Playing Smart

When I was about 12 years old, I wrongly, but subconsciously, believed it was socially advantageous to minimize my intellectual capacities. This led to abhorrent behavior that drifted away along with adolescence. Yet, a part of me has retained this damaging belief about myself and the world: that it is somehow better to be less than I truly am and that it serves the world to downplay my unique abilities. While this makes little intellectual sense, this myth has manifested itself in my daily interactions with others, primarily in work situations (which ironically is how I spend most of my time). With some space and reflection, I realize that I have dumbed and numbed myself down so much, little by little, in order to survive that I feel as though a big part of me has died. It has become a bad habit as well as a negative way of being in the world.

For the past five months, detached from official external organizational affiliations, I have allowed my true self to start emerging. I have felt overwhelmingly isolated, rejected, and misunderstood. Yet, I also realize that this resistance is an important part of my growth. From now on, I’m playing smart (hence the new Fruition Coalition mottoes Wisdom is Bliss and Radiate Brilliance) regardless of the outcome. I am going to enjoy the process of being me.

Leader: Sun or Nebula?

When I left my job as an executive director, I went from being a sun — albeit of a microscopic universe — to a nebula. I thought I would feel liberated, but I felt a bit lost at times. Through entrepreneurship, I am loving the freedom of creative expression and learning to honor the accompanying mysteries and complexities of life. In my nebula heart, all things are possible.

Rainy Day Leadership

Clouds would make excellent leaders. They emerge as a response to the environment, yet they become their own thing. They are always changing shape and transforming in substance. They float over the broad landscape without hovering or attaching. They know when to pour rain, when to shield the harsh rays of the sun, when to emit a bolt of lightning, and when to dissipate.

The Cookie Code: Life Lessons from the Feline Phenom

I share my home with two cats, both of whom teach me a lot. Although he is just five-and-a-half years old, Cookie has filled my life with tremendous wisdom.

Rule #1 – Do what you love

Cookie has fun every day, all the time. His life is pure joy.

Rule #2 – Go belly up

Cookie isn’t afraid to be vulnerable or to expose his underbelly.

Rule #3 – Resist containment

Cookie hates to be confined; he needs to be free.

Rule #4 – Approach conflict with curiosity

Cookie doesn’t react with anger; he watches, listens, and learns.

Rule #5 – Serendipitously surrender

Cookie knows when to give in and doesn’t hold a grudge.

Rule #6 – There is no time like the present

Cookie truly lives in the moment.

Rule #7 – Snuggle

What is the purpose of life without innocent hugs and kisses?

Rule #8 – Retreat, rest, and reflect

Cookie spends most of his time in a contemplative, meditative trance.

Rule #9 – Carefully plan your attack

Cookie never pounces before crouching, waiting for the right moment, and wiggling his behind to rile up his victim (which is usually a stuffed bird, fish, or mouse).

Rule #10 – Forgive and forget

Cookie easily moves on. Every moment is truly a new beginning.

Rule #11 – Never overlook an opportunity to play

When Cookie isn’t contemplating the meaning of his existence or eating, he is usually playing.


Bifurcated Bipartisanship

I love being part of bipartisan organizations, such as the League of Women Voters. It fills my heart with joy to experience Americans crossing political lines to achieve common goals. Such was the intended spirit of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition. Many years ago, I attended a fundraising dinner for this organization at the Shady Maple. At the time, I was a member of the state executive committee of Socialist Party-USA. I felt it was important to support candidates in my party, and others who were marginalized by the petitioning process in our commonwealth, to promote political participation. I put aside my personal political beliefs so that we could all focus on our common belief that all citizens, regardless of political party, should have access to the ballot in Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, others in attendance did not pay attention when the introductory speaker reminded us of the need to put aside our political beliefs for the evening. I sat at the table with a few members of the Constitution Party and one woman went on and on about her feelings on various political issues – some of which I found to be offensive as a Jew and a Native American (not to mention as an American). I was given literature by another political party; I can’t remember which one because I recycled it upon returning home. While these experiences did provide some amusing conversation on the ride home, I was deeply saddened that it was so difficult for people to resist the urge to promote their party at a nonpartisan event.

I am grateful that I have never had such an experience as a board member or volunteer with my local League of Women Voters. I have had some other interesting experiences, but that will be another story for another day.

From Debate to Dialogue

In political debate, there is a tendency for one candidate to criticize the ideas of the opponent, if not the opponent her- or himself. What if we shifted from “no, because” debates to “yes, and” dialogue? At best, we could have some of the most passionate and committed people collaboratively creating innovative solutions. At worst, the candidate with the guts to try this method will totally throw off the opponent while exhibiting desirable characteristics desperately sought in our political leadership. Divisive political debate can transform into generative community dialogue. What is more important, winning an election or succeeding as a nation?

Political Civility

While it may have once seemed impossible, the content and context of political rhetoric is becoming more and more pathological. I’m not sure if candidates and their staff grossly underestimate the intelligence of the American people or if their strategies are merely a reflection of their own capacity for communication. Either way, I have little confidence in any political leader who puts down another human being, especially a fellow American. Political candidates engage in negative reciprocal exchange that makes a mockery of our democracy.

I would love to see candidates focus, or shift a significant majority of their focus, onto their own values, attributes, accomplishments, and vision rather than disparaging the opposition. That constitutes bullying, and we expect better from young children.

Comparative analysis can helpful for rational, and even emotional, decision making. To this end, candidates can simply state: This is what I want to do (strategy). This is why (purpose). This is the expected outcome (vision). In contrast, candidate B wants to do this. This is what I see as the possible outcome of that plan. Such a synopsis would result in less clutter, more complete and concrete information, and a more compassionate political climate.