Don’t Sweat The Election

There is too much to say not to write about the election.  By now, you’ve heard or read from political experts and personalities that know much, much more than I do about politics, election and polling systems, and “what this all means” for the next 4+ years for not only the nation, but the world.

So I write from the perspective of the generic American: (relatively) young, straight, white, suburban worker, husband, and dad – who is somewhat of an ignoramus when it comes to politics.  Given all of the rhetoric, emotion, and drama surrounding the past 72 hours, it may actually be somewhat of a unique point of view.

______________________________

Tuesday evening as I watched the news, I texted with several friends and family members about what they were witnessing with the election results.  Shock, amazement, and surprise summarized their general reactions.

I fell asleep before the results were in.  I awoke the next morning and checked my phone.

Hmmm.  That’s interesting, I thought.

My daughters, 8 and 5, have their own innocent way of taking sides.  So I went in to my 8 year old daughter’s room as she was just waking up, and said, “Clinton lost the election.  When you go to school today, you’re going to hear kids talking about it.  And they’re going to say good things and probably some very bad things about Trump and Hillary.  I don’t want you to say anything about anyone.  Okay?  Do not get involved in any conversations about the election.”

As the day progressed, I started to hear stories about inconsolable people who were crying their eyes out on their way to work–at work.  Families dramatically huddled around kitchen tables, all crying together in each other’s arms.  Children…as young as 9 or 10…crying for hours.

My lunch appointment canceled on me while I was driving into work.

Wow…

That seems odd.

But I’m not a woman.  I’m not gay.  I’m not a minority/immigrant.

If I were any of those things, I would probably feel differently than I do today.

__________________________________

The protests that are taking place in cities all over the country are at the same time a wonderful sign, and utterly ridiculous.  They demonstrate the passion and care that citizens have for our country and who they think should be leading it.  But there was nothing shady about the election.  Those people who are protesting that Trump won might as well be protesting against democracy itself.

But Clinton won the popular vote!  The system is broken!  It’s not fair! 

Don’t do that.  If you’re going to rail against the system when your candidate loses, then you also have to rail against it when your candidate wins.

(BTW, “the system is broken…it’s not fair” is about one shade of crazy away from “the whole political system is rigged.”  So you Clinton supporters who blame the system best check yo’self.)

And a broken and divided nation aside for a minute……

That’s the beauty of it all.  For as much anger and sadness and sorrow that half of the country is feeling right now, there is an equal amount of happiness, joy, and relief being felt by the other half.  There are millions upon millions of people high-fiving the crap out of friends and colleagues and family members this week.

To those who consider themselves losers in this election: there is no better time than right now to show everyone you know–and to teach our children and young folks and show them–how to lose with dignity and self-respect.

_________________________________________

“You lost today, kid. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

What a great line from The Last Crusade.  Indiana Jones learned how to lose at a young age.  He used every failure as a motivating force in his life.

I had a candid conversation with a colleague earlier this week.  Over the past few months, there was quite a shakeup in the organizational structure of our business.  To use a game analogy: some folks won, some lost, and some ended up kissing their sister.

When you lose, it’s not easy to stomach.  People spend years developing a grand vision of what their group is supposed to look like–the complimentary roles that people will have; the build out of a team over time; how they can create a sum that is so much greater than the parts.

And then the parts get moved.  And resources get reprioritized.  And all of a sudden your vision and decisions get trumped by someone else’s.

That pisses people off.

But the anger ultimately comes from a place of caring.  If people don’t care; if indifference prevails; then no one gets angry.  But anger, resentment, and frustration don’t get you very far in the end.  They’re great short-term emotions.  But over the long term, they’re wildly detrimental.  Instead:

  • Use the change to work even harder for what you believe is right
  • Use the change as motivation to make yourself better
  • Use the change to learn how to maneuver more adeptly through the political landscape
  • Use the change to develop a new skill set, or broaden your network

As we talked through this progression and the narrative of the business changes, we both arrived at the same hypothetical conclusion:

When the day comes that your good work falls on deaf ears…or your opinions and points of view matter less and less; or the powers-that-be move in a direction far afield from where your beliefs, talents, and values lie…..then it’s time to dust off ye old resumé and look for a fresh start somewhere else.

_____________________________________________

Much like the conversation I had with that colleague as it pertained to work….the people who feel like they lost in this election would be wise to do something similar.  Use it as motivation.  Use it to better themselves or their surroundings.  Over the next four years they should support, donate to, join, or participate in as many causes or organizations that they both align with, and that they think can affect the kind of change they want.

And much like a lot of celebrities threatened to do if Trump were elected, if you get to a point that this country, our values, and the environment in which you live and work is too much to bear…start looking for a permanent residence outside of the U.S. of A.

