Enlightened Conflict

come to an entirely erroneous conclusion my dear Watson

June 9th, 2017

conclusion header facts truth

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“I had,” he said, “come to an entirely erroneous conclusion, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.”

 

Sherlock Holmes

<The Adventure of the Speckled Band>

 

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“When we get better understanding or the facts or evidence don’t agree with the theory we must change the theory and change course.””

 

Sherlock Holmes

 

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“… when you hear hoof beats behind you don’t expect a zebra.”

 

proverb

 

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So.

 

“I believe” may be two of the most dreaded word you can hear in today’s world.

i believe hand writingThose two words may be this century’s version of throwing down a gauntlet or challenging someone to a duel.

 

“I believe” has been bastardized in today’s world to actually mean “I know” <but people have convinced themselves if they soften it with ‘I believe’ people will think they are more open to listening and true discussion>.

 

Facts matter. And they matter a shitload not only with truth but in the battle between I know and I believe.

 

The problem is that while facts are facts … two facts can coexist in the pursuit of “I know.”

 

Shit.

The truth is that … well … truth , the unequivocal kind, is most likely borne of let’s say 8 facts <I made that number up> coexisting … which when arranged into a pattern make up an unequivocal truth.

 

This means unequivocal truth … or let’s call it good solid “I know” is made up of a puzzle of facts … not just one fact or even two.facts conclusion truth think

 

The practice of Truth is actually a profession of facts.

 

Using legalese for binding of contracts … by means of facts, truths are created and beliefs come into existence. Yet, in spite of all good intentions, the meanings of individual facts are not always clear and unequivocal. They may be capable of being understood in more ways than one, they may be doubtful or uncertain, and they may lend themselves to various interpretations by different individuals.

 

Following that thought … this means, when differences in understanding are not resolvable, divides in “beliefs” occur and dysfunction, in terms of lack of progress, occurs.

 

Once again, in legal terms, this is called “ambiguity.”

 

void delicious ambiguityParadoxically enough, the word ambiguity itself has more than one interpretation.

 

The general meaning has to do with how things are said, the words that are used, by someone and how those words are understood.

 

Ambiguity occurs where the two are not in alignment. The lack of alignment actually springs back upon the facts themselves in a vicious way — the fact itself comes into doubt.

 

Sigh.

 

But facts are facts. The problem isn’t about the fact but rather most truths are more complex than one fact. Unequivocal truth is grounded in … well … 8 facts <once again, I picked 8 out of the air but you get the point>.

 

This problem gets compounded by how people elect to actually use facts.

 

Using my 8 let me tell you what I mean. The expert, the most knowledgeable, array of facts truth findingwill stack up the 8 facts from top to bottom in order of priority … but all relevant to making and truth unequivocal.

 

 

 

Then we, the non-experts, get in the game.

 

Some of us use the highest priority fact … and that is all.

 

Some grab the facts we want in the order we want and create the truth we want.

 

Some may actually use the 8 but decided to prioritize them in a different order.

 

All are using facts. Most are using them improperly or in an incomplete way. And, inevitably, 90%+ end up with an “I believe” and not an “I know” stand.

 

I know. I know. We all wish truth could be easier and, in fact, many people flippantly suggest truth is simple <or simpler than we make it out to be>.

 

Here is what I know about that. Using the thought I used upfront in this piece “… when you hear hoof beats behind you don’t expect a zebra.”

Well.

An expert, maybe a horse trainer, could hear the hoof beats and tell you with 95% confidence the breed, the weight and the type of horse coming up behind you. The dreamer will suggest it could be a unicorn. The pragmatic will narrow it down to a horse, zebra, antelope or some 4 hoofed animal.

truth facts numbers understand question

Truth is less than simple and more in need of facts than we like to admit.

 

Yes.

 

The trouble with unequivocal truth is that it usually takes ‘one more step than you think’ to get there. Unfortunately, the truth about this is most of us don’t make it there.

 

We stop short.

And I tend to believe most of us know we are stopping short. We like the facts that we have but we, at the same time, know there are most likely some more out there that could be useful. We have 3 or 4 and decide the remaining 4 or 5 are just not that necessary. I guess we bank on the fact if we stop short we have at least grabbed the top 3 or 4 most important facts in an unequivocal truth.

 

Yikes.

 

Dangerous thought.normalizing behavior light matches flame fire danger

 

It’s dangerous in believing we have the most important ones of the ones we decided is enough but possibly even more dangerous is that we confuse an unequivocal truth for a simple “I believe” thought.

 

It is dangerous because “I believes” tend to reside in the negative space. Huh? If you only snag 4 of the 8 necessary facts the debate can never be resolved as the back & forth ends up in the blank spaces around the discussion. Truth is constructed more often by what was not found than what was found <look at what I didn’t point out versus what I did point out> – that is negative space truth.

Uhm.

That is not unequivocal truth.

 

In fact … it poisons the unequivocal truths in a misdirection of specious comparisons.

 

I would suggest that more of us should pay attention to negative space.

Why?

Negative space is usually indicative that a fact is missing. 99% of negative space can be filled with a fact <if only we looked hard enough for it>.

 

All that said.

 

Truth is the axis munid … the dead center of the earth.

