Posts Tagged ‘Risk’

Status QuoThe Latin phrase status quo literally means “the state in which.”  It has been used as a common English term for about 200 years meaning “the existing state of affairs.”

As we near the end of one year and look ahead to a new one contemplating goals and hopes, one thing that seems clear to me is that the status quo is a direct enemy of creativity, innovation, doing new things, and stretching oneself to be more than in the past.  Nobody ever created or innovated or excelled by simply doing the same old things previously done.

In the business world, many companies want to think of themselves as innovative, disruptive, creative and market-leading, yet in what ways do they enforce the status quo to the point of making thinking outside the box – much less acting outside of it – impossible?  How many rules, policies, controls and other innovation-squelching practices are in place that make public claims of innovation or disruption laughable?

At the personal level, the status quo is similarly an enemy of change and making progress toward lifelong dreams.  If all I do next year is what I did this year, then I can’t expect any results to be different or to accomplish anything new.

No matter what organization you are a part of, the principle applies.  The status quo is your enemy if you want to do anything but always keep things exactly as they are right now.  I don’t know about you, but that’s not enough for me or for anyone who wants to make a difference.

Someone has to take a risk.  Someone has to go where others haven’t gone.  Someone has to buck the trends, ignore the norms, and lead to places others didn’t know could exist or were too hesitant to try to reach.  Chances are there is at least one way in which you and I each need to be that person.  We’re not in control of the consequences of trying, and those consequences may turn or well or they may not.  But I’d rather fail at trying something new than succeed at maintaining the status quo.

Leap year lesson #337 is The status quo has to go.

Most of us don’t like being the bearer of bad news.  On the contrary, we would rather be associated with the verse from the prophet Isaiah: “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news” (Isaiah 52:7) – a verse repeated by Paul in Romans 10:15.  The positive image brings to mind a runner going to or perhaps returning to a community to bring welcome news from afar.  Such a messenger will be greeted with joy.

Not so with those who bring bad news.  In ancient times, if a messenger ran to an enemy camp with a message not well received by the hearers, it would be unfortunate but not inconceivable that the hearers might take out their frustration on the messenger.  It was a dangerous role for the one delivering the news.

Nothing much has changed today in that regard.  While we don’t send runners to enemy camps with bad news anymore, we still find ourselves from time to time in the uncomfortable position of telling others things they don’t want to hear.

If you are the messenger, then you have the obligation to deliver the message clearly and with whatever level of compassion seems appropriate.  You don’t really have the option of not delivering the message without failing at an important task.  Friends, managers, coworkers, family members, even strangers may find themselves in such a role and perhaps with a message originating from themselves and not from someone else.

If you are the recipient of the message, then you have to control your emotions and react to the message rather than the messenger.  That isn’t easy.  It’s human nature to lash out at personal criticism or in response to news that is upsetting.  Still, the adult response is to absorb the message, take some time to process it if needed, and then respond appropriately.

Next time you hear something you’d rather not, try to remember leap year lesson #317 – Don’t shoot the messenger: You might miss the message.

Howard Beale in the movie “Network”

We’ve all heard the Edmund Burke quote (or a close variation of it) that “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  It’s a reminder that we cannot stand on the sidelines and watch evil, immoral actions take place while we remain silent, or else we are complicit in the wrongdoing.  We may not like that thought because it is simpler to console ourselves and justify our inaction than it is to risk getting involved and try to make a difference.

In Christian lingo there are “sins of omission” – much the same idea as the above in that sins are not just bad things we do but also good things we do not do.

The rule applies to many areas of life – government, business, interpersonal relationships, civic and religious organizations, random encounters, etc.  In short, wherever we are, there exists the potential for “good” people to stand by and do nothing while those who hurt, abuse and cause all manner of harm are somehow allowed to continue their actions without others stepping up and stepping in to shout in unison “no more!”  And so the harm continues.  And so those remaining silent on the sidelines stand guilty for failure to stop it.

I realize that each of us is just one voice, but each of us is still one voice and that voice must be heard in opposition to wrong.  Age is no excuse.  Fear is no excuse.  Previous battle scars are no excuse.  Lack of support from others is no excuse.  Being tired is no excuse.  Hesitancy to challenge someone in leadership is no excuse.

What wrongs could be corrected and what failed leadership could be stopped in its tracks if voice after voice finally stood up like Howard Beale in the movie Network and proclaimed “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”?  If you’ve sulked on the sidelines of failed leadership and the harmful actions of others long enough, then stand up and do something about it.

Leap year lesson #308 is Don’t just sit there – do something.

Three months ago I agreed to teach a new Bible study class on Sundays with the intended audience being men who are in a recovery program.  Some are in between time they have been in jail and when they will be allowed to return home.  After a very slow start of nobody attending the first couple of weeks, we have sputtered along with 0-2 learners present weekly since August.  Their work schedule and the frequency of rotation in and out of the program make it impossible to have a consistent class.  The only regular attendee besides me was the other leader who agreed to help me.  Besides him, three men have each been there once and one man has been several times.

I was willing to give it a try for three months before making a call as to its viability to continue.  Today is the end of that three-month period and today I am disbanding the class.  We were right to try it, although we were woefully wrong in the manner in which we started the class – abandoning every known principle and best practice of how to start new teaching units in the rush to just do it back in the summer.  I won’t make that mistake again.

We’ll merge my tiny class into another excellent class that meets down the hall and that uses the same lesson material.  It’s actually the class I was a member of before starting this one and is a wonderful class filled with men and women who will welcome these men with open arms when they are able to attend.  The discussion will be richer because of the larger number of people and the men will get to meet a wider variety of people in the church than they would huddled together by themselves in my class.

It would have been nice to have a class with throngs of people there weekly, but that wasn’t and won’t be the case given the circumstances.  It’s important to know when to end an experiment and move on.  That time has come.  I’m glad we gave it a shot.

Leap year lesson #299 is Some things are worth trying even if they don’t succeed.

Later this morning a man will come to our house and do some minor touch-up work on the recently renovated master bath.  There are a few places where the caulking has cracked around some edges of the shower, so the company that did the work this summer is sending him to fix it.  It isn’t anything major – just a little annoyance that shouldn’t happen this soon after the work was done, so it needs repair.

A few months ago, there was nothing but open space in the gutted upstairs as everything that was there previously for our two boys’ bedrooms and attic space was removed to make room for a new master suite to be constructed from the ground up.  The work ahead of the renovation company at that point was quite a bit different than the little touch-up that awaits them today.

When I consider the changes that have taken place in the past or need to happen in the future for me personally, they can also be grouped into the larger categories of major renovations that take a lot of time to overhaul versus those that are little touch-up jobs along the way.  Deciding to lose 20 pounds this year took several months of more activity and a change of eating habits that has to continue if I want to keep those pounds off (so far, so good).  Getting a better handle on my retirement financial preparation has taken a lot of study and changes in investments over the past 13 months as I put things in place for retiring in another 10-12 years.  Both of the above changes are significant.  They take more time and effort.  Other minor ones along the way have happened with less planning, less time and minimal effort.

Do you have anything that needs a major overhaul in your life – internal or external?  Have you been dissatisfied with some minor things that could use a touch-up job here and there?  If so, make the decision and do something today to move in the right direction.  The major overhauls aren’t easy, but you sure do enjoy them once they’re complete.

Leap year lesson #264 is Tackle that next major renovation or minor touch-up.