The young Corey
Booker had a Yale law degree and a lot of spunk, but he eventually ran out of
gas as his fellow city councilors squashed anything he tried to do.
They had had
enough of his in-your-face campaign against the poverty, corruption and general
disaster of New Jersey’s Newark. He had confronted his fellow politicians too
vigorously and too often.
So, depressed and
emotionally shot, visiting one of the city’s worst drug-dealing areas, he ran
into a woman from the area who had been an active opponent in many public
She, seeing his
dispirited state, gave him a reassuring hug. I can’t remember the story well
enough to say whether he asked for her advice, or if she just volunteered it:
Big deal. No
ideas, no brilliant solution, no offer of help – just an unadorned statement
that smacks of a demand. Maybe something of an accusation.
I have no idea
what process that triggered in Booker’s psyche, but he did something.
He bought a tent
and pitched it there in that hell of drugs and violence. He lived there, and went
on a hunger strike that lasted days. He was desperate, and he couldn’t think of
anything else to do.
He did something.
And attracted attention. Then it worked.
After a while,
people started to come to see him in his tented, hungry place. The mayor came,
the long-serving guy who some years later would lose his job to Booker.
Services came into the neighborhood. Things began to turn around.
A process started up that day. Not
quickly and easily, but maybe inevitably, it progressed to a point where it now
displays that man, Corey Booker, in the United States Senate.
The story doubtless
has more to it, but the tent and the fasting in the face of a hopeless
situation represents a lesson for all of us. Do something, however little it
may seem to relate to solving the problem of the moment.
Many of us can,
on occasion, become entangled to the point of indecision. The gravity of our situation
might be well short of Booker’s, but we can be just as paralyzed.
Too many choices
can be as daunting as too few. When the perceived pain of various options
equals the estimated cost of inaction, handwringing progresses to apathy.
Those of us
addicted to logic and mature thought are as vulnerable in this regard as anyone
else – perhaps more so. Preparation, certitude and energy can carry you just so
far, if acceptance and support don’t come in sufficient measure to feed
solution? Do something.
something to do when nothing can be done is to dissipate the psychology of
defeat. You’re not beaten until you say so, no matter what the score is.
Emotion is a large component of attitude. Getting active, almost without regard
to how you get active, gives an immediate boost to energy and optimism.
So one something you can do is create a
do-something state of mind. One option is to pursue an idea generation process
that seems irrelevant but actually can be very productive: Brainstorming.
Brainstorming, done even moderately
well, produces a fresh point of view even if there are few usable ideas – or
none at all. It is impossible to view a matter the same after you have invented
and heard all kinds of ways to overcome it, some of them ridiculous.
You might also go
talk to people who have some connection or knowledge, not about solutions necessarily,
but just about the subject in general. Stay alert. Your contacts might open an
insight without even knowing they’re doing it.
experts. Read books and check out videos. Don’t be narrow. You’re looking to
trigger new perspectives, not find prepackaged answers.
The human brain
has amazing, limitless possibilities. Among them is the ability to comb its
enormous stores of your past sights, sounds and feelings . . . then assemble
them into coherent responses in response to the conscious mind.
So you have no
way of knowing what might result from presenting that marvelous resource with a