Sunday, November 09, 2008

WWOD? Lessons from Obama

This week's Newsweek is all about the election, and as I read about our new president-elect (it's still exciting to think about this!), I realized that the behavior of Obama on the campaign trail could provide some good lessons to take away, especially about anger management.

Rudeness makes me angry, and I've been angry a lot lately, though for professional reasons that anger hasn't been directed at the people being rude. Nor has it been directed at my family, although they've heard a lot about the situations that are causing the anger (and causing me to *poof* blog posts). The problem is that anger is also a kind of drug. The adrenaline reaction is just there, and you spend far too much time thinking about what you'd say, and "what if X says thus and so," and being sure that you're being fair to the person who has annoyed you, and all that. It interrupts writing time, for sure.

But look at our future 44th president. He doesn't seem to waste time with anger.

  • "Obama's debate coach, Michale Sheehan, a veteran of many campaign psychodramas over the years, was struck by the senator's calmness. The candidate was always in control of his feelings. During one afternoon prep session, Obama begged off. 'I'm a little tired and a little cranky,' he told a roomful of aides. 'I'm going to my room for a half hour and I'll be in better shape to work with'" (104). First lesson: I've been working a little too long and too hard (but not on writing) lately, and I can recognize those signs of fatigue, so maybe, using the WWOD? method, I can chill out and take some time rather than trying to get back to everyone immediately.
  • "In debate prep, Obama's advisers repeatedly instructed him: Do not get personal. Stay calm and in control. . . . 'Command and control: we told him, 'Write it down on your pad when you go in,'" said Joel Benenson, a pollster who was on the debate-prep team" (103). Second lesson: Command and control. Write it down. And implicitly: don't get backed into a corner where you will say something that will haunt you later.
  • "Obama himself floated coolly over the whole flap[Geffen's support for Obama instead of Hillary] , telling a reporter, 'It's not clear to me why I should apologizing for someone else's remarks . . . that doesn't really have anything to do with our campaign'" (47). Lesson three: Focus. Choose your battles. Save your words for where it counts.
  • And there's another example that I can't find right now where something goes wrong and Obama says, in essence, let it go; we have bigger things to worry about. Lesson four: let it go.
  • Finally, there's a scene when Obama gets the nomination and starts joking with Michelle: "Obama . . . let loose his inner nerd. 'The lithium crystals! Beam me up, Scotty!'" (74). Lesson five: Don't let go of the inner nerd and the playfulness that goes with it.
So thanks, President-elect Obama, for the new mantra.


LumpenProf said...

WWOD? Brush it off...

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite things circulating about Obama, from the perspective of his staff, is that he's a guy without highs or lows but a generally steady middle. I find that very inspiring 'cuz I'm much more likely to spiral between the highs and lows. I'm also trying to be more like Obama in my life. I know it's cheesy but, WWOD? Take good advice wherever he found it, that's what.

undine said...

That's it, Lumpenprof! That attitude is what I want.

Bittersweet girl, cheesy WWOD works for me, if it'll stop me from doing a slow burn like Oliver Hardy all day.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to channel it for decades now: how do Black faculty stay calm, at least in public, when I am ready to hammer someone and sometimes do hammer people?

In my first year I asked said faculty how they did it and the answer was that they had years of practice knowing theirs would be the minority position and learning not to let it derail them from their main purpose.

That was when I started practicing, and it has been a rocky road. But I've only got 20 years of practice in an Obama has more. In another 26 years or so (is he 46?) I may get there. I am trying.