 

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“the person who pretends to not see the truth is committing something much worse than a mortal sin, which can only ruin one’s soul – but instead committing us all to lifetimes of pain. The truth is not just something we bring to light to amuse ourselves; the truth is the axis munid, the dead center of the earth.

facts results truth conclude

When it’s out of place nothing is right; everyone is in the wrong place; no light can penetrate.

 

Happiness evades us and we spread pain and misery wherever we go.

Each person, above all others, has an obligation to recognize the truth and stand by it.”

 

—–

Jacque Silette

 

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I believe, no, I know the world would be a better place if more of us took that thought seriously. Because if we did than maybe we wouldn’t stop short of the unequivocal truth destination. Maybe we wouldn’t settle for an “I believe” thought and confuse it with a real “I know” thought. And maybe if we did there would be less discussion of alternative facts and more discussion about unequivocal truths on which we could center ourselves on.

 

“I had,” he said, “come to an entirely erroneous conclusion, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.”

 

Geez.

 

If Sherlock Holmes says that sure as shit more of us should be saying it <and I conclusion tired of thinking ideadon’t think we are>.

 

 

Unequivocal truth exists.

 

They exist as surely as Santa Claus <yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus >.

 

We just have to want to get there and not be satisfied by stopping short and feeling good about the facts we gathered … short of the ones we need to reach unequivocal.  I don’t know that 8 facts create an unequivocal truth is the right formula but I sure as shit believe it is on the right path to getting there.

 

 

confusing America First and Economics First

June 1st, 2017

normalizing america bad behavior values phoenix

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“America is great because she is good.

If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

 

Alexis de Tocqueville

 

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“We Americans are a do-it-yourself people.

We are an impatient people.

 

Instead of teaching someone else to do a job, we like to do it ourselves. And this trait has been carried over into our foreign policy.

 

Nixon from his Silent Majority speech

 

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So.

 

It is a little difficult to unpack everything happening with regard to “America First” and what it means for America short term and long term.

 

trump embarrassed point leader bullyI have a lot to suggest on this topic but because there is so much let me offer some overarching ways of viewing it all. I would also like to note that I am purposefully using Trump as a reference point and not Republican or Trump administration because I believe we would be incredibly shortsighted to not believe that his personal views on how the world exists <in his mind> do drive his behavior and the decisions being made:

 

  • How Trump views the leadership concept of dragging up versus dragging down

 

  • How Trump views rules & regulations

 

  • How Trump views I versus team

 

  • How Trump views uncertainty

 

  • How Trump views life only through a dollars & cents lens <driving an economics first, and only, view>

 

All of these views drive America First … all of which <I would suggest> actually encourage an America Alone strategy. In addition … to a larger extent … all actually encourage an “every man for himself” attitude <kind of an extremely perverse version of traditional conservative ideology>.

 

Dragging up versus dragging down

 

As of this writing I have no clue whether America will stay in the Paris Climate agreement but I will use it as an example of how Trump views America leadership and leadership in general <because it applies to almost everything he is doing>.

 

Leaders understand that to lead you need to ‘drag up’ behavior. This comes at shift up or downan expense in that you are demanded to do more things and act a little ‘better’ without any real compensation.

Yes. This makes Life harder for the leader and mostly offers no additional compensation for the extra effort. You do it because it … well … leads behaviors and attitudes.

 

For example, part of the Paris agreement was that United State had higher standards. This certainly places a burden on American companies. It also translates into an innovation push to meet those standards. And, ultimately, because we lead in innovation the rest of the world will eventually buy our innovations. This leadership also encourages other countries to ‘play up’ as close to United States as possible. Our ‘compensation’ for our better behavior may not be apparent short term but bears the fruits long term <and it is what leaders do>

 

Conversely, if United States drops out, the overall leadership standard drops and, as any organizational study will tell you, the overall tide of standards will sink lower as things get dragged downwards.

This is, simplistically, why leaders have higher standards in business. It drags the organization up … and not down.

 

Trump does not understand this. Nor does he believe in this. I feel comfortable saying this because if he doesn’t understand how his current behavior drags down … well … everything it is indicative he doesn’t understand dragging up.

 

 

Rules & regulations

 

I took a big gulp as I found a list of regulations the Trump administration has obey ruleseliminated while we were watching the general incompetence <by the way … I am not suggesting eliminating things is any less incompetent because even on that Trump seems to follow an “if it exists it should not exist” strategy and not “a thoughtful consideration of its impact” type decision> of Trump leadership.

 

Think of it is this way. Trump believes if there had been no rules & regulations he would be the wealthiest man in the world. He has never found a rule or regulation he has ever liked. He also believes that if he thinks that everyone should think that. I have written about capitalism a zillion times and I have argued that unfettered capitalism simply brings out the worst in people and increases inequality. Rules & regulations, done well, tend to herd behavior <and everyone makes money>.

 

Trump doesn’t think rules apply to him so why wouldn’t we expect him to eliminate rules so he doesn’t even have to pretend he plays by the rules.

 

I versus team

 

Trump has never been part of a team nor does he have any desire to be a team leader. How this translates into his decision attitude is that the global interconnectedness is irrelevant to him. No. He actually thinks it is a negative.

