Friday, December 27, 2019

1387 Words Toward 2020

Naïve Trust – an infant’s trust. A trust without consciousness that betrayal is even a possibility. The baby who cries and is held to be comforted, changed, fed. And then cries at night for companionship and eventually the parents say…let him cry it out. She needs to learn to sleep through the night.

While little punkin’ is in there sup-supping there is a betrayal of this naivete. They will not ALWAYS come when I cry. Sometimes they will let me cry. The world shifts. The tiny human recalibrates power. Well. If I can’t get them in here when I cry because I’m bored or lonely or just want to see the cause and effect….what will I do with this? And choices are made. 

Naïve trust is frail and fails when tested. There is no experience to back up the faith, no evidence to give proof. In an infant’s case naïve trust is an expectation born out of necessity. You made me, if I am to survive you have a few promises to keep, human.

Blind Trust is a more sophisticated variation. It evolves when in a relationship, there is a consistent promise and it is consistently kept. He is a man of his word. If she says she is going to be here, she will be. Time and consistency create this blindness. But blind to what, exactly? Blind to the humanin this dynamic. If my friend is always on time and there is the day when not only is she late … but she just doesn’t show; I feel betrayed. Crushed maybe, or angry. In blind trust, our emotions, our monkey brain takes command of our thoughts. The broken, albeit perhaps unspoken, contract shreds at our connection (membership), our pattern of mutual respect is violated (status), and the rules themselves – that unspoken contract – are left in tatters. 

The only four social/relational contexts for conflict left unaassaulted is territory. But I can argue that territory violations are in the mix if we get a bit esoteric. 

Blind trust is an evolution of Naïve trust. It’s an evolution because it doesn’t trust as a matter of course per se, it has evidence trust is warranted and then it is And there’s the naïve part. Blind trust never looks back, it ignores everything but the social contract thus far created.

Is there another option? Yup. Conscious Trust. I’ve also seen this described as Mature Trust. It looks like this:

I know the people I interact with are humans with emotions and unruly monkey brains. The friend who blows me off? I bet there were signs. Indicators of something…a little cold-shoulder behavior recently? More stressed than usual? If this isn’t “like her” then something is afoot. But more than the tells in her behavior, bigger than that, Conscious Trust tells me … this violation isn’t all about me.

Maybe her pipes burst and her home is flooded. Right. Now. When we are supposed to be having lunch. 

Well, why didn’t she call me? Really? Would I call me under those circumstances? Probably not. Not until water had ceased the spontaneous baptism of my earthly possessions. 

Conscious, human level trust allows me to take a step back from the raging sense of violation and consider possibilities. It also helps me realize, like the frustrated toddler left to his own devices (all personal needs being met), I am not powerless in this violation.

This goes deep when the violation is sharp. When it’s a partner, spouse, a close friend and the violation is bleeds out over our lives. 

Years ago, I had a friend and colleague who helped me launch a project. He’d have given me the shirt off his back if I needed it. Over a period of 2-3 years, he periodically slipped a wheel off the tracks. He’d ignore a decision or an instruction in front of colleagues. He’d argue with me in front of staff. We’d talk about it – he’d apologize for what was noted as open disrespect because he had the utmost respect for me. 

Part of him did. The rest of him though was driven by a myriad of personal struggles and at the end of the day, he did not do well with women in positions of authority. I knew it. We talked about it. So why was I spun half-way up a wall and two kinds of sideways in the final blow? The whatof the circumstances isn’t important. What IS important is I worked hard to keep my human brain in charge of everything except acknowledging the reality of how he showed up in his life where women were concerned. He’s not a bad guy. He wasn’t ‘targeting me’ in any way. 

On behalf of my organization I called to apologize to the affected parties. One of those phone calls went out to a retired NYPD officer who said… you’re too nice. A byproduct of me explaining I should have seen this coming and I was truly sorry the mess had impacted him.

If you know me, you know I’m not that nice. The little disaster wasn’t because I am nice, it was the result of me slipping back into a type of blind trust after enough time would go by between events (see? he’s really trying…)

The human-conscious level of trust would have been me taking stock much earlier in the timeline of events. Questions like, am I up for this happening periodically ad infinitum? Is having him on thisteam worth the cost of periodic open disregard for the leadership of the team? Can I take it in stride when I am cleaning up the fall-out?

