By Ben Falik

If 2015 is the future (so sayeth Back to the Future II), then the present and the years ahead seem like they will be governed by one thing (not apes) more than anything else: choice.
I’m not the first or smartest person to think about choice — expanding choices, the paradox of choice, the impact that our choices have on us, those around us and those far, far away — but I have been thinking lately about the choices I make. And how I make them. Historically, haphazardly. Only lately with what some of my more enlightened friends call “intention.”

In a sea of choices, you need a rudder, motor, sails, oars, paddles, a life jacket, hoverboard and prayer to stay afloat and, with any luck, on course. Here are some
areas where we find ourselves faced with an unprecedented depth and diversity of choice, along with a few thoughts about making good ones.

Statistics and stories. Bombarded with both, I tend to gravitate to whichever and whatever affirms my perspective. Only by critically blending the qualitative and quantitative data available is it possible to make informed choices. For example, 62,000 Detroit properties are facing tax foreclosure this year; the idea that as many as one in five Detroiters could lose their homes is numbing.

becausesomeoneThen I hear the stories at Like Jimmy: “I am 71 years old and have lived in my home since 1971. The building (Cobo Convention Center) that I am sitting in right now — I helped build … I try to help my neighbors repair their house when things break down. I just hope I can keep mine.”

Together, the stats and stories illustrate that Detroit can only reach its highest heights by honoring those who have soldiered through its lowest lows.

Showing up and sitting out. Woody Allen said 80 percent of success is showing up; Bill Gates (Sr.) writes about “showing up for life.” For those of us not yet being quoted about the importance of showing up, the notion of multiplying 80 percent by the fraction of life you can logistically manage to show up at is daunting. Ultimately, what you choose to sit out is just as important.

When I find myself saying “I don’t have time for that,” I’ve gotten in the practice of replacing it with “that’s not a priority for me.”

Then you can get to the business of not just showing up physically, but showing up in mind and spirit — and resisting to the demands of the world buzzing from your pocket — be it for a board meeting or kindergarten soccer game.

I managed to both show up and show up mid-blizzard, across from the Fisher Building (even though it meant sitting out an evening with a group of Jewish and Muslim students visiting from Princeton) for the grand opening of Cafe Con Leche Nord. The space was populated by familiar faces from both the flagship CCL on Vernor and the bygone Comerica Tastefest on “The Boulevard.”

Candid and canned. Often, I skew toward being either a jukebox of prefabricated comments or an off-the-cuff outtake reel. I don’t think there’s anything inauthentic about knowing some of what you already think and might share — Some weather we’re having! —as long as you leave space for
substantive spontaneity.

Recently, I got to be guest on WDET and almost reflexively told an older caller “you look great,” only to (I hope) redeem myself with some unrehearsed thoughts about the opportunity and need for Detroiters of all ages to teach and learn from each other.

Whether empowering or effacing, literary or literal, global or granular — stay choosy, friends.


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