everlasting fame’ … as well as a characteristic of everyday schmucks like me who want to do the right thing, desire some everlasting fame as in ‘known for doing good shit the right way’ and am willing to work hard for it <that is the ‘toil’ part>.


It may sound odd but I do believe if you are dedicated to doing the right thing and doing good shit you have to be comfortable assuming some risk.




I get some shit for my ‘comfort with assuming risk’ , my attitude with reagrd to risk … as well as my general disdain for people who have the absurd principle of ‘making a decision instinctually.’




I came up with my own phrase – selective thoughtful recklessness.


This combination seems to me to be better than simply being rash or foolhardy in behavior. It is better because I have a full respect for consequences and hold consequences in high regard.

choice consequence

And there is never any absence of forethought <which is where I typically find ‘instinct’ fails miserably>.


And I certainly have extreme care and concern with respect to not only other people’s welfare … but my own.


And, yes, there may be a bit of daredevil in the attitude … but without the flair and debonair style associated with a daredevil.


What is there is … is a certain defiance to odds once a decision has been made and a complete “In for a penny n for a pound” attitude. <Cambridge Dictionary: something you say that means that since you have started something or are involved in it, you should complete the work although it has become more difficult or complicated than you had expected >.


My epitaph will absolutely be “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” but my mantra seems to be captured in what I said upfront … “I would rather die right then live wrong.”


That is not courage … nor is it an attitude … it is a choice that simply requires some mental resilience. You feel doubt, resistances to choice and even outright disagreement … but someone who embraces the selective thoughtful recklessness remains mentally resilient towards anything that attempts to stop you from doing what you believe, and maybe even know, is right.


And maybe that is where the thoughtful daredevilishness steps in.

In order to find glory <in this case I believe glory is ‘doing what is right’ and not some fame or accolades> you have to first & foremost reframe the story of what is … and what is possible. I am not suggesting some alternative universe nor am I suggesting fooling yourself into believing something truly impossible is possible.

This is more along the lines of the traditional disruptor definition … seeing the conventional in unconventional ways. By reframing the story the boundaries & limits in the original story become new & different boundaries & limits. Rarely do they align with the old ones and it is within these differences that the ‘thoughtful reckless’ wander.

life whispers listen sign

But this also demands one other thing.


Let’s call it ‘intense listening without attachment.’


What I mean by this is you have to be aware of everything going on around you but you do not necessarily get attached to what is being said. It’s like recognizing the clutter around you and rummaging thru it for the useful and avoiding the useless.




Here is maybe the most controversial thought I will share on finding glory.


Be small.




I just said ‘be small.’

I don’t mean live a small Life but I do mean if you want to find the kind of glory I am discussing, and you want to be selectively thoughtfully reckless, and you want to die right rather than live wrong … you think about being an energy for ‘doing’ like an atom, or a pebble in a pond, where you make yourself as solidly, strongly and distinctly rightly small … and choose your path.

And maybe that is why I balk at ‘daredevil’ so much. It sounds big & flamboyant. I find that being defiantly, and successfully, right in your choice is more often found in the ‘toil’ … in the small stuff and avoiding the small stuff at the same time.

It is more about being solidly small in your solidly rightness.




“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”



Jim Rohn



And, yes, maybe it is about a small quiet courage found in the everyday.


Do I think I am courageous? Certainly not.


Resilient? Absolutely yes.


But this kind of resilience seems to contain a version of courage that is easy to miss.


It is a small resilient courage.


courage tattoo reckless risk tryIt is the small courage you hold on to … to stay when it is easier to leave.


It is the small courage you hold on to … to keep doing when everything says ‘quit.’


It is the small courage you hold on to … to respect difference when we would much rather judge.


It is the small courage you hold on to … to accept some vulnerability when building a wall feels much safer.


It is the small courage you hold on to … to recognize your own agenda needs to be revised to accommodate another’s better idea.


It is the small courage you hold on to … everyday <even though it takes some ‘toil’ to create it>.


It is the small courage you hold on to … to not only become who we really are … but which enables the better version of who we are.


It is the small courage you hold on to … in a world that often doesn’t seem to encourage courageous everyday acts.



Anyway.choose courage or comfort reckless try do


Life isn’t easy. Business isn’t easy.

And navigating both shouldn’t be easy because of that … and it isn’t.

All I can suggest is some selective thoughtful recklessness can you help you out on occasion.

And it surely, when done well and with ‘good as an intent’ gives you a shot at glory.


Just remember.


it is a lovely thing to live with courage and die leaving an everlasting fame


I would rather die right then live wrong


business and principiis obsta

April 30th, 2016


control confront what you can



“Any attempt to make heaven on earth invariably produces hell.”




Karl Popper




principiis obsta


Latin meaning “resist the beginnings” to avoid an unpleasant end.







This is about control and lack of control. This is about doing and not doing. This is about ignorance and confidence. This is maybe also about our quest to control going to hellthings with the intent to create perfection … or maybe our attempt to create heaven within our purview.


