Enlightened Conflict

persistent setbacks

May 10th, 2017

 setbacks persistent alone

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“We all have a personal pool of quicksand inside us where we begin to sink and need friends and family to find us and remind us of all the good that has been and will be.”

 

—-

Regina Brett

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“Making the best of things is… a damn poor way of dealing with them.

My whole life has been a series of escapes from that quicksand.”

 

—-

Rose Wilder Lane

 

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Well.

 

We all encounter setbacks in our lives. Some people call that ‘life.’

 

setback speed bumpThe positive psychologists just call the setbacks “obstacles” as if they were some hurdles you just learn to either leap or get around.

 

In other words … it is assumed if you stick to your guns no setback is a dead end but rather simply a speed bump.

In other words … we are offered some simplistic discussions about overcoming obstacles.

 

If you really really think about this … this advice is kind of nuts.

 

Yeah.

You may have to think really hard to come on to my side of this argument.

 

You may have to work hard because as soon as you are old enough to comprehend words you get bludgeoned with advice and wisdom with regard to ‘overcoming obstacles.’

 

In its most simplistic form it is uttered as “if you believe, you can overcome anything” or even the famous “it’s not the mistake that matters it is what you do with that mistake.”

 

You get pummeled with things like this:

 

===============medication over medictaion problemsolving2

“Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no Virtue.”

 

Joyram

 

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When you start living the life of your dreams, there will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes and setbacks along the way.

 

But with hard work, perseverance and self-belief there is no limit to what you can achieve.”

 

Roy Bennett

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Well.

 

I don’t doubt the sincerity of this advice but what all of this trite wisdom, mostly offered by wealthier & whiter people whose setbacks are slightly different … okay … exponentially different, then not only the everyday schmuck but those who are in more vulnerable environments seems to overlook is that A setback is manageable … persistent setbacks are a whole different game.

 

I love virtue but after a while you cannot sustain yourself, mentally and physically, on virtue alone when faced with persistent setbacks.

 

What I mean is that we treat setbacks as if they were like a cold … with a little time and some fortitude and some chicken noodle soup you can overcome it and move on.

 

But sometimes setbacks are like a virus … this virus is more like ‘persistent setbacks.’

 

setbacks persistent quicksand

 

And, yes, this is different than what I call “quicksand” or “quicksand setbacks.”

 

Quicksand setbacks are more often in a defined period of time and comes to fruition mostly in a helpless unraveling before your eyes.

It’s like in a football game where one fumble leads to an interception which leads to the other team running a punt back for a touchdown. Everyone fights as hard as they can … but the setbacks stream in a way that drives you deeper and deeper into a hole. Most times quicksand setbacks stop and depending on the quicksand you are in a deep dark fucking hole or just a hole <or something in-between>.

 

A hole is a hole. It sucks.

But most times if you do get your shit together, get your head on straight and maybe get a little help you can get out of the hole <regardless of how deep it is>. And once you get out of a quicksand hole you actually find you have learned some stuff and … well … most times you see future quicksand and avoid it.

 

 

And then there are persistent setbacks.

 

problems overcoming obstacles

….. and, yet, the opportunities can only be found in darker deeper holes ………..

 

They are brutal.

Fucking brutal.

 

You face a setback.

You pick yourself up, recover and get going again. And maybe just as you get going again … well … you get another setback.

 

This one hurts a little more because you knew you had invested and you knew you had done it right … and you still got screwed again with another setback.

 

 

You figure … what the hell … I did it once and I can do it again and you pick yourself up again and get going, recover and you are starting to put the last setback in your rear view mirror and … doh … another setback.

 

 

This one hurts. Hurts bad.

 

But … you know you have no alternative but to get up, try again and get going.

This time is a little different though. This time you are a little more tentative.

Maybe even doubt a little more. You still put energy into it and you are working hard but this time your head is more on a swivel.

 

Uhm.

And then another setback happens.

 

Most will get up and go again. But this time doubt is your companion and while you are trying your best … you are most likely not really your best.

 

And then another setback happens.

 

This is where the trite positive ‘pick yourself up’ people sort of get things wrong.

 

It’s not that you don’t have the desire … you just have lost hope that you will ever get a break or that it will finally be someone else who will have a setback and not you.

 

Sigh.

