Enlightened Conflict

all sins are attempts to fill voids

February 26th, 2017

dog bacon thoughts desires



“I desire the things which will destroy me in the end.”



Sylvia Plath




“All sins are attempts to fill voids.”



Simone Weil






stop trying to convince


We all know at least one person who is always trying too hard.

Or maybe they always seem to be overcompensating for something.

Or even that they know they are ‘not as good as’ and spend far too much time trying to convince everyone they are at least better than maybe we know they are at something.


We like these people because we like the overall sense that someone is dissatisfied with the present person and seeking a better person.


We don’t like these people because we don’t like the overall sense of desperation and the trappings that often come with it.


We look at these people and … well … we think about ourselves and the crazy shit we do.


Let’s face it … Life makes us do a lot of crazy shit.




It doesn’t actually “make” us … just full-throatedly encourages us to do some crazy shit.


It does so because it makes us desire  a shitload of things that can chip away at the better version of ourselves. And by better version I don’t mean external stuff but internal stuff … soul, integrity & character. But life has a nasty habit of encouraging us to think more about external stuff than internal stuff.


The size of your bank account.braver he who overcomes own desire achievment soul how winning victory


How you look and what you wear and whether you sport Gap or Brooks Brothers.


The size of your house and whether you have gold drapes or Pier1 window hangings.


This kind of crap can screw you up let alone destroy you.

You can get so caught up in what Life is whispering in your ear as what is important … well … over time that is all you can hear and see.


Life becomes almost a parody of itself.


‘Less is more’ becomes the mantra of everything but you personally where ‘more’ just seems to look less & less. Life can twist you into a pretzel trying to match up with all the external trappings of what it suggests you should desire.

And as you get twisted all it really does is squeeze out character & integrity & principles drop by drop as Life twists harder and harder.


And as you get this squeezed out of you … you will naturally get thirsty. Therein lies the big Life choice … what do you drink?


What do I mean?


Remember that kid you knew growing up who was always the bully, always the exaggerator, always the one trying so hard to show everyone how great they were … at some point they realize that they are thirsty.

Either thirsty for more or thirsty for what is getting squeezed out of them.

And don’t think Life is standing by silently.  All the while Life will whisper sweet nothings in that kid’s ear telling them what to drink to stay on their path to a ‘better person’ <and it is most likely the sweetest, least healthy alternative>.




At some point we all get thirsty … even that young bully … and your Life gets energized by what you drink <and I could suggest you get addicted to what you drink at a fairly early age>.



always more and more life desireThat said.


What I do know is that almost all of us end up being constantly nudged to believe we neither have enough nor are we enough.


And it is within those ‘not enough’ spaces, the voids if you wish to call them, in which we commit our sins.


We commit our sins most often as we overreach.



We are tempted to overreach … in our words, our resumes, our successes, even our recaps of our ‘what we did today’ lists.


Some overreach more than others. But we all get tempted. And, just as I noted above, it is explainable and understandable. When Life is trying to constantly tell you ‘not enough’ you will constantly be trying to showcase ‘more than enough.’

That is a natural response.


And this is where people separate themselves into two basic generalized groups … those who define how they matter <enough> by an internal balance sheet versus those who define how they matter <enough> by an external balance sheet.

I am not suggesting it has to be 100%, internal or external, because most of us figure out how to commit a few ‘sins’ as possible and try and manage what they desire in a way they don’t ultimately get destroyed by their desires. Most of us figure out our ‘best version’ is pretty good … maybe less than some but more than others.




“And so we all matter – maybe less than a lot, but always more than some.”


John Green


not good enough trying

But some people truly do end up in the 100% column.


It is quite possible someone like the Pope is close to the internal 100% judgement … but I imagine a lot of people actually slide close to this Life self-framing. It comes with some external expenses but a shitload of people are willing to sacrifice those things because they know the gold curtains fade, the money can be lost and the houses can burn down. External trappings can only provide so much comfort.


On the end of the spectrum are the … well … hollow people. They look glitzy. They sound confident <if not arrogant or blowhards>. They have all the trappings of success. But their sacrifice is whatever internal compass that can guide goodness or true fairness as well as empathy & compassion.

They have sacrificed counting internal cues … because external cues are all that count.  All the while they are trying too hard, seem to be overcompensating for something and … well … spending a shitload of time trying to convince everyone they are at least better than maybe we know they are at something.


All that said.


We all know at least one person who is always trying too hard.


This is the person who desires the things which will destroy me in the end.trying human being

This is the person whose sins are attempts to fill voids.


This is the person we know … wish we could change … but is quite possibly the most unchangeable person we know.


We all have voids.

We just need to be very very careful that what we fill that void with doesn’t destroy us in the end.

believing in your own gravity

November 2nd, 2016




“She believed in her own gravity, and she never considered escaping it.


 The world isn’t improved by reading the personal tragedy that unfolded afterwards, but there’s also no fighting it—the power that lies in hearing her words is in the totality of its acceptance.”



Spencer Kornhaber

<slightly edited quote>




“As long as I know what I’ve done, I’m not gonna worry about what other people say or think I did.”



because only I know the truth



… believed in her own gravity, and she never considered escaping gravity-is-in-my-bonesit may be one of the strongest lines I have read.



Understanding yourself … who and what you are … is difficult.


Accepting yourself … who and what you are … is difficult.


Which, inevitably, makes believing in yourself extremely difficult.


Accepting less than perfection … or accepting the fact you have imperfections … is difficult.

Knowing you have flaws … and even some destructive flaws … is difficult.


If you bundle all of those up … well … that is your gravity.


For some reasons, some good and some bad, we always seem to want to fix or change our gravity <which seems … well … as I type that … kind of impossible and somewhat silly objective>.


Some people dislike their gravity and fight it … try and escape it … and some even suggest they want to “fly” as a version of showing their dislike for their own gravity.


To be clear <part 1>.


This gravity discussion is different than a “come to the edge and fly” Life discussion. That is about risk and trying to see what you are capable of.

This gravity discussion is about who and what you are. What grounds you day in and day out as part of what makes you … well … you.fear-of-gravity-fall


To be clear <part 2>.


Gravity can be defied.



