Moderation in All Things

The second of five things I think I now know (for sure) is that moderation is ultimately the position I strive for in every element of my life.  Below are six topics (I could write dozens) through which I’ve travelled from extreme to extreme.  Also find a favorite book that caused me to reconsider each.

On Business:

Initially, I was convinced that passion and hard work would overcome every obstacle.  Instead these traits unbounded ran me headlong into client losses, broken bank covenants and employee defections.

The wounds from those learnings led me to planning incessantly, thinking for every issue and obstacle I could devise a plan A, B and C.

Now I’ve moderated to recognize that “to everything there is a season”.  All our businesses plan democratically in Q4 of each year, then execute (that plan) dictatorially from January through September the following year.

  • A book that got me thinking: “The Great Game of Business” , Stack

On Personal Relationships:

My young years were spent in debate.  If I could only convince those close to me of the rightness of my position, we would get along better.

When that failed, I took to fighting or fleeing.  If I had a chance to persuade, I’d stick around; if not, I took to the highway and left whoever was not “with” me, behind me.

Today, I’m learning the skill of “seeking first to understand, less be understood”.  The result is improved relationships with most of those I work with and love.  It’s still very hard for me to hold my position while appreciating the other view but I’m getting better.

  • A book that helped me a lot: “Fierce Conversations”, Scott

On Self-development:

Ever the achiever I was of course certain one day I would overcome most, if not all my flaws.

My thoughtless quest for perfection has led to long periods of despair.  This trait can also be extremely annoying to those around me.

So I came up with a headline to follow:  “progress, not perfection”.  That idea leads me to work as if I’m better than I was, not yet as good as I will be.  My best remains in front of me.

  • To change thinking, I had to change how I think: “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Kahneman

On Spirituality:

I grew up and remain a practicing Roman Catholic.

For long periods of time in my life, I’ve doubted all spiritual traditions.

While still practicing my own religious traditions, I also practice Buddhist insight meditation and am fascinated by every theology and spiritual practice I’ve encountered.  I rest comfortably in the moderate thought that all Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist practitioners are living honorable lives.

  • Best book on the topic: “New Seeds of Contemplation”, Merton

On Politics:

Early in my career I was professionally employed by the Republican Party and while I still have never voted a straight ticket, I considered myself a conservative.

Since then I’ve ranged (and raged) as a liberal on social issues and often find myself simply disgusted and disenfranchised by the entire system.

Today, I’m simply a participant who looks for respectful dialogue based in fact.  Democracy is messy and intractable issues are complex.  Our systemic improvements require time and compromise.  As Churchill said, “Americans always do the right thing…but only after exhausting every other option”.

  • My thinking on this was (recently) dramatically altered by: “Factfulness”, Rosling

On Wealth and Poverty:

I’ve experienced poverty a few short times in my own life but mainly by engaging in outreach.

As financial independence arrived for me, I often felt guilty.

I’ve settled on the fact that money is inherently neither good nor bad but I need to identify money’s place in my life and keep it there since running to it or from it creates unhealthy extremes.

  • Favorite book on the topic: “Money and the Meaning of Life”, Needleman

Right or wrong, bull or bear, conservative or liberal, saved or not saved and genius or idiot are terms that have all lost their charm for me over time.

Moderation is a tough stance to take these days.  I’ve noticed I still end up getting labeled for any position I take in any event.  It’s the way extremists argue their point of view.

So, why worry?

I always hated labels anyway.



Tim McCarthy

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