 

I read this quote somewhere:

 

“Time to bet on yourself, big, huge, gigantic bet on your genius and abilities to change the world for the better because nothing is going to stop you, no force is going to hold you down or get in your way and make you lose your inner motivation again.”

 

 

Well.

 

kitchen-table-study-problems-concerns-home-life-leadThat sound good … really good … but persistent setbacks are a whole different game. You can be motivated, you can bet on yourself and all of those things <which are usually necessary for any success> but … well … what happens if you have to keep on going back to the well again and again and again?

 

What happens when Life just seems to provide one more setback after you have just recovered and gained some momentum for the last setback … which you had done after the setback before that one and … well … you get it.

 

There is only so much anyone can take before they get tired … start having doubts … and then simply lose hope.

Look.

 

Everyone can pull themselves together after a setback.

A quicksand  setback is a little trickier but depending on deeply you sink … most people can pull themselves together.

 

But persistent setbacks? Whew.

 

You aren’t looking for a big break … you are just looking for A break.

 

When in a persistent setback cycle … it is relentlessly exhausting.

 

Your plans all seem to not go as planned.

 

You can do your best, and it may actually be pretty good, and it can still fail.

 

You can be really smart, have a smart idea, articulate it smartly, and it can still be rejected or ignored.

 

You can work harder than anyone else and pour your heart & soul into something and it can still go unnoticed.

 

And all of that gets exponentially harder to take with each ongoing setback.

 

In addition … persistent setbacks take on a darker hue if you start looking around you and see mediocrity winning and rising and some of the least qualified not facing the setbacks you are.

 

Now.

 

I did some research.

And I found how we deal with setbacks depends on how much control someone feels they have over a situation.

 

The study found that changes in certain brain areas were related to persisting with goals after encountering setbacks.

 

Participants more often persisted with their goals, choosing to try again to earn the same academic degree, when they perceived they had control over a setback than if they perceived that they did not have control over a setback.

 

What’s more, activity in a brain area called the ventral striatum was related to persisting with goals in cases where the setbacks were controllable. Participants who showed greater decreases in brain activity in the ventral striatum when they encountered a controllable setback were more likely to persist with their goals.

 

On the other hand, changes in a brain area called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were related to persistence when the setbacks were uncontrollable. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is involved in regulation of emotions, and the new study suggests this brain area helps people cope with negative emotions in order to persist in the case of uncontrollable setbacks.

 

 

drowning no water lifeIn other words … when setbacks are uncontrollable they affect us in a more emotional way.

 

Yup. When persistent setbacks seem to continue in ways that are out f our control … well … they fucking kick the shit out of you mentally.

 

 

I say that because I think most of us overlook how persistent setbacks affect the mind.

 

And while I just outlined how I believe it affects an individual … there is also an effect on the people around you.

 

Say you are a parent and you are in this doomed cycle of persistent setbacks.

As a child that is all you see. That is all you hear about. That is what you start thinking Life is more like than what you see on TV with regard to ‘work harder than anyone else and your dreams can come true <or you can do anything you want>.’

 

Let me tell you what I mean by showing you some research numbers I just saw.

 

Among the dozens of research studies post 2016 election I found some number about the working class and education that made me sit up a little and think about this whole ‘persistent setback’ issue and how … if it is affects a swath of the population long enough … can affect their larger attitudes.

 

In an analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic 54% of white working-class Americans said investing in college education is a risky gamble … this includes a whopping 61% of white working-class men <white working-class voters who held this belief were almost twice as likely as their peers to support Trump>.

 

Ok.

That is bad. But it gets worse.

 

This belief is even more prevalent among white working-class Americans under 30.

 

This belief means that they are not buying into the idea that if you do work really hard, if you do study and go to school, you will be able to get ahead.

 

In my persistent setback theory we have an entire swath of America who has given up hope that they can ‘overcome the setbacks and get ahead.”

 

“The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters.”

<Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI>

 

 

I don’t really want to discuss Trump voters and white working class people today but I do want to make a point about persistent setbacks and how they affect people’s attitudes.

 

Black, white, Asian, American Indian, whatever … persistent setbacks are an equal opportunity hope killer.

 

Any setback sucks. I don’t care how old you are … a setback is a setback and lovers quarrel life and medepending on where you are in life a setback can be crushing.

 

All the positive encouragement to pick yourself up and get going again kind of misses the mark. I don’t offer a solution today I am just making a point and bitching.

 

And all the bitching aside.

