The Power of Process and Growth: A Whackadoodle lesson regarding process, growth, and the importance of consequences, raised sidewalks, and speed bumps. If you have entered this story in the middle, click here for the prologue.
“This is one of those lessons that has too much in it,” she informed me, sitting down and pulling out a copy of my book. “I was reading rule seven last night. You include a process for raising self-esteem, a process for overcoming procrastination, a process for decision making, a process for delegating, something about exponential growth, and even something about the Pareto Principal. You have to admit that it’s all a bit overwhelming.”
“I know there is a lot to this rule,” I agreed. “But remember, I intended the book to be both a resource book, as well as series of lessons, so consider it a bonus. If you ever do have trouble with procrastination, you now have a resource to look up possible causes as well as some suggestions for dealing with it.”
“Whatever,” she said. “But you have to admit that it’s hard to take in everything that you put into that rule during one reading.”
“So don’t even try to take everything in at once,” I told her. “That’s kind of the point of the rule. Nobody changes in a moment. Nothing is learned overnight. You need to do things one step at a time. It’s called the power of process and growth for a reason.”
“So I’m supposed to like,” she paused to think. “What?” she added a moment later.
“You are supposed to notice how much of our lives follow a process, and how often problems occur when we ignore that process. That’s all. It’s like with speed bumps.”
“Huh?” she looked at me blankly.
“When my family moved to this neighborhood fifty years ago, Kaneohe Bay Drive was just a two lane country road. The only people who drove it were the people who lived on it. My Mom regularly handed us dimes, so we could run up the hill to the little convenience store to buy creamsicles. She never had to worry about us crossing the street. The drivers were always aware that kids might be crossing.”
“I still don’t see what this has to do with speed bumps, let alone the power of process.”
“Well about forty years ago, the county put in something called the Saddle Road. It was a four lane highway directly connecting Kaneohe Bay Drive to the Old Dump Road in Kailua. Suddenly our little country road became one of the most popular routes to and from work. Rush hours were just that, rush hours. Tourist began using our road on their car trips around the Island. It was no longer a drive; it was a highway.”
“Still not getting it,” she informed me.
“Several pedestrian deaths have occurred on that highway since the change. I’ve actually had more than five close calls myself since moving back; just trying to cross the street. The county put up warning signs. They painted sidewalks, and put in traffic lights. They informed drivers about speed limits. They even put in cement blocks to change parts of the two lanes back into one, yet there were many days when I stood at a crosswalk in the pouring rain, waiting as thirty to forty cars splashed past me before some driver remembered that in Hawaii, pedestrians waiting at crosswalks are supposed to have the right-of-way. And even if one car paused to let me cross, I had to be careful that the cars in the other lanes were ready to do the same.”
“Five close calls,” she repeated a bit more interested. “You mean you almost got hit by a speeding car five times?”
“At least,” I nodded, remembering how glad I was to be able to jump back. “I sort of lost count because it happened so often. At one point the police even had cops manning a speed trap at the top of hill to stop speeders coming down too fast, but nothing ever really stopped them. Not until the county put in speed bumps this month.”
“I saw one of those when I came in today,” she said thoughtfully. “It’s right at the top of your hill.”
“It is actually called a raised sidewalk, and it is in the same place that my sidewalk has always been, but now people who are inclined to ignore that sidewalk are likely to face consequences. It’s basically a speed bump with a crosswalk painted over it. Go over it too fast, and your shock absorbers can’t absorb it.”
“And so they are slowing down?”
“They are not just slowing down. They are stopping, and allowing me to cross. I’m kind of blown away by the change in the behavior that one little raised sidewalk can make. I’ve only had one a**hole day since the raised sidewalk was put in.”
“An a**hole day?” she repeated.
“It’s something that I do to entertain myself while waiting at the crosswalk,” I told her a bit embarrassed. “I count the cars speeding past me and call them a**holes behind their exhaust. But that is getting off point. Since the raised crosswalk was put in, hardly any car has rolled past without pausing to let me cross. The consequence of racing over the speed bump has changed people’s behavior.”
“Okay,” she said. “But what does that have to do with the power of process?”
“In your reading last night, did you happen to notice how often providing consequences were an essential step in so many of those processes you listed? Delegating requires that you explain both consequence and rewards to the person to whom you are delegating. Decision making asks that you examine any consequences before making a decision. Even the three-strikes-you’re out for creating boundaries requires that you explain the consequences of something before you strike a person out.”
“Actually, I did not notice that.”
“Well notice it now,” I suggested. “And notice how important it is to be able to enforce any consequences you create. When you fail to enforce your consequences, you just make it easier for people to ignore your boundaries.”
“So people can ignore the speed signs, the warning signs, and sidewalks; but they can’t ignore the speed bumps because the speed bumps create a consequence?”
