The big 'holy cow'

By Joe Tassi | Sep 06, 2009

When I feel threatened or powerless, or that someone is taking away my right to make decisions for myself, I get angry and I want to aggressively retaliate.

But I can’t. I live in the same world of laws and moral codes that you live in. So I have to step back, take a deep breath and use my thinking mind for what it was intended for, and evaluate, organize and plot a course of action. And to tell you the truth, most of the time my best course of action is to take no action at all.

It helps to understand that when someone is trying to control me or elements of my life, it is because they are afraid. Their fear and loss of control over their own lives makes them feel powerless. And it is those powerless feelings that drive the escalation of conflict between family members, friends, and co-workers, members of our community, and nations of the world. Just so you know, we don’t really control anything.

The ticket booth for my business shares deck space with a restaurant. As you know, the weather for June and most of July was terrible. Business was down not only for day sailors like me but also for restaurants, hotels and the marina I operate from.

One of the restaurant owners came over to my booth one morning and informed me that he was putting up an awning over his deck to protect it from the weather. He needed to cover the outdoor space so he could accommodate more guests. The awning would require two support poles that would make it difficult for my customers to get to my ticket booth. He said he was just informing me as a courtesy; the decision had already been made.

I calmly told him that I might have a problem with the poles if they affected access to my ticket booth. Rather than attempting to strike a compromise or have any discussion regarding options, he became defensive and angry, saying that according to his lease the entire deck space belonged to the restaurant and that my booth violated his lease. Dismissing my attempts to find common ground he stormed off. I didn’t react. I saw and felt his fear. It was in his eyes, tone and demeanor.

He could not control the weather, or his lack of customers. Business was bad and he was feeling powerless. I decided to leave it alone and see what would happen. I came to work the next morning expecting to see an awning and support poles affecting my booth but instead I saw the compromised version that I had suggested the day before. During the course of our workday we saw each other and he offered an apology for his threatening behavior.

My son’s kung fu master instructs his students to flow like water without resistance. I like using that visual while moving through my day. I think most of us expect big “ah-ha” moments, the big “holy cow” of awareness to occur that will provide solutions to our problems; while we wait for that big moment we miss the obvious lesson. I was powerful without resistance.
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