Enlightened Conflict

rock bottom

June 15th, 2017

 elevator down bottom

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“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

 

J.K. Rowling

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“How do we forgive ourselves for all of the things we did not become?”

 

David ‘Doc’ Luben

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Ok.

 

infinities are relativeHave you ever noticed that rock bottom is actually relative?

 

It is actually not a ‘bottom’ but rather like floors in a high rise building.

 

Someone can see a homeless person and think “rock bottom” and, yet, that homeless person, if asked, would say “oh, I have been lower.”

 

Someone can hear a millionaire recount when they were bankrupt and ‘it was rock bottom’ and, yet, two years later they were a millionaire again.

 

I am not suggesting that a wealthy person cannot see a starving child in a poverty stricken neighborhood as rock bottom … just that they cannot ever envision it is a viable rock bottom for themselves – ‘couldn’t happen to me’ syndrome.

 

I will not argue that people use their own versions of rock bottom as leverage points for progress and moving upwards away from that bottom. JK Rowling is certainly a great example of that <although … it would behoove us to acknowledge that she is an exception and not the rule>.

 

But if you ever want to truly understand how fucked up we tend to view rock bottom just take a second and ponder the wealthy view and how they discuss ‘entitlements’ and monetary safety nets.

 

It drives me a little nuts to hear some millionaire talking about the time they ‘lost it all’ and, yet, they sit in some plush chair wearing a hundred+ dollar tie discussing their comeback from rock bottom as a ‘self-made millionaire who fought his way back’.

 

Uhm.

 

Real rock bottom doesn’t permit you to go from less than zero to multi-millionaire unless you live in some privileged world or you win the lottery.

 

My real point is that rock bottom is relative.

 

The 50something C-level experienced person out of work for several years with dwindling bank balances and no discernible path off of the slippery slope rock bottom crap and me bad day life black holecertainly feels rock bottom. But their bottom is measured by what they had and what they lost … and what they believe they will be able to gain again <if given the opportunity>. And “opportunity” … even at their bottom certainly seems within a ‘hopeful grasp.’

 

Conversely, the hard working blue collar worker constantly on the edge of poverty or “making do” deems rock bottom as losing whatever they have gained … maybe a house or maybe just an apartment in which the adult has their own room and dinner food 6 days a week for everyone in the family. They may not view “opportunity” as hopeful but rather some small step toward relief from some worry.

 

The wealthy talk about ‘understanding’ that kind of rock bottom, but they don’t.

There is no way they do. In their world rock bottom is significantly different and the path out of that rock bottom hole looks significantly different.

 

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“She destroyed too many good things in society, and created too many bad ones, then left a social and moral vacuum in which the selfishly rich and unimaginatively fortunate could too easily destroy still more of what they don’t need and can’t see that everyone else does need.”

 

———-

Emma Darwin

 

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I am picking on the wealthy <mostly because many of them live in some absurd world view in which everyone has the same opportunity to attain the wealth that they have> but everyone views rock bottom thru their own relativity lens.

 

And, in general, that is okay.

 

gota have faith even at the bottom of the blackest holeIt is mostly okay because it is our own self calibration, and motivation, mechanism to challenge ourselves to get what we want. The difficulty happens when you start applying your own self calibration to others.

 

Look.

 

Rock bottom is fairly easy to see if you look around without cynicism.

 

 

Look around.

Entitlement programs represent almost 2/3rds of the American federal budget. Almost half of American households receive some assistance from the government.

 

When we see numbers like this most of us get grumpy and many of us think there is some underlying problem <which is difficult to put a finger on>.

Simplistically the biggest problem is that nobody thinks they’re the problem.

Shit. To be fair. Nobody ever wants to think they’re the problem.

 

Unfortunately, the truth is as long as we continue to think of the rising cultural reliance on government assistance as someone else’s problem, and someone else’s fault, we’ll never truly understand it and we’ll have absolutely zero chance of fixing it.

 

Unfortunately, the truth is that an America assistance culture is far more pervasive than people realize – even beyond the lazy moochers and deserving poor <of which there are certainly lazy moochers but far less than what we perceive>.

Even the wealthy rely on government assistance … just in different ways.

good people defined losses victories

 

Here is the truth. People want more stuff than what they have and everyone hates losing what they have. Therefore rock bottom relativity centers on that understanding – what I have, what I have lost, what I could gain.

 

That formula works if you earn $100 a week or $1000 an hour.

