Skipping Steps

It’s always tempting to skip steps. If it feels like doing so will move an event forward more quickly…why not?

Why not? In reality, you may be right. It could work out fine. But in a well-organized, well-thought system, there is a reason for each step. You may not recognize the consequence of skipping one until it is too late.

Plane crashes, construction disasters, and medical errors often begin with skipping a step. Cross-contact food contamination, chemical disasters, wildfires, and the spread of infectious disease often involve skipping steps. Why is that choice so tempting?

It’s fun to feel a bit rebellious at times. And if we don’t put on a seat belt and don’t have a wreck, it’s easier to skip that step next time.

Some of us are defiant. Following a particular protocol feels like someone telling us what to do so we choose to ignore it.

Some of us are arrogant. We believe we know better without a full understanding of the ins and outs of how and why each step exists.

Sometimes experience teaches us why skipping steps is foolhardy. An experienced mechanic understands the order of operations that will make his job easier. An accomplished chef understands the best order in which to add ingredients to achieve the desired layers of flavor or perfect rise. A seasoned electrician knows the risks if he fails to disconnect the power before starting a line repair.

Given that many families have experienced the distraction of escalating stress the past several years, now is not the time to skip steps. Stress is distracting in a way that can cause us to be blind to is effects in the moment. We think we’re functioning well until we have the perspective of hindsight. By then, the damage may be done.

I know this is sounding like I’m a stickler for the rules or someone who doesn’t want progress. That’s not true. I love progress and I’m happy to flaunt a few rules here and there. But I’m not going to make the choice to skip steps when I’m doing preflight on a plane or handling raw chicken in my kitchen.

Everything in life has a hierarchy of some sort. We have to prioritize. But before we skip steps, it’s important to be fully versed in the reason for each of those steps. If we choose to ignore this, it can have funny results or disastrous ones.

We may not know which we are choosing.

Brick by Brick

No matter how impatient you feel, lasting progress is achieved brick by brick. This morning was spent moving bricks from my back yard into a toy trailer pulled by a toy tractor and driven by a 5-year-old. The easiest way to get the bricks close to the driveway was chunk them over the back fence one at a time.

I know that sounds tedious. It was. It was still the most efficient way to move them given the terrain and the equipment available. And I lucked out. My job was to keep the little kids occupied. No heavy lifting for me! That’s not to say I had a cool job. It’s blazing hot by 9am. And tedious though it may be, one piece piled on another piece, carefully placed atop another piece is a solid way to build accomplishment in any endeavor.

Some of us continually avoid the brick-by-brick building because we prefer excitement or fun. We like the adrenaline rush of winging it. But if you build a solid base, you can wing it, play in the moment, and still get good results. If you don’t build a solid base though, winging it can have disastrous results.

Why do we feel such reluctance to systematically tackle the difficult in our lives?

I’m sure the answer varies for everyone. If you have lots of anxious energy, you may feel like you’ll be bouncing off the wall in five minutes. If you are distracted, it may be hard to focus on one step at a time. If you’re motivated by deadlines, there may not be one. If you lack confidence, you may not feel you’re up to the task. You may not believe you have time.

But often, it’s like putting off doing the dishes. It’s not our favorite thing to do. We put it off. As time passes, we add dishes and the task grows. In our minds, it grows exponentially. Then it feels too big for the energy we have left.

The problem doesn’t lie in the size of the task or the particular job. It lies in the tricks our minds play. You may do dishes without hesitation but put off lifting weights. You may even know somewhere in the back of your mind that once you get started it won’t seem like a big deal any more, but still you stop yourself.

Nike’s ad people got it right when they told us to “Just Do It.” And that’s the thing about building. You have to just get on in there and take the first step. Do not hesitate.

If you still feel reluctant, offer yourself a series of rewards along the way. Focus on how you’ll feel when you get done with today’s brick. Brag to your friends on a regular basis. Tweet your own praises daily.

Break the task into the smallest pieces, then give yourself whatever you need to lift that first brick. The second will be easier. The third will be easier still. It’s never the lift we imagine it will be.

And as we lift and stack, we gain forward momentum. We begin to see progress. Progress feels exciting. Excitement keeps us motivated. Soon, we’ve built a forward-moving machine that will take us where we want to go.

Brick by brick builds walls, stairs, health, fitness, family relationships, knowledge, organizations, wealth, faith, hope, kindness, compassion, and joy.

Now you know what to do…it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Heat Wave Relief

I need heat wave relief! Today, it feels like 112˚ and it’s not yet officially summer. Planes need a longer takeoff roll, outdoor workers struggle to stay hydrated, and I need something cool and refreshing to enjoy!

Perhaps I’ll steal a play from my grandkid’s playbook and have an ice cream sandwich! But I can’t have dairy or gluten. And while I have an ice cream maker, I won’t have a chance to make my own today.

Hmmm, what are my options?

