Sometimes How You Frame the Problem Opens the Path to the Solution
Zelenskyy has astutely leveraged social media to rally his people in a manner that is frank and authentic. At the same time, he includes an emotional component that has deeply affected many in the West who had historically been reluctant to get involved.
He has proved to be a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin, who has reportedly ordered multiple assassination attempts. While Zelenskyy does not, at least from my quick review, elect to leverage his comic chops to outright dismiss these attempts on his life, he responds to them in what is a healthy way—he acknowledges their existence, yet he pushes ahead despite obstacles that might cause someone whose resilience muscles are less developed to run away.
Russia, by contrast, has criminalized protests and attempted to censor media coverage. Compared with the approach of its adversary, this feels more like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” psychological approach.
What Does This Have to Do with Me?
As lawyers, we sometimes feel we have the weight of the world upon us. That sense of responsibility can (and often does) drive us to do our best work. It can also cause us to feel overwhelmed and out of gas.
Putin, despite a near iron grip on public discourse, is often photographed at the end of a long table, a dozen or more feet away from his subordinates. His current romantic partner and their children are in a bunker in a remote part of Russia. Reports say he has every meal “poison tested.”
By contrast, Zelenskyy is winging it, meeting people via Zoom while moving about to avoid attempts on his life. I respectfully submit that Zelenskyy’s self-awareness, candor, and authenticity is not only the path that is easier to root for and respect. It is also the emotionally healthier one.
An Emotional Reaction to Adversity from Another Perspective
The reason for my drive to Chicago was to provide respite care to my 93-year-old mother so that my sister (an ER charge nurse by training) and her husband could get a week of vacation. They moved Mom into their townhouse, which has a small elevator, after she fell and broke her hip last September.
Thankfully, Mom has avoided the family’s predisposition to Alzheimer’s. Instead, her body is breaking down, something of which she is acutely aware. The need to relearn mobility, and the attendant loss of control, has been difficult emotionally.
Her situation is nowhere near as precarious as Zelenskyy’s. As I write this, however, I am conscious of the possibility (if not the likelihood) that one (or both) of the two may no longer be with us by the time this column appears in print.
My conversations with my mother have been, as always, delightfully varied and analytical. One change in Mom is that, as the years have sapped her physical vitality, she has evolved into a more emotionally phlegmatic being. (That is not something I have typically witnessed over a lifetime surrounded by strong-willed women of Italian extraction!)
As with Zelenskyy, Mom seems at peace with where her journey has taken her. Both have, for entirely separate reasons, discovered the ability to, as Chevy Chase told Danny Noonan in Caddyshack, “just be the ball.”
There is a lesson, or maybe just a perspective, we can take from one (or both) of these examples. Would that type of quiescence be a benefit to you personally and, by extension, a benefit to your clients and those you love?
As I proof my editor’s suggested revisions a week after submitting this column, my sense is the two have inspired me to strive to “be the ball.”