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Dorothea Tanning: Concerning Wishes (1942)
"Maybe we can achieve that change with balance."

I signed on to work with a boutique consulting firm in Silicon Valley but I refused to move there. I commuted from Portland, an hour and a half flight, which left me with a shorter commute than some of my partners who lived there. The firm, like all firms must, sported a mysterious name, a made-up Sanskrit word which we claimed meant "Moving to the next level with balance." I didn't know this fictional part at first but learned it from a native Sanskrit speaker who attended one of our workshops. We were in the change business, and business boomed for us for a while, for everyone in Silicon Valley's in the change business and every firm seemed to be seeking some way to move to the next level with balance. Of course the concept was fatally flawed since moving to any new level remains an inherently unbalancing experience and nobody ever pulls off balanced transformation. It's inevitably different on the other side, and different in unanticipated ways. It properly takes a while to get used to any significant new status quo. Believing otherwise doesn't help anything, but makes things worse.

I know for myself that whatever I'm chasing will certainly turn out differently than expected.
It's as if this universe allows change but not targeted change. We can and do nudge ourselves out of some stasis but we cannot seem to land on the one we planned to land on next. Sometimes we're close, but often we're far, far away from where we'd planned to land and this seems to be largely our fault. We planned poorly or we executed worse or that old family curse disrupted our progress again. I came to understand that agile change was more about coping with unsettling difference than about avoiding turbulence. If, through four hours of corkscrewing turbulence, the pilot maintains his calm, slightly amused countenance when making announcements, he's managing change well. The one who remains steady when there's not even a rippling headwind never experiences change. If you arrive on the other side feeling balanced, you'll most likely soon discover that you're still on the side you thought you'd left. Shifting should upset.

Small events often produce greater impact than huge productions. As a consultant, I'd often advise a client considering a HUGE change, to sponsor a pilot where about 1% of the planned magnitude was changed, just to see what might happen. Few ever opted to do a pilot, which seemed like an additional expense and a chickenshit tactic. They weren't afraid of their contemplated change, but impatient for its arrival. They wanted to be masters of change instead of slaves to whatever they had. Most managed to become slaves to their changes for a time. We might be altogether too courageous for our own good, dangerous with hopefulness and wishful thinking. The best I ever managed to do was to help slow my clients down a bit. They wanted to go faster but benefitted from some circumspection. Especially in Silicon Valley, people are dangerously inspired by disruption, which most mistakenly believe that they can visit on others without getting very much on themselves. Change is messy.

I entitled today's essay Cahnge, another word the damned spell-checker seems bound and determined to mis-correct into Change. I just displaced two little letters, and adjacent ones at that, and I found it surprising how much different the result seemed. To my eye, it does not resemble Change at all, but something more like Carthage or Cartridge, and that's precisely my point. The magnitude of a change matters little. We tend to bite off more than we can swallow, even when we nibble, but we want to feast. A month ago, I rented scaffolding, thinking that during idle time while we were refurbishing the inside, I might relax by repainting the outside, fondly recalling past Autumns when I worked from scaffolding, but other than providing Walk The Plank access to the second floor while the grand staircase's finish was curing and aiding repairing the lovely dining room window, the scaffolding's sat there unused. We will soon be returning it, but I thought we might find an alternate use for it before it exits, as racks for painting baseboards. Maybe we can achieve that change with balance.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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