The Truth About Rabbits

The Truth About Rabbits

Is What you Think True, Truly True?

I was in grade four when the neighbourhood bully ambushed me with ice balls. This was an entirely unprovoked attack. I was walking home from school when he jumped from behind a tree and pelted me, several times, then left me sobbing with icy snot running down my face.

His name was Rodney. He was much bigger than me (remember how I told you I was a scrawny kid?), and he had hockey-playing brothers who were even bigger. Any prospect of me standing up for myself was dim. Still, as I walked home in a mess of slushy tears, I was bent on one thing.

Revenge.

You see, Rodney had pet rabbits. They had just given birth to a litter of bunnies that were penned in a cage in his backyard. I had a pet Siberian Husky. A plan started to form.

With God as my witness, I only wanted to scare the bunnies. My plan was not to hurt them, but to scatter them around the yard. I figured my dog would chase them about in a hilarious, circus-like manner that would end with a few bunnies escaping under the fence, and the others burrowing safely into a hole somewhere.

Why did I think this would happen? Because bunnies are NOTORIOUSLY FAST! The tale of the tortoise and the hare happens because the rabbit takes his speed for granted. Anyone who’s ever watched Saturday morning cartoons knows that no creature ever catches the rabbit. Not hunters, coyotes, or even big bad wolves. (Yes, I’m mixing my looney-tunes, I know).

You’ve probably guessed the outcome. It did not go as planned. It was utter mayhem — blood and destruction. It was not like a cartoon at all — more like the Battle of Winterfell. Chinook (my dog) hunted each one of the little guys with a wild violence like I’d never seen. I ran about the yard trying to catch her, to save as many bunnies as I could. Madness.

To be clear, I am not proud of this. As an animal lover, I think back on that moment with much horror, and guilt. Clearly my plan was based on some incorrect assumptions. I had accepted certain data points as evidence, not metaphor, and the results were disastrous.

Although… Rodney never bothered me again. While it was never proven what happened to his bunnies, the message was clear: he would be next.

But that’s beside the point. Sometimes we make decisions that are based on what we assume is fact, without question. In doing so, we do one of two things: either we set ourselves up for destruction, or we limit our opportunity to advance. Remember, throughout the bulk of human history, we never believed we could fly. It was a known truth that people were land-crawlers, hoppers at best. Had the Wright brothers accepted this as reality, where would we be?

If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance

Orville Wright

It never hurts to question your facts before acting. Evidence based decision making is only effective if your evidence is based on true facts, and that they are being perceived correctly. Sometimes, one thing is true only because the opposite has not yet been proven possible.

I will, however, leave you with this one, absolute truth…

Bunnies aren’t that fast.

Long Goodbyes

shutterstock_314909786To say goodbye is to die a little, and long goodbyes just make your death hurt. You suffer through every extra second on the step of the railcar, arms wrapped around the neck of your lover, lingering with that look you can’t break. Oh, but you must! Otherwise the train leaves without you.

Recently, I started a new job. It’s difficult enough — it’s like learning to walk again but now you’ve got loads of baggage on your back. And saying goodbye to my old job has proved an equally daunting task. I still wake in the night worrying about things I can’t control, and feel that magnetic pull of the work I used to do.  It doesn’t help that my old job was “Manager of Issues”. The word “issue” is in the bloody title.

Time to let go.

Leaders often talk about that mental shift that must occur when you step into a leadership or  a new management position. You need to resist the urge to do the job you’re now managing, or more to the point, the job that someone else is now managing. What makes it difficult is that a key to your success in your previous role happens to be the relationships you built with your team. The trust. The reliance. The nurture and development and growth. You feel like you’re walking out on them, leaving them to the wolves.

Well, maybe you’re right! There are wolves out there who can’t wait to fuck up a good thing and undo all the work you put in. But the chances are this is not the case. If you’ve done your job well, your team is going to be just fine.

I know. The real fear isn’t that they’ll fail… it’s that they’re better off without you. They, under the leadership of their new manager, will make improvements where you could not, bring things forward. But you really shouldn’t be afraid of that — because that is a good thing! Every new leader should bring a fresh perspective and lead a team in new directions. Your old team deserves it. Besides, don’t you want to do the same with your new team? Aren’t they the ones that matter?

The only way you’re going to get anywhere is to move forward. That doesn’t mean you can’t drop by or call to say “Hello”. It just means you don’t have to hang off the edge of train as it starts to rumble out of the station.

A Quantum of Solitude

shutterstock_135427394A “quantum of solitude” can be defined as the precise combination of aloneness,  peace and personal reflection required to maintain our humanity and survive in a noisy world. It is a significant need, especially for an introvert like me.  It provides oxygen during times of increased social interaction and over-stimulation, so you don’t suffocate.

Over the last few days, I’ve learned to seek out solitude and respect my inner hermit.

I spent this past week immersed in learning at the Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre, trapped in a network of 50 or so high-achievers, active-thinkers and hyper-leaders, all burning with the desire to grow and to succeed. Since the program is designed to increase togetherness and incite collaboration, we were all housed in the same facility. Round the clock collaboration, integration, socialization — bordering on molestation — one participant likened it to being in jail.

And — I had a blast. The program is the beginning of a long journey and I’m honoured to be among these wonderful and brilliant people. I was as boisterous and interactive as anyone. But I’m an introvert — so it came at a cost.

For one, I went three days without sleep. An overload of information, intellectual and emotional stimulation — I had difficulty coming down. I needed time to process all that information, to reflect.   And for me, reflection requires time alone.  Time that wasn’t in the schedule.

The constant interaction also made me more emotionally vulnerable.  The program involved dissecting all the things that make us tick – our fears, weaknesses and sensitivities – to make us better leaders.  While it was eye-opening it was also draining.

So, how do we manage all this? For the introvert, who needs some measure of solitude to exist, how do you handle a conference where ‘networking’ is key ? A team-building event, where one is expected to be up-close-and-personal with your cohorts? A learning symposium where you’re barraged with information and endless intellectual discussion?

I learned a few tricks that helped me unfurl from the fetal position and optimize my learning.

1. Take a few coffee breaks alone. Often, as soon as break time comes up, people tend to congregate and discuss what they think about what that guy said or that crazy exercise they did with those tennis balls. Sure, take part in a few of those conversations, but not all. It’s a good time to walk away from everyone. Look out the window, stare at an apple, check out some art… anything but talk to another human.

2. Go on long walks. When the group breaks for the day, before you head to the social cocktail event, go out on your own for a bit. I had a wonderful walk in London (Ontario) this week where I went to see the Thames River, which unlike it’s namesake, is a peaceful, soft-flowing brook, perfect ambience for self-reflection.

3. Find a person to help ground you. Remember, you’re not alone. There is likely someone going through the same thing and you can confide in that person. It helps to have someone who understands.

4. Connect with home. For me, it was my parachute. Your family, your partner, your friends, your dog. Anything that brings you mentally back to your happiest place in the world is worth as many visits as you can fit in.

And again, you’re not alone.  There are plenty of introverts among us.   When you’re feeling overwhelmed and your instinct is to run to your room and barricade the door until the conference is over – – take a breath, tell your colleagues you need a moment and find a place to be alone. They will understand and they will let you go.

You can survive many compromises and interactions, but never the absence of a very human need for self-retreat.  When the Quantum of Solitude stands at zero… you’ve got to get away to save yourself.