Nobody’s Perfect

“Nobody’s perfect, Dad!” My highly engaged and enthusiastic 8 year old daughter, with hands on her hips, would look right in my face and remind me of that.  She was poised and ready to recite Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana’s song, “Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days.” We had been in the midst of cleaning and picking up the house and I had provided some, at least in my mind, important feedback on what was lacking in our effort. I fully admit that my obsession with the details and doing things well often spills over reasonable limits. My kids have been exceedingly helpful in providing feedback in this area. I can’t help but be reminded of my own experience with my dad too. Ever the engineer, he was passionate about “planning ahead” and “giving attention to detail.” It would often be punctuated with commentary and head shaking analysis of the work done by my sister and I. He had great intentions but there were times where it landed poorly. I do credit him with inspiring me to work hard and pursue perfection.

I have been incredibly blessed to have had two dads. My bonus dad, my step-father entered my life when I was 12 years old. He was the polar opposite. He definitely modeled working hard but he placed a high value on people, empathy and mercy. He would echo my youngest daughter’s reminder that everyone needs some grace and consideration.  We are all guilty of miss steps, mistakes and mess-ups. He would remind us how people are the most important thing and we need to live, love and laugh.  As we approach Father’s Day in the US this coming weekend, I am reminded of how incredible both of these men were in my life and how they helped shape who I am today. They taught me a lot, and I miss them both.

Speaking about people and perfection, I learned that I’m people too and I’m not perfect. I know, shocking!  It’s true. It took me a while to come to terms with that. We often set ambitious goals for ourselves or others, but we also need to remember that it is okay to miss the mark too. We are human after all. We will fail, slip and we will fall. The important part is what we do when that occurs. Do we acknowledge it, learn from it and pick ourselves back up, or do we lean into that disappointment and onboard guilt to punish ourselves? Guilt is a very poor fuel for motivation and improvement. It takes more than it gives. It erodes confidence and calcifies failure into a debilitating burden.

I love how we talk about science and professions as “practices”.  It is a powerful reminder that our performance is incremental.  We habitually and regularly keep trying, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but forever learning and improving. Living is a practice too! We keep trying. Mistakes occur, but we apply our learning and steadily nudge ourselves closer to the event horizon of proficiency.

Now, if you, like me, have suffered the crushing blow of self-inflicted guilt, it’s time to lose that ailment. Give yourself a dose of mercy. Put some confidence in your fuel tank and drive.  The road ahead is full of practice, potholes and possibilities! Keep driving. Keep learning. And if you slip or falter, remind yourself, as my youngest daughter would say, “Nobody’s perfect!”

Positive Signals

When the small satellite TV dishes first started to come out, my dad decided he needed one.  Forever a can-do and frugal engineer, he signed up for the “self-installation” package.  Naturally, that translated to me being on the roof with a bag of bolts, parts and instruction manuals. The kit included a magnetic compass and directions to mount and orient the dish toward the geosynchronous satellite.  A cable ran from the dish into the house to a receiver hooked to the television.  The setup screen displayed the signal strength with an audio signal that went from a low static hum to a solid high-pitched tone when the dish was correctly oriented.  Getting the dish oriented correctly before cell phones was an all day long comedy skit with my dad monitoring the TV yelling out the status to my sister in the yard who was yelling up to me on the roof.  I made slight adjustments left and right then up and down.  There were so many blips, so many signals out there in space.  A solid tone would sing out and we thought we had it.  But no channels were coming through.  It was the wrong satellite.  On to the next. There were so many signals! A few hours later, hunting the vast spans of the evening sky and we finally had the right signal and magic started happening.  The channels finally appeared.