Let’s just say that you can learn to jump, fly or elevate <but you will inevitably get pulled back at some point>. So you can defy your gravity for moments in time.


But gravity is … well … gravity, i.e., it remains no matter what as part of Life.

And, while everyone faces gravity, your version of gravity is different than someone else’s.


You may like someone else’s gravity. Shit. You may dislike gravity. It doesn’t really matter. You either believe in your own gravity or you end up fighting gravity your entire Life.


And that is where that opening quote is so powerful … such a strong Life idea.


If you believe in your gravity, flaws and destructive qualities included, and do not try and escape it … you use what you have to the bet of your ability rather than fight it.


You believe in your gravity, the good and bad, as part of what can create some space in the world for you and no one else.


genaertional attitudes powerlessYou believe in your gravity, and understand it, and accept it, and believe it is what inevitably guides your feet down some path in Life.


By the way, this does not mean you are unapologetically comfortable with yourself … you may actually even find yourself slightly uncomfortable with your gravity … you just accept it … and believe it inevitably makes you who you are.



And, in the end, I imagine if you do not try and escape your gravity you stop looking at other’s gravity, you stop listening to people telling you to try and change your gravity and … well … you decide to use your gravity to become the hero in your own story.



She needed a hero so she became one.





the reality of overcoming shit

October 13th, 2016




“You can overcome anything … short of death.”


Abi Ketner





I tend to believe most of us are pleasantly surprised by how well we overcome shit.


shit creek survivorThe reality is … well … 99.9% of the time we overcome anything thrown our way.




That is if you assess success as “short of death.” If you do not then overcoming gets judged on a variety of fairly creative measurements.


But if you strip away everything but ‘death’ as the only failure measurement … well … that means if you recognize you cannot be destroyed, you actually recognize you can overcome just about any and every thing.


That affects how you make choices & decisions.



That affects how you feel about yourself.


That all sounds good … and relatively simple … but it is relatively difficult to embrace as a thought and attitude.


I actually do not believe this is a Life lesson.


I believe it is something we simply struggle with throughout Life.


We gain & accumulate things as we grow older. Life experiences, titles, professional experience, money, things and acquisitions … oh … and family.


That is reality.


And reality hates … absolutely frickin’ hates to be destroyed.


We face shit everyday … some big shit and some small shit … and as we face it we view it through bifocals — what reality will be destroyed and how do I protect against it and … well … what do I really want to do.


If you focus solely on the latter you will feel really really good about yourself <in Bad 27 7 doing shita semi selfish way> but I can almost guarantee that doing so will come at the expense of some reality in your life. It may be a small expense and it may be a huge expense … but an expense it is.


If you focus solely on the former you will most likely have a fairly comfortable reality but I can almost guarantee that doing so will come at the expense of some moral relativity <sense of self stuff> in your life. It may be a small expense and it may be a huge expense … but an expense it is.


That is why I said this is a constant struggle for us in life.


We know most of the decisions and choices we make will not kill us … but we have to weigh what that choice & decision will kill in our reality.


On this one topic I can actually share some personal experience.


I have shed the former stuff at some point in my Life & career. I dropped the titles, the compensation, the career, the responsibilities <I do not have a family> and all the past stuff <as well as I could>.



That doesn’t mean that simply destroying it all meant it went away mentally.

Just because destroying everything you feel like you have earned <not deserved> doesn’t translate into some personal ‘slotting’ from that point on – I had that salary so anything less is bad, I had that title so anything less is bad, I had that type of home so anything less than that is bad, etc.


That mental aspect takes some time <at least it did for me>.


But once I reached a point where I recognized that the only way I could actually be destroyed was death itself … well … doing the right thing and doing what I wanted to do became a shitload easier when trying to overcome shit.


I admit.

While not a luxurious life … it is a luxury not many people have.


But to attain this luxury I almost had to destroy reality. That sounds kind of extreme. I imagine there is another way to do it <one would hope, wouldn’t one?>.


Ok. Look.


That isn’t really the point.  It isn’t because I am certainly not suggesting people ditch their reality just so they can always make their decisions based on what would make them feel good as a person. Reality comes with some responsibilities which deserve to be acknowledged.



I imagine my real point is that more of us should recognize everything is overcomeable. Your worst day, your worst decision, your worst choice, your worst anything … if it doesn’t kill you, can be overcome.


I say that because far too often in the moment where the worst is occurring most of us aren’t thinking about the fact we cannot be destroyed … we are worrying about being destroyed. That in and of itself most likely puts us in a position in which we are much more likely to make the worst worse <and, at best, make the worst as palatable as possible>.


do what you must by YoshiteruShit happens. That is a given.


But not all shit is created equal and not all shit outcomes are created equal.

And while all shit can be overcome … if you are a little more fearless when the shit hits the fan, a little more inclined to believe “what the hell, I am not going to die,” I would argue you may actually be more likely to come through the shit not only alive & well … but not as stinky.


And even better? Whew … you will sleep well that night knowing you had destroyed what may have destroyed you without destroying your soul & character.


unapologetically comfortable with yourself

October 2nd, 2016





when youre unapologetically comfortable with yourself, people really dont know what to do with you.




from monochromaticblack



people get mad when they don’t understand the source of someone else’s confidence. lol thats wild.



from monochromaticblack






projects-complete-finish-progress-businessI loved both of these thoughts written by a young African <Nigeria I believe> woman on her tumblr site.


I love them because they do not mean you don’t want to improve <in fact most of these people acknowledge they are work in progress which actually is the foundation for their confidence and comfort with self> but rather espouse a strong belief in self – or being comfortable in your own skin.


I say that, yet, most people see these things as cocky or not willing to listen or be accepting constructive criticism.


They are wrong.


It is just a reflection of a strong self-awareness. And an awareness of what is going on around them. And a willingness to adapt to the situation at hand <therefore each situation aligns with the appropriate confidence rather than trying to stay a square peg and face a round hole on occasion>.


To me … this type of discussion around self awareness driven confidence is almost like discussing the difference between the actually appropriate “I couldn’t care less” versus the more common less appropriate phrase “I could care less.”


They clearly mean different things and, yet, misused so often they are misheard and misinterpreted.


