Lower Your Guard?

Fighting is the easy way out. It saves us from the humility of seeking forgiveness. It saves us from accepting any responsibility. It saves us from the modesty required of accountability and reconciliation. It saves us from the difficult, bruising work of finding a way forward together despite our differences. Isn’t it time to lower our guard?

It is easier to define ourselves by what and who we are against. This is what I find is saddening, and maddening, about these times.

It is too easy to define ourselves by what and who we are against.

Here’s a silly but illustrative example: I’m an Iowa native who grew up about 45 miles from Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa and Iowa Hawkeye sports. I am a lifelong fan of the Haweyes and the Big 10 conference (though I now live in Maryland and my sport’s soul is trapped in Terrapin (Terps…”Fear the Turtle” country). Despite the team rivalries in the conference there is one thing that unites fans of all Big 10 teams, save one: We hate any Ohio State Buckeyes team. I have no rational explanation for this. I just know it makes our day brighter when the Buckeye’s lose in any sport. This is not to say Ohio State isn’t a good school where people get a very good education…probably. 🙂

It’s only sports, right? Those of us who are not Ohio State fans have a little more fun following our teams because we are united as one against the Buckeyes. There are many things in life where we square off against one another for fun based on preferences that don’t actually matter to the universe, regardless of how passionate we may be: Starbucks v. Dunkin; McDonald’s v. Burger King; Netflix v. Prime Video; pilates v. yoga; Samsung v. iPhone; Subaru v. any other car on the road, but especially BMWs; etc.

Squaring off does matter on those things that have an impact on others. Take, for example, the public health debate about vaccination; gun rights v. gun violence; inclusion v. exclusion of others who are not just like us; freedom of the press v. suppression of “fake news;” death with dignity v. “death panels,” just to name a few. Once we take a position, we tend to hang out, in person and online, exclusively with those who fuel and justify our opinions, ideologies, and perspectives. We believe we have a clear view of the world. We have certainty because, hey, we all agree in this group don’t we? In fact, within our groups we have squared off against any “other” who does not fit with us.

Can we find the courage to lower our guard enough to engage one another again?

Therein lies the problem. We rarely try to engage with the “other” who holds an opposing idea or position. Well, unless it is to try to win them over or, at least, to give ’em a good ideological whoopin’. It is easier to stay inside our group and fight the enemy outside our walls than to meet our opposition and risk having a change of perspective.

Several years ago I undertook a research project for my doctoral dissertation on a sensitive ideological issue (sex education) within American society. My research required me to find and interview people who passionately held opposing positions on the issue. Of course, I would have to personally engage with people who held views very different from my own. It became one of the most fascinating and rewarding experiences of my life.

The research did earn me my doctorate. What I discovered in doing the research was even better. I discovered the power of genuine engagement and authenticity. When I approached people with humility and a true desire to hear from them and dialogue with them, we established a baseline of trust, and we heard and learned from each other.

This research experience taught me several important things about controversy management and conflict transformation. In 2014 I used the research to create a training event designed to help opposing sides in an ideological conflict engage one another more productively. Now, in 2019, we are even more polarized than we were then. We struggle to speak to one another and, even more, to hear one another from opposite sides of our ideological divides, including (especially?) on political issues. Recently, even on Facebook where personal debate on difficult issues had been common, it seems people have given up and retreated to the comfort and safety of their groups. To be clear, I’m not recommending Facebook, or social media more generally, for any kind of meaningful discussion; I’m only calling out the change.

Over the Winter I dusted off that training event, updated it, and am making it available again, but with a difference. To support the restoration of civil discourse and dialogue in American society, I’m making it available to organizations at a reduced price that includes my travel costs. I know this is a very small effort in such a large country. Nonetheless, I’m hoping people will use the event in their organizations or communities to accelerate dialogue on the issues that are most divisive for them.

To learn more about Strategic Controversy Management: Managing Controversy and Transforming Conflict in Organizational and Community Change, download this flyer. Take a look and if you think it could help people in your organization or community take their gloves off and reconnect as colleagues and neighbors again, send me an email at twklaus@tenaciouschange.us or text me at 240-319-8525. I’ll be in touch to set up a time to talk.

