12-6-12 Protesters outside the Michigan State Capitol

Those who have followed this blog for a while, and those who know me, may remember when I was left without a job for a bit during the summer of 2009.  I was told, at the beginning of that break, that I should go see a professional who could help me “with anger issues.”  At first, I figured that was a line of bullshit, said flippantly because of an uncomfortable situation.  But then, after getting past a moment of crisis, I figured I’d take them up on their advice.

Turns out, I didn’t have anger issues.  There’s nothing wrong with being angry.  Anger is a part of life, but how we deal with is something that we can always work on.  How we communicate the fact that we’re angry can impact how we get along with other people, especially in my job as a lobbyist around the Capitol.  And I had to learn that sometimes anticipating the worst in others only brings out the worst in ourselves and not other people.

You see, the biggest lesson I had to learn was that life is not a game chess.  In chess (and really, in politics) the good players plan three or more moves ahead, based on what your opponent does.  If the white king moves to queen’s rook 7, the proper response three moves ahead may be to capture a pawn.  If the credit unions start to push something on increasing their business lending ability, the banking industry launches not only a letter drive to Congress arguing against the request, but then may also respond by calling for taxing credit unions the same as banks.  Anticipation of the moves is key to determining the strategy of what and when.

Life and personal interactions can be more tricky when it comes to anticipation.  Anticipation can ramp up stress levels and cause tunnel vision that one can actually perceive actions that did not occur.  I have been guilty of this type of anticipation numerous times … which might explain why I had some un-requested time off the summer of 2009.

This week, there are going to be a lot of people hanging around the State Capitol who aren’t here on a daily basis.  As the Michigan House of Representatives takes some final votes on the “Right-to-Work/Freedom-to-Work” issue, potentially making Michigan the 24th state to have such a law.  I have a sense of dread of what we’ll see tomorrow.  I am anticipating the worst.

Granted, based on the events of last Thursday that did cause some damage to the Capitol and based on what we saw in Wisconsin when they had these debates, maybe some of my dread is justified.  However, I have a moment of pause.  What if the protest are actually peaceful and it is the anticipation of something bad that actually creates something bad?

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc.  One of the few latin phrases I’ve learned from The West Wing.  After this, therefore because of this. This is the biggest problem with anticipation in life.  It’s a logical facility.  It can best be expressed as follows:

  • Action A occurred, then Action B occurred.
  • Therefore, A caused B.

When B is undesirable, this pattern is often extended in reverse: Avoiding A will prevent B.

But one thing does not necessarily cause the other thing.  And anticipating that one thing causes another when it’s not necessary true can can a whole heap of problems.

At any rate, I pray that things go well tomorrow; that the protest happen in an honorable way and that the cathedral of my professional life isn’t damaged.  I pray that my anticipation of the worst turns out to be false.

And I pray that, someday, I learn to stop anticipating the worst in people, places, things, agenda, organizations, legislation, in our state, and in our country.  I pray that for all of us.