The Drive of Life

    I do not generally watch the Oscars - or any awards ceremony for that matter. But this week, on the internet, the news, and even in conversations with colleagues and clients, the interaction between Chris Rock and Will Smith, has been not only on full display; but in full discussion. What does this all tell us about the state of things now, but also how does it offer us as an opportunity to elevate the conversation and shape the future?

    I'm not going to judge or evaluate the actions of Will Smith or Chris Rock. I'll let them do that for themselves.

    Instead, I'm using this event as a way of asking myself how can I continue to be better.

    How can this event help each of us be better to each other?

    First, it reminds us, as a colleague of mine put so well "extreme emotions are the enemy of common sense." When we give into the extreme expression of our feelings, it is serious but often it is also to our detriment.

    Second, it recalls for us that "unfinished business" from our past tends to shut down our ability to reason, to respond (not react), to a situation in a manner that does not trigger the dominance of emotion, but rather permits us to remain calm in the face of anxiety, anger and anguish - a virtue you and your career, family and future self will be grateful for.

    Now, some have said that it is important to be driven, (and I agree with that). I rise every morning at 5:00a.m. not because I don't like my soft mattress and warm sheets, but because I am driven to make the most of my day and the opportunities ahead. But I try to drive in the right direction.

    Some have commented that we must defend ourselves, and others, when words or actions are hurtful or not well placed. True enough, but (to continue my driving metaphor), where the “rubber hits the road” is the manner in which we choose to do that. Will it be a public stage or a private conversation? Will it be a hand slap, or a series of well-placed words?

    As I consider the entire event my mind goes back to something I have noticed missing these days in many circles - civility. It might be an 'olde fashion word', but it is a modern day need. Civility does not imply to 'ignore' events, rather it beckons us 'choose'. To choose the manner of our response in light of the higher virtues we strive for ourselves and for our society. It calls us to give in to our better self, not our lowest form.

    So where do we go from here? Well, first by acknowledging that we have all struggled with anger and frustration (try driving in Toronto without doing so). But that fine dance between tolerance and take down, is the key. Review your own patterns of emotional response to comments, criticism and critique - where do they range on the meter? And then ask what you do with them? To bury our response isn’t the answer is either…. Where do you place that frustration so that it does not 'rise again'?

    Secondly, let us learn from what happened (without excusing it). Let us not judge Will Smith or Chris Rock. It was such a layered moment of emotions, old wounds, conflicting values, sensitive subjects, and more. Suffice it to say that it was a head on collision where personal and professional values collided. But let us ask ourselves what does this incident say about our wider society and – maybe even more monumental – what does it invite us to change - about what we see as acceptable in similar moments?

    I think if we all gave those questions "a good think", we might be on the road to better days of civility – and this drive of life – less of a slap and much more scenic.  




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