Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Mistake Is but an Error: An Ironic-Poetic Odyssey for Human Authenticity and Audacity

Recently I came across a quote that captured my attention:  “An error is only a mistake if you don’t correct it.”  I liked its recognition of our less than perfect humanity.  (This becomes more salient with an aging mind.)  In addition, the aphorism affirms that it’s not always the initial action that’s critical; one’s ability to respond effectively to subsequent feedback often has the lasting effect.  It sort of complements an inverted aphormation of the Stress Doc:  Learn to Fail or Fail to Learn!

And I also recalled an earlier discussion with the Director of Education of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation.  There may be interest in my doing a “Resilience & Risk-taking” program for their Youth Group.  What kind of message would speak to both older teens as well as adults?  Finally, the error/mistake line also captured my poetic imagination.  Perhaps “A Mistake Is but an Error” will be a cathartic and imaginative adventure.  Feel free to share.  Enjoy!
A Mistake Is but an Error:
An Ironic-Poetic Odyssey for Human Authenticity and Audacity
A mistake is but an error
Why the reign of holy terror?
Must there always be a loser?
Is it really now or never?
Don’t let hyper-controlling order
Invade a sense of your own border.
Life and death is true urgency…
All else is but priority!

Perfection…Living Perfection
Grows from seeds of rejection
Perfection…Sterile Perfection
The dark side of depression.

An error is but a failure
To this I shout, “Hallelujah!”
Despite hand-wringing and the fury
Of inner voices – judge and jury
The only time you are a twit:
Not learning from and laughing with it.

Perfection…Fine Perfection
Elaborate preparation
Perfection…Exact Perfection
A formula for inaction.

A failure’s but a minor trauma
Despite the tears and family drama.
Reject that “b.s.” – be safe – mantra
Ride the bull in the arena.
To outwit your b.s. box
Wrestle with this paradox:
Do Strive High and Embrace Failure!

Perfection…Rigid perfection
More chronic constipation
Perfection…Timid Perfection
About time for an eruption.

A trauma morphs into disaster
When you just run faster, faster
Making it a fearful master.
Embrace the pain, face your sorrow
Both today and tomorrow.
To realize Buddha mind
Meditate on your behind!

Perfection…Driven Perfection
Oh high and mighty obsession
Perfection…So Pure Perfection
Better get thee to confession.

A disaster’s but a danger
Unless treated as a stranger
While bottling up your anger…
Now who you gonna hit?
Still, I’ve given you an answer
To fight this alarmist cancer:
Be a wise man and a wise guy
An Athena flying sky high.
Resist that square peg-round hole fit –
Learn to surrender…never quit!

Perfection…Blind Perfection
Denies failure’s potentiation
Risk-Averse Perfection
Blocks the bridge to aspiration.


Poke gentle fun at your own flaws
A tried and truly noble cause
For muting know it all’s and boors
With some punch & polish, well placed grit.

Write about and roam the earth
Spread seeds of hope, songs of mirth
Your loving, lasting epitaph:
A wily-warm, wise-wicked wit!

Perfection…Flawless Perfection
An ideal of conception
The “Illusion of Perfection”
Saved by human imperfection!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a national keynote speaker and "Motivational Humorist" known for interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for government agencies & major corporations.  A Critical Incident Consultant for the National EAP/Wellness Co., Business Health Services, the Doc also leads “Stress, Team Building and Humor” programs for the military.  A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress, The Four Faces of Anger, and Resiliency Rap.  For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email or call 301-875-2567.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Taking off the Blinders: Viewing Blind Culture/Competence in a New Light

Planning for and leading an “Interactive Playshop” for the TX Govt Division of Blind Services both revealed and helped bridge gaps in my CDI – Cultural Diversity Intelligence.  From a madcap/multi-GPS car ride worthy of a scene from a Marx Brothers movie to an art therapy-like group drawing exercise, flesh and blood, integrity and guts were added to my mental skeleton of “the blind.”  But it was the guiding insight, gentle humor, and genuine empathy of a blind attendee who helped me learn three foundational steps for open engagement, enhanced multi-cultural competence, and showing true respect.