But … about the self awareness the quotes suggest.like-thought-bubble



I like the stubborn kind of love of thyself.


I like the semi-unconditional love of who and what you are.


I like the persistency and acceptance of the undeniable compass that resides within.


I like the understanding and almost commanding hold this belief has on someone’s character and behavior and attitudes.


I like the fact it leaves someone nowhere to go and, yet, at the same time enables the ability to embrace some type of expanded self.



I like the sense that this is a different type of self love which one can never escape no matter how hard you may try <because Life suggests you should ‘escape it’>.


I like the thought that it remains a version of a good friend to rely on regardless of the time of day, situation or crisis.


I like the fact it suggests a version of ‘home’ regardless of how far you may be tempted to stray.


I like it represents a source of healing from which one can replenish who and what you are … no matter what happens.


I like the sense of true companionship strength <thru thick or thin>.



I like the unapologetic faith in head, heart & humanity.



I like the … well … consistency … and the flexibility. I call it a consistent flexible personality.




The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.

If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.



Friedrich Nietzsche



I like the idea someone can change innumerable times, yet in each iteration, will remain fundamentally the same.


I like the idea that the personality & character doesn’t change for, basically, functional reasons.



I like the idea it maintains the attitude of ‘the self’ and continuing to change, constantly aligning itself to changing world and what it learns.


And, I imagine, what I like most is that this type of self-confidence and belief in self insures that no matter how often Life and the shit it throws at you tries to put an end to its existence … you exist.unapologetic-power-go-on-scared-life


The dictionary tells us you cannot ‘put an end to the existence of something’ more than a single time. I would argue with the dictionary <which is surprising because I like unequivocal truths>. Life can, and does, put an end to the existence of lots of ‘self’ things. Sometimes for good but more often for the bad.


All I would say is that if you are unapologetically comfortable with yourself you are more likely to insure the existence of what matters and put an end to the existence of that which does not matter … when it matters.


People may not know what to do with you but you will always know what you can do.


we can do hard things

March 4th, 2016

life strong enough



“Because if there’s one thing I learned from remaking my entire life, it’s this: we are strong as fuck, we can change our stories, and we can do hard things.”


Nicole Antoinette








When I first started writing enlightened conflict I read a variety of other blogs just to get a sense of what is good writing, good storytelling and … well … what was good. In my heart of hearts I knew what I wanted to write and how I wanted to write but over the years I had so much of the “here is what you need to do & how to do it” shit pounded into my head that I was second guessing myself.



never know how strong until only choiceTime and time again I kept finding myself reading blogs that … well … were unfiltered well written thoughts and Life episodes. They tended to be stream of consciousness and tended to make you laugh, cry, shake your head and sigh … and think.


They were … well … real. Real glimpses of how real people think about shit.



Interestingly, two roommates in the same city I lived in at that time <although I never met either of them> wrote separate outstanding blogs – Jamie Varon with A Life in Translation and Nicole Antoinette with Nicole is Better – which set me on the path of how I write enlightened conflict.


Be Real.

Tell the Truth <as it is really seen>.


Share it all with, hopefully, thoughtfulness and with some real-life attitude.



I say all that because I am using a quote <slightly edited> from Nicole to open this post.


Life rarely goes the way we plan it.




Life rarely goes exactly the way we want it <even without specific plans>.



That is neither good nor bad … it just is. And yet in its neither goodness or badness it is unsettling. Sometimes uncomfortable. Like squirming in a hard plastic chair waiting to hear what the test results are uncomfortable.



Whether you take life by the horns and run with it or wait and seek specific opportunities at some point you will find yourself on that uncomfortable chair.


And on that chair you will assess who you are, where you are and what you are.


Uh oh. And then, sometimes, that chair seems even more uncomfortable.


WTF. How did I get in this chair?


And not only do you want to get up off that chair but you want to get out of the fucking room. You may even want to remake the entire house you live in.


jamie life do what the fuck

++++++ Jamie tweet +++++++

And you think … I am not a builder … how do I build a new home? I am not an adventurer … how do I go somewhere I haven’t seen before? … I am not sure where I want to go just that I don’t want to be here … how do I choose a direction?



We are strong as fuck.



We can change our stories.



We can do hard things.



Every one of us gets to a place in Life where we look around and go WTF.

What happened? How the hell do I get out of here?



Some of these places are a little deeper in hell than others … but suffice it to say they all reside in hell. And you want to get out.


Not to be flippant … but … you move. You get up & go. You get up & do.



You are strong as fuck.



You can change your story.



You can do hard things.



We face Life with strength or … well … you lose in Life. And most of us decide to face the hard shit because we have this inner true strength as described by philosopher Immanuel Kant … that even small decisions should be made as though we were deciding for all humanity, not just for our paltry selves.


In other words we realize we can change our story because the bigger story is Life … and not our ‘paltry self’ – which is actually just representative of some words on the larger pages of Life.



That doesn’t mean you feel any less lost or any more sure of where to go or what exactly to do next … it just means you have the strength to get up & go and do the hard things.


acceptance life adventure hugh



“To feel lost is an indication that you want more out of your life.”




Jamie Varon





Part of what I am discussing about this WTF moment is a warped version of existentialism. It is the moment you face up to where you are in Life and make a decision … a decision to be less self-deceiving, more decisive, more committed, and more willing to take on responsibility for the world you exist within.



A philosopher named Martin Heidegger suggested the reason why it takes “the moment in which you make that decision”  to make this personal decision to “do what needs to be done to address where we are in Life” rather than just doing it pretty much all the time is because we have a nasty habit of mentally creating this obstacle called das Man <translated as “the they”>.



Some nebulous “they” who suggests “they say it is a waste of time” or “they say it is impractical” or “they say the opportunity has passed by.” When pressed we cannot really exactly identify who this “they” is but we know “they” is everywhere and circumvents our personal decision making power.


What ‘das man’ suggests is that we convince ourselves we are not actually free to make the decision and do what needs to be done.


“They” constrict the likelihood of success.


“They” gives us the excuse to not admit we are actually free to do something.



“They” will obstruct our change and edit our story.



To be clear.


We all indulge in this thought process.


In fact.


We indulge in this thought process the majority of the time in our lives.



