Gus/co on Blowing Smoke and Serious Change

Think of this as more of a transcript than an article.


(Gus) Hey Tidbiters, it’s Gus here, and do I have some good stuff for you.


People who know me know that sometimes I just can’t help talking in verse.


There are far better ways to talk as well as some that are far worse.


I suspect that you have caught on so I no longer need to rhyme as we converse.


That’s good since the only rhymers I have left are nurse and universe and even your good friend Gus can’t figure out any way to make either of those work.


Do you get the impression that I’m procrastinating, dilly-dalllying, or perhaps Fiddle-farting, as my grandpa used to say; or maybe more to the point, do you think I’m just trying to fake it until I make it?


Well, you’ve got my number. No, not that number. It’s the other number, the one where you know that I currently have nothing useful or interesting to say, and am just blowing smoke and that’s no joke.


Ok, let’s try getting down to it. No, I won’t try rhyming with it. No matter how many rhymes I try to do, there is that one word that won’t offend me but might upset you. Experience tells me that upsetting people is never a good thing to do. I think my best bet is to stop this nonsense and just start anew.


Since I’m sure not doing very well with that elephant in the room, let me put the question to you in the hope that you will pick up and go with it. What do you do when you can’t think of anything to say, or even more awkward, what do you do when you realize that you actually have nothing to say?


I likely have disclosed my strategy, given you a clue to, “What do I do?”


Maybe it’s time to focus a dib more seriously.


(Mark) Ok Gus, It’s obvious to me and to our readers as well that you really are just blowing smoke. To manage your concern, let me take a turn.


OK, sticking in a little rhyme was just too tempting. But sticking a bit more to the serious side, how about I take the keyboard and provide some actual content for our listeners. As much as they like you, they are very likely expecting something more than just hearing you struggle to come up with something to say.


(Gus) What a great idea. Just take it away. Since I have nothing interesting to say, I’ll be bowing out for today.


(Mark) Thanks Gus. I’ll slip in a thought I think is worth thinking. Since that’s all I’ve got, I’ll just hope that it hits the spot.


(Karen) Pardon me gentlemen, but I’ll take it from here. I think both of you may be a bit over the edge today. It’s your good fortune that I have something already in the can for a situation just like this. I’ll just pop it in here and we can all hope for a better next time.


I think we all know that things are constantly changing, whether or not we are paying attention to the changes. It may seem that everything is the same today as they were yesterday, but they aren’t. Even if we don’t notice, nothing is quite the same today as it was yesterday. Things change, people change, circumstances change, and we change too.


What this fact of life and living demonstrates is that change is a process and not an event. The outcome may appear to be spontaneous but never is. Fortunately, we can usually understand what happened if we stop to consider it carefully. Even if we don’t understand, we know that the change was a result of a process that is just not clear to us.


At times, we decide that we are not satisfied with the status quo and want things or circumstances to change. The change we want may be for us, our family, a specific relationship, our work team, our company or other organization, our community, or within any context where we think change is desirable or necessary. That is when we consider initiating the change process. We know we don’t like how things currently are, and we have a notion about how we would like them to be. Getting from where things are now to how we want them to be is an example of the change process that is always chugging away. For this change though, we intend to be the change agent.


Whenever you intend to be the change agent, there are twelve questions you should ask and answer before initiating the change process that leads to the change you want; and the bigger or more important the change is for you and for others, the more critical it is for you to ask and answer the twelve questions.


Here are the twelve questions. Answer each “Yes,” or “No,” in relation to the change process you intend to initiate. For these questions, “yes” is only “Yes” if you are quite sure. If not, the answer is “NO,” until you are sure.


  1. Do you expect the change process to succeed, to make a positive difference?


  1. Do you have a realistic vision of or perception of success – how things will be when the change succeeds?


  1. Are you personally motivated by the likely payoff or outcome of the change?


  1. Do you understand that – in the long run – it would take as much time and energy to maintain the status quo or current situation as it will to get the payoff from the change?


