Welcome to week #13 of the Cookingham Connection. Today, we learn from Sherilyn Lombos, the city manager of Tualatin, Oregon.
Guidepost #13:Don’t let the “cranks” worry you too much, for if you do they will outlive you.
Let’s start with the basic question of what is a “crank”? I wish I could call up L.P. Cookingham to see what he meant when he was writing this guidepost, but since I can’t, I did a little informal poll, asking a few of you what you think of when you hear the word “crank”. I got answers that didn’t surprise me: negative, freely expresses displeasure, grouchy, complains without providing a solution, the antithesis of a problem-solver. The dictionary provided this definition: “an unbalanced person who is overzealous in the advocacy of a private cause.” That’s quite a combination, unbalanced AND overzealous! I also got an interesting response that has made me ponder a bit: one of my co-workers said that she immediately thought of an actual, physical crank; one that you turned or pulled. I checked the dictionary again, and sure enough, there it is: “to turn a crank, as in starting an automobile engine.” The “crank” in this case is the driver of motion and change…more on that later.
When I read L.P. Cookingham’s Guidepost #13, I think of those times where my blood pressure goes through the roof; where I just want to throw papers across the table, stomp out of the room and slam the door. The “cranks” in my life tend to be those I can’t reason with no matter how hard I try. I take those interactions home; gripe at my husband about them; stew on them; fall asleep thinking about them; come to work the next day with bags under my eyes, desperately downing another cup of coffee after having tossed and turned all night out of sheer frustration.
Cookingham’s guidepost is relevant and timeless as we all have our own versions of “the cranks”. So how do we heed Cookingham’s advice and keep from worrying about them too much and letting them take the joy out of living? I wish I had an easy answer; of course I don’t, but here are a few random thoughts that may be helpful:
- Find productive ways to burn off stress. For me, there is no substitute for sweat; lacing up my running shoes and going for a run after a crazy day is so beneficial; I can literally feel the strain melt away. It may not be running for you; maybe it’s biking or gardening or walking or Zumba; whatever it is, find a way to relieve the pressure; your mind and body will thank you for it and you’ll undoubtedly have more capacity to gain perspective on the “cranks” in your life.
- I’ve heard Doris Kearns Goodwin speak a couple of times now and one of the things she said about both Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt is that even in the midst of huge, national crisis, when literally, the weight of the nation was on their shoulders, they found ways to relax and replenish their energy; they recognized the importance of getting their mind off of the crushing stress they were under. For Lincoln, it was going to the theater (which he apparently did over 100 times in his 4 years in Washington); for Roosevelt, he had a cocktail hour every evening during WWII where the only rule was you couldn’t talk about the war. Perhaps for you it is stamp collecting or Sudoku or crossword puzzles or movies or that daily cocktail hour. Take a lesson from two men who had to deal with a lot more than a few “cranks” and find ways to relax and recharge.
- Be present; carpe diem. I know we live in an age where we are connected and can check our emails 24/7, and some of us have jobs where we have to be accessible outside of 8-5, Monday through Friday, but there is something to be said for truly being present and in the moment. Try really focusing on playing that game of LIFE with your son; not scrolling through emails and Facebook until it’s your turn, but really focusing on the experience. Savor the dinner your girlfriend cooked; be in the moment. Go jump on the trampoline with your daughter, and focus on enjoying it. Fight the thoughts of your ridiculously long to-do list or the draft response that’s sitting in your outbox to yet another “crank”. Your family and friends will thank you.
- Use it for good. Back to the concept of a physical crank being the impetus for motion and energy. Can we translate that into our dealings with the “cranks” in our lives? I know I am guilty of not looking past the grouchy, ill-tempered, negative aspects and thereby completely missing a learning opportunity. The larger point (which might actually be good) can get lost in the delivery. Next time you are dealing with a “crank” take a mental step back and ask yourself if, just maybe, they have a point and if, just maybe, you could use the crank as an impetus for forward motion.