We are not a global team seeking to win but rather it is ‘every man for himself.’ Unfortunately this attitude also cascades down into domestic policy.

 

And because I used the Paris Climate deal earlier to make a point on something else I will do so again here. One would think it would be remarkable that someone who has not appointed someone to run the White House Office of Science and Technology <a person who traditionally serves as the President’s chief science officer> or has the majority of posts on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology <a group of civilian science and tech leaders who advise the president> unfilled would feel qualified to make this Paris decision.  However, if you do not value a team effort and believe “I” is all that matters then the qualified support doesn’t really matter and, in fact, could negatively affect “the I.”

That is what he is doing with … well … everything. “I” is all that matters … ‘fuck office-politics-navigator-sledgehammer-business-jerks-speechthat team thing.’

 

All that said. Everything Trump does and supports gives the finger to anything that could be construed as a team effort. It is “I” in the world. “I” as a country. “I” as a business and … well … “I alone” is the mantra.

 

That said, “it has always been about me and just me” bleeds into everything Trump believes and does.

 

Uncertainty

 

Suffice it to say Trump views uncertainty as a positive <with regard to everything> therefore he is willing to commit to no long term plans or vision and , at the same time, spin the wheel of the ship to wrench it in some direction yet to be identified. It also seems to me that wrenching the entire system 180degrees creates what I offered up as the biggest flaw in Trump’s way of doing business — uncertainty.

 

He does this because he thrives on the belief America will ultimately benefit from uncertainty. He believes that America will swoop in now that is it is free from the shackles of the ‘old order’ <way of doing things, deals, regulations, etc> and dominate what … well … we plans-plus-certainty-fail-uncertaintyalready dominated.

 

The country that has spent decades constructing an international construct based on free trade, multilateral cooperation, a global alliance network, and the promotion of democratic values has now chosen as its leader a man who detests any structure supporting any & all of those things. He wants a demolition derby hoping his car is the winner.

 

This is a bad idea. Very bad. And, once again, while I am disappointed in Trump I am even more disappointed a business man <the secretary of state> thinks this way because it ignores business 101.  Well. It ignores business 101 depending on whether you think America is special, exceptional in some way or that part of what makes America distinct in the world is not the bigness of our economy but rather the bigness of our idea.

 

That said, Trump doesn’t believe in big ideas he only believes in big money. Oh. If you have no ideas the only way to make money is to take advantage of uncertainty. The problem is that America is built on an idea & ideals and not money and while we may <if we are really lucky> benefit economically we will do so at the sacrifice of our ideas, ideals and leadership in this uncertain world Trump desires to play his dangerous game in.

 

Leaders don’t act with uncertainty as their compass they use certainty to lead. Of course, Trump wouldn’t know how to lead even if given an instruction manual with lots of pictures.

 

The dollars & cents lens <economics first>

 

I am not a diplomat or some foreign policy expert but I admit that I took a big gulp the other day when I saw secretary of state suggest that America should american global comercial ineterstmake economic and security needs above American ‘values.’ It seems to be that everything will be decided on an exchange of money and not on an exchange of ideas <where value is a combination of economics and values>. Yes. This means that everything and everyone will be viewed through a dollars & cents lens — if you have money, let’s talk.

 

US foreign policy, Tillerson said, is guided by fundamental values, but he cautioned: “If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we’ve come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.”

 

Well.

 

This seems horribly misguided.

It seems to me while USA is in the ‘doing & making & selling shit” business we are also in the “doing & making & selling shit with values” business.

It seems to me that USA should not really be in the “partnerships of convenience” business where we can conveniently set aside our values & ideals but rather we are in the “partnership with ideals” business where we are delighted to do business with you but you are gonna have to accept the fact we are gonna showcase freedom, democracy and what we believe people deserve.

 

But, that’s me, because to Trump everything is marginalized excepting economics <money>.

 

Let’s be clear … our values don’t get in the way of our economic interests. To believe that is to not believe in ‘value’ <in which premium price relies on some value equation above a dollar is a dollar>.

 

Anyway. Dollars & cents seems quite short sighted. As Gen. George Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, commented in 1945, Washington could no longer pursue a narrow conception of national interest or limit its strategic horizons to the Western Hemisphere: “We are now concerned with the peace of the entire world.”

 

To me, the pursuit of “America First” can often be accomplished best by protecting and defending the rights of others which actually includes economic relationships.

 

On that note I dug up a speech made on December 20, 1951 by Dean Acheson which laid out a view of American foreign policy very different from Tillerson’s:

 

——————–

The greatest asset we have in all the world—even greater than our material america one heartbeatpower—is the American idea. No one needs to tell an American audience all the things that this holds for us. It is so much a part of our everyday lives that we do not stop to define it, or to put it into packages for export. But throughout the world, wherever people are oppressed, wherever people dream of freedom and opportunity, they feel the inspiration of the American idea.

 

What we are trying to do, in our foreign policy, is to make possible a world in which our own people, and all people who have the same determination, can work in their own way toward a better life, without having to bear the yoke of tyranny.

—————-

 

Look.

 

I have always known the Trump administration would be putting economy, money, above all and I did outline some concerns I had about attacking a foreign policy based on transactional relationships in some past pieces … but it now has become a reality … it is commerce over conscience.