Did you know that humans tune in to signals too?  All around us are broadcasts bombarding us for our attention.  We are awash in notifications, news, texts, alerts, advertisements, emails, words, wishes, sounds, tweets, smells, ideas, campaigns, beliefs, hurts and joys.  It can feel like noise at times, so we hunt for the strongest signal.  What you may not know is that we are hardwired to find certain types of signals.  That’s right, like a satellite receiver dish, our attention is drawn toward certain types of signals.  Psychologist have ample empirical evidence that we are drawn to negative signals.*  The bias to tune in to and amplify negative  information far outweighs our search for positive information.  “Give me the bad news first,” is actually quite true of us.  It turns out that this negative bias starts early and is likely a critical adaptive function for survival for our human family throughout the years.  Unfortunately, it can have a profound implication on our emotional and mental health.  But it is not inevitable.  We have the capacity to choose what we tune in and what we amplify.

Where is your dish pointing?  Is your signal diet overly focused on negative information?  What do you amplify to yourself and others?  We can be deliberate about the signals we consume and rebroadcast.  Review the channel lineup that feeds into your life.  What would you add or remove to make sure the positive signals are coming through?  We need positive amplifiers to counter our negative bias. There is great news, fascinating and inspiring ideas, joy filled hope and emotionally rewarding signals all out there waiting for us. Tune in. Focus and amplify those things that are good, true, positive and encouraging.

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3652533/

Failures

Is it just me or does it seem like things have a tendency to break on the weekend when the parts and service repair companies are closed? This past weekend, as temperatures outside nudged up above 100°F, a strange electrical odor started filling the house. By evening, it was starting to get warm inside.  I did a quick check of the air conditioning system.  The condenser unit outside was running, but the inside blower was not working.  Oh great!  Why is the blower not working?  Turning “fan only” mode on didn’t fix it.  I did some quick investigation on our system and discovered we have a ECM blower motor.  ECM ,which stands for electronically commutated motor, means that it is a microprocessor controlled motor that is designed to optimize efficiency. It is very cool!  I have to admit, by this point I was distracted by the tech and not focused on the restoration of service.  With the warming room and questions from the rest of my family, I was reminded to go back into incident management mode and focus on addressing the outage.

I took apart the unit and began testing the control circuit and all the voltages.  The main 110V feed was going to the motor. The ECM 24V control lines that program the motor speed were also good.  The air handler control system seemed solid, so that meant it had to be the motor itself, and very likely the microcontroller that runs the motor. Of course, some quick online searches revealed that this wasn’t going to be an easy replacement with our current supply chain issues and chip shortages. I reached out to several service companies and received several, “We will get back with you on Monday” responses.

Now the funny part of the recent adventure is that we just had the entire system inspected and serviced earlier this year.  We didn’t want to end up in the heat of the summer and unable to find service or parts to fix any issues. Yet, here we are. This is a great, if not warm, reminder that failures will occur despite all our efforts.  

Things fail.  Reliability engineering teaches us that it is not “if”, but “when”.  Because we know things will fail, we design systems and processes to mitigate those failures, restoring service as fast as possible.  Done well, failures are addressed quickly, and sometimes even automatically, helping us continue to meet our service level objectives for the particular system.  With complex systems, it can be challenging to plan for all the failure modes that can occur.  How do you know what can fail?  One way to achieve this is by probing the weakness and safety boundaries of a system through Chaos Engineering.

We often laugh that we don’t need Chaos Engineering because the apps we run inject their own chaos!  But, Chaos Engineering is not about testing known broken parts of the system. If we already know something is broken (like a motor or an app), we should prioritize and fix it. Chaos Engineering is about discovering otherwise unknown weaknesses and limits of a working system. By introducing various degrees of planned failures (chaos) into our system, we learn new ways our service levels (SLOs) can be impacted. This gives us the opportunity to learn more about the system and improve it for faster recovery when it does fail.

Learning is key.  Failures, chaos engineering and experimentation are all teachers who can impart wisdom to all who seek their advice.  And as I just experienced this past weekend, life is full of lessons.  The only true failure is the failure to learn.  We are surrounded by a laboratory of learning that can instruct us and make us better.  Let’s make sure we maximize the opportunities that come our way and implement improvements that make the systems we run, better.  Oh, and depending on your heat tolerance level, you may want to stock a spare EMC blower motor on the shelf. 