 

Everyone just needs to recognize that setbacks come in all shapes and sizes, not all setbacks are created equal, setbacks can be deceiving in their appearances and if you don’t recognize all that you run the risk of missing what someone else is enduring with regard to persistent setbacks.

 

 

Ride it to the buzzer

January 12th, 2016

Bad outexecuting Chaos_to_structure

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“Ride it to the buzzer.”

 

 

a bull rider

 

 

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I love this phrase.

 

I love it with regard to how to live Life as well as how business should be conducted <projects, initiatives, programs, internal employee & external sales activity>.

 

In a rodeo there are no results for progress … you simply ride it to the buzzer or you do not.

Even better?

 

Watch a bull rider ride. The buzzer sounds at 8 seconds … but the ride itself goes on for seconds more … they ride THROUGH the buzzer.

 

 

Now.

 

 

I will admit upfront … I am not a milestones guy or a ‘stage goal’ guy. Show me the end zone, tell me how much time I have to get in the end zone and let me get there.

 

<be aware … I am now officially mixing sports metaphors>

 

 

I think I became this was because I viewed some important behavior patterns in business people fairly early in my career:

 

lists goals aim

– A milestone was treated like a touchdown and not a first down.

 

 

What I mean by that is a milestone is … well … simply a step toward the ultimate objective. And unlike football this ‘first down’ doesn’t earn you another set of downs … it is simply a false ‘win.’

 

Okay.

 

That was harsh.

 

Maybe it is simply a reflection of progress. But progress in and of itself, in business, is not the objective. The objective is some result. Partial results don’t equal a partial win they simply equate to a failure to reach the objective.

 

And, yet, milestones were treated almost equal to the ‘objective win.’

 

 

 

– The end zone line was treated like a stopping point.

 

knowing when to stop

What I mean by that is that everyone ran to the end zone line itself and not thru the line and into the end zone.

This may sound silly or wasted energy … but I could argue that most projects are not discrete. They typically beget something else – another task, project or action.

I always preferred focusing the project to end on the ‘completion+’. The “+” being an array of “what’s next” type thoughts and tasks.

 

But, that’s me, what I kept seeing <and still see today> is a weird rush to the finish line with a contradictory slowing down at the same time to insure going no further than the objective.

 

 

So … how did I mentally shift to something other than what I was seeing <and di not believe was the best way of doing it>?

 

 

Ride it to the buzzer.

 

Its 8 seconds on a bucking bronco or a beast of a bull. Isn’t that what business is like? And don’t give me the ‘it’s only 8 seconds and projects in business can take months.” Time is relative and I am actually focusing on finishing.

 

Sure.

A long project can be energy draining and there are points where you seek to conserve energy to have the energy needed when it is needed. But that’s not really the point. 8 seconds, used wisely, is a lifetime.

 

 

A bull rider is the human athlete in the man-versus-beast sport of bull riding.

 

When a bull rider is still in control of the ride when the eight-second buzzer sounds it is called a Qualified Ride and therefore earns a score.

A qualified ride is 8 seconds. The clock starts when the bull’s shoulder or flank breaks the plane of the gate and stops when the rider’s hand comes out of the rope, the rider touches the ground or the rider’s free arm touches the bull.

I think business needs more of a bull rider mentality.

Heck.

I think living Life needs more of a bull rider mentality.

 

 

I think more leaders should lead, and manage, not only with a bull rider mentality … but with a ride it to the buzzer mentality.

 

 

Look.

 

 

I can guarantee you pretty much one thing if you bring this kind of mentality to your professional life.

 

You will be successful.where are you moving better

 

 

Mostly you will be successful because you will ‘run through’ the objective while others are pacing everything to stop at the objective.

 

But I could suggest you will be successful because you will not need milestones or stage goals. Why? Because you don’t need them … you are riding until the buzzer.

And that’s all that matters.

nostalgia … plus ca change, plus ca meme chose

May 20th, 2014

 

liar

‘plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’

<the more things change, the more they stay the same>

 

 

Nostalgia is a
dirty liar
that insists things
were better
than they seemed.
Michelle K  I Can’t Stop Questioning It.

 

 

“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.”

—Chuck Palahniuk,

 

Nostalgia is a drug.

Plain and simple.

 

Nostalgia is an addiction that truly sinks in when you become old enough to actually have memorable memories.