 

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“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.

Steve Maraboli,

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I think this is a little crazy to think this way as a country. Money is the currency of survival in today’s world and offers an ongoing temptation for “well, just a little bit more would be nice.”

I would be naive to not understand that while 90% of us know money isn’t everything … that same 90% knows money is something. I mentioned it that way because it becomes easy to think money as a ‘this or that’ thought, everything or nothing, and, yet, in this case it is not everything but is certainly still something.

 

That said … Money is 100% everything to Trump and I think Trump yielding the high ground to simply gain some perceived temporary ‘economic advantage’ is simply wrong and will come back to haunt us.

 

To be clear … Trump wouldn’t recognize the high ground if it smacked him in the face.

 

hope light at end of tunnelIn the end.

 

Whew.

 

“The U.S. is, for now, out of the world order business.” <Robert Kagan>.

After more than 70 years, American internationalism was pronounced politically dead.

 

What is really stunning, and upsetting, to people like me is that now the United States is going backwards. It is simply beyond me that we are steering ourselves toward antiquated systems and antiquated thinking rather than moving forward to leading in innovations and ideas. I can only feel a sinking feeling in my stomach as the rest of the world understands what Trump, and his administration, apparently does not … that the United States is about to give away the markets, the technology, the innovation, the jobs and … the leadership. The unifying thread through Trump’s agenda appears to be an attempt to resurrect an earlier antiquated world which marginalizes future considerations and maximizes short term considerations culminating in a stunningly self-destructive United States act of diplomatic and economic isolation.

 

We have faced other crisis in our history and have become stronger by rejecting the easy way out and taking the right way in meeting our challenges. Our greatness as a nation has been our capacity to do what had to be done when we knew our direction and path was right.

 

There is a price to pay if America concludes we are now indifferent to freedoms globally as well as global issues and sit on the sidelines willing to watch it diminished under the guise of “we will not lecture or suggest we know better than you” <which, frankly, is about as un-American as you can get because we DO know better — freedom of thought, religion, speech, etc is better & good> in combination with suggesting “but we will talk with you of you have some money to give us.”

 

I would note that Pew surveys show United States becoming less and less popular and while popularity is not the best measuring stick I could suggest <in looking at the information> that the decline is a reflection of our growing indifference to democratic values and increasing interest in economic values.

 

The world see United States under Donald J Trump assuming a transactional based relationship with the world and not a democratic based relationship with the world.

 

Sigh.

 

There is a price to pay for such positions.

 

Here is what I believe.normalizing america bad behavior values phoenix

 

Trump’s attempt to reverse the shift toward the future is not sustainable. Going backwards never is. And while his quasi-insane onslaught against any rule & regulation under his belief that rules & regulations were the only thing that kept him from being the wealthiest man in the world he is actually going to be a horrible temporary “aberration” in the world’s long march toward the future.

 

I also believe this aberration will come at a terrible cost to America. We may become first but first to the bottom looking up at those who chose to lead the way forward not lead the way backwards.

 

Trump is a profoundly mediocre man with a profoundly dangerous idea of how to make America First.

 

I personally don’t believe Trump has ever known what America First meant … it was simply a slogan to him. It would behoove him to think about this: If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great <Alexis de Tocqueville>. An Economics First strategy sacrifices “the good” which inevitably means America will cease to be great.

For that, I will never forgive Trump. Ever.

 

the false comparison trap

May 30th, 2017

compare-iridescent-person-colorful-special

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“As with events, so it is with thoughts. When I watch that flowing river pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water.”

 

—–

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“The sphinx must solve her own riddle.

If the whole of history is in one man, it is all explained from individual experience.”

 

——

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things.”

 

—-

Bruce McTague

 

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So.

 

life explained tat awkward moment birth deathWe LOVE using the past to try and explain shit. Past people, past events, past words and past … well … everything.

When we are faced with something new, or someone new, we immediately start sifting through the scrap heap of the past to start creating some semblance of a jig saw puzzle to explain what we are facing.

 

There are a number of problems with doing this.

 

The biggest is that scraps are scraps. Oh. And the scraps used to reside in a completely different context <which is impossible to recreate>.

 

And, yet, we continue to try.

The problem is that in doing so we elect to not judge the present on the merits of the present. We decline to judge a person as they are, the circumstances as they are and the decisions on the merits of what it is. We do this with everyone and everything … how money is spent, decisions we need to make, new people we have met and even leaders. We do it all partially well intended <we want to make sure we make a fair assessment of hat we are seeing & hearing> and partially because simply examining something and stating “this is good” or “this is bad” <or acceptable or unacceptable> seems … well … flimsy.

 

Comparisons tend to make things look more solid.  And, yet, we tend to absolutely suck at creating the proper comparisons.

 

And, that happens for a variety of reasons – also some well-intended and some not so well intended.

 

I will start with the well intended.

 

As Emerson once wrote: “our being is descending into us from know not whence.” And we struggle with that truth. It makes us uncomfortable … uhm … no … REALLY uncomfortable.

If we don’t know where things descend from then we begin to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find comparisons to do so. this all comes at the expense of judging what is, the beings and such, on the merits of what exists. And this is where the shit hits the fan. We either dip into our own memories or a slew of people start telling us what memories to take a look at <the latter is part of the not so well intended>.

