Original Thought · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Partnerships

What does it take to make a successful partnership? According to Chuck Marohn in his post on Strong Towns this morning there are four elements. 1. LIMITED AND QUANTIFIABLE RISK 2. MUTUAL SKIN IN THE GAME 3. A REALISTIC CHANCE FOR A POSITIVE RETURN 4. A PROPORTIONATE SHARE IN THE GAIN

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Chuck is referencing public-private partnerships that make our communities stronger. If you have an interest in the public domain, the post is well written and interesting. I am going to approach the four elements of a personal relationship/partnership lens. I am often asked how my beloved and I had managed 42 years together when we were really just kids when we got started. I often say ” to live happily ever after; you need to work hard every day on being in a respectful, reciprocal relationship.” Some days, it is my job to make her smile, and other days she forgives me when I make her frown. We share the best and the worst of our days with each other and I am learning that most of the time, I just need to listen and hear her. Over the years, we have worked out a rhythm for the daily, weekly and annual tasks that need to be accomplished. We share the load unequally on lots of days, but over the course of time, we achieve balance. So what would Marohn’s elements look like in a personal partnership? 1. Limited and quantifiable risks – In every relationship there are risks. If everything is certain and assured, it is probably failing. Communication helps mitigate risks. What is at stake if an agreement misses its mark because I misunderstood, misheard, or misrepresented my understanding, interest, and willingness? Can my partnership withstand multiple risks at the same time? If I promise to spend more time at home but stay at the office late into the evening four days a week, what are the odds that this will be the straw? Is there an easy to use way to ‘calculate’ the liability and risks. According to Bayes Rule, if I am deciding whether to head home at 5 or stop for drinks with some friends I should ask ” Will J be upset?” If I was going to bet that she would be miffed or angry would I wager $1.00 or $100? My intuition would tell me to place a big bet so I should head home and have a drink with her. If we are considering a major decision that has been discussed and debated, we should be able to use Bayes Rule to improve the odds of success and happiness.

Mutual skin in the game – “A true partnership never allows a situation of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose.” I seem to discover one of these easy to say harder to do quotes every day. At its most basic level, I need to elevate my partner’s needs and desires to the same level as mine. To do that I need to investigate what those needs and desires are. Asking awkward questions and listening to uncomfortable disclosure sets the tone for discovery and in the discovery is a possibility that we can both have our needs met, PS – I hate the concept of compromise because I have only seen it presented as a lowest common denominator. If we can work harder and be more transparent, we can find an as yet unimagined solution that serves both parties fully. Skin looks like honesty, communication, and reciprocity. Both parties need to do their share and graciously recognize the efforts and contributions of the other. Partnerships where one constantly serves and one constantly receives are doomed.

A realistic chance of a positive return – According to Statistics Canada, about 38 percent of all marriages taking place in 2004 will have ended in divorce by 2035. I admit that staying married may not be the realistic chance that some are considering and it may, in fact, be a pretty low bar. I naively believe that all partnerships have a realistic chance at the onset and the chance improves as effort, adaptation, and understanding increase.

A proportionate share of the gain – Gain isn’t necessarily financial or anything as easily measured. I believe, and research supports, that we both are and will live better and longer in our strong commitment to each other and in the ways that we make our coexistence work. Gain might be that one of us shovels walks and does laundry or arranges the social calendar and keeps up to date with friends and family. I can gain time to do stuff I love doing when I don’t need to do ironing, painting or home repairs. I need to make sure that my benefit doesn’t exceed the other person’s by too much or that I am feeling used and resentful about doing more than my share. Whether an intimate relationship, friendship or a more formal partnership, both parties need to understand the scope and accountabilities. We need to be open about concerns and listen to anxiety and unease of partners.
Partnerships certainly aren’t easy, and these four elements won’t maintain or repair every situation, but if you begin with caring and communication, you are likely on solid ground.

Make Today Remarkable for a partner,

B

Original Thought · Uncertainty

I was Invisible

When I was in the woods today
I had a bit of a start
She walked past
without seeing me

I didn’t blend in or camouflage
she just didn’t seem aware of me
Her big brown eyes were shining
here ears were flagging for noise
The nose twitched and searched
and still I wasn’t there

How many times, in a week, do I make others invisible? Do they know that I don’t see them? Do they care? I was taken aback by the doe’s reminder of my insignificance. She said ” your presence here means nothing to me” “you are of no value and offer no threat so for my purposes, you don’t exist.”

