I found a meaningful quote on a Ten Thousand Villages blog post, written by a woman who has found a way to make her life work even within a challenging economic and sociopolitical system.

It was a great reminder for me.  I love sharing my journey on this blog.  I have always been motivated by trying to help others, as well as by sharing my frustrations, joys and learnings.  I have to always remember, however, that my way is not THE way.  It is not the one, the only and/or the RIGHT way.  It’s my journey.  Yours is your own.

If these posts help you to think, wonderful.  If they help you to learn, fabulous.  If they keep you in touch with who I am becoming, super.  If they inform your development, cool.  If they make you think I’ve lost my marbles, that’s okay too.  It’s all good.

Journey on, my dear SWOG friends!

 

 

 


Sometimes when I read a passage I find myself saying, “Huh?” Having no idea what the author just said, I scratch my head, read it again, and if I still don’t get it–I move on.  Maybe I’m just not meant to get it yet.  Maybe I haven’t reached that level of discernment, enlightenment or whatever other “ment” I’m meant to reach at that particular moment.

I’ve decided, however, it shouldn’t keep me from trying.

Cynthia Bourgeault is one of those authors who I can sometimes “get” and sometimes I scratch my head.  She’s been a guest writer in Rohr’s blog over the course of the last couple months.  She is so deep that I often lose her on the way down into the cave mountain she’s trying to take me.

So, when her post today made sense to me…it was a moment of excitement, encouragement, and wonderment.  In other words, the “ment’s” were working to form a great big “Ah.  Ah Ha” today.

What does it say to you–even if it is bemusement?

 

The Opposition Is Never the Problem
Sunday, March 19, 2017

This week Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, continues exploring how the Law of Three can be put into action to facilitate positive change in the world.

We’ve been exploring the Law of Three in a theoretical way, getting acquainted with its major precepts and a few of its peculiarities. But what do some concrete examples of Law of Three in action look like? Consider the following Law of Three triads:

seed/moist earth/sun = sprout
flour/water/fire = bread
plaintiff/defendant/judge = resolution
sails/keel/helmsperson = course made good

But these are only textbook examples, while the Law of Three is all about action. It is one thing to recognize a Law of Three configuration in a theoretical exploration; it is another thing altogether to recognize it in actual life and be able to work with it confidently and skillfully.

The single most liberating insight to come out of my work with the Law of Three was the realization that what appears to be the resisting or opposing force is never actually the problem to be overcome. Second force, or holy denying, is a legitimate and essential component in every new arising: no resistance, no new arising!

That realization in and of itself radically rearranges the playing field, shifting the focus away from trying to eliminate the opposition and toward working collaboratively for a more spacious solution. According to the Law of Three, once an impasse is reached, it can never be solved by going backward but only forward, into that new arising that honors all the players and brings them into a new relationship. (Einstein seems to have been on to this insight in his famous dictum that a problem can never be solved at the level at which it is created.) The three forces are like three strands in a braid; all three are required for the weaving.

One woman in a group I was working with was almost instantly able to turn around a very difficult standoff with an ultraconservative bishop when she realized that his resistance was not the problem to be solved but a given to be worked with. With an almost visceral “Aha!” she relaxed her sense of polarization and was stunned to learn the next day that he had miraculously softened his stance. While it was not clear to her who had actually been the broker of third force here, it was clear to her that the two relaxations were not unrelated.

One can only imagine how greatly the political and religious culture wars of our era could be eased by this simple courtesy of the Law of Three: (1) the enemy is never the problem but the opportunity; (2) the problem will never be solved through eliminating or silencing the opposition but by learning to hold the tension of the opposites and launch them in a new direction. Imagine what a different world it would be if these two simple precepts were internalized and enacted.

Ah.  Ah Ha.


The pursuit of grace.  It’s difficult to put words to what this means.  It likely means different things to each of us.  Part of why the title of this post is “A” Path to Grace is that I sense each of us has to take our own journey to find it.  So much of what I’ve been posting about on “adult stage development” really boils down to finding a way to embody grace in deeper and deeper ways.

Everywhere I’ve turned in the last few years I’ve come into contact with the mindfulness movement.  Whether it’s reading Rohr or Bourgeault, whether it’s in my Georgetown program, whether it’s in BB&T’s Leadership program, whether it’s all the neuroscience research–meditation, consciousness, mindfulness, and being present have become mainstream.

I figured the universe was trying to get my attention by bringing this subject in my path repeatedly (there’s only so many times you can ignore something pulling on your sleeve).  So, I started, stopped, read some more, tried again, gave up, learned some more, and got a tip on a tool from a Georgetown colleague.  The “tool” was Oprah & Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience.  I started in November and have been pretty consistent ever since.

