Self Improvement

Popeye Arms

Are you exercising regularly but focusing on the same routine? Like Popeye the Sailor Man you may end up with huge forearms and tiny ineffective muscles everywhere else.


I worry that many of us are exercising our brains but the routine is so predictable that we are growing giant frontal lobes ( not a physical representation but a metaphor for what I see happening). I spent time with three different groups over the past week and discovered that they were well read and well versed in a narrow band that gave them agreement comfort. If we don’t stretch away from the echoes bouncing around in our heads, we end up with a distorted image, likely uni-dimensional of the world that we live in.

I was with 1300 bright, interested, motivated people last week who were okay being pushed within a very small bandwidth. They felt thinking out of the box required that they keep their bodies inside and maybe let their nose sneak out and smell the air. There was an opportunity to be challenged, checked, changed and choices were waiting to be made but there was a lot of escape hatches offered and most people retreated to the same thoughts they were having when they walked in.

I wonder if Trumpamania and Brexit are manifestations of getting to the edge and ‘remembering that the world is really flat’ and pulling back, out of fear, into something that sounds vaguely familiar (and safe). Most troubling is the polarity that single-minded opinions, confirmation conversations, and willfully blind tribal loyalty encourage. The more you focus on bicep curls, the bigger your biceps get but now those tiny calves don’t give you a leg to stand on.

Enter into open and curious conversations with people, books and ideas that you don’t understand and/or disagree with.





Am I insensitive? Do I miss signals from others that I am intruding into their space? Do I ignore contributions or ideas from other people? Do I make snide comments or cutting remarks? Can I be hurtful? Yes,yes,yes, yes, yes and I apologize for all of it. But apologies can be like excuses; not of much value. If I don’t learn and change my behaviour what value does seeking atonement bring to me or others?

I heard yesterday, or overheard, that much of the meeting I was in ignored women and their opinions. The facilitator apparently favored stale, pale men over women. I wasn’t the facilitator and didn’t notice the favoritism. Maybe I was blind because my opinions were heard and considered. I forget that part of the reason I can influence is my privilege; male, older, caucasian, educated, outspoken. I wrestled this morning with my participation and could conclude that I wasn’t overbearing or dismissive so it isn’t my problem. But I now see that the dynamic of the engagement did offer people with strong opinions and extroverted personalities a higher dais. Again, not my doing but I was willfully blind to the circumstances because they served me and my agenda.

I have replayed the table conversations and see that there were participants (mostly female) who were silent or said very little. They had obviously made the effort to attend and were curious about the subject so it wasn’t disinterest that quieted their voices. In the heat of the discussion, I did step on someone’s voice and stepped back and gave them space but there was some roughshod power plays happening and I didn’t ask ” what do you think?”

I talk and write a lot about personal responsibility so I don’t have much room to squirm on this. It was my obligation to pay close attention, observe, notice and attempt to remedy any injustice or unfairness or insensitivity. Last night I didn’t do any of them. I paid attention to the arguments being put forward, but not out of curiousity but rather to find a window to pounce through. I was focused on me and my desire so wasn’t observing the reactions and reflections of others. I didn’t notice any body language or posture changes that would have signaled some distress and I didn’t therefore see a reason or an opportunity to level the field and ensure that all interested voices were being heard.

My perspective was limited because the process gave me influence and I was satisfied with that.

In the future, I will be sure to open my toolkit and remind myself that others may not be satisfied. If I add some questions to my toolkit, I can still make a contribution and invite others to make theirs.” We haven’t heard much from you tonight, what do you think?”
” How does that idea sit with you?” ” If you were in their situation what would you do or recommend?” ” Have we heard from all sides?” ” Did everyone have a chance to add to the discussion?” Some of the questions are internal and some would need to be expressed out loud.

As I write this I wonder what we missed last night. How many people had a contribution that was stifled or spoken but not listened to? Did we miss the ‘great big idea’ that we were looking for? As a fan of generative thinking and a synthesizer of ideas I am pretty sure that the pathway that we took was a creation of he who spoke first as more than the quality or usefulness of the opinion. A different pathway would have created a different route and likely a different destination.
It is sad that some voices weren’t heard. Sad that I didn’t notice the inequity. Sad that we were insensitive. It is really sad that we will never know what opportunities and possibilities we missed in our zealousness.

Today is a new day. I can’t fix or recreate yesterday. I can learn from the stumbles and the leaps. I can reflect, adapt and change. I can make a commitment to taking different action in the next opportunity ( 3 today and numerous over the next 2 weeks). I can write and post and hopefully provoke some thoughtful reflection by others. I can be optimistic that a few words jotted down and published have whatever meaning others may attribute them and that in the exercise I have become a bit more aware, sensitive and committed.