Coconut Bliss Madagascan Vanilla Cosmic Bliss Frozen Dessert Sandwiches are plant-based, dairy-free and certified gluten-free. That sounds promising. They are available at my local Natural Grocers and feature coconut milk ice cream speckled with vanilla beans sandwiched between two oat choc-chip cookies.

Reading the label, I have some hesitation about these because they contain sprouted oat flour that is not specifically identified as gluten-free. The fact that the oats are sprouted does not ensure that they have not been contaminated in transit. The GF certification should take care of this, but I won’t feel comfortable without additional research.

I hate it when reading a label leads to the need for more research, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

goodpop® is sold at my local Whole Foods as well as Natural Grocers. Their ice cream sandwiches are round with a generous ratio of GF oatmilk frozen filling to chocolate cookie. The website offers online orders. I’m assuming the product is shipped in dry ice.

Jolly Llama has two flavors of gluten-free, dairy-free ice cream sandwiches available: Premium Vanilla and Cool Mint Chocolate Chip. The non-dairy ice cream is sandwiched between two chocolate cookies. It appears these would be good choices, but they’re not sold in my area. The website has a tool to see if they’re stocked where you live.

Nana Crème offers Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches. As the name suggests, the frozen dessert part is banana-based. All Nana Crème products are free of the top eight allergens. This might make these a good choice for a party if you can find them in stock. They’re currently sold out on the website.

If gluten weren’t a problem, I’d opt for the So Delicious® Vanilla Bean Coconutmilk Sandwiches. While I haven’t eaten those, I have had the filling and it’s delicious. The cookie looks like a traditional ice cream sandwich cookie. And the size is small which appeals to me.

With such a short list of local choices, I may opt for a dairy-free ice cream bar instead. Or I could dummy up my own sandwich using a tub of gluten-free, dairy-free ice cream and cookies from a box. Now that I think about it, gluten-free Oreos would make really cute mini sandwiches. Maybe that’s what I’ll go with.

The key is to find something C-O-L-D that adheres to my diet and gives me heat wave relief!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Agreeing to Disagree

Agreeing to disagree. Reasonable people can disagree. They can disagree on substance or tone or the most efficient way to achieve a goal. But they can’t reasonably disagree without fully understanding the other position.

If you don’t understand a position, you can have an opinion about it but that opinion is uninformed. When you are uninformed or partially informed, you simply can’t know whether you disagree. We know this to the point that have clichés about walking in someone else’s shoes before we judge.

And yet, we have become daily finger-pointing, vilifying, cancel-culturing jerks. Provocative language gains likes, friends, and followers. This encourages bad behavior and makes it tempting to give in to our baser instincts.

It feels good to compare when we receive accolades. It feels terrible to compare when we receive criticism. But chasing accolades for a particular position entrenches us at one level of understanding and prevents growth.

I distinctly remember sitting in a jury room with 11 strangers attempting to determine whether a man assaulted a policeman before stealing his car. On our first vote, I was the lone dissent on a guilty verdict.

During deliberations, I was asked whether or not I watched the show Cops and was told that if I did, I’d understand why the guy was guilty. I was also personally attacked for reading a book during a break. Of course, this criticism was mischaracterized as me reading instead of listening during testimony. These were attempts not just to disagree with me, but to try to shame or push me into a different position. They were both unpleasant and ineffective.

Then there was the jury foreman. He and I were on opposite sides of the argument, but he was thoughtful, respectful, and reasonable. We came at the same set of facts from different points of view and reached different conclusions. I’m sure we were both right on some points. Ultimately, the jury was hung. There simply wasn’t enough proof to put 4 of us beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the situation had been a conference room in which we were discussing policy, the jury foreman and I would have made complimentary team members who broadened understanding and improved the final product. We would still have needed to reach a consensus, but our disagreement would have enriched and improved the process.

And that’s the thing. Disagreement can lead to improvement. But that’s only when we begin by listening to each other. Sometimes, we may discover that we don’t disagree at all. We may just have a different style of communication or use different lingo. Other times, we’ll discover the narrowness of our own point-of-view.

Disagreement can be inspiring. It can introduce new possibilities. It can be respectful and collaborative. But that can only happen when we stop pointing fingers, vilifying, and failing to try to understand another perspective.

I am all for accountability. I understand the desire to respond negatively to ideas that go against our closely held beliefs and values. And I’m not saying that we should agree with everything. But please, for the love of all things good, can we start listening with both our ears and our hearts to each other?

We may need to see the fear behind the bluster or the manipulation behind a benevolent-appearing act. To do this can take time, active listening, and a deeper personal investment than typical posturing allows.

The past two years have made it clear that many systems are broken or on the brink of failure. It will take the input of many voices and many points-of-view to hold things together. And it will take a force of will to look reality in the face and choose to be better.

I believe it’s worth the courage and effort it takes. And I believe in order to improve, we must agree to understand – not just disagree.