Letter: Debating issues dividing country waste of energy

From: Tom Lane


At one point or another, we all have had the experience of going to a movie or other event that we loved, and then while talking to some friends finding out they could not stand it. It is always a bit of a shock that our friends could be so wrong. We want to believe that our view of that external world is one that we share, at least with our friends. But, unfortunately, our sense of reality and our judgment of it are purely personal. No one lives in the same reality.

It is simply the nature of how our mind works. We each have unique upbringings, conditioning and experiences that shape our mental meaning making process. Reality is mostly inside our heads, not out there in the external world. This would not be a big deal, except that we humans need to share some aspects of that outer world, or we could not survive together.

I saw this in the companies I worked with. An organization cannot function well if there are few shared realities. The first of two things I did was to take all levels on a walk around their production floor with a new set of eyes. Even though they had been there thousands of times before, I knew they did not see the same reality. With some new instructions, they went together and saw for the first time all the waste in their production processes. This shared reality was very powerful. The second thing was to have them envision what a high-performing system would look like. So, with a shared reality of the present and the future, an alignment took place that set the groundwork for improvement.

Let’s take this to our current national situation. We seem to have a grand split of realities going on, and a multitude of daily and ordinary splits of reality. If we do not find a way to reconcile this, we will fall into a stalemate or breakdown, and that will consume all of our energy arguing about whose reality is right. It is an unanswerable question.

And the rhetoric is getting more harsh on both sides as we strive to debunk the other side as crazy or vengeful. This is a huge waste of human energy. Luckily, our government cannot go out of business like my clients. But it can spend a lot of money and go deeper into debt with little to show for it.

So what do we do? First and foremost is to grasp that this reality in my head is not the reality of life. Life can be painted many ways, and when anyone decides that only my painting of reality is the real one, we have a great disconnect. This crisis is a flashpoint of potential new understanding. But if you are waiting until “they” come to their senses and agree with your version, then the game is over. We all lose.