Tag Archives: Responsibility

I’m Voting for Participation

I will vote later today, I will walk over to my polling place after I come home from work – all the way across the street – and then walk home for dinner and the rest of my evening.  I used to vote when I dropped off my kids for school, or picked them up, once I was working full time.  Having polling places that are accessible is a wise move.  People are more likely to participate in something that fits in with their routine.

 

public domain image

public domain image

Way back when I turned 18, long before these kerfuffles about voter id laws, my birthday was in October and I went in to vote with my parents a few weeks later in November – I registered right there.  I was excited to participate, and hadn’t given much thought to the specific candidates or races until the moment when I pulled the curtain to close myself into the booth – other than governor.  (It wasn’t a presidential election year.)  It was one of those old machines with levers – including one that would allow me to vote straight ticket.  One swipe and I could be done, having performed my civic duty.  I was a bit dismayed that there were so many different races.  And incumbents and opponents.  I hadn’t prepared myself.

 

At that moment I realized that my right to vote, just like a lot of other things in life, was complex and required more from me than a bit of time and effort on Election Day.  If I voted strictly based on party affiliation I could be voting for a person who wasn’t qualified.  That didn’t sit quite comfortably with me, even then when I was still new to the adult world and believed that everyone acted with good intentions.

 

The newspaper has become a great ally in my quest to be a regular voter.  I believe strongly in the importance of participation.  Without the newspaper it would be much more difficult to be an informed participant.  Who is running against whom, why, what do they stand for or against?  So many names flow in front of us in TV ads, on flyers and bill boards and yard signs.  The candidates don’t always tell us the basics – what office are they seeking, what party do they represent, what reasoning do they offer?  Our Founding Fathers expected citizenry to be informed and act accordingly.  (We won’t consider their understanding of human nature today.)

 

Regardless of each voter’s level of information on the candidates and issues, participation is a basic element.  Without it, what can we expect?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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The Strangeness of Ordinary

The litany of ills and travails – big and small, natural, geo-political, economic – seems to be unusually long around the globe right now.  Many people in many parts of the world are steeped in or trying to fend off chaos, their ordinary life set aside for the time being.  But plenty of other segments and corners of the populated world go about their ordinary business day after day and only encounter the chaos when they access the news.

 

Does that seem a bit strange to you?  While the main part of my mind is keeping track of my appointments, facilitating tasks at work, planning and cleaning and ticking through my days another part is contrasting my regular schedule against the topsy-turvy days of all the people affected by these various storms (manmade and natural).  And wondering how these people that I don’t know are coping.

 

It is back to school season and I see the effect at the school across the street as I leave for work.  My company supplies products to schools which means that we are quite hectic these days.  But aside from some people having flooded basements thanks to all the rain, or difficulty getting in to the office for the same reason we are all going through actions that we have done for ages, routine.

 

I do know someone whose son was evacuated from Liberia due the Ebola outbreak but that is as close as I personally come to most of the turmoil.  How about you?  Do you have relatives in Ukraine or Israel or Syria or Ferguson, MS or…

 

August 2013 Political Map, credit Wikipedia

August 2013 Political Map, credit Wikipedia

The world is a big place and it has always been true that there will be turmoil here and there and normal life will occur everywhere else.  Routine is annoying, but also comfort.  A seismic shift – either literal or not – that removes a person, a group, or a whole region from the ordinary usually seems to happen elsewhere.  Until it doesn’t.  Most of the time ordinary is just that, but every once in a while there is such a spike of chaotic activity, or the chaos hits too close to home, that ordinary seems rather strange.

 

I remember my first jolt of the strangeness of ordinary.  We were all called together because my grandmother was not doing well, but when I woke up the next morning at my uncle’s house and heard laughter downstairs I believed that she must have made it through the night.  Until my dad came up to tell us that she hadn’t.  How could they have been laughing?

 

I used the phrase ‘seismic shift’ earlier in this post because I have experienced real earthquakes, including a major one, and it is quite disorienting to have the ground beneath your feet move violently.  To see the damage that an earthquake can wreak up close.  The mind can’t quite take it in.

