Monthly Archives: February 2015

INTERMEZZO: Graceful Exits

I have a rather severe case of thanatophobia. I can slip into it fairly easily and self-induce a rather severe if extremely short (seconds) panic attack. It typically happens every time my idle thoughts turn to The Big Why. Why are we here? How did it all Start? How does it all End? But above all – why?

So far it hasn’t encroached into my everyday life nor given rise to other phobias. I’m not a shut-in, but you won’t find me jumping from perfectly good planes or visiting the Nopelia (Australia) Outback – where everything was evolved by nature to kill non-Aboriginals within sixty seconds – anytime soon. I prefer the calculated risk. The measured approach to adventure. Hike the Rockies? Absolutely. Base jump from a bridge? Hell no. But thanks, go right ahead.

I’ve been trying, over the last decade, to focus more on experience and a life well-lived – by my definition, not what Pop Culture or Madison Avenue wants you to believe it is. On connecting with others and shared experiences over being a lone wolf. In part that’s what’s driven my more recent extroversion. It’s safe to say my introversion is in remission but must be kept in check.

Now if only I could avoid the Big Why, I think I could go a while without a freak-out fit.

If you’ll excuse me, there’s a girly scream and flailing hands with my name on it.

BRB.

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OutTake: About Me Updated

Updated the About Me section …

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On the Importance of Relative Perception

Something struck me as quite odd today as I watched the sun set tonight. My thoughts were reflected in the conversations within earshot.

“What an amazing sun set!”
“Look at the sun set!”

Copernicus must be gnashing his teeth in hell – at least if Pope Paul III had his way.

Astronomer Copernicus (Matejko)

Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, by Matejko. In background: Frombork Cathedral.

Presuming for a moment that most people do realize that the Earth revolves around the Sun and we haven’t all snapped back to a medieval mindset, there is a lesson in communications to be learned here. There is reality. And there is how reality is perceived and communicated about – internally, externally, between two people or even within a group.

Facts don’t matter. Neither does reality. What matters is what is perceived. I may intellectually know that the sun isn’t setting. That it is the earth’s rotation that makes it appear that the sun in setting in a blaze of glory. But that doesn’t preventing me from enjoying the sun set, or even writing a stanza or four about it if I’m so inspired.

The same rings true when I tackle big strategic problems.  All too often I’m able to see the entirety of a problem space and a handful of potential viable solutions early on. It’s inexplicable – and can be a little terrifying if I pay it too much mind. Suddenly, I’m 30,000 feet above the fruited plain and I can see with a birds eye the lay of the land. But I fail at bringing the rest of the crowd along. How do you explain a leap of logic – enough so it can be at least litmus tested by a peer group; a little humility goes a long way. Many peers and managers have said the same thing to me over my career: “There’s a good thing and a bad thing and they’re the same with you Sam – you’re always right.”

While I’m not sure of the answer to that yet – I at least have more insight today than I did yesterday.  What I know is reality and what others perceive it as are two different things. I need to slip in to their perception and explain it in a framework that makes sense.

Sunset

A Simple Sunset

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sunset to enjoy.

Sorry Copernicus.

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On the Import of Trust As the Keystone To Relationships

Over the years I’ve used the analogy of a brick wall for trust, and knocking out bricks as a breaking of trust. In a recent conversation with friends at a bar – where all great philosophizing takes place – our erstwhile bartendress (I’m making that a word) and Beer Valkyrie raised a different analogy. As the analogy still makes sense in the sober light of day, I’m adopting it and expounding on it further.

Salroman Bridge, Salamanca

Ancient Roman Arch Bridge – Salroman Bridge, Salamanca

Trust is more like an arch bridge over a river, with each party on opposite shores.  Winters of discontent will crack paving stones and some other bricks. As long as they are repaired by both parties, the bridge stands. Life’s floods and detritus will slam up against the abutments, may even knock a few bricks loose. Again, as long as both parties are diligent, the bridge will stand.

And it is very much in the interest of both parties that such a bridge stands. Without trust, regardless of relationship, both parties will ever remain on opposite banks with no real way to cross over and communicate. With the exception of yelling, which is, self-evidently, ironic.

So how does an arch bridge fall? The keystone. Take the keystone out and it all falls down in a moment. I’ll go a step further and say that a keystone only comes down through willful, intentional force applied against it. In which case, words are every bit as powerful as actions are in the effect on keystones.  It doesn’t matter if words are said to shake someone out of some mood When applied against the keystone, words may as well be the action.

Consider that such a bridge of trust takes time and resources from both parties to build. When it comes down, both parties again have to be willing to invest the same time and resources – if not some significant amount more – to build a new bridge. The bridge may have to cross a different span, on completely new abutments. There is no repairing a bridge whose keystone has been taken out. The new bridge will take a different form and redefine the nature of the relationship, if it is built.

As I look back on my relationships, professional and personal, I realize that in the circumstances when my keystone – my trust – has been attacked, I’ve been able to differentiate between words said in anger and words said in becalmed seas. In the latter case, I’ve tried, Atlas-like, to shore it up alone. But that seems to invite further attack and eventually even my shoulders tire.

There should then be a signpost, on either end of this bridge – “Ware Words That Cannot Be Unrung.” To be certain, there is no harder task in a relationship.  But given the signpost carved from our experiences, what excuse can remain?

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