On Liberty, Wikileaks and Sullen Paranoia

“We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.” John F. Kennedy
In America, we pride ourselves on freedom, first amendment rights and the ability to have extensive privacy protection.

Yet, Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, Big Data and other intersections between the government and corporations sharing information to either get us to buy more, spend more, or to just watch us more, has put to lie some of these freedoms.

Enough Americans still see this country as the “Home of the Brave,” but less and less so over the last few years.

However, there is nothing that couldn’t be recaptured about the freedom to be left alone, inherent in our American freedoms, by replacing a few legislative leaders and by rethinking how we look at the cultural and social implications of privacy.

Two articles, one from Jules Polonetsky  and one from Peggy Noonan make the point that, while personal-public behavior may change in the short-term, due to surveillance and monitoring, in the long term, such efforts serve to create a nation of, in essence, sullen, paranoid, people: Angry and pessimistic at being watched constantly, but unable to stop it and believing that it is everywhere.

The balance between the result of every click, search and posting being held against me and government and corporations being able to interrupt me constantly with marketing and appeals to buy or support more and more stuff, has not been worked out fully in the American public sphere yet.

Fortunately for all of us, the American public will figure out how to resolve the tensions in this conflict, long before the laggards and late-majority in governments—local, state and federal—will.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: hsconsultingandtraining@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

On Getting Skilled Art for Free

“Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”
― Seth Godin
Volunteering is a great thing. 
Volunteers built the prohibition movement and the feminist movement that sprang out of it. 
Volunteerism has driven the establishment of non-profit organizations and associations that perform good deeds every day in this country. 
Volunteers marched on Washington and had dogs and hoses turned on them to break Jim Crow.
In the interests of full disclosure, the principal consultant here at HSCT volunteers for two great local organizations in the Southern Tier.
But, at a certain point, for certain things, no one wants a volunteer to show up. 
No one wants their case taken by a volunteer lawyer, though local Legal Aid societies do tremendous work for people who cannot afford legal protection in any other context.
No one wants a building constructed by a volunteer architect, engineer, or construction worker. Oh sure, a couple of college kids showing up to build a Habitat for Humanity house is fine, but having them design the build is another thing altogether.
No one wants a volunteer psychiatrist prescribing psychotropic drugs or recommending therapies for severe mental health issues.
We hire professionals in all of these areas.
So, the core question becomes: Why do organizations, businesses, associations and individuals continue to recommend, advise and, in some cases demand, that the only way to successfully resolve a conflict is to “get a volunteer mediator?”
The mediation process is at least as intense and involved as the legal process, the mental health process, the building and design process or the surgical process.   
Mediation is about reaching inside the most intimate process a person can go through—a conflict—and helping guide two people toward whatever resolution they desire to get to.
This is Art. Worthy to be paid for.
So, why are there over 20,000 volunteers in this country alone, doing work that—if it were in another field—would be highly paid for?
Is it because everybody knows how to resolve conflict?
Is it because no one needs conflicts resolved?
Is it because people and organizations don’t know that mediation and conflict resolution exists?
We here at HSCT postulate that the reason there are a plethora of volunteers in the field of mediation is for two reasons:
Too many people think that they can mediate a conflict. This is best summed up in the phrase “Well, how hard could mediation be,” or “Can’t Judy in HR do it? She’s pretty good at resolving conflicts?”
Which leads into the second reason:  The skills of a professional mediator, active listening, finding a third way, developing a negotiated agreement, etc., etc., are seen more as being a subsets of other professional skills and not as true artistic skills to be learned and practiced—and paid for—on a regular basis.
We here at HSCT believe that the combination of skills, training, education, experiences, and—well, life—is worth paying a pretty penny for.  And we believe that more organizations, institutions, associations, corporations, businesses—and even governments—would do well to pay a salary to either a consultant with the specific mediation skills to help them.  Or, create positions that will allow individuals to facilitate the development of the mediation field, both now and in the future.
And, mediation as a field should begin to make the argument—as fast as is humanly possible—that the skills of mediation are worth paying for. Before too many more graduates from Masters and Doctoral programs are compelled to volunteer to practice their art, and work full-time doing something else to feed their families.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA 
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Follow our Principal Consultant, Jesan Sorrells, on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
Connect with HSCT on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/
Email HSCT questions or comments at: hsconsultingandtraining@gmail.com
Check out HSCT’s website: http://hsconsultingandtrain.wix.com/hsct

On Leads, Or How to Sell What Clients and Organizations Don’t Think They Need

No one needs help resolving conflicts.


People need help communicating. People need help leading and figuring out leadership. People need help managing other people. People need help with figuring out “how to talk to annoying Aunt Janet and Uncle Mike.”

But no one needs help resolving conflicts.

When put on the spot, 9 times out of 10, people will be unable to identify a conflict they are having in their life, that is impacting them at a level where they may need conflict engagement skills services.

However, the person standing next to them—wife, husband, friend, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew—will be able to zero in on where the person is deficient in their approach to a conflict.

But, it’s not the person standing next to the person who can’t think of a conflict they need help with that’s the problem: The problem is that the dysfunction of unresolved conflicts is so normalized that it’s no longer seen as a problem.

Case in point:

Him: “So, what’s your business?”

Me: “I’m a professional conflict engagement consultant. I help small businesses, higher education organizations and churches engage with the conflicts in their lives.”