After completing the first set of meditations, I went to their website to find other subjects.  Imagine my delight when there was one titled, “Manifesting Grace through Gratitude.”  I purchased that one and one called “Finding Your Flow.”  Onward I went into this brave new world of listening first to Oprah introduce the topic for the day and then to Deepak who took the information deeper.  Then as Oprah always says, “We’ll meditate!” and the session basically concludes with about 10-12 minutes of meditation.    That’s probably the right amount for an antsy gal like me but they do offer an extended session version where the meditation time lasts around 20 minutes.

I have to say all of these meditations have been enlightening and encouraging, but the one on grace has been inspirational.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised–given my resonance with its title.  The following is an excerpt from one:

Living in a state of grace takes gratitude from a feeling to a way of being in the world.  You no longer question the value of trust, love, surrender and faith because you have tested them and made them your own.

Before the state of grace has ripened completely, however, a moment of grace or a feeling of gratitude can be fleeting.  To make it last and become a way of life requires that we establish new habits.  The conditioning from our past that’s based on negativity, struggle and judgment needs to be worked on.

This work, which happens inside, becomes a joy because you can feel that each step brings more happiness and fulfillment.  You feel free as you become who you really are beneath the layers of habit and old conditioning.  All this time grace stands beside you.  It never changes even as we do.

How do we get there?  The only answer I know to this question hit me square between the eyes when I was watching the movie Doctor Strange.  No, really!  I’m not kidding.  When the good doctor was trying to understand the new world he was drawn into he asked his spiritual guide/advisor the question, “How do I get from here to there?”  She returns his question with a question, “How did you become a doctor?”  To which Doctor Strange answers, “Study and practice.”

Study and practice.  It’s probably the only way–at least for me– to let go of old thoughts and habits and adopt new ones.

Sigh.  I was hoping for a magic vitamin.

 

 


OK, get out the tissues.  This one was powerful–in many ways.  Because I read slowly, I had trouble reading his whole message while the video was playing.  You might not suffer the same pokiness, but in case you do I’m going to include below, after the video, the exact words written on this gentleman’s sign.  As always, I’m interested in your thoughts!

 

 

Hello.  My name is Karim and I am an Arab-American.  Like many people who are black, brown, women, LGBTQIA, Latinx, Muslim, Jewish, Immigrants and Other, I am very scared.  We are anxious and uneasy in our own country and it’s difficult to see what lies ahead for us.  But I have HOPE that I am SAFE with YOU.  Together we can build a community of caring rather than one of fear.  You can trust me to care for you no matter who you are, what you look like or where you are from.  ?Will you embrace me as willingly as I embrace you?

Will you shake my hand and/or HUG me and/or take a photo with me and post it as a sign that I am safe here with you?

I TRUST YOU.  #youaresafewithme    #safetyinnumbers

 

There is so much to say and do.  Let’s make sure our voices are heard.  Feel free to pass along the video, the post or whatever.  Write your congressmen and women.  We can promote safety and security without promoting racism, hatred and exclusion.  It does not have to be one or the other.  Our policies can protect ALL Americans, no matter what their religious beliefs or skin color, and allow for a reasonable approach to immigration.  It does not have to be dualistic, polarized and all or nothing.  Hatred is not the way, and now is not a good time to be complacent.

Please remember, as I know my dear SWOGs and SMOGs you do, that we are ALL descended from immigrants (unless you are 100% Native American).  Irish, English, German, French, Spanish, Greek, African, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Brazilian, Japanese, Iranian, Israeli, Saudi’s, Russian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, and the list goes on and on and on.  We are a melting pot of people.  Our heritage is rich and deep.  And, as one of our greatest Presidents (a Republican, I might add) reminded us in a very famous speech a long time ago:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers bought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.  And that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.      ~Abraham Lincoln

One man OR woman should not have the ability to put actions in place that are essential unconstitutional.  And, I know there are friends of mine reading this blog who struggled through the Obama Presidency for the same reason.  So, clearly something has to change with the way Executive Orders work, because it seems to me that EO’s have become a way for one individual to circumvent the Constitution and the principles by which we were founded.  In addition and most importantly, those same EO’s should not give that President’s followers the right or rationale to spew hatred toward our fellow men and women.  THAT is actually the most disturbing part of all of this.

OK, that’s enough politics for this week.  It’s not my intention for this blog to become a voice for one political party over another.  In my heart, I’m an independent anyway.  I subscribe to ideologies from both major political parties.  I was just struck by this video which I actually received via email a few days ago on my Georgetown listserv.  Then came the events of this weekend, and I just had to vocalize my deep concern over what I see happening in a frenzied pace.

 

 

 

 

 


A funny thing happened to me yesterday on the way to trying to live life wholeheartedly.