When I pass someone sleeping on a bench, without feeling anything, am I saying the same thing? If a woman is crying and I ignore her, am I signalling that her problems aren’t mine? When someone in front of me litters and I don’t say or do anything, have I also ignored his and my responsibilities?

Being observant is the first step to empathy. If I am able to erase human tragedy, suffering, or delete behaviour that is offside, I can’t possibly begin to understand enough to care or care enough to understand. After observation comes acknowledgement, ” I see you and I see your burden.” ” I feel your pain.” ” I need to say something or do something.”
Step three is deciding. So at this point, you are still off the hook. You haven’t made a commitment to action. I make decisions easily; too easily many would say. So I don’t know what process you go through to choose. You might do a pros/cons list or a cost-benefit analysis or need to do more research (which is really just an excuse). You may find reasons to intervene or evidence to rush away. If you choose to ignore what you have observed and acknowledged, you are likely already dozens of meters past the situation and like the deer in the forest have said ” you are of no consequence to me.”

On the other hand, if you choose to say or do something act quickly and with respect and compassion. Be open-handed, open-hearted, and open-minded. “He who hesitates is lost”. Do or say what comes to your mind. Trust that you don’t need a PhD in Caring or Respect before you know how to be human. You have been training for this all your life even if you have ignored the lessons or avoided using them, you’ve got this. You’ve got this because it doesn’t need to be perfect. ” Are you okay?”, a smile, sit in silence beside someone, be a fellow human, can change the moment. You are saying without uttering ” I see you, I care, Can I help?” or ” We are rotating on this sphere together and we both need to do our part to make it better” or ” today you are down, tomorrow it could be me”

I can’t predict what you will, could or should do because I am not you, in your shoes, in whatever situation you are finding yourself. I can guarantee that ignoring what is in front of you is complicit with the issue that troubled you enough to get to deciding. Caution and neutrality are always complicit with the antagonism or aggression in the circumstances. If I don’t care enough to intervene, I don’t care at all. If I don’t care enough to say something, I become part of the problem.

I hope you choose to see those people and behaviours in your world, today, tomorrow and tomorrow again and that you find the compassion and courage to stand with someone you know or someone you will never know.

Make Today Remarkable, or at least bearable, for someone else,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Simon Says

simon

Simon Says’ was a game I played as a child. A group of us stood and one of us was Simon. He proceeded to give commands ” Simon says stand on one foot”, Simon says hold up your right arm.”, “turn around”. If we didn’t do what Simon says or did do what was commanded without Simon says, we were eliminated. The last one standing became the new Simon. Supposedly, I learned to listen rather than react and to obey when the right person gave the order, In reality, I didn’t learn either very well. Obedience and its synonyms submission, subservience, deference stick in my craw when the orders come from some authority, real or referent, that is looking to kick me off the island if I don’t comply completely. Mindless blind compliance ensures that we live a life of mediocrity and never reach the potential we were designed for. When I refer to design, I am referring to the millennia-long evolution that has brought us to this time and place. The destination wasn’t ordained, the process wasn’t prescribed. Evolution doesn’t have an endgame beyond the immediate issue and the solution path it has chosen. Evolution is adaptive. When a change occurs, it is measured and if it improves survival, it is fostered and if it detracts, it is rejected and a new adaptation is tried. But all decisions have an impact and the consequences aren’t easily forecasted so the journey and the destination are still an adventure.
“You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole.”
— Fichte, The Vocation of Man (1800)
I am not sure how apt Fichte’s quote is but it provides for me a sense of the power of the unwinding march.

Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.

Noam Chomsky

Back to obeying the leader for fear of being called out. In a game, this might be trivial but following orders without understanding them, considering the ramifications, or speaking out against them when they violate your sensibilities and values is demoralizing and destructive. When a boss ‘suggests’ that quotas could be met if corners were shaved and you trim the edges regardless of the consequences, you impact more than sales. If a religious head advises that a certain behavior is a sin and associating with anyone who commits the act is also a sin and you begin to distance yourself from a friend or family member, you may think you are saving your tomorrows but at what cost for today?