“That has been my experience, yes.”
“So why do I think that your speed bump story is just another analogy for rule seven?” she paused. “Or maybe it’s a metaphor,” she paused again. “Or it’s maybe both?”
“Perhaps because you are really smart,” I grinned. “Or maybe it’s because you have a really good tutor.”
“I suppose it could be both,” she grinned back.
“So can you explain the analogy and/or metaphor behind my speed bump story?” I asked.
“Well,” she began slowly. “I will infer that because you used the word consequence about a hundred times in the last few minutes that you are trying to point out how important consequences can be.”
“Because?” I prompted.
“Because when you don’t give people consequence, they can just ignore your boundaries and rules.”
“And if you are not able, or willing, to enforce those consequences?”
“They really will just ignore you,” she offered.
“Not everyone will ignore the rules,” I agreed. “But many of them will. That is why we need consequences that we are willing to enforce. More than that, we need consequences that are fair to everyone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Everyone has to face the same speed bumps, but not everyone faces the same justice system.”
“Are we changing the subject?”
“No, we are centering the subject on a process which treats people differently depending on how much money they have. A process that tries to be, but is not always, fair. People who have lots of money and power have one set of consequences. Those who have no money or power have a completely different set of consequences.”
“Are you talking about our justice system?”
I stared at her before beginning, “If I am suspected of a crime and have no money, I can’t afford bail. I will sit in jail until my day in court. My day in court could take years. How is that innocent before proven guilty? I don’t know about you, but even if I was innocent, I would take a plea in seconds if it included the statement Time-Served. I would want my day in court as soon as possible.”
“And if I have money and power,” she concluded for me. “I can make bail, and live my life like I always do until my day in court.”
“Exactly,” I affirmed. “But it’s more than that. If I have money, I can hire the best lawyers and put off my day in court. Those lawyers can offer postponements, pleas, objections, and motions. They can even appeal subpoenas for testimony, so that I don’t have to sit before a grand jury and tell the truth. They can deflect for years. When a verdict eventually comes in, if it does, I can pay whatever fine is incurred. I can arrange that I go to an up-country prison with tennis courts instead of Rikers Island, which is an over crowded and dangerous prison where the majority of the inmates are people still awaiting their day in court because they cannot afford bail.”
“So are you saying our justice system is broken?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. “I am saying that our justice system needs a lot of adjustments. It needs to rely less on money and power, and more on speed bumps. Speed bumps treat all cars equally. Unfortunately,” I added. “Any changes will probably also rely on State by State adjustments.”
“Why is that?”
“I think you know the answer.”
I watched as her brain slowly clicked into my challenge. “Because we are a Republic,” she suggested cautiously. “So each State has it own set of laws, and its own constitution?” I nodded silently, and she continued. “Then how do we install speed bumps within the justice system? Can we pass a Federal law or must it go State by State? I mean what would a State even do to make justice more fair?”
“Some people believe the bail system should be abandoned; others believe that the justice system should be better funded so that all people can receive a quick and speedy trial, as is their constitutional right.”
“And what do you think?”
“I think the first step in the process is to make people aware of the unfairness, and then perhaps to help people care enough to start brainstorming other options.”
“Does that mean you don’t have an opinion?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.
“No, it means that the first step in the process is making people aware of the problem. A lot of people accept the status quo because they are not aware of the problems. Once people are aware, they begin to look for solutions. Once you have some solutions, you can use the sales process to sell those solutions to others.”
“Is that what it means to be woke?” she asked suddenly. “Being aware of the problems?”
“That’s the original and official meaning of being woke, yeah,” I said. “Then the phrase got picked up by news outlets, and politicians, and professional chaos makers. That’s when the word changed meaning. Suddenly being woke meant being dangerous because anyone who was woke also believed the status quo needed changing.”
“And change is a part of process?”
“Being aware is an important part of any process, but pointing out the problem is just the first step. Pointing out a problem without offering another option just gets people upset. I mean, providing options is part of the process for giving constructive criticism. You don’t provide criticism without offering an alternative–an alternative that is appealing. Plus, you can’t do everything yourself, so you might have to delegate authority. If so, you need to choose competent and trustworthy people to lead you, which is a whole other process.”
“Okay, I get it,” she threw her hands up.
“What do you get?” I asked surprised by her outburst.
“Process, process, process,” she said with her hands still waving in the air. “Process is everywhere. I need to pay attention, so I can understand each process and offer alternatives when a process is broken.”
“Pretty good explanation,” I offered. “But why do you seem so upset about it?”
“Because everything seems so overwhelming.”
“Ah,” I said, nodding. “Perhaps that’s because you have not yet grasped rule eight, the Power of Control and Responsibility.”
She looked at me, annoyance seething in her eyes. “I can’t wait,” she said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
“I can’t wait either,” I replied with a grin.
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