Him: “So, can I get your card?”

Me: “Sure.”

Him: “So, I guess I would bring you in say if I had problems managing the 40 or so staff members that work for me?”

Me: “That’s precisely where I would be the most help for you.”

Wife: “Hey!” “He could help you out with the argument you had with your daughter this morning!”

Him: “What am I gonna do, huh!? She’s gotta come into work at least once a week. I understand that she’s got an issue, but c’mon already!”

They both laugh. The wife rolls her eyes. They walk back into the restaurant.

No one needs conflict resolved in their lives. Until they actually do.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Advice] Why Go to College: For the Rest of Us

Since the economic collapse of 2008, there have been many articles and blogs written about the importance (or lack of importance) of attending higher education for young people.

This talk has taken place amid a backdrop of ever rising tuition costs, zero wage increases, artificially suppressed inflation, a boatload of student loan debt burdening the 18-22 year old cohort and the dim post-graduation employment prospects where an average job search takes 6-9 months.

Hope and change indeed.
All of these writers, bloggers and opinionaters on both sides of the debate have one thing in common: They all hail from middle to upper middle class households and backgrounds, where at least one parent (and in many cases both parents) have already attended college.
In particular, they hail from backgrounds where they grew up with the suburban (and in some cases ex-burban) comfort that at least if they graduated from an overpriced college with an undervalued education and an economically meaningless degree, that somehow, someway, it would all work out in the end.
Now, in principle, we here at  HSCT have no problem with people carrying such assumptions and even acting on them in the real world.
We have no problem with people writing long, effusive, opinion pieces on the lack of efficacy of a college education and worrying about the debt attached to obtaining it, in the context of a world where student loan debt cannot be disgorged through a bankruptcy process.
We also have no problem with questioning why it is important for people to have college degrees and even the tenuous link between a college degree and economic success based in secure post-graduate employment.
Make no mistake, yes our background is in higher education, but we would be blind and foolish if we did not admit that there are real structural problems and cracks in the mighty edifice constructed since post-World War II.
We get off the train though, when we think about the “please take the college years and go off to ‘find yourself’” type advice, being given to minority high school students.
We have a problem when very well meaning, successful, wealthy people, who did not attain degrees, but attained a measure of success, stand in front of diverse audiences and make the audacious claim that can be summed up as “we didn’t go so you don’t have to either.”
We’re sorry, but too many folks in those diverse audiences come with backgrounds from racial minority groups in this country that have experienced systemic, institutionalized, historical racism. And some of those students’ backgrounds are from communities still experiencing the results of such racism, racialism and racial prejudice. Thus, some of the worst advice that they–as well as their younger brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews–can possibly hear is “don’t attend college, because it’s too expensive, too much student loan burden will be upon you at graduation, etc., etc.”
This is not a statement based in social justice, social re-engineering or any desire for any form of social gerrymandering.
This statement comes out of a recognition that more African-American males are in jail in this country than even have completed high school.
This statement comes out of a recognition that Hispanic, Asian and Eastern European populations have traditionally valued education as the only way to advance in America.
This statement comes out of the recognition that the only way to open the doors and unlock opportunities if you are not from an upper class or even a middle class structure, is through the hard work of education, monetary sacrifice, and doing the right thing for the most people possible.
Of course, when there have been three to four generations of racial, ethnic and class minorities that have attained college education in America, we will be the first to write all about how going to college is a fool’s bargain.
We promise.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

Acts 4:13

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”–William Shatner

How many times in your life does exhortation come to “go boldly,” into anywhere?
Here’s a better question: When was the last time anyone encouraged you to act boldly?
Well, split infinitives aside, we’d like to assert, here on the HSCT blog, that boldness is the only way to go in a world defined by timidity, false pride, arrogance, irrationality and impulsive behaviors. And the conflicts that go along with all of those afflictions.
However, don’t believe us. Take a look at the definition of the word, “bold.”
Bold (adj)
  • fearless and adventurous: willing and eager to face danger or adventure with a sense of confidence and fearlessness
  • requiring or showing daring: requiring or showing fearlessness, daring, and often originality
  • impudent or presumptuous: lacking in modesty or impolitely assertive.
All of those definitions are excellent, but the one for the purposes of our assertion in this blog post is the one most defined by the Old Russian proverb to “pray to God, but row for the shore.”
Acting boldly is something that requires a certain amount of fearlessness, courage and tenacity. All traits that we talked about last week in this space.
But we wonder, what are the gifts of boldness? What are those virtues that we attain from jumping headlong into a situation and facing a difficulty head on?
Some of them include:
  • Meekness
  •  Humility
  •  Courage
  •  Curiosity
  •  Healing
  • Patience
  • Resolution
  • Perseverance
  • Faith
  • Mercy
  •  Grace

All of these are critical to have in the pursuit of peace, but the most critical one is the fact that boldness takes us across oceans of fear, blackness and self-doubt.

Boldness took human beings across the ocean and all the way to the Moon and back.
Timidity and fear keep us huddled at home, behind the skirts of Mother Earth, wondering who will save us from ourselves, constantly looking up for a savior instead of doing the hard work to bring out the Savior already in us.
Acting, responding and living with boldness is the opposite of living with fear.
And it gets us as far as Gene Roddenberry could have ever imagined–and then catapults us even further.
Live boldly.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: hsconsultingandtraining@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/