Be Greater, Do Good, Everyday, and remember to lower your guard as you Change Forward,

Tom Klaus

Christmas Eve at Aldi

December 24, 2018. Last minute errands on Christmas Eve are a holiday tradition in our home. Usually the last mad dash to the grocery is quite uneventful. Not so today.

I had two errands to run this morning. The first one was to the bank. The second one was to Aldi to pick up pineapple chunks for the ham, Señor Rico’s rice pudding (to which I may have developed an addiction), and to wander the special buys aisle to see if there was anything I thought I needed.

U.S. Highway Route 1 bisects Laurel, Maryland where we live. Both the bank and Aldi are located on the West side of U.S. 1 though the bank is the furthest. It makes sense, therefore, to go to the bank first, and then stop at Aldi on the way home, which is what I did.

Leaving the bank I turned onto Rte. 1, moved to far right lane, and prepared to turn into the strip mall entrance where Aldi is located. A car quickly appeared behind and tailgated me as we turned into the access road beside the large parking area. The driver of the tailgating car turned into the parking area one entrance before the one I used. What I didn’t know is that the other driver was in a fierce hurry and began to cut across the empty parking spaces. When I made my turn and looked up, there was the other car on course to T-bone the passenger side of my car. I slammed on my brakes. The other driver slammed on her brakes then started gesturing impatiently and, might I add, rudely, toward me. I turned to her and offered the universal gesture for “What THE are you doing?” (No, I did not “go nuclear” with the gesture, just to be clear.)

I went on by and then she continued to race across the parking lot without looking. She parked her car – but too far away for me to yell at her without sounding like a mad man myself. Then, she proceeded to go to the cart rack at Aldi, put in her quarter to unlock a cart, and go inside. As a further assault to civility and decency, she was wearing holiday decorated yoga pants and sweatshirt. Considered together, in my only slightly biased opinion influenced by our mutual near death experience at her hand, I thought her outfit looked like the hands-down winner of any ugly Christmas outfit contest on Earth…and I thought I might let her know that when we finally met in the store. Instead, I settled for glaring at her at every opportunity. And, yes, I did get that opportunity…twice. She ignored me.

I finally got the items I came for, couldn’t find anything else I didn’t come for, and gave up trying to make the badly dressed driver feel bad. I got in line and put my items on the belt – including a nearly two week fix…er supply…of Señor Rico. I chose this checkout line because I believed it would be faster than the line next to it where a woman was buying for a massive Christmas celebration and the items overflowed her cart.

Behind her was an elderly woman whom I had seen earlier holding a couple of canned items and scavenging for a small ham in the meat section. As the first woman, with the overflowing car, was just about to pay her bill, she told the clerk to put the second woman’s items on her bill and she did. At first, the second woman didn’t know what had happened until she tried to pay for the items. The Aldi clerk explained to the woman that the first woman had paid for her items. The elderly woman was shocked, began to thank the woman profusely, gave her a hug, and burst into tears. Together they went to the packing area together to bag up their bounty. Except that we are living in such divisive, hateful time, it should not be noteworthy that the first woman was black and the elderly woman was white.

Witnessing this powerful act of kindness washed away the anger I was feeling toward the badly dressed driver who nearly ran into me. Even more, it reminded me of the kind of person I aspire to be. I do not aspire to be the angry guy gesturing wildly to the bad driver. I do not aspire to be a judgmental fashion critic. I do not aspire to be the crazy guy that is looking up and down aisles in Aldi for a “chance” run in with the bad driver so I can glare at her. I aspire to be the person who kindly buys the groceries for another without judgment or expectation of gratitude.  

This year’s Christmas Eve run to Aldi was more meaningful than most. I learned something about myself. I learned how easy it is in a world where incivility seems to be the norm once again to also default to incivility myself. Shortly after Thanksgiving I sent out an eblast to clients, colleagues, and friends that offered this aspirational thought: Peace on Earth starts with the simple acts of kindness, compassion, and civility we do and give to each other everyday.

I offer it again here but only as a reminder of my own humanity and of the kind of person I still aspire to be.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, celebrate them with joy.

Be greater, do good, everyday…change forward.

