03Sep

The American Myth of Success

In America, we teach that everything, at every point in our lives is a choice.  This translates to an idea that if you are facing hardship now, you must have made a bad choice then.  After all, the world is so perfect, only a bad person is not successful.  We reinforce this myth in a thousand different ways.  We place the athlete on TV and listen carefully while he describes a life of struggle until he made the choice to work hard and become a star athlete.  These stories always end with the familiar refrain “If I can do it, anybody can.”  Indeed, there is some truth to this saying, however, it is, in no way, a universal truth.

“You can do it, just do what I did.”  First, have you ever been subject to a parent’s or a friend’s helpful advice about you correcting yourself?  Perhaps you are over-weight and your friends are full of recommendations for you about how you can lose all of the weight.  They are disappointed that you don’t follow their plan and may even suggest that familiar refrain “I did it, why can’t you?”  Why do people believe that their own experience is the norm?  Why do people believe that if they have done something that is very hard and been successful that anyone can follow in their footsteps of success?  Not only is it a falsehood, but, it is egocentric to think that your personal experience is generally applicable to anyone and everyone.

“If you can’t do it, there is something wrong with you.”  The next concept worth examining is this idea that the American definition of success is easily identifiable and doable as a matter of what is normal.  Out of this concept comes the idea that if you do not follow, or you are not successful on the American path, there must be something wrong with you.  You are the fault in all such cases.  Everyone will remind you of this idea, by asking you “what happened?” and before you can put your story into words, the other is already launching into advice about what you could have done better (as if you have not really tried) and telling you stories about their own such success.  The most interesting part of this, is that it is fabrication and a myth. 

We do not always fail because of our own efforts (and this is important), secondly, often the one who gives advice is the one who needs it.  Who has not received advice from someone who has no business giving it?  I know someone who has never successfully looked for a job and actually gotten one in a timely manner, nor at the rate of pay that she felt was acceptable.  This person was often giving advice about getting a job because she had so much experience searching for a job.  Searching for a job is quite a different thing than actually getting a job.  Yet she felt that she should and could give valuable advice to other job seekers about attaining a job.

“Your shame keeps you from seeing that the system is rigged against you.”  Once you have failed in any way, you may see yourself as less than.  You believe that you are less than capable, less than acceptable.  You will blame yourself and in many cases blame others.  Because you believe the myth: the system is perfect and therefore a lack of success on your part must be either your own or someone else’s fault.  This is where it all breaks down.  The fact of the matter is that the American system is rigged against you, but your shame and anger keeps you from seeing and recognizing it.

From beginning to end, there is no limit to the manipulation and tricks that are placed in your path to keep you from earning and keeping enough money to have anything more than just enough cash to get by.

Coins

From birth, all financial truths in America are stacked against you, unless you are already wealthy ~ in that case such truths are stacked in your favor.

You are born in a hospital, that charges astronomical prices at its whim.  Your birth is paid by an insurance company that profits greatly for its shareholders rather than taking care of the sick.  There is no profit in caring for the sick, as a result, health insurance companies have become expert at NOT paying for health care.  Hopefully, you will not be sick, nor have any disabilities, because either of these can and will bankrupt your family.  Refer to the fact that hospitals are for profit and health insurance companies only answer to shareholders and you will understand why your family will be bankrupt if you are sick or disabled.

Next, you will need an education.  Since the government is riddled with bureaucracy and the educational system must pay a cadre of MBAs just to stay in business, you parents will be forced to purchase everything the child needs for school and more to supply the classroom.  If you want to earn more than minimum wage (below poverty level) after high school, you must go to college.  Good Luck, you will need lots of money and lots of information about how to attain that money and how to manage the loans.

While you are planning and doing, life is happening.  You got a speeding ticket, it cost you $583.00.  Your mother got sick, you had to fly home, purchasing tickets at the last minute $794.00 (for that price, no leg room and no luggage).  Your apartment complex had a flood and all of your books and electronics were destroyed, you had insurance, but it wasn’t good enough (recall that insurance is for profit).

So now you are 23 years old and you have a college degree and $66,000.00 in debt to pay off.  You’re not sure if you have made the right decision about school and you don’t understand why you’re still broke.

You can’t find a job and you are angry.  You need someone, something to be angry with.  You listen to the news, you watch TV and you decide that immigrants are to blame for lack of jobs in America.

