It's that time of year. People getting sick everywhere. The "flu" has been going around, especially in TX. Any of you feeling overcome by affluenza? No, that wasn't a typo: affluenza. In case you haven't seen the news recently, a 16 year old boy was sentenced to just 10 years of probation after stealing beer from a local Wal-Mart, getting drunk to the point that his BAC was three times the legal limit three hours after the crash, driving 30 mph over the speed limit, and causing an accident that killed 4 people and injured others. His defense team did a fantastic job of painting the 16 year old as a victim; he wasn't responsible for his actions because he had wealthy parents that never set limits for him.
There's been plenty of response to the verdict. I've seen and heard plenty of outrage over the fairness of a judicial system where four lives can be cut short and the person responsible essentially walks away with a slap on the wrist. Whatever your opinion on the case, you have to admit it raises significant controversy for our justice system and points to how it is skewed to those who can afford a brilliant team of lawyers.
I'm not going to talk about the verdict or the judicial system today. Instead, I'm going to use this as an opportunity to talk about consequences.
Back in the day (when I was growing up), we were taught that every action had consequences. If we did something good, we were rewarded: medals for winning a race, trophies for winning a tournament, an allowance for doing chores, or maybe even a toy or gift for just behaving. If we did something bad (or performed poorly), we were punished: time in your room to "think about what you've done", watching others win, loss of privileges, getting grounded, or if we really pushed the boundaries, there might be a strap or belt involved. We got positive reinforcement to make us want to do better and punishment to discourage us from not acting properly. We were instilled with the concept of societal norms and what is expected of us. In spite of that, we weren't always angels and we tried to get away with things, but more often than not, we found that it was better to work hard and do the right thing.
But somewhere along the way, parents got scared of disciplining their kids, teachers lost the ability to do the same, someone decided it was better for all the kids to get trophies so they all feel like winners, and kids realized that they could get away with more. Why work hard? Why act like society expects us to act? You can do whatever you want if you have no sense of consequences and very often, these individuals do, to varying degrees.
The problem is that by not providing them with boundaries, we've stunted their growth. They act out of a selfish desire to fulfill whatever instantaneous desires they have. It's instinctive action driven by their baser needs.
What does this have to do with Unsteady State? The idea behind Unsteady State is that we are always looking to grow and learn; that we are not satisfied with our current condition. Change is hard and the only thing that gets us through difficult change is our faith and belief in the consequences of our action, either good or bad. But when you don't understand consequences, that doesn't exist.
Think about this: as the story goes, the world's greatest basketball player, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. He was so distraught over being cut that he went home, locked himself in his room, and cried. In his words:
"It was good because it made me know what disappointment felt like," he said. "And I knew that I didn`t want to have that feeling ever again." [Greene, Bob. "When Jordan Cried Behind Closed Doors." Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1991. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.]
If he had floated through without this disappointment, it's possible that he never would have developed the killer instinct that drove him to be the greatest of all time. Consequences are opportunities for learning more about ourselves and growing beyond ourselves. Without consequences, there's no catalyst for change.
Join the conversation! What do you think?