Yield Means to Give Way

When I was 6 or 7, I took Judo lessons at the local YMCA in Stratford, CT. As it happens, my instructor was my neighbor, Mr. Dorak. Now this was some years ago, and I don't remember too much of it. But I do recall that Judo is about trying to get people to the ground, or something like that. In one particular class, Mr. Dorak was trying to teach us a simple concept: that sometimes, when an opponent attacks, the best way to get them to get them to the ground is to yield and let their inertia drive them to the ground, rather than trying to fight force with force. Of course, we were all 6 and 7, full of fight and vinegar, and so the concept of "yield" was very foreign to us. In short, we just weren't getting his point. And so, we walked away with some homework - we had to write "Yield means to give way" 500 times. Safe to say, the lesson sunk in!

Fast forward to today. I had a ridiculously nasty day at work - I was there from 8:15am to 7:30pm, and only had 15 minutes unscheduled. The day was filled with deadlines and meetings, and in each one of them I had to both make decisions and calm some people who were freaking out about the workload. When I called home at 7:30 to let them know I was coming and would likely be in quite a mood, Kade answered the phone. He immediately said "Daddy, can we go swimming when you get home?" Now, truthfully that was the last freaking thing I wanted to do when I got home. I wanted to come home, sit alone in the bathroom for half an hour, grab some food, and watch the hockey game. But I said "yes" because he needed me to, and tried my best to decompress on the way home.

When I walked in the door 20 minutes later, Kade immediately found me and said "Daddy, let's walk to our secret room (a large slab of concrete on the other side of our apartment complex) and have a camp out! Are you ready to go now??"

Swimming . . . a camp out . . . it's 8:00pm and I need to be at work at 6:00am . . . one more person that needed me on a day when the whole world needed me and there was no time for just me . . . I felt my stress level go up, and opened my mouth to tell Kade just what I was thinking, and just before I did, I thought:

"Yield means to give way."

And so I yielded, completely and immediately. I smiled the biggest smile I could, knelt down in front of him, and said "YES!!! I would love to do that . . . why don't you get everything we'll need while I say hi to everyone else, and then we can leave in a few minutes. Will we bring the flashlights?" And 10 minutes later, we left - with our backpacks, our blankets, our flashlights and walking sticks, and our "emergency food bin" of two lollipops, three peanut butter cups, a glass, a jar of honey, and a pack of gum. We took our time, told stories, talked about love and hot chicks and sumo wrestling and Tennessee, and saw a baby possum and a cat, and met a dog, and then came back an hour later. It was one of the best nights of my adult life.

Work is the quintessential "never give up" environment; the pressure is on to do more, to strive more, to push uphill. This applies to business a whole, certainly, but also to business relationships. Success in business is all about power - the willingness and ability to exercise power by withholding or granting your time, energy, opinion, resources, or credibility. People who are willing and able to do this succeed, and those who cannot usually fail, primarily because once they are seen as powerless they get excluded from everything. But power as a concept is very interesting, and there are two fundamental truths of power that apply more than any others: the ability to tolerate and embrace conflict is a "power marker", and power can be easily gained by granting it (after all, only powerful people can decide whom to grant it to.)

When you understand this at work, the concept of "yield means to give way" can be very, very useful. When someone is trying to exercise power, I can choose to fight or I can choose to yield. If I always choose to fight, I had damned well better always be right - and since that is impossible, I will be viewed as a pigheaded power hungry jackass. But if I yield - if I allow others to win in public forums from time to time, if I allow others to be the experts, if allow them to save face - I have given them a gift by allowing them to shine, while at the same time exhibiting powerful behavior that increases my own credibility and ability to influence.

If you think that sounds gross or overly corporate, that's fine - I understand. But I guarantee you this - all effective people, from politicians to preachers to writers to philanthropists, understand and apply these principles for the good of others. Power as a concept is not bad in and of itself. If it is exercised well in a business environment, it can be a good thing. And if you combine wielding it with yielding it, well, great things usually happen.

This one doesn't involve power at all; I do not believe that power has any place in my home, where we strive work together on creating an environment that we all love to live in. But tonight was a great example of the power of "yield means to give way" - I had no desire whatsoever to to either go swimming or go on a camp out, and I easily could have exercised my right as a human being to say "No, I have had a bad day and I just want to relax." And sometimes, I do need and want to do that. But often, like tonight, I stop continuing the fight I have been fighting all day, and just yield. I work for a living to provide for our lifestyle, of which unschooling is a critical part. I have some choices during the day - not as many as I would like, but enough on most days. But at home, it is all about choice. I do not have "need to do"s unless I frame them that way - I have "choose to do"s instead. When I yield, when I stop fighting, when I put my expectations to the side, and when I let my family have some control over me at night, I get to experience magical moments like tonight's camp out - which I never would have been able to experience quite this way had I not been able to yield. Unschooling Dads talk a lot about having to ease into coming home sometimes, to make a transition between home and work so they can break the work habits and attitudes and orient themselves more toward their families before they walk in the door. That can work for some people, but it's a lot like getting into a cold pool - you can take 10 minutes to do it, all the while carrying negative feelings with you about how hard it is, or you can jump in and stat enjoying it sooner. If you can focus on yielding, on giving in, on giving way, you can you can id of the stress immediately and provide a real sense of joy to your family. Give it a go.


  1. Gawd...this ties right into that whole idea of "let your children lead you" I've been rolling around lately. They know the way to joyful connections SO thoroughly but my working adult mind can really get in the way.

    Thanks for the reminder to just yield...it leads to great discoveries. I love that you just followed your child into a lovely activity.

    Speaking of which, Sierra is standing here waiting for me to help her plan a flier for her new business and draw up some garden plans. Off to practice what I preach....for the moment.;)

  2. Funny I should read this today - I just yielded to a "friend" (I use that term loosely in this situation). This friend is hot and cold, and it appears that I sometimes piss her off by *being myself* (oh joy of joys). I waver between wanting to fix it (again) and telling her to f*ck the hell off once and for all. What's stopping me? My kid likes her kid. And in spite of her hot-and-coldness, she has amazing kids so it's worth it.

    Saying no or fighting is usually unsatisfying to everyone involved, even the person who "needs" to say no, because someone else has been disappointed or let down. Yielding opens up a range of possibilities we never anticipated. Not to mention sometimes the best cure for grumpiness is time with those amazing sparkly kids of ours.

    So this was written in May, huh? I'm right on schedule I see. ;-)