A small furor erupted today in the wake of This American Life’s announcement that they are retracting a story they recently aired by Mike Daisy. I encourage you to read (and listen to) the various accounts and analyses of the situation. As simply as possible: Mr. Daisy adapted a portion of his theatrical monologue, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs“, for Public Radio International’s This American Life. TAL, a journalistic enterprise, aired the adaptation in January and later discovered that portions of the piece don’t stand up factually to journalistic standards. Thus the retraction. One thing rings clear in both Ira Glass (TAL’s public face and producer) and Mr. Daisy’s accounts: theater isn’t journalism. They both agree that treating theater as if it were something it isn’t proved to be the eventual breaking point in this collaboration.
There’s an important lesson here for organizations and the people who make them run: If we aren’t crystal clear on what our function is, we’re not going to serve that function cleanly. If we aren’t equally clear what rules we’re playing by, we’re very likely to break them. And if we’re not talking to each other honestly about our purpose, our function, and the rules we’re playing by to get there, we’re going to have a mess on our hands.
What’s your purpose? How are you choosing to function in order to meet that purpose? What rules are you playing by? And when was the last time you talked to your board, staff, and stakeholders about all of those things?
How are those New Years resolutions coming along?
My one and only resolution this year is to work on staying in the moment. I’m a worrier. And I have a tendency to get caught up in future-think. The result? Not much gets accomplished or appreciated in the moment.
So I’m experimenting with some different ways to stay present. Meditation is one of them. It turns out that being quiet and still for a length of time is pretty challenging for me. But I keep chipping away at it, sitting for five minutes here and 10 minutes there.
Another practice I’m trying to integrate more fully into my life is yoga. I have always found that the physical effort of finding, holding, or moving through poses clears my head and allows me to just be where I am.
And it was in a yoga class earlier this week that the instructor shone a light on what I’ve been experiencing as the paradox of effort: the more effort I make to hang on to something, the more it seems to slip from my grasp.
“Surrender into the poses,” he suggested as we moved into a simple twist. “Discover what they have to offer you if you let go of effort.”
So I tried another tactic I’m playing with: go with it for xx minutes. When I think about surrendering in order to get where I want to go, my brain turns around on itself so many times that I end up in a confused knot. But I can agree not to think about it and just surrender to a series of asanas for 90 minutes. So that’s what I did. And here’s where things got interesting.
The poses were easier. I held down dog without my shoulders starting to shake. I arched up into wheel (not all that gracefully, but I got up there, dammit) and stayed as long as my arms could hold me without a single twinge in my lower back. Don’t get me wrong. As my muscles and bones found their homes in each pose, I inevitably felt myself pushing or straining or gripping. But when I repeated my mantra of “surrender”, the effort shifted from grasping at perfection to reaching for my best in that moment.
It still doesn’t make a lot of sense when I try to think about it. If I want to stretch further, my brain tells me that I should try really hard to make my arm to higher. My brain tells me that surrender is equivalent to giving up, which is completely counter intuitive if I say I really want to get somewhere. But my physical experience tells me that the less I push, the further I can reach. When I loosen up my grip, my muscles are that much freer to lengthen toward my goal.
How do you experience surrender? How do you experience effort? Where are you gripping? How much further could you reach if you surrendered to your goal rather than pushing toward it?
Talk to me. Tell me what you’re discovering.
I'm interested in what keeps us engaged in our work, the world, and each other.