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Prevailing Conditions

It was cold.

Winter clawed through the floor, greedily inhaling crumbs of heat from anything that would drop them.

I was staying at a friends house, just south of Malone, NY a few minutes from the Canadian border. I had come up the night before to speak at the annual dinner for a local family business that partners with the Ugandan Water Project.

I pulled myself begrudgingly from the layered caccoon of the borrowed bed in a borrowed room. Hurriedly, I pulled on my clothes, pushing back the hungry chill in the air as I added layers.


A few minutes laterI stepped out the door and the icey wind splashed my face as my eyes squinted to adjust to the bright morning sun. It was far below freezing- a slice of the polar vortex sat over New York's Northcountry.

Stepping out onto the empty County Highway 6, the crunch of crystalline snow dulled. I looked down and fixated on the brown, caked sets of tire tracks textured in an amalgam of snow and sand.

Yes, sand.

Most of the time, snowy weather is met and managed Canadian salt. Massive county plow trucks season roadways liberally and snow and ice succumb, yielding the surface to the blade of the beasts.

But when the temperature plummets, adaptation is necessary....adjusting the response to prevailing conditions.

Salt is only effective down to a few degrees below freezing. When the temperature is below that range, salt is ineffective and the highway crews change their goal. Instead of using salt to melt the snow and ice, and then clear the roads with their massive blades, crews change their tactics.

Sand provides some traction when conditions are too cold for salt to be effective. If the highway superintendent didn't adapt tk the prevailing conditions then lives would be at risk as standard approach becomes increasingly irrelevant the colder it gets.

Stopping down I scoop some of the caked, gritty paste of snow and sand into my hand. The weather isn't a problem....meaning it's not something g that can be solved. The weather isn't actionable. It is what it is....and what it is, is cold.

The road surface, however, is a problem. There are actions we can take to impact the road surface. We must adapt to the context of the weather so that we can deploy an effective solution for the problem we face that is actionable.

Standing there in the morning light, surrounded by white and covered in blue, I wonder how often I face unactionable problems and keep trying the same solution despite the prevailing conditions.

Solutions that are highly effective in most scenarios don't work in when condition shift. Often the obstacle to adaptation is that I get fixated on one specific outcome. However, if I can genuinely observe the unchangeable conditions and embrace them as the unchangable context then I am that much closer to releasing the method and end-goal.

Redrafting the acceptable outcome based on prevailing conditions can feel like failure.

it's not.

Failure is ignoring the changing context and refusing to adapt.

It can feel like a compromise....because it is.

But it's a compromise demanded by prevailing g conditions.

This happens in our lives. We face changing contexts and have to compromise on our response because our ideal response is often not possible anymore. Alternatives feel like surrender but if we begin with surrender then we can find alternatives that still have tremendous value- even if they aren't as strong as our original intentions.

Conditions might be changing- where do you need to adapt, compromise and find a way to shift from salting to sanding? It's messier but effective.

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