The Surface of Service

We’ve all experienced poor service. How do we know? Because we’ve also experienced exceptional service. Knowing one is what informs the other. These experiences create a sliding scale, whether it be interpersonal (restaurant server) or technological (internet server). We know quality!

However, when the quality is either stellar or horrible, we tend to look only at what’s directly in front of us as the root cause. Let’s explore the latter. “This waiter is terrible! It’s taking forever for us to get our food and it’s impossible to get his/her/their attention.” Equally, we’ve all slapped a remote control on our thigh or grunted impatiently when the spinning wheel of doom pops up on one of our devices, irrationally thinking that the gods of technology should inherently know when it’s our time to relax and not interfere.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have the ability to place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on all our daily interactions? Wouldn’t life be just grand if things would just always go our way? Shouldn’t life just know that we all have places to go, people to see and things to do, and just get out of the way?

We all know the correct responses, but we’re all guilty of wanting the opposite. When life is imperfect, which is mostly, perspective is the only accurate measure of perfection. Furthermore, when life is imperfect, is it the fault of the surface or what’s beneath…or neither?

In case of the restaurant experience, perhaps your server is covering for another co-worker that called out last-minute, or perhaps there were some problems in the kitchen that the server bravely took responsibility for, even though it’s was beyond their control, knowing that it would likely have a negative impact on their gratuity. Or, perhaps they are simply not good at their job. In that case, it’s still not their fault. Someone was responsible for hiring that terrible server, training them and holding them accountable.

In the case of technology, maybe the batteries are dead in your remote. Maybe it’s your TV. Maybe it’s the cable box. Maybe it’s your router. Maybe it’s weather related. Maybe there’s a local outage caused by a bad accident. Whatever the case, it goes beyond the surface.

Blame is easiest on the surface – to blame what’s right in front of us. But the act of blaming is ultimately a disservice to your reasoned choice. You are making the decision to blame because you are being inconvenienced, but nothing or nobody has to power to inconvenience you. It’s a choice to be inconvenienced.

Perhaps your slow service at lunch caused you to rush back to work and you got pulled over for speeding. It’s that also the waiter’s fault? Will you be taking him to court to fight your ticket? Are you also going to take the restaurant managers to court and blame them for hiring the awful waiter that made you run late and therefore have to speed back to work? Maybe you’ll have to go even higher up the chain to see who was responsible for hiring such incompetent managers in the first place. Clearly, it’s their fault. Or, perhaps that extra ten minutes spent at the restaurant fuming while waiting for your check served to help you avoid being involved in a terrible accident on your way back to work that resulted in a serious power outage in the area. Granted that outage is really inconveniencing me on my couch at home taking a personal day because I just needed a day to binge-watch some Netflix, and now I’m cursing the skies because I have no internet connection, but I digress. Oh, and let’s not forget how you’re going to blame all the people who were seriously injured in that terrible accident and your waiter for the reason your boss yelled at you taking a two-hour lunch.

Yes, we know quality in terms of good versus bad service. But, do we know the quality of our perspective? What a disservice to ourselves to not examine how we choose to look at things.

Relatable Theory of Relativity

Michael Jackson’s Thriller has sold 47 million copies worldwide officially, with other sources suggesting it’s somewhere between 66 million and upwards of 120 million unofficially. Whatever the number, there is no disputing that Michael Jackson was/is world-famous. But let’s examine those numbers for a moment. The current world population is estimated at 7.2 billion, which simply means that there are statistically far more people who have likely never even heard of Michael Jackson. Fame is relative, even when you’re world famous.

The point is here is that regardless of the topic at hand, the reality is that there’s always going to be more unknowns than what’s known. The smartest person in the world knows very little in relation to all there is to know. We humans lack that capacity, which is a good thing! Because, what we don’t lack, is the possibility to gain perspective. Perspective isn’t tied to anything more than how you are able to look at something. Perspective defies intellect. There are plenty of people who think or believe they are geniuses, icons, etc. However, the reality is that they are lying to themselves.

We lie to ourselves on a daily basis in order to rationalize our behaviors and actions. What’s interesting is that when you find yourself doing the right thing, simply because it’s the right thing to do, there’s no need to rationalize anything. It just is.

When we accept that Truth will always be weighed on a scale heavily tipped in favor of the unknown, our lives are simplified. Sometimes balance isn’t visual. Balance in this case is conceptual. Balance is seeing the imbalance, and choosing not to obsess over balancing what’s impossible. What we know will never balance out to the things we don’t know. Balance is found in the acceptance of that truth.

The Character Prestige

Prestidigitation – sleight of hand. When performed well, our most rational and logical minds are beyond amazed. We know it’s deception, but we don’t know how. Not knowing how is what makes it magic. It seems impossible.

In life, when things are going well, it’s easy to maintain a good mood. There’s no real deception needed, since our demeanor is merely a reflection of what’s happening in our lives. This is not where one’s true character is revealed. What sometime feels impossible in life is being able to show up and be present when our lives are in throes of conflict and struggle. This is where one’s true character is revealed. The people we tend to admire most are the ones that remain steadfast regardless of whether situational life has them up or down. Their emotions are not tied to these events. Events do not determine their demeanor; their choices do. This is not deception – this is character. They are wizards!

We know this because we all know what it looks like when people try, and fail, to put up a facade to mask turmoil. It’s a poorly executed magic trick, where nobody is fooled except for the magician that believes they fooled the audience. This is self-deception. It’s akin to a 5-year old getting a magic set and clumsily performing a simply trick for family members. Proper etiquette dictates that you don’t call bullshit on a 5-year doing a magic trick. We pretend to be mystified.

