Sunday, September 21, 2014


It's just a simple little word, really.  It exists in all languages.  

But the English adjective "my" (and its possessive pronoun equivalent, "mine") can cause endless trouble.  Employing "my" is the linguistic equivalent of peeing on something to mark it as your "turf".  My house, my car, my dog, my partner, my job, my airplane, my position, my seniority.  Of course, the larger implication when we use "my" is that it is "NOT YOURS" (sometimes followed by the word "bitch", for emphasis)! "My" is the ultimate excluder; the epitome of "ranking" on another person or group.  And we employ it liberally to make our most critical point(s).

As a student of language, I'm fascinated by the way we choose words to express an underlying thought process.  Sometimes, those words are precise and pointed.  Other times, they are vague and full of implication, open to interpretation.  It is the latter usage that fascinates me so, as it apparently does others.  "What did s/he mean by that?" is a question that can launch all-out war, either literal or figurative.  "My legacy culture is being lost/ruined by this merger."  Get my drift?  It's not the words, the semantics, that matter as much as it is the underlying thought that propagates them.  "This is something of value to me.  I'm afraid to lose it."  So what do I do?

I defend it.  I extoll it.  I even imbue it with qualities it never actually possessed.  And I OWN it.  "You can't touch this.  It's mine!"

As children, we are taught sharing as a fundamental for growth, much like tying one's own shoelaces.  Selfishness is bad.  Sharing is good.  One assumes that adults all learned and practice this valuable lesson.  Perhaps this assumption is flawed.  Or perhaps we suspend the tenets of sharing in special, very important circumstances, like the loss of something critically important to defining who we are or who we see ourselves as being.

Clearly, "mine" must evolve into "our" before substantive progress can be made toward unity with another individual or group.  How does this happen?

Institutionally, a "clean sweep" approach can detach the strongest tendrils of legacy thinking and identification; a $100K early-out opportunity, for example.  Once those strongest links to memories of past greatness and self-identification are removed, a natural evolution begins.  The "new wave" stakes its legitimate claim on building a new, distinct future.  The voices of the past fade; the voices of the future assert themselves and begin to form a new identity.

Individually, we have the power to be part of this magic, no matter where we find ourselves in the process.  The next time you feel the urge to assert yourself by using "my" or "mine" when discussing something important, try substituting "our" or "ours".  Go ahead, force yourself.  It's practically painless.

Feel good about being part of the solution, even if you were part of the original problem.  (ESPECIALLY if you were part of the problem!)  Take the leap of faith:  OUR very best days lie ahead.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My 24-Hour (Virtual) "Moment of Silence"

It's true.  Our world is getting (virtually) smaller and smaller.  24 hour news and social media put us into direct contact, and often conflict, with those we'd never meet or even be aware of otherwise.  In virtuality, it's possible for us to meet and interact with any/every other human being on the planet; all 7+ billion of them.  Are you ready for that?

My 24 hour "moment of (virtual) silence" was pretty enlightening.  It allowed me the self-imposed freedom to spend my time and energy on something we may be forgetting to do or consciously foregoing.  The lack of virtual stimulation (I also eschewed the 24 hour news stimuli) compelled me to face and interact with only those things that I can touch, i.e. the "real" world.  I'm fond of saying that virtuality is real too and, on many levels, it is.  Those levels are usually the very most negative and anxiety-provoking; online bullying, for example.  But, at least for my generation and older, the tangibles are irreplaceable:  gardening, a relaxing day at the beach, walking the dog, doing the dishes, learning to sail.  I wonder if because we're spending more and more time in virtuality, are the conventional stimuli to our bodies being sacrificed for greater and greater levels of stimuli to our brain? If so, what's the saturation point?

Since declaring my intent to observe a 24hour moment of virtual silence (conceived with my "boonie" hat covering my face while sprawled on a beach chair in the sand at Perdido Key, by the way), I have freed my body (and mind) to reminisce about times gone by.  A sunny drive in the convertible, cleaning and prepping a bed in storage for introduction to its new guest room home, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, yardwork, finalizing plans to purchase and enjoy a sailing dinghy, listening to classical music on the RADIO (yes, radio!) and allowing myself the mental freedom to be immersed in all without the insistent tug of a PED. It feels nostalgic, familiar and a little bit romantic.  Are Gen-X, Gen-Y and Millennials as comforted by the mundane, the quotidien, as the Baby Boomers and older seem to be?  Has my generation robbed its progeny of the ability to enjoy drinking water from a spring, catching lightning bugs, picnicking on a mountaintop, removing bats from the cabin, hunting 4-leaf clovers, etc?  If so, are there generational equivalents?  Video games and chat rooms?

