The Secret of Life, No Kidding

Since most readers are over the age of seven, here's a quick reminder of how a seesaw works. You sit on one end, and another person sits at the other. You use your feet to push your side up in the air, which makes the other person's side go down. Then the other person does the same, and your side goes down. You keep taking turns until one of you gets bored, falls off, or has to go home and take a nap.

Every healthy civilization, organization and team works like a seesaw.

Sometimes you're in control, and sometimes you're not. Sometimes you are hanging high in the air, trapped and at the other person's mercy, because s/he thought it would be funny to lean backwards and control your fate.

Each of you are dependent on the other, giving them your trust... because both of you know that if you jump off while the other person is in the air, that person will slam to the ground.

In a healthy society, power never vests with one interest to the exclusion of all others. That's called a dictatorship. It is what sparks civil wars, and breaks apart partnerships.

If your group or opinion is out of favor, you can probably tolerate the state of affairs as long as you know that eventually your way will get another try.

Things fall apart when you think that you will always be trapped at the bottom (or the top, whichever you fear the most).

Likewise, businesses stop functioning properly when one skill set or functional area takes complete control. A firm that is all about execution and never about imagination will eventually lose the interest of its customers. The reverse is also true; a team that spends all its time dreaming will never bring anything worthwhile to market.

The same is true for your career, and your life. If you always have to be up, you will never be successful at working with others. If you have to win every debate, you will eventually run out of people who are willing to be in the same room with you.

The more power you accrue... the bigger your ego grows... the easier it becomes to forget about the Seesaw Principle. You have to be willing to let power, ideas, energy and control go back and forth.

Of course, life is slightly more complicated than a playground seesaw. Sometimes the other person or group will be in control longer than you might wish, and the reverse can be true. That's okay. What matters is that the other person perceives that you are engaged in a back and forth process that ultimately will benefit you both.

Spread the word. The seesaw can save the world.

Image: inoneear/Flick