And this is the breakdown.  You haven’t done anything wrong and you haven’t done anything bad.  You made the right decisions, but America didn’t keep it’s promise.  It’s not because of immigrants, it’s not because of any single politicized source.  Instead it is because of corporate greed and the fact that our political system has bowed down to the greed and has become an instrument for that greed.  There is no reason that our minimum wage has stagnated for almost 30 years, no reason at all, except that Walmart has made sure that politicians do not raise the minimum wage by paying them off with cash.  The cash that Walmart uses to pay off the politicians is cash that they steal from their own workers.  They do this by keeping them from earning a living and by keeping them from having any workplace benefits (such as healthcare).

If you need to blame someone, blame the system and then jump in and let’s do something about it.

 

19Aug

Complexity of Work Relationships and other Power Inequity Encounters

There is so much complexity in the work encounter.  Part of it has to do with our social roles, be it woman, man, wife, husband, parent or sibling.  Part of it has to do with that which is not social, but individual instead, such as our place in Maslow’s hierarchy.  Another portion of that complexity has to do with our place in the work hierarchy: secretary, janitor, chief operating officer?

The psychological factors are myriad and cannot be denied ~ although we may wish to deny them:  Am I attracted to you?  Do you remind me of my mother, my father, my Uncle Joe who molested me, my Aunt Jan who took me to the playground?  How badly do I need to be approved of?  How badly do I need to be dominant?

How do I see my belief system?  What do I think about my role in this work encounter?  Are my beliefs about proper protocol unyielding?  Do I believe that men and women should act differently?  When I see a woman tell a subordinate what to do, does she become a bitch and when a man displays the same behavior, he is commanding?

Are my beliefs set in stone?  Do I believe that I have the right to my beliefs because I am the supervisor and therefore everyone must abide by my beliefs?  Do I believe myself to be the expert?  No other person can tell me what is correct in my field.  I know it all.

In Maslow’s hierarchy, do I fit on the very bottom tier, struggling so that I can feed my family and one paycheck away from homelessness?    Do I feel panicked about my work because I work with hostility and others who threaten my well-being?  Have I accomplished these minimum American standards (food, shelter and safety) and I am only looking for friendship and alliances?  Am I working on career accomplishments, or is this a paycheck until I can go somewhere else or do something else, or finally make my dreams come true?

What we think about someone or something based on our workplace encounters have so little chance of being accurate because of these reasons outlined above.  We have very little chance of understanding what a person is doing or feeling or attempting to accomplish, unless we are willing to have a conversation with that person.  Part of the conversation will include the person’s perspective and the other part of the conversation is understanding where the person’s experience is.  But this kind of understanding needs hard listening, not a casual in the hallway, or 10 minute “I’m in a hurry” listen.

So many managers are dismissive, hardly caring what the subordinate is experiencing or dealing with.  Often managers have a hidden philosophy, that says “I’ll fire you and hire another better than you.”  The view of the manager can be entirely focused on the product and the making of the product. 

Managers often do not believe in the importance of avoiding staff turnover, if there is difficulty in dealing with a relationship, they will often choose to end the relationship rather than learn from the encounter.  Why not?  No one is quite monitoring the supervisor.  Nor is anyone quite believing the subordinate.  For this reason supervisors can be extraordinarily egomaniacal.  It is a position that is hard to resist.  When you can act as you wish with very little consequence, why not turn everything to your own favor?  You can find any number of reasons to dismiss the needs of others when you are the boss, and you have the power.

12Aug

Being Disliked

So, the thing with being disliked is that we wish to dislike back.  And we think it does not matter and we can ignore being disliked and we can pretend that it does not matter in any way.  Yet it does.  All emotions and thoughts have a peculiar energy and that energy is part of the world that surrounds us.  While we pretend that “so & so” disliking me is irrelevant, the energy of that dislike permeates all of the interaction that we engage in with “so & so”.
Say YesOf course, we want to dislike in return.  We will list all of the faults of this person who dares to dislike us.  We will point out all that is wrong with this person, and certainly you may see that the judgment is impaired.  If “so & so” had good judgment, I would be liked by this person instead of disliked.

This dislike may remind you of your secret anguish of being unloved and unwanted.  Feeling these fears can bring much passion to your need to dislike this person who injures you with dislike.  It’s important to resist the need to strike out with your own dislike or passionate anger.

These energies of dislike being pushed in full force between the two of you are energy draining and character maiming.  There is no way to escape such negative energies without some form of damage attaching itself to you.  The hurt, the anger, the need to lash out, they all harm and hurt your psyche.  Even if you are one who can ignore such insults, you will find that the dislike hurts. 

