Thursday, April 23, 2015

Confidence Versus Arrogance

There are significant differences between a confident person and an arrogant one. The difference can be seen in how a person works with others. Do they build people up or knock them down?
A confident person is self aware and will likely see mistakes or failures as learning opportunities. The focus will be solutions and working with the best people to find them. A confident person doesn't feel a need to know everything, generally is willing to share what they know and are willing to seek those who may know more. Their interest in leadership has little to do with power and much to do with team empowerment. It's a joy to follow a confident person who recognizes and applauds the people around them.
An arrogant person may appear to be self confident but, in reality, their self perception is based on appearing to be above others and above reproach. They view mistakes or failures as character flaws so someone else needs to be held responsible. They are noxious, rude and even cruel to their "inferiors". The only people who aren't treated as inferiors are those they believe they can leverage to get ahead. They are not quick to share information because they need to be the person "in the know".
They tend to be extremely critical and crave positions of power and authority. No one needs to tell them anything. They already googled it.
Dealing with an arrogant person is quite challenging. If you are forced to deal with one, here are some suggestions.
1) They may be arrogant but they are not entirely stupid. They are just not able to see the benefit of skilled people around them. And they don't realize how much that works against them. Try not to treat them the way they treat you. Patiently educate them.
2) Don't let their arrogance influence how you feel about yourself or how you treat others. There may be a nugget of gold buried in their barked order or uneducated request that will improve what you do. They are your toughest audience. If you can please them, everyone else is a piece of cake.
3) Try to build their ego. Arrogant people are actually very insecure. They need their power and status to feel good about themselves. Tell them what they are good at - honestly - they are likely good at something even if it's not dealing with people. Feed their ego and they will feed on someone else.
4) Distance yourself. Build a network of supportive people. Do what you do best. Don't let that person be the filter by which you are viewed. They want that power. Don't let it happen. Arrogant people use people as stepping stones and the stones get tossed in the river.
5) And finally if they are controlling your support network, move on. An arrogant person can be so dominating that you cannot thrive in the environment they create. They are, at this point, the total bully that deserves none of your energy. If they are able, due to the existing culture, to control your support network, there is a greater problem than them. Let them dominate inferior people. Let them manipulate whomever they like. You should not be one of them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let honor propel us....

