Musashi’s Dokkodo

Insurance Executive:

I agree except for those times when I don’t.

Boot is a six-pound Maltese dog, so white he looks like a cloud, so sweet you just have to rain kisses on his head, so funny he always makes us laugh, except when he gets into the cat box. He looks at Lexii’s droppings the same way I see a bowl of M&Ms: Yum! Treats!

Is Boot’s trait disgusting? Very much so. Is it easy to break him of getting into the box and walking around the house looking like a man with a cheap cigar in the corner of his mouth? No. In fact, I bought a book early on, titled Training your Maltese, and in one chapter the veteran Maltese trainer wrote that no matter how hard he tries, no matter how many tried-and-true training devices he employs, the Maltese still can’t be broken from getting into the cat box.

So we’ve accepted that this icky trait is a less than charming part of Boot’s nature. Now, acknowledging this doesn’t mean I like it any better, but it helps—a little. Is there anything I can do? Sure, I can make an extra effort to maintain a clean cat box. It’s a no brainer solution but it goes a long way toward helping me accept Boot’s natural love for cat stogies. In the end, I accept the way he is and in a perfect world he should accept my role of taking away his treats. But judging by the look he gives me, I think I’ve grown more in this area than he has.

As is the case with Boot and his sick trait, we all have to do our best to accept things. My husband is a writer and I’ve accepted that he gets a little distant and grumpy when putting the final edits on a writing project. Actually, sometimes he gets a whole lot distant and moody, so it can be a real test for me to be understanding and accepting, especially when I’m not in the mood to be so. To give him credit, he knows when he’s pushed the boundaries and he tries to put on a cheerful demeanor. Likewise, I know when his attitude is starting to get under my skin so I try my best to rein in my impatience.

When we can accept things in life just the way they are our stress level goes down, in some cases, a lot. But if we spend our day thinking about, dwelling on, sweating over, and complaining about the way things ought to be, it will quickly consume and destroy us.

Today we are bombarded with news stories, social media rants, and cell phone videos about increasing tensions between countries, ongoing war, and human tragedies all around the globe. Most often this is repeated over and over until the horrors fill our heads and adds even more stress to our days. While I might not have a choice whether to accept this growing tide of man’s inhumanity to man and nature’s vengeance, I can be cognizant of how much I permit into my home and ultimately into my psyche. While doing my best to control how much of this I will accept, I also look for ways to help where I can.

This is because I don’t accept that there is nothing I can do as thousands of people are dying or being torn away from their homes by flood, soulless armies, and merciless diseases. I can choose to help anyway I can by lending a voice of protest and donating money to help those that desperately need it.

In the end, I will not accept everything just the way it is, but strive to change what I can, and not let those things I can’t change destroy me.

 

Businessman:

Nobody ever woke up and said, “Today I want to dress up in an uncomfortable suit and tie, go sit in a noisy cubicle in a crowded workspace next to people I can’t stand, push papers around my desk for hours upon hours on end, and be held accountable for things over which I have absolutely no control,” yet this sort of work environment is so commonplace that it has been immortalized in Dilbert cartoons. Most of us in the business world have worked for a “pointy-haired boss” or two at some point in our careers, likely more than once, and while it’s funny in the comic pages it’s frustrating as hell in real life. We all need to earn a paycheck but most of us want to do it while interacting with congenial colleagues and working on something meaningful. In other words, we want to enjoy or at least not dislike what we do, use our time wisely, make a difference, and (hopefully) leave a legacy behind. Sadly the environment we find ourselves in rarely meets that description.

Let’s face facts; unless we are fortunate enough to be the guy or gal in charge of a company, say the owner, president, or CEO, it is very difficult to affect meaningful change, especially in large corporations, government agencies, or educational institutions. This is not to say that progress is impossible for folks at the lower rungs of the group but rather that bureaucracy, once set in place, tends to be self-perpetuating. As organizations mature layers upon layers of process controls, policies, and middle management are put in place to assure that everything stays on the rails, that no one does anything illegal, unethical, or overly risky. In some ways this is goodness, of course, but in others it tends to forestall progress, velocity, and innovation to the detriment of both the organization and the individuals who work there.

While this can be extraordinarily frustrating for those un-empowered by lack of authority or influence, it honestly is the way of things. We may not like it, but we must accept it. Nevertheless, if we pick our battles wisely and work within the system we can often make a real difference despite all these challenges. But, we can only do it after learning how things truly work, how things really get done regardless of what policies or procedures dictate. It’s not the organization charts, titles, RACI4 diagrams or process flows that matter, its spheres of influence, the ability to understand how decisions are made, build relationships with the right people, and work the system to our mutual benefit. Here’s an example:

I work with a network engineer named Doug, a guy you won’t find anywhere near the top of any organization chart but who wields extraordinary influence nonetheless. In large part this is because he’s the smartest guy in the room at virtually any meeting he attends. More importantly, however, it’s because our current CIO and vice president both used to manage the network organization before being promoted to the point where they reached their current positions. When Doug reported to people who reported to those two guys way back in day they both quickly realized his expertise and came to heavily lean upon him to make prudent business decisions. Since a significant network failure could grind factory production to a halt and get everyone in charge of IT fired in the process, we all take such things very seriously. As they moved on to new positions both the VP and CIO kept in touch with their favorite subject matter expert.


4 RACI is an acronym that stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. It is a model that is frequently used in business to clearly lay out roles and responsibilities for activities that cross organizational boundaries so that everyone involved knows what they are supposed to do, nothing gets inadvertently missed, and there will be no duplication of efforts or arguments about who’s in charge for each aspect of the work.