  1. Are you prepared to take full responsibility for your participation and interaction throughout the change process?


  1. Do you understand your active role and influence in the change process?


  1. Do you understand and are you committed to what will be required for the process to succeed?


  1. Are you confident in your ability to do what is necessary to realize the expected change?


  1. Are you comfortable working with the others involved in the change process?


  1. Are you looking beyond simple self-interest in the change succeeding?


  1. Do you see each participant benefiting from his or her participation in the change process?


  1. Are you being realistic about your ability, skill, and capacity to function effectively within the change process?


Did you answer “Yes” to each of the twelve questions? If so, you are good to go. If not, you would be well advised to give a little more thought to it be fore initiating the change process you are contemplating.


Now you know so there you go.

Blindness, Magic and Knowledge Consumption

I, like most other blind people, have been categorized as “Inspirational” by others. My inclusion usually relates to my having a Ph.D. From my high school class of 63 students, two others also have Ph.Ds. but they don’t get the inspirational designation, as far as I know. So why me and not them. I might add that their Ph.Ds. are in physics which I think is pretty close to being an actual rocket scientist.


Harold, Ruth Anne and I are all very proficient consumers of somewhat specific knowledge. We are able to ingest that knowledge, organize it and then productively apply it in real world situations. We each had the good fortune to get to do our knowledge consuming in a university setting where they award fancy degrees to the most proficient knowledge consumers. Although this may be seen as impressive by people who are impressed by fancy degrees, I doubt that any of us feel like we are inspirational or necessarily inspiring to anyone. We were just successful at what we were already good at: knowledge consumption.


So why do I occasionally get the inspirational designation? This is not a hard question. The answer is simple. Blind people are not generally categorized as people who can and do succeed and especially not as highly proficient knowledge consumers. In my case, “Inspirational” is code for “You did something that blind people like you are not supposed to be able to do.” It’s sort of like having pulled off an amazing magic trick.


Therein lies the issue. Having a handicap certainly prevents me and others with physical limitations from doing things that require the specific physical ability that we either don’t have, or only have to a limited degree. What does that include? Think of most any physical skill or ability and then significantly reduce one’s capacity related to that specific skill or ability. The reduction is the handicap. I cannot do X because the physical ability needed to do X is either missing or seriously limited. And here is the often-overlooked exception. I cannot do X because the physical ability needed to do X is either missing or seriously limited, AND there is no way to compensate for or substitute for that missing or limited ability.


So, let’s get back to that Ph.D. Knowledge consumption at that level requires a boat load of reading articles, books, and other stuff that doesn’t qualify as articles or books. Let’s say that I needed to consume a few million words and then organize them in order to feed them back to the professors in a form that they judged to be worthy of awarding the fancy degree. There are three areas here of interest: taking in the few million words, organizing them, and feeding them back in a scholarly format.


Here comes the magic trick. The people who think that I’m inspirational believe that reading, organizing and feeding back require being able to see, so I must have some extraordinary level of intelligence combined with special powers that enable me to pull off what seems to them to be impossible. That is what they think is inspirational. And were it actually impossible but I did it anyway, I might even agree with them myself. It would indeed be a good trick.


Fortunately, there are in fact ways to compensate for or substitute for my missing or limited ability, as is also the case for most other handicapped people. Not every time, in every situation, but much of the time and in most situations. It just seems extraordinary or perhaps magical but is neither.


So, what accounts for handicapped people being able to do things that seem extraordinary or perhaps impossible? Let it suffice here to simply say that it is complicated. Let it also suffice to acknowledge here that some handicapped people are more successful than others at resolving that complication to their benefit. The takeaway point here is that most people with significant physical handicaps can and do manage the complications with the outcome being that they are as capable of doing what they know how to do as well as anyone else who has that particular mix of knowledge and skills, and are often more capable.


Back when, I was seven years old and in the second grade. Yes, even then, I needed to deal with those complications. I couldn’t see and do but still had to do. Not doing just wasn’t an option. My issue was that learning how to manage those complications was difficult and frustrating. I was probably whining about it not being fair and how unhappy I was that I couldn’t see. That’s when my teacher provided the dose of reality that my seven-year-old self needed. She told me that I could keep whining and never learn how to manage without seeing or I could get busy and learn how to do the stuff I wanted to do. According to her, the payoff would be that, if I got good enough at doing that stuff, some day people would be eager to pay me to do that stuff for them. As a bonus, she told me that I would probably have my own office and an assistant who would do whatever I really couldn’t do because I couldn’t see. At the time, her best example was that my assistant would drive me wherever I needed to go. Teachers and mothers are always right.


