I hope you enjoy this week’s actionable insights. Hit Reply and let me know what you think.
Lessons from jury duty
The Chauvin verdict
After lunch, I heard that the jury had reached a verdict. “Must be guilty,” I thought. “There’s no way every juror would so quickly agree to not guilty.”
And so it was.
A measure of accountability in a system in dire need of reform.
Everyone’s talking about what the verdict means, so let’s discuss something different: what was behind this hunch of mine. It derived not from the facts in the case or a faith in redemption but instead my own experience as a juror 18 years ago. That criminal trial, which took place in San Francisco, involved four weeks of testimony followed by two weeks of jury deliberations. The experience taught me two lessons about juries:
1. It’s easy for jurors to follow their emotions and cognitive biases and ignore the facts. In our case, eleven people (most in their 20s and 30s and all but one of them identified as white) were prepared with minimal deliberation to find the defendants (all Latino) guilty on all 41 counts. Even though it seemed likely one defendant wasn’t even at the scene of the crime.
2. It’s possible, albeit more socially taxing, for a minority of jurors to delay things by digging in their heels and refusing to comply. Yours truly, guided in equal parts by clarity and stubbornness, did this for two days. The result: half of the group was persuaded to change their minds on a couple dozen counts. And the other half? They gave me cold stares every step of the way and wouldn’t come near me at lunch.
So, when I heard the jury in the Chauvin trial had made a decision in two days, one thing was clear: if a single person could stymie things for two days in a case nobody was following, there was no way every juror in this big case would buckle under and agree so quickly to let Chauvin off the hook.
What I’m learning
Trust the senses
Twenty years ago, a coach encouraged me to trust myself. It was an odd insight. You mean I don’t already trust myself?“Correct,” she said. “Your doubting mind gets in the way.” This led me on a journey of discovery. The self-questioning, I found, was fierce and continuous, and finding ways to work with it brought me into presence. The lesson took a while to sink in, but eventually it did.
Recently, I learned that, to paraphrase Yoda’s words to Luke, “incomplete was your training!”
Here’s what new: trusting myself means trusting my five senses. Sight, sound, scent—the whole package. This, in turn, requires feeling my five senses, which calls for twice as much breath and half as much clenching.
The upshot: when my nervous system gets activated, I have a choice
1. Interpret it as a sign that something’s wrong and tighten up. Gotta be alert, can’t relax.
2. Interpret it as an opportunity to trust my senses. The senses are intelligent and will show the way.
Historically, it’s been 95% door number one and 5% door number two. Things are shifting, but it’s still a work in progress.
Get thee to self-authory
Spotting mental demands in expert advice
Cal Newport recommends time blocking. Don’t start your day by checking email and responding to requests. Instead, plan every minute of your day and be sure to include time for uninterrupted creative “deep work.” This useful practice creates what Bob Kegan calls a mental demand. It requires a capacity for self-authorship that not everyone has developed. This doesn’t mean the practice is bad. But it is harder for some than others. It’s something we grow into.
Americans at our best
19th and early 20th century Black American feminists
“Black women emerged from brutal encounters with enslavement, sexual violence, economic exploitation, and cultural denigration as visionaries prepared to remedy their own circumstances and, by doing so, cure the world.”—Martha S. Jones from Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All
About “When collaboration fails, use other forms of power”
“I really liked this. Very common and difficult situations. It’s not always clear that there are other choices of how to handle things. And when we DO bring in other power, how to do that in a way that is balanced and fair – AKA with out an overlay of revenge or hatred. That’s where the real growth can be in these situations, at least in my experience.”—Michael Dolan, Truly Productive Leadership