SmartphoneAs a new officer in the US Navy, I was assigned to be the Command Duty Officer on a rotating basis.  The Command Duty Officer’s duties were to spend the night at the command, answer the phone, investigate any security breech, and respond to any occurrence of any nature that involved the command – oh, and report to the Commanding Officer if anything important occurred.  As a result of that experience (and many others like it), I became accustomed to answering a ringing phone within two rings – it was part of the job.  However, it has one unfortunate side effect – I always jump to answer a phone when it starts ringing.  I notice that a lot of people react the same.

This is an example of the Urgent taking priority over the Important – especially these days when I’m at home and so many calls are from telemarketers even though I’ve signed up for the Do Not Call List.  Now, mind you, I don’t pick up the phone automatically any more – but I do check the caller ID.  This change has come about because:

  1. I got mad enough at the telemarketers that I didn’t want to reward them with a response.
  2. There’s very little in my life that requires an immediate response – there’s no classified materials to be protected; lives threaten by stupid people, etc.

I have taken a few minutes to consider how my life is organized and being controlled – no, I’m not a conspiracy theorist claiming the government is trying to spy on me or my neighbors are really working for the CIA or FBI.  What I’m considering is what I respond to and am I operating or doing what I want to do or am I being manipulated?

For example, I bought a package of gluten-free cookies the other day.  Why did I buy them?  Because I like to have cookies and my grandchildren know I like cookies so, they ask if they can have cookies when they come to my house.  With them being cute and lovable I usually like them have a cookie – I don’t want to ruin their appetite.  But my granddaughter is celiac, and I don’t want to exclude her when her brother is getting a cookie.  So, I bought a package of gluten-free cookies, so she can have a cookie when her brother gets one.

I made the decision based on my wants and needs.

Answering the phone when it rings without thought means that I have given up the decision-making to someone else – the person who’s calling.  And these days, most of them don’t have my best interests at heart.

What I’m trying to do is identify where I’m not making conscious decisions and evaluating what drives those decisions.  If it’s something I approve of, I let it go.  But when it’s something I don’t approve of, I’m putting in place mechanisms to stop it.

In short, when it comes to the questions of who rules who?  I want to answer to be that I rule me.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.