The Folly Of The Deaf (Chapter 16)

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IMG_3589Not that I knew it at the time, but my actions were beginning to mirror the dysfunctional behaviour of many of the institutions that were working hard to reduce child mortality. Those organisations are credible, well intentioned, set up with reputable people, and everyone wants nothing but for a successful outcome. The result is different to that which people seek.

It is as though those organisations, and so to myself as I went further along this journey, were unable to see or hear. We were distracted by resources. Either distracted because of the abundance of resources so that activity becomes focused around management of funds or building an efficient fund raising machine, or distracted because of the scarcity of resources, and so activity becomes focused on survival.

The result is that they and I were pushing the market and the audience, not pulling in response to a shared conversation or demand. Backswing is at its worst when we believe we are making attempts to hit at the ball, but in fact never releasing the bat forward because of our obsession with our own thoughts and inability to listen to those around us.

All Backswing is to reinforce failure, held back because of the fear which holds us captive. We mistake the actions of pushing for the effortless arc involved during the authentic swing. We try so hard to find a successful outcome that we are deaf to the signals around us. This is neither elegant nor productive.

A lack of resources is never an excuse for inaction. Backswing from a lack of resources is a failure in imagination. A lack of resources can be a blessing in disguise because it forces us to listen to the environment to learn how to use what is scarce to achieve a disproportionate result. There is nothing to be gained by just saying something is too difficult because it is in times of austerity that often we get to see what is necessary for us to move forward. Hesitancy from fear because of lack of resources achieves nothing. Recklessness is neither the solution, but learning to listen is a critical skill to develop.

Similarly, when lacking a clear plan as to how to advance forward, it is useless to create a number of meet ups simply to give the illusion of progress. All this really achieves is to perpetuate the inefficient spinning of wheels, and it is likely that when faced with the public scrutiny at a meet up that there will be a reluctance to share the difficulties you are encountering in moving forward.

Hearing the weak signals around us is critical to overcome Backswing, and this takes the development of some critical skills. The ability to speak into the void, the capacity for reflection, mindfulness, and a keen sense of communication underpinned by active listening are all necessary. Together, these allow us a basis to develop a radical approach to collaboration, and an ability to work with what is unknown. Practicing these skills takes courage and jars with our innate sense of what is safe, comfortable and reasonable.

The best voices to hear from others are those of protest. They might not be from an opponent, but more likely from a trusted friend. Good friends will take the time and risk social capital which holds the relationship together to tell us what they think we need to hear. They might not be right, but the least we can do as a friend is to respond to the difficult conversation by seeking to understand them.

The folly of the deaf is that they are happier when their comfort is not disturbed. But an old adage from my army service holds true: “bad news never gets better with age.

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