April 19, 2019

Archives for September 3, 2015

Running Past Our Limits 2015 (Part 4): Delusional

rhodesMy wife Janet brought home a book from the library. “This was calling me,” she said, “To give to you.”

It was Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success. Click this link and watch the trailer. It’s short, and worth it. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

The authors define “supersurvivors” this way:

They bounce forward, and in truly remarkable ways. . . . They move beyond mere resilience. They transform the meaning of their potential tragedies by making them the basis for change.

Yes, the book was for me. I understood the people and their stories on a level where still waters run deep. They weren’t inspirational, they were satisfying in their matter-of-factness. Two stories in particular spoke to me.

Alan Lock always knew he’d be career military. A genetic eye condition made him legally blind at age 23, ending his career in the Royal Air Force.

All his life, people had been telling swimmer Maarten van der Weijden he was destined for Olympic gold, and he was proving them right until his path to the medal podium was halted by cancer with a 30% survival rate.

What happened next? Alan became the first legally blind person to row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean. After three years, Maarten’s cancer was gone. Five years later, he won Olympic gold.

Neither of them was a positive thinker. In fact, just the opposite. “No matter what people say, there were no positives in losing my sight,” Alan told the authors. His secret to success? “I always expect the worst,” he said, adding “I knew I was doomed.”

Maarten’s supporters encouraged him to use his athletic training to maintain a positive attitude. He had other thoughts. “There was a big gap between my idea of hope and their ideas of hope,” he said. “For me, hope was chemotherapy.” Of his recovery, he said “I knew the odds of success were very small. I set out simply to swim my best in small competitions.” After the Olympics, a reporter compared Maarten to Lance Armstrong. Maarten responded “Armstrong says that positive thinking and doing a lot of sports can save you. I don’t agree. I even think it’s dangerous.”

So much for maintaining a positive attitude. If that wasn’t their secret, then what was? Just this: a feeling they could do something about it — a feeling of personal power that said “It may be over for me, but I still think I can do something about it.”

Surprisingly, that attitude can co-exist with a lack of positive thinking — a fact that apparently drives some psychologists crazy. Supersurvivors cites numerous psychological articles describing this attitude as “delusional” and based on “illusions of control.” One psychologist said people like this have “distorted positive perceptions of themselves (self-aggrandizement), an exaggerated sense of personal control, and overly optimistic expectations about the future.”

Okay then.

Alan described his attitude this way: “I know what I can’t do now that my eyesight is gone. So now I’m going to figure out what I can do.” When he decided to row across an ocean, “People thought I was nuts. But this was my life now, and I wanted something that stretched me mentally and physically. I was shooting for a watershed moment.”

He got his watershed moment alright. Quite literally.

We would call Alan and Maarten realists, pessimists even. There was no bravado or can-do spirit, no hope for a miracle. They knew their odds were poor. They expected adversity and got it. Yet they did what they did anyway, for no one but themselves.

I find a stillness in that attitude, and a deep satisfaction when I act from it. And so I keep up with my physical training, training diet, and all the rest, and somehow I think it matters.

Call me delusional, I guess.

This year’s fourth annual Running Past Our Limits series is an abbreviated version of a longer series I posted on my personal blog earlier this year. You can go there to get the whole thing if you like!

Tenth Circuit: First Amendment Does Not Require Government Employer to Tolerate Disloyalty

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Rock v. Levinski on Monday, June 29, 2015.

Joyce Rock was the principal of Career Prep High School in New Mexico, an alternative high school for kids who are parents, have been suspended from another school, or do not feel comfortable at other schools. In May 2013, Phil Kasper, the District’s Director of Administration and Rock’s immediate supervisor, informed Rock that the district was planning to close Career Prep at the end of the school year. Two days later, Kasper and Don Levinski, the superintendent, held a meeting with the staff to explain the closing, at which meeting several staff members raised questions and concerns. Later that day, a meeting for parents, students, and staff was held in the school cafeteria. Rock was present at the meeting, and although the parties dispute when she first spoke, at some point Rock stood up, introduced herself as principal, expressed support for her students, and expressed concern that many of her students would not succeed at the larger high school they would be placed in after Career Prep closed. The next day, the Board of Education announced that Career Prep would remain open. A few days later, Kasper gave Rock a “growth plan” indicating Rock had performed unsatisfactorily in working with supervisors, administrators, staff, parents, and students. Kasper explained the negative evaluation was based on Rock’s failure to support the superintendent and speak with him privately about her concerns. Kasper also suggested Rock’s lack of confidence in her students’ ability to perform at another school “deeply disappointed” the superintendent. Levinski disagreed with Kasper’s decision to put Rock on a growth plan and terminated her employment. She was placed on administrative leave through the end of her contract. Levinski testified that the primary reason for Rock’s termination was the parent meeting, where he felt she behaved in an unprofessional manner. Shortly after her contract expired, Rock was named Principal of the Year by the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals.

Rock brought a First Amendment § 1983 retaliation claim against Levinski and the district, alleging defendants unconstitutionally retaliated against her for speaking in opposition to the closing of Career Prep at the parent meeting. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on three grounds: (1) Rock’s speech was not protected because it was made pursuant to her official duties; (2) even if Rock did not speak in her official capacity, the district’s interest in efficient public service outweighed Rock’s interest in free speech; and (3) Levinski was entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate a clearly established First Amendment right. The Tenth Circuit affirmed on the second ground.

The Tenth Circuit applied the Garcetti/Pickering test to evaluate Rock’s claim that she suffered retaliation for exercising her right to speak. The Tenth Circuit evaluated the third prong of the test, whether the government had adequate justification for treating the employee differently than any member of the public, and found adequate justification. The Tenth Circuit noted that Rock’s high-ranking position within the district restricted her right to speak freely in opposition to her employer’s policies. The Tenth Circuit found it well established that the First Amendment does not require a government employer to tolerate disloyalty from the upper echelons of administration.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to defendants.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/2/2015

On Wednesday, September 2, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and one unpublished opinion.

Cordero v. Froats

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.