Posts Tagged ‘Perceptions’

This is not a partisan political Post.  In fact, I hope it’s the opposite.

Normally, I love watching the political conventions in an election year – both major party conventions.  While I obviously side with the more conservative one philosophically, I really do appreciate good wit and humor, even when it jabs at those who share my beliefs.  Who doesn’t remember former Texas governor Ann Richards’ comment at the 1988 Democratic convention speaking about George H. W. Bush when she said “Poor George, he can’t help it – he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”  Now that’s just funny, I don’t care who you are.  (And, yes, I voted for Bush #1 in both elections.)

What is saddening, though, is the tunnel vision so many demonstrate these days when it comes to political spin and the corresponding lack of willingness to listen at all to the messages others have.  It simply is not the case that nearly everything one candidate or party says is true while the other is nearly always false.  Anyone who claims otherwise just isn’t willing to listen to both sides and address issues.  To believe everything from one side and nothing from the other is to be stubbornly blinded by partisanship.

In today’s political climate, such tunnel vision does nobody any good and is, in fact, intellectual dishonesty.  I can’t stop others from preferring and promoting this disease, but I can sure commit myself to intellectual honesty which I believe is its cure.  We must be able to have discussions about issues, basing our reasoned positions on clearly stated values and principles, and then vote for the candidates that most closely align with our positions.  Vilifying the other party or candidate does nothing to convince me to vote for your party or candidate.

If you want my vote in November, then you have to share the values and principles that are most important to me.  Show me how you have done that, are doing that and will do that and you have a shot at my vote.  Nothing less will convince me.

Leap year lesson #243 is Political tunnel vision is a condition that needs correction.

I prefer realism more than pessimism or optimism. Others may see me differently, but for purposes of this post, give me the benefit of the doubt.  It helps me maintain that view when I surround myself with others who share the same perspective.

Constant pessimism is a drain.  I don’t want to be around such people.  Extreme optimism can appear to be mindless denial of reality that only sets one up for regular disappointment.  Somewhere in between those two is the more balanced, healthier place to dwell.  Allowing yourself to be unduly influenced toward either extreme by others is done at your own peril.

Two enormous influences are always at work on us.  One is the voice from within that may be anywhere on the scale of optimistic to pessimistic at any given time.  While it provides moments of great clarity and inner guidance, it can also steer us off course.  The other is the voice from those around us who influence us in many ways whether we admit it or not.

Yesterday in a monthly all-day team meeting at work, one of my colleagues intentionally pushed the limits on distracting others by saying out loud every word of an email as he typed it.  He was just being a little devilish to push some buttons at the end of a long week before we headed out for the weekend.  After about a minute, our manager mentioned how distracting that was, keeping him from concentrating on what he was trying to do at the time.  It perfectly illustrated my point, though, that the louder the external voices around us are, the harder it is to hear and be guided by that inner voice which is more likely to steer us correctly.

I hope that the inner voice within most others I do business with prefers the sweet spot of realism somewhere in the middle of that line between optimism and pessimism.  If it doesn’t, then it is up to me to tune out the distractions that hinder by whatever means necessary in order to listen to the wiser voice within.

Leap year lesson #235 is Listen to the voice of realism.

While walking my dog in our neighborhood earlier tonight, I walked past a young family with three little girls.  As I was walking by, one of the girls looked up on the roof of the house in front of us and, upon seeing the skylight, said “Oh, is that an iPad?”  The dad chuckled and said, “No, it isn’t an iPad.  It’s a skylight.”  I smiled as I walked by them and pulled ahead at the faster pace my dog and I prefer.

The girl’s confusion is completely understandable.  She hadn’t seen (or noticed) skylights before, but she is well aware of iPads.  She spoke from the context of her experience.  As children, we all do that, for example, by learning broad categories like “dog” that apply to many things before we develop the ability to distinguish between German Shepherd, Collie and St. Bernard.  The girl saw a rectangular object (albeit it very large and on a roof) that had the shape and glass color of what she knew – an iPad.  That was her frame of reference.

I think we need to remember that the same is true for people of all ages.  Too often we expect people to see and understand things exactly as we do.  But nobody else on earth has exactly the same background, education, language and experience that you do.  What should be “common knowledge” in your estimation may not be an option for someone with a different background, education, language or experience.

Being aware of those differences may help us be a little more understanding and kinder toward others.

Leap year lesson #209 is We only know what we know.

The dominant news story of the day today has been the mass shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado – a tragic, senseless act of some deranged man whose motives and psyche we may never understand.  My heart goes out to all those directly and indirectly impacted by the tragedy.  My prayers are with the families of the victims and those recovering from injuries.  I trust justice will be done and the shooter will never again know what it is to be a free man in society.

The side story for me in all this has been the grossly irresponsible reporting by so-called professionals who seem more interested in being the first to speculate about the incident rather than being correct in what is reported.  ABC News’ Brian Ross should be out of a job tonight in my opinion for his erroneous speculation with zero fact-checking this morning.  That is unconscionable behavior for anyone is his public, national role.

There is a side to most (if not all) of us that seems all too ready to jump to conclusions we would like to be true.  We really don’t want little things like facts getting in the way of us touting what we want to believe is true.  Facts are inconvenient when they don’t support our presuppositions or desired conclusions.

Most of us have had times where we’ve had a very lumpy humble pie for dessert after jumping to some conclusion before all the evidence is in.  It doesn’t set well when we eat humble pie.  Hopefully, however, it makes us less eager to feast on the same buffet of irresponsibility the next time an opportunity arises.

Actions have consequences, and while we have control over our actions, we have no control over the consequences of those actions.  Irresponsible behavior, be it personal or professional, bears consequences – sometimes very serious ones.

Whether in your own home, at your work, with your neighbors, friends or strangers, please try to remember leap year lesson #200 – Don’t jump to conclusions.

I have great respect for people who are themselves wherever they are.  It irks me when I see someone behave one way in front of some people and an entirely different way in front of others.  The only chameleons I enjoy are reptilian, not human.

This is not to say that we are to be so narrow in our social skills that we cannot relate to a variety of people in different ways and social situations.  I am being myself when I choose to bring my best social graces to a formal occasion such as a wedding, and I am being myself when I kick back with friends or family or my dog informally.  Doing as the Romans do while in Rome is not always a sign of betraying one’s core values.  Of course, sometimes it’s just fun to be contrarian and go against the norm as I did earlier this week when I chose to go to my company president’s office dressed in a bee costume rather than the normal, proper tie.  (Don’t worry.  It was in my role as the community manager for our internal social network called Buzz, so it was still somewhat appropriate.)

Observing people in business settings is where I usually see the negative kinds of behaviors I have in mind here.  For example, when someone acts and speaks publicly in support of an idea when the idea’s main proponent (usually a superior) is present, but then speaks against the idea and perhaps the very person they were kissing up to when absent from the leader.  Not only is it hypocrisy, but it’s completely unhelpful in the process of freely discussing ideas and working to arrive at the best plans and solutions.

Outside of work, I share the same preference and trust for those consistent in living out what they claim to believe than those who say one thing and do another.  I would prefer the honesty of one whose life experiences and values seem polar opposites to mine over the untrustworthiness of someone inconsistent in their words and actions.

The bottom line for me… know who you are and consistently live out leap year lesson #190 – Be yourself wherever you are.