Conflict.
Work life

Conflict.

March 20, 2022

SHE SAID SHE SAID

To be picked or not to be picked — that was the situation.

Jan

Three facts about me:

  1. I love to cook.
  2. I enjoy watching cooking shows on TV.*
  3. I do not enjoy conflict (even on cooking shows).

That's why, for years, I wouldn’t watch Restaurant Impossible. Chef Robert Irvine’s mission is to turn around a failing restaurant in 2 days. With just 48 hours to perform a miracle, he doesn’t mess around. Chef Robert is brutally honest, confrontational, and he yells a lot. 😤

He is also a soft-hearted guy who genuinely wants to help. After 200+ restaurant turnarounds, he knows that most of the time what needs fixing is the people. (As one reviewer noted, the name of the show should really be, “Impossibly Stubborn Restaurant Owners.”) In the end, the transformation of people and places is remarkable and there are hugs all around. 🥰

This is why I now enjoy Restaurant Impossible. My aversion to conflict pretty much equals my delight in a happy ending. So when I see uncomfortable confrontation resulting in healthy dialogue, positive change, or the occasional miracle — it gives me courage for real life.

We had a challenging week with an unusual level of stress, bad news, and hard conversations. As they say, when it rains, it pours. And I’m (mostly) proud of myself. I didn’t shut down, I didn’t avoid, I didn’t deflect. At the ripe old age of… ahem… I am finally learning how to make peace with conflict.

I have a clear recollection of being on the school playground when some mean kids tried to goad me into a fight. They teased and poked and argued, doing everything they could think of to provoke a response. I kept swinging and ignoring them until they finally gave up and went away. I remember how empowering it felt — by not engaging, I had WON!

That was the beginning of many years of conflict avoidance. I thought it was a good thing. For most of my adult life, I wore my “self-control” and calm demeanor as a badge of honor. If I didn't fight, I couldn't lose, right?

Then I met Susan. 🤣

Anyone who has worked with a partner for over two decades knows that conflict will come. We love working together, though we don’t always see eye to eye (thus the name of this newsletter). But guess what?? I have learned that conflict CAN be healthy. It can expose areas that need fixing. It can clear the air. It can also open doors to healthy dialogue, positive change — and even miracles.

If I met those kids on the playground today, I’d stop swinging and knock the crap out of them. Not really. I still hate conflict (but I would stand up for myself).

*My favorite cooking shows:

The Lost Kitchen
Magnolia Table
Chef’s Table
From the Source

Susan

Early each morning I get a text with my daughter’s Wordle stats. And it’s on from there. For a few minutes, I’m trying my darnedest to best her score. 😂 She has her own household competition with my son-in-law (30 for 30 to date). There’s a statistic for (1) how quickly you deduce the word of the day; (2) win percentage; (3) current streak; and (4) max streak.

Jan is a wordsmith, rarely misses the NYT crossword puzzle, is crazy about Spelling Bee (another NYT game) — so (no surprise) she jumped right on the Wordle train. Well, partially aboard. Because... until a few moments ago, while proofreading this... she didn’t know the statistics existed. And she could not possibly care less.

Take a closer look at Jan’s list of favorite cooking shows. 👆

Then there’s mine:👇🏼

Top Chef
Chopped

Next Level Chef

Alex vs. America

😂😂😂  Notice anything? My favorites are [ruthlessly] competitive. “Pack your knives and go.”

I'm a sports nut and a natural athlete who wasn't allowed to compete in sports. That's a much longer story, but suffice it to say it's a source of regret that I carry to this day. Since I couldn't play sports, I competed in every other possible way (and this was great or not-so-great depending on the context). I always wanted to win and had a giant chip on my shoulder. Yay me.

Fortunately, a strong work ethic and creative partnership has helped me recognize when (and when not) to compete in business. Having the right teammates/colleagues can truly be the difference between winning and losing.

In case you're curious, this week's conflict was not between us — but that's not the point. Read on...

And here's the point.

Jan and I might respond to conflict and competition differently, but we always have each other's backs. When she thinks I'm being too hard — on myself or someone else — she speaks up. When I think she's being too soft, I say so.

Given our differences, maybe you're wondering how we have managed to stay friends and grow two businesses together. It's because we have a high level of trust — and through the years, we have learned that the solution usually falls somewhere in the middle.

So back to this week — it was the rare one when we both had to reach deep to move forward. We had some unique challenges that resulted in confrontation, self-examination, and introspection. For that reason, we were primed and ready when Adam Grant's newsletter hit our inbox. The whole thing is worth the read, but this gem about learning vs. unlearning really hit the mark. Think about it.

"It takes curiosity to learn. It takes courage to unlearn. Learning requires the humility to admit what you don't know today. Unlearning requires the integrity to admit that you were wrong yesterday. Learning is how you evolve. Unlearning is how you keep up as the world evolves." - Adam Grant

Things We Love

FOR VALENTINE'S DAY (OR ANY DAY)

In a roller coaster week, here are a few things that made us smile: fantastic music, an Instagram cutie, a marble maze, a new recipe (we're obsessed), and a Taylor Swift/Ed Sheeran collaboration. What's not to love?

Sunday Morning playlist
Along Comes Abby
Wok Charred Noodles
Wok Charred Noodles with Chicken and Bok Choy
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