The Case Against Grit

Inspired by this article at The Atlantic, I had some further thoughts on The Case Against (and For) Grit.

The Case Against Grit

I absolutely concur with the premise of the article, that it’s a challenge to know whether the first passion in a person’s life has sustainability; I put that word in italics because it’s relevant on numerous levels.

Sustainability can be considered on the personal interest level, which is what the article’s premise discussed, but it also has to be considered on a financial level, a social impact level, and others relative to the pursuit. A young child may not realize the financial difficulties of being an artist, yet that’s a challenging thing to be conclusive about with a budding talent; they may truly be able to earn a livable income, or not care if they don’t, difficult to say with such a young human.

On the other hand, there’s so much benefit and growth when focusing on a singular pursuit, and that’s hard to find. Dismissing a young passion because of fears of practicality may miss a tremendous growth opportunity for the child, and can impose self doubt and insecurity depending on how the child interprets the guidance.

When To Reconsider?

I also know that there are times for adults where they feel stuck, overly obligated, to continue a path that no longer inspires or fuels them. This is such a personal choice, to apply grit and stick it out for the payoffs of maintaining said obligations (i.e. being a provider for a family), that each person has to make their own decision.

Regrettably, this quality of grit is often lost or diminished because of cultural expectations. I believe many men are struggling with their sense of masculinity because circumstances like these provoke feelings of emasculation, confusion, or loss of identity, when considering changing their role as provider.

Note: I’m describing a very narrow, albeit common, manifestation of circumstances. In no way am I trying to make broad statements on all providers or all situations of obligation.

How To Make Changes?

Making changes to established structures in life can be challenging, but certainly do-able. Communication is key, and conveying emotional content is very important.

Sharing how you feel as you consider, or act upon, changes helps those that might be impacted to understand you at a core, human level. Sharing openly amongst those that can easily be supportive is important as well, so that you feel supported in this potent, personal decision.

Feeling supported in also important, because it’s likely that you’ll encounter resistance and opposition from those that will be impacted. Whether you allow that resistance to dissuade you is a personal choice, but when you already have support, you can feel more relaxed and able to hear and receive the impact of your choice from others without feeling defensive, without simply feeling the need to cave into the desires of others.

The Takeaway

Simple steps, but often challenging in application. Change is absolutely possible, and care is often required while making it. It’s your personal decision whether it’s the healthiest thing for you to continue applying grit, or to change course because circumstances no longer serve you.

Letters of Diplomacy: Please turn off ALLCAPS

To Whom It May Concern, I’ve been coached to say this to you so that we can be as productive as possible. You may not realize how challenging it is to rapidly develop the features you’re asking for, while keeping up with all of your feedback. I certainly don’t want you to stop what you’re doing, and I want to reassure you that I’m working as fast as I can. At this point, I’m stressed, but continuing to work as best I can. It would really help if you could keep this in mind while we work through the remaining details. I apologize if I can’t quite go as fast as you want, but I am doing my very best. Please also prioritize the most essential features first and foremost. We can continue developing after “Go Live” for the less essential features. Sincerely, Your Custom Software Developer

A New Program: Letters of Diplomacy

I’m starting a new series of posts, for those times when communications are challenging. There have been countless times when someone just didn’t know how to work things out with someone, and a written letter was a productive tool. I’ll be writing up examples of letters that can work in those situations. If you have suggestions of challenging situations, or of letters you think would work, please let me know!

If you’re struggling at all, read this.

Note: this is a lengthy post, as it touches on a number of ideas, and all of this can apply to life in countless ways. If you have any thoughts about this post, please share them with me. I’d be very grateful. –Burt

Do you find ever find yourself tired? Frustrated? Confused or bewildered? Ever feel a little lost, unsure, under confident? Are you tired of waiting to feel cool, calm, and collected? Does it seem like life is just too busy, and you’re never going to get settled?

If you’re reading this, and eager to make progress, I’m here to tell you a simple truth.