That’s it. If you have a physical handicap, you still have to learn to do what you want to do, despite the complications. If you are working with a person with a physical handicap or are considering hiring him or her, First, consider how good they are at doing what needs done. Just assume that they know what the complications are and how to manage them. Ask what if any accommodations they need or expect you to make to facilitate their doing whatever they are good at doing. You may be surprised how minimal those accommodations may be. It’s likely that he or she has been preparing to do the job since the age of seven, or maybe even longer. Don’t be surprised to find out that this particular skilled worker is better at doing the job than you had ever hoped – How do they do it? Okay, I was just kidding. It’s really magic, downright inspirational.

Aging: The Unfairness of Supply and Demand

Although I don’t recall, I suspect that as a baby, demand was all on my side. I likely had no interest in supplying much of anything. It was all about me; and if anyone forgot, I was quick to loudly remind them. Fortunately for me, the people in my world agreed that catering to my needs and whims was an appropriate priority for them too.


Alas, it was not to last. The day did arrive when the supply-demand balance shifted. It was subtle and mostly went undetected at first. My needs and interests were no longer an immediate priority, what I wanted was not necessarily at the top of anyone’s to do list. I would just have to wait, be satisfied with what I already had, deal with not always being the center of the universe. Maybe, just maybe, it was not all about me any more.


It got worse. Not only was my every whim or need being prioritized along with the whims and needs of other people, I was required to moderate my behavior to conform to some set of rules and expectations that I neither fully understood nor appreciated; and if that were not frustrating enough, the same people who used to instantly drop whatever they were doing to cater to me were expecting me to do things like pick things up and put them away, stop playing and do what they wanted me to do, or ridiculous things like go to bed when I was not sleepy or take my own bath – and hurry please.


This nonsense of me having to do what others told me to do, go where they told me to go, and conform to their rules and expectations continued for years. Of course going to school was the most obvious example of what was in reality a rather abrupt transition to others demanding and me supplying, but there were numerous lesser examples. Yes, I did occasionally act as if I were on the demand side; but if I got too assertive about that demanding stuff, others were quick to let me know that I could request but demanding was definitely not acceptable.


The carrot in all of this was “Growing Up.” “When you grow up, you can do what you want to do, behave however you want to behave, and make your own choices and decisions.”


They were joking of course. That turned out to be as wrong as Santa Clause bringing toys or the Tooth Fairy leaving money under my pillow. I did grow up, mostly conforming to expectations and following the rules, and was fully prepared to shift to being who I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do, ready to get out from under the demands, rules, and expectations of others. Silly me. Instead of being satisfied with just growing up, I was now expected to be a responsible adult. I kid you not. And the key term here is “responsible.”


That brings me to the crux of it. Pretty much without notice or fanfare, the new deal was that I was responsible for stuff. There was work to do, bills to pay, people to please, and an increasing array of demands and expectations. Sure, I could have chosen to be a slacker, less responsible, or maybe even irresponsible, but I really am just kidding this time. Being a responsible adult had been in my future forever; and becoming otherwise was not even a possibility, and certainly not an option. That aspect of the outcome for me was never open for debate or discussion.


Now for the real shocker. This living on the supply side, being a responsible adult, when along more or less smoothly, not for just years but for decades. I actually got really good at the supply side. In fact, people came to depend on me to keep up my end of it, to continue as a supply side person, being responsible for myself as well as for the well being and welfare of others to varying extents. I had things to do, places to go and people to see; and others counted on me. It just worked.


Suddenly it seemed, reality shifted. I will skip the details, but My supply side role, my supply side responsibilities just stopped. I do not have things to do, places to go, or people to see any more. Of course, there are things I could do, places I could go, and people I could see, but none are my responsibility. There is no expectation and no down side for others if I do not do, go, or see. As a responsible adult, I made sure I would be able to support myself when I no longer had any responsibilities for the well being or welfare of others, but did not think to or know how to assure that my responsibilities would extend past my retirement.


It does seem a bit unfair. I spent all those years developing my capacity to do in the service of myself and others, but now I am the only one who benefits from all that capacity and I do not need it. The supply is still there but the demand has dwindled. I guess it calls for a career change, but I do not know yet just what my new career will be. The good news is that I am working on figuring that out for me.