Who Is Your Favorite?

“Please Ms. Smith, tell us, who is your favorite?”  A group of kids crowded the teacher’s desk, each with eager, pleading faces. 

“Is it Emma?” asked Mason, resting his arm on the desk with his hands under his chin. 

“I bet it is Isabella,” Mai said, “or Aiden.”  

Jamal chimed in, “No, it has to be Diego, she always calls on Diego.” 

Lily had a mischievous smile, “I think we all know who it isn’t.” The kids giggled and some glanced to the back of the room to see Alexander hunched over his desk with his arms folded. Alexander glared back at them with a snort.  His wild uncombed hair and scowling face seemed to ignite with anger.  The group crowded Ms. Smith even more and started to laugh.  

Alexander was a troublemaker.  He had a standing reservation in the timeout corner and would stir terror in anyone who even looked at him. “That’s enough of that,” Ms. Smith said sternly, “I told you, no favorites. Now, get back to your seats.”  

“But, please, Ms. Smith, tell us!!” the kids sang in a non-stop chorus.

“All right, all right, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m not going to tell you now, but if you will all quietly go back to your seats, I will show you tomorrow.”  With a flurry of soft “oohs” and squeals, the children all excitedly scrambled back to their seats to finish their lesson for the day.

The next morning came and there was great anticipation in the room.  Ms. Smith arrived with a box.  She placed it carefully on a chair in the front of the room. “Okay class, I told you I would show you who my favorite is. I have put the answer in this box. I am going to allow all of you to come up and take a look, one by one. But you must keep it a secret. This person is extremely important to me. They are worth more than all the money in the world.  They are full of incredible potential and can do anything that they set their mind to do. I know that with their unique talents, they will even be able to change the world.”

“Mason, let’s start with you.  Please come take a look,” Ms. Smith said.  Mason nearly leaped out of his seat and then suddenly blushed, realizing the whole class was watching for his reaction.  Several kids giggled.  He couldn’t wait to see the answer.  When he looked in the box his mouth dropped opened and a huge grin exploded across his face. He laughed and smiled at Ms. Smith and nearly danced back to his seat.  Jamal was next and he too was stunned and then delighted when he looked into the box. A huge smile and arms waving wildly accompanied him back to his seat as if to celebrate being in on the secret.  Next, Lily paraded up to the front and like those before her, she grinned and giggle and put her hands over her mouth in surprise. Then came Isabella, Aiden, Mai, Emma, and Diego.  One by one, every child in the class came to the front to see inside the box, each returning to their seats delighted, excited and giddy as if they had all received a secret prize.  

A hush came over the class.  It was Alexander’s turn.  They all stared at him.  His bitter face and folded arms seemed to suggest he wouldn’t be participating.  But to everyone’s surprise he stood up.  Gasps were heard as he slowly marched up to the front, still with arms folded and an enormous frown.  Then, he looked down into the box.  

Stunned!  His frown split and his mouth opened up wide. Peering down into the black box he saw two wide dark brown eyes staring back at him. He gazed into those eyes, unbelieving for a minute before realizing what the teacher had done.  It was a mirror!  A chuckle formed in his throat and he looked up at the teacher who was beaming a full face smile back at him.  She nodded as if to say, Yes, it is you, Alexander!  The chuckle turned to a lump in his throat.  He turned to see the class, all eyes beaming back at him with smiles of joy and acceptance as if they had all joined a secret club.  For the first time in a long time, Alexander felt included.  In that moment, he belonged. He smiled back at them.  