But, let me first digress.  Wholeheartedly?  What in the world are you talking about SWOG-blogging lady?

About a month ago I started listening to Brené Brown’s book, The Power of Vulnerability.  Thanks to a fellow SWOG (you know who you are–DGK), I latched onto Brené a few years ago when her book, The Gifts of Imperfection was recommended to me.  She’s a qualitative researcher that does work on topics like shame and vulnerability.  If you haven’t read any of her work, try watching her out on YouTube in one of her many TED Talks that she’s done over the years.

Anyway, one of the things she’s discovered through interviewing thousands of people during her career is there is this small percentage of people who have found a way to embrace vulnerability and live in a very, what she refers to as, “wholehearted” way.  As I listened to The Power of Vulnerability I found myself thinking–Eureka!  That’s it!!!  This is kind of all over the strength with grace thing.  I need to get me some more of this wholehearted stuff!

The way she describes “wholehearted” is by referring to ten sort of principles or ways these people choose to live their lives.  I do pick the word “choose” intentionally, by the way.  My Georgetown mentor told me, “We are always at choice.  We can choose for ourselves different ways of thinking and behaving.”  So these wholehearted people, Brené found, do something interesting.  They cultivate certain things on one hand and they let go of certain things on the other.  So instead of striving for more, more, more they do what makes more sense.  They do more of something and less of something else.  They do more of the good wholehearted things and less of things that get in the way of living a peace-filled and joyful life.  I’ll be laying out more about these ten principles in my blog over the next few weeks/months.

So, I did as I so often do…jumped straight into the deep end of the pool.  I went out three days ago and bought myself one of those wee little pocket journals–the size and nature that could literally fit in a man’s dress shirt breast pocket.  And I took every one of of the ten principles and I wrote on the left side of one spread of two pages the things I needed to “cultivate” and on the right side, the things I needed to “let go of.”  I made a vow that I would get up every morning– before I did anything else–and I would read one of the ten principles, in successive order of course, and I would practice cultivating and letting go of those particular things on that day.  I would do this everyday and maybe by 60 to 90 to 120 days, I would have wholehearted living absolutely figured out.

You just KNOW where this is going, don’t you??!!

So, Day 1 I get up and read my little journal and the notes that went along with the first principle.  It was about authenticity.  I was all over it.  This is cool!  I did a fairly good job of keeping the lessons in the forefront of my mind all day long.  I really felt good and like I was onto something important.

Day 2 comes–which was yesterday– and I bound out of bed.  I had a ton to do…I had a bunch of phone appointments.  I had company coming for dinner and staying to help me with genealogy research I was doing on my extended family (you know who you are SWOG-lady and thank you DS!).  I had some pre-work I wanted to do for that meeting ahead of time.  I had about three potential SWOG posts competing in my brain cells for wanting to be posted next.  I had some clean-up work to do.  I wanted to fit in a work-out.  You get the picture.  I was off and running to what promised to be a very busy day.

And, yes, the little diary was TOTALLY forgotten.  Did not give it a moment’s thought.  Did not even think, “Oh, and I need to read my little diary and see what I need to practice today.”

Somewhere around 2:30 pm I remembered it and the conversation in my head went something like this:

GEEZ Louise, Bev.  I CANNOT believe it’s only Day 2 and you’ve ALREADY forgotten what you committed to doing.  What is the MATTER with you?!?  You can’t commit to anything and see it through!

So, I scrambled to find my little diary and opened it to the second principle for wholehearted living.  It is as follows:

Cultivate Self-Compassion and Let Go Of Perfectionism.

I LAUGHED OUT LOUD.  So much so that I doubled over and snorted a few times just for good measure.  And, do we think that was a coincidence?  Naw.  Probably not.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

 

 


Did you ever get onto one of those ideas or thought trails and everywhere you turn, there it is again.  It’s like Chinese water torture desperately trying to get through to your brain (or in this case, my brain).

I opened my new copy of Fast Company magazine and there’s the main Editorial titled “How to Lead in 2017.”  The Editor makes seven major points as I’ve listed immediately below:

  1. True Leadership Requires More Than Just Agility and Quick Thinking
  2. Humility and Curiosity Matter More Than Fame 
  3. Millennials Have Answers and Questions
  4. Cognitive Diversity Can Save the Day
  5. We’re All Responsible
  6. Social Media Isn’t Social Enough
  7. Business Is the Future

And then later in the magazine, there is a two page spread of quotes.  Here are a few of them:

Learning is probably the most important currency you can have as a human.  Companies will continue to hire and to value employees who can transform.                         ~Grad Conn, CMO Microsoft

We’re always on the lookout for candidates who have a “learner” mind-set rather than an “expert” one.  Learners are interested in new ways to solve problems; experts can’t wait to tell you the answer.        ~Tim Jones, Director of Strategy 72andSunny