 

Well.

 

Here is an unfortunate fact … our memories, which is how we tend to judge and create mental comparisons, are constructive and reconstructive

 

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“Many people believe that memory works like a recording device.

pico memory key thumb drive

…….. our memory chip ……..

You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true.

Our memories are constructive.

They’re reconstructive.

Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people. “

 

Elizabeth Loftus

 

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“You can ask the universe for all the signs you want, but ultimately, we see what we want to see when we’re ready to see it.”

 

——

(via 1112pm)

 

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We desperately want to define things through comparison and continuously ask the universe for signs to show us what we want.

 

We desperately do so because in the absence of some comparison we would then have to judge what is on the merits of what exists — the good, the bad and the indifferent .

 

That doesn’t mean a shitload of people around you aren’t gonna try and affect how you will build your comparisons and encourage you to compare in some fairly creative <sometimes absurd> ways.

 

What do I mean?

 

I go back to the psychologist Ebbinghaus who studied memory construction <his published essay Über das Gedächtness in 1885> where he realized that memory and recall of continuous passages of prose or verse would be affected differentially by people’s experiences and prior knowledge.

Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

 

 

What that actually means is that the memory you tap into to create the my-worst-enemy-is-my-memory-projectcomparisons you seek are slightly mangled by yourself <in how you remember it> and can be manipulated by devious not so well intended people around you.

 

The Constructive and reconstructive nature of memory:

 

  • Memories are distributed; not unitary

 

  • “remembering” involves retrieving and reassembling

 

  • memories can be revised over time

 

  • Reconstruction is filling in “missing details” on the basis of logic, assumptions, what “must have been the case”

 

  • More common reasons for forgetting: Lack appropriate retrieval cue = something you attach to a memory, can use to recover it>

 

  • Reliable retrieval cues are key to access <and multiple retrieval cues are best>

 

  • Existence of older memories blocks access to newer ones

 

Ah.

If only we could pull out our brain and use only our own eyes.

But, not surprisingly, this is the exact same issue new ideas, “white space” theories, fresh thinking, true <not made up> disruptive people & things face.

 

All tat said. I will point out that something doesn’t have to be truly new to face false comparison challenges … it can simply be a new person in an existing role or a common problem or question just in a different time.

 

Suffice it to say anything new, or any change, is being asked to be defined by the past. And there will never be a lack of people stepping up and suggesting they can define something through a variety of comparisons <many of which you spend more time trying to fend off than is worth the time>.

explain with rational mind

This is a mistake. This is a fundamental error we make. It assumes what is can somehow be extrapolated by something by what was <the past>. In reality, as I have noted numerous times, I cannot exactly extrapolate the past because I cannot exactly replicate the past … which means <in harsh terms> there is nothing there and nothing from nothing is … uhm … nothing.

Yeah.

Most comparisons end up meaning nothing <although they look like something>.

Yeah.

This means most comparisons we create are just plain and simple false comparisons.

 

Without trying to be flippant with regard to what I believe is a fairly standard operating procedure for people … we need to stop. Stop false comparisons.

It is a trap.

And a dangerous trap.

 

Comparisons normalize that which should not be normalized … just as comparisons can de-normalize that which should be normalized.

False comparisons wielded by the devious can construct almost any “normal” you could desire <even if it is hollow & not really normal>.

 

Anyway.

 

In today’s world there does seem like there is a lot of crazy shit happening. And in our desire to veer away from the “crazy shit” feeling we seek some comparisons to normalize the situation <thereby calming the ‘crazy shit feeling>.

 

Just a couple of notes of warning on that.

 

<a> Finding comparisons, if done well, you can actually be convinced there really isn’t crazy shit happening even though there is truly some crazy shit easter crazy kidshappening.

 

As a corollary to <a>,

 

<b> if there is truly some crazy shit happening there will be no shortage of people ponying up false comparisons trying to convince you that there is no crazy shit happening <and some of them will be quite effective>.

 

The only reason I point out the warning is that there really is some crazy shit happening and we need to stop finding comparisons to make today, and some people, look a little less crazy than it really is.

 

There you go.

 

I will end where I began … “Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things <and people>.”

We should invest the energy judging what is, people, ideas and things, based on their present merits not some false comparisons from the past.

 

the science, and the lost art, of ROI

May 24th, 2017

choices-path-shopping-direction-decisions

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“… businesses want answers right away and many times high statistical reliability is not worth the cost it takes to achieve it.

 

Insights that point decision-makers to go “left” or “right” is innately good enough. Leaders are oftentimes not willing to pay for “turn left at a 30 degree angle” or “turn right at an 115 degree angle” because it may cost too much money and takes far too long to obtain those precise next steps through drawn-out methodologies.”

 

—–

Kuhn

 

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“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

 

=

John Dewey

 

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“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”

 

—–

Rene Descartes

 

============

 

Well.

 

fire water contradiction ideas thinkThis is about how ROI gets abused in decision making and I am writing about that because the Trump administration issued their “national budget proposal” <which I fully acknowledge is simple a guideline of the administration’s desires> and immediately started ponying up all their “we made cuts where there was no evidence of appropriate results” justifications.

