Power is a deceptive beast. People avoid telling you what your power really is, in case you exercise it. By the same token, if you reach too far, people are very happy to chop your limb off. When you find yourself in a situation where you are expected to responsible for things, but not informed of the rules governing that responsibility, you can find yourself in a very precarious position.

The phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” is very cliché, but also very true. The more you can affect, then the more you are responsible for affecting either directly, or through in action indirectly. We all have power. We can all affect change on ourselves and our environment. The questions truly becomes, “should you?” and “is it wise to?”.

The inverse is also true. With responsibility comes power. Yet often I have found that the power I should have to affect the things I am given responsibility over has been either denied to me or obfuscated. This has left me feeling very disempowered, insecure and on average really pissed off.

Power should be clean and simple. You either do an action which creates an eddy current and affects the world around you, or you choose to not do something which allows the world to continue flowing around you. One of my catch phrases is this: “There is a huge difference between should and is – should defines the dream, while is defines reality”. You aim for should, but you work with is.

What we do have is the ability to act or not act. We do not define the consequences ourselves, but we can predict fairly accurately the small scale immediate consequences of our actions. This becomes convoluted in complex systems, such as paid work, crowds and any situation that involves groups of people with differing agendas. There are people who avoid exercising their own power by shifting the responsibility of their decisions to someone else, thus absolving their liability. These people can look like great followers, but can hide a passive (to your face) aggressive (when your back is turned) demeanour. It is human nature to exercise choice and power and generally the meekest people are the ones who quietly mess things up for you, just to prove to themselves that they exist.

There are also people who go out of their way to hold on to as much power as they can. These people will obfuscate lines of responsibility, hiding what it is you are expected or permitted to do; will look for and hoard evidence of any discrepancy of your actions, while at the same time avoiding any paper trail that may be used against them; and will change goal posts and give vague answers. Convolution is the key to people who hold on to power – the less you are sure about what you can do, the less power you are comfortable wielding, thus the more they hold on to.
Strategies to deal with these situations are to go back to policy and procedure, document everything you can and consider leaving to greener pastures. Resorting to policy and procedure means that you must do everything you can that is written down, even if it is frustrating, a drag, and annoying. This saves your bacon because if your actions are questioned, you can prove you did as you were instructed.

If a conflict arises between what the policy and procedure say versus what you were instructed to do by an upline, you ask for a written version of your instructions, or you email your boss stating “In the conversation we had, I just want to confirm that what you wanted me to do was …”. This is part of documenting everything. Keep copies of whatever you can, because if you need to get your hands on it in a hurry, you need to be able to do so. This can lead to some interesting filing systems for data. However don’t breach confidentiality or policy and procedure to do so as that can be used against you.

If these seem too onerous or are not keeping you safe, it is time to go. You never have to stay where you are. Sometimes we feel that we must stay for financial reasons, or because we owe it to fellow staff or clients to stay. This is all faulty. Your physical, emotional and employment health are far more valuable than loyalty to clients or staff.

About the only situation where a conflict between your needs and those of another should be seriously considered is when you need to protect your own child. Then it can be a tough call. My advice is, remember that there is only so much of yourself you can sacrifice before you also start to sacrifice the child. A small bump now can save a catastrophe later. You need to judge for yourself which is the bigger, or smaller, problem and whether your brief sacrifice will lead to long term gain for you and your child. If not, find a way out.

Choosing to stay or leave is a form of power.

Feedback loops and defining the future

We are creatures who live in the world. When the world changes, we humans adjust and adapt, and in so doing, we survive. Yet we also live in our inside world. When our thoughts change how we see the world, we adjust and adapt to that inner world too. This becomes complex when we are trying to work out what we want and what our purpose is.
Living creatures respond to stimuli. For humans, that stimulus can be external – or the world, or internal – of the mind. External stimulation can be things like temperature, a growling dog, falling from a tree and so on. These physical phenomena trigger a safety response within us that often has us acting before we are consciously aware that we have acted. We then find ourselves scrambling to catch up to our actions with sometimes interesting and outlandish explanations.
Looking at a beautiful sun setting over the ocean, the colours a riot of reds, peaches, purples and oranges can trigger a feeling of joy, contentment and a desire to grab a camera or paint brush and render that image for all time. The physical environment that has created this imagery and responding feeling within us is not truly external. The physical environment surely is, but the feeling we have is an internal recognition of the tranquillity of the scene. We are not reflexively acting, pausing afterwards to justify our actions. We are emotionally acting to what we feel now. This scene is a combination of the external stimuli and the internal emotional reflection.
When the stimulus is only internal it is far harder for an external person to perceive and understand why we have changed. It can also be some subtlety that we do not understand ourselves. This can often leave us lost as to why we have acted, sometimes to create interesting and outlandish explanations for our actions. Teenagers often give the answer of “dunno”, and get in trouble for their honest answer.
When we look at ourselves, we see a myriad reflection of the world around us and the world we have travelled through. While we may be born into this world tabula rasa (a clean slate), we don’t remain so for long. We are moulded and changed by the life we have lived. Yet I believe we are more than the experiences we have had. I believe we can guide our behaviours more to the left, or more to the right as we see fit. Our past is an explanation for our present, not an excuse for our future. We decide, right here, and right now: What are we going to do next?
To know what to do next often necessitates having an inkling of where we want to be in the future. I can project from my past a trend that gives me a clue about where I am going to end up, if I make no conscious decisions about my life. If I keep doing what I have always done, then my future is an ongoing repeat of what I have done. That can end in some fairly grisly results, or may end in thoughtless bliss. If I don’t want that future, then I must act now to change that outcome. But change in what way?
It helps to know what I am now. Yet what I am now is a handful of reactions to life now. As a result, when I try to figure out who I am, I mostly see what I am experiencing now rather than that trend to the left or right that I mentioned earlier. I believe that the trend is more me than the specific path I am on. Seeing that trend, however, is hard.
I have been trying to work out what my role in the world is. I have settled recently on the idea that I am me first (whatever that is), a father second, a partner third (although the ladies may disagree about that order), a friend fourth and a worker fifth. Here I am describing roles, not me. These roles are responses to responsibility that has come into my life. I am responsible for and to my child, my partner, my friends and work.
Looking beyond this, I don’t have to be responsible to any of these. I could walk away. Lord knows, sometimes I want to, and I have known many people who have.
My trend is to accept responsibility, to accept that these roles are important and have purpose. My trend is to care about others, the world and what the future may look like. My trend is to be a shoulder to lean on when you are feeling less than you could be and to support you back to being who you want to be.
My next step is to try to work out how I use this me, taken by my trends, as an indicator of what I want my future to look like.
My future could be public or it could be private, or some other location on that spectrum. Clearly, at this stage, I am quietly public. I have blogs that I write on and quietly promote. I draw no income from these (although I would love to). I have pondered recently whether my desire to change the world arises from ill experiences that I have lived through. Am I reacting to the world and then justifying my actions later as “I want to do good”? Am I just blindly responding to stimuli, or am I reasoning a path for my future?


Take a look at what you are passionate about and consider whether your passion is incorporated into your life, or whether it is a side line project.

If you have incorporated your passion into your life, how did you manage to do it?

If it is a side line, are you happy with that? If so, why and if not, what can you do about it?