Monday, December 17, 2012

Patience, Elevators and Worn “Door Close” Buttons

I’ve been doing a non-scientific study of elevators lately because it appears to reveal an interesting aspect of our behavior.

In practically all of the elevators I have been in, the button most worn (often by far) is the “door close” button.

I understand that there’s all kinds of debate on the web about whether “door close” buttons really work, whether they are there to help us feel in control, blah blah blah.

Frankly I don’t care whether they work or not.

What is intriguing is that even though we know the door will close on its own, usually reasonably quickly, we insist on pressing that button a lot anyway (and often repeatedly, as if multiple presses versus a single press will signal increased urgency to the elevator).

We can’t wait the few moments for the door to close – it’s not closing fast enough.  After all, the 10 seconds or so we saved getting to the floor of our choice makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?  Yeah, we wasted 5 minutes earlier reading our horoscope or checking Facebook, but NOW we’re in a rush.

Impatience is everywhere …. well … sort of ….

We see examples of unbridled impatience everywhere, whether it’s in the driver that constantly skips lanes to no apparent benefit, the people who camp out weeks in advance to be the first to get a newly released phone and the like.

We are a culture of “got to have it now or else”, “make it happen now or else”, etc.

But when it comes to the important stuff, we are not only not impatient, in fact we are quite complacent.

For example …..

Gun violence in the US continues unabated.  In fact, we are unable to have an intelligent conversation around guns at all.  The debate rapidly dissolves into two camps – the people who insist that we have no guns at all and the gun advocates who cannot rationally explain the difference between needing a gun for self protection versus needing a grenade launcher or a machine gun.  Both sides come armed with statistics and an intention to not care what the other side says. The dialog fails before it starts.

Mental health concerns in Canada and the US continue to rise at alarming rates while government budget cutbacks reduce treatment options for people who need them or throw patients out into the streets to their own devices. We don’t seem to care unless we are directly affected.

In addition, no one seems to care about studies that demonstrate that violence in our media, whether it be in movies, video games, songs or as promoted by our “role models”, is having an influence on the desensitizing of young minds.

And few seem to care that the three afore mentioned concerns (and others) are colliding in complicated ways until events like Newtown, CT occur.  Well … we do care … I guess …. we just aren’t interested in changing things in any kind of measurable way.  

Well, in fairness, we talk about it a lot.  We write inspiring stories, build heart-moving memorial plaques, give eloquent speeches and the like.

That’s good, isn’t it?

Well … I guess it depends on whether measurable, positive change comes from this activity, doesn’t it?

As someone noted on the media on Friday.  After the Virginia Tech shooting some years ago, not ONE change was made in Virginia in regards to gun access, mental health treatment or any of the other factors that have been identified as contributing to that incident.

We’re also quick to say that “the thing” that we like (whether it be guns, the media, etc.) are not the cause and so we pass the buck, waiting for someone else to solve the problem.

Meanwhile ….

The world is still plagued by war, disease, pestilence, hunger and poverty.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Even a species as perfect as ours (at least in our own eyes) will never be perfect and there is MUCH beauty in the world.

And there will always be hunger, disease, war, violence and everything else.  Thinking positive thoughts, ignoring negative news and praying our brains out will not change that.  Nature routinely runs 10% over capacity in general (creating shortages) and it’s part of our genetic wiring to be far from perfect when it comes to how we deal with each other.

However, if we are going to get impatient about “stuff” perhaps it’s time to get a little more impatient about what really matters.

For example, why aren’t we angry that proposed rules that may have taken the shooter in Newtown, CT. off the streets were not imposed because the ACLU claimed foul regarding the imposition on someone’s rights to privacy and how terrible it would be to be medically treated or hospitalized without the patient’s consent.

Why aren’t we angry that the shooter’s rights to personal freedom trumped the rights of those young people and teachers to Life itself?

Life will never be perfect

It can’t be because we are not perfect.

But it sure can be better.

Our potential to be better demands it.

Just because we admit that Life can’t be perfect doesn’t mean that we accept that “anything goes” either.  That’s a cop out and an excuse for indifference, apathy and selfishness.

So the next time you reach for that elevator “close door” button as you feel frustrated that the door is not closing fast enough, stop and ask yourself.

How can I turn this energy into something more productive?

The world needs your energy and your contribution to solutions more than ever.

As a strategy advisor to Wall St, Fortune 25 companies,  governments and the military, I can assure you that we need your contribution a lot sooner than you realize.

Energetic but random execution, like Monty Python’s 100 yard dash for people with no sense of direction, produces little of value.

But complacency or impatience for that which is unimportant produces even less.

Is your energy focused on what matters?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – December 17, 2012

This blog has been out for about 6 hours or so and I have received approximately 1,000 private messages in the form of emails, direct tweets, FB messages and LinkedIn messages.

Of the messages I have received, about 15% have general comments in them.

However ……

Approximately 42% of those messages are slamming this entry for its alleged uber pro-gun stance.

And ….

Approximately 43% of those messages are slamming the same blog for its uber anti-gun stance.

It is intriguing to see what different people can read into the same words, words that are neither pro OR anti-gun.

It goes to show that if we are sensitive about a subject, we will see anything as an attack.  Perhaps if we could lower our emotional sensitivity, we could create a dialog focused on facts and results.

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