If I had taken stock and answered those questions with a yes then two things would have unfolded in what became the Last Straw. I would have known it was coming given the precursor events and therefore, would not have been surprised. I would have been aware of my conscious choice to have him on this particular team regardless, and I would not have felt personally betrayed.

There is power in that. 

It’s not what I did. Instead, I called one of those friends who I consciously trust will call me on my crap and proceeded to lose my mind. He let me vent. Then listen as I came to terms with my blindness. After a couple of days of cleaning up my internal chaos and the external fall-out of my colleague’s actions, I finally did what I could have done a couple of years prior. I came to terms with this:

I trust this is a consistent, if not frequent, reality in his life. I trust it will happen again. I trust I will spend hours of precious resources cleaning up the fall-out. I trust he is unconscious enough he can’t help himself (and even if he is conscious – he doesn’t help himself). And I’m not up for it. 

We had coffee. I fired him. It came at a cost. As the months followed, I saw him around less and less. His stated understanding that our friendship superseded his disagreement with my decision was well-meaning and his personal pattern was predictable. Eventually he just disappeared from my circle and I did not pursue him.

So why 1100 words plus about definitions on trust? The story about the fired friend isn't earth shattering, I have a few of those. I'm guessing so do you. 

I’ve been reading something lately that reminded me of Tim Levine’s research and what he calls a Default to Truth. As a whole, when we don’t have an overabundance of evidence to the contrary, we assume Truth. We default to blind trust. Even with that overabundance of evidence, at times we will still assume truthfulness in someone’s words, intentions, behaviors, persona. 

Levine says we need this. He’s right. It goes to the need for tribal survival and if I’m going to survive, my tribe has to survive too. If we wake up every morning and presume everyone is out to get us… all the time… yeah, doesn’t typically end well.

This Default to Truth doesn’t need to blind us though, and its ballast doesn’t need to be extreme paranoia. A little conscious, or mature, trust goes a long way. And because we aren’t particularly good at it on our own when the violation is personal, it helps to have a close tribe who is committed to calling your monkey brain out so you can reign it back in.

If you don’t have that, cultivate it. This type of tribe is worth more than can be counted and as I stare down a new decade, I am extremely grateful for these people in my life. I’m certain I will need them.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The D Word


Diversity in hiring policies. Diversity in schools. Diversity in our neighborhoods. 

One of the things I appreciate about our current geographical community is the diversity our youngest has grown up inside of. He waded his way through middle and high school with one of the most culturally diverse populations I could have hoped for – Subcontinent, Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Eastern & Western European all represented in his school and community. The value of this is already evident in his perspective on the world (and himself) and he isn’t yet out of college. 

Diverse opinions in industries and professions help us grow and expand our world view. Diversity keeps us from becoming stagnant or from positioning into “we’ve never done it that way” attitudes creating gradual, if not sometimes imperceptible, decay. Often the decay inches forward at a glacial pace and no one experiences the creep until the entire ___________ is frozen and dead. The company just locks the doors and walks away. The relationship disappears into a dull void. The organization fizzles out until it is an organization of one. 

Is there a point; however, in which diversity hurts? I don’t mean hurts our feelings, or injures our belief systems. Sometimes that’s valuable. And I think we generally agree that lobbing insults or an Ad Hominem approach to disagreement unquestionably fails to create valid, useful diversity. 

This is more a question of…when we hold starkly different opinions on A Thing, can it create more problems than it solves? 

It depends – like most things in self-defense, the It Depends answer applies here as well.

There is value to having a stand we take on A Thing. To know our own minds enough to state what we believe and do not believe, but an ALWAYS answer in self-defense is risky. In this vein diversity is critical in self-defense. 

One of my early instructors taught with profound certainty. This technique when done correctly will always work. And then it didn’t. To his credit (and I truly mean that), he spent the better part of 15 minutes with me one-on-one with my training partner trying to solve where I had it wrong because the technique was clearly NOT working for me. 

Turns out the attacker had subtly adjusted his position and had remarkably changed his Center of Gravity to Base ratio and there was no way in hell I was going to be successful with the prescribed technique. It took swapping out partners to discover the problem. The instructor cast subtle blame on the training partner rather than addressing the adjustment needed to the technique. This level of certainty and uniformity comes with a steep price I have become unwilling to pay.

And then, there are dissenting opinions that I wish we could all get over ourselves on. Platforms in which a large degree of diverse opinion I think may be causing more harm than good. Another well-known author/trainer in the self-defense world has been noted to say women should not be taught prevention – women’s self-defense should always be physical. …… ???? ....