Engender trust, engender trust, engender trust.  It really has to do with building empathy and vulnerability in yourself and your team.  It is risky to do that, but take the risk.       ~Kate Bednarski, Chief Experience Officer, Live in the Grey

Practice better listening.  It’s not just appearing as though you are paying attention.  And try to embrace the things you don’t want to hear.   ~Joy Howard, CMO, Sonos

You can’t know it all.  We have users in 197 countries, and what is taboo is vastly different.  My challenge is to check my ego about what I know works in the United States and really listen to what locals say is going to work.                ~Jack Harrison-Quintana, Director of Grindr for Equality, Grindr

When you can take away the ego, you learn a lot about yourself and the world around you.     ~Kevin Jonas II  formerly of the Jonas Brothers

All of the above was written last night.  So when I was doing my morning email reading and responding, I stumbled on this LinkedIn article about Deloitte’s first female CEO–Cathy Englebert.  They did an interview with her and this was one of her answers:

I delivered the commencement speech at the University of Southern California’s Leventhal accounting school last year, and I told the seniors “never graduate,” which is sort of counter-intuitive at a graduation. But that’s exactly the point—there’s never a point in time when we can stop learning. So one of the things that set me up for success is to always stay curious and ask questions—never stop learning.

I think the universe is speaking…

 

 

 

 


I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time.  In fact, it’s part of what prompted this blog in the first place.  In my “About SWOG BLOG” section, I write about the struggle many women have with being strong, confident and self-assured while maintaining dignity, grace, approachability and humility.

Brené Brown talks about this in her book The Power of Vulnerability.  She has worked on this not only through her research but personally, herself, to the point that she uses a mantra to try to combat shame and maintain the delicate balance between strength and grace.  She repeats the following “authenticity mantra” when she finds herself in sensitive situations including when she is triggered by events and people in her life:

Don’t shrink; don’t puff up; just stay in your sacred ground.            Brené Brown

Humility, I think, is something we develop toward over time.  Rohr said the following in a recent blog post on humility:

Space, time, and patience reveal the patterns of grace.  This is why it takes most of us a long time to be converted.

I am speculating–very unscientifically by the way– that we go through phases or stages on our way to the potential of humility, and there are a variety of reasons why we struggle to get to a balance of strength with grace.  Let me mention a few here in this post and, as always, I’m interested in your comments and wisdom.  Please keep in mind, I’m reflecting from my own experience and perspective; yours will add to the richness of the post.

As women we are notoriously insecure, frequently compare ourselves to others, are more prone to experience shame including body image issues, and we are generally convinced our worth isn’t as substantial as that of our male counterparts.  So we somehow end up in an inferior state of mind, in jobs where we don’t work to our potential, in unequal pay situations, in a state of burnout from continually trying to prove ourselves to—–well frankly—-to ourselves….and so on.  When we are feeling these things, according to Dr. Brown, we tend to “shrink” or move away from the shame we feel.

Then somewhere along the way we get angry about all that.  That’s when we start to “puff up.”  The large chip shows up on our shoulders, and we tell anyone who will listen and a lot of people who don’t (listen) that we deserve “more.”  More respect; more money; more recognition; more adulation; more proof of love; more, more, more.  At that point the pendulum has swung to the other side, and we are women– hear us roar.  In this reaction, we’re using shame and blame to fight our shame.  We are no closer to the actual issue when we “puff up.”  The actual issue is loving ourselves, accepting ourselves and our imperfections, being honest with our shadow sides and understanding what triggers us.  We’re just directing our shame outward.

Some women never “puff up” but they turn that anger inside and it shows up in a form of depression.  They are convinced they will never be good enough so why even bother to try.  Self-defeating behaviors show up here and the spiral downward only continues.  This is another form of “shrinking.”

I also think because of this insecurity, we are prone to look for affirmation in not-so-healthy ways.  This is the classic people pleaser.  This is where we fall into relationship traps.  This is where we make job changes for the wrong reasons.  This is where we feel a need to tell people how special we are or celebrate out loud things that may be best absorbed within our spirits.  We crave others recognizing our “superiority,” and we do a lot of “resume-sharing” and one-upping during conversations, cocktail parties, and work events.

Two other potential threats to leading a humble life are knowledge and experience.  In his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Deepak Chopra writes:

The Yoga of Understanding has been referred to…as the razor’s edge and we are cautioned to tread carefully on this path.  As we gain understanding about the laws of nature we run the risk of arrogance.  Arrogance inflates the ego and the ego overshadows the spirit.  The original sincere quest for discovery leads to an alienation from the very source which intimacy was sought.  Truly great scientists are known for their humility.  For even as they explore and unravel the secrets of the unknown, the unknown looms larger and becomes evermore mysterious.  Humility leads to wonder which leads to innocence.  The return of innocence invites us to enter the luminous mystery of life and surrender to it.  Yoga of Knowledge can be a wonderful path if we are mature enough to understand that there are seductive temptations that may entrap us for awhile in diversions of the intellect.