“Clap, clap, clap,” a round of cheering and applause began to fill the little classroom.  Alexander couldn’t take it any longer.  Big tears welled up in his eyes and started streaming down his dirty face.  He tried to hide them at first and even batted them away but they kept coming.  He sheepishly grinned and looked up at Ms. Smith.

“Class, now you know,” Ms. Smith said smiling, dabbing away at the tears in her own eyes too, “You are all important.  You are all worth more than all the money in the world.  Each one of you is unique and full of possibility. Your future is limited only by what you saw in the box. That’s right, YOU! Give yourself permission to unlock your potential, and go change the world!”

Mothers

Early on Saturday morning I make my way down to our kitchen. I fire up the coffee pot and begin dealing pans out across the stove.  I pull out the breakfast ingredients and start dicing, chopping and cooking. The clanging of the cookware and breakfast making can be heard throughout the house.  Soon the odor of the simmering morning meal will fill our home.  

I hear some rustling.  The sleepy home begins to wake.  For the past several years, the first to the table would be my mother-in-law.  She came to watch the show, but more importantly, she came to get some goodies.  I always prepared some peanut butter toast and fruit for her, mainly to help curb the “Is it ready yet?” endless loop.  However that never deterred her back-seat-cooking instructions that I would receive.  She loved food and loved cooking.  When she was no longer able to manage the task herself, she would live vicariously through others, including me.  As I cooked, she would dream into the past and tell me stories.  She would relay wisdom from her many years and reflect on current events. We discussed the changing seasons, family, vocations, life and of course, the menu.  She is gone now, but I will forever laugh about and cherish those moments. 

My mom was a teacher.  She taught 3rd grade most of her career, which meant that like it or not, I got really good at addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, reading comprehension, writing, social studies, the scientific method, maps and graphs.  My mom believed that the third grade curriculum built a wide foundation for the rest of your education.  Most kids left their teacher at school, but not me.  I got to be public schooled and home schooled at the same time. To be fair, I needed it.  I would much rather be goofing off, building tree houses, riding bikes and catching tadpoles in the local stream than studying some book, diagraming sentences or doing my math assignment.  In hindsight, it was an incredible blessing to have a teacher for a mom.  But she wasn’t just a teacher.  She was an encourager.  “You can be anything you want to be, I’m incredibly proud of you.”  Words like that are fuel for life.  She gave me confidence to try and courage to fail.  She was my champion and my defender as well as my teacher and my mom.

Good mothers shape the future.  They make an incredible impact on our lives.  It may not even be our biological parent that has the biggest impact. Many of us were adopted by other moms.  I recall so many who spoke into my life with some encouragement, kindness and yes, even some discipline, that all helped shape who I am today.  We are all the sum of the many investments made in us by others.  I’m sure many of you have similar stories.  This coming Sunday, as we arrive at another Mother’s Day in the US, take this opportunity to reflect on those investments our moms have made in us and be thankful.

To all you moms out there, you make a difference!  Thank you, mom!

Time to Paddle

“Everything changes and nothing stands still.” – Heraclitus

When I was a teenager, my family would often drive up to the northeast corner of Oklahoma to go canoeing.  It was always early in the morning when the dew was thick on the leaves.  The cool crisp air would be slowly warming to the rising sun.  We would grab our paddles and slide our boat into the river.  I should probably put quotes around “river” as there were times during the hot and dry springs that these were more like tiny creeks or streams.  In any case, you never knew what you would find.  Parts of the journey would be peaceful, quiet and serene. The water would become still like a mirror.  You could hear your own breathing and the birds chirping in the distance.  There was very little effort needed to keep going forward.  You could sit back and rest, soaking in the quiet peacefulness as the canoe glided by itself through the smooth silvery surface of the deep.  

