Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 170, October 2013 )
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My wife and I are dining at Cherrywoods, a barbeque restaurant on the grounds of The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. The restaurant overlooks one of the three immaculate golf courses, this one featuring ponds and semi-swamps, festooned with different kinds of diners—egrets.
A few fee away from the sign, "Danger: Alligators!" sit two alligators, as if present to validate management's concern. Or, they might have brought the sign with them, like the utility guys who place their own "Men Working" signs. They are basking in the last remnants of the dying sun, unmoving, uncaring. The sun dips below the horizon and, as if hearing an alarm clock, the two reptiles awake and run into the water with surprising and terrifying speed.
My wife and I request that we be reseated inside, not because the gators are gone but because a legion of small bugs has arrived, intent on capturing the terrace. The hostess kindly moves us and we're happy with our ribs and pulled pork.
I'm thinking, though, as I try to avoid a shower in barbeque sauce, that two six-foot alligators weren't at all a threat or inconvenience, but nearly invisible insects were a major problem, causing us to change our own behavior and relocate. The irony is hard to avoid.
As in life, it's often the small pests that afflict us and cause detours or even crashes. We're accustomed to the large, lumbering issues: the major project, the tyrannical boss, the broken water heater, or the major exam. We can prepare for these and even prevent their recurrence.
But the tiny, almost unnoticeable can derail us: the annoying neighbor who insists on telling the same story every day, the air conditioner that drips like an instrument of water torture, the computer reminders that pop up like acne, and the button that pops at the exact wrong moment on the exact right outfit.
Sometimes we have to admit defeat and move inside, or simply grin and bear it. I refuse to leave a beautiful beach because of some sand flies, at the same time resigned to the fact that I can't get rid of them. I'll endure loud noise in restaurants where the food is sensational. And I'll tolerate boring people at charitable events where we at least have the same philanthropic beliefs.
Of course, I have found that a good cigar will drive away almost all bugs and most people, and when you accompany it with a fine brandy, minor annoyances simply disappear.
The human condition: Affiliations
I think it uproariously funny that many people on Facebook are demanding more privacy. For goodness sake, if you join a vanity publishing platform, what do you expect?
It appears to me that social media platforms (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter) are not proliferating any longer, and have become simply riots of opinion. There are those filled with platitudes (You can be your own best friend if you open your own door), political angst (It's a sad day for our country when the majority feels differently than I do), ultimate neediness (Please like me, this, or that), and desperate quest for validation (Here is my 9.76 rating on a scale of 10 while introducing the speaker at the Rotary meeting).
We all have affiliation needs, but they vary tremendously. Some people aren't suited to be solo practitioners because they crave being around others all day. They want to be team members or team leaders. Others can work with people when necessary, but don't require it (that's me). Still others would rather be alone unless there's a fire and a firefighter reaches them with a ladder in the upper floors.
Live and let live, I'd say. But I'll make one observation (or why else am I writing this): You must be comfortable relying on yourself. There are times in life when only you can make a certain decision, can create a certain gesture, can solve a particular problem. Relying on others, who may have starkly varying objectives, doesn't improve the situation. I don't want to be on an airplane flown by a committee of passengers.
The finest leaders I've seen can work well with people but also endure criticism and unhappiness when they feel they must act alone and do what's right, even though it may not be popular. Their affiliation needs are subordinate to their purpose.
I'd value your respect and, perhaps, even your friendship, but I don't need your approval.
THE GAME CHANGER FOR MANY OF YOU:
I complain to designer that new ceiling fan in bedroom has stopped working within weeks of redesign of room. I climb up to push buttons, pull chain, I keep trying combinations on remote. Nothing works.
Designer calls electrician.
Electrician enters room, pushes switch on wall near door, fan starts to rotate.
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