After a couple of minutes he told them the same joke and only a few of them smiled.
When he told the same joke for the third time no one laughed anymore.
The wise man smiled and said:
– You don’t laugh at the same joke over and over, so why do you complain about the same problem over and over…?-variation on a story from an unknown source
Our minds can get used to almost anything. While we wouldn’t keep telling the same joke over and over again, the same isn’t always true about complaints. We can all be the squeaky wheel at times.
They say the squeaky wheel ends up getting the grease (extra attention and perks). Complain about your meal in a restaurant and you might get a free dessert. Have to wait too long?…complain enough and you might get moved up in line.
When I’m a squeaky wheel, I find it’s often because I’m in a rut. I’m doing things that don’t really work, they just seem normal, because I’ve done them so many times. I get stuck in my own stories about the way things should be. When I’m out of balance the only one that can really fix my problem is me. If I’m able to step back and look from a different angle, I usually find that there are a lot more options than I thought.
In fact, if someone solves my problem for me, the ‘grease’ can act like a band-aid, masking the stuckness that started my squeaking. Take the example of waiting a long time. At first it may sound good to complain and get moved to the front of the line. I’d be happier for awhile, but then it gets complicated. Having had my wheel greased may cause me to feel impatient quicker the next time I have to wait. I’ll probably complain even more and feel worse than I did the first time. I might expect to be moved to the front of the line. What I got from complaining wasn’t really what I needed. It wasn’t really good for me or the rest of the people around me (they aren’t going to be happy that I moved ahead of them).
What about camp… ? I intentionally take a non-greasing approach to problems and complaints when running camp, and I strongly encourage others to do the same. That doesn’t mean problems are ignored. I do listen to squeaks. I look for patterns, problems and solutions. I like to get different perspectives and wait for for a good solution instead of fixing right away. (Think first and possibly grease later.) We’ve probably all had experience with groups that practice crisis management, constantly putting out fires. It can feel productive and exciting at first, but eventually when crises become the norm it’s hard on everyone.
So… what do I want to do with squeaky wheels (including myself) especially at camp? I want us to help ourselves find a balanced path that doesn’t torque our individual wheels out of alignment. It’s not always the ‘easier’ or smoother way. Sometimes it’s still a rut, but it’s a rut suited to your specific wheel. I genuinely love to see someone find a good path for themselves with or without help. The new path is often a real source of freedom and energy, something no one else could have provided. People become more engaged, considerate, and grateful. They contribute and are willing to share more.
Squeaking isn’t always bad, it often brings up real problems that do need to be addressed. Sometimes a squeaky wheel is like a record that’s been skipping a groove. Once it finds the right rut it can play beautiful music.
What you think and express creates camp.
I’m making a commitment to learn to grumble and squeak less. It’s not who I want to be, even if many of my friends enjoy kvetching. If there is one week out of the year I want to complain less, it’s camp. Camp is such a gift. I want to leave behind my tendency to focus on the lumps, bumps, and unfairness. I know there is much more to celebrate at camp than there is to squeak about.