Who’s The Boss?

This week a bunch of ideas collided and got me thinking about when and why we get our way. We all want different things. When we get together in a group we often need to choose one thing over another. Sometimes we get our way. Sometimes we don’t.

Zen Habits featured a great post about Allowing Things to Happen last week. This brilliant (and simple) post suggests any control we have is really an illusion anyway, so we should let go.

This illusion hit home for me this week. The one time I really like to control things is on the poker table. As I’ve become a better player I’ve learned to influence what others do with my actions. I work hard at my game because I like to win, but in the last few weeks I’ve been hit with an interesting paradox.

I’ve been playing my best poker ever (mathematically) and yet I’m not doing as well as I normally do. Over the last ten weeks I’ve had a string of really horrible luck. What’s been happening is about as improbable as winning the lottery, only in reverse.



Lots of people react to turns of fate like mine by getting angry. Yelling. Throwing things. It’s like a child throwing a temper tantrum because he thinks he is control then discovers he’s not. Maybe this never changes. But our illusions of control just get better.

The book Zen and The Art of Poker talks about cycles of luck. Where each player takes a turn winning. And that sometimes it’s just not our turn and we need to be patient. If we force the issue and try to bully our way to winning when it is not our turn, disharmony results. I wonder if that’s not also the case in everyday life.

How many times do you see someone imposing their will on others and it is clearly not the right course? We laugh at egomaniacal bosses on television, because we know similar people.



One of my favorites is a person I know who insists on driving even though they are horrible with directions. This irrational combination makes me wonder why some people choose to lead all the time no matter if they are suited or not. And why others sit back even when they are most qualified to be in charge.

Does your personality put you in charge when you’d rather not be?

Should you take Leo’s advice and let things happen more often? Or would the world benefit if you stepped up and took the lead once in a while?


6 Comments on “Who’s The Boss?”

  1. Great post! Logical and interesting. I think the answers to your questions are a little of each. Awareness is the key to a well-balanced person in most situations – sometimes it’s better to lead and sometimes it’s much better to be led.

  2. I think at times we let others lead simply because we don’t want to have to argue with them. If it’s not a life threatening matter then we need to just let it go and give in once in a while.

    • cjwestkills says:

      Absolutely pick your battles. But be careful. I found myself continually taking a backseat in a past relationship when it was clear I should have been leading.

  3. Lil Gluckstern says:

    I’m going to go to philosophy for this. Have you noticed that things happen no matter how much we try to control them? In fact, it is a traditional Western idea that we are masters of our fate, as it were. We must try, must control. That doesn’t really work. I’m old enough to remember the words of Alan Watts who blended Eastern philosophy into his thinking. The Zen factor we work with is to “tack with the wind.” To do our very best with what crops up. Of course, that is much easier said than done. We often have to sit back and reconnoiter. I try to live that way since I am getting older, but sometimes it is very hard to feel good about it. It’s also a relief to know I don’t have to be in charge of everything. I’m just not.

    • cjwestkills says:


      I’m coming to realize that control is an illusion. “Efforting” is really a waste of time in so many cases. I’m really trying to let the world unfold around me.

  4. I often find myself arguing with myself part of me wanting things now and another trying to reach long term goals- I need to find a place of acceptance. Thanks for the reminder.

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