That is, of course, until you reach a moment. A WTF clarity moment. And in that moment you have a choice … free to believe you are not strong enough, you cannot change your story, you cannot do the hard … or … free to believe you are strong as fuck, you can change your story and you can do the hard things. That is the choice.



Let me end where I began.


With Nicole’s quote.



When you hit that moment. Just get it in your head the truest of true Life truths:who dares strong possible


You are strong as fuck.


You can change your story.


You can do the hard shit.



Life rarely goes the way we want it to go let alone plan it … but we are all more than capable enough of dealing with all the twists & turns … and when faced with the WTF moment … we have enough to do the hard stuff to change our story.

when bad shit happens and you need to talk with yourself

January 17th, 2016

life interesting scared shitless doing



“Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and applause of the many, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.”









“Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul.


He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions.


His virtues are not real to him.


His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him.


The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly-that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty one owes to one’s self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry and clothe the beggar.

But their own souls starve, and are naked.


Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. “




Oscar Wilde




talk to myself



This is Life … shit happens. And, more importantly, inevitably shit happens to us.



When that happens, the shit, suffice it to say … we all have a talk with our self.



Unfortunately … most times we have a shitty talk with ourself. Yeah. We tend to know shit about talking to ourself.


At the root of our shittiness of self conversation is typically a variety of creatively destructive aspects:




You can blame external ‘forces’ <”not my fault”>.



You can blame yourself <blame spans lack of confidence to lack of skills>.



Let me stick with the latter <because only losers consistently think the former>.



To begin … what I will tell you is that when the shit hits the fan you can get a startling clear picture of who & what you are.

And sometimes it ain’t pretty.


And it ain’t pretty because we do not even begin the conversation right.





“Some conversations are not about what they’re about.”



Anne Carson






More often than not the conversation you have with yourself aren’t the conversations you think they are.


What I mean by that is when bad shit happens most of us, in the moment or near the moment, are thinking causally – stimulus/response stuff.

“Shit happened because this shit was done.”



At worst this conversation with yourself sounds something like “you stupid shit.”



It is really only later that the problems truly arise … because the conversation continues and you start delving deeper & deeper inside yourself.

These conversations are sometimes call ‘soul searching.’


I, instead, refer to them as ‘soul wrenching.’



During the deeper conversation you encounter doubt, fears of being good enough, self-uncertainty … these are the assholes you sometimes have a conversation with when bad shit happens.

And, unfortunately, they all went to a debate school and unfortunately they all like to talk a lot when given the opportunity.




Here is what I have to offer <as someone who has certainly had his share of both bad shit happening and shitty conversation with myself – albeit I tend to believe all of us have>.



We spend far far <far> too much time in these conversations on comparison type shit.





It is natural … I mean … well … how else can you decide whether you are worth a shit unless you compare yourself to someone who IS worth a shit?



But, frankly, most of our sins are borrowed … just echoes of what is around us.

So when bad shit happens the conversation really should be about you and with you.



And therein lies the next level of a self shitty conversation.



And it is a little weird because it is a Life paradox.


In general … research shows over and over again that we overestimate our abilities … we think we are better than we really are at things.


And, yet, when bad shit happens and we start having this shitty conversation with ourselves … we have a tendency to think of ourselves as flawed … not good  … flawed.



<figure that one out …. Will ya?>



truth perspective post christmasSomehow you gotta find the middle ground in that paradox.


You have to first uncover a realistic perspective of whatever shit that happened and then focus on … well … moving on.






“One does not walk into the forest and accuse the trees of being off-center,


Nor do they visit the shore and call the waves imperfect.


So why do we look at ourselves this way? “




Tao Te Ching







I imagine I could just suggest here that bad shit happens, you have shitty conversations with yourself and that you should have these conversations with the non shitty aspects within you when it happens … but I kind of think what gets you through shit sometimes needs a little more ‘oomph’ to get you through it. The ‘oomph’ is rooted in the moving on thought I just shred above.



I suggest something simple. It’s kind of a mindset. Not any ‘happy hippie shit Secret stuff’ just an attitude that can kind of get you through when bad shit happens.



I don’t know where I found this quote but I love it:






“I didn’t come this far, to only come this far.”







horizon road destination open

I love it in its simplicity.


Bad shit happens.


In work and in Life.


And inevitably we have those shitty conversation with ourselves when bad shit happens.



But … you know what?


You didn’t get that far just to get that far.

None of us do.


And sometimes you just have to remember that and, possibly, one of the best times to remember that is when you are in the middle of a shitty conversation with yourself.


difference between positive thinking and hope

January 21st, 2015

hope versus positive thinking


“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.”


Thomas Merton



“You can’t be happy if you’re thinking about being happy.

Happiness is either there or it’s not, and if you’re thinking about it, it’s not there. “


J. Parata










hope cup of


On new year’s day I wrote about a pragmatic hope … a practical version of hope < http://brucemctague.com/2015-creating-rational-hope-eliminating-rational-ignorance  >  … or a rational version of hope … and all of a sudden I received a bunch of emails talking about ‘thinking positively in 2015″ and how that will power ‘good things.’





While I love hearing from people about what I write … sometimes I step back into the conversation because I think someone has misconstrued my thinking.




2015, shit, any time is about Hope … not positive thinking.


Let me be clear.


The whole positive thinking business drives me a little nuts because I am unequivocally in the Hope business.



And they are not the same.


Not even close in my book.



Hope is about a desire for better things to happen.


Positive thinking is not really hope … it is about envisioning things to happen … therefore … it’s just positive things.






I am not suggesting positive thinking is about ‘confidence’ because it is not.


Confidence, when managed well, is a character trait.


On the other hand … I sometimes refer to positive thinking as ‘personal puffery.’ Puffing yourself up thru some random ‘positive thoughts about myself or what I believe I deserve.’ In fact … I think that is where that whole fake law, law of attraction, begins … with puffery.





Positive thinking is all about making the intangible tangible in your mind. Its about creating the thought, an image in your mind, that what seems impossible isn’t just possible … it becomes real.



Conversely … Hope is all about accepting the intangible … and accepting that it hugh impossible mad hattercould become tangible … not just in your head but in reality.


What seems impossible just appears … well … as not impassable.




