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Gone Mad

I’ve Gone Mad

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: Boy_Wonder
Does getting mad help you or hinder you?

All of us are mad. If it weren’t for the fact every one of us is slightly abnormal, there wouldn’t be any point in giving each person a separate name.

— Ugo Betti

Lately I’ve been getting mad at myself about things I’m not getting done or not getting done to my satisfaction… just a few very important goals I’ve set for myself, I won’t bore you with the bloody details.  But I will say I’ve been chastising yours truly endlessly, or so it seems to me…  And, no, this is not a case of expecting perfection.  And, yes, I still want to achieve the goals.  Hence the badgering I’ve been subjecting myself to…  Trouble is, not all “mads” are useful.  And so far, this particular “getting mad at myself” hasn’t been helpful; so now I’m writing this post in hopes of figuring out how to make my mad work for me.

The Trouble Is…

…under most circumstances, just sitting around pissn’ and moaning isn’t very helpful; it’s time consuming and nothing much gets done.  Then again, maybe pissn’ and moaning could help if you ever find yourself in this situation:

A Kansas farm wife called the local phone company to report her telephone failed to ring when her friends called and that on the few occasions when it did ring, her dog always moaned right before the phone rang.

The telephone repairman proceeded to the scene, curious to see this psychic dog or senile lady.  He climbed a telephone pole, hooked in his test set, and dialed the subscribers house.  The phone didn’t ring right away, but then the dog moaned and the telephone began to ring.  Climbing down from the pole, the telephone repairman found:

  1. The dog was tied to the telephone system’s ground wire with a steel chain and collar.
  2. The wire connection to the ground rod was loose.
  3. The dog was receiving 90 volts of signaling voltage when the number was called.
  4. After a couple of jolts, the dog would start moaning and then urinate.
  5. The wet ground would complete the circuit, then causing the phone to ring.

Which demonstrates that some problems CAN be fixed by pissing and moaning.  (Poor dog)

But I digress (Ya’ think?).  As I was saying, my own pissn’ and moaning, isn’t helping.  And lately I’ve been beginning to feel a bit like Howard Beale, a character in the 1976 film Network who’s driven himself quite mad over the state of his world.  (BTW, if you ignore the hairstyles, fashions and technology, this scene could easily be mistaken for 2010.) Here’s an abbreviated transcription of the Youtube.com video of Beale stalking into his network news job (in his pajamas) and ranting on-air:

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be…

…Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! …You’ve got to say, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”  Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it:

“I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

I’ve Gone Mad

Yeah, I’ve gotten fed up with my whining.  Like Howard Beale, I do believe I’ve finally gone mad. MAD I say!  And, like the folks in the movie, I’m shouting it out to the world:  I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.

As I said earlier, not all “mads” are useful.  Here are three kinds of mad that I’ve experienced in the past:

  • Mad – as in crazy-making
  • Mad – as in melting into teary, angry helplessness
  • Mad – as in rebel and do something about it

What’s the difference in those three “mads”? Well, while I’m crazy-making mad, while I’m helpless, teary, angry, procrastinating, head-in-the-sand mad, I’m simply circling the drain – going nowhere except deep down into the abyss of discouragement… I’m certainly not productive. NOT useful.

But IF I’m finally “mad” as in rebel and do something about it – well, THEN I’m ready to move forward, to make progress. Now that’s a “mad” that can work in my favor!

When the Shouting Dies Down, Then What?

When we finally say “I’m not going to take it anymore!” and REALLY mean it, then we’re ready to do something, to move from shouting into action.  I think I’m finally there – I’m ready to change.  (At last!)

What then?  That’s a tough question because we are each our own person with our own path to navigate so we each must choose our own best next step.

I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.

— Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington wrote blues.  What will I do?  Well, I’ve decided and I’ve been putting my intentions into action for about a week.  It’s a start.  Now I need to go for the finish which is a long way out there…so I’m going to have to find a way to stick with the program.  Guess it’s time for me to release the “mad” and instead, shift into taskmaster and/or cheerleading mode depending upon my need.

What About You?

Is there something in your life that you’re just sick and tired of putting up with, something YOU can actually change, something YOU really want to change?  If so, go for it: Move forward now, today, this moment. Take the first step however small.  And the next.  And the next.

How do you (and I) do that?  Well, first, choose your direction – step out of the spiral and onto your path – and get your momentum rolling.  PattiAnn said it well in her post, The Trend is Your Friend:

The thing is, having momentum is good if things are going well and not so good if things are going poorly. Just as a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, a body moving in a particular direction will tend to continue in that direction unless acted upon by an outside force.

What all this means is that if you don’t like the direction of your life, change it!  If you can’t figure out how to do it alone, find other people who are looking to make similar changes.  The very act of deciding to change direction slows movement in the direction you’re currently moving and allows you to steer towards your new direction.

…If you’ve been letting things get you down and now you feel as if you’re in a slide, change a small thing.

Slo-Mo Vs. No-Mo

One small change at a time not fast enough for you?  Well, take heart because slow-motion is MUCH better than no-motion.  Here’s what Sharon Teitelbaum, author of Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance ,  says about changing small things:

Here’s a remarkable secret.  Moving forward one micron at a time still moves you forward.  It is far, far better to be in action than to be paralyzed.   Here it is in mathematical terms (I have license to do this because my daughter was an applied math major – magna cum laude, Columbia): the distance between paralysis and motion is FAR GREATER than the distance between slow motion and fast motion.

Still Have Hang-Ups?

Sometimes even when you’re mad enough to make a change, you can still be paralyzed. Then what?  Merlin Mann’s website, 43Folders.com, offers a wide range of advice:

I’ve noticed that there are often items on my “next actions” list that hang around a lot longer than they should. I scan and rescan and sort and add and delete, but there’s always a few stragglers who hang out there for a week or more. Eventually this starts to vex me, and I try to debug why things aren’t getting done…

One of Mann’s methods for doing this “debugging” process is the “Cringe-Busting”, examination of your current not-getting-done goal or objective.

As I’ve said before, items can sometimes linger on your TODO list a lot longer than you’d like, and it can be tricky to understand exactly why that is in each case. I’m convinced cringing is often a factor … think honestly about why you’re freaked out about it. Seriously. What’s the hang-up? (Fear of failure? Dreading bad news? Angry you’re already way overdue?)

Once you’ve figured out what’s making you cringe about this project, Mann suggests that you rewrite your action plan:

  • Add a new TODO (action list) that will:
    1. make the loathsome task less cringe-worthy, or
    2. just get the damned thing done
  • Cross the original cringe items off your list
  • Work immediately on the new, cringe-busting TODO

But when all is said and done…

Do Something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt

How about you, are you mad enough to do something about it?

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