Monday, May 24, 2010

Message #5 - Get Out Of The Stands!

This is the fifth in a series of monthly messages.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize people on the field playing the game. The only problem is that life is happening on the field, not in the stands.

Get Out of the Stands! Get in the game. Stop talking about what should be happening. Make something happen.

Are those squeals of outrage I hear from you? I can’t be talking about you, you say. I’m a doer not a talker, you say. I was captain of my pee-wee baseball team, you say. I know how to win the game.

OK, fine. We’ll do a little research and find out where you stand on the talk-versus-action continuum. Just answer the following questions honestly. Remember, no cheating allowed.

1. When a politician does something with which you totally disagree, you usually:

a. Tell your spouse about it

b. Get pissed off

c. Talk to people you know who feel the same way you do

d. Write/call the politicians’ office to voice your displeasure

2. When you see somebody toss a used candy wrapper on the sidewalk, you usually:

a. Tell him to pick it up

b. Pick it up

c. Mutter about it to yourself

d. Do none of the above

3. You hear about a new computer program that interests you, but to use it may challenge your technical ability. You’ll probably:

a. Go online and download it immediately

b. Say you’ll think about it

c. Decide it isn’t worth the trouble

d. Do more research on the subject

4. It’s your first time at a Karaoke bar. You:

a. Encourage your friends to get up and sing

b. Sink into your chair and hope no one notices you

c. Are one of the first in your group to get up and sing

d. Hate the whole scene

5. You’re in a traffic jam and are sure to be late for an important appointment. You:

a. Get angrier with each passing minute

b. Catch up on your text messages

c. Use your GPS to find a way around the problem

d. Sit back and let the process unfold

I could go on, but I think you get the message. Be careful, though. Don’t get the wrong message. The best way is not always the ‘take immediate action’ way. Think again about the traffic jam question. It’s possible that you can take a different route and get to your appointment on time. It’s also possible that this response will delay you even more.

Am I saying to sit back and do nothing? Maybe. The point is to confront whatever the issue is. Getting out of the stands and onto the field may be exactly what to do. Or – staying in the stands and from there finding a way to make something happen may be exactly what to do. As your kids would say, you’re the boss of you, so you decide.

Am I sending conflicting messages? No. I want you want to be in charge of your life. Being in charge has many different looks. Being passive and submissive is not one of them. Deciding to accept the reality of your traffic jam is not a passive act. You have taken a look at the facts and made a decision. You’ve taken charge.

If your thing is to criticize, being in the stands suits you. It’s easy to see what’s wrong from up there. “Jerk, ya shoulda passed the ball.” “Why’d ya swing at that pitch?” “You call yourself an actor?” “Vote for you? No way. I suggest you hold on to your day job.”

If you have nothing at stake, you get a free ride. You can criticize to your hearts content. You are not at risk. You are not being judged. You don’t have to be responsible.

Now ask yourself a question. When did your criticism make any difference? When did your complaining change anything? Did everything turn right because you said it was wrong? How much real satisfaction did you get being a critic or a complainer? Did it leave you with a sense of fulfillment? I don’t think so.

To be sure, in and of itself there’s nothing wrong with being in the stands. If you’re there as a fan, love the atmosphere, enjoy the beer and hot dogs and cheer for your team, no problem. You can come away satisfied and fulfilled, especially if your team wins. You’re the boss of you being in the stands.

Since San Francisco’s new ballpark opened in 2000, I’ve made sure I see about one game a month, usually six in a season. It’s a wonderful experience – every time. A beautiful setting, a friendly environment, and once in a while a team that wins more than it loses. Even when we lose, I leave feeling happy that I went.

I’m in the stands to enjoy the game. That’s why I go. There are always some vocal people whose purpose seems to be to express loud displeasure about what they don’t like. That doesn’t bother me. It’s part of the game. The loud ones aren’t under any illusion that the umpires or players down on the field will pay any attention to their caustic advice or comments. If they thought they could change anything by yelling I’d say go put on a uniform and walk your talk.

I don’t want you to think this is an abstract, theoretical conversation. Somebody, someplace, wastes her time deluding herself into thinking that her opinion about something will have an impact on it. That’s a fantasy. It’s your life we want to get at here. It’s about you being in the stands in your own game, when you should be captain of the team on the field.

You should be the author and star of your drama, not a bit player. If you don’t make it happen it’s not going to happen.

Get Out of the Stands!


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