Then it would happen.  A distant roar would begin to break the silence.  “Rapids ahead!” someone would yell to wake up the crew.  The growing growl soon was accompanied by the sound of churning and splashing water.  The noise became real. The white mist and foam of the rapids was upon us. My heart began to beat faster as the speed of the canoe accelerated toward the sound.  Scrape!  The shallowing speeding water suddenly exposed rocks and gravel that grabbed at the bottom of the canoe.  It would veer to the left, then to the right as it collided with the relentless currents and moss covered rocks.  “Paddle!”  Adrenaline was high as we paddled to steer clear of the obstacles that would quickly flip or split the canoe.  About the time we navigated the last biggest challenge we would round the bend to see a fallen tree blocking our passage.  What do you do?!  Around it, over it or under it?   Most of the time we managed to go around it with vigorous paddling, but there was a time or two where we decided to see how much of the river we could fit in the canoe to ride with us.  In any case, it would soon be over.  Down the stream we would go.  Soon the sound of the rapids would begin to fade behind us as the river smoothed out again.  Breathe.  Relax.  We made it!   

Change is the current of life.  We never know what we will encounter.  There will be unexpected events.  Moments of bliss and joy will land on us like dew.  At other times, the noise of the rapids will demand our fast action.  We will encounter obstacles, scrapes, opportunities, turns and bends that may even tip us over at times. Don’t fear, we can do this!  Grab your oar and begin to navigate the stream.  The future is just up ahead!  Let’s make it what we want it to be.  Keep moving forward!  It’s time to paddle.

Words

Words are amazing.  They can be written, thought, spoken or signed.  They are the concrete structures of our abstract thoughts.  Through words, we represent our world, our feelings and our actions.  Sewn together, words mobilize concepts into story and unfold a connection between the author and the reader.  Through words, I can step into your life and you, mine.  I can feel.  I can relate.  I can sense the flow of my own cognitive energy as well as yours.  Words allow me to grasp and challenge the clarity of the moment, the importance of the thought and the landscape on which our relationships are formed.  Through my words, you can see me.  Through your words, I can see you.

Communication is intimate.  When we speak or write words we become vulnerable.  Part of who we are is made accessible to others.  When those words we send are loving and kind, we feel those warm connections and our brain triggers a neurochemical response making us feel more included, connected and wanted.  When those words are cruel, attacking, or demeaning, we feel a surge of anger, exclusion, insecurity or apprehension.  The words we use and how we respond to them can have a profound impact on our health and the health of others.  They form or they destroy our relationships.  They can build bridges or they can declare war.  But worse than harsh words are no words at all.  When there is a lack of communication it sends a signal of detachment, alienation and separation.  Without words, we distance ourselves from others and sever the chance for connection. 

Communication is vital.  I think we often fail to appreciate the gravity of communication and its role in building and maintaining healthy relationships.  Understanding and connecting to each other is paramount to living a rewarding life and accomplishing our business and personal goals.  We all seem to intuitively know that.  Yet surprisingly, we often fail at communicating, or at least, communicating well.  Have you ever been in a situation where it was clear that there was a misunderstanding but you failed to speak up?  Have you ever thought to yourself that you should reach out to someone to encourage them, but you didn’t follow through?  Or perhaps, you knew there was a difficult conversation that you needed to have, but you just didn’t have the time or courage to do it?  I can relate to those situations and more.  It is vital to communicate, but it doesn’t mean it is easy.

Communication is an investment.  It takes time and energy.  Yes, it is even risky, after all, because it means we become vulnerable.  But it is worth it.  Words are powerful and the dividends are healthy, vibrant and growing relationships.  As my friend, Jeff Gallimore always says, “Sharing is caring!”  Spend some time this week caring for others by communicating.  Share some feedback with kindness.  Make someone’s day by giving some encouragement.  Make the investment.  Connect with others through this miracle we call words. 