 

The truth is that … well … now everyone feels like they are entitled – even the wealthy — which is driven by a belief everyone is getting rich, or richer, but them.

This makes people become resentful, jealous, angry, and a little selfish. They are working hard and they want their share and they are at their rock bottom and see someone getting what they believe they deserve.

 

Now.

 

People, in general, know this is wrong and people, in general, don’t like this feeling and they resent feeling this way <and acting this way>. They get a little pissed that the definition of rock bottom isn’t some simple ‘same for everyone’ so they start lashing out and blaming other people.

People are milking the system.

People in government <whichever party you want> are creating the problem.

People who don’t look like us are to blame.

People think their rock bottom is more important than everyone else’s rock bottom.

 

And all people want a simple thing to point at and say ”fuck you, I am at rock bottom and I do not want to be here.”

 

Here is a truth.

 

The truth is that it is a systemic issue and, I would argue, our failing to truly understand rock bottom.

 

I will offer a quasi-contradictory thought to end this.

 

As a generalization … wealthy people <say 90% of them> has an absurd concept of rock bottom and fairly consistently misjudge attitudes & behaviors of poorer people at their rock bottoms.

 

Conversely … it is a massive mistake to generalize the non-wealthy and their rock bottoms. While I felt comfortable generalizing with the wealthy <because I believe overall they have more opportunities within their grasp more easily graspable> I am not comfortable doing so with less wealthy people. And I say that to go back to my original opening point – rock bottom is relative and personal.

 

That point is pretty important.

made a bed at bottom of black hole

It is important because we tend to want to create some sweeping program and solution which misses the fact that it is more likely to be successful if we go one-on-one and help individuals assess their rock bottom and help them get somewhere other than a bottom.

 

What I would feel comfortable making a generalization on is the fact that any less-than-wealthy person at their rock bottom has no desire to remain there. They may have no clue how to get out of their hole. They may have absolutely no hope of getting out of their hole. They may exhibit no behaviors that suggest they want to get out of their hole.

But exactly 0% wants to remain in their bed at the rock bottom of their hole.

 

We should never permit anyone to make a bed at the rock bottom. Never.

 

 

steps taking

 

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“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”

Paulo Coelho

bad ideas never seem to die

June 6th, 2017

 

good idea bad idea fight time busines

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“If truth be told, the easy road is nothing more than an armchair in clever disguise. And if you look around, it seems that there are a whole lot of people in the furniture business.”

 

 

Craig D. Lounsbrough

 

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“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves …”

 

————–

Berean Study Bible

 

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So.

 

I tend to believe most of us learn, fairly early in our careers, that bad ideas do bad idea light up good path battle businesnot die on their own. In fact … as you gain more experience you actually find that bad ideas can often be incredibly hard to kill –they may actually have more than nine lives.

 

At exactly the same time most of us also learn that good ideas rarely are seen as the greatest thing since sliced bread and embraced as a good idea as soon as they are presented.

 

Think about that for a second.

 

Bad ideas are incredibly hard to kill and good ideas can be incredibly hard to bring to life.

 

Well.

That’s pretty fucked up.

 

And, yet, despite learning this I still believe most of us are surprised when we find a bad idea still breathing and a good idea is breathing its last breath.

 

Shit.

 

Even I forget this lesson despite having seen some of the most bad ideas in the world live despite my best efforts and some of the goodest of ideas die despite my best efforts.

that is a terribe bad idea speak out business ideas

And I seem to keep forgetting it despite the fact the world is filled with some incredibly absurdly bad factually incomprehensible, or defensible, ideas.

 

Forgetting this idea is dangerous.

 

It creates a Life & business world strewn with bad ideas which can quite easily lead to a complacency that bad ideas will exist no matter what we do … or worse … complacency when faced with a bad idea because we believe it is fruitless to fight it.

 

I will not spend a lot of time on complacency but suffice it to say it is a sneaky little bastard especially when it comes to bad ideas.

But the bigger issue is that, for several reasons, we tend to let our guard down when faced with a bad idea.

 

The difference between a really bad idea and a ‘shrug your shoulders a little’ bad idea can often be indiscernible.

 

We have a bad habit of dismissing bad in its initial stages as just “bad.” This lets run or diea hardier & sturdier bad idea off the hook. It is quite possible most of us just hope it smothers itself in its badness and just goes away but more often than not … it does not. And, yet, time and time again we make an initial assessment of “bad, maybe & good” and mostly dismiss ‘bad’ and move on.