 

Oops.

 

 

life which wayI imagine that means … ‘old’ … okay … older or old enough to have gathered up some things in that past to compare to what is happening … and theoretically place against what you imagine the future will look like.

 

 

Ok. That said.

 

Nostalgia is the bane of every older generation’s existence.

 

And when I say ‘older’ I will unequivocally state it begins in the 50something age bracket.

All of a sudden we begin looking toward our future <the young> with mistrust … for … well … let’s say two reasons:

 

<1>: because we struggle to give up our past and how things were done <as we did them>. In other words … we mistrust them to do it as well as we ‘perceived’ we did it … or would do it. By the way … we mistrust even if we actually sucked at doing in the past.

 

<2>: power … the loss of power. every generation hesitates to let go of power and empower the next generation. but this generation is exponentially more difficult because of the rise of technology. technology means older folk are losing power not transferring power to the next generation.

letting go claw marks

 

Anyway.

Bottom line … we mistrust our future and hold on to the past.

 

 

Now.

 

Not all things.

 

Just the changes that we can’t wrap our heads around <like technology>.

 

And before all the old folk want to begin bitching to this old folk <me> I am not discussing unfounded 50something negative stereotypes about younger people <the 80 million millennial Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000>.  My observation is backed up by gobs of sociological research … our negativity is grounded is some things we do not like.

 

One of the researchers at The National Institute of Health suggests that rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, millennials are just adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change. And while adapting <very well I would like to point out> they are also optimistic … and confident … and pragmatic … at a time when it can be difficult just to get by. Those aren’t bad qualities to have <even if it feels like they spend too much time on their phones>.

 

 

I say that because this is an example where the old folk just cannot wrap their nostalgic heads around the changes in the world <and how things are adapting>.

We far too often <in our nostalgic pea like brains> intertwine attitudes and behavior creating some fairly negative overall perceptions. We are nostalgically selective <picking and choosing what we would like to remember>  with regard to what we perceived as our attitudes in our youth <somewhat warped by time> as well as our behavior <once again warped by time> and we say things like this:life explained diagram

 

 

–          This generation lacks respect … respect for others … respect for their jobs … respect for themselves … they think that everyone owes them something … their boss,friends family,co workers and it all boils down to a lack of respect. And the phone …. just because we have access to it doesn’t mean we should be on it all the freaking time … kids come in all the time and i want to rip their headphones right out of their ears … seems to me that this generation doesn’t want to be part of this world at all they want to be part of a virtual world. A world where they can rant and complain about the world but not have to change it .. .i feel sorry for the youth and young adults … most of them are rude and inconsiderate. get off your fricken phone…..get off the fricken internet ….and live a real life and not a virtual one… believe me it’s a lot more complicated out here than it is in your virtual world …”

 

 

 

laugh at deathWhen I read the above.

First … I laughed and shook my head.

 

Second.

It made me think of this quote:

 

Every human generation has its own illusions with regard to civilization; some believe they are taking part in its upsurge, others that they are witnesses of its extinction. In fact, it always both flames and smolders and is extinguished, according to the place and the angle of view.”

Ivo Andrić

 

Simplistically … we often just get nostalgic for how we perceived we were when we were young <a portion of that is a wish that they respected older ‘power’ like we supposedly did>.

 

In other words … we want them to be like us … despite a world unlike what it was for us.

<and that is frickin’ crazy>

 

 

Now.

To be <very> clear.

 

There is a significant difference between nostalgia and learning from the past. And this is a very important distinction with this particular current generation gap.

 

Significantly … this is the first generation to be born with easy access to the internet which opens “us” up to new ideas and different perspectives. It also gives us a greater ability to look at the mistakes of the older generations in better hindsight. The combination of technology & perspective is creating a faster shift of power than in past generations. And a wider gap between nostalgic memory and present reality.

 

Yes … there may be some in the younger generation who are lazy or expect the world to hand them everything.

But.

There are also many more who have the knowledge to think more critically than those in the past, more self-confidence to succeed and the desire to prove our many stereotypes wrong.

And they all pretty much know significantly more about living Life in a technology driven world than the older generation <lazy or industrious that they may be>.

 

 

Look.

What will become of this younger generation will not be written for many years but it is difficult to not feel optimistic when you stop being nostalgic and actually see what the young have to offer. As well as stop being nostalgic simply in the attempt to maintain control over them <as they increasingly gain power>.