 

Some of those justifications are terrifying.

Some of their choices are terrifying.

 

As for the budget plan?  As one writer put it … “the math is terrifying.”

 

Cutting Medicaid would be devastating for all low-income Americans, but particularly for women and mothers: 45 percent of childbirths in the U.S. were funded by Medicaid in 2010, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Trump’s budget also cuts funding for after-school programs for children and support for domestic violence victims.

 

I am going to let other people tear apart the incredibly short sighted Trump budget plan <which, yes, has scraps of good ideas> and I will focus on the criteria it appears they focused on <excepting the parental leave initiative which was like placing a half-eaten M&M on top of a turd> — budget by ROI.

 

Budgeting by ROI.

 

Whew.

 

 

This provides me with another excuse to blast my generation of business leaders and how their misguided thinking has screwed up not only how business is conducted, in general, but how we think about business. Specifically about ROI … these hollow men hollowed out business of any of the ‘art’ and color which is associated with thriving businesses which contribute to society & cultural norms leaving at an empty husk of dollars & cents and black & white ROI decisions.

 

Look.

 

roi einstein

I am all for analysis and love quantitatively judging tactics and initiatives. But I also understand that <1>  numbers often do not always tell the entire story and <2> we far too often judge ROI on one specific outcome without assessing some value on some ‘ripple effect’ outcomes.

 

But, first, the numbers and ROI.

 

I wrote back in February that numbers have lost their mojo  … yeah … well … I still believe that … just in a different context.

 

In this case we are dealing with a generation of business people who have completely bastardized the use of numbers – stripping them of anything but the false veneer of what they call “simplistic stark truth.”

Now. ‘Simplistic stark truth’ sounds good … and it sounds really good in the business world.

 

And, yet, in this starkness there is found falseness. The falseness can be found in its lack of imagination, its lack of depth and its lack of seeing anything but ‘what can be measured.’

 

This stupid view of numbers wreaks havoc when viewing ROI analysis.

 

Now … back on November 13th 2016 I wrote about the Trump administration as the last stand of the old white men  <the business generation I continuously skewer> and discussed hollowness. And while I outlined a number of ‘hollow’ things which can be blamed on this generation in that piece I neglected to point one out — the hollowing of ROI.

 

————–

 

ROI.

 

ROI <return on investment> is a fabulous tool. It offers us every day unimaginative pragmatic schmucks an almost heuristic way to judge some fairly complex and complicated things in business.

 

But old white men hollowed ROI of anything intangible and along the way scraped away some of the most meaningful things associated with investment in their desire for simplistic “this led to that.” Certainly some investments have linear outcomes and results. But not all. And these hollow men in their black & white pursuit of profit, efficiency and outcomes became color blind.  Old white men started looking at people as equal to numbers & dollars and not organic organisms of less than linear productivity <in terms of Life actualization as well as business actualization>. These hollow men fell in love with numbers and began diminishing the value of humanity.

 

That is Trump in a nutshell.

 

—————-

.......... hollow men making hollow decisions ......

………. hollow men making hollow decisions ……

Well.

 

I could argue this all happened because ROI analysis permitted a shortcut for business people — a thinking & decision making shortcut.

It permitted, and encouraged, an entire generation to not have to really think but rather fallback on “that’s what the analysis said.”

 

That is plain and simple lazy fucking business … not smart solid business.

 

I will not argue that a good ROI analysis can offer a quick spontaneous glimpse of truth viable snapshot … in fact … it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who stated that the growth of intellect is spontaneous.

 

Of course, he hadn’t been bludgeoned with measurement, ROI and data driven decisions.

 

Of course, he was also on the one who stated … what is the hardest task in the world? To think. And. We are all wise. The difference between create destroy pencilpersons is not in wisdom but in art.

 

And that is where Trump and his merry band of old white men doing this whole budget thing are most aggravating.

 

It is not that they cannot envision the art of decision making but rather they purposefully abstain from the art of decision making <and focus solely on ROI>.

 

It is not that they are incapable of holding two conflicting ideas at the same time but rather they purposefully choose to ignore one idea or thought for the one most supported by the science of ROI.

 

 

It is not that they are oblivious to the qualitative nature & benefits of budgetary decision but rather they avoid the more difficult defense of the qualitative to utilize the more easy, and lazy, rationale of the quantitative.

 

I don’t blame them specifically <although it is their budget blueprint> but it is the unfortunate legacy of that entire generation to do those things.

 

All that said.

 

While ROI seems a straightforward way to analyze … ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly tricky … but when done well it can inform some great insightful decisions and ideas.

 

ROI, when evaluated properly, can be devilishly painful … like having the devil screaming at you type painful … and even when done well tends to dull <not sharpen> the good ideas.

 

==============

 

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

 

—-

F. Scott Fitzgerald

==============

 

But ROI, measurement … practical rewards & output … that is what we ‘do’ these days.

This seem o be our “how we conduct business handbook” these days.

philosophical-discovering-gravity

We seem to have forgotten the value of unsought discovery and the value of … well … the benefit of the benefit <I spent money which created ‘x’ outcome … which enabled this other ‘x’ outcome>.

 

We seem to have culturally decided consciously to … “inevitably we will show a failure of imagination.”