Rohr writes:

But the Bible does not make transformation dependent on cleverness at all; rather, transformation is found in one of God’s favorite and most effective hiding places: humility. Read the opening eight Beatitudes in this light (Matthew 5:1-12). Such “poverty of spirit,” Jesus says, is something we seem to lose as we grow into supposed adulthood.

We all need what Jesus described as the mind of a curious child (see Matthew 18:1-5). A “beginner’s mind,” which is truly open and living in the now or in what some call “constantly renewed immediacy,” is the most natural and simple path for all spiritual wisdom.

Experience, knowledge and a degree of “success” in the career world can lull us into “puff-dom” (that just sounds like a cool new word–doesn’t it??!!).  We just KNOW what’s the right way because it was our way of doing things that reaped rewards.  Judgments and polarizations abound and anything that resembles a different path from ours has to be the WRONG way or at least inferior to our way of thinking or doing.  All or nothing.  Right or wrong.  Good or bad.  My way or the highway.  This can also be disguised more subtly as “counsel,” “advice,” or “wisdom” from one who “knows the ropes.”

The reason I speak about all this is because I have struggled with it.  I have lived it.  I seek to develop away from it.  And, I think it’s like smokers who quit or try to quit.  Many of them have difficulty being around other smokers.  At first, it tempts them to start smoking again, and they have to guard against being sucked back into the habit.  Self promotion, judgment, finger pointing and competitiveness are very contagious.  Just like gossip, it’s easy to get drawn back in.  Then later, the former smokers struggle with being around the smoke.  They are hyper sensitive to it, and it just flat out annoys them.  They become a bit self-righteous about the behavior they used to engage in.  So goes the recovering “puff-upper” (ANOTHER new word!!).  For those of you following the adult stage development reading, this is why the “Individualist” or “Self-Questioning” stage has difficulty with the “Expert” or “Skill-Centric” stage folks.  They are both self-righteous in their meaning making.

How to overcome shrinking/moving away, people pleasing and/or puffing up?  Loving and accepting ourselves first–whatever that takes–maybe through coaching, counseling, meditation, spiritual studies & practices, self-improvement reading, Ted Talks by thought leaders like Brené Brown and whatever else works for you.  Taking care of the company you keep because it does impact you.  My coach likes to say, “Keep yourself out of the line of fire.”  Try not to subject yourself to people and situations who try to shame you, try to suck you into a competitive relationship, and/or demonstrate the kinds of behavior that you are trying to overcome.  It doesn’t mean you can’t regard those people with love and compassion, but like the addict, you may not be able to be around them and stay free of the behavior you are trying to change.  And finally, Rohr’s quote above is a good source of advice…maintain a “present” focus and approach life with curiosity instead of a knowing certainty.

Those are ideas I’ve pulled from men and women much wiser than me.  What are your ideas?

“Don’t shrink; don’t puff up; just stay in your sacred ground.”

 

IMG_1863

 


Actually, I think the title of this post is a bit misleading.  I’m not sure there’s anything particularly graceful about stage transition based on what I can discern thus far.  Maybe it’s a blessing and therefore “of grace” that one goes through stage development.  I’m not sure about that yet either.  There are certainly no guarantees of being happier on the other side–or at least the instructors Barbara Braham and Chris Wahl noted that in their two day conference I attended back in September.

I’ve included a couple of their slides and a few other pictures with quotes to help me attempt to explain this topic.  First, some quotes on Stage Transition (click on picture to make it larger):

 

slide1

 

How do you know when you’re going through a stage transition?  (And, I do use “stage” before transition purposefully, because according to Barbara and Chris, you can go through a transition, but not necessarily develop to a new “meaning making” stage at the same time).  I really love the Bridges quote to attempt an answer to that question:

One way or another, most people in transition have the experience of no longer being quite sure who they are.           ~William Bridges

Life transitions include things like career changes, relationship changes, residence changes, education, health changes, life phases (parenthood, empty nest, retirement), and aging.  Just because you experience those changes doesn’t mean you are necessarily going through a developmental transition.  The latter are more evidenced by the following (from Braham & Wahl):

  1. Dissatisfaction with aspects of the current stage
  2. Experiencing the limits of current meaning making
  3. Life is getting more complex and demands expanded meaning-making
  4. Exposure and attraction to later stages of meaning-making (education, friends, colleagues)
  5. Purposeful, intentional development
  6. Mysterious reasons

 

So, developmental transitions are often prompted by life transitions, but they don’t have to be.  In my case, life transitions started the process moving and then I would point to numbers 1, 2, 4, 5 and perhaps even 6 as reasons behind my feeling tugged and unsettled.