______________________________________________

We now have a President-elect who has never held public office or served in the military–the first President never to have either of those line items on his resumé.

We now have a President-elect who, in his first day in office, has said that he will:

  1. Repeal the Affordable Care Act
  2. Fix the VA Dept
  3. Eliminate gun-free zones
  4. Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  5. Block Syrian and Egyptian refugees
  6. Deport million of illegal immigrants
  7. Build a free wall
  8. Defeat ISIS (or at least demand a plan to do so within 30 days)

While you’ve got to love his ambition….(that’s a hell of a first day)…those are all relatively tenuous propositions.  But, as Kevin Bacon said in A Few Good Men, “…these are the facts of the case. And they are undisputed.”

_________________________________________________

As a businessman, Trump’s strategy is to always participate in, and win, a “zero sum game.”  As the NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman cautions:

…Donald Trump cannot be a winner unless he undergoes a radical change in personality and politics and becomes everything he was not in this campaign. He has to become a healer instead of a divider; a compulsive truth-teller rather than a compulsive liar; someone ready to study problems and make decisions based on evidence, not someone who just shoots from the hip; someone who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear; and someone who appreciates that an interdependent world can thrive only on win-win relationships, not zero-sum ones.

I can only hope that he does. Because if he doesn’t, all of you who voted for him — overlooking all of his obvious flaws — because you wanted radical, disruptive change, well, you’re going to get it.

This notion of a zero-sum game is an interesting one: in politics, in business, in the cultivation and nurturing of good ideas, innovative thinking, of societal and economic advancement.  Interestingly, the author and marketer Seth Godin also had a blog recently about the idea of zero-sum games……

Have you noticed that authors often happily recommend books by other authors (even though an MBA might call them competitors)?

Not only that, but books sell best in the bookstore, right next to the other books.

It would be a stunning surprise if Tim Cook wrote a blurb for a Samsung phone. They live in a zero-sum universe, assuming that everyone is likely to only buy one or the other.

But for the rest of us, in most industries, it turns out that the real competition is inaction. Few markets have expanded to include everyone, and most of those markets (like books and music) have offerings where people buy more than one.

This means that if there’s more good stuff, more people enter the market, the culture gets better, more good work is produced and enjoyed, more people enter the market, and on and on.

So encouraging and promoting the work of your fellow artists, writers, tweeters, designers, singers, painters, speakers, instigators and leaders isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s smart as well.

That blog talks about inaction (or indifference: not doing or caring about anything).  It talks about how better work happens the MORE people get involved, or can be heard, or ideas can be shared–not less.

But Trump’s global strategy is a national pull-back (or extreme renegotiation) from the world economy and politics…from trade partnerships…

The chief economist at an $800b global asset management firm recently said this about Trump’s planned policies:

“I am not aware of any country in history that ever isolated its way to prosperity.”

_______________________________________________

Let’s bring this back to middle-class American suburbia:

A few years ago I was complaining to a colleague about being swamped at work.  “I don’t have enough time to do that,” I whined.

“Everyone has the same exact amount of time,” she replied.  “Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  It all depends on how you choose to prioritize it.”

That reply has stuck with me ever since.

If politics is your thing…If charitable causes are your thing….or your job is your life’s work….

Regardless of political affiliation….if raising hell because of taxes or foreign policy or trade agreements is your thing….and you choose to spend your time fighting whatever the “good fight” means to you…by all means have at it.

I recognize and respect all of the different forces that exist to drive and motivate people to take action.

In that case, use your time productively.

________________________________________________

Usually twice a year, I draw the unenviable task of overhauling my daughter’s clothes.  It’s a task that I usually put off doing as long as possible.  [Procrastinate NOW!]

Boxing up my oldest daughter’s clothes to save for my youngest to wear in her due time.  Transitioning from summer to winter back to summer again. Getting rid of everything that is too small for my youngest….

That last part is the hardest.  And it’s why I switch out the clothes.  My better half couldn’t bring herself to do it.

One last time, the folding and organizing of a dress, a pair of tights, a bathing suit, a jumper, a pair of jeans, pajamas…..that neither of my girls will ever wear again.  I never really thought much about it until last night.  But there I stood in my five year old daughter’s room, listening to music, dividing up what stays and what goes…forever.

So be angry that Trump won.  Be angry at the system.  Spend your time complaining to friends and family that the country is in the toilet.  Spend the next four years worrying and agonizing about what tomorrow may bring.  Then dry your tears and realize that you just spent so much of your 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year, ~ 74 years alive distracted from what really matters in your life.

As I stared down at a piece of clothing…a striped purple sweatshirt that will soon head to consignment, I, too, thought about the election for a second.

Then I realized….it’s an election that ultimately means a lot less to me than never seeing that purple sweatshirt on either of my daughters again.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s