Tom

A Meditation on Seeing the Good

This week I had the privilege and honor of representing our faith community, Sandy Spring Friends Meeting, at an interfaith Unity Service of Giving Thanks in Olney, Maryland. The following is the brief meditation I shared on behalf of our Quaker community. I hope you enjoy it and find it uplifting for this holiday season:

Worship in the Quaker tradition is often misunderstood and misinterpreted as being “silent.” It is far from that. Historians often identify Quakerism as being “Christian mysticism.” Certainly the mysticism part fits, though Christians are not the only ones who participate in Quaker worship and community at Sandy Spring.

Many Quakers prefer to think of the worship experience as “waiting worship” rather than “silent worship.” Outwardly, waiting worship appears to be silent, though, inwardly, it is anything but. In fact, it is filled with the work of reflective listening for the voice of God to speak to us and discerning whether the Spirit of God is moving us to share aloud what we’ve heard. To guide our reflection, we often use “queries.” A query is a reflective question that focuses our listening and discernment.

Rather than speak for five minutes, I’d like to use some of my time to offer a query for Thanksgiving and an opportunity for you to experience a minute or so of waiting worship.

The query is one that speaks to the challenge of living in this time. It is simply this: How are we to give thanks in the midst of tempestuous times that have too much terror and tragedy for us, our children, and our families?

Please take the next minute to reflect on this question in waiting worship.

I wish I could offer an answer to that question for you, me, and all those we hold dear. These are indeed challenging times and it seems we are regularly facing the realities of terror and tragedy in our nation, our communities, our neighborhoods, and even our places of worship.

I am reminded, however, of another who faced horrific things at the hands of his own brothers. I am referring to Joseph, the son of Jacob, whom God called Israel. Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, yet rose to a level of trust and authority among those who purchased him. From this position, Joseph showed compassion toward his brothers in their time of need. When Joseph’s father died, his brother’s knew they needed to make peace with Joseph after all the evil they had done to him. So they humbly went to see Joseph.  

Genesis 50:19-20 tells us Joseph warmly received his brothers and said to them: “Don’t be afraid. Am I God? You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today.”

Perhaps we can give thanks in these difficult times because, as Joseph understood, the good was yet to come.

May we all, in this Thanksgiving season, have the insight, hope, faith, and vision to see the good that is coming.

Be greater, do good, each and everyday….change forward!

Tom Klaus

A Word to the Wise & a Caution to Fools

lao-tzu-bronzeToday is Thursday, November 8, 2018. The Mid-Term Elections in the U.S. came and went two days ago. (Woo Hoo!) Of course, there are winners and losers. To the winners – those who have been elected to lead us at the community, county, state, and national levels – remember that ancient wisdom is often the best advice. So consider the words of Lao-Tzu about leadership from the Tao-Te Ching:

To lead people, walk beside them…

As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.

The next best, the people honor and praise.

The next, the people fear;

and the next, the people hate…

When the best leader’s work is done the people say,

We did it ourselves!

 

And so I ask you…whether you won election this time or are planning already for your next run…what kind of leader do you plan to be? 

I hope you will…be greater, do good, everyday, and always change forward!

Tom

Noses On!

It’s that time again! May 24th is the day! To be exact, it is Red Nose Day, one of my favorite charity events! For this one day a lot of media and public attention is given to the cause of ending childhood poverty. Since it was launched in 2015, Red Nose Day has raised more than $100 million dollars to impact the lives of nearly 9 million children.

Here’s what I love about Red Nose Day…

HOPE Buffalo is a movement in Buffalo, NY in support of adolescent health and wellness. HOPE stands for health, opportunity, prevention, and the three “E’s” of education, equity, and empowerment. The staff and volunteers see the impact of poverty everyday on the lives of young people. Last year they joined the call to don the Red Nose. They look great, don’t they?

First, it attacks a root cause – poverty. I’ve been working in human services, public health, and social change for my entire career. Within these domains there are many issues that adversely affect children which can be traced back to a common factor – children and their families living at or near chronic poverty. Red Nose Day is an attempt to address poverty by supporting programs and initiatives that keep children safe, healthy, and educated. These efforts do more than simply meet an immediate need for children. The myriad acts of kindness associated with helping also address the poverty of hope that children and families living in chronic poverty experience. You can make a difference by spending as little as $1 to buy a Red Nose at Walgreens or Duane Reade stores. If you would like to do more and give more, become a member of my fundraising team at A Nose for Tenacious Change.