Let’s back that out of gender and apply it in general: humans should not be taught prevention in self-defense, the education should all be physical.  

I’m authentically curious about this stance but not because I think it has merit. I’m curious because I can’t figure out how one might hold this belief with logic holes you can drive a truck through & there are many people falling down this prescribed rabbit hole.

Or this one: (using a play-based approach to learning the physical aspects of self-defense like we do at VioDy) the Mr. Rogers approach to self-defense is uselessthis is serious material and should be addresses as such. There’s a difference between taking the subject matter seriously and instilling unnecessary anxiety in folks who want to learn personal safety. I am categorically opposed to terrifying students who are there to be LESS afraid. 

Even the “it depends” approach has dissenting opinion. I read a quote somewhere from a fairly well-known individual in the martial/combat industry that said something to the effect of: if your instructor ever answers with it-depends, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Our commonalities create tribe. Belonging and being in a room with people who hold common beliefs is comforting. Variance from tribe-to-tribe creates the necessary diversity for life to expand and adamantly held, this same diversity drives us to war.  

It’s a continuum. I recognize the extremes help us all find balance in the variance. Once in a while though, I grow remarkably weary of the diversity in the self-defense conversation.
·     Prevention is critical. 
·     Avoidance is the highest order win. 
·     Formal techniques work if the physics work … regardless of the name tag attached or country of origin.
·     Play is freedom and freedom allows the brain to let the body adapt. 
·     Adaptation is the difference between survival and extinction. 
·     Making people afraid does not make them safer.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Fuel. Not Food. (a response to Virginia SB 64)

Emotions are not evil. They are; however, easily profoundly misapplied. 

The previous 48 hours my text messages, IM, and FB feed have been peppered with posts warning and inquiring about the new bill proposed in Virginia's Senate.

The bill is supposed to outlaw all forms of martial arts. Outlaw teaching your family member how to fire a gun. Teaching anyone anything that could be construed or utilized as a paramilitary activity. Posts like Tyranny Alert and Did you SEE this??? And what will you do? Mirror to the reactions.

People who are students at our training center, have been in the past, or are martial colleagues have been blowing up my feed. I cross their minds, they think of me and it's a nice boost to the old ego that I'm remembered by people who don't see me every day.  And - this is a misapplied use of how emotions serve us best. Emotions are fuel. Energy. E (energy) + Motion = energy for movement, Fuel.

Emotions make a shitty compass and an inaccurate source of hard data. Here's the hard data as best I understand it.

SB64 is a proposed amendment to a law passed in the late 1980's. A few word tense changes and an additional paragraph adding in verbiage that makes it criminal to march as a unit with the intention to intimidate other folks (can you say backlash to Charlottesville?). A link to the current legislation is posted at the end.

Do I agree with it? Nope. Does the existing legislation make a ton of sense? Not really. Loosely worded - open to a ton of interpretation and that marching business...who decides intent? Who determines whether or not someone was victimized by intimidation? Open for corrupt application? You betcha'.

Are they outlawing martial arts? Well. Here's the thing. The language being interpreted to mean Krav Maga, BJJ, even Tai Chi will be illegal to teach and learn has been law prior to 1990. Do you know how many martial arts programs are in Northern Virginia alone? I live in the McDojo Mecca.

Is the attitude behind the proposed amendment worth watching? Yes. In an effort to protect our freedoms, our freedoms are at risk. The down side to living in a country that gives you the right to worship as you choose, speak what you believe and peaceably assemble to discuss your beliefs means people who believe in things I don't like get to do the same.

Freedom shares a trait with Truth. It cuts both ways.

My training center, Kore Self-Defense & Krav Maga, is not about to be illegal if the bill becomes law  because that part of the bill is already law and no one is putting me in pretty silver bracelets.

Take this emotion, this fuel, and use it as energy to drive your commitment to our freedoms. Drive the commitment, the intelligent research, the honest dialogue, the power of debate, and the capacity we possess to disagree.

Hold the fear for when Fear is duly warranted. We don't make great decisions in fear. Be conscious. Be aware. Be alert. Be alive. Be passionate even, But when emotion becomes the source of our cognitive resources we become firecrackers; a bright, beautiful big BANG gone more quickly than ignited and as ineffectual.

(oh - and I'm fully conscious I am talking to myself as much as to anyone else - this is a human struggle and none of us are immune).

here's that legislation:

Live well - Live Fiercely,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia: