How to get your way, or not (Part 1)


You ever get that feeling?  You know the one.  When you’re sitting there in front of your computer at 1:04 a.m. and you can’t sleep and you wonder to yourself, “Self, I could write a book right now, right?”

I recently had lunch with two new friends – people I had never met before but were so nice that you just hope that they’ll be your friend – you know the type.  We spoke on a number of topics but a major milestone happened that day in my life.

I usually joke when someone says, “Hey man, I read your latest blog post…” by responding with something like, “So you’re the one!?”  Self-deprecation is a tool I use excessively – not because I’m shy or unsure of myself, but because I’m shy and unsure of myself.  What was really nice was not only did my new friends both read my blog but they were so interested by what they read they reached out to meet me in person.  That’s a first for me; to meet someone, a stranger, through my trite ramblings.

One of the topics we spoke on was writing.  I’ve been blogging for almost four years now, on and off as most of you know.  What some of you may not know is there exists a cache of unpublished randomness on various hard drives and clouds.  Topics ranging from the practical to the cathartic.  I feel the need to refer to my new friends by more than the occasional impersonal pronoun.  Let’s call him Jack and her, um, I don’t know…Jill.

Suddenly a hill and pales of water are drifting through the transom of my mind…hmmmm

Anywho, back to the point Ernie.

So Jack has written a book and I’m always fascinated by people that have actually finished writing their books.  I’ve been working on a book for more than a decade but no actual book, virtual or otherwise, has materialized…just a lot of working on a book activity.  That said, Jack gave me some pointers, Jill agreed and so here I go up the hill to fetch my proverbial pale of water.  For those friends of mine not skilled in the art of metaphors, I’m talking about sitting down and taking another run at writing content for a potential future book.  (Hey, you never know who might be reading.)

So with that overly verbose lead-in, a topic hit me tonight and I thought I would start another mini-series.  So here it is.  I’m going to tell you the secret to always getting your way.  I know right?  How sweet would that be?  To never worry about being disappointed about not getting your way again?

For the better part of the last 10 years I’ve been exposed to the concept of rational theory.  The OG term would be Zen and the term du jour is mindfulness.  (For those not hip to what OG means, it stands for Original Gangster and is a moniker given to gang members that have been around for a long time.)  Regardless of what you call it, I think it’s a great way to look at the world.  So how do you always get your way?  Let me share the first maxim I learned when studying rational theory.

“If you have an unruly cow, give it a bigger pasture.” – Vincent Parr, PhD

An earlier and oft cited as the “original quote” comes from Zen Master Shunryū Suzuki, born in 1904 in Japan and credited with founding the first Buddhist monastery outside of Asia.  He says, “To control your cow, give it a bigger pasture.”

The thing I like about rational theory is it sounds scientific, and I have concluded that for many that practice and study rational theory, they approach it scientifically.  Zen has the air of mysticism to it and while I’m not bashing mindfulness, for me, it sounds a little too hipster.  Regardless, merging the scientific and the mystical approach yields some interesting outcomes.  In the world of science, the scientific method prescribes for us how to posit and prove (or disprove) something.  A great set of tools for advancing knowledge of a thing.  The mystical approach is more about expanding ones understanding of a thing – which is why I suppose Zen masters speak in riddles rather than in concrete terms.  After all, if someone tells you the answer to the question there’s little to know room for exploration – exploration that might result in a more refined or even a completely different answer.

So with that said, I’ll start wrapping up part one of this mini-series as I’ve already gone WAY over the target length of my average post.  Please forgive me.

What does having an unruly cow mean and how does this help me get my way all the time?

The cow is a proxy for a person, a problem, a situation or anything really that you feel like you need to control.  So you have a belief that you need to control this cow.  Cows hold their beliefs firmly too; I know this, I have many cow friends.  To the cow, it knows only that it does what it does and that’s just the way it is.  So if you put most any cow in in a 10 by 10 enclosure for too long, they will become unruly.  You will have controlled said cow but over time, it will be increasingly difficult.  Now, let’s say you put the cow in a 1,000 acre pasture.  It is likely that most any cow would be perfectly content in such an enclosure and you would subsequently be content with having “controlled” the cow.  Both your beliefs have been satisfied.  The cow believes that it be free to do as it pleases and you, that you need to control or actively manage the cows experience; both conditions have been met.  It’s a win/win right?

The underlying point here is that control is not a binary value.  For that matter it is an illusion – something we’ve all heard before I’m sure.  But let’s just stipulate, for now, that control is a belief that is expressed on a continuum and as such, if you have a long enough line or a large enough area you can accommodate most all rational beliefs.

So in conclusion, to always get your way you need to be sure that you’re creating an environment that is flexible enough to accommodate the rational beliefs of all parties.  Simple right?  Next time we’ll obviously touch on my definition of rational belief as that is a key component of “getting your way”.  By the end of the series, I hope to have shared with you and collectively evolved the discourse to a point where we all feel that getting ones way is a quantum state condition.

I at all times both get my way and do not get my way.

As always, please please please comment (or don’t) – it’s completely up to you (or not)…