Okay, isn’t this the cutest Red Noser you’ve ever seen? A couple of years ago a colleague got a nose for herself and for her son. You can just see this photo being featured in a graduation montage in a few years, right?

Secondly, it animates important ethical and spiritual values in my life. For me these are informed, with neither apology nor arrogance, by Christian Quaker spirituality. They come specifically from the teaching of the disciple Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31 to 46, a selection the Common English Bible calls “Judgment of the nations,” an intriguing title during these times. Most people already know this passage because one small phrase – “the least of these” – is frequently quoted in the context of explaining why we should care about others. If you have never read the whole section to get the full context and story, you may wish to do so. Though you may not share my faith, you may find we share the ethic.

Howard Macy’s “Red Nose Training Manual.” Download it today and get started!

Thirdly, wearing a red nose is fun and a great way to brighten the day of others! Don’t forget…to celebrate Red Nose Day you need, of course, a red nose. May 24th is just around the corner and you don’t want to be the only one with a naked nose do you? Okay, I understand the doubt and I can hear that voice in your head right now asking, “Yeah, but…what do I do once I put the nose on?” Good news! My friend Howard Macy (professor emeritus, philosopher, theologian, a wicked trumpet player, and a fellow Red Nose aficionado) is the author of the Red-Nose Manifesto which you will find in his Red Nose Training Manual, a masterpiece which might have won the Nobel Prize in literature if the Swedes had not cancelled it this year. (Sorry Howard.) To get started, simply download Howard’s brief, easy-to-read book (lots of illustrations) and follow the instructions. From Training Phase Moves to Intermediate Moves to Advanced Moves, Howard will lead you by the Red Nose to the point where you will be proudly sporting it wherever you can. Here is one of his Advanced Moves that I have used before, “When teaching or leading a group, slip the nose on subtly while looking away, then turn around and continue to lead.” If that seems too daunting, how about this Intermediate Move: “Slip on the nose when you’re stuck in traffic. Smile broadly, sing with the radio.” If you are Red Nose virgin and even a semi-public appearance seems way too much to you, try this Training Phase Move by yourself: “Slip the nose on when you’re tempted to feel disrespected or seriously important.” Personally, I have no less than eight red noses – including one in my backpack for Red Nose emergencies when I travel. (Fair warning: I’ll be working in San Luis Obispo, California this year on Red Nose Day. Ha!)

As much fun as I have with my array of red noses, especially on Red Nose Day, the cause is a serious one and the need is great. I do not often ask people to contribute to something, but I am making that ask today. My life’s work has been to try to make this world a better place for all – including “the least of these.” The mission of Tenacious Change is to animate and equip people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. Participating in Red Nose Day is one small thing each of us can do for the greater good. I would be honored to have you on my Red Nose Day team at A Nose for Tenacious Change. Thanks!

Remember…Be Greater, Do Good, Everyday. Put on a Red Nose and Change Forward!

Tom

Click here to join A Nose for Tenacious Change at Red Nose Day. And thank you!

 

Just 1 Story – Episode 2 Is Airing!

Episode 2 of Just 1 Story is now available and airing. It is titled “The Pay-It-Forward Mentor.” This episode tells the story of a man whose career and life was transformed by a chance meeting. Just 1 Story features stories of defining moments and personal leadership in the lives of people. Do you have a story that has defined your life and work? If so, consider sharing it in the second season of Just 1 Story. Click here to learn more about how you can share your story in the Just 1 Story podcast.

Inspiration from Saskatechewan

Four years ago I worked with the Prevention Institute of Saskatchewan to help leadership and staff establish a province-wide community of practice. The community of practice was originally set up for people and organizations working in the field of adolescent sexual health.

Of course, adolescent sexual health is one of those issues that is impacted by many other adolescent issues: healthy relationships, substance use, bullying, body image, gender norms, etc. As a result, groups with a secondary or even tertiary focus on adolescent sexual health benefit as well.

Hardly a week passes that I do not receive something new on the list serve from a member of this community of practice. I learn about resources, upcoming training, funding opportunities, and other useful bits of information. Sometimes I even get something that is just downright inspiring.