And, ultimately, this is about the wretched in-between all of that in which businesses thrive, survive … or die. Let’s call it the inevitable hell of reality if you pursue things believing you can control what will be.



One of the hardest things to learn as you gain more and more responsibility in your career is that while you gain more responsibility you lose more and more control.

This is a really hard lesson because … well … face it. You most likely were initially anointed for promotions and more responsibility because you had show you could control. in fact. your incredibly unattractive anal perfectionist attitude & skills were most likely what made you professionally attractive <and successful>. Your continued success actually encourages you to believe everything will be better <at least for you and to you> if you maintain control.

Some business people never learn to loosen the control attitude and … well … either flame out or become one of those horrendous managers no one wants to work for.


Some get it … that you lose control … and that is when you learn to “manage.”



Let me be clear.


What makes this really hard is that control is insidious. The more we pursue it the less we seem to have of it.


The more we pursue it the more it seems to poison our attitudes and behavior.

What I mean by that is our personal attitude with control affects our attitude with regard to those around us. Inevitably it can create an overall sense of paranoia not only with tangible doings but in the intangible, and even more insidious, lack of trust in those around us.


Think about it.

The Roman emperors killed advisor after advisor and even close relatives to prevent them from taking their power … from taking away their ability to control.


The sacrificing of other’s is fruitless because … well … the pursuit of control as the end goal is futile. Having control of anything is an illusion or at best a coincidence. You can never quite get there.


To be clear, I am making a distinction between control and influence. Control, especially of people, is not possible. You can exert influence, but there is no guarantee that your influence will actually produce the results you intend.

That is the distinction … you can exert influence … but you cannot control actual results.

bad influence on self



To let go of an unhealthy grasp of control you in turn need to embrace the maddening ambiguity of life and business. This mean embracing change, adapting and the inevitably aggravations that come with unintended consequences and foreseen activity.


This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to influence the outcomes of actions but it does mean you may have to accept that demanding that things always go the way you believe they should go will not happen.


Bottom line.

If we are too focused on trying to control everything with the intent to create heaven … we will create hell.


And the hell is internal and external.


Based on our lack of control … internally we can become cynical as our attitude becomes dominated by the “futility of it all.” Externally people are frustrated and micromanaged and so much time gets wasted on attempting to ‘control’ that actual ‘doing type stuff’ becomes less than efficient and runs the overall risk of being ineffective.


<note: we all know managers like this …>


From this point forward most of our actions fall into one of two places:


  • Do nothing <most of the time … just be reactive>

asshole bad manager

  • Do something <most of the time … act upon any and all beginnings we recognize>



Both are bad but the second is most typical of those who seek to control and are frustrated by lack of control.


They just cannot resist beginning something. They almost do not care what … just something.




“When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision.”



Lord Falkland





The flip side of control is usually about doing … like ‘controlling actions with a goal in mind’ type stuff.


The quote above speaks that what we know often protects us from trying things needlessly.

And, yet, the quote also points out that not making a decision is difficult. Many of us … our natural instinct is to make a decision or to do something.


In fact, sometimes we seem to have some absurd confidence that if we try hard enough … success can be achieved. This same confidence makes us ignore the beginnings and step forward confident we can do something if we just keep searching for answers.


Inevitably, by not resisting the beginnings, we cannot avoid unpleasant ends.




And this is all done under the auspices of a desire for control.




Ignoring your control instincts is difficult.


But, if you do, you learn and grow … sometimes by rebuilding that which was either built wrong or just should be rebuilt to meet a new environment.

And answers appear less in pursuit but in awareness of the changing situation <giving ‘answers’ space to appear>.



It is natural to try and control mostly because the alternative seems to be lack of control.


The reality is somewhere in between.

And that in between can be an uncomfortable place to reside.


But that uncomfortable place is called Life. It is not heaven nor is it hell. It is just Life.


I don’t have advice but I can say what I do.



I don’t believe in “control what you can.” That suggests simply because you can that you should. Similar to when a situation dictates you make no decision and it then becomes necessary to actually NOT make a decision … when you can control a moment or a situation it becomes necessary to decide if you SHOULD control it or not.

This makes Life infinitely more difficult in the choice & control aspect but most often infinitely more enjoyable, efficient & effective.




I accept most control is situational and within a very specific defined time frame. This makes my version of control infinitely easier for me. I know I have the power to control for a window of time and then let it go when the window closes.


By the way … I am not suggesting recognizing the window is easy. I have had my fingers smashed many times when the window closed and I was still trying to control.

management what growing-global-executive-talent

Both of these thoughts suggest control is both an art & a science.


Far too often in business people do not think of control as either an art or a science but rather either a responsibility or a right.




Ultimately someone needs to be in control or there is just sheer chaos.



Control, implemented improperly, may create something worse than chaos … it creates hell.

criticism & judgment & self regulation

December 9th, 2015

recognizing real people define judge


“To judge a man by his weakest link or deed is like judging the power of the ocean by one wave.

Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moment.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


“I do not judge men by anything they can do.

Their greatest deed is the impression they make on me.”

Henry David Thoreau




Sometimes … okay … oftentimes … I think we lose perspective.

perspective is everything

And in that lost perspective we judge poorly and criticize unfairly.



I sometimes think because we lack connection to the larger perspective and therefore end up in this cocoon of ‘what the hell is happening right now’ that … well … we criticize or judge in frustration.


What I mean by that is we stop just ‘feeling’ what is going on around us. We don’t really think about shit and instead we focus on what we don’t feel … which ultimately means we rely almost solely on just what we see.

And then we judge and criticize.


Here is the crazy part.


Despite the fact we aren’t truly sensing what is going on before we act and what we see isn’t framed by any thinking … our judgement/criticism crisis is driven but by emotion.








Now … almost everyone will scoff at this and say “if my fault is losing larger perspective than my strength lies in common sense reaction to tangible results … and that isn’t emotional … that is a rational based response.’



Well … no … everyone is mostly wrong. You are simply using the tangible as an excuse for being too lazy, or declining to, pause and think of the larger perspective. And you couch that decision in emotion.



By the way … I believe this happens in business and in everyday life.






Everyone has an excuse.self regulate commit


They simply haven’t strengthened their self regulation skills.


Psychologically speaking I think this lack of perspective is based in something called ‘a lack of self regulation.’



Self regulation is actually about emotions … and our emotions are driven by biological impulses.

To be clear … biological impulses are beyond our control … but the resulting emotions are not. Emotions, of any depth, are impossible to ignore … and, yet, they can certainly be managed. This self management is called self-regulation and it is a characteristic of emotional intelligence. This is the characteristic that frees us from running around chasing our impulses <I am chuckling as a very funny image pops into my head thinking about that>.



Interestingly studies have been conducted which show characteristics of people who have a well defined self regulation:



– an inclination towards reflection and thoughtfulness


– acceptance of uncertainty and change


– Integrity, specifically, the ability to say no to impulsive urges.



In today’s world self-regulation is a pretty underrated skill. For example … if you have great self regulation people will most likely see you as dispassionate or maybe aloof – not particularly the qualities desired to build connections with people. .


In addition … we have a tendency to glorify the passionate ‘authentic’ leader.


Sometimes this authentic passion is mistaken for ‘characteristic of brilliance.’



Anyone who says that is … well … nuts.


Just batty.



self regulation motivation
At no time in business history have we needed less unrestrained passion from our leaders and more self regulation.


Under the guise of ‘being authentic’ and ‘showing your human side’ we have permitted leaders to be less leaderly and more like us every day schmucks.







If I wanted an everyday passionate schmuck to lead I would raise my hand and say “I will lead.’


But I want … well … a leader.



I want someone who will criticize and judge fairly.



I want reasonable people making reasonable decisions and … well … being reasonable as they do so. I want someone who can self-regulate well because as they have the ability to maintain control over their own emotions I have a tendency to believe they will be more likely to maintain control over the natural ebbs & flows of the organizational emotions.


I want environments low on drama and high in productivity.


Frankly … if a leader can create that environment the best of the best employees have a tendency to flock to those organizations and prosper <and not leave>.



Self-regulation actually has a ripple effect. It creates stability at the core of the work environment. It also sets an example for organizational behavior and organizational attitude and organizational expectations.


The even handed nature of a self-regulated leader in combination with the measured positive attitudes <that have a tendency to be intertwined in that type of environment> tends to translate into a more positively measured-in-its-actions organization.



Even better?who dares strong possible


Self-regulation leads to a more measured criticism and measured judgment.







What a great word.


And what an undervalued characteristic.





Because it has tinges of ‘not spontaneous’ and ‘not instinctual’ and ‘lack of passion.’ And when all those tinges come together it becomes the hue of ‘slow & unsure.’



What crap.



Every person, every employee, deserves to be judged by their best moments and not their worst.



Every person, every employee, deserves to be criticized with measured self-regulated responses and not by some spontaneous feeling.



Every person, every employee, deserves to be led by someone who can self-regulate.



Let me end with one thought.



It is easy to be a crappy leader.


Really easy.


And very easy to judge your own success solely on outcomes and objectives reached and sales and ignore a lack of emotional intelligence along the way.


It would also be easy to suggest this self-regulation is ‘maturity.’

It is not. inside out leadership

A lack of emotional intelligence and lack of self regulation early on … and then that person is promoted … has been rewarded.

No increase in maturity will suddenly suggest to the crappy self-regulated business person that they should act differently.



It is hard to be a good leader. It takes a … well … measured self-regulated approach to provide the stability which empowers employees to be the best they can be.



I wish we would praise self-regulation more often … we may have more happy & productive business environments <without having to bribe employees to do the right things> if we did.

Enlightened Conflict