You may not realize how close you are to the state of mind and being that you’ve been looking for.

It like looking for your lost keys, and realizing they’re already in your pocket, or feeling incredibly anxious before a test, only to realize it was far easier than you imagined.

I’m going to offer this thought to you, and, of course, you can accept it or not.

I will bet good money that you are already who/what/where you want to be, or more precisely, you’ve been in touch with that part of you, but you’ve had a hard time holding onto that feeling, that sense of who you really are.

Can you recall a moment when you felt totally connected with yourself? Maybe it was connection to feeling centered or grounded. Maybe it was your “muse”, when your creativity was flowing. Perhaps it was after some effort of preparation, for a trip, project, or test, and you felt ready; in fact, the feeling might have come after the experience, when you felt fulfilled. Maybe it was during exercise, playing a sport, creating art, or doing good work.

Take a few moments to recall what that felt like at it’s very best. Can you recognize a clarity in your mind, where there’s little else going on in your thoughts besides that sense of fulfillment, calm, clarity?

Can you recall a little more specifically, to a moment when you took a breath during that activity? That very last breath before you began… that very first breath after… the one breath when you gave it your all…

Hold on to that breath in your mind. We’re going to get back to that.

For those moments when you had clarity, within those breaths, I offer to you that these are glimpses of you in your highest self, at your very best. Bear in mind, there’s no one keeping score, or judging the quality of this; only you can know for yourself. Those moments of true honesty with yourself are precious and powerful.

Would you agree that it’d be easier going through life if you were connected to that feeling more often? How about if you felt that all the time, 24×7? While I can’t guarantee that you’ll ever achieve that feeling with every waking moment, I can say that you can have those feelings of peace, strength, clarity, power, and confidence; and that you can grow those feelings as deeply as you want. More importantly, your mind can develop and grow into being able to focus on those things that keep you connected to those feelings.

As I understand it, yogis who have attained “true enlightenment” have done exactly what we’re talking about, but deeper, and more consistently. Frankly, they don’t have much else to do, or more specifically, they choose to do nothing else except pursue that level of focus. Their focus is on developing a level of mental clarity, and what they often find is a depth of peace and serenity.

For many yogis, they will take this ability for clear thinking, and they apply it in various ways: business, personal development, further enlightenment, peace missions, etc… Some will stay focused in meditation in order to simply exist in that state of being. To do this, some yogis will devote their entire lives to develop these abilities.

So, let’s play around with the thing that you’re best at in life, or the thing that comes most easily to you. I imagine you spend a good amount of your time in that activity, or if you don’t, then when you do engage in that activity, it comes “naturally”.

What would happen if you devoted your life to that? You might become world-class, an expert, or just really competent, skilled, and capable.

The same dynamic applies to other activities that you might be less naturally talented with, and the one that I’m talking about now includes “getting centered”, “feeling connected”, or any other part of your life that you want to develop.

If you have a hard time feeling centered, I’ll bet good money that you have a busy life, that there are a lot of parts to your world, and that you’re spending a lot of energy and time keeping things together, juggling all those balls in the air.

Imagine what your level of expertise would be if you took all the devotion, time, and attention that you’ve given to all those aspects of your busy life, and distilled it down to just focusing on nothing but being.

Can you imagine that?

When it comes down to it, like so much else in life, it’s a matter of budgeting and resource management.

Can you see that?

Yet, you’ve touched that feeling of being centered, probably more often than you can count. I want to bring those instances to your awareness, to get you connected to the fact that you have experienced the state of being that you long for. And, now that you’re aware of it, you can touch it more often, more deliberately. And, just like with any other activity, practice makes “perfect”… better yet, “proficiency”.

I find the word “proficiency” to be very appropriate. We can develop proficiency at attaining that highest state of being, and because of our “training” and “practice”, we are then able to perform at that level of proficiency longer, and do more with those skills.

