Of all the advice from all the gurus of the world...

I just read the really interesting autobiography of Blase Bonpane, a peace activist who has worked on Central American human rights issues. He used to be a Maryknoll (Catholic) priest, but was part of that great upheaval of the late 1960s in which many priests and nuns left their vocations in the church and began enriching the world as laypeople. 

Shortly after leaving the priesthood, Bonpane met and married a woman who had just left religious life herself, as a Maryknoll sister (nun). He and Theresa Kileen Bonpane went on to have two children.

Bonpane's book is really about his life as an organizer, not his family life. In fact, a blurb from Noam Chomsky states that he tells young people who ask, "What can I do to make this sad world a better place?" to start by reading Blase Bonpane's autobiography. 

But in the midst of reading about his political and social ideas, I was heartened by Bonpane's assertion that having kids can develop your abilities to make a difference in the world. 

Children will teach you, challenge you, make you grow daily, as nothing else. 

Of all the advice from all the gurus of the world and all of the ways of perfection, I would suggest one which I consider the highest: raise children....

Once our own infants come along and we realize they will be with us twenty-four hours a day, we must make a choice. Are we going to follow our selfish ways or are we going to respond to their needs? In our case, we were further challenged by the need to balance our political work and the children...  
— Blase Bonpane

Bonpane goes on to share insights from his experience raising a family while being an activist. His observation that, "every child in the world has had either too much parenting or not enough" resonates with me. He notes that, "the younger they are, the more attention they need." Between the lines, it's clear that he and his wife were excellent parents, bringing as much care and intentionality to raising children as they did to their political work. 

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The simple idea that can change your work life for good

There's a study making the rounds in organizational management circles this week. It's called "The buffering role of sportsmanship on the effects of daily negative events."

Bear with me. This is really interesting!

Researchers from the United States and Europe collaborated to discover that avoiding unnecessary complaints and criticism at work enhances your engagement and productivity on the job. 

Like so much good social science, the results are pretty intuitive and unsurprising. But it's nice to see the proof. And if you need to be reminded of something your mom may have told you all along... 

Complaining at work only hurts you. 

Here's the life-changing idea. 

“Discussing events immediately during or after they occur forces the brain to re-live or rehearse the negative emotional response. This creates a stronger association in memory, exaggerating the influence of the emotional episode.... When we engage in sportsmanship, we avoid complaining, and in this way block the formation of salient memory links between the event and our feelings.” 
— Evangelia Demerouti & Russell Cropanzano

This is a life lesson I've learned personally, more than once. 

When a work situation is bad, discussing it with coworkers only makes it worse. 

It's counterintuitive! We're taught to believe that talking about a problem makes it better. 

But in practice, once you open up to your coworkers about how and why a certain situation is bad, the floodgates of negativity are opened up, and those floodgates are really hard to close.

This is not to say that all bad situations should be tolerated in silence. Bullying, harassment, and unethical behavior of all stripes needs to be addressed, as high up the chain as possible. 

But complaining about other conditions to coworkers and even bosses usually doesn't accomplish much. Have you also found this to be true?