This week my work hours are filled with training. I spent the first two days learning how to conduct facility assessments for ADA standards — in isolation, this not typically something that an IT guy would be expected to learn — but there are good organizational reasons for me to be involved at this level of detail. Two days down, two more to go for next week. Today and tomorrow I’m taking Crucial Conversations — learning techniques to apply reason and tact in important situations where our lizard hindbrains make it difficult to be reasonable or tactful.
I have been to quite a few leadership academies, soft skills, and sundry other trainings since I was in high school — there’s always something new to learn — and that’s the main point I have here. There’s always something new to learn.
We’re social primates, so enforcing status through silence or violence is the evolutionary rule. Culture, different cultures, and cultural behaviors in this context are tools just as much as a knapping stone is a tool — things we use to solve problems. Keeping that in mind enforces a kind of humility. Status is pride-bound. A chain of bosses pulled from a barrel of monkeys. Leadership is humble, it aims at the goal, not the status. The type of organization (a group of social primates with different roles and different statuses united around common goals) that leads is one that makes a commitment to be a certain way, recognizes its weaknesses with humility, and determines the work to meet those common goals.
Following ADA standards (and section 508 standards to tie it in to my own work) requires the ability to step out of one’s own status in order to understand how we can be mindful of the needs of others. It’s an ongoing humbling, because leadership is about admitting your ignorance and accepting that there is always something new to learn.
I’ve spent the last couple of years taking a greater interest in dressing well — which has morphed into a greater interest in style — which has morphed into a greater interest in fashion — which is something I’ve never understood. Though, finally, I’m beginning to. I think.
There have been scattered moments in my life where I had a well-defined personal style, my curated EDM-hippy vibe in high school (neon-printed rayon shirts that glowed under blacklight and vintage pants), proto-Zuckerbergian basic neutral normcore for post-collegiate office work (khakis, grey t-shirts, blue button-downs), to my current urban yuppie professor dad steez (ubiquitous corduroy jacket, flat-brimmed hat, worn-in selvedge, high tops).
If I had to assign three major qualities to clothes they would be material utility (what’s it used for?), quality (how well is it made?), and communication (what does it mean to wear it?). Traditionally, I barely cared about any of these — although utility would be the closest, which is the status quo for most folks (men especially). I would buy the cheapest clothes that would serve the greatest number of purposes and cared nothing about fit, provenance, appearance or style. So the world of high fashion seemed completely ludicrous to me. I never consciously considered that clothing could be art.
I am a person who appreciates the well-crafted. I eventually grew tired of buying cheap clothes that don’t fit my proportions and disintegrated after a wash or two. I’ve sought well-crafted, American-made clothing for the last 2 years, and through the research in and appreciation of that craft, I’ve been able to look to the next step to see fashion as art. The utility might be non-existent — but there’s no utility to visual art, music, or creative writing either. I’m talking material utility, not social utility.
So now I pay attention to my own dress, to the dress of others’, and to some extent what’s abuzz in fashion because I took the time to learn the language & what I say by the way I dress. A lot of it still seems like nonsense to me, but I’m willing to attribute that to my ignorance. Here’s to further learning.