 

I could suggest that not all bad ideas are created equal but it is probably better advice to simply treat all bad ideas as equally bad. Don’t waste your time discerning the difference; just assume a bad idea will be a motherfucker to kill.

 

 

Bad ideas have an innate knack to normalize their being.

 

Once you let a bad idea off the hook when it is initially introduced it has a nasty habit of slipping into the general conversation as “possibility.”

In other words … because it didn’t die before it could draw its first breath it somehow becomes normalized as some viable breathing idea.bad idea there is such a thing

 

Yeah. Normalizing is a word that is being tossed round a lot lately.

 

As a corollary that all bad ideas can look quite similar <bad ideas> we have a tendency to simply normalize them <as ideas that may not be as good as some other ideas>. Bad is a fucking big bucket to normalize as simply “another idea to consider.”

 

It gets worse at that point.

 

“Outsider” ideas take on some personality that almost adds viability even though it is still a bad fucking idea.

It’s like all bad ideas wear black and blend into any crowd … and almost become cool by doing so. Yeah. Just ponder that for a second. How many bad ideas get a label of “cool idea” … but it’s actually a bad idea. Once a bad idea falls into the “cool thing to consider” category it becomes an aggravating difficult challenge for the actual good idea.

 

Anyway.

A moment back to complacency.

 

Complacent is a squooshy word and concept.

 

I tried googling complacency with bad ideas and got only 514000 results. Uhm. But looking within the top 8 results … the office, west point, teen life, politics, religion and a general one … there were none with regard to bad ideas.

 

This suggests complacency strikes everyone at different times in our lives.

But in no place could I find anyone discussing how complacent in our thinking that everyone can see a bad idea as a bad idea and therefore we can relax <become complacent> because … well … bad ideas just get thrown away because they are bad.

 

Complacency is squooshy.

 

Let’s face it.

 

No one wants to invest energy chasing after some bad idea to be sure it is dead.

Sure. The most experienced of us absolutely circle back after the original bad idea has been killed to make sure it is really dead. But we don’t circle around it and hover over it to see if it is really dead … we just check in on it.

 

Basically … we have better things to do than stick around to smother the sonuvabitch to be sure it is dead. But, in the harsh spotlight of truth, this is plain & simple complacency.

 

I have been burned by bad ideas so many times I have come to sometimes think of bad ideas as tsunamis. They begin as a small shaking of the earth miles down under the surface of the ocean … completely unseen. In this metaphor you may have actually been in the frickin’ meeting where it was declared  bad idea and even been there when it got discarded … but you just were not aware of the work bad idea panda angryearth moving way way down under your feet.

 

From there the bad idea can gain some incredible momentum only to build into some huge wave which can wash over even the strongest criticism at a later date <let alone drown a shitload of good ideas>. Suffice it to say … it can drive you crazy.

 

I think we have all been in this situation at work.

 

Once a bad idea has some momentum they are next to impossible to kill.

 

I sometimes believe this is because <a> some people pretend a second rate idea is first rate and <b> a shitload of people cannot see the difference between a second rate idea and a first rate.

 

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“What’s terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate.”

Doris Lessing,

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But I actually believe it is because we give bad ideas a free pass. What I mean by that is we take a good idea and start running the ‘idea to implementation’ gauntlet defending it and selling it and sharing it all with the end goal in mind. All the while, as we focus on the good, we don’t notice <or maybe it is just a nagging aggravation along the way> that the bad idea is also in the ‘idea to implementation’ gauntlet … but getting a free ride because it isn’t really being sold … it just keeps appearing along the way as “the alternative idea to the good one.”

 

While you were focused on good and paying attention to something else the bad idea has gained “a voice” … it can be a person or it can simple be some “myth” associated with it. And when that happens you can find yourself hearing about a bad idea in some hallway from someone who really knows nothing about it … and they speak of its myth in some positive way.

Suffice it to say the moment that happens … you are fucked. The bad idea is not only alive and breathing … it is healthy <in almost mythical proportions>.

 

Ok.

So rather than bitch about bad ideas let me make a suggestion to everyone.

 

Life, and business, is one big mosh pit of shit. The shit is made up of stuff to do, responsibilities, everyday commitments and responsibilities … as well as ideas. This mosh pit is a big dark gloomy cloud of stuff swirling around.

 

Now.