It is the simple acceptance of what could be possible.









But a huge crevasse in between the two.






We don’t all need positive thinking to be successful <but … we do need some doubt or cynicism to balance>.


However … we all need hope.



A hopeless existence just isn’t worth living. Shit. We humans instinctively know this … that is why we spend days, hours & minutes searching for hope.


Unfortunately … we sometimes settle for something a little short of hope.

<insert “Uh oh” here>

Because of that, with good intentions to feel good about where we’re headed, we mistake positive thinking for genuine hope.



The real difference between the two seems to come down to their sources.



Positive thinking flows from the human will … from the choice to believe that everything will turn out all right <whether it actually does or not>.

sell hope i can




On the other hand … Hope seems to rest on character on the promise that Life offers <albeit it may not look that way all the time>.



Positive thinking seems to depend on us … while Hope seems to depend on Life.




Oddly <or interestingly>.



After looking at some research … it also seems that there are some character traits which affect how we think about positive thinking and hope.



It appears how we have developed our character <or how we think about things> makes a difference.




For example.


How we view our behavior through a certain filter – shame versus guilt. This filter is developed within our childhood.



Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person … where guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing.




Shame is a negative judgment about the core self which can be debilitating & diminishing. Shame makes children feel small and worthless and they respond either by lashing out at the target or escaping the situation altogether.




In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior. When children feel guilt, they tend to experience remorse and regret, empathize with the person they have harmed, and aim to make it right.





The idea of positive thinking grew in the 70s and is certainly popular as we manage our shame versus guilt feelings.


Positive thinking has become a way of handling whatever happens to be bothering you.



The positive thinking movement continues to be strong today, culminating in recent years with the massive success of “The Secret” book and movie which prescribes tapping into the “law of attraction” <which is not actually a Law> to attract good things in your life simply by thinking about them.








Unfortunately … sometime Life cannot be ‘handled.’

life is a beautiful struggle


Life is … well … lived.


And therein is where Hope resides.



Positive thinking is not only flawed thinking but a fallacy.


They posit that positive thoughts are supposed to generate positive feelings and ultimately attract Positive life Experiences. This is the belief that positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will <wherein the reality is that a balance is the best>.



The true death knell of positive thinking is the tendency to expect the best.




The majority of Life is actually not portrayed in ‘the best.’ We get glimpses of the best and at times we brush up against the best but more often than not we do not attain the best.




Therefore one of three things happen:


We accept less than the best but call it the best.

<all the while thinking positively of course>

This is a sad compromise.

This is called ‘settling’ which is a word you never hear in positive thinking psychology <mumbo jumbo>.


  We become blind to reality.

The close ‘one time’ becomes the example of positive thinking proof which blinds us into ignoring the 99 other times our misguided positive thinking guided us into a less than fruitful path.


We become … well … discouraged.

This can create some false optimism <false positive thinking> in that we live under the belief that ‘we are due’ and ‘it will happen the next time’ and we will not change behavior <which has created the outcomes to date> and end up with the same results over and over.





In addition positive thinking generally promotes a “more is better” approach to positivity.



Some proponents of positive thinking would argue that if you don’t have the wealth, health or happiness you want out of life, it’s because you allowed some negativity to creep in. Only by shutting these thoughts out and focusing on the positive can you be successful.





That is kind of bullshit type thinking.


Life is … well … what happens.



And Hope is more about Life.


Hope for something better. Not anything specific … just better.



Therefore it accommodates negative emotions <doesn’t reject them> recognizing they help us to flourish in our lives.



In fact … one research study found an ideal ratio of 3 positive emotions to every 1 negative emotion for human flourishing.








To be clear.


Not 3:0.



This means it is all about accepting both positive and negative emotions <in whatever ratio they happen to exist> and then acting consciously, while staying true to personal values and goals.



Hope enables people to develop standards for judging their actions, feelings of empathy and responsibility for others, and a sense of moral identity, which are conducive to becoming a better person.



hope this way


“The miserable have no other medicine

But only hope.”


William Shakespeare




Hope enables people to see, and find, something beyond the miserable.



Hope enables the ability to look for the unknown. Hope, by definition, is a feeling that what is wanted … will happen <or some desire accompanied by expectation>.




Children seem better at this Hope thing than adults <maybe that is why we adults created this whole ‘positive thinking’ bullshit? … because we stopped being good at Hoping?>.

Many times I wish we adults had a little more of the hope of the young. They never seem to doubt that what they hope for will happen. I don’t think we need all of that … just some.







One last thought before I leave you with your own thoughts.


Today and Hope.



These days it seems like the word ‘hope’ is used in a pretty casual way. It is almost like we use it as synonymous with some type of need.


Like we need many things to happen in our lives.




Like we need jobs, we need money, and need some ‘thing.’



We tie this Hope thing to … we need … we need … we need.



I don’t know if its because we live in such a tangible outcome oriented world these days … or that Hope and dreamers have it kind of tough as not being pragmatic or realistic enough … but regardless of the reason … Hope is being diminished into some fairly basic needs & tangibles.



Hope cannot, and should not, ever be cheapened … and certainly not ever <ever> lowered to the abysmal depths of positive thinking tripe.



Hope is more a primal need and Life expectation.



And hope is infinitely more powerful than any amount of positive thinking.


Hope isn’t about thinking about ‘what isn’t’ as ‘what is’… it is about believing ‘what could be’.




Hope is not false believing <like positive thinking ‘personal puffery’> but real believing … an acceptance that something appears impossible … and yet is not impassable.



There is a reality in hope that doesn’t exist in positive thinking.




To that end.



I will end with a quote from the infamous movie ‘Princess Bride’.




“We’ll never survive!”


You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”


The Princess Bride




Hope, in a very odd way, is about realism.


Or being realistic.



We hope that things will happen.



We envision what could be.compromise never settle for



Not guaranteed … but maybe what ought to be <believing that because it ought to be that somehow … someway … we will get there>.




Hope is … well … about survival.


It may be tempting to settle for positive thinking … but … it means you are settling for too little.


Do not settle.



Accept the big prize in Life – Hope.

organizational maturity

April 30th, 2014

organization numbers aging


“It`s not how old you are, it`s how you are old.”