Speaking of unsettling, here are the stages you typically go through when experiencing a developmental transition:

 

slide1

 

I think I’ve given you plenty to digest for the next few days (I know, I know…perhaps the next few months!!).  Some of the implications of these transitions include (and I’m quoting the seminar leaders here): losing friends who have no idea what is the matter with you right now; career indecision; choosing different activities and people to hang with because the former people and things don’t fit so well anymore; drive seems missing or non-existent; you or others experience you as volatile, uncertain, ambiguous, indecisive, unclear, and so forth.

I can’t help end this post with two wonderful quotes.  Namaste everyone!

owning-our-story-quote-brene-brown

 

lost-quote-thoreau

 


Enough is enough!  This is the last one, I promise (maybe!), but I have gotten some good feedback on this one so I thought I would share it with my swog blog friends.  This comes right out of the Harvard Business Review daily blog and it was written shortly after the election last week.  It is long, but I’m putting it into my blog in its entirety instead of posting a link.  The reason?  I really, really want you to read it.

I am giving a shout out to Harvard Business Review.  They have been so adept at sharing perspectives on the election results from articles like the one below to one on why the polls got it so wrong.  I would be remiss if I didn’t put a plug in for them.  If you lead–and again, most of us do even within our own families if not at work– I would highly recommend you subscribe.

Finally, I’m interested in what you’ve heard, read and the themes you feel are important for us to address as Americans going forward.  What thoughts do you have a week later based on what you’ve absorbed?  Let’s continue the dialogue.

What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class
• Joan C. Williams
My father-in-law grew up eating blood soup. He hated it, whether because of the taste or the humiliation, I never knew. His alcoholic father regularly drank up the family wage, and the family was often short on food money. They were evicted from apartment after apartment.

He dropped out of school in eighth grade to help support the family. Eventually he got a good, steady job he truly hated, as an inspector in a factory that made those machines that measure humidity levels in museums. He tried to open several businesses on the side but none worked, so he kept that job for 38 years. He rose from poverty to a middle-class life: the car, the house, two kids in Catholic school, the wife who worked only part-time. He worked incessantly. He had two jobs in addition to his full-time position, one doing yard work for a local magnate and another hauling trash to the dump.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he read The Wall Street Journal and voted Republican. He was a man before his time: a blue-collar white man who thought the union was a bunch of jokers who took your money and never gave you anything in return. Starting in 1970, many blue-collar whites followed his example. This week, their candidate won the presidency.

For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap.

One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.

Michèle Lamont, in The Dignity of Working Men, also found resentment of professionals — but not of the rich. “[I] can’t knock anyone for succeeding,” a laborer told her. “There’s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and I’m sure they worked darned hard for every cent they have,” chimed in a receiving clerk. Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class can treat working-class men with disrespect. Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic.

Trump’s blunt talk taps into another blue-collar value: straight talk. “Directness is a working-class norm,” notes Lubrano. As one blue-collar guy told him, “If you have a problem with me, come talk to me. If you have a way you want something done, come talk to me. I don’t like people who play these two-faced games.” Straight talk is seen as requiring manly courage, not being “a total wuss and a wimp,” an electronics technician told Lamont. Of course Trump appeals. Clinton’s clunky admission that she talks one way in public and another in private? Further proof she’s a two-faced phony.

Manly dignity is a big deal for working-class men, and they’re not feeling that they have it. Trump promises a world free of political correctness and a return to an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place. It’s comfort food for high-school-educated guys who could have been my father-in-law if they’d been born 30 years earlier. Today they feel like losers — or did until they met Trump.

Manly dignity is a big deal for most men. So is breadwinner status: Many still measure masculinity by the size of a paycheck. White working-class men’s wages hit the skids in the 1970s and took another body blow during the Great Recession. Look, I wish manliness worked differently. But most men, like most women, seek to fulfill the ideals they’ve grown up with. For many blue-collar men, all they’re asking for is basic human dignity (male varietal). Trump promises to deliver it.

The Democrats’ solution? Last week the New York Times published an article advising men with high-school educations to take pink-collar jobs. Talk about insensitivity. Elite men, you will notice, are not flooding into traditionally feminine work. To recommend that for WWC men just fuels class anger.

Isn’t what happened to Clinton unfair? Of course it is. It is unfair that she wasn’t a plausible candidate until she was so overqualified she was suddenly unqualified due to past mistakes. It is unfair that Clinton is called a “nasty woman” while Trump is seen as a real man. It’s unfair that Clinton only did so well in the first debate because she wrapped her candidacy in a shimmy of femininity. When she returned to attack mode, it was the right thing for a presidential candidate to do but the wrong thing for a woman to do. The election shows that sexism retains a deeper hold that most imagined. But women don’t stand together: WWC women voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping 28-point margin — 62% to 34%. If they’d split 50-50, she would have won.

