Wednesday, July 7, 2010

With Both Feet

Yesterday, I talked with a friend who had just come to a great personal insight that I believe to be generally applicable. As he considered his relationship with someone he'd been dating, he realized that he'd been holding back on really opening himself up and throwing himself in. He'd been waiting for something to say, "Okay, now go!"

Correspondingly, the person he'd been dating had also been hiding and waiting. Because of this, neither of them was dating whom they thought they were dating. They were dating the facade behind which the real person had hidden.

All the above was wonderful to see. However, the great insight was this: if you're dating someone and not jumping in with both feet, then you're just wasting time, just spinning your wheels.

I loved this insight as 1) it so well captures the effect of holding back and playing wait-and-see when it comes to relationships, and 2) it can be applied to pretty much any undertaking.

I'll Know It When I See It
There are many reasons that we hold back and don't really jump into relationships or into life generally. One of them is simply not knowing what you want. A great way to let people know that you haven't got a clue as to what you're looking for or really want is to say, "I'll know it when I see it!"

Not knowing what you want can result from many factors including:
Laziness: not wanting to spend the time figuring out exactly what you do want.

Fear: being afraid to discover what you really want.

Disbelief: believing that you couldn't get what you would want anyway.

Superficiality: seeing only the surface manifestation of what you want and not getting to the core.

Desire: not actually wanting what you say you're looking for in the first place.

Aversion: finding what you really want to be somehow unacceptable to yourself or those around you.

Change: hesitating to lay out what you want because you don't want to get locked into it. What if I change my mind?
Indeed it's often the case that we limit what we want to what we know (what we've experienced); there are times when you know you want something more but can't put your finger on it. In those cases, it's great to expand your world by jumping into new activities and new places with both feet.

However, if you find yourself having broadened your experience and still "waiting to see it", then time might be well spent in actually sitting down and figuring out what it is you do want.

Bottom line is: if you'll know it when you see it, then you haven't got a clue.

But I'm Doing What You Said to Do!
My daughter Eila runs a restaurant called Border Cafe in Harvard Square, Cambridge. She and her company invest a lot of time and effort training new wait staff. The training is quite rigorous and comprehensive. The restaurant is a beehive of activity and the service is always great.

One day, as Eila and I sat having lunch in the restaurant, I watched her eyes move from place to place as she monitored her staff and how well they were performing. Eila commented that she had concluded to only hire people who'd never worked as servers in a restaurant. I asked her why and she told me that experienced people seemed to always believe that they knew everything already; it was easier to train someone who knew that he didn't know than to un-train someone who thought he knew.

I've found this to be the case in many areas where people have some level of experience or even expertise. I often find myself explaining musical concepts, performance techniques and general how to's to people who are already competent musicians. However, oftentimes when they try them out, they don't actually do what I suggested, but instead, do some kind of hybrid combining parts of what I said with things they already knew.

Sometimes the hybrid works; more often it doesn't. The thing is that we never actually get to learn whether or not what I suggested would work for them. They haven't actually tried it yet.

Now, I like the idea of combining what I've learned with what I already knew. However, to fully appreciate what I'm trying to learn (jumping in with both feet), I have to lay down everything I knew; I have to approach it as though I know nothing at all.

To really experience someone as they are, you have to forget about all your previous relationships and enter the new relationship as someone without any experience.

No Nets, No Ropes, No Parachutes
Many people feign jumping in with two feet meanwhile ensuring that there's a safety net or parachute available. For years I've worked among people for whom prenuptial agreements are considered mandatory and I've never been able to understand it. Why would you want to enter a relationship with someone for whom you believed you needed a prenuptial agreement?

Of course, my expressing this results in me being viewed as hopelessly romantic or criminally naive. However, I consider the use of a prenuptial agreement to be naive if your goal is to have an optimal relationship. People who've never operated without a safety net, without a way to go back, have no idea of the power found in cutting of your own lines of retreat.

I guess it comes down to the path to the future being brightly illuminated by the bridges burning behind us. Burning those bridges (cutting off those lines of retreat, tossing the golden parachutes out the cargo door) is remarkably freeing. The action leaves no room for regrets or doubts or thoughts of turning back, freeing you to focus all your attention on moving forward. It also forces clarity in decision making. If you find yourself hesitating at the thought of burning those bridges, then maybe you're not as sure as you thought you were.

It's not really jumping in with both feet if you've got a parachute hidden under your jacket.

Ready to Jump?
If you're in a relationship that seems to be going nowhere, perhaps it's because you haven't actually jumped in yet. The relationship could be with a partner, but it also could be with a job or a career or an activity.

If you're not jumping in, then perhaps you're just wasting your time (and the time of the other person). If you're not jumping in, then the question would be "Why?"

Do you know what you want? If not, why not? If so, then what are you waiting for?

Are you experiencing your partner or are you experiencing everyone that preceded him?

When you jump, are you jumping with outstretched arms or is one of your hands securely gripping a safety rope?

Ready to jump?

Happy Wednesday!

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