Three hopeful truths for 2018
Enter 2018, fireworks on a revving motor
Anyone else feeling inundated with endless stories of unsavoury behaviour? January enflames as if Santa delivered lumps of coal named rocket, collusion, accusation, harassment, misconduct, allegation, fabrication, confabulation, political polarization, melting polar icecap, tweetstorm, snowstorm, firestorm, mudslide, dirt, and doomsday.
That’s just the short list of the young year’s overworked scary words.
Inflammatory statements and social divisions intensify. Public fights escalate over what are facts, whose news is fake, and which claims are fiction. The common tools of my Conflict Management trade, negotiation and diplomacy, suffer neglect or deformity.
How do regular folks find respite from the world’s flash floods of weirdness? As a Conflict Manager, I cling to three humble truths:
1. No conflict lasts forever;
2. Change is always turbulent; and
3. The results of change can – eventually – be improvements.
The first two truths give me hope to hang in. These turbulent changes will end. The third truth motivates me. The resilient among us will adapt to the change and transform the new normal into systems that work.
Fate, coincidence, fortuitous chance, or intention?
I considered three ways to pass the time until global instability improves:
1. Full retreat into fantasy.
2. Forego Internet access.
3. Read a great book with a relevant message.
I pick the third activity for motivation.
Graham Moore’s The Last Days of Night, is a story of light bulbs, electrifying North America and linking people via telephones. It’s also a story of intractable conflicts that became searingly personal before resolving to everyone’s satisfaction. Imagine life before electricity and telephones. Introducing those changes generated conflicts that shook society out of one age and into another one.
Despite hundreds of lawsuits, Alexander Graham Bell prevailed as patent holder (not inventor) of telephony. Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse nearly bankrupted their respective companies in litigation.
These creative men distrusted, and disliked each other. Their lawyers grew rich on lawsuits and countersuits of patent infringements and challenges against each other’s patents.
Slivers of hope
In an amazing turnabout, their approach changed. Hostilities ended with everyone contributing something of value that the others needed. In 1896 A.D., Niagara Falls spun an electrical power generator built by Westinghouse based on Nicola Tesla’s ideas and lit the East Coast with Edison’s lamps. Once their self-created turbulence ended, the men who gave us lights, electricity, dynamo machines, and telephones could turn their attention, time and money to innovating.
See, all conflicts resolve.
Eventually, we find mutual benefits.
Print and hang that message on a wall as a reminder for 2018.
Conflicts, however intractable, will end
I hold to my belief that peaceful outcomes are negotiable even in the absence of trust and respect. These days, I hold on with fingernails screeching down a blank wall.
I hold on anyway.
Because once the conflicts end, the third message of hope will need all of us to improve the resulting new normal.
An intention for the next 11 months
In concluding The Last Days of Night, Mr. Moore wrote:
“Who invented the light bulb? That was the question that had started the whole story off. It was all of them. Only together could they have birthed the system that was now the bone and sinew of these United States. No one man could have done it. In order to produce such a wonder, Paul realized, the world required men like each of them. Visionaries like Tesla, craftsmen like Westinghouse, salesmen like Edison. And what of Paul? Perhaps the world needed men like him too. Mere mortals to clean up the messes of giants. Clever men to witness and record the affairs of brilliant ones.”
Hope for mere mortals, yes! I can wilt in despair or work with other mere mortals to get on with cleaning up the messes, whether made by brilliant or moronic others.
My mantra for sheltering under the three hopeful messages that all conflicts end, change is turbulent, and the results can be made to serve society:
Look to history for guidance,
to the present with the right mindset,
and to the future in optimism.
Random House (Aug. 16 2016), ISBN-10: 0812988906
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