There is only one way to manage such dislike and that is to love the person who dislikes you.  You must put away all that your brain tells you to do.  You must turn away thoughts of anguish, or revenge.  You must turn to this person and love this person and love harder, if your love stumbles.

You are giving to yourself and to the world when you do such a thing as loving in the face of such dislike.  You are allowing this person to claim their own feelings without judgment on your part.  You are owning the energy and by loving the energy, you convert it from hurt to healing.  You are taking what is wrong with the world and making it right.  This is what you do when you return love for hate.

You need not do anything or say anything.  You simply love.  You will see that your thoughts change, and you will see that the energy transforms.  This is the way to having goodness in your world.

 

 

29Jul

Finding My Faults

Why must you always identify my faults?

Your position gives you the power to keep me silent while you rage about all that I am lacking in.

Because you have that power doesn’t mean that you are correct in any way.  You only use your status and power to make yourself right.  I’m not understanding what you gain with your superiority complex.

You do what’s called “Monday Morning quarterbacking”: Retrospectively reviewing events so that you can make a better decision sometime in the future, about my past decisions.

I have to tell you that there are others who are experts at finding my faults.  I’ve had a sibling, a supervisor and a husband who were always ready to explain to me how wrong and mistaken I am.

You are not even the best at pointing out my flaws and second guessing my past decisions.  You are not the best at telling me how mistaken and wrong I am.

You are the same in one way as the others, you have come into my life and you will go away from my life.  I cannot have an enduring relationship with one who has no use in listening to me.  I cannot have a long term relationship with one who cannot and will not validate me.  I cannot have a relationship with you.

https://medium.com/personal-growth/annie-duke-how-to-make-decisions-like-a-professional-poker-player-24686d4442ac

“Having skin in the game changes everything. It’s easy to make decisions when you’re not the one affected. It’s even easier to have opinions and let everyone know about them. But when the stakes are high — when something is on the line — that forces you to make sure you get things right.”

“You don’t always get the outcome you want even when you make the best decision. Even if you get a positive outcome, it’s difficult to tell if you deserve credit. There’s a double layer of complexity.

In many ways, life is one long poker game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. All we can do is learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and keep making good bets.

Do that, and we’ll come out ahead in the long run.”

18Jul

Experience is “the” Truth

I’m not going to say that monks don’t know what they are talking about when they tell us to meditate for relaxation, but I am going to say that people will only ever know the extent of their experience.  There are a few wise “old souls” but that’s not who I am speaking about.

I read an article the other day written by an entrepreneur about managing employees.  He was young and he was someone who has never been a manager in any other place than his own.  He has decided that he is a successful manager because many of his staff have stuck around and because his company is financially successful.  I have news for him, his management style is only one way and that is his way.  He doesn’t know if his staff is really loyal to him, and his article did not address his relationship with his staff.  His article was a reiteration of his success with some trendy words thrown in.  His measurement metrics are flawed, because they only cover his definition of success.  This is okay, it is very human for our discussions to be limited to our own experiences.  However, you cannot say you are a good manager until you have been more challenged than what this particular entrepreneur is describing. 

Middle management is one of the most difficult jobs there are and unless you have experienced it, it is hard to describe.  It’s kind of like being butter between two hot pancakes, you melt and then you are absorbed into obscurity.  Being a business owner is nothing like this.  A business owner will not normally have his staff going around his authority and challenging his authority to his supervisors (there are none). A middle manager will panic about losing a job and facing possible homelessness.  This is not the typical worry of a business owner.

Back to the monks and other such hippies that want us to meditate.  A single male who does not commit to a relationship (a monk), cannot imagine what the working mother in America goes through just to get through a day.  Explaining to her and chastising her because she won’t meditate is ridiculous.  There is nothing that a monk can tell this working American mother about coping in America.

Take that a step further and look at the difference between the person who works casually and the person who pursues a high powered career.  My two friends bickered constantly about the differences in how they treated their jobs.  My friend with the career didn’t want to take a day off from work and was constantly driven by her success.  My friend who did not have so much at stake, thought that she was “crazy” to take work so seriously.  She wanted to gossip over coffee on the odd morning and my career friend just would not.  The friendship ended because one began belittling the other for those differences.

The point is this, we are all limited by our very own experiences and those experiences are no better and no worse than someone else’s.  I think we make a mistake when we believe that our own experience should apply to everyone and we start thinking that our own way is the best way. 

Without the ability to understand the challenges that a day brings to an American working mother, how can we prescribe meditation to her?  How can we be so thoughtless as to prescribe something that circumstance can never deliver?

