Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Sunday Musings 8/8/10

Sunday musings…

1) Vacation. On the way home yesterday I realized, some 4 hours out, that I categorically did not want to be home. Not ready to be done with vacation? Something about home town? House?

I believe I’ll need a vacation to sort it out.

2) Advice. It was pointed out to me recently that, when I had a major life change to ponder, my “failure” to seek the counsel of someone with whom I have a lifetime of closeness has harmed that closeness. I had, indeed, purposely decided not to seek that counsel; it was the correct decision then and now, regardless of how helpful the counsel may have been. I intuitively knew that then, and nothing since has made me question that intuition.

But why? Why was I correct? What was it about asking this someone would have been, I dunno, dangerous or risky rather than good or neutral? I figured that out on the ride home (long ride, lots of deep thinking). You see, from this person, from most of the folks from my younger days, there is no asking for advice because advice and counsel is not what is given. No, what is given is DIRECTION. One is told what to do. Failure to follow this direction is a de facto wrong move, no matter how successful one may turn out to be.

It’s a very different thing, don’t you think, to give advice versus direction? To offer suggestions rather than to order up an action. It’s a bit like that Colin Powell quote from the other day (which is probably where I subconsciously made this connection): once advice is given it should be “given away”, released to the discretion of the receiver, and support transferred to the receiver of the advice rather than tethered to the advice itself.

It’s another version of that old saw about reaching the correct destination, or A correct destination, via multiple routes. Think about it…I know I will the next time I’m asked to give advice. Are you more loyal to your advice or to the person to whom you’ve offered that advice?

3) Scorekeeper. Who keeps the score in your life? Come on…none of that “I just live day-to-day” nonsense…we ALL keep score. Money, house, free time, successes of the progeny, number of followers, all simply proxies for hits, runs and ERA. I guess the better, more actionable question is really “who do you allow to keep score?” Let me explain.

It’s my contention that the score is ALWAYS kept. It’s inescapable. Not only that, but many people keep a running scorecard going on you. Your parents, siblings, children. Co-workers and neighbors. Friends. Everybody is paying attention and everybody is keeping score. It’s not all bad, of course, because many times folks are only counting the goals, runs, and touchdowns and ignoring the flubs and errors. It’s OK to be consciously unconscious of these particular scorekeepers because for the most part these people are engaged in a “non-zero sum” game in which victory for all is the goal, for all.

It’s the OTHER scorekeepers who use the score as a weapon, who compare the scores, compete to win in a “zero sum” game, who may or may not have your permission to even be in the game, let alone keep score, who can wreak havoc and render destruction on the playing field. These people insist on a game in which someone must lose in order that someone may win. +1 -1 = 0. They always see the game, every game, in these terms, and they want you to see it that way, too. They insist, demand, that you not only keep score in this manner, but that you also accept them as the scorekeeper.

Here’s where you get to choose, where I think you should exert your right to choose. You may seek, as I do, to convert as many of the games in your life into “non-zero sum” games, ones in which EVERYONE may triumph, as you can. Or, you can decide that this is pollyana-ish folly and view the world always through the “zero-sum” prism. Some combination of the two. Your call. When you have a choice, though, what I DON’T think is optional is to allow anyone else to wield the pencil that keeps the score on your particular game but you, or a very, very small subset of players intimately close to you. Think about it…how could you ever win, or even tie, if it’s “zero-sum” and someone else is keeping score? Why is that? Because the scorekeeper also makes the rules. Always. Why allow that to be imposed on you if you could choose otherwise?

I re-learn this lesson, slowly and painfully, again and again, over and over. My advice, offered freely and without condition, is that you should try to be smarter than I am, learn it once, and refuse to give up the pencil.

I’ll see you next week…

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