Taking off the Blinders:  Viewing Blind Culture/Competence in a New Light

After a summer’s sabbatical, it’s back in the writer’s saddle.  Actually, a few events have transpired that deserve mention and reflection.  Let me presently illustrate one.
In early September I led a two-hour Stress and Change Resilience Keynote Playshop for the Texas Division of Blind Services (DBS).  One-third of the 100+ employees in the audience were blind.  I had never done a speaking or workshop program with anywhere near this number of non-sighted individuals.  Beyond the newness of the experience, in anticipation of the actual program, I had some questions if not reservations about a major group activity with this audience:  how effective and participatory could an exercise be that asks small groups to:  1) identify workplace tensions and conflicts, 2) capture these stressors in a group drawing, and 3) culminates with a “show and tell” segment having one or two team members briefly describe and explain the group’s illustrated images and visual story?
At the same time, I strongly believed the exercise would be critical to the success of the event, especially as this State Govt. Division was in a state of uncertainty and flux.  DBS was anticipating major program and position reorganization.  One large program was slated to be dismantled.  Even though none would lose their government positions, many would feel some sense of being displaced and devalued.
The Play of Art and Heart (Even without Sight)
Based on many years of experience, I knew the aforementioned group art therapy-like activity was an ideal medium for positively challenging participants to vent and express their tensions and frustrations in a supportive and creative manner.  As it turned out, any worry was unfounded.  As advertised, the keynote was more “playshop” than workshop.  While the images depicting this reorganizational journey might have elements of danger, e.g., crossing a narrow, shaky bridge over a roaring, piranha-infested river, the laughter and group buzz affirmed a sense of “we will survive” along with “one for all and all for one” camaraderie and community.  And, as is their wont, sighted and non-sighted (or visually impaired) participants worked very effectively as a team, even during the “show and tell” the entire audience about your team’s picture.
Actually, most of my uncertainty was relieved the evening before the keynote.  As a group we were heading to a BBQ place for dinner; hey, we were in San Marcos, TX.  While waiting for car assignments, I was standing around making small talk with a few folks – sighted and non-sighted – trying not to appear self-conscious.  One sharp and vivacious, non-sighted woman in her 40s quickly picked up on my “fish out of water” discomfort.  Anne immediately said, “Don’t be afraid to use words like ‘see’ or ‘blind.’  Speak as you normally would…and if you’re not sure about something, ask questions.”  Her insight and guidance definitely helped break the ice and relaxed my mind.
The Power of Self-Effacing Humor
For me, another ice-breaker was the free and easy, good-natured kidding about this disability among blind and sighted employees alike.  For example, they frequently remind one another to “watch where you poke that guide stick.”  One amusing anecdote shared was how when walking with their guide stick on a crowded street, most people nervously run and part as if there tapping were a fire engine blasting its horn…or the non- or limited-sighted individual becomes a Moses parting the Red Sea!  Clearly, these men and women had done some “head work, heat work, and homework” to achieve this level of comfort in their own skin.  (A few days later, I shared my experience with a former Army First Sergeant, who certainly had seen his share of battlefield casualties.  His immediate response:  “They owned their disability!”)
Actually, these folks use of self-effacing humor reminds me of a wonderful quote from Ernst Kris, psychiatrist as well as student of Freudian psychology and humor:  What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at.  That is, we now can look back at a difficult or fearful time, and perhaps appreciate how we were once overwhelmed or had, in hindsight, inflated the size of our demons.  But now, based on our track record, more self-assured, we can laugh at our former, “smaller” self.  (Of course, for some, those demons were truly terrifying and not so easily laughed at, even with the benefit of hindsight or strengthened mind-sight.  Oh, btw, the Stress Doc’s inversion of Kris’ quote:  What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master!)
Are We there Yet?
Getting back to our dining adventure, driving in the car proved to be a near madcap experience.  Carol, the driver of the car and I were up front, while Anne and Billy, a sharp-witted gentleman in his fifties with a refined Southern drawl, were talking up a storm in the back.  The madness reached its peak when we appeared to be lost.  Carol asked me to check her Smart Phone’s directional GPS, while Anne and Billy were doing the same with their audio GPS systems.  People are calling out wildly different route options.  While I was fumbling around with Carol’s phone, not making much headway, and knowing how far I am from a technology maven, a thought suddenly arose:  What we have here is the technologically blind leading the blind!  Alas, I was unable to spontaneously voice this… However, the next morning, during my opening keynote remarks, I shared our road trip story, including my self-conscious/self-censored quote.  The audience’s laughter was palpable.  Finally, I thanked one and all, especially Anne, for being such an enlightened guide in my awakening to the integrity and richness of the blind and sight-impaired community and aiding my appreciation for the array of individuals therein.
Workshop Feedback
As mentioned, my “3-D” – Discussion-Drawing-Diversity – Team Building Exercise was the hit of the program.  Here are some testimonials:
Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services – Division of Blind & Visually Impaired; Keynote, "Stress and Change Resilience through Humor:  An Interactive Playshop"; 2-hr, 100+ participants

Sep 10, 2014

Hi Mark, hope you are experiencing safe travels.  The comments related to your presentation have been very positive!  Here you go:

Enjoyed the variety of activities
The interactive activities made the presentation fun
The activities were very engaging; different from the usual lecture style speaker
As an audience we were involved and active
Loved the drawing activity as a means of depicting our perception of the changes that are occurring within our agency 
Mark did a good job of personalizing his presentation for our specific needs.

It was great to meet you and the presentation was very well received!  Thanks, Cathy

Cathy Rufenacht, M. Ed.
Vocational Rehabilitation Teacher Program Specialist
Division for Blind Services
622 S. Oakes, Suite D  San Angelo, Texas 76903
Phone: (325) 659-7928
Final Reflections:  In my work as a therapist, with my own struggles trying to climb out of family-tree depression, and from extensive readings on creativity and creative individuals, I’ve come to appreciate that, while a significant challenge, having a major disability is also double-edged.  To compensate for a lack or limited aptitude in one domain an individual is often compelled to develop other senses and sensibilities.  While admittedly a small sample, the folks I met had evolved uncommon empathy and insight, if not imaginative inner vision.  And they definitely understood team collaboration.  Why should I have been surprised?  Clearly, my lack of exposure with this culture contributed to my naiveté, if not somewhat narrow perspective.  Alas, sometimes we can become so focused on an apparent individual lack or on an obvious impairment that we lose sight of the full person – the array of traits and temperaments, the variety of individual and group qualities and strengths, as well as the all too human flaws and foibles.  Remember, whatever the degree of personal ability-disability, the more we can acknowledge our own imperfect humanity, the more we can see, touch, and embrace a diverse world.  So too can we better appreciate the heightened integrity and en-light-enment forged from darkness and adversity.
In closing…to be genuinely receptive, to attempt to understand whenever possible – with both head and heart – an individual’s strengths and vulnerabilities, to be curious, to inquire about and pay careful attention to each person’s life journey – their sun-filled peaks and somber shadowed valleys – in my book, this is the true meaning of showing respect.  And Anne’s message remains a beacon for almost any human encounter or endeavor:  When you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask.  Amen and women to that!
Mark Gorkin, the Stress Doc ™,, acclaimed Keynote and Kickoff Speaker, Webinar Presenter, Retreat Leader and Motivational Humorist, is the author of Practice Safe Stress and The Four Faces of Anger. A former Stress & Violence Prevention consultant for the US Postal Service, the Stress Doc leads one-day "Stress Resiliency" workshops for "METRO" Managers and Supervisors of the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA).  "The Doc" is also a Team Building and Organizational Development Consultant as well as a Critical Incident/Grief Intervention Expert for Business Health Services, a National Wellness/EAP/OD Company.  Mark leads highly interactive, innovative, and inspiring programs for corporations and government agencies, including the US Military, on stress and brain resiliency/burnout prevention through humor, change and conflict management, generational communication, and 3 "R" -- Responsible, Resilient & Risk-Taking -- leadership-partnership team building.

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