Thursday, September 21, 2006

how to make a good day

How to make a Good Day
By Collin Whelley

It is remarkable how days become “good days” or “bad days” in a seconds flash. The first day of our 7th course, though I was groggy from too much sleep (a newly discovered phenomenon for the Bolivia project), was a great work day. I worked calmly and productively suffering only one finger injury; far below national average! The second day was a different story. And through this frustrating experience I can learn a little more about my-self and how I can control the “goodness” in my days and how that can help me become a far more inspirational leader.

Perhaps I was grumpy on the second day due to a lack of water in my body, or because my mind was fixed on a galaxy far… far away, or maybe it was that little kid who kept poking me in the back and talking to me in rapid mumbling Spanish. “I don’t understand you!” I would say. Perhaps I was grumpy because this Chalita women1 would not listen when I said “No please don’t touch those; we need to dry these so that your windows actually fit into your solar box.” Oh well more work for me. God I sound like my father “son you’re just making more work for somebody else.” (No dad this isn’t justification) Or maybe I was iritable because owners of solar cookers would ask for my help and then critique the wood I selected and re-cut because it was too long as I proceed to punish my left thumb over and over again. Chris, our Bolivia Project scientist insists that my grumpiness must have come from a combination of all that has been previously stated. However, there is one more variable that has not been discussed; my personal reactions and actions.

The way that I react to a situation influences my future perception and future reactions in situations directly fallowing. Like wise the person or persons who are communicating with me will also react differently. In Bolivia there is a theme of reaction from many people who have made a mistake. Rather than taking full blame and stepping forward, someone else is at fault. There is always a reason why a bus, or plane, or group, or food, or something else is late or has gone wrong. I see now why it is so hard for aspiring businesses to function because they must rely on the unreliable. Take this course for example; there was no wool in Cochabamba. Now where did the sheep go? The truth is that there is wool, but where? Because the wool industry is so unorganized one week there can be too much wool and some weeks none. If the family doesn’t need money to live this week they might not shave their sheep. Or maybe just inflate the price like crazy to exploit those desperate for wool. The beauty about doing courses in rural places is that they have there own their own sheep and therefore wool. We can buy their wool from them for their own cookers. This is actually beneficial for both parties; however getting people to want to work is not always easy. The presence and absence of wood is often a similar problem. But now let us examine my own fault in all of this bad day business.

It struck me like my hammer when Chris said “god Collin... now you’ve got me all stressed out.” Chris Phillips is not the most tranquil of individuals, but then again he was doing quite well during my bad day. I was so frustrated with everything that I disregarded the negative effects of my out word reactions. As I babble away with ridicules frustrated English phrases that only Chris could understand and others just laugh at, I hurt Chris in a way. Earlier he was dealing well with what I usually could, but through my selfishness I ruined a bit of Chris’ day and a bit of our combined productivity. Now I needed to stop and change something. I need to change my attitude for my-self and Chris. If my mood can change his for the worse, than I must be able to have some control over our moods for the better.

I will not bore you all with a Clayton Romanesk2 story of how I won the day by altering the mood of every individual in the village of Parutani. That is not the purpose I wish to achieve and would not be true. This message is more about the amount of control people have over their own moods and those around them. During the worst of my days I must separate my self from people in order to search for sources of my aggravation or just to chill out. I need to chill out for hours before I am willing to calmly talk about my frustration. Emotions give humans power and energy that, when are not funneled correctly, result in spurts of spite and hate encouraging a pattern escalating towards aggression. How do you think wars really get started? I know for a fact they don’t start from a sour “your mama” joke. If I do not take time to control and gather my thoughts I would surely upset those I am upset with. My frustrated words and tones are bound to be interpreted as an accusatory one. Working with groups as a leader is more about focusing people on a goal then getting the “slackers” to work harder. Sometimes it is good to confront people who need to understand how there actions affect you, but it is that can be the touchiest of subjects.

To become a better leader, as well as individual, I continue to learn to read myself. I learn how to objectively look at my own leadership styles and the cause and effects of my actions, words, and tones. Understand how people listen to me. Are people eager to know what you have to say or do they look like they are in agony and are the normally like this or is something different about this instance. I need to critique myself and ask those I lead how to be better received, more inclusive, and more effective. Nobody wants an authoritarian and nothing gets done when I am careless. Therefore I must care for the goal and for those around me. This might sound like I have turned into a flower child, but in all seriousness if I do hold the feelings and reactions of those I come in to contact with as extreemly valuable I can be so much more effective. If I realize that my actions influence the mood and actions of those around me then my own attitude an actions will change by default.

Life is a constant battle of recharging and expelling energy. A huge part of reading oneself is knowing when it is time to recharge and how that is best done. Write it down, sing it out, or run through it, but never leave it un-thought because denial in no one’s vertue. Thinking and dealing with bad days and why they are bad are the keys to having more good days than bad. It is remarkable how much control each of us has over there own mood if we could only learn how to try. So how do I actually make a good day? Not sure, but I know that not doing anything about it will not help. I do believe that our reactions and actions influence our perceptions and vise versa. Optimism (not to be confused with naiveté), a serious concern for others, a good constant fight for understanding your self and of those around you are the secrets to making a bad day better.

In rebuttal to my-self

Bad days have come to me sense I have written this down. The have been hard tough days. So I guess I don’t have control over how people act towards me, or who lives, or how gets sick, or who is careless. I just hope that optimism brings my-self and a few others some bright days. I think it helps me connect with people.

End Notes:

1: The Word Chalita refers to a traditional Bolivian woman who wears traditional Bolivia cloths, speaks Cetchua and calls me a “kong-ka” because that means Gringo/ rooster in Cetchua.

1: In reference to the length of story “Clayton Roman” is an amazing friend and individual, however he is now internationally known for long drawn out pointless stories that deplete brain function as well as cell phone minutes. Regardless, I still call him because he is hilarious and I love the kid hahahaha!