Perspective isn’t fact

For those of us who are passionate, energetic, opinionated, motivated, or confident, it can be easy to give way to the seduction of our own guitar solo.

After all, we’re sure of our opinions and have worked out a great bit of logic to support what we think to be an inscrutable position. Despite our ‘water tight’ rationale, it’s important to always be at least somewhat buffered by curious verification of our own motives or perspectives.

Am I setting up a straw man? Am I mischaracterizing? Do I have extra incentive to come out on one side of this debate? Have I rounded a corner when coming to conclusions?

Unfortunately for our ego’s, perspective isn’t fact.

Once we’re realistic about the degree to which our beliefs or opinions aren’t supported by facts, I venture to say we’ll do a better job of:

  1. Being sure to read & research more to find the facts that support an informed stance, and
  2. Having the types of conversations that bridge gaps instead of dig them deeper.

If we’re open to data, less sure of ourselves, and focused on our blindspots as much as the blindspots of those we converse with, perhaps we’ll rebuild our ability to empathize and find more productive common ground.

Once we’ve told ourselves we own a monopoly on truth, the slope is already too slippery.

Addendum to Selfish Altruism

My dear friend Matt Leathwood sent me this response to my Selfish Altruism post:

‘Does anyone do anything for free? Doing something for someone else makes most of us feel good about ourselves….. The pay off is the apparent altruism. It’s the true sign of goodness when we do things for other people without the bells and whistles of praise…. Silent givers are indeed kings amongst men.’

Touche, Matt! What’s interesting is the role habit plays in all this as well. If we get on a roll of being altruistic, perhaps it becomes our default and we can, without ego, make that our life’s preset.

But more so than FREE, like Matt says, it’s about doing good because it’s good, not because you will be praised for it. We can all do a lot worse than feeling good about doing good.

If praise for altruism makes altruism your default setting, we’ll all take it over the alternative.

P.s. If you ever have a thought, critique, idea, or contribution, after reading my posts – hit reply! Hell, I might even share it with everyone else!

Selfish altruism

Sometimes I wonder if my altruism is selfish, and whether or not that matters.

In a very basic way, I believe most of us lean toward one of the following worldviews:

  1. Life is hard and it’s important to keep people out so they don’t screw you, or
  2. By giving we receive way more than we ever could have hoped for.

I put the word ‘selfish’ next to the word ‘altruism’, mostly to get your attention. But there is indeed a volley happening between the way we view the world and the way the world vibrates with or against us.

If you think people will be trouble, they are.

If you think people will help you be more than you ever could alone, they will.

In that sense, altruism isn’t actually selfish, but it is self-replicating and exponential. I can attest that I’ve found altruism or an emphasis on giving, to be the most personally beneficial factor in my life (that I’m in full control of).

For those of us who know that everything is going to be OK, we have the luxury of being able to focus on the positive ripples we can make, as opposed to clawing for our slice.

Since selfish altruism is really just altruism, I say we risk it.

Equal rights, no qualifier

The thing about saying we believe in equal rights is that there can’t be any qualifiers.

That’s the nature of equality. For it to truly exist, we can’t bend on the premise. I hate to be fundamentalist about anything, but I don’t see equal rights as something we can compromise on.

There can’t be exceptions, fine print, or motor mouthed radio disclaimers in the last 2 seconds of the ad. There can’t be caveats, exemptions, addenda, waivers, extenuating circumstances, but’s, or garbled explanations.

In a country with so much lofty rhetoric about equality for all, it’s especially important that we not mince words.

As I dive into Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo williams after hearing her speak a few weekends ago at Camp GLP, I’m reminded just how much work we have to do when it comes to living out our ideals.

There’s no reason for recalcitrance, but we do have a long road ahead.

One thing we can’t do, is abide the shuffling of feet, defensive rationalizations, or inaction.

As Americans existing in the present, we all need to be part of this conversation… especially when it becomes uncomfortable.

Adult novice

Being an adult novice is a space a lot of us rarely can sit in without some discomfort. For some reason, the older we get, the more we tend to shutter in the face of attempting to acquire new experiences or skills.

Why the hell is that?

Perhaps it’s about our inner insecure child shuttering in the face of uncertainty, or our creative intuition getting clobbered by criticism we received from some awful, cynical adult.

As I taught my string art workshop at Camp GLP this past weekend, I remembered that creating space for adults to be novices is an important piece of expanding our comfort zones and reclaiming our ability to learn new things, be creative, and not give a fuck about the result.

This is a reminder to actively seek out the experience of being a novice. It’s also a reminder to be more focused on the experience than the result.

Jump right in.

Being honest about bias

Oh, bias. Such a maligned issue, yet so relevant, all of the time.

Ok, so let’s see here… journalists aren’t allowed to be biased, in fact saying someone is biased is one of the ways many people go about indicting.

“I think you’re only telling one side of the story, and I probably totally disagree with you.”

It’s odd that being unbiased is the goal, either ideologically or rhetorically, especially since we’d all admit it’s inescapable.

If we acknowledge that we all have our own biases regardless of how enlightened we might happen to be, then lets move the marker.

We’re biased.

Now that we can admit it, all we have to do is be honest that we have it. Incorporating that knowledge into our communication is the next, and most important step.

Easier to say than do, but oh so worth it.

Charlottesville

What happened in Charlottesville over the weekend proves that the notion of existing in a post-racial America is a complete fantasy. The “I don’t see skin color” version of public policy mixed with a talking point that helps back away from the cultural and social work we really need to do.

I’ve been sick to my stomach watching footage of the riots and that car mowing down our fellow people.

It’s made me so angry that I feel a rush of primal, testosterone-laced adrenaline that reverts to physicality, and wants to pummel those whose ideas I find disgusting and fucked up.

My mind quickly comes back to violence and it’s true nature. It’s never a solution. It never ends anything. It merely accelerates the eye for an eye approach. It’s made me think just how radical nonviolence really is. It’s sooooo hard to do. To remain truly nonviolent in communication and action is no easy feat, especially when directed at our perceived enemies.

The thing is, nonviolence destabilizes the entire back and forth that violence perpetuates. It knocks it off its axis. Calling for LOVE for those who desire the annihilation of anyone that doesn’t look like them is the hardest test.

Can we truly love our racist brothers and sisters out of their fundamentalist lens? Do we have the stomach for it?

I don’t know if we can and I don’t know if we do.

I also don’t know if violent retaliation does anything more than temporarily suppress those notions, as opposed to changing them.

I just don’t know.

Squeaky wheels & context

The way we approach any situation always depends on context. Or at least it should.

Applying one rule to getting what we want (usually, respect) runs the risk of missing out on obvious clues that’ll help us achieve that goal. Squeaky wheels only get grease when the request is reasonable, justified, and approached in a way where everyone’s dignity remains in tact.

Otherwise, squeaky wheels run off the rails without context, interactions suffer, and goals go by the wayside.

Whether it’s a client, managing a team we work on, or someone providing us with a service, we’re better off communicating fairly & giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Putting our foot down doesn’t mean raising our volume.

How might we?

The other day I read a really great article (long after it’s 2012 publication date) that talked about a phrase companies like Google and IDEO employ to get brains thinking creatively and collaboratively.

How?

As in, we need a new solution and we are open to it.

might …

We are open to big ideas, off the wall ideas. We’re removing the ‘dumb idea’ option from the table. Let’s think big.

we…

Together. We’re building this together, inherently.

To this point, how might we foster spaces, dialogues, and communities that truly embrace the ‘how might we’ prompt?

… By asking it of ourselves every time something doesn’t work.