Recently I got a link to a music video produced by young people who are part of the Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan. It is a well done video with a powerful message of hope for First Nation youth. Take about 4 minutes and 36 seconds to watch it, listen to it, and feel inspired by these young people.

A community of practice can be done in a way that is so complicated and time intensive that nobody benefits and, eventually, nobody participates. Alternatively, it can done simply and effectively so it will increasingly attract new participants and remain relevant to the needs of the participants. This community of practice from Saskatchewan seems to have evolved into the latter rather than the former. Congratulations to the Prevention Institute of Saskatchewan. Kudos to the Kawacatoose First Nation youth for a powerful, inspiring video.

Be greater. Do good. Everyday. Change forward!

Tom Klaus

Doing Good Everyday in South Texas

Rural Texas, like the rest of rural America, is often overlooked by the rest of the country. Like my native state of Iowa, much of rural America is viewed as “flyover” country, and of little importance because it thought to be occupied mostly by livestock and farm fields. What a sadly mistaken…and, frankly, ignorant…understanding of rural America. 

Fortunately, groups like the Community Action Corporation of South Texas (CACOST) know better. CACOST serves an extraordinarily large part of the state – 16 counties that cover the entire southern tip of the state. For the past several months I’ve been working with CACOST on the implementation evaluation of its teen pregnancy prevention initiative, the South Texas Teen Leadership and Development Program (STTLD). Sadly, this is one of 80+ programs of the Office of Adolescent Health Teen Pregnancy Prevention program that is going away due to significant budget cuts under the current administration. STTLD serves a very rural part of Texas with some of the highest rates of teen births in the state and the U.S. It is a significant loss to the youth, families, schools and communities it serves. But what does it matter? Isn’t it just all livestock and fields down here, anyway? Does any good thing come from rural America? (Read with a “sigh” and eye roll for effect.)

For the past several months I’ve been reviewing the weekly facilitator logs that

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With STTLD Facilitators in Corpus Christi

document the work of the STTLD program facilitators. These facilitators conduct approximately 50 classroom programs each week, for at least 25 weeks in the school year. Now, let’s do the numbers and see if they are seeing anyone other than livestock. 50 classrooms X an average classroom size of, say 20 (to be conservative, since we know there are few if any people in rural America), equals: 1,000. Now it is true that the STTLD facilitators have to travel large distances to see 1,000 students a week but there are still at least 1,000 students in rural South Texas who will lose the program on June 30th unless something changes.

Each year the leadership of CACOST sponsors a board and staff leadership retreat in Corpus Christi. About 125 to 150 board and leadership staff attend. This is only about a fourth of the number of all CACOST employees in all positions. This is the second year I’ve had the privilege to attend this meeting. Last year I did a plenary session that focused on the poverty of hope experienced by too many people in our country. I was asked back this year to do the closing keynote on working more effectively together. I have come to understand the value and appeal of the meeting to board and staff…it feels like a family reunion and it is wonderful!

While I was here, I also did interviews and focus groups with the STLLD leadership and staff as part my evaluation work with CACOST. The STTLD leadership and the leadership of CACOST are doing everything they can to continue the program because they know how important it is to the youth and communities they serve. What impresses me most about CACOST is that the organization and its leadership are intentional about keeping the people they serve foremost in their thoughts and plans.

Case in point…yesterday several CACOST staff led the retreat in a very complex yet

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The Zuppot Family – Zenobia, Xander, Zeke & Zola

powerful poverty simulation. I was assigned the role of being a disabled grandpa (Zeke), with diabetes, who was raising his two young grandchildren (Xander and Zenobia) with his wife, Zola, who did not speak very good English. Zeke’s disability kept him from working and Zola had a low wage job. Our grandchildren came to us from a daughter who was incarcerated on a drug distribution charge. One of our grandkids, Xander, dealt with ADHD. His medication requirements and Zeke’s need for insulin, meant the family faced a pretty big monthly prescription bill plus the regular monthly expenses. It was a moving simulation for people in the room as they experienced a full range of emotions including, embarrassment, shame, frustration, anger, and hopelessness. Several were moved to tears. In debriefing the experience, it was clear that it was a powerful tool for helping CACOST board and staff experience, or re-experience, what it is to live without enough resources or opportunity.

