Thursday, July 26, 2012

Halting the Gung

Whether working on a single task, such as lifting a heavy weight off of an injured colleague pinned beneath, or a group task of manufacturing 150% of the daily output of widgets in a special effort, a surge of spirit can inspire us to new levels.  We can decide as a group to excite ourselves for a coming battle or contest and work at doing so with group cheers and songs.  

In the very interesting and helpful book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”, Susan Cain describes in detail attending a Tony Robbins event which paying participants learn confidence and assertiveness.  Since a very similar event also run by the same man and his organization was in the news in the last few days, I paid special attention to her explanation of the emotional and stimulating aspects.  The news items recount participants in the recent event suffering severe burns during a climactic test of their self-confidence that consisted of walking on hot coals in bare feet.

I must be an introvert at heart since I have never been very attracted to joining in swept-up emotion stimulated by a leader.  The some extent, the more I can see and feel the height of the group’s emotion, the more my internal question mark glows.  It says to me “Why?”  Why are we being urged?  Why do we want to score more than the other team?  That is not what happens to me in the case of a beautiful hymn sung either by others or including me.  

When I listen to a fine orator, I can get aroused.  I can get determined to try harder, much harder.  But I have some limitations and some questions.  The main limitation is that today can only be a special effort if yesterday was not and if tomorrow is not expected to be.  Too many special efforts are no longer special.  Tenacity can pay well, I know, and I can do sustained effort but usually that effort is just that: sustained.  It isn’t a spurt.  It isn’t a flare.  

I am fascinated by the picture of a fencer.  We had fencing in high school and I could see that a fencer who does a full thrust, stretching out to the fullest extent, is especially vulnerable at the last second of that thrust.  He is like a muzzle-loading gun that has just been fired.  Time is needed and steps, like rest and novelty, must be taken to reload.

Continuous exhortations become just so much boring noise.  Watching a string of cheap ads on tv, I see one gleaming smile after another, one highly excited voice after another urges me to hurry right down!  Buy now!  Calls for speed, more speed, more effort seem like so much madness.  Gung ho has its place but so does stopping and lolling in the grass.

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