Precarious Turns

It was starting to get dark.  Phantom shapes suddenly materialized ahead of me as the headlights of our van reflected off the road signs.  Warning!  Steep grades and winding road signs started to appear.  We were making our way through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  Large pines lined the horizon with steep cliffs jutting up to my left.  I looked to my right and saw the shoulder of the roadway that had been carved into the side of the mountain plunge into the darkness for what seemed to be thousands of feet.  Brake lights came one.  Fellow travelers, like me were all gripping their steering wheel with the force of ten thousand angels.  I tried to exhale as I cranked the van around the precarious turn.

Behind me I could hear the faint breathing of my girls fast asleep in their seats, little aware of the incredible tension happening in the driver’s seat.  Around this corner, up the mountain, around that bend, down this curve, my eyes were fixed on the dizzying drama playing out before me.  I kept hoping to hear the GPS announce our turnoff that would lead to our rest for the night.  Instead, it just taunted me with “continue on” updates.  But at long last, the glorious words, “exit here” and “you have arrived” gave me relief.  Every muscle in my body was aching.  I knew I was tense, but I had no idea how bad it was until I tried to step out of the van.  I almost collapsed as my back reminded me that I was decades north of my youthful vigor.  But thankfully, with some careful plodding, I made it to my long-awaited rest.

Have you ever experienced anything like that?  In those moments the task at hand is so critical that you become physically tense, focused and locked.  Every muscle in your body seems to want to help, but of course, it only leaves you sore and fatigued.  The pandemic has been a long and winding road.  About the time we hit a clearing, a major event occurs, a new strain, a setback or new mandates.  Then we hit steep grades, big changes in our companies, inconceivable actions in our governments, and even chilling specters of global war.  Are you tense yet?  I know I am.  For the past several weeks I have noticed the physical exhaustion and sore muscles that would usually only accompany a hair-raising journey across the Rockies, but this time it is from the front row driver seat of my office.  I’m not alone.  I have heard from others of you that are experiencing the same thing. 

These are difficult times to navigate.  Can I suggest a few things?  The road is treacherous and winding right now.  As you turn through those corners, make sure you keep your lights on.  Hang on to your faith, your principles, your hope, your integrity and your character.  Those radiate out from you and illuminate the dark path ahead.   They also encourage those who are going along with you on this journey.   Speaking of which, you are not alone.  We are all going with you through this challenging patch together.  Hit the brakes.  Breathe.  The signs along the road say, “slow down”.  Give yourself time to process and recover from the last bend. 

Yes, there will be more highway to travel before our exit, but we can do this.  Relax.  Take another breath, roll down the window and let the anxiety float away.  Take one mile at a time.  Enjoy the scenery.  Appreciate those precious breaths behind you and enjoy the now.  Our destination is just ahead and is full of hope and possibility… and with any luck, a good bed. 

A Foundation of Integrity

“Integrity, honesty, trust, respect, playing by the rules, and teamwork define the operating principles of our Company.” – Bob Iger

It was a tiny three-bedroom house in an older community in Tulsa.  Our small family of three just expanded to four so we welcomed graduating from the tiny apartment to this small single-family home.  Sure, it was a modest place but we loved it.  We had people over. Birthdays, holidays and family gatherings were hosted there.  But while memories were being made, sadly, cracks were forming.  Literally.  It started with some windows that would no longer open, doors that would not close and eventually graduated to full-inch sized cracks in the wall!  What was happening?  Our first home was literally breaking apart around us.

As you probably guessed, it was the foundation.  The house had been built on fill and the support under it was crumbling away.  We were devastated.  We called a foundation repair company who came to fix our broken home. After days of digging, piering and preparing they were finally ready for the fix.  In unison, the workers had assembled around the house and simultaneously activated the ratchets to lift the foundation.  “One, Two, Three… Lift!”  Pow!   It was like a miracle.  We watched all the gaps in the wall close.  The windows worked gain and we could even close the door.