We have to find the ability to go beyond our own experience by listening and connecting with each other.  In the absence of the real experience, the only thing we have is the connection with each other.  It is through this connection with each other that we can truly be the expert and have something to offer.

 

24Jun

You Talk Over Me, and At Me

You talk over me and at me.  While you have the authority to do so, I don’t know why you would want to.  It is clear that you have no interest in listening to me.  This is an extension of your desire not to humanize me.  You would rather I was an object.

A manager that I know tells me that avoiding relationships is the only way to manage people because you must enforce performance and you cannot be “emotional” about it.

The only successful managers I know are completely and committedly the opposite.  These managers tell me that successful supervision includes a rich relationship.  You should know all about your staff.  You should be able to celebrate successes and bemoan failures with them.

I think part of the reason for distancing oneself is elitism.  “I know more than you, I know better than you, there is no reason to listen to you.”

The truth about this kind of communication is never acknowledged.  However, if you have ever been treated this way, you know it.  It is apparent in the dehumanizing tone of the received lecture.

I have long believed that lack of financial success for people and for companies is this dehumanizing approach to getting things done.  The frailty of the relationship leads to a complete lack of loyalty.  Lack of loyalty leads to lack of business = lack of profits.

There is more to this equation than just lack of profits.  If you practice this idea of elitism, if you practice distancing yourself, then how do you know when it is right to be a human being?  How do you then ‘turn off’ this dehumanizing part of yourself and make positive and real relationships?  Are you able to?  Will you always suffer alone because you know everything and are better than everyone?

30May

Betrayal, Backstabbing and other Workplace Worries

Betrayal, Backstabbing and other Workplace Worries

I have always been one who dislikes covert operations.  If you dislike me, please tell me straight up.  Don’t run around behind my back (backstabbing) telling everyone else that you do not like me.

That goes for your evaluations and judgments about me.  Don’t tell everyone else the truth about what you think about my decisions, but then turn around and smile and nod to me.  Go ahead and let me know what you think.  That is the only way to an honest and open relationship.  I am truly interested in an honest and open relationship.

In fact, backstabbing and betrayal; it’s sort of a “button” for me.  So, I have been self righteous about this for decades.  I pride myself in being open and honest with people, including my staff.

And then, then, the horrible happened, I had to work for a woman who was not, in any way, interested in fairness or equity.  Her most important function was to shore up her own ego, and she often performed this task by putting others down – but only subordinates – she never denigrated her supervisors (of course!).

Guess what?  I became a backstabber and ultimately a betrayer.  A backstabber talks about you behind your back, a betrayer is disloyal, which is much more serious.  I have always been loyal to my supervisors/companies/vice presidents, or anyone else in a position of power in my chain of command.  After all, I won’t work for anyone or any company that I cannot believe in and feel confident about.  It is easy to be loyal if you always work in a way that is in alignment with your belief system.

Somehow, this woman got ahead of me in power and she wanted to remind me of it every. Single. Day.  She was condescending and malicious.  She was also a backstabber and a betrayer.  She was hateful about everyone and told me so.  She was hateful about me, but did not tell me so.  Of course, I knew.  So, I talked about her.  I had to, I had to get rid of the poison that ate at me every time I had to tolerate her lying and manipulating.  I needed venting space and I took it, but only with like minded individuals.

Eventually, I had to leave.  The job was making me sick.  I knew it was time to go, so the first chance I got, I ran and ran and ran.  I did eventually become a betrayer.  I emailed her supervisor’s supervisor with a report on my experience.  I didn’t like doing this.  I had to.  It was my way of getting rid of the woman’s hatefulness.  No amount of washing myself could rid me of her mean-spiritedness, so I documented it.

So this is the story of how I became what I detest in others.  It’s also the reason why I left that employment, because I cannot be that: angry and mean, inferior and vindictive.  I need to be who I am and who I aspire to be: loving, generous, honest and open.

The difference between myself and her is that I had to do what I had to do in defense of myself.  She may also be working in self defense, but her defense is who she is.  For me, that behavior is an aberration.  I hope that is enough.  I hope that the fact that I will use those tools, but not BE those tools is enough.  To my very soul, I never want to lose who I think I am.

09Mar

Responsibility for Others: Management 101

I was reading a murder mystery last night (what else is new?).  In closing, the Captain of the detectives was lamenting about how he would explain to his bosses about one of his subordinates.  The subordinate was guilty of helping the serial killer with a murder and with getting away with murder.  This Captain was concerned that he could not explain his subordinate’s activities and could not explain how he missed this monumental change in his subordinate.