 

Knowing that disquiet I can’t decide if it is right to carry on normally or that there is great strangeness in the ordinary.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Rule Bound

Where do you stand on the role that rules play in life? Do rules create valid boundaries for protection of yourself, others, property?  Do rules hinder you from doing what you really want to do?  Do they offer guidelines?  Is the rule the most important thing, what the rule is meant to safeguard, or is it the spirit of the rule?  Do you think that rules should have a shelf-life, come up for periodic review?

 

I know people for whom rules are a means to an end.  The rules are to be applied or ignored in whatever fashion necessary to achieve the goal.  Perhaps sometimes just bent or loosely interpreted.  Creative thinking is liberally applied.

 

I know people for whom the rule is the ultimate.  The letter of the rule, the face of it – each rule stitched together with all of the others to provide these people with the comfort to get through all the moments of life.  No creative thinking necessary.

 

And I know plenty of people of varying stripes between these opposites.  And some who don’t seem to think much about rules one way or the other.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

It couldn’t have been long after people started to congregate that it became clear that some sort of standard was necessary.  Rules were born.  And they can be found in nature – plants and animals have them.  Do this, don’t do that.

 

Rules serve a purpose except when there are rules for the sake of rules.  They help to create commonality and structure.  But they can and should be examined for validity.  (Old laws on the books can be very odd, and sometimes hilarious.)

 

I used to tell my boys that if they thought any of my rules didn’t make sense, they should tell me.  Along with why.  Scoffing at a rule is easy, but putting together a compelling argument why the rule should be removed or changed is important.

 

It comes down to one of my favorite questions – what is the intent?  If the intent isn’t clear, well hmmm….  But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is ok to ignore or flaunt the rule.

 

How are the bindings on the rules around you?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Mr. Nobody’s at it Again

Two boys can get into rather a bit of trouble in the blink of an eye.  Especially when led astray by a rapscallion like Mr. Nobody.  I never clapped eyes on the fellow, but he apparently freeloaded at our house for quite a few years – from the time that my boys were 3 or 4 years old on up until they figured out how to get into mischief on their own or with their friends.

 

He just came into being one day – the day before the standard answer to questions about what was going on was the universal ‘I don’t know’ accompanied with a shrug and shifty eyes, the next day with a wink and a nod the answer changed to ‘Mr. Nobody did it’.  I took to sharing pointers with the boys that they should pass on to Mr. Nobody.  Like respecting property and what was considered acceptable or not.  They would listen and solemnly agree to pass on the lesson or concern.

 

Mr. Nobody was a safe scapegoat who, to the best of my knowledge, never got into anything really awful or unforgivable.  Well, there were the two broken windows (of the two windows in the boys’ room), but luckily no one was actually hurt.

 

Mr Nobody won't show up for a few more years, but the mischief is there.

Mr Nobody won’t show up for a few more years, but the mischief is there.

Boys have a lot of energy and curiosity which can be a dangerous combination – it is proven that males have a higher mortality rate from conception onward.  Mr. Nobody allowed us to talk about dangers, actions and consequences without accusations.  Sometimes the boys even participated in talking about how Mr. Nobody should be punished so that he would understand the gravity of his actions.

 

Mr. Nobody probably had a hand in helping the boys to develop their critical thinking skills – his invention was certainly a bit of creative thinking.  He came about as a bit of avoidance, a hope of deflection – a sophisticated use of humor for boys so young – and he stuck around as long as he was useful.

 

Is there a Mr. Nobody in your life?  An inspired invention that fulfilled much more than its original purpose.  (My younger son says he was a diabolical super-villain.  Ah, perspective.)

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

I Can’t Make Me

That moment when you realize that you are really an adult might just have something to do with motivating yourself to do an unpleasant task.  We think of being an adult as finally getting to do all of the things that we were prevented from doing as kids.  If I thought at all about all of the things that require prompting to do, I assumed that adults didn’t need that external push.  I found out soon enough that I was wrong.