Class trumps gender, and it’s driving American politics. Policy makers of both parties — but particularly Democrats if they are to regain their majorities — need to remember five major points.

Understand That Working Class Means Middle Class, Not Poor
The terminology here can be confusing. When progressives talk about the working class, typically they mean the poor. But the poor, in the bottom 30% of American families, are very different from Americans who are literally in the middle: the middle 50% of families whose median income was $64,000 in 2008. That is the true “middle class,” and they call themselves either “middle class” or “working class.”

“The thing that really gets me is that Democrats try to offer policies (paid sick leave! minimum wage!) that would help the working class,” a friend just wrote me. A few days’ paid leave ain’t gonna support a family. Neither is minimum wage. WWC men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree. Trump promises that. I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he understands what they need.

Understand Working-Class Resentment of the Poor
Remember when President Obama sold Obamacare by pointing out that it delivered health care to 20 million people? Just another program that taxed the middle class to help the poor, said the WWC, and in some cases that’s proved true: The poor got health insurance while some Americans just a notch richer saw their premiums rise.

Progressives have lavished attention on the poor for over a century. That (combined with other factors) led to social programs targeting them. Means-tested programs that help the poor but exclude the middle may keep costs and tax rates lower, but they are a recipe for class conflict. Example: 28.3%of poor families receive child-care subsidies, which are largely nonexistent for the middle class. So my sister-in-law worked full-time for Head Start, providing free child care for poor women while earning so little that she almost couldn’t pay for her own. She resented this, especially the fact that some of the kids’ moms did not work. One arrived late one day to pick up her child, carrying shopping bags from Macy’s. My sister-in-law was livid.

J.D. Vance’s much-heralded Hillbilly Elegy captures this resentment. Hard-living families like that of Vance’s mother live alongside settled families like that of his biological father. While the hard-living succumb to despair, drugs, or alcohol, settled families keep to the straight and narrow, like my parents-in-law, who owned their home and sent both sons to college. To accomplish that, they lived a life of rigorous thrift and self-discipline. Vance’s book passes harsh judgment on his hard-living relatives, which is not uncommon among settled families who kept their nose clean through sheer force of will. This is a second source of resentment against the poor.

Other books that get at this are Hard Living on Clay Street (1972) and Working-Class Heroes (2003).
Understand How Class Divisions Have Translated into Geography
The best advice I’ve seen so far for Democrats is the recommendation that hipsters move to Iowa. Class conflict now closely tracks the urban-rural divide. In the huge red plains between the thin blue coasts, shockingly high numbers of working-class men are unemployed or on disability, fueling a wave of despair deaths in the form of the opioid epidemic.
Vast rural areas are withering away, leaving trails of pain. When did you hear any American politician talk about that? Never.
Jennifer Sherman’s Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t (2009) covers this well.

If You Want to Connect with White Working-Class Voters, Place Economics at the Center
“The white working class is just so stupid. Don’t they realize Republicans just use them every four years, and then screw them?” I have heard some version of this over and over again, and it’s actually a sentiment the WWC agrees with, which is why they rejected the Republican establishment this year. But to them, the Democrats are no better.

Both parties have supported free-trade deals because of the net positive GDP gains, overlooking the blue-collar workers who lost work as jobs left for Mexico or Vietnam. These are precisely the voters in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that Democrats have so long ignored. Excuse me. Who’s stupid?

One key message is that trade deals are far more expensive than we’ve treated them, because sustained job development and training programs need to be counted as part of their costs.

At a deeper level, both parties need an economic program that can deliver middle-class jobs. Republicans have one: Unleash American business. Democrats? They remain obsessed with cultural issues. I fully understand why transgender bathrooms are important, but I also understand why progressives’ obsession with prioritizing cultural issues infuriates many Americans whose chief concerns are economic.

Back when blue-collar voters used to be solidly Democratic (1930–1970), good jobs were at the core of the progressive agenda. A modern industrial policy would follow Germany’s path. (Want really good scissors? Buy German.) Massive funding is needed for community college programs linked with local businesses to train workers for well-paying new economy jobs. Clinton mentioned this approach, along with 600,000 other policy suggestions. She did not stress it.

Avoid the Temptation to Write Off Blue-Collar Resentment as Racism
Economic resentment has fueled racial anxiety that, in some Trump supporters (and Trump himself), bleeds into open racism. But to write off WWC anger as nothing more than racism is intellectual comfort food, and it is dangerous.

