Wednesday, October 26, 2011

lest we forget

Just now my mind is awash in the tendrils and associations brought to mind by the blog entry below -- how it is that even at a personal level, there is a tendency to forget or dismiss the roots of a current expertise and perhaps power. Organizations may provide ample evidence, but then there is the evidence of the mirror.

When I was a newspaper reporter a lot of years ago, I learned pretty quickly that if you wanted any useful information about what, say, the governor was doing about a particular topic, you did NOT call the governor. You always called someone at two or three removes from the governor. This was more likely the person who was down in the trenches, doing the work, aware of the specific difficulties and openings ... in short, someone of a substance the governor would later take credit for. That's what such people were paid for ... to do the leg work so that the leader could, with luck, more effectively lead.

Individuals have a somewhat more complex task because they are both leader and follower. The leader sets the course. The follower gets down in the trenches and does the work. First there is intention and then there is the fine print and sweat... in business, in family, in spiritual endeavor.

But because success is too often measured against what others say and think, sometimes there is the tendency to brush aside the roots of the fruits. "I've got mine and how I got it no longer matters. I got my raise and received the accolades I deserved. The past does not concern me."

Only of course it does matter. No one can remember with clarity all of the steps he ever took, but that very forgetfulness should incline a man or woman to humility. It may be a perfect outcome (applauded by the many I choose to credit and whose applause I accept), but a perfect outcome may rest on some limping goofs or outrageous fabrications. Being forgetful about such matters is both lazy and arrogant. Moreover, it lacks the humanity that the leader and follower within deserves.

There is no need to dwell in the past. But there is a need to be willing and cognizant and, when called to account for our very human inconsistencies, to be able to say to the mirror, "I'm very sorry." A perfect memory is out of the question, but the very imperfection suggests that humility is both warranted and useful.

Or anyway, that's my take.

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