Life in a Bi-Polar Universe
Life in a Bi-Polar Universe
We’d like to believe that life is a straight and steady ascent — We’re born. We inherit basic life skills from our parents. We go to school and learn how to learn. We get a job and slowly but steadily learn new skills and climb the financial ladder. All the while, we’re having kids and helping them scale their own steady ascent.
But life’s not like that. It’s anything but a steady ascent and it’s anything but consistent. Life’s an up and down seesaw. In fact, it’s an endless row of seesaws of ever-increasing heights. We step on at the bottom level and start climbing towards that carrot at the far end, forgetting that once we pass the fulcrum, life’s gonna throw us a curve ball and our pursuit of that carrot is going to encounter the cosmic undertow.
For some of us, that sudden descent comes by surprise, and we tumble head over heels. We look around and envy other people who are still treading upward. We curse our circumstances. We curse God. We blame everything we can except ourselves. Sometimes, our failures are so demoralizing that we’re afraid to step onto the next seesaw. We just stop where we are and wallow in self-pity. I know a man who once did that for twenty years.
For others of us, blessed with a combination of observation, foresight, and self-discipline, the fulcrum isn’t really a surprise, and we ease across it, calmly entering the descent with the confidence that even though we slip and slide a bit, we’ll stay on our feet and the next seesaw will take us even higher. Even though it’s difficult, we modify our habits to slow the decent and ease the landing. Change comes easier to some than others but it always comes whether precipitated by a soft landing or a jarring crash.
We often look around and see friends and family whose seesaws are out of sync with ours. If we’re gracious, we even extend a hand and pull the fallen onto our own ascending path. But occasionally, we derive secret pleasure from watching others stumble. And just as often, our envy of others’ success or smug satisfaction at their failure, causes us to misjudge our own approaching fulcrum with predictable results.
When we take time to observe the world around us, we realize life’s really a gianormous playground with an infinite abundance of seesaws. Often, we’re even straddling multiple seesaws at once, scheming to avoid the letdowns. Some of our seesaws depend on who inhabits the White House. Some of them depend on the stock market. And some of them are sex, drugs, or rock-and-roll, left over from the sixties. The scariest seesaws are the ones based on relationships. They force us to trust another person not to jump off an send us crashing backwards to the ground.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a trustworthy friend to provide prudent advice as we ascend the rise, and offer a steadying hand as we negotiate those descents? What seesaws are you trying to scale? Hit “REPLY” and let’s compare our ups and downs. Maybe some of my past successes will work for you and some of yours will work for me. At least, we can pick each other up off the ground.
A special thanks to Paul Mayer for his editing contribution to this week’s newsletter. You don’t have to be smart to sound smart; you just have to have smart friends like Paul who can correct your errors.
“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”
― Keanu Reeves
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Spicy Food for Thought
The Man Who Broke Capitalism
How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America
— David Gelles
Needless to say, this is not a love story. If you’re among the millions who have studied Jack Welch’s early career as as a model for management, you might even be offended by the premise of this book. I can’t say that I agree with every word of it but this is a well researched and documented book and much of it is extremely enlightening. At a minimum, it provides serious content for conversations about the current state of corporate America and abuses of Capitalism. Thanks to Perry Thompson for suggesting this book.