Crawford Hart Guest Contributor
I was spending the weekend with my future wife, although had you suggested such to me at the time I’d have cast a jaundiced eye your way and offered a few suggestions of my own, none of them feasible from an anatomical perspective. I had been doodling my way through some chords at her piano, an old upright that was almost in tune. Somehow, we’d gotten into an argument, which is what we usually did in those days.I don’t remember what it was about; at that particular moment I was trying to remember how it had ended.
Honestly, I didn’t think I’d slammed my fists down on the keys that hard. I’d just wanted to make a point. Surely, the fact that several keys no longer produced sound was just an unfortunate coincidence? Be that as it may, I spent the rest of the weekend working miracles with a tube of Krazy Glue. On the piano keys, anyway. The damage to our relationship was a bit harder to mend.
Actually, that piano represented an upgrade for me, in terms of sophistication. Until then I’d been mostly a door and wall man, although I once kicked a radiator and limped for a couple of years while the bones in my foot more or less healed. But yeah, I have a temper, and every single time it flares, it’s for the same reason: I didn’t get my way.
My results didn’t conform to my desires or expectations. Someone disappointed me again! Or maybe they were just too fucking stupid to see the logic of what I was trying to tell them! It doesn’t matter. I’d wanted things to work out differently than they had. And so I felt powerless. A powerless man is ineffectual. And an ineffectual man is an angry man.
Right about now is where you’d probably expect me to evoke the Sterling Men’s Weekend, as the beginning of my decades long quest for personal power (I took the “Weekend” back when it was still called Men, Sex and Power, so I’d known what I was there for), but actually I’d encountered something far more transformative first. Appropriately, for someone who always was overthinking everything and always stuck in my head, it was an idea.
This idea was simple to the point of obviousness: everything in life is a lesson. Everything. But here’s the catch: the lesson is always mine to learn. There may well be a lesson for the other guy, and maybe he’ll learn it, maybe not. But that’s none of my business.
For me, that idea stuck in my head like an old song you can’t dislodge, however much you’d like to. It became a safety switch, my Obi-Wan, tapping me on the shoulder, short circuiting my reflexes every time I wanted to blame someone or something when my results fell short of my intentions.
Not right away, of course. You can’t out-think a reflex. All you can do is train a new reflex to replace it. That’s been a lifelong process. But it is possible, I’m happy to report. Anger can be turned away from all those myriad targets that surround you, and focused inward, where it belongs, turning into frustration, then dissatisfaction, and, finally, one hopes, learning from mistakes and finding motivation to evolve.
My experiences over the years in the extended Sterling environment have, obviously, been crucial to both my recognition of how I define my power, and all the ways that I give it up. This is also a lifelong process, with many more destructive reflexes being replaced by healthy ones. There’s no prescription for this; each man writes his own narrative.
For me, it has meant abandoning manipulation, coercion and control as a means of trying to engineer my results, as well as recognizing and avoiding those reflexes in others. True power is quiet, non intrusive. True power works like a magnet, drawing into ones orbit the desired results.
And if things don’t work out, I guess I have another lesson to learn. Avoiding, one hopes, doors and walls along the way.
And radiators. For God’s sake, stay away from the fucking radiators.