To Be Truly Powerless

I was part of the Great Ice Storm of 2013 over the past week in Michigan.  I went without power for about 43 hours, and another 3 days, after that, without TV or Internet. That doesn’t sound like much, especially when there are people still without power six days after the storm.  I consider myself lucky.

Here’s what I learned about being powerless:

1. It would suck being Amish.

2. It is exhausting to not have power.

3. People talk a lot more when you don’t have power.

4. You appreciate day light hours when you don’t have power – they become critical in getting things done. Once it gets dark, your day is pretty much done.

5. It’s stressful not having power, after you’ve had power.

6.  When you don’t have power, it seems like those with power are mocking you with all of their power. (I had neighbors who had power one street over and I swear they actually turned on every single one of their lights just to show my how much power they had, and possibly put up even more lights!)

7. People in like circumstances, those of us without power, tend to work together better to help each other.

8. I never considered ‘electrical power’ to be a convenience, I do now.

9.  I’m assuming there will be a Great Ice Storm baby boom in Michigan in about 10 months.  Staying warm is critical in a power outage, in Michigan, in December.

10.  You can’t plan for ’10 year events’.  People in Michigan are HOT over the reaction and timing to electrical worker crews responding to outages. They feel the power companies should have been better prepared for this.  The reality is, companies don’t plan for once-every-ten-year-events, they plan for monthly and annual events.  You wouldn’t want to pay the extra cost on your monthly utility bill to ensure they were prepared for once a decade events.

Organizationally, you have many people without power, metaphorically speaking, and it is not much different than not actually having electrical power in your home.  It sucks.  Having an understanding of what they feels like, is critical to how successful your organization can be.  It’s stressful and tiring not to have power.  It grinds on your over time.  People get frustrated.  People get short-tempered.  People feel not in control.  None of that is good.

Having compassion for the powerless is not enough.  Having empathy and understanding, is not enough.  You need to be able to share the power within your organization, to make sure everyone has a little.  It might not be equal, but it sure helps if everyone has some.  Being the one with none, is completely ostracizing.

To be truly power-less, sucks.




3 thoughts on “To Be Truly Powerless

  1. Great post, Tim.

    I live in a house in the country, where we have our own water well. Sometimes, when it’s freezing cold, the well freezes and we’re out of water. Maybe for an hour, maybe for a week. Then there’s no coffee, no hot baths, and all the water dependent home appliances are worthless.

    Everything is chaos. The organization is under pressure.

    But we’ve learnt to cope with it. Through collaboration. Everyone has to participate in making things work. From gathering, boiling and filtration of large amounts of snow to hair washing (pouring water from a bottle over the other person’s head).

    And every time these waterless situations occur I realize how extremely priviledged we are. And how great it is, that we can make things work even though the conditions are not perfect.

    Hope the power is back on for everyone.

  2. I can’t imagine being powerless in Michigan during the wintertime. I remember the cold temps and the freezing rain that would fall before the snow. Power is a luxury.

    I also have empathy for the mentally ill and homeless vets on the street. They deal with staying warm as a full-time job. And I have so much respect for the volunteers who have to beg some of those men to get off the streets and into safe and warm shelters when it’s lethally cold outside.

    You’re right — power is a luxury. We should use it wisely.

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