 

What do I mean ? Let me use a quote from Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

 

 

 

“…in the hands of politicians grand designs achieve nothing but new forms of the old misery…”

 

 

 

In our failure of imagination in our analysis of existing programs and initiatives we come up with grand designs begetting new forms of old misery. But what makes today and this budget worse? These are supposed to be fucking business people and not politicians in place making these ‘grand designs’ <isn’t that what some people voted for with Trump?>.

 

I admit.

 

I am wary of how ‘we the people’ will move forward with regard to budgeting tough-choices-shopping-decisions-lifeand programs and policies and deciding what we should do to better America..

 

I am wary because I see little moving forward, no ‘trying to do what it takes to get there’ other than bludgeoning people with simplistic harsh solutions and no imagination to overcome the cries of ‘why waste money on something like this!”

 

I am wary because I see men of a generation who bastardized ROI analysis applying their own bastardized version of ROI thinking to people’s lives <under the guise of “applying it to people’s money/taxes” — no, they are not the same>.

 

I am a business guy.

 

I cannot envision running a business, or a government, without solid measurement, ROI & budgeting rigor.

 

But I also know from running a business with hundreds of employees that the greatness of an organization does not reside solely in some number … or some ROI analysis.

 

==========

 

“The true greatness of a nation is not measured by the vastness of its territory, or by the multitude of its people, or by the profusion of its exports and imports; but by the extent to which it has contributed to the life and thought and progress of the world.

 

===============

 

I tend to believe most of us every day schmucks recognize that ROI is part of doing business and insuring our hard earned money/taxes is used effectively.

But I also believe that most of us every day schmucks also realize that some things just cannot be measured solely by numbers.

 

 

I worry that this Trump administration is reflective of the lost art of ROI family choices tough decisions aheadanalysis and the value of discovery

 

In their love of money as ‘winning’ they have lost sight of the value of seeking what is beyond the horizon. They have devalued imagination to such a point that they most likely define imagination as measurable in an ROI analysis. In other words they take ideas and thoughts, even ones with no history, and embrace them not by saying “what if” and “what could be” but rather by grinding it through some veg-o-matic ROI machine to assess its true value.

 

And that, my friends, is how they came up with their “blueprint for a national budget.”

 

And that, my friends, is how they plan on running this country and making their decisions.

 

And that, my friends, is not how America does business … because it shows a failure of imagination and it is imagination, not ROI analysis, which drives real change and progress.

 

—————–

 

“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization.

Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.

 

So I believe that dreams–daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing–are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

 

The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

=

 

Baum

—————————

 

 

shrinking in comparison

May 19th, 2017

 shrinking trump comparison

===================

 

“Most of us, shrinking from the difficulties and dangers which beset the seeker after original answers to these riddles, are contented to ignore them altogether, or to smother the investigating spirit under the featherbed of respected and respectable tradition.”

 

—-

Thomas Henry Huxley

 

===============

 

“Not fearing death, nor shrinking for distress, But always resolute in most extremes”

 

.

William Shakespeare

 

=====================

 

Well.

 

Spend enough time in a corporate career and move up in a corporation and pretty much everyone gets some sort of media training <how to communicate trump tweet business hollow empty words awkward situationwith media and effectively communicating your message>.

 

And before you think this is just about senior management folk let me tell you that all you have to do is work with any significant franchise organization and you will invest more energy and time doing media training at all levels than you really would like to do.

Why?

All you have to do is get burned once by some local TV station trying to find some ‘you would be shocked’ story and you will learn the value of media training outside the corporate headquarters and on-the-ground at the service & franchise level.

 

I have received some fabulous media training throughout my career and most likely have a couple of media training manuals and presentations on some thumb drive somewhere. Training can span from a simple one-sheet ‘do this and don’t do this’ to sitting down in front of a camera being taped and grilled by some inquisition-type corporate communications expert <who you will hate for weeks after>.

 

For most of us … all training is excruciatingly painful.

For most of us … all we seek is “an opportunity to keep our mouth shut.”

 

But, alas, corporations and senior management demand face time publicly and it is better to arm yourself than to go into the fight “winging it.”

 

Now.

 

Most relevant to my thought today is that this training pays off in spades when you are forced into a comparison situation. Think being on a panel or standing at side by side podiums. I wrote not long ago about the window of ‘stark contrast opportunities’ in which I discussed the upside in terms of building shift up or downvalue thru contrast.

 

Well.

As with anything good there is also a potential downside.

 

In a contrast situation there is a winner and a loser. And I don’t care how good a thinker you are, how good an instinctual communicator you are or how good an ‘explainer in chief’ you are … you cannot go into any comparison & contrast situation assuming you will  be the better one, the winner by default, in a contrast situation.

 

Contrast situations are fraught with peril.

 

I won’t go into all the training crap but I will point out two core aspects which are relevant to being in a public contrast situation:

 

  • The hard one: simplify without oversimplifying

 

This is hard. Really hard.

And usually takes a shitload of practice & experience … and even then you will not always get it right <except for those truly gifted communicators who make all the rest of us miserable in that because they can do it everyone believes they can also do it>. My belief is always to say just enough so people understand and assume someone will ask a question if they need more information. If you do that, your experience with questions, what questions you get, kind of hone your ‘what is too much and what is too little’.

