I’ve been trying to get an answer from a customer for a week. Business marches on, but he’s been impossible to connect with. And I’ve grown frustrated by his lack of responsiveness. And then I realized it’s hunting season and he’s almost certainly out in the woods somewhere and completely disconnected from the world. My frustration melted away to acceptance of the reality of the situation. There’s some things you simply can’t control in this world. The time to communicate was before hunting season.
“What you are aware of you are in control of; what you are not aware of is in control of you.” – Anthony De Bello
I drove back from the train station and had two choices as I pulled out of the garage; turn one way and go around the city, or turn the other way and go through the city. I opted to go around the city. In normal circumstances the drive would be equidistant, but the city offers more opportunities for delays, even at 10 PM. It turns out I chose the wrong way and sat in standstill traffic as four lanes shrunk down to two. If I’d turned on Waze prior to leaving the station I’d have been aware of the state of the roads and might have chosen the city route. The tools were there to inform, and I chose to proceed unaware anyway. It was on me, so instead of getting angry about it I turned up the music and waited it out with everyone else.
I had dinner in Manhattan with a man who’s grandparents had been at Auschwitz and survived. I’ve been thinking about the fate of the Polish Jews since visiting a museum in London. They were caught in the trap of history, with limited control over their situation once the Germans and Russians made their first moves. There are forces bigger than us that control our lives, and no matter how good a person you are, how much you eat the right foods or how big your nest egg is you get swept aside by these forces like an anthill being kicked in the playground. That’s fate, and largely out of our control.
My good friends on Fayaway have left their safe harbor in Bermuda bound for Antigua. Unlike my trip home from the train station they’ve diligently tracked weather variables, added a redundant self-steering system and re-stocked critical supplies for the long journey. They’re aware of the risks on the open ocean and have prepared accordingly. Larger forces may sweep you up in unforeseen circumstances anyway, but you control what you can and mitigate risk.
De Mello’s quote was directed at our own self-awareness of how we react to things, who we instinctively like or don’t like and how that plays on how we interact with them, and how we might change that interaction with better awareness. It’s no secret the world has become more antagonistic and divided. But there are plenty of examples of people doing the right thing, treating others with kindness and respect, self-aware and in control of their emotions. Being in control requires a level of diligence in our self-awareness akin to preparing for a long voyage in a small boat on a big ocean. Larger forces will do what they will, but we can mitigate their impact on our lives. It’s the self-steering that ultimately means more in most circumstances.