Organizations like CACOST are critical to the survival of families in rural America. But is that all they deserve…to simply survive? I don’t think so. Neither does CACOST or the other Community Action Agencies that were created in the 1960’s as part of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” I have the privilege of currently working with CACOST and another Community Action Agency in San Luis Obispo, CA. I’m very proud to be associated with these two organizations and to be helping them to achieve the greater good in their service areas. They both know it is not about helping their clients just survive poverty, but to thrive and rise. Both CACOST and the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo are being impacted by the cuts in teen pregnancy prevention at the Office of Adolescent Health. Even worse, the youth they serve are those that suffer. Both organizations know all too well what happens when we fail to invest in the future of our country and care for those in greatest need. We must never forget…poverty is not a choice. That is the lesson we learned again in the simulation yesterday.

On a personal note…I had a wonderful surprise today when I finished the keynote for

Tom with Nisa and Megan
Tom with Nisa (on the left, who actually owns my books) and her colleague, Megan

CACOST. A young CACOST staff member, at the urging of her colleague, approached me for a selfie. Now, I’d like to tell you that I get that request a lot, but I don’t. So, I asked, “Of course…but why?” The young woman replied, “I’ve got two of your books. I heard you speak last year but it was only this morning that I realized you were they same person that wrote those books. They were recommended to me by a professor in a counseling class I took and I found them incredibly helpful both professionally and personally.”

Okay, I was shocked speechless. Both books were written over 25 years ago and I had no idea any even still existed…except on my shelves. I was really honored and moved by her request. Thank you Nisa and Megan for making my day!

If you’d like to join Nisa as an owner of these books, you can still find them on Amazon: If Your Parent Drinks Too Much and Counseling Helpsheets, co-authored with my good friend, G. Lamar Roth. I cannot vouch for their condition…I’m still stunned they are available.

Be greater. Do good. Everyday. Change Forward!

Tom Klaus

 

An Invitation to the WWJD Redux Project

Uh…oh…my inner researcher has been awakened!!! You are invited to participate in the WWJD Redux Project.  

In addition to my consulting work at Tenacioius Change, I also do occasional research on topics related to leadership. The WWJD Redux Project is a new project related to the topic of ethical and moral leadership. I am conducting this informal study for a possible article or other publication.

If you have a clear memory of the 1990s (though there was much to forget), you may remember that the initials “WWJD” referred to the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” It entered American pop culture and “went viral” as a way to motivate Evangelical Christians, particularly youth, to “do the right thing” which was, in general, to demonstrate the love of Jesus through their actions and behaviors. As most things that make their way into American pop culture, the question became hackneyed, cliched, and even parodied. Still, it came to represent an acknowledgment of the need for a higher ethical and moral standard for people. You can find a brief, interesting article on the origins of the term here.

The WWJD Redux Project seeks to learn how people are answering that question with regard to President Donald Trump.

You can participate in four simple steps.

Decide to participate. Anyone with an opinion can participate. Feel free to share this invitation with anyone else you like. (For your convenience, use the social media 

Read John Pavlovitz’s brief blog titled, “White Evangelicals, This is Why People are Through With You.

Reflect on these two questions:

  1. After reading and thinking about Pavlovitz’s blog, where are you at in this moment?
  2. Still thinking about Pavlovitz’s blog, what WOULD Jesus do in this time?   

Respond. You have two ways to respond. You can make a private response or enter into a public dialogue with others. Of course, you can do both, if you like. 

  • To make a Private Response: Follow this link to a private response form in my Survey Monkey account.
  • To engage in Public Dialogue: Go to my posts on the Tenacious Change Facebook page (if needed search for the post titled “WWJD Redux Project Dialogue”). Then reply to the post there. If you participate in the public dialogue, please be civil and respectful. This means no cussin’, no spittin’, no name callin’, no wedgies, and no noogies – virtual or real. If you do choose the public dialogue option,  at the start of your post, please tell us how you religiously self-identify using one of these four options: 1) Evangelical Christian; 2) Christian; 3) No identification; and, 4) Other – then explain what the other is.

Finally, thanks to my friend and colleague, Mark Holmgren who inspired this project with a link to John Pavlovitz on Facebook. 

I hope you take a few minutes to read Pavlovitz’s blog and participate. 

Thanks for your consideration and remember to be greater, by doing good, everyday. Change forward!

