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.

 

 

Words unite and build (or divide)

January 16th, 2017

 

words big brevity

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“Discourse should be proper, restrained and dignified, if possible.

A society that devalues meaningful conversation slides into mediocrity and is debased by the decline in accepted standards of speech.

 

Our English language is an amazing vehicle that allows us to communicate effectively and with the finest of nuances. But abusing the language by stooping to deride or threaten another is not what helps keep our society operating smoothly. We should instead seek to encourage and uplift others and not tear them down with negative rhetoric that serves to promote discord.

 

Americans need to tone their language down, and it’s imperative we begin to act like adults who know how to use self-restraint in guiding our thoughts and actions.”

 

 

Patrick Martin

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Well.

 

It must be a word day for me.

 

trump twitter storm

………… poor leadership communication ……….

The same day I talk about the hollowness of a tweet and empty words <and how Trump refuses to effectively communicate as a leader> I read that the Prime Minister of the UK is using words in an almost striking example of how to address division, and a divided citizenry, with words.

 

We could replace the UK specificity with USA specifics in her proposed speech … and … well … it would be exactly what we should expect from one of the most divisive public servants <I use ‘servant’ loosely in this case> we have ever faced.

 

She is expected to say <with Britain references changed>:

“… focus on building “common goals” – such as protecting and enhancing workers’ rights – in an attempt to create a consensus after months of acrimonious exchanges.

 

“One of the reasons that USA’s <sic> democracy has been such a success for so many years is that the strength of our identity as one nation, the respect we show to one another as fellow citizens, and the importance we attach to our institutions means that when a vote has been held we all respect the result. The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the result. And the country comes together.

Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it – loser and winner <sic> and all the accompanying insults – and unite to make a success and build a truly global USA <sic>.”

—-

 

Well.

 

This is a leader looking for a clear path forward and using words to not only unite … but to seek civilized progress.

 

This is a leader recognizing that a tweet is insufficient.

 

This is a leader who identifies the problem, appeals to the better aspects of people and offers a solution.

 

 

Look.unite-have-each-other-everything

 

I recognize words only have so much power.

In fact I could argue that they do not have actual behavioral power but rather they are the things that enable the behavior to happen<they get the mind in the right place to actually do what should be done>.

 

Asking people to simply ‘come together’ because of nationalistic acceptance is unrealistic.

 

Viewed harshly in this context … words are being tasked with asking people to partially give up on who they are and become followers of a nation defined by uncertain leadership combined with an uncertain vision <and a decision & vote they may not agree with>.

 

And this is where someone like Trump would have to take a step farther than the prime minister of England. England has their task set forth – Brexit. It is a specific tangible fulcrum point of where to go from here.

 

The UK needs to align behind it and align behind its success <because it is going happen regardless of whether you were a winner or loser in that discussion>.

 

words change inspire futureAnd maybe that is why words matter even more so for President Elect Trump than anyone else.

We do not have a specific task … and, no, “great again” is not a task. And, no, dismantling a relatively successful prior administration agenda is not a task <that is destroying to create>.

 

Without a specific task solving divisiveness and a divided 330 million people universe is a tricky thing. It is not binary <as many people seem to want it to be>.

 

It is not binary because some people define losing in different ways. Some people define winning in different ways.

 

And the truth?

 

A concept can look great as a ‘winner’ but in practicality is a loser.

And vice versa.

 

This is not a game where one team’s win is another team’s’ defeat.

 

Just look at immigration <which is a hot topic almost everywhere these days>.

People may want to see a substantial reduction, or better control, with immigration but may not agree on at what cost <let alone be clear about that cost> and the steps to be taken to address it.

 

You can actually be a winner & loser at the exact same time – winner on the fact immigration is being addressed and loser in that the way it is being done doesn’t match what you want.

 

Winners and losers and combinations thereof are strewn among all the issues Trump has made specific promises, vague promises and no promises on.

 

Free to trade globally has an upside as does nationalism.

Standing by the rule of our own laws and controlling our own borders has an upside for some … but a downside for others.

Eliminating regulations has an upside for some … and a downside for others.

My main point would be that regardless of any decision a president and the administration make there are winners and losers … and to suggest 300 million people win is … well … ludicrous.

 

But let’s take a minute and talk about words and our new most important words time brevity‘winner’ – president elect Trump.

 

Where our President Elect gets most challenged with words <beyond the fact he really doesn’t know big nor good words> is that now we track what I refer to, loosely, as the Trump promises.

 

In the vaguery, or the wretched hollow, of past promises and today’s reality there remains … well … a divide. Therefore, the words encourage divide and reinforce divide. There has been no attempt of words to unite … which would simply be important words that bridge the past promises and present realities <of what will be done>.

 

Just try to track Trump promises versus the reality of the global construct of … well … everything … and there is big question with who the “loser” is.

 

In order for Trump to win, and be a winner, he needs to use words well & wisely — not think in terms of 140 characters but rather paragraphs. The words used well offer the path for alignment and put a ‘hold’ on divisiveness for a while so we, as a nation, can get started.

 

Any leader worth a shit knows to even have half a chance with regard to organizational success <winning> you have to not have part of the company holding you back and you should have as a goal to have a much of the organization stepping forward together as possible.

Power & efficiency resides in unity.

Fragmentation is inefficient and less powerful.

 

Now.

 

words are free cost youI will end by pointing out that words are not the only thing that unites or divides. Words establish the framework from which things happen … when behavior either makes the words themselves winners or losers.

 

Words may say “end divisions and work together” but if actions say the opposite … well … we all lose.

 

The UK PM offers a word path, not a word salad as our President Elect seems to prefer, toward uniting a divided country. Words are powerful when used well.

Enlightened Conflict