Obedience without question or consideration is subservience, not loyalty or patriotism or fielty. Obedience without question removes the need for courage, conscience or consciousness. Those three c’s are important enough that they have survived millions of evolutionary adaptations and surrendering them to a president, priest, or popularity contest winner is a tragedy. I am not suggesting mindless cold-hearted disobedience. I am recommending deep reflection and careful consideration before acting on the commands of someone you know, trust and/or respect. If you have doubts or reservations about the character and motive of the commander, then be doubly cautious in joining their parade and marching to their drum beat.
In the end, I hope I am remembered for something other than “he was good at following orders.”

Make Today Remarkable by asking ridiculously impossible questions.
B

 

 

 

Original Thought · Self Improvement

I Know, Does She?

Power and privilege are interchangeable as the ladder and the wall that allows some to climb higher than others. Sometimes, the support is the wall of power that defends the ladder that infers license to wield additional power. My array of pretentious permits; race, gender, age, education, confidence, place of birth, time of birth, wealth all conveys unearned and unwarranted perceptions (both internal and external) of where I fit in relation to others. I can deny, ignore, undermine, or accept the condition and/or choose to deny, ignore, undermine, or accept the responsibility that comes with the state. Power and privilege can be a destructive and abusive force but it can also be an equity building mechanism if used as a strength to strengthen others. If someone with power agrees to either use their influence to reshape the landscape or willingly demonstrates that they are able to share power or is compelled to cede to authority (a different brand of power, equally susceptible to corruption), then the dynamic can create a semblance of equity.

Education and intrinsic knowledge are the great levelers and are the most difficult to distribute across birthright barriers (or any other concession advantage). Can we go much beyond creating infrastructure? Public education serves as a conduit to the egalitarian expression of opportunity but genetics, socioeconomic realities, parental involvement, peer influence, resource availability, familial and kinship experiences, and expectations have an impact on the how widely the opportunity is accepted and exploited. Imagine that two students of equal ability but from widely different homes are provided with the necessities of learning; same school, same teacher, same curriculum and same cohort. They have the same attendance (nearly perfect) and the same disposition towards classroom learning. One student has parents that have attended and graduated from university who work white color jobs and are home for supper every evening. The household is relatively quiet, well appointed, and has an Internet-ready computer. The second student’s parents both work two part-time jobs in the service sector and struggle to earn enough to maintain their rental accommodations and pay all their bills. While they try to provide a good model, they are usually working before the student rises and don’t get home until 8 or 9 pm. The home has an older computer without the ability to connect to the Web.
While the public playing field is level, the private has barriers and embedded disadvantages.
One child will likely acquire more knowledge, better grades, and have a richer understanding of the importance of post-secondary education. He will have access to better employment opportunities and his knowledge (and society’s admiration) will add to a power imbalance.

This wandering, wondering post began when a question about knowledge popped into my head a week ago. Is epistemology always privileged? The summary of my meanderings is above and my conclusion is that always is too strong a qualifier. But, there is a definite advantage to having knowledge and the ability to learn. The imbalance magnifies through each life-stage and may be insurmountable by high school.

Under our current equality frame, I can’t imagine a solution. In an equitable model, where each student received what they need, we may be able to offset disadvantages but populist pressures seem opposed to anything resembling equitable treatment.

I can only do what I can do, we can only do what we can do. What I have figured out is that I have some skills and abilities (as do you) that would be an asset to one student. I have or could easily acquire mobile Internet access. I can read and comprehend difficult material and can share my understanding in one-on-one volunteer tutor sessions. I can encourage the young people in my life to demonstrate that they care by ‘helping’ a fellow student.

Is this a perfect solution? No, or at least not yet. Would or could a bureaucracy create and sustain a better solution? Likely not. Would we be a better community, city, country if we cared enough to involve ourselves in each other’s lives? Definitely.

