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1776 MEN MAGAZINE
A DIFFERENCE by (author wishes to remain anonymous)
Who doesn’t want to make a difference? (I know that I'm preaching to the choir on this forum)
Next time you get an almost uncontrollable urge to whack someone because they’re being difficult, ask yourself this question: “Are they trying to tick me off?” You might even ask them directly instead of dismissing them as a contrary upstart or insurrectionist. I’ve had a recent epiphany after nearly 60+ long, rebellious years on this earth repeatedly being heard protesting: “don’t kill the messenger.” I don’t fit in. Why? Because I want to make a difference…A BIG DIFFERENCE!
I know that I tick people off…I just didn’t know how, until now. I’ve had clues over the years. Another failed attempt “to fit in” occurred recently which has prompted this diatribe. I have had years of failures in group settings with little light to shine on the underlying reasons. Phrases such as “dances to the beat of a different drum”, “the black sheep”, “an odd duck”, or (here’s my favorite) “why can’t you just get along?” are very familiar in my world. Being odd has wreaked havoc in my personal, social and work environments for six+ decades and it’s about time that it stopped!
Years ago I became aware that discussions at family functions became increasingly strained as I developed ideas of my own based upon diverse experiences not shared by those with whom I grew up. Back in my 30’s, I was exposed to a work by Mortimer J. Adler, a now deceased scholar and modern-day philosopher titled “How To Speak, How To Listen.” In his book, he elaborated on how the men and women in early America had similar educations, work, and socioeconomic backgrounds so they essentially reinforced each others view of the world. Contrast that with how all of the advances in communications via the telegraph, telephone, fax, and internet have increased our exposure to differing philosophies and expanded our knowledge of subcultures and living conditions around the world. In addition, modes of transportation such as the horse and wagon and canoe have been replaced with the car, ocean liner and airplane. To put it simply, if you were born in rural Wisconsin have a middle income in a blue-collar job, have a high school education, and lived your life in the same town in which you were born, there is little hope of your seeing eye-to-eye on much of anything with someone born in Washington, DC has an upper income in a white-collar job, has a master’s degree, and has traveled the whole world and lived abroad. I realize that these are opposing sides of the same coin, but are just that to illustrate my point. Now, imagine all of the combinations possible added to that by tossing in cultural differences between countries, differing religious beliefs, sexual preferences, races, etc.
I know I don’t know everything and I reserve the right to change my mind given new information and circumstances. I know I make mistakes, have eaten many of them, and am humble enough to admit to them. Nevertheless, I am a natural born leader. The main problem I am faced with is that I don’t want to lead. Because when I have, inevitably, people get freaked out because I have unorthodox ways of approaching situations. I adhere to the school of thought that if it isn’t working, we should try something new. And, although the “followers” want someone to lead and take responsibility for the results, they want the leader to do things the way they have always been done. It isn’t really about them wanting a leader at all; it’s about getting a fall guy that will do as they're told. They want an authority figure, someone to complain to, and someone to follow because they don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions, and they don't want to work. I will not be held responsible for doing things the way that my “followers” want when I don’t’ agree with them on how to do them. They continually fall back on the logic of “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Don’t get me wrong, we need followers, just not mindless followers. A second problem is that I don't pussyfoot around; I believe in being straightforward, blunt if you will. In this age of political correctness, my approach isn't well met.
In an instant world, miscommunications happen with much more frequency. I’ve found it to be prudent to be open to a dialogue when problems arise. The “nothing personal, just business” saying is nothing more than a short-cut to explain away the lack of logic behind a decision that’s been made that doesn’t want to be explained. If people really want open dialogue, there will be disagreements and it will take longer to get to a decision, but (and here is the key) the decision made will include input from all concerned and those concerned will feel that their concerns were heard and considered and they will understand why the decision that was made, was made. Unfortunately, as I previously stated…this is an instant world and people have become terribly impatient and frustrated that things don’t happen in “TV time”.