Integrity is a foundational principle.  Our lives, our relationships, and our companies are built upon this foundation.  To me, integrity is like a three-dimensional representation of honesty.  On one axis, it says we seek truth even when it is inconvenient or painful.  Integrity piers deep to find bedrock truth.  On another axis, it demands reliability in word and deed.  What we say we believe and will do, we do.  The concrete of integrity is commitment and dependability. On another axis, it says that we are consistent, single faced rather than two-faced.  We believe, we speak, we do in a unifying way that is honest, truthful and genuine. Wind, water, earthquakes and storms will rage against integrity, but it stands firm, consistent and true.  When integrity is in place, the structures of our lives, society and businesses can be built with speed and confidence.  When it isn’t there, cracks form.  Doors close. Windows of opportunities are locked shut.  Progress stops.

How is your foundation?  I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  We all fail.  There are cracks in our foundation.  We fib to ourselves and others.  At times, we can be lazy or lacking in our commitments.  But we don’t have to stay there!  We can start over.  We can change course and ratchet up the integrity in our lives.   When we do, we activate a powerhouse of dependability, stability and resilience that we can build on.  

Integrity establishes a firm foundation on which we can shape our future, our relationships, our society and our world.  The ground is full of false narratives, inconsistencies, lies and disappointments.  Don’t build your life on that shifting sand.  Anchor yourself to the rock of truth.  Be relentlessly honest with yourself and others.  Be the consistent you that you can be.  Stay the course and keep the faith.  It will inspire others to do the same. “One, Two, Three… Lift!”  Let’s close the gaps.

Bullies

“I allowed myself to be bullied because I was scared and didn’t know how to defend myself. I was bullied until I prevented a new student from being bullied. By standing up for him, I learned to stand up for myself.” – Jackie Chan

Bullies.  They can show up anywhere.  In school, I had my fair share of encounters.  I have to admit, I was an easy target.  I wasn’t always the fine human specimen of physical strength that I am today.  Ok, I’m not today either, but you get the point. Bullies looked for easy prey and I was easy to be found, hanging out in the science lab, at the computer table or in the journalism class.  Somehow, I offended them in how I looked or what I said and it was time for a beating.  “After school, Cox, I’m coming after you!”  Despite my lack of athleticism, it turns out that I was a pretty good runner.  But running away from bullies never made them go away.  They always came back.  I was a ripe canvas for their artisan craft of black eyes, knuckle sandwiches, name calling and wedgies.

I’m sure many of you have similar stories of bullies. When I was young, I naively thought I would outgrow the curse of bullying.  Surely there are no adult bullies.  Wow, was I wrong!  It changes form and becomes sophisticated and sometimes even cloaked, but it is still there.  I saw it in college.  It showed up at the job, on the internet, in corporate at high ranking positions, in government with senior officials and of course, even on a global scale on the world stage. 

To this day I have a strong visceral reaction to bullying.  My life experience has made me passionately sympathetic with the victims.  I can’t help but call it out when I see it and find myself moving to help at an instinctual level.  I believe many of us are the same way.  Looking at our human family across the planet, we see the profound reaction by people all over the globe.  In the Russia and Ukraine conflict, there has been an overwhelming unity in the response to the action of one tyrannical bully set on the destruction of a smaller neighbor.  I can’t stop thinking about it.  I am grieved by the loss of life that we see unfold, impacting both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers and families.  Bullies bring war, and war brings misery.

What turns people into bullies?   Sure, I heard it all my life… You need to learn how to defend yourself. Teach your friends and your families how to deal with bullies. But what creates a bully?  How can we help eliminate the next generation of bullies?  We need to learn how to turn bullies into defenders, aggressors into protectors, haters into lovers and dividers into peacemakers.

I believe it starts with us.  Don’t be a bully.  We can all fall into the trap of power and personal ambitions without empathy.  What we do impacts others and how they feel.  We all have levels of influence and control. Let’s remind ourselves that our actions have a ripple effects on many others.  Be considerate.  Come to the aid of victims.  Be the person you wish others would be to you.  And in the process,  maybe we can even help bullies see the err of their ways, and change.