Loosing a parent raises such a mixture of emotions. There is a deep sense of so many things unsaid and undone. You want to pick up the phone, hear their voice, and ask urgent questions. Images are frozen in time. A moment - a picture - a word - the last things you said, they said - and then the flood of memories come. We cannot prepare for it. We cannot predict our reaction to it. And we cannot predict the influences that may come.
I will always remember my 30th birthday - one moment. I was working alone in my editing studio. I can still feel and see exactly where I was standing - what I was doing. A sudden realization swept over me and I fell to the floor in tears. Just weeks after her 30th birthday, my mother died. What if these were my last days? What had I done with my life? Was I even half the woman she had been?
I remember her through a child's eyes but in that moment, I imagined the woman she was and tried to put myself in her place. For the first time I imagined her through adult eyes. I imagined her pain and her struggles. I recalled the stories told about her and the memories I held. I felt humbled. I felt deep responsibility. Still I struggled to find my peace.
At such an early age, the loss of my mother meant that others provided mothering in the way they could. I had both Grandmother's, especially Grandma Power who was just up the road. Aunt Elaine and Aunt Ruth were also nearby and took special time with me. Loosing Aunt Elaine in my late teens was devastating, then Grandma Perry, Grandma Power, then Aunt Ruth. Moments in my life, I thought such loss prepared me for the next. It does not. If there is or ever has been an attachment of any form, we will feel a sense of things unsaid and undone. Always there are things unsaid and undone.
The best we can do is carry on in the spirit we feel they would urge. I believe we can still tell them what we need to tell them. I believe we can listen for their voices and their spirit will speak to us. I believe we can do, with those remaining, what we know they would urge us to do.
In the recent passing of my father my brother Mike shared treasured memories. At the end he said, "Dad’s lifelong sense of adventure will live on within me, and I will make every attempt to pass along his legacy to the next generation. Thanks, Dad."
 Mike's Tribute
The best we can do is honor those who have contributed to our lives, treasure the memories and pass along the best of what they have taught us. Honor them and honor those living still. I believe Dad and all my mother's who have passed would tell me this.
We will grieve and it will impact our lives in unexpected ways. But we need to take those moments in and let them propel us toward honoring them and honoring one another.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cultural trends, public opinion, and how they shift over time is very interesting. We watch the pendulum swing one way and then another. There are always factions pulling at one end of the spectrum and the other. In the great middle ground, the masses sway a little or a lot until someone is convincing enough to pull the blob the other direction.
Most of us like to believe we are rational, reasonable people. We like to believe we have things pretty well figured out. We like to believe we're not easily misled. But our own history and human history often tell a much different story.
If someone finds the right button to push, people will blindly follow right down the rabbit hole. Like boiling a lobster, we don't realize how hot the water is getting until it's too late. In the middle of it we just don't see it. Once we have become emotionally tied to a cultural trend or public opinion, we are hooked and masterful communicators - manipulators - can reel us in. We will follow a path that has consequences we would not intend and would not accept if we could see them in advance.
Those driving a push to change public opinion and create a cultural trend don't typically spell out the intended outcome. This is especially true if the intended outcome is not something that masses would accept. Instead, they focus on a hot button issue, an emotional extreme concern that can sway even seemingly rational, reasonable people. They work to create a momentum in the direction they wish to ultimately end up. They work it in stages and remain focused on hooks that tie to emotion - even outrage.
This is also true for swaying public opinion toward a positive outcome for all. It is true for swaying public opinion toward a negative outcome - especially if the negative outcome affects a minority. An emotional hook is used to change the view of a class of people. That's how it is done. The bigger question is why? And how do we determine if the outcome will be positive or negative. The answer to both why and whether the outcome is positive or negative revolves around status.
If we are convinced we in danger because of some other person, we will fight to preserve our status. "Those people are going to steal our jobs." "Those people are going to ruin the sanctity of marriage and destroy family values." "Those people are going to ruin our neighborhood." "Those people are lazy and don't deserve XYZ."
Once fear is built up, the rest is easy. A wedge is built to keep "those people" at a distance in the form of a nameless, faceless blob. From there "those people" can be characterized to re-enforce great myths to drive the wedge deeper. These are the signs of negative outcomes. As fear drives us to limit our exposure to "those people" we make poor choices. They are US. We are not separate from anyone. They are not separate from us. Our status is not improved by keeping someone else below us. Our status is improved by lifting everyone with us.
Look at history. Conquerors become targets to be conquered. Hatred on one side grows hatred on the other. We need to actually get to know one another. We need to listen to each other. We need to learn to recognize emotional hooks intended to keep us from knowing each other and listening to each other. That requires humility and detachment from status. It requires a mindset of constantly learning and evolving. We need to become explorers. Instead of holding aspirations of increased position in the world, we need aspire to improve the position OF the world. We need to be cultivators not conquerors.
So, as we wade the waters of cultural trends and public opinion ask if the communicator is telling you to conquer something or to grow something. Are they trying to grow your fear or stretch your imagination to strive for more? Fear is the opposite of love. It's not likely to take you down a pretty path. The path of fear tends to end in darkness. It might take longer to grow something but things tend to grow toward the light.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"With malice toward none, with charity for all..."

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, ...let us strive on to finish the work we are in, do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Abraham Lincoln

President Lincoln delivered these words in the state of the union address of 1865 at the end of a long and painful war that nearly tore our nation apart.

Many of us read those words in the context of this nation today and hearing words from a president today. Today our presidents seem remote - removed from our lives. National issues seem remote. In those days, the words were not remote. Fresh were the wounds. The war was not a remote thing that happened far away. It tore families apart. Nearly every family in our nation suffered some kind of loss.
On the Mason Dixon line the war was most personal and most painful. Some years ago I lived just north of Hagerstown, MD and sat for many hours on the front porch of a man who had heard first hand stories from the civil war. Charlie had known a woman who was 10 years old when confederate soldiers passed through on their way to Gettysburg. He relayed her story, his family story and the town's story as we shared the summer hours on the porch.
On the way to that famous battle, he said, they found his friends farm. When they left, she told him, there wasn't a thing left but a single egg that they had failed to find. But an interesting part of his story was that confederate scouts had preceded and had been killed by locals. He said they had actually been buried under the town tavern but after the war, monuments had been erected outside of town indicating a proper burial site but the bodies were not there. I saw those monuments many times. I asked why the monuments were made. He said they knew family would someday come looking for their kin. It was a matter of proper respect.
And then he explained a part of civil war history that I did not understand. His own family had been splintered by the war. Some chose to fight for the north and kept their last name starting with C. Others chose to fight for the south and changed their last name to start with G. It was the Mason Dixon line. With this story, I began to imagine this great war in much more personal terms. I saw a mother or grandmother with sons and grandsons on each side pointing muzzles at each other. I saw through the eyes of a 10 year old girl as her farm was pillaged. I saw through the eyes of a community that had done what they thought they should but knowing and understanding the pain of family in the aftermath of horror. I felt the words of Abraham Lincoln ""With malice toward none, with charity for all, ...let us strive on to finish the work we are in, do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves.."
And in all of that I look at the battles I face today and I am humbled. Nothing - Nothing, I face today or have faced in my life comes close to the challenges faced at that time in history. And so I must strive in my small way to live ""With malice toward none, with charity for all, ...let us strive on to finish the work we are in, do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves..." If they could, can't we?