Jules Renard




Let’s say your business has made it through the Gartner Hype gauntlet <

http://brucemctague.com/gartner-hype-gauntlet   >… somehow you have made it past the early adopters and have some effective audience of mainstream <laggards if you want to use ‘model-speak’> that keep the business a viably healthy profitable business.




Suffice it to say all companies mature <assuming they don’t die a young death>.


From that point on you either decide to age gracefully or figure out how to retain your boyish <girlish> charm.



But you have to figure it out while living in a business world of constant change that disrupts not only how you may decide to market yourself but the whole industry you are competing in.


The dilemma every business faces is whether such a rapid pace of acceleration can be maintained in terms applying new trends to day to day practices thereby staying relevant … without losing what got you to that place in the first place.


Or maybe better said … how many and what should be applied to incorporate enough to be relevant. Or … most simplistically … what to pay attention to and what to ignore.


Unsurprisingly … once you make it past the Gartner hype gauntlet you immediately run into more 2 dimensional linear models … this time outlining organizational maturity.organizational maturity Characteristics_of Model


I have the same gripes with these models as I did with the Hype Cycle <as well as one additional huge gripe I will outline later> however I end up in the same place in that if you use the model as a thinking tool and not a plan-o-gram you should be fine.



I do believe data and digital tracking tools offer unprecedented opportunities to implement the  creative thinking needed to ‘not die’ <i.e., lose relevance>.

And I do believe at the end of the day it is inevitably be the combination of insights and some creativity that will translate actions into some meaningful outcome.




While I flippantly suggested how to stay relevant there are gobs of researched models that reflect how poorly most organizations mature.


Most companies either remain stagnant <because they are hesitant to change what got them through the Gartner gauntlet> … or overreach expectations <try and change too much>.


Either way they get captured in standard maturity models.



Most maturity models reflect stair steps reflecting the four or five stages that organizations progress through <or should progress through> in developing a certain capability along a number of dimensions as they mature.



I have several issues <gripes> with most organizational maturity models:

organizational maturity trap

  1. They suggest maturity is inevitable <which I do not agree with>
  2. They suggest, in some for or fashion, an organization life is finite <which I do not agree with>
  3. They typically suggest each stage advances on all dimensions of the model  which elevates every aspect of the company’s “maturity” further and further into some new heights <which I cannot agree with>
  4. They suggest a business should always want to move up to the next stage … and manage to the next stage <which I do not agree with>.


Assuming you have maneuvered your way through the Gartner Cycle and you have a franchise of existing customers … you actually have lots of options.


–          Mature gracefully?

–          Maintain some youngish immature charm?

–          Create a new version of yourself?



“Just because you’re grown up and then some doesn’t mean settling into the doldrums of predictability. Surprise people.“

Victoria Moran



Pick anyone you want … but suffice it to say moving to the next stage may not be the right thing to do.

There is a cost to everything, and advancing into the highest levels of a maturity model may have diminishing returns or even negative returns for you.


But my biggest gripe with these models is the assumption that you want to organization to ‘step up’ over time.



I imagine that real maturity is discovering which stage is optimal for your business, or even mixing attributes from different stages — resisting the narrow-framing of a fixed set of homogenized stages <that were likely created with a specific industry or set of assumptions>.


The most generic version of a maturity model is the up-and-to-the-right graph.

These graphs which emphasize up-and-to-the-right, i.e., ‘do more of X, get more of Y’ is … well … simplistically nuts.



We all aspire to more. More sales, more leads, more customers, more revenue, more profit, more and … well … suffice it to say that if there is a possible positive business result … you want more of it.


And, yes, all are great … but … well … everything has a cost even if it’s just opportunity cost.

The pursuit of more without considering what those costs are leads to some form of the absurd <it doesn’t lead to taking over the world>.


Bottom line.organizations mature

Just because the line on the graph can go higher and further to the right doesn’t necessarily mean you should chase it there at the expense of other dynamics that aren’t represented on that graph.



Expense of what <you may ask>.


It could be that as a company matures they lose alignment on what Peter Drucker referred to as the commitment to ‘contribution.’


Contribution for every organization needs performance in three major areas: (i) direct results (ii) building values and their reaffirmation (iii) building and developing people for tomorrow. If deprived of performance in any one of these areas, it will decay and die.


maturity cultural alignment-maturity-model-4-4Direct results always come first. In the care and feeding of an organization, they play the role calories play in the nutrition of the human body.


But any organization also needs a commitment to values and their constant reaffirmation, as a human body needs vitamins and minerals. There has to be something ‘this organization stands for’ or else it degenerates into solely results generation which permits disorganization, confusion and ultimately paralysis. Value commitments, like results, are not unambiguous in that an organization can waver between two fundamentally incompatible value commitments <which is not optimal> and yet be functional.


Lastly. People. An organization is a means of overcoming the limitations mortality set as to what any one person can contribute. An organization that is not capable of perpetuating itself has failed. Therefore an organization has to provide today the people who will, and can, run it tomorrow.


An organization that just perpetuates today’s level of vision, excellence and accomplishment has lost the capacity to adapt. And since the one and only thing certain is change it will not be capable of survival in a changed tomorrow.


Those are pragmatic aspects if ignored do not allow an organization to shift in the steps in the model nor permit it to rest, and prosper, at any step.




A real business truth is that a company may not move at all … as in step up in the model. And that may be a good thing.




Organizations should look at a maturity model with some skepticism and pragmatism. Certainly with some hesitance to grow old before its time … some common sense … a holistic cost/benefit thinking to maximize success at any step … and more risk taking.




Did I just type risk? <yes>.


Adapting means risk.


To be clear … stagnancy <or not adapting> is not risk. It is death <failure>.



Today’s business world.

A broad range of U.S. economists agree that a specific and necessary kind of risk-taking is on the decline.


Historically, risk-taking that supports high rates of churn, lots of hiring and firing, company formation and destruction, gives economies more flexibility to adapt to changing markets.


If risk taking is down … that means adapting is down … which means organizational maturity will be down <because they will die young> … and older organizations will become bigger and more stagnant <look old>.