The dilemma here is twofold. First, we must actively work to not let everything going on around us determine how we show up. Our will must be stronger than the breeze at its worst and able to withstand gale force winds at its best. Secondly, we help others through displays of compassion and empathy. True displays or compassion and empathy do not involve letting people off the hook. Nobody wins when we knowingly allow ourselves to be deceived by someone else’s poor sleight of hand. The prestige of life is a resolute pursuit of truth.

Easy Doesn’t

Easy offers up a sigh of relief when something doesn’t meet our expectations in a positive way. On occasion, it’s welcomed with opened arms. However, if easy is the expectation, that begs the question, “what does easy do for me?” Not much, as easy doesn’t help you grow.

Look to nature for examples of this axiom. Take two patches of dirt. In one, you sprinkle grass seed, and then leave it unattended with the expectation that nature will simply do its thing. In the other, you till the soil, plant the seeds, add fertilizer and water it each day, being mindful not to under water or over water. You still have the expectation that nature will do its thing, but this expectation is supported by fact that you put the effort to help influence the results. In two week’s time, what are the results?

The results may seem obvious, however, what’s commonly overlooked is the simple lesson that in order for anything to grow to its fullest potential, it had to literally go through shit to get there. Effort is the fertilizer of life.

Furthermore, if during that two-week period there are unexpected non-stop torrential rains, there’s a good chance that both plots will be ruined. But, that’s beyond your control, as nature always is. You can still rest assured that your efforts, although wasted in this case, were still the right approach to getting the results you desired. When life shits on you, it’s easy to seek sympathy. But, easy doesn’t. So instead, when life shits on you, consider for a moment what it’s fertilizing?

Once: To Swing or Scale

If you’ve never juggled before, giving it a go for the first time whilst using chainsaws bodes ill. In cases like this, doing something just once is enough to give you the empirical evidence to know better. In life, more often that not, doing something more than once is what affords us the perspective to test and retest hypotheses that follow experiences. We are able to make comparisons that help inform future situations that in some way mirror the things we’ve done before.

But what if you’re stuck with once? With only one experience and nothing else to compare it to from your own life. Where do you go from there? It’s typical to look to the experience of others in order to draw comparisons. However, it’s impossible to accurately assess how you would actually experience the situation. The reason is because it’s not just one variable that informs experience. It’s all your unique prior experiences that shape how you experience something new. We can benefit from emotional intelligence and empathetic understanding, but we are often still at the mercy of our own feelings…even when we know better. We know that feeling bad about an outcome, won’t at all change the outcome. We know that we are in control of our choices, even when we feel stuck. Not even in an actual prison can someone be imprisoned if we are controlled by our reason choice. This is a stoic view. This view holds truth. We can accept this truth and yet still struggle to get past our own emotional walls. Walls of our own construction. Walls that are fortified with barbed wire from painful experiences past that we fool ourselves into believing are built for own protection, to protect us from external harm, when, like prisons, they are designed to keep us in.

Once. Once provides us with enough rope to scale any wall of our own design. Once provides us with enough rope to pull ourselves up from the lowest depths, because it’s impossible to fall any deeper into anything than what we already know.

In Love or In Convenience?

How do you know if the feeling love is redefined over time, or if you come to accept the reality of what love is? Is true love getting over the ideas and expectations you’ve had of love, and still loving what’s left? What is it to know that you are still in love versus the idea of being in love?

Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you’re numb to feeling joy, or if joy is something that is simply a rarity to feel during adulthood, as the innocence of youth gets increasingly out of focus in our rear view mirrors. As Brené Brown suggests, we cannot selectively numb emotions. That was said in regards to medicating, or using destructive behaviors as a numbing agent. Is suppression what we call depression when we selectively prevent certain feelings from surfacing, opposed to feeling deflated by the allowance of their surfacing and feeling too weak to deal with them?

These existential questions arise reactionary. They are tough questions because they are rooted in shame, doubt and/or guilt. However, they are important questions to challenge yourself with. For if you can answer them with positive certainty, you may discover or perhaps uncover a truth about being in love. If you can answer only with uncertainty, or find yourself down the path of philosophy in only asking questions opposed to the scientific path to seeking answers:  You are not in love – You are in convenience. Being in convenience is the ultimate inconvenience.


Puddles Orwellian

We’ve all been told not the judge books by their covers. We know this, but we often don’t live this. We get tempted by clever marketing, we get fooled by silver tongues, we ignore internal hideousness because of our physical attraction to external beauty,  we convince ourselves that the substance of something is to equal to or greater than the quality of the packaging.

Our senses betray us daily. They are barriers to seeing beyond the surface of an experience to justify the beliefs we hold based on experiences we’ve had. However, it’s far easier to live this way. It’s easier to accept a first impression and fill the gaps with assumptions based on past experiences. Deep down, we know this is an avoidance tactic. We know this prevents us from making deeper connections. Yet, we also know that connection is a basic human need.

We spend our lives trying to please and impress others, believing that this is a form of connection. “These ‘others’ either like me because of what I do for them, or are envious of me because I have what they don’t.” If we live by this idea, we may end up taking up a lot of surface area, however, we’re as deep as a puddle. Who wants to be a puddle? There’s no future for puddles. Shallow and always at high risk: High risk of having our supposed value evaporate, high risk of sitting stagnant, high risk of someone/something splashing about and displacing us. The risk is high because there’s no depth.

Wells have it right. Live to be a well. Depth is a source for wellness.