In other words, this captain was being held accountable for his staff’s activities.  Not only was he being held responsible for those activities, but he was answerable to not being aware of staff changes in demeanor.  This murder mystery is set in England (of course!).  It could not have been set in America, and here is why…

I have sat in dozens of management meetings and listened to dozens of managers talk about their results.  What is consistent across all of those meetings and all of those managers is this idea that “I am not responsible for my staff’s activities.” Or another concept “I am not aware of what my staff did or is doing, look, they messed it up…”.

Upper management, in every single place that I have ever worked, is not at all aware of what their own managers do.  I’m not sure that I understand the philosophy that allows this kind of behavior.  They supervise people that they do not understand and know and can go for months and even years not knowing what kind of behavior is perpetrated onto the line staff.   Sometimes it is because of secrets, sometimes it is blatant,  transparency is not a concept that lives well in America.  Americans keep secrets, lots and lots of them.

As a manager, and a supervisor, it is your responsibility to KNOW what your staff is doing.  Are managers fooled, tricked and manipulated?  Yes, yes of course.  Yet, that is the job, to follow up, to find out, to make it work appropriately.  It is your job as a manager to dig out the secrets, to become aware of the secrets, to bring light to the secrets.

Honestly, that’s why when the pervert/perpetrator Olympics coach was being sued, the school and the organizations that he works for are sued also.  Whether Americans want to understand the concept or not, if you manage someone, you are responsible for that someone.  If you are in charge of an institution, that institution is your responsibility.

We have a culture of excuses and we work hard to make those excuses believable.  There are a few diamonds out there, who stand up and take responsibility, good, bad or indifferent, they will own the responsibility.  More often than not, excuses win the day.  Excuses become the work product, because the work product is difficult to accomplish or difficult to measure.  Either way, Americans have a preference for a story rather than the results, excepting, of course, for the Americans who are actually paying for the results.

Which one are you?  Are you responsible for your staff when the performance is fantastic, and not, when not?  Or, do you take responsibility for your staff, your institution, the things you get paid for, as they are?

The difference between mediocrity, which is common, and the uncommon, which is excellence, is this concept of responsibility for others.  By taking care of people, you unwittingly take care of yourself.

17Dec

Now I’m Judgmental: My View, the Graduation

Unfettered power, is it always selfishly concerned with self?  I attended a graduation this weekend and was deeply disappointed with the pomp and circumstance, there was none for those who deserved it.  Rather than the acknowledgment and coronation of these graduates, rather then giving these students their due…the ceremony was nothing more than a few old white men congratulating themselves on their own achievements.  There were young men and women who have spent $35,000.00 and more on the degrees being awarded here.  Instead of acknowledging those who have completed a course of difficult work, a decision was made to acknowledge upper management at the college.  These managers each took their own sweet time screaming their own personal message from the pulpit and not a bit of it had anything to do with the now “poor souls” who had worked so hard to be there at this graduation ceremony.

What is happening in the world when those among us who have power, care not for anything but themselves?  What is happening in the world that so few recognize this selfishness in others?  It is no wonderful thing to award a degree in exchange for $35,000.00.  You have done nothing special or important, it is simply an economic exchange and yet you wish to pretend that you are noble and wise and do great things.  No sir.

You, who spoke, are all disappointments.  You gave nothing and you served no one, you do not belong on the pulpit.  You are no leaders.  You are simple self-aggrandizing old white guys looking for a pat on the back and using a Graduation ceremony to get those needs met.Beautiful Church F2AA5F57-EB2B-485E-923A-59F83B42381A

14Oct

It’s a Downer to Hear about the Failures of You

Silly Train, You are not a BoatI don’t want to hear about what you have done wrong.  I don’t want to hear about the mistakes you have made.  They are only ammunition to justify some behavior, somewhere.  Or, perhaps you use those “admissions of truth” to demonstrate that you are, indeed, a good person.  Whatever the reason that you unload your negative self statements on me, I don’t care, just stop it.  It’s a downer to hear how little patience you have with yourself.   It’s a downer to hear about your self loathing and your self doubt.

You are who you are and within a millisecond of meeting you, I know who you are.   So give me that in our conversation.  Give me who you really are.  I know you aren’t Mother Teresa; I know you aren’t Martha Stewart; I know you aren’t John Wayne or Clark Gable, and, guess what?  I still like you.