Hurt feelings often arise from unspoken expectations not being met. For instance, I took a woodcarving class a few years ago. The instructor corrected me on something and I planned on applying her advice, however I do not work well while being watched. She asked me to continue while she stood over my shoulder and I explained that I couldn’t work while she was doing so. Feeling frustrated, she retorted “you should find yourself another instructor, then.” I went home and thought about it for a long time and finally realized the problem. Our goals were different. She didn’t understand this. What she realized is that she might not meet her goal. She wanted me to carve the best darn bird that I could so she could feel good about how well she had done; my hope was to gain confidence working with the new Dremmel tool so that I could use it effectively on “other” art in the future.
I do know that running a life and running a business have strong correlations: both are limited by time and capital with the payoff being results. I also know that small town people want big town income and are not disciplined enough to understand that to achieve different results; one must utilize a different approach. A different approach scares the crap out of most people; unless of course it’s them taking the different approach. To ensure that different measures are well received, communications must be open. However, communications are clouded with emotional baggage by all those involved. Most people “go along to get along.” In other words, “don’t ask questions!” In our society, disagreeing with someone has morphed into “offending someone.” People are so terrorized by the possibility of committing a “hate crime” they no longer speak freely which effectively cuts off open communication and harbors ill will amongst people. People do have a sixth sense and know when something is not being said. Instead of asking what that is, they presume to know (using their own prejudices and insecurities as background input) and then take offense for some unspoken words generated from their own minds, but never uttered by the person accused. I heard a black woman call a radio program a couple of years ago and say “where in the Constitution does it guarantee the right to not be offended?” In our attempts to “not offend anyone” we are cutting off the very pioneering spirit that built this country. I cannot function in a world where my questions and their answers are not welcomed and received. It is only through dialogue that we grow, even though it may be difficult.
Another matter that’s paid much “lip service” to with little introspection is the question: “why do we have such large turnover?” Could it be that these people that left are the same as the person trying to make a difference, but without their fortitude? In my last experience with a “group” many of the people that left the organization either before or after only one year of membership confided concerns over problems they encountered with various officers and group policies. As it turns out, many of their concerns were also mine. I attempted to effect the changes as diplomatically as possible by discussing them with other board members only to be met by blank stares and absolute resistance. Despite over three years of service to this group asking literally nothing in return, I left after alienating many. Many of the problems stemmed from dysfunctional leadership from the “old guard”: those that had an investment in proving that the failure of the organization to move forward was not theirs, even though no one was pointing fingers. Times change, so do people. Consequently, groups must be tailored to fit the current membership and the current times.
Let’s not overlook the elephant in the room, especially since we are not concerned about being PC. Not everyone is nice. Many problems stem from new members identifying an opportunity to create division between opposing sides to benefit themselves. These agents of change are “hit and runs” waiting to happen. They disrupt the organization by playing politics (which they are so adept at doing), replace competent (but politically naive) board or committee members and then leave; just to expand their resume.
Why did I want this posted on this site? Because, what with the state our country is in, and so many people coming out of the woodwork looking for answers, we must keep in mind the difficulty of the situation so that calmer heads prevail. The first people to speak openly are the people like me. They have strong convictions and are used to not being listened to in their lives. Our country is the last bastion of hope for a free world. If social units as large as the United States government all the way down to the family unit do not communicate with patient respect and a common sense approach to resolving all of America's pressing issues, we are doomed to repeat The American Revolution; and, no sane man wants war on his shore.
So, next time you want to rearrange someone’s face that’s not going along with the group and “being difficult” ask yourself these questions: “Do I have all the facts that I need to make a determination?”; “Is my goal to make this person shut up”, or, “Is it my responsibility to listen and perhaps learn something new?” And, nobody goes home until we come to a resolution. Too many people in our country are in dire straits for this to continue.
To conclude: I am different…I am not PC…I tick people off… I test everything I read, everything I hear, everything I see, every thought that’s presented with logic. To sum it up: everything! I want to make a difference in my life, my family’s lives, my friends lives, in my group affiliations, and if possible in the future of my country. How can I make a difference, if I’m not different?
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