 

The ideas shit is a little different. What I mean by that is 99% of ideas do not just happen <good and bad ones> like most of the other stuff in the mosh pit.

good bad idea battle for path business

 

Ideas need some ‘oomph’ to get thru the mosh pit. They need to navigate a narrow winding path through the big mosh pit of shit from the moment they are introduced to the moment in which it reaches a point where the idea shifts to some action.

As noted earlier … in most cases … the path usually has two ideas jostling each other along this path … a good idea and a bad idea.

 

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“Our minds are a battle ground between good and bad ideas; we are whatever side wins the battle”

 

Bangambiki Habyarimana

 

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I imagine my real point is that bad ideas do not die simply because they are bad.

 

You cannot be silent, you cannot ignore them, you cannot be complacent and you cannot simply champion the good idea. You actually have to fight bad ideas.

It may be aggravating to do so.

It may take more energy than you want fight like hell hughto.

It may even get a little absurd in how often you feel like you have put a knife through its heart and you still find it alive and kicking not long after.

 

But if you want good ideas to win you have to accept the burden of the fight. And this fight has a number of rounds and takes place over an extended period of time.

 

Here is what I know about fighting bad ideas. I now assume they never die … they simply end up in second place to a good idea that competed better.

 

That last sentence may be one of the best pieces of advice I have ever given to the business world.

 

 

 

organizational exhaustion

May 12th, 2017

exhausted organization puppy tie

 

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“I prefer physical exhaustion over mental fatigue any day.”

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Clotilde Hesme

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“There is a construct in computer programming called ‘the infinite loop’ which enables a computer to do what no other physical machine can do – to operate in perpetuity without tiring.

 

In the same way it doesn’t know exhaustion, it doesn’t know when it’s wrong and it can keep doing the wrong thing over and over without tiring.”

 

—–

John Maeda

 

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So.

 

ideas within organizationLeading an organization is not like running a race … well … at least it is not like running a sprint.

 

Okay.

I am being stupid.

 

It’s not like running a race.

Nothing like it.

 

It is more like managing the health of a body in which you do want some exercise and you do want some healthy eating and you do want to insure proper amount of sleep.

Suggesting you want to run a business like you are in some marathon is silly and misguided.

 

It is just as misguided to think about an organization like a machine with gears and moving parts and keeping it well-oiled and full of gas and shit like that.

 

I say all of that to talk about organizational exhaustion.

 

If you stay away from silly metaphors about what an organization is, or is not, simplistically you are trying to insure your organization is putting forth a proper amount of effort against the efforts you want it, and need it, to be working against. This is a daily, weekly, monthly and annual leadership objective.

 

Different leaders have different styles working against this objective but, simplistically, that is the objective.

 

Now.

HOW you meet this objective typically takes some experience.

What do I mean?

 

I assume most leaders do not inherently know exactly how to do this … pacing an organization takes some experience and some practice, some mistakes and some successes and then you zero in on how to do it well <or just keep getting better at it>.

 

Using me as an example … I liked a hard charging group when I got to a eat sleep work organizational exhaustionteam/group management level. And I, personally, would be ecstatic if I didn’t have to sleep and I could go 24/7.

And, in the beginning, that was my vision for my groups.

 

By the way … in general … good intentions … bad idea.

 

But what that meant was that I probably learned this lesson, pacing and applying effort appropriately, too slowly <and I most likely will have a bunch of past team members chuckling painfully in agreement>. Going hard charging all the time is not sustainable — you juts have a constantly exhausted group.

Effective hard charging doesn’t mean 24/7 it means picking your moments and going hard.

 

That said… in desiring to have hard charging organizations there were certainly some lessons anyone would learn to limit needless organizational exhaustion.

Here are a couple I learned along the way:

 

  • I had to be consistent.

 

It doesn’t get discussed often enough but expectations go both ways. As a leader setting clear expectations is certainly expected <and I will mention that in my second learning> but it really helps an organization if you establish clearly what people can expect of you – behaviorally and attitudinally.

 

Words surely matter.

Setting expectations surely matter.

Actions surely matter.

But consistency matters above all. No leader is perfect and no leader will make the perfect decisions, let alone good decisions, all the time. Therefore it becomes incredibly important to just be consistent. Your organization, and specifically people, will become better accustomed to where you will be really really good and where you may be slightly off <and they will naturally accommodate both>.

 

In other words … your consistency actually offers your employees some direction for what they should do. Your best people will assess situations and know where you are consistently most likely right on, know the things you consistently overlook and know where you consistently leave some spaces for them to ‘do their thing.’

 

  • Keep some strong threads of consistency.

 

Threads of consistency permit an organization to not have to think about some things.

