Out of Control

We humans are amazingly egotistical. We think we can control everything. We think we can make our plans, formulate our strategy and predict our futures. We arrogantly assume that we can decide when to marry, when to have children, when to travel and when to retire. So we save our money, plan for retirement and insure ourselves into virtual invincibility.

The truth is, life doesn’t work that way. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. And, try as we might to predict it, we can only deal with it when it comes.

When you have children, you realize quickly how little control you have. Before I had kids of my own, I used to hate to hear small children crying in restaurants or on airplanes. “Why can’t that parent make that child quiet down?,” I would think. After flying for two hours with a screaming child of my own, I now know.

Parents can’t control their kids anymore than wives can control their husbands or husbands can control their wives. I know couples who’ve dedicated 20 years of marriage trying to convince one another to work fewer hours, work more hours, dress more attractively, dress less seductively, talk less, talk more, make more money, have more sex, play less golf . . . the list goes on and on.

I have several friends who planned to have children once their careers were established. When they were finally ready, they found that they could not. One of my old college pals saved for years to build his dream home only to lose his job and have to spend every dime to support his family. Heck, I planned to head South over Labor Day. But Hurricane Frances changed that.

This desire for control extends into the workplace as well. From dating to dress codes to non-competes, employers constantly strive to control their employees. But, let’s face it, a policy against interoffice dating only creates forbidden fruit. (And we all know how THAT turns out.) A talented employee who gains the client’s allegiance should be considered an asset — not a threat. And if your employee doesn’t have the sense to dress appropriately, perhaps you have the wrong employee.

Nothing demonstrates our complete lack of control more than the tragedy of 9/11. Lives ended. Travel stopped. Plans changed. In an instant. Everyone was affected. Some forever.

Try as we might, we can control very little in our lives. We can, however, control ourselves. It’s how we react to the things that happen to us that make us who we are. So the next time a baby cries, a spouse disappoints, an employee leaves, or a crisis occurs, think about that. After all, the world is filled with flowers and weeds. Which are you?