Make Today Remarkable for someone else,

B

Uncategorized

The Art of Aging

I am reading Sherwin B Nuland’s “The Art of Aging” and in chapter 2 he writes about the weakening of the immune system over the age of 60 and what we can do, peripherally, to reduce the weakening and possibly strengthen it.

Regular readers know that I often latch onto an idea and twist it 72 degrees to see what happens and what I observe. In this case, I started wondering about a compassion immune system – how we react to the tragedies and calamities of others.

immunity

A strong compassion immune system allows me to fight off the feelings of sadness, benevolence and other forms of caring. It may reduce the ability and willingness to act in support of others. I may even feel superior in my non-tragic and non-calamitous circumstances. Some symptoms of a strong compassion immune system are a blind eye, a cold heart, and a twitching thumb over the channel changer of a remote control. Maintenance of this strong system is easy. You just need to continue not caring, not noticing and not acting. The inertia of the system adds thickness to the skin and further reduces the temperature of the heart. Left alone the compassion immune system will isolate, blame, chastise, and lead to solitude and silence.

Weakening the compassion immune system takes work and time. Caring no longer seems to come easily. We need to restructure our environment so that we come into more direct contact with others. We must evaluate our own weaknesses and seek assistance from others. We should seek opportunities to walk alongside or in the shoes of others. But as with strengthening, the more we weaken the more opportunities to weaken further arise.

The symptoms are harder for you to discern but others may begin advising you that you have a bleeding heart, rose colored glasses and a cloak of martyrdom. Ignore their diagnosis for they are trying to strengthen your immunity to the world around you.

Be weak today and get weaker tomorrow,

B

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Five Reminders of Change

Change is in the air, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. ~ Steve Jobs

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
~ Jack Layton

When you blame others, you give up your power to change. ~ Robert Anthony

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. ~ Flannery  O’Connor
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Prepositions rather than Propositions

We always imagine that our life will be changed by a huge proposition that comes our way. A job , a marriage proposal, an offer you can’t refuse … Theses things do alter our paths but the wouldn’t happen without our prepositions.

In, of, for and with are tiny words with remarkable impact. Each signal a different perspective and guide us to a different destination.

You can be in a job, in a relationship, in love or in cahoots. In represents a beginning, a small commitment, a testing the waters phase. There is anticipation but wariness, optimism but anxiety. You aren’t sure if you are in this or have one foot waiting for something else.

When you become part of a cause, a movement, a relationship, a partnership the commitment stakes go up. You see endless possibilities in the present and can envision a future. In the ‘of’ phase you are connecting ideas as in ‘ fond of sunsets’ or ‘she is a colleague of mine’. Anxiety is reduced and hope increases.

‘For’ shifts your attention and intention. For the sake of someone or something else points to self actualization and the recognition of something or someone outside yourself.  Loyalty and allegiance; the feeling of strong support for, becomes a reciprocating norm. Even if the object of your loyalty is abstract like ‘do it for love’ or ‘in it for the money’, the motivation shifts away from you.

Finally, the ‘with’ phase. Cooperation, collaboration, collective impact become tactical weapons. You compliment, complete, correspond in support of each other. “I am with you”, signals a destination of confidence and acceptance.

These prepositions aren’t linear and don’t necessarily follow a pattern from in to with. One day you can be with and find yourself at for the next day. It is these tiny steps, forward and back, that form the path(your path) to a destination where a big proposal might be possible.

Make Today Remarkable, in your way, for the sake of others, with someone you love,

B

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You are Remarkable

If you are reading this, you are remarkable. If you aren’t reading this you are remarkable. We are all far more capable and remarkable than we are given credit for or that we give ourselves credit for.

Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen themselves and others. You can do that – right. Pick one thing, today, that you are good at and ask ” how can this be of value to me, my family or my community?” Then do it, just do it.

If you are stuck, pick one thing that you wish you were good and ask ” how would this be of value to me, my family and my community?” Then do it, and get good at it.

Waiting won’t produce results or strengthen others. Procrastinating doesn’t improve the world. Patience isn’t actually a virtue, in most cases. Strive to become an impatient imperfectionist for the next 48 hours and see what happens. Maybe you will cause a stir, maybe you will stir the pot, or maybe you will stir some passion in your heart.

Make Today Remarkable, for someone you care about,

Bob