Some information that feeds into adaptation and risk:


Americans have long taken pride in their willingness to bet it all on a dream. But that risk-taking spirit appears to be fading. In doing some research <beyond the fact Americans are taking less business risk> … risk-taking seems more concentrated than years past, by industry and by region, said Dane Stangler, director of research and policy at a nonprofit that studies entrepreneurship.


“We absolutely see geographic divergence,” he said. “We’ve got these hotbeds of startups, but you just don’t see the same level of activity in other areas of the country.”


Fewer Americans are changing jobs. Companies are hoarding more cash. And the proportion of new businesses has fallen. The result? A less dynamic economy.

Three long-running trends suggest the U.S. economy has turned soft on risk: Companies add jobs more slowly, even in good times. Investors put less money into new ventures. And, more broadly, Americans start fewer businesses and are less inclined to change jobs or move for new opportunities.


The decline in risk-taking is reflected in U.S. migration: Americans move less often, with rates of interstate migration falling for at least 20 years, according to census data. They also have less workplace wanderlust: 53% of adults last year held the same job for at least five years, up from 46% in 1996, according to the Labor Department.

The share of workers who voluntarily left their jobs in a given year plummeted to 16.1% in 2009 from 25.2% in 2006 and remains well below prerecession levels.


Economists at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors found the falling rate of interstate migration over the long-term correlated strongly with the decline in job changes.

In other words research shows that people are moving less because they are changing jobs less.

The changes reflect broader, more permanent shifts, including an aging population and the new dominance of large corporations in many industries.




How does this affect the entire organizational maturity discussion?


Companies that gamble on new ideas are more likely to fail but also more likely to have big success.


Entrepreneurs face incredibly long odds but those that achieve success create jobs for many others.


And entrepreneurs WITHIN existing organizations not only maintain jobs for many others but also create jobs within that organization.


Interestingly this lower risk taking is leading to the fact that there is a growing dominance of large corporations in nearly every industry this in turn makes it more difficult for new businesses and ideas to gain a foothold.


For the first time since such records have been kept, the Census found in 2008 that more Americans worked for big businesses <those with at least 500 workers> than small ones.

The trend has continued since.




All organizations do mature if they make it through the Gartner Hype Gauntlet.


But that is simply in years. And years of maturity is significantly different that being an old company.


‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.

Martha Graham



In the end.


A maturing organization pragmatically speaking is never a smooth process like any model makes it out to be.


It is more like … well … a roller coaster ride. It looks that way mostly because to stay relevant an organizational culture and character needs to evolve.

It mainly evolves by incorporating ‘tomorrow’s people aspects’ into maturity roller coaster of changetoday’s organization’ <as Drucker mentions>.

And this kind of change & adaptation is never easy and rarely smooth.


And maybe that is why I struggle with most organizational maturity models.


They make it look smooth.

They make it look like next steps up are inevitable.

They make it look like some planned life architecture.

They make it look naturally linear.


Common sense <and your own Life experiences> suggests that business cannot really work that way.



Common sense is right.


Managing a business into maturity in today’s world is challenging. If I were smarter I bet I could develop a 3 dimensional maturity model showing the traditional stages overlaid by all the adaptations that would need to constantly be occurring to insure relevance necessary to make it into maturity.


But I am not that smart.


So just think about it.




gartner hype gauntlet

April 29th, 2014

gartner hype graph


“The fact that hype exists doesn’t prove that something is not important.”

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

“love last forever as long as it lasts.”





If you have worked for any period of time you are familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle.

I could debate the word ‘hype’ because I believe it is misused … and I believe the ‘cycle’ is more an overview of the gauntlet you need to run to make it into the 10% or so of idea, brands, products, services or businesses that survive <of every 100 that come to life>.




Suffice it to say the model suggests there is a point where your business gains momentum … or it doesn’t … and once it does … people will inevitably be disillusioned <boy … that was a downer to type>.


Fancy words aside … some businesses take hold … and some don’t. And we can tear apart the successes and failures and identify some principles that at least give you a fighting chance of gaining momentum … but it always comes down to the fickle consumer <or target> … and therefore the Gartner Hype Cycle is simply a model … which is not a formula.


But at least it warns you of what to be prepared for.



The Gartner Hype Cycle helps you think about a business in a world of constant change and adapting that is disruptive from not only a marketing perspective but a whole industry perspective.


The dilemma we face within this reality is that whether such a rapid pace of changes can be accommodated in terms applying new trends and ideas to the day to day practices. What helps in today’s business world is that data and digital tracking tools offer unprecedented opportunities to unleash the creativity, and creative thinking, to adapt on the move.

At the end of the day it’s the combination of insights and creativity that will translate the actions in to a meaningful outcome.


All of that professional blather bleeds into this thing called the Gartner Hype cycle.


The hype cycle <which is a technology adoption lifecycle as it is most used> is a sociological model developed by 3 guys, Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers, at Iowa State University <but Gartner Inc. is the company that made the model popular>.


Basically what it suggests is that people like shit that works <even if they do get disillusioned at some point>. But. That is still no guarantee the business will ever attain long term success.


Here is the Gartner Hype cycle.

A cycle can be broken down into five phases:


–          “Technology Trigger”: the product is actually in market … and you hear about it everywhere. Have you checked this out?

gartner 2 topmodels

TopModels drawing


–          “Peak of Inflated Expectations”: the hype is at its peak.  There is a frenzy of publicity typically generating over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. People start finding flaws and mistakes <and pointing them out>. You hear … “yeah … its great … but …”


–          “Trough of Disillusionment”: the product fails to meet the unrealistic expectations. The not as cool people start using it and buying it. Consequently, the publicity diminishes into silence.


–          “Slope of Enlightenment”: the hype is done and unpaid media is out of the picture. This is when many products drop out of the market. This is also when some businesses rethink the product and come up with new ways to make it relevant.


–          “Plateau of Productivity”: the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. You never hear about it … it just gets used. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the product is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.


On a side note … if you like this crap <stuff> you can find a longer-term historical perspective on such cycles in the research of the economist Carlota Perez.



Interestingly <mostly because most business people discuss the Hype Cycle with regard to technology> the original purpose of the ‘hype cycle’ was to track the purchase patterns of hybrid seed corn by farmers in the 1940’s.serious nonsense give it a try

The adoption lifecycle model describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation, according to the demographic and psychological characteristics of defined adopter groups.

