Monday, June 25, 2018


Context is everything and in a's irrelevant.

Starting with the irrelevant side. Humans are constantly and continuously pulling data points and information from a broader context and applying it to their/our own lives. I suspect we 'have to' do this because there are too many data points - too much information, particularly now, to not extrapolate and apply. The original context often gets lost as we weave the information into the meaning of our own journey and... does it matter?

I don't know - does it add value? Read an article this morning about a new term: textjack, it's what happens when someone uses a biblical quote in a way that isn't actually how it was meant. Happens all the freakin' time and has for centuries.

It matters to theologians. It matters to the woman being beaten under the idea that she should be submissive to her husband and made the grave error of disagreeing with him. It also matters to the emotionally and physically exhausted athlete who leans on her own use of scripture to help her dig deep in a final game, just not in the same way.

Does it add value - maybe that's one of the measures for whether or not the context matters and I have a suspicion that humans pretty much re-contextualize everything, always and that overall, it's such a hard core 'just is' that talking about it may be like pointing out water is wet.

Acknowledging this academically and cognitively opens up a deep opportunity for connection between humans who might otherwise really polarize though, so maybe worth a discussion.

It also helps me wrestle with a glitch.

The event: I say something and humans in proximity do what humans do and hear what I say in a context that adds value to them - and out-of-context to what I am attempting to communicate.

the glitch: I don't enjoy being misrepresented.

On one hand, it serves as a fantastic checks/balances. I learned a looonnnggg time ago that I am responsible for the impact of my communication. If something lands differently than I purposed, it's on me to correct. It was easier when all my communication was contained in a circle of people I interacted with. Whether I was teaching a seminar or in a meeting, I could check and recheck. I could listen and ask questions.  I could self-correct and stay in the conversation with someone until the communication was working. Working doesn't mean agreeing, it means producing valuable outcomes.

I have written a bunch more stuff that's "out there" thanks to the internet, and have taught at more seminars and passed a tipping point at which I can no longer check in with every human who interacts with my communication. Once in a while something cycles back to me - something I said and it's immediately clear that the listener took my communication "out of context".

I don't know how other humans experience this, I don't particularly enjoy being misquoted or misunderstood. It really bugs me when the recontextualization happens around subject matter I carry a lot of passion for. The first time it happened I was 26 or 27 working as a teacher in an adaptive behavior classroom for Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing students. I was in grad school and burning hours I didn't have to burn in a local community theater way out on the outskirts of Baytown, Texas. I'm not a fantastic actress and Broadway would have laughed out loud, but I loved it. The little local newspaper did an interview of the cast because of the nature of the play we were rehearsing.  I was misquoted. I lost my shit. I was all like....what can I do about it? I need to call the the paper...blah blah blah.

A dear friend a few decades my senior- smiled and then laughed when he realized I was authentically upset. Really? Like the tiny local newspaper matters and it's one sentence and...basically get over yourself.  Eventually I got over myself but it still bugged me. Personal glitch.

Anyway, recently ran into two examples of how what I was sharing was contextualized by the listener in a completely different context than the conversation I was in/having.  In one example, I don't know if there is any value being gained from the re-contextualization. It's mostly unhappy troll-ing. In the other one, as best I can tell, there is value in the re-contextualization. Like example one, in example two the person didn't like what I said, thinks what I said is wrong and probably also wrong again for sharing it out-loud with other people.

Okay. Got it. Self-correcting next time I give the presentation in question to be more specific in my language because I think the message is important - the message I intended anyway.  Important enough to be damn sure I add in a clarifying distinction the next time around.

And - I get to see again what we do. How humans re-contextualize pretty much everything in life so that it works in our own worldview and at the end of the day, even if I am misquoted and even if the misquote is purposed to disagree with me, or discredit me, if there is value* - then trying to re-communicate may not be all that important.

That's the struggle. I know it's a personal glitch and usually that means I need to just shut-up about it. When the re-contextualization changes the meaning or the purpose of the message and the message a)  is potentially really important and b) not material I came up with (I didn't decide water is wet, but I am responsible for communicating that correctly nonetheless) - then it is on me to retool my communication. My monkey brain wants to whine...that's not what I meant...

The reality is, no one gives a rat's ass what I meant. And this experience is a really good reminder -

Sidenote: Value. I don't mean "value" as in a pedophile misquoting me so that he or she finds justification in having sex with more 5 year an far as I know THAT has not happened. By value, I mean life gets better for the individual and as it gets better for them, it doesn't get worse for everyone else, as it would with the an example.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

compliments in many forms ...

I'm working on an ethics presentation for VioDy's 'back channel',  a project in development for the organization's website. I'm looking at it from two angles, the student angle and the instructor angle. The instructor angle is expanding a little into a broader professional angle.

Been thinking about that off and on the past couple of years. Interacting with various other instructors running programs similar to mine in our area and internationally (and less similar too) it's been a curious journey as the professional behavior is incredibly diverse. What's okay to do, not okay to do - okay to say/not okay and how we treat one another in the martial/combat industry.

There are some horror stories out there. More horror stories and cringe-worthy tales by and far than the tales of collaboration and ethical decorum.

One organization I've been a part of originally had a general rule of thumb about intra-organization behavior: play nice with each other. There's plenty of room for multiple instructors, programs, clubs don't get spun up about proximity. I was at a meeting many years ago where folks were pushing for a hard radius rule and the guy in charge wasn't a fan. His input? If you put up a good program with good training and good people even if another guy from our group sets up across the street from you, you should be fine. Different personalities create different tribes.

Essentially, he was right. Practically, as a business owner, having what could be competition within your own tribe set up across the street would be at the minimum awkward. I can totally understand how it could feel worse than awkward, even like a betrayal. Nonetheless, the guy in charge had a point that is valid. At the end of it, there was one distinct behavior he was not cool with...don't go after your brother/sister's students. No poaching.

Students might drift on their own but poaching was seen as particularly poor form within the organization. I tend to agree. If they wanted to train with me - they would. If they started somewhere else and came to me - their choice. If you start with me and it doesn't suit you...why would I want you on the mat? You won't be happy and that makes for the beginning of a whole lot of shenanigan's I don't really want anyway.

Over the years different students who train at my place have shared how they've been solicited to leave our place and go to another place, the place doing the soliciting. About a week ago, one of my long term students pulled me aside (actually the student's parent - student's a teenager) and shared that they had been approached on a number of occasions, including recently, by another school teaching similar skills and part of an organization we are also a part of.

This other program isn't across the street - it's a good distance away and we draw from different demographics. They're making overt efforts from the other program to get the student to leave us and join them instead. Not the first time they've done this, but the first time in a good long while a student of ours has brought it up because the student "thought I should know" as they are uncomfortable with the ethics of it.

The first time I heard about this kind of dynamic a few years ago it irked me. I got a little puffed up and monkey-brained about it. We weren't supposed to do that - that was one of the no-no's in that organization. This time though I had mixed feelings. First, confirmation that our industry is notorious for under-the-table deals .... like many industries. Second...what a huge compliment! When a student we've trained from ground floor up gets repeatedly courted by another program it is confirmation we're doing something right.

It was cool to hear both the parent and the student describe how adamant their NO has been stated and the explanations for why they are super clear they would not consider training over there...different tribes/different personalities fit different needs.

What's even more cool though - the team of instructors at our place alongside the student's commitment to their training - has created a desire from other programs to poach the talent. Raising a glass to the compliment and a nod to all programs who create the environments conducive to kick-ass students.