 

This topic is coming to mind because I’m trying to get up the energy to do my taxes.  Bleh.  There are some chores that I don’t like I have come to a neutral place on – I just do them and as long as things go smoothly, I don’t think too much about it.  But taxes never seem to go smoothly.  Just the act of gathering all the right paperwork is so tedious that it brings out the obstinate little pouty kid who shouts ‘you can’t make me’ over and over.

DSC03760

My sister used to have a friend who went to the trouble to run the vacuum throughout the house without turning it on in an act of defiant compliance.  Even as a kid I thought that defied logic – if you are going to go to the trouble to run it over the carpet, how hard is it to turn it on?  But I also get the defiance, the dig your heels in contrariness of the act.

 

Sometimes even as adults we need to have someone else make us do something – hence the need for many laws – things that will give us great benefit like eating healthy, saving for retirement, getting our teeth cleaned.

 

There must be a solid evolutionary reason why we are so obstreperous at times.  I have found myself splitting into two minds – one is being terribly unruly and the other is consternated not only by the childish stand but also by the choice of the fit.  Why-ever have I chosen to cling to this particular cliff?

 

How about you, what was the oddest situation where you dug your heels in?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

That Little Push

The sun rises, and even on a cloudy day, the world around us starts to wake up – circadian rhythm kicks in.  External and internal prompts work together to give us a little push to start our day.  Routine, or the schedule for that particular day take over to encourage our next moves.  Is the pull of that day’s activities enough for me to push myself forward into it?

Probably very few of us found our internal drive worked consistently in our growing years.  Little and big pushes to do this or that had to come from external sources – mom, dad, teacher, coach.  The object was to teach us to develop our own internal drive, to push ourselves to do the things we needed to do so that we could achieve the things that we wanted to achieve.  Oh, we needed no push on certain days, for something exciting – up, fed, dressed and maybe even got a few things ready for mom and dad.

DSC03753

Once we launch into our ‘real’ lives, our adult post-school experiences, that’s when we find out how well we internalized the push – our ability to create and implement a daily schedule.  Some people do it so well, they can plow through even the most onerous chores without having to cajole themselves in any way.  Some of us become leaders and push ourselves and our team through the good, bad, and the tedious.  Many of us become parents and suddenly want to apologize to our own parents on a regular basis if it will help our children to find that internal push sooner and more strongly.

I don’t like to leave things hanging, but there are tasks that I dread or dislike doing.  And then there are the ones that I’m not entirely certain how to move forward.  I can usually figure out some means to push myself to do these things.  Although sometimes I have to give myself a bye, and sometimes I just channel my younger self and wonder why I have to do this stuff at all.  And sometimes I dream that I can hire an assistant who will take care of all these things.

Imagine what we can each do today, with a little push.

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Breaking the Escalation Pattern

How many times do we see the news or hear about a situation when we think how did it get to that point?  Why didn’t someone intervene, somehow put a stop to it?

 

When to step in?  How to step in?  Who should step in?

 

I don’t remember how old my boys were when I started to talk to them about the part they could play in keeping things from escalating to a point where there is a loss of control and something unfortunate results.  Somewhere in their grade school years, long before their brains would mature enough to develop impulse control.  (Of course, age doesn’t always correlate to impulse control.)

public domain image

public domain image

 

The calmest among us still has a trigger or two – perhaps one or both of the universal triggers, hunger and lack of sleep.  The calmest people are less likely to be set off by their very calm nature, do they also better understand how to take action to keep their surroundings more serene?  Or how best to respond to chaotic surroundings to keep themselves serene?

 

We are under constant bombardment from outside forces – bills, relationship pressures, the world around us – which can keep us at a low simmer.  Add in one more aggravation and it might make a volatile mix.  What do we each do to understand our own simmer, our own triggers; what do we each do to counteract or prevent our triggers from being tripped?

 

Diffusing a volatile situation takes some skill, but helping ourselves, a friend or a family member to ease down their simmer is a much simpler and more pleasant task.  Breaking the escalation pattern early, before it even has a chance to start, is sometimes as simple as getting a meal with a friend, sharing a laugh or offering a hug.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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