The process of adoption over time is typically illustrated as a classical normal distribution or “bell curve.”


The model indicates that:


–          innovators – had larger farms, were more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented

–          early adopters – younger, more educated, tended to be community leaders

–          early majority – more conservative but open to new ideas, active in community and influence to neighbors

–          late majority – older, less educated, fairly conservative and less socially active

–          laggards – very conservative, had small farms and capital, oldest and least educated


<interesting to ponder from an overall perspective>


The demographic and psychological <or psychographic> profiles of each adoption group were originally specified by the North Central Rural Sociology Committee, Subcommittee for the Study of the Diffusion of Farm Practices <as cited by Beal and Bohlen in their study>.


<by the way … I would like to point out that while we often say things like ‘everything good has been built in the here & now’ … this sociological study and methodology was developed in late 1940’s into the 1950’s … and it is still good today behaviorally>



gartner hype-cycle-vs-talc-2010Now … as it is part of human nature … lots of people pick apart the hype cycle <although gobs of books have taken advantage of it to make gobs of money … like the ludicrous ‘crossing the chasm’ to name one>.


Most criticism seems to come from people who want a plan-o-gram for human behavior so that they can track it and manage it step by step.



Behavior doesn’t work that way.


The Hype Cycle just indicates a general flow of behavioral activity … and it is a true reflection of this generalization.  In fact … that’s why I called it a gauntlet rather than a cycle.


Specifics and speed?


Always will vary by the category and industry.




Some people just want an instruction guide to follow rather than have to think about how to apply a philosophy. The Gartner Hype Cycle is a nice tool for business thinking … not an ‘etched in stone’ plan to build around <I will get back to that thought later when discussing how Marketing people have mangled this concept>. I would suggest it is a great image of the gauntlet you need to navigate to reach a successful ongoing business.


That’s part of the reason why I get grumpy with the word hype.

Because while this concept is called ‘hype’ … we are actually talking about gartner HYPEbusiness and how people embrace <or not embrace> a product or service. Hype suggests it has some ‘falseness’ to success.



“In my opinion, right now there’s way too much hype on the technologies and not enough attention to the real businesses behind them.”

Mark Cuban



This is all really a discussion on the business of pragmatic behavior <real & sustainable> versus hype <fad or non-sustainable> behavior.


Oddly it almost seems like business is wrapping their arms around the wrong pragmatic aspects … and the wrong hype behavior at exactly the same time.


Constantly being distracted by whatever new technology shiny object is being touted as the ‘new thing’ … while plodding along stagnant on organizational behavior aspects <or organization management aspects>.





Back to the Gartner’s hype cycle.


My gripe with the Gartner Hype Cycle.



Well … it’s not with Gartner nor the cycle … but the marketing world.




Because they act like they actually created the hype cycle. And that they ‘know’ how to navigate the gauntlet. And by doing so they suggest they have perfected the art of hyping new brands & products to insure to becomes cool <or hype worthy>.



In fact.


I call bullshit on this.


There are certainly some principles you can adhere to that increase the likelihood you can live through the gauntlet but there is absolutely no guaranteed formula for doing so. If anyone can guarantee they can pick what will be successful <for sure> and what will be cool <for sure> … there is a job out there with an unlimited salary ceiling.


You cannot.


You create something that works and delivers. You market it the best you can. And encourage some stickiness. And … well … the chips fall as they fall.


expectations reality diagramInstead … what Marketing does is generate <what they fail to tell you>  is the peak of inflated expectations.

In fact … marketing as they tout how to ‘cross the chasm’ set the stage for the inevitable trough of disillusionment.


And an additional irony.

Marketing is now a victim of its own hype cycle dynamics.

What I mean is that it’s the marketer who is the target <or victim> of the hype.


There is always some buzz & hype for some new social media platform, or the use of big data, or for new marketing widget … or worse … some marketing book theory … the list is endless.

And you can chase each of these until you are breathless <or have a heart attack>.


And the rate of new cycles being thrown at marketers is often now so rapid that, even as one or another each run the gauntlet, most Marketers s are creating two or three peaks of inflated expectations at any point in time.


It’s crazy.


Its nuts.


And it’s stupid.


Marketers are supposed to be smart enough to see through hype. Let alone their own hype.


It’s about building a business. Its about having something that is actually worth a shit <it works> and making sure people give a shit <tell them it works in a compelling way>.

And it can all be done by avoiding the ‘hype’ and assuming a position of skeptical curiosity and a willingness to test the practical uses of something new.


And … well … you can take some risks.


And … well … you have to take some risks <this is a gauntlet you know>.


And while I am mentioning the evil word ‘risk’ I may as well mention how we make decisions <both of which get the Gartner Hype Cycle in motion in the first place>.


In a book called “Decisive” the authors outline some wacky psychological quirks in our decision-making instincts.


One of them is our tendency to get trapped in ‘either/or’ decisions.



My head hurt when I typed that.


How often have most of us been in some business meeting where the decision has been whittled down to an “either/or” before anyone can get up to even use the bathroom.


This is called the false dilemma fallacy.


It is avoidable if we recognize this bias because it actually broadens the frame of good possible decisions … leading to considering ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ … or even exploring entirely different options.


In the end.



I closed with the ‘false dilemma fallacy’ for a reason. You are doomed running the Gartner Hype gauntlet if you continue to force ‘either/or’ descion making at every step of the way <particularly in planning>.


Why do I feel comfortable saying this?


Almost 90% of all new products, brands and ideas fail. If making your way through the gauntlet was a simple series of either/or’s … well .. there would be a formula. And if there was a formula you can bet that the success ratio whiould be a shitload higher.


gartner-hype-cycle sagecircle anticipate-and-influenceAnyway.


The Gartner Hype Cycle or what I call the Gartner Hype Gauntlet. Every business person should be aware of it and have it in the back of their head from day one of planning. But you don’t build your plan around it. it simply makes you better prepared for certain curveballs <or sharp deadly objects> you can be certain will be used against you as you weave your way through the gauntlet.



Love is forever … as long as it lasts.


Same for brands.


Think about that.

Enlightened Conflict