I realize that I'm probably asking the same questions that eons of humanity have asked when they reach "a certain age", curious about the motivations and dubious about the chances of those who follow.  But OUR generation is seeing those changes at "warp speed", aren't we?  The innovations of the last half-century eclipse those of the previous few millennia in terms of wow factor and individual empowerment.  Is the brain ready?

I don't know the answer.  And the not-knowing scares me more than a little.  Perhaps a touch more yardwork will yield a clue!  I know this much, my general feeling of anxiety today is much, much less than yesterday.  That can't be just a coincidence. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Make It Work!"

The immortal words of Tim Gunn on Bravo's PROJECT RUNWAY resonate in my head after reading a comment or two on a recent post in The Way FORWARD > > > >.  Whenever the dapper host is looking over the work-in-progress of a fashion design wannabe whose output comes up short, his brow furrows and eyes intensify as he delivers sage advice, "Make it work!".  Unfortunately, "Make it work!" is usually just a precursor to hostess Heidi Klum delivering HER signature line, "I'm sorry.  You're aussed!"

In my little world, a co-Admin colleague on our social media group nominated a group of co-workers at one of my airline-employer's larger hubs to receive our group's peer award.  It seems that an operational upset threatened several departing flights with lengthy delays and/or cancellations, which would have impacted a significant number of our customers.  The colleagues being nominated "stepped outside" their normally prescribed roles to accomplish the feat of saving the flights from disaster and promoting customer goodwill.  To at least half of our group's membership, these were laudable accomplishments, deserving of praise and recognition, regardless of means.  To the other half, it represented egregious threats to the "scope" clauses of several work groups' collective bargaining agreements (contracts), clauses that were won at a cost and are to be protected, as they protect the jobs of the workers who won them.  While laudable, their efforts threatened the hard-won concepts of scope.

This episode is prime evidence of the CULTURE CLASH that has been and will continue to be one of the primary impediments to the successful, harmonious integration of two great, yet very divergent, airlines.  Values conflict is the basis of so much of the acrimony lobbed by one group at the other, often with great gusto.  Values are fundamental to who and what we are.  They define us.  They are how WE define right vs. wrong.  So how can two groups, performing the same job at two different aviation companies who've recently merged, settle on a new set of group values when the ones they each bring to the merger are as different as black and white?  Who is RIGHT and who is WRONG?  It's not nearly that easy!  (With apologies to Tim Gunn.  What makes for good TV, often doesn't work in the real world.)

Each of us has his/her own values system by which we make choices:  our RIGHT and WRONG.  We reduce and distill every situation as much as we can so that we can determine whether that situation fits our definition of being right or wrong.  It starts early with a slap of the hand or a swat to the rear and continues through elementary education and on into adulthood.  Eventually, our individual values system is set and we see the world through it.  Unfortunately, reality does not conform to our way of seeing it.  So it's possible for two individuals who are both prescient and concerned to reach conflicting conclusions about what is right or wrong in pretty much ANY given situation.  The key is to see the "shades of gray" in a world made artificially "black and white".  So, how do we try to follow Tim Gunn's advice and make it work?

This requires finesse and self-control.  It requires "quieting" our inherent values system when a potentially volatile scenario arises.  It requires CONTROLLED RESPONSE when the "hot potato" is thrown your way, even if that response means stepping out of the way and letting the potato hit the ground.  When you have no good play to make, don't make one!  This is the first step, because in the game of "hot potato", the premise is that you will keep the potato in play, right?  So what happens when you've committed to play and purposefully let the potato drop?  You cause the other player to ask, "why did s/he do that?"  

The ONLY way to resolve such fundamental differences in how we perceive things so differently is to pay each other respect, to understand that we see things differently for very important reasons.  Since I came from the sCO culture, I'm much more likely to value "working together" over any other approach, including scope.  Since you come from the sUA culture, you're much more likely to value scope over any other approach, including "working together".  The fact that one of those two approaches seems to have prevailed in management at our merged company further complicates things.  "Will I be forced to abandon my long-held values system on this issue just because 'the other side' is in power now?"  "How can I make sure that my perfectly valid point-of-view is heeded and valued in the future merged company?"

The key is respect.  We can demonstrate our respect for each other and one another's culture by listening thoughtfully and patiently and by responding with care.  An active listener actually HEARS what's being said rather than using the other side's time to talk as an opportunity to form a rebuttal and reinforce his/her own point.  An active listener may not always respond immediately.  And when s/he does, that response will come from the heart, not the mouth.

"I value you and respect your history.  Your here and now are just as valid as mine and I want to understand why you see things differently than I do."

Is that so hard?