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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


January 11th, 2019

We all drop the ball.  No one is immune from making a mistake, whether they affect ourselves solely or those around us in a team or family.  And often, emotions are quick to rise on any and all sides that might suffer as a result of such mistakes.


As a quick aside we might ask what function do emotions serve?  While our lives, decisions and identity to a large degree seem to be woven of emotions, this question does not seem to be a particularly common ponderance, perhaps because they seem to make up everything about our experience.  It’s akin to a fish wondering about water. 


Whether positive or negative, whether effective or counter-productive, at their base, emotions simply impel us to do things, to take action and attempt to make things different.  This is particularly salient after someone has made a mistake we find frustrating.  Hot-tempered aggravation ignites and we immediately have the cause, direction and immense energy required to do something.


At this point, our wisest decision is to pause and simply regain calm.  Anger is often referred to as a knife held by the blade.  The tighter we hold on the more it simply injures us.  Perhaps not as immediately as a knife, perhaps the wound is a long term circumstance, but it’s clear that anger rarely hands us the most effective option for solving problems. 


If we merely pause before acting on such an emotion we can then convert the emotion to something more useful and turn this built-in adversary into a powerful asset.  But this may not even be necessary.


When someone drops the ball, we need only ask one question that can potentially nullify the whole situation:  Is this a one-off occurrence, or is this part of a pattern?


Even when we are the one who has dropped the ball, this question can perform a lot of good.  If the mistake and occasion is a one-off occurrence, then there’s likely little to worry about.  Most likely there was some extenuating circumstance that has had an influence or perhaps we’ve suffered a bout of mindlessness.  All our vulnerable to such things.  So when someone else drops the ball and it’s unusual, it’s not simply the benefit of the doubt to assume that something rare and unintended caused the mishap, it’s a matter of historical precedent and probability that this is the case.  We can ask further questions to find out exactly what, but even that is not necessary because a single occurrence does not imply a problem – all it does it reaffirm the large complexity and noise of the world we live in.


If on the other hand the dropped ball is not an isolated instance, then there is perhaps a problem.  If it is part of a pattern, then there is good cause to assume a problem actually exists.  But the good thing about a pattern is that we can manipulate them.  Since they are predictable, we can plan against them.   And in so doing, solve the problem.  We cannot however plan specifically for one-off events.  Measures might be taken to lessen their effect, but every once in a while someone is going to have a sleepless night causing an exhaustion they cannot leave at the door, or all manner of problems that can perhaps not even be mitigated by some sort of super-human fortitude.    In which case we should look at it as a minor blip in the wide scheme of things.


Everyone drops the ball, but to see it as larger than a blip is to lose focus and misapply a solution.


This is called iatrogenic.  When the diagnosis or treatment actually causes the problem that was assumed to be present when in fact everything was fine.


The most important thing to wait for and notice when the ball is dropped is whether or not it rolls off afterwards, or if it’s caught after the bounce and the game can go on.

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Podcast Ep. 271: Dropping The Ball

Tinkered Thinking

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