Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How Many People D'You See?

For some reason – probably related to the current general state of insecurity in the world – an increasing number of my clients have been articulating satisfaction with their ability for self-sufficiency, with their reluctance to ask for help from colleagues, peers, or team members, expressing almost a sense of pride (some almost ‘wear it’ like a badge of honor). It has occurred so frequently that I am compelled to write a few words of elucidation: asking for help is not a bad thing! In fact, I have found quite the opposite, beginning with myself, many, many moons ago! I used to think that asking for help displayed weakness, incompetence; that independence and initiative couldn’t possibly coexist with needing help; and that being able to ‘do it all’ was somehow a sign of strength. How wrong I turned out to be!
We only have to look at any team sport to see how futile this thinking is (one person cannot, obviously, play a team sport) or at all the jokes and comedy sketches where a family has mother doing all the work while dad and the kids sit in front of the TV!
Passing the ball, sharing the load, asking for help, is all a part of the collaborative process. Any team is only as effective as its members’ ability to collaborate and look to each other for support; be that a sports team, a management team or a family ‘team’.
When I really got this concept for the first time, I was a young mother with a seven-year old. Her dad (who was from Trinidad and had that culture’s no-nonsense approach to parenting), one day asked our daughter:
“How many people d’you see in this house?”
She hesitated: “Three….” she tentatively ventured.
“And how many people eat the food in this house?” he continued
“Three,” she responded, looking like she knew she was being led down a path she wasn’t sure she wanted to go.
“How many people cook the food we eat?”
“One – no two,” she corrected herself, remembering that dad sometimes made breakfast.
“Hmmm. And how many people buy the food?”
“Two.” Was her sullen reply.
“How many people do you see wash the dishes, then?” There was no stopping him!
“Two.” She wriggled impatiently.
Her Dad paused for dramatic effect. Finally he said,
“D’you think that’s fair?”
Our daughter looked across at me then back at her Dad, with the look of one who has just gained a new understanding., an ‘aha!’. “No,” she said, shaking her head so her curls bounced around her now slightly more confident expression.
“So, what d’you think we should do ‘bout it?”
There was a pause.
“I can help wash the dishes?” she said with a questioning lilt.
After that, the rest was easy. She had understood that we were a team and we all needed to pitch in, without my husband (or me) ever having to preach this to her. And we never had to, ever! I on the other hand, would continue needing reminders to ask for help, and not think I could do it all (only to become resentful afterwards). The adage about old dogs & new tricks’, definitely applied to me; my daughter was a teenager – and a helpful one at that – before I ‘really ‘got it’!
Nowadays, I still witness clients (and others) struggling with the same issue – and I recognize the feeling, for a feeling it is, an actual emotional need that will only change when we identify it, acknowledge it isn’t serving us, understand and take charge of it, so that we may step up to the task of collaborating, really collaborating! The way our world is heading these days, I don’t believe there is an alternative. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Satish Kumar, “We need to have a declaration of dependence –not independence! We are all dependent on each other,…. and on the earth.” No pun intended, but the days of plowing ahead independently are over!

PS: Recommended read: Satish Kumar’s book “You Are, Therefore I Am.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Overcast in Paradise

I used to be a proponent of long vacations. I still am - but recently I gained a new appreciation for short getaways! The island we visited for 3 days was beautiful but the weather was, admittedly, not! Windy, overcast, sometimes rainy, even chilly. We could have been annoyed – we had such little time! However, we chose to take advantage of what we were given. Wind was good for sailing! – we borrowed a small catamaran and went for a sail! The waves soaked us, continuously, but hey, what a problem! I wasn’t about to complain! The water was bright turquoise for goodness sake!
An overcast day was good for a walk, exploring and stopping for fresh bread at a local bakery, a coffee at a sidewalk cafĂ©, and a delectable lunch in the not-really-needed shade of a palm tree and a parasol…………
The last rainy day could be good for driving around the island ---- if it was beautiful in the rain, imagine what it would be like when the sun came out! Intermittently, we were able to stop the wind-shield-wipers and open the windows, enjoying the most peacefully serene picturesque views – not merely ‘easy on the eye’ but veritable ‘scenic candy ‘!
Nights being lulled to sleep by crashing waves were only matched by waking to the knowledge that we were still on a paradise island. Freshly caught seafood by the beach concluded the blissful holiday – blissful because we chose it to be so, having learned at last that true joy and pleasure comes solely from our own perception of life – the ‘inner view’.