There were some really simple tactical things that I could control.

 

  • What do you mean <clarity in articulation>
  • Where are we going <set a visible North Star>
  • What do you want me to do <pragmatic expectations>

 

organize fish

If you could keep these three things solid and not have people milling about talking amongst themselves on these three questions you were staying ahead of the game.

 

It permits your organization to progress and not be stagnant. It permits your organization  to not invest unnecessary energy against those things and apply energy against doing shit.

 

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t have to do these things.

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t do these things at their own peril.

The peril? Exhaustion. frustration. Waste energy.

 

Not doing these things has an expense to an organization and mostly that is defined by two things – time & energy. I would point out that both of those things are not infinite resources to an organization. I point t out because if they are finite than you better have them available to you when you actually need them.

And that is why I chose to not use an organization as a race metaphor at the beginning but rather an organization as a body metaphor.

 

Look.

 

As a leader of larger organization you can hide your misjudgments or poor decisions in a variety of creative ways … mostly by shifting resources from one group to another or have another department assume some different responsibilities or by shifting some people into the work gaps or to buttress the best people who are flagging with some support.

 

But that is also not sustainable.

 

organizational exhaustion battery

The organization gets exhausted doing all that maneuvering … in addition … they get exhausted by you doing that.

 

I will admit that I got better at this as I moved up in responsibility. And, I will admit, I partially got better at it simply because I had more moving parts, departments and groups to manage. That is because I loved working 24/7 and I thrived with the energy of solving problems and … well … just energy. In a larger organization there is always something going on, some project or problem or initiative somewhere within an organization that needs attention or needs a little ‘push.’ This naturally permitted me to let one part of the organization ‘rest’ while another part of the organization ‘ran.’

 

Oh.

Think about that a second or two if you will.

 

What I just suggested is that an organization as a well-rounded circle or the classical myth of a ‘well rounded person’ is … well … simply a myth. In fact … the idea of it creates a false narrative in our heads.  As an organization learns and thinks and gains experience it does not expand smoothly but, rather, raggedly. Day after day, despite the fact it may feel like business is a grind or it may even feel too fast <or too slow>  an organization is constantly running toward some thought and experience … or … leaping from danger or something  disagreeable or some problem or some success and … well … suffice it to say it is anything but balanced.

And it is certainly not creating any smooth well rounded growth.

 

My main point?

 

exhausted all possibilities tried everythingThere is no such thing as a well-rounded person and there is no such thing as a well rounded organization. A leader may certainly aspire to create a well-rounded organization but, even at your best, the organization at any given point in time is some shape other than a circle.

The good news is that this means organizations also naturally get excited to explore the edged forays into interesting things and, in parallel, get snagged on the ragged edges of unexplored thoughts or even second guesses with regard to the lack of smoothness in what is happening in departments, groups and efforts … as well as thoughts and growth.

 

Yes.

I will point out that this is why an organization can feel slightly uncomfortable on occasion as employees, departments and groups wrestle with this discomfort, as well as dealing with the ragged edges constantly poking at everyone, but I will also point out that is why the things I mentioned earlier become even more important –the consistency, the clarity and the lack of chaos.

I will also point out that his kind of ‘uncomfortable’ is okay. Ito a leader it is actually a sign that things are going okay and the organization is not stagnant <and good leaders know how to point out good non-stagnancy to calm uncomfortable>.

 

All that said.

 

I can unequivocally state that no organization is successful when needlessly exhausted. They can be tired at the end of the day but exhaustion is a symptom not of ‘a good day’s work’ but rather unnecessary mental stress trying to get things going, understand what to do and what to say and kibitzing over why it is so hard to get what seems like normal shit done.

 

When an organization is running well … whether the 350 million, 350 or the 35 organizational exhaustion balancing workrecognize it … there are many days when the 1, the leader, leaves the office exhausted.

And the one is exhausted despite the fact that 349,999,900 people, 341 people or 34 people went to sleep that day feeling pretty good about their day and their needs & wants & hopes took one step forward that day … and they are a good tired … not needlessly exhausted.

 

Oh.

Despite the fact the one went to bed exhausted that one will arise the next day fresh because the organization is ready to go again the next day … and not organizationally exhausted.

 

I will end by pointing out that an exhausted group, an exhausted department or an exhausted organization is the sign of poor leadership. And, most importantly, it is a precursor to signs of inefficiencies and declines in measured productivity.

 

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.

 

 

Enlightened Conflict