Will You Come to the Table?

I discovered a long time ago that two people can dedicate their lives to solving a problem and come to radically different solutions–both of them right. The interesting part comes after: do they hold on to the solutions they worked so hard to create, refusing to budge from what they know is right, or do they agree to work together, opening the door to an even better third way?

Goals Status:

  • Marathon: On Track. My body is becoming stronger, and my times are getting faster. I’ll be heading out for my longest run yet when I finish this.
  • Two Square Yards of Earth: Making Progress. Much more slowly than I would like.
  • 100 Posts: On Track. This is my 30th post for the year.

I think the days are over (if they ever really existed) when we could solve our problems with brute force and tenacity. With a world of seven billion people, each with his or her own point of view and talents and dreams, and all of us talking to each other, the days are gone when a brilliant leader could make a plan and drag his people along to its successful realization through force of will.

And even if they’re not, most of us are not brilliant leaders. For us, refusing to compromise, refusing to take the opinions and talents and help of others into account, is a fast track to obscurity and irrelevance.

That means we have to work with others, consider their suggestions, listen to their good ideas, accept their help. Even when it comes in a different form than our plan requires. Even when it comes from someone we’d rather not work with.

That is much, much harder than going it alone. It takes an entirely different kind of courage.

It takes a willingness to listen to people we don’t agree with, really listen, and take their concerns into account.

It takes a willingness to admit when we’re wrong, or when our deeply-held conviction has no practical bearing on the issue we’re trying to solve.

It takes a willingness to recognize when someone else has a better plan and throw our support behind it, even though it doesn’t look like ours.

It takes a willingness to seek help from unlikely places and unlikely people, including those who have different experiences, or a different position, or live in a different neighborhood, or don’t make as much money as we do.

It takes a willingness to embrace the opinions of those who aren’t like us and allow them to change our own.

If we want to change the world–and I think pretty much all of us do–we can’t do it on our own. We have to come to the table and work with people we’d rather not to develop solutions that might not be perfect, but are better than what we’ve got now.

Do you have the courage to come to the table?

Or will you stand against the wall with your arms crossed, scowling because those at the table aren’t doing it your way?

Make your choice. If you don’t like the result, you can change it later. But choose.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.
  • We are entering a political season that makes me want to avoid the news and Facebook by all means. In a country that becomes more polarized with every election cycle, these are words we all need to hear. Thank you for writing them and way to go on the marathon training!