Tom Klaus

The (Mostly) Certitudes of Change

All things considered, I prefer sameness in my personal life. Okay, actually I more than prefer it. I really like the comfort of my personal routine when I am at home. 

I get up and go to bed at the same times everyday; I eat the same breakfast each morning (baked oatmeal – be sure to ask me for my recipe); I have used the same bar soap, shampoo, and other personal products for years; I have had the same haircut for years (of course, having little hair poses certain limitations); I walk our dogs at the same times every day; when my clothes wear out, I replace them with the same brands in as close to the same style as I can find; and my work day follows the same pattern as much as possible when I’m not traveling for work – I do research and writing in the morning, meetings and calls in the afternoon.

Despite this love of routine, I have come to appreciate there are many facets of change, whether it is personal or group change.

Both have been and continue to be areas of focus in my work – from developing leaders, to organizational change to community development. In recent months I found myself thinking nearly nonstop about change as I was coming up with a name for a new initiative I started piloting and rolling out at the first of this year – Tenacious Change Approach℠.

One mostly certitude of change is that even when we say “yes” to change with our mouths and bests intentions, we can say “no” to it with our hearts. We outwardly go along with it and yet we may inwardly resist the change. At the personal level, even when we know a change would be good and we decide to do it, the change does not automatically happen. For many years I weighed at least 75 pounds more than was healthy for me. I knew I needed to lose weight and made several decisions to do so. However, it was not until I had a crisis with weight induced sleep apnea that my internal “no” became a “yes” and I made the change.

In a group setting, whether it is a team, organization, or community-wide change initiative, we outwardly comply with the change – maybe even enthusiastically support it – but, then, we can work quietly behind the scenes to slow the change or even prevent it. We can even be unaware of our own passive resistance.

Resistance to change, whether merely passive or passive aggressive, is frustrating though it is not a form of evil. It is a characteristic of humanity.

Let’s be honest…what do we humans really love about change? That’s right, pretty much nothing. I know…we act like we love it, especially in our professional worlds. Why? Because we want to appear innovative, original, experimental, inventive, cutting-edge, forward-looking, state-of-the-art, trend-setting, pioneering, Bohemian, groundbreaking, trailblazing, revolutionary, unorthodox, unconventional, offbeat, cool, avant garde…yada, yada, yada. Yet, when we peel away all of that feigned love of change we are human creatures of habit. This is another one of the mostly certitudes of change.

Change is inevitable, regardless of how we feel about it. This is beyond being a mostly certitude of change…it is a certitude. We cannot stop change or, as one of my favorite musicals puts it, “you can’t stop the beat.” We only deceive ourselves if we think change will not occur simply because we do not want it.


If change is inevitable, what choices remain? We can choose to do nothing and let the change unfold without our participation. In that case, we will likely be swept along in whatever direction the change moves things – for good or for ill. If we do not like the change, we can complain about it but that will be too little, too late, and quite annoying to everyone around us.

We can choose to respond pro-actively to change. This choice opens other choices to us. First, we can choose the type of change we want. Our basic choices are evolution (gradual developmental advancement) or devolution (gradual degeneration of advances). Then, we can choose to anticipate it, facilitate it, manage it, and prepare for it to happen again.

To anticipate change is to do some forecasting to imagine what the future holds and then decide what change is most needed. To facilitate it is to take an active role, often in collaboration with others, in deciding the strategies and tactics that will initiate change and move it forward. To manage it is to institutionalize the change which occurs to prevent things from slipping back to the way they were before the change. To prepare for it to happen again is to begin the process all over again. Why? Because change is continuous, which is a another certitude of change.  

Change is inevitable and it is constant, regardless of how strongly we resist it. Our role lies in choosing the type of change that occurs and in how we assist it.

To be a Change Agent is to be an active participant in change. Even though I like routine in my daily life, my spirituality and ethic compels me to be a Change Agent to make our world a better place for all. As we close out 2017 and prepare to boldly begin a new year, I have a wish for all of us. I wish for us to be active participants in changing our worlds – whether neighborhoods, communities, states, or whole countries – to be places where everyone, can feel welcome, accepted, heard, respected, cared for, and loved. 

Be greater. Do Good. Everyday. Change Forward!

Tom