 

 

The young always are frustrated with older generations. That is their place in generational Life.

 

But nostalgia gives them a real bitch against us older folk.

Because nostalgia can often be an easy attitude which actually puts a comfortable attractive comforter  over ignorance and blind arrogance.

 

The underlying conceit is that only our specific generation is ‘right’ when it comes to everything from popular culture preferences to fashion and style to how to conduct business … shit … nostalgia tucked awayabout how anything is done <attitudinally mostly but some behavior things also>.

The truth is that as we aged, we shifted our own biases upwards with us, so that we always reside in the ‘sweet spot of attitudes & behaviors <in which people act reasonably> whereas those younger and older than us are always flawed in a variety of ways.

And because we are ‘the sweet spot’ we feel compelled to point out the flaws at every opportunity.

 

 

But here is the funny thing … oh … I was going to write something sarcastically funny here but gawker.com already did it for me:

 

 

Though we don’t like to give away trade secrets, in this case, will reveal the following fact: this is a “joke.” The subtext of this running joke—a joke that we intend to run for so long that it becomes indistinguishable from a true prejudicial belief, and comes to define us (negatively) in the minds of the casual readers—is, of course, that every generation is basically exactly the same, and there is very little new under the sun, and, my god, even Socrates was complaining about the lazy ways of the youth back in his time, what the fuck would make you think that your generation, whatever it is, is in any way inherently special compared to the thousands of human generations that came before you? The entire farcical idea that humanity reaches its peak with your generation and then proceeds to go into decline with the next generation is made all the more hilarious by the fact that every generation before you believed the same thing, as will every generation after you. Humans: even our sense of uniqueness is not unique!

 

<I loved this>

 

Anyway.

 

nostalgia definedThere are a number of research studies that basically say the foundation of our behaviors are fairly consistent from generation to generation as we age <although some of our attitude characteristics will vary – as per Strauss & Howe 4th Turning generations>.

 

 

And luckily Ad Age magazine did a study which points out that the entire image of the Millennial generation as a bunch of lazy, shiftless Skrillex-listeners is largely just a media creation, because—wait for it—Millennials are pretty much just like you:

 

 

But like generations before them, millennial parents tend to be more traditional and shop more frugally than their non-parent counterparts. According to the study, before millennials have children they over-index on brands like Abercrombie, H&M, Apple, Macy’s and Sephora. After they become parents, those brands not only drop, some of them disappear from their consideration set. Instead, millennials shift to over-indexing against the entire U.S. population on brands like Dollar General, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Value City. About 44% of millennial parents are “very financially stressed.”

 

 

Basically.

 

–          Your mom was young and free and then had you and then she shopped at the cheap store.

–          You were young and free and then you had kids and then you shopped at the cheap store.

–          And Millennials were young and free and then they had kids and then they shopped at the cheap store.

 

 

Bottom line.

No matter who you are, or how old you are, or what generation you’re from, we’re all just struggling to get by and will end up shopping at a cheap store <whew … that is an uplifting thought, huh?>

 

All that said.serious nonsense change anything

 

As the French say: ‘plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’ (the more things change, the more they stay the same.)

 

We should accept that the young have good ideas.

We should help them make the changes that need to be made.

We should stop complaining about their confidence, optimism, independence and ability to navigate technology.

 

We should stop constantly being nostalgic because … well… it’s getting old <and sounds old>.

 

 

Nostalgia is our fallback place to go when we distrust the future.

We hold on to what was … because we have no clue ‘what will be.’

 

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t learn, or take some learnings, from the past.

But.

Once again.

 

There is a significant difference between nostalgia and learning from the past.

 

–      Nostalgia simply encourage us to regurgitate past mistakes.

 

–      Learning from the past means shedding aspects and adapting other aspects to the present.

 

Look.

I don’t know what the millenials will do or what the generation after them will do.holding universe together matters

I admit that I find many of them engaging and they often do not carry the bigotry, attitudes and prejudices of us older folk.

 

I am not nostalgic.

In fact I hope there is a better future to be found by discarding much of the past.

 

I’m older.

But I have faith that the young people of today can learn from past mistakes and will grow up and get it <whatever their version of getting it is> and continue building a fantastically imperfect perfect  future.

 

I’m older.

And I recognize that far too often nostalgia is a liar.

 

Enlightened Conflict