Sunday, August 22, 2010

Adapt and Thrive! (Some personal dots.)

Recently I read and reviewed a novel by Gerald Weinberg. Jerry is an author whose books have helped me over the years. In doing research for the book review, I reread several of my own blog entries that have helped me gain perspective regarding the current negotiating crisis.

I call it a crisis because it matters to me: it's personal. It's about trust, fairness, honesty, and leadership. Those things matter to me. I am that guy. Things bother me and I muse. I try not to obsess, but I do percolate.

So I was happy to find several posts that helped me get a personal grip on the crisis-de-jour.

The first post I found was called Let Kindness Rule! 

Here's an excerpt: 

All relationships involve a certain amount of patient endurance with the foibles of another; however, some relationships require larger amounts. Those cultures strongly influenced by Christianity acknowledge love and patience as virtues. We acknowledge that love should suffer long: and we try. But…

But we often overlook or fail on the other component of the advice offered in this New Testament proverb: Love suffers long, and is kind. 

What? I’m called to suffer long AND be kind! Ahhhh… there’s the rub: Kindness. While I am being loving and patient (suffering long), I am to do it with kindness. Kindness means no meanness, no sarcasm, no nagging, no belittling, no digs, etc. 

Hmmm… Anybody think that there would be fewer people problems among our friends, family, and community if we practiced this simple axiom: Love suffers long, and is kind?

Let kindness rule!

* * * * *

When I am faced with perceived unkindness, injustice, untruth, and insensitivity I want to get payback. That's my knee-jerk tendency. But after hitting the "pause" button, I am reminded of my core values and aspirations. If I go with knee-jerk, I must might end up being simply a jerk. That's not my aim.

Jerry, in responding to my Let Kindness Rule! post said this, "And people should remember, kindness costs you nothing. Meanness costs you a lot." 

As I begin my school year, with negotiations on-going, I am going to let kindness rule. I'm not sure exactly what that will look like, but I am resolved. (The current negotiations are only a symptom of a larger problem. Perhaps  the November elections will help remedy that problem... perhaps not.)

* * * * *

The second post I found was called Adapt or Die! 

Here are a few of the salient points: 

Changes at work made me want to take up arms, so I cleverly began to read a chapter called “Gaining Control Over Change” from my Secrets of Consulting book by Gerald M. Weinberg.
I expected to get some good advice on how to get people to see things my way, instead Jerry informed me that the best way get changed is to resist change. His answer to managing change was to embrace it.
Another name for embracing change is adaptation. Jerry points out that some organisms adapt in order to survive an increasingly hostile environment. This is also called evolution. Hmmm…
I can manage change by embracing change in an adaptive manner.(Or I can become a dinosaur. And perhaps extinct.)

Those who resist change often begin to act in ways that make them change a lot. Rats. That’s what I’m trying to avoid: big change.

Jerry’s advice on embracing small change in order to survive was comforting. It wasn’t the answer I wanted, but it was one I needed.

That’s why I went to Jerry’s book. He knows stuff. 

* * * * *

I like who I've become... and I don't want to change into something I'm not by reacting to the bad behavior of another.  Things in Lowell Joint's teacher/management interactions have devolved -- they've changed.  "Jerry informed me that the best way get changed is to resist change."

 As the new school year begins, I intend to "...manage change by embracing change in an adaptive manner."  

I'm not sure what that will look like, but at least I know what I'm trying to accomplish: positive adaptation. 

* * * * *

The final post that helped me in my thinking was called The Problem of Apparent Irrationality.

Here are some portions of that post: a rational and reasonable man, my mind has a difficult time following unreasonable orders/dictates/policies. ...

Perhaps you’ve had such bouts with unreasonableness that interferes with a good night’s sleep? But what’s a person to do?

Me? I visited an old friend and mentor: Gerald Weinberg. Now, in reality, I’ve never met "Jerry." In fact, until yesterday, I called him "Gerald." But I do own three of his books, which I’ve read multiple times. He’s a “friend” I sometimes visit when I wrestling with a difficult problem. He’s always there for me, and he makes good sense. He helps me. ;-)

As I read the preface, I was rewarded with a re-framing of my ... problem. I read the following account of Jerry’s approach to dealing with a major challenge of the consulting business:

“Most of the time, though, I enjoyed the direct interaction with my clients, if I could stand the irrationality. If I wanted to stay in the business, it seemed to me I had two choices:

1. Remain rational, and go crazy.
2. Become irrational, and be called crazy.

For many years, I oscillated between these poles of misery, until I hit upon a third approach:

3. Become rational about irrationality.

This book relates some of my discoveries about the rationality of seemingly irrational behavior that surrounds requests for influence. These are the secrets of consulting.”

Since I was currently going somewhat crazy, I recognized that my problem was really 
a problem of apparent irrationality. Once I could name the problem, I was partially relieved, because the correct naming of the problem is often the first step in finding a suitable solution: Become rational about irrationality.

A songwriter once said, “I may not have the answer, but I believe I have a plan…” I don’t even have a plan yet, but at least I know what the problem is.

* * * * *

Becoming rational about irrationality. It can keep you from going crazy. Or waking up in the middle of the night. 

The thinking reflected in this post has helped me sleep better at night and to look with greater hope towards the coming school year. 

What is my intention for the coming year? Adapt and Thrive! (It turns out, that is an option.)

My teacher-in-another-district friend has this quote on his FaceBook profile: "Kites rise highest against the wind -- not with it."

There may be an ill wind blowing, but I don't have to be driven along by it. I can be like the kite and rise up. 

So can you. 


  1. Don, I especially identified with your remarks about irrationality. Sometimes I get caught up in an interior rant that drifts toward insanity or, at least, irrationality. Sometimes it gets so ridiculous that I finally see it for what it is. Sometimes others help me with their patient reasonablness or their eloquent silence. When I am irrational I hate people confronting me with eloquent silence.

  2. @Dennis: I'm glad you identified with parts of this post. Since much of it deals with "people problems" and you work with lots of people, I'm not surprised, but I am pleased. You'd probably like Jerry Weinberg's consulting books, since you are in the influencing business. ;-) (Like me.)


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