National debates about policing are fueling class tensions today in precisely the same way they did in the 1970s, when college kids derided policemen as “pigs.” This is a recipe for class conflict. Being in the police is one of the few good jobs open to Americans without a college education. Police get solid wages, great benefits, and a respected place in their communities. For elites to write them off as racists is a telling example of how, although race- and sex-based insults are no longer acceptable in polite society, class-based insults still are.

I do not defend police who kill citizens for selling cigarettes. But the current demonization of the police underestimates the difficulty of ending police violence against communities of color. Police need to make split-second decisions in life-threatening situations. I don’t. If I had to, I might make some poor decisions too.
Saying this is so unpopular that I risk making myself a pariah among my friends on the left coast. But the biggest risk today for me and other Americans is continued class cluelessness. If we don’t take steps to bridge the class culture gap, when Trump proves unable to bring steel back to Youngstown, Ohio, the consequences could turn dangerous.

Saying this is so unpopular that I risk making myself a pariah among my friends on the left coast. But the biggest risk today for me and other Americans is continued class cluelessness. If we don’t take steps to bridge the class culture gap, when Trump proves unable to bring steel back to Youngstown, Ohio, the consequences could turn dangerous.

In 2010, while on a book tour for Reshaping the Work-Family Debate, I gave a talk about all of this at the Harvard Kennedy School. The woman who ran the speaker series, a major Democratic operative, liked my talk. “You are saying exactly what the Democrats need to hear,” she mused, “and they’ll never listen.” I hope now they will.


Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

 


OK, well I said I was going to stop commenting on the election, but this is about broadening my/our collective perspectives on how others view this phenomenon.  And since many have compared the recent Brexit situation in the UK with Mr. Trump becoming the American President-Elect, I thought it would help to share this author’s perspectives.  I have another HBR article I may share tomorrow as well, which somewhat serves to complement what you’ll read below.

The author of the below blogpost is Richard Barrett who is Founder and Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre based out of the UK.  I attended a webinar he conducted a few weeks ago and was immensely impressed with his research and ideas on human development.  And, yes, I know the UK would likely be considered Social Capitalists so this article won’t come as a total surprise.  Here are his thoughts in a recent blog post:

Dealing With the Shock of the Brexit & Trump Votes

On the 24th June and the 9th November 2016, approximately half the population of the UK and half the population of USA awoke to the shocking and painful news that their current lifestyle was under threat and their future needs might not be met.

Meanwhile, the other half of the population of the UK and the USA awoke to the joyful and hopeful news that their current lifestyle might improve and their future needs might be met.

The same event in each country triggered fear in one group and hope in another group.
The fear of the first group is that they will not be able to meet their aspirations. The hope of the second group is that they will be able to meet their aspirations. Why this difference? The answer is simple—inequality.

One group was presented with opportunities to evolve and grow so they could take care of their survival, safety and security needs, and the other group, mostly for reasons beyond their control, never got those opportunities. They got left behind. Their life is a daily struggle for survival, safety and security .

The system was stacked against the group that got left behind because those who were able to evolve and grow became the political elites who controlled the policies that enabled them to further enhance their own survival, safety and security. Now, those who benefited from this situation, and took their opportunities, are in shock.

There are three possible reasons for this shock, all of which have to do with fear:

They are afraid that they will no longer be able to manage their current survival, safety and security needs;
They are afraid that they will no longer be able to manage their future survival, safety and security needs;
They cannot make meaning of what happened and have defaulted to their greatest fear. Whenever we cannot make meaning, we always assume the worst. This inbuilt survival mechanism lies at the root of all traumas.
If you are experiencing any of these fears, here is what you can do.

First, try to see the bigger picture; this will help you to understand what happened. If you cannot understand what happened, then you will not be able to give meaning to the situation, and you will live in your greatest fear.

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Second, recognize that this is a transformational moment: an opportunity for you to move beyond “us and them.” The truth is we cannot move forward unless we all move forward together. We must shift our attitude from “What’s in it for me” to “What’s best for the common good.” We must individually and collectively embrace those who got left behind and help them to meet their survival, safety and security needs. Only then, will we all be able to move forward/
We either move forward together, or we don’t move forward at all.

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Third, understand that the world is in turmoil because billions of people on the planet are not able to meet their survival, safety and security needs. We will never find the peace and stability we are all yearning for by focusing on our own needs. We will only find peace when we can embrace empathy and compassion for those who are less well off than ourselves and by doing whatever we can to contribute to the good of the whole.

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If you are living in fear, you are part of the problem. When you move beyond fear, you become part of the solution.

For further reading:

Love, Fear and the Destiny of Nations

A New Psychology of Human Well-Being

Written by

Richard Barrett
Chairman and Founder at Barrett Values Centre