But you need enough experience and questions in order to be able to bracket what is most efficient & effective.

 

That said.

 

Oversimplifying concludes in one of two places <1> you have no idea what you are talking about or <2> you are out of touch with details and depth of truth

 

You have to figure out a way to showcase you understand the complexity without boring the shit out of people and, ultimately, convincing them you really do know your shit. In addition … you want to give just enough nuance and depth to suggest an ‘attack’, or clarification <which is just another kiss of the comparison death> would be a waste of time.ideas communicate media training shrinking

 

I will not go into all the gory details of how to efficiently communicate complexity <which is actually the advice we should be giving everyone rather than “keep it simple”>.

 

Suffice it to say there are three effective ways to simplify without oversimplifying.

 

 

Bracket your thought with two support points.

 

Triangulate your thought by offering three reasons to believe.

 

Box your thought in with 4 simple reasons why your thought makes sense.

 

A lot of people suggest always providing your thought and one reason to believe support <simple linear support> but the best training I received made the point that this makes your thought more vulnerable to questioning and, if possible <unless you have one undeniable blockbuster reason to believe> you should figure out a simple way to show simple complexity demands nuances smartness.

 

I imagine what I am saying in this aspect is you want to protect your words, thoughts and ideas from shrinking. And the way to do so is to effectively build a wall around them. Without the wall, the protection, the thought can get squeezed until it no longer exists … and you shrink a little every time that happens.

 

 

  • The easy one: avoid hyperbole like it is the plague

 

Hyperbole creates a gap, an empty space, in between reality and some quasi-imagined reality.

 

Uhm.

 

fill-emptiness-empty-with-various-thingsEmpty space to a listener/questioner/debater is like sugar for ants. Our tendency is almost always to make problems look bigger and successes more successful … it makes us look more heroic. But in our tendency to do so it actually … well … shrinks us. The truth is many of us think our jobs are fairly mundane and when discussing what we do, and have done, publicly we think “who the hell wants to hear this?” and then head down the path to make what we do, or did, look less mundane and more challenging or exciting.

 

Media training helps you see this.

And what you do is not worry about what you do but rather show how much you love what you do, or did, which breathes some helium into it and makes it look bigger. Suffice it to say it is incredibly difficult for someone to shrink what you like and what you are passionate about than it is to poke a hole in the empty space created by hyperbole and shrink the entire thought to a shriveled balloon status.

 

 

Ok.

 

Why did I bring this up today?

 

Well.

 

Sigh.

 

It becomes more obvious everyday … the shrinking of America right before our eyes.

 

Yesterday I watched President Donald J Trump stand at one podium and the president of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, at another podium. As they each trump santos colombiaspoke I watched Trump shrink before our eyes and America along with him.

 

The adult at the front of the room was a president … just of Columbia.

 

No offense to Columbia or the Columbian president but I don’t expect a country whose economy is 42 times smaller than the US Economy to have a president who sounds smarter, speaks smarter, shares smarter information and handles himself more smartly than the president of the USA. Let alone watching the poor Columbian President trying to be diplomatic when he clearly wanted to look at Trump and say “are you a complete fucking idiot?”

 

It bothered me a little less as we watched Angela Merkel of Germany a month ago stand side by side with Donald J Trump and his words and speech made him shrink before our eyes <and earned Merkel the title of ‘leader of the free world’>.

Yeah.

That’s tough competition for any president so while I cringed at the shrinkage I figured it may be one of Donald J’s most difficult contrast & comparison situations.

 

But in between yesterday’s unfortunate public display and Merkel’s hint of what was to come we see time and time again he is placed side by side with the leader of another country and he shrinks in comparison as soon as they both start talking.

 

By the way … this is a problem.

Not just for Donald J Trump but also for America.

 

When he shrinks in comparison America shrinks globally. This doesn’t mean we will not retain the world’s largest economy which demands that people have to deal with America regardless … but … it effectively shrinks our leadership role globally.

 

Sigh.

 

I honestly don’t know what I would do with Donald J Trump if I was his communications director. I know I would be honest with the Trumpster and say “stop giving interviews because you don’t know when to stop talking” … “don’t answer in paragraphs but rather in sentences because you cannot assemble a coherent paragraph thought” … “never talk about yourself when standing side by side with a peer”“lets schedule some more of those fake campaign speeches  in front of your few rabid followers so you can feel free and complain about everyone & everything and explain how great you are because they will love it.”

 

I also know my honesty would get my ass fired so quickly don’t blink because you would miss my time in the White House.

 

Media training is a pain in the ass but in its pain it grinds you down to reality about yourself. You learn to duck the bad comparisons a little better and seek the opportunities to contrast positively a little better.

 

stop this train add up

 

I don’t believe we need a member of the Mensa society to be the president or even to be effective in positively contrasting themselves in a tough situation in which the other is smart, thoughtful & articulate. But you do need someone who is self-aware in the moment & environment. Media training almost above any other training you may receive in business harshly introduces you to self-awareness.

 

What I do know is that without some very harsh media and communications training President Trump will continue to shrink in comparison time and time again.

Enlightened Conflict