I’ll bet you know some people in your life that have that sense of centeredness. They carry themselves with confidence, they are reliable, they are calm. It doesn’t matter what their race, gender, religion, profession… it just doesn’t matter. What I’ve found is that there are _very_ few people that have become that way for free, without effort. I’ve found that most people that have that have gotten it through fire, effort, or hard work; or perhaps they were blessed to have been shown how to have it by others.

I propose to you that through all this confusion, frustration, and struggle, you’ve been going through fire, and no one has mentioned that you are now far closer to being fully cooked than you realize. In fact, if you’ve been struggling for a long time, you’re quite possibly close to being “cooked to perfection”. You really can now simmer and allow the flavors to deepen.

…and you can do this without changing a single circumstance in your life.

I’m going to ask you to put aside any judgment for just a moment, and allow me to describe something that often gets brushed aside too quickly. There’s a mystery to meditation that can be distracting. Remember that activity that you feel most comfortable doing? I’ll bet you’ve experienced those moments during those activities, at least touched them.

So, remember that breath that you thought of earlier? The one that had your body fully engaged in your favorite, clearest, most powerful activity? Can you take that breath now? Only do this if you can recall that moment of power!

Inhale… and gently hold your breath for a few seconds… and exhale. And feel that feeling.

If you’re having a hard time feeling it in this moment, can you imagine that feeling? Can you imagine taking that one breath? Can you _feel_ and _know_ who and where you are in that moment, at the top of that breath?

Here’s the meditation… can you hold that “state of being”, without thought, just the BE-ing? Maybe “hold that breath” for a few moments?

If that’s something you can relate to, maybe you can tease that state of being out a bit longer. It doesn’t have to last long; what’s more important is your “presence” in that moment, your willingness to again experience that feeling of connection, strength, centeredness, and clarity.

So, I’ll stop with this thought: Just remember to breath. And for every breath, you now have an opportunity to RE-capture that state of being.

Imagine that? Being _there_ with _every_ breath?

One breath at a time.

(Inspired by my new friend, Kimberly. Thank you.)

We are “Children of the Lie”

Precinct Commander Steven Mauriello “failed to meet [his] responsibility.” As a result, “an atmosphere was created discouraging members of the command to accurately report index crimes.” — from the Village Voice

Whoa.

When I read this, I wonder what my part is, in maintaining and encouraging the demands and expectations of people in these positions of authority. Clearly, what’s going on is wrong and against my values. Have I been ignorantly promoting the pressures that the police management have bowed under?

This is another example of the third(?) level of evil that is described in “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck. I imagine this behavior is against everyone’s values, at least the people I know, yet our society has enabled and allowed this, so we are responsible.

Here’s a succinct summary of some of the points from the book, from a review at Amazon:

  1. The evil hide their motives with lies.
  2. Evil people want to appear to be good.
  3. When confronted by evil, the wisest and most secure adult will usually experience confusion.
  4. Evil seeks to discourage others to think for themselves (fosters dependency).
  5. To oppose evil we must have an ongoing dedication to reality at all cost.

That all seems to apply here. So, now that we are aware of what’s going on, we have a choice, don’t we? What is within our realm of influence that we can choose in order to make a difference?

Postscript: I’ve categorized this with “Clinical Depression” (among other things), per point 3 above which names “the wisest and most secure adult”, but what about the rest of us?

Emotional Manipulation — there’s an app for that!

In doing research on mobile apps available for emotional development, I found this one (for Android). I haven’t purchased it, but just looking at some of the screenshots of the app make it clear that many people could benefit from this education.

If you feel manipulated, it’s probably true. If that feels uncomfortable to you, then understand that you can educate yourself to overcome those feelings.

It is not the other person’s responsibility to solve this problem for you. It is your responsibility to develop your emotional maturity.

Change is usually not as difficult as you might think, but it’s usually uncomfortable. This is primarily because you’ll be doing things that you’re not familiar with. The benefits you get from changing towards functional, healthy choices will far outweigh the discomfort.