Enlightened Conflict

the myth of simplification

July 19th, 2017

simple i like

 

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

“What a simple black and white world you must live in.” – unknown

 

 

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Communication.

 

Effective communication has been, and always will be, complex and complicated … and a good thing for society. Effective communication inevitably feeds into the minds and enlightenment of the listeners. If you dumb down communication inevitably you dumb down the listeners.

 

Old white men hollowed out communication. I imagine as they hollowed out everything else they found it inherently more productive to gain their objectives by hollowing out communication. Everything became soundbites, powerpoint bullet points and ‘elevator speeches.’ Effectively communicating complexity took on less importance than puncturing the mind with a quick sharp stab <and then walking away>. Old white men mastered the art of emptying communication to a point where businesses end up walking on the slippery surface of irrelevance <cloaked in a beautiful robe called “what is important for you to know.”>

 

Bruce McTague

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Well.

 

I may as well fulfill my contrarian obligations immediately – nothing is it is complicated complex not simple Life worldsimple.

 

Nothing.

 

Look.

 

I may be wrong but I think the world would be a shitload ‘righter’ if we just assumed nothing was simple and started acting that way.

The whole idea of simple and simplicity has … well … fucked us up royally. It has almost become an obsession toward which everyone is consumed by until we are either frozen into inaction <this isn’t simple enough> or we hold our “simplicity prize” up high proudly … only to find in our holy quest we discarded some essential items which would have actually helped this ‘simple idea’ live.

 

We all want to simplify our lives <or at least we talk about it a lot>, simplicity in thinking, simplicity in ideas and simplicity in work … and yet, as a generalization, we all seem to seek every way possible to complicate our lives.

 

We see simplicity as a way to solve problems and, whew, we are a certainly a ‘people’ of problem solvers <but also problem creators as a corollary>.

And, yet, “it seems simple …” may be the biggest problem of all and may be one of the most misused and misguided statements and thoughts in today’s world.

 

 

A good friend of mine, an experienced communications professional, always says “if you are explaining you are losing” as an argument for simplicity. The challenge is that it … well … isn’t an argument for simplicity. It is actually an argument for clearly articulating what you want, and need, to articulate.

In fact … as I will point out later in this rant piece … being too simple actually creates more confusion, therefore, simplicity could actually be creating the explaining.

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speak

 

 

<oh my>

 

 

And that is where the myth of simplification dies. It dies in truth and reality.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of two opposing things – security/reliability, which anchors the sense of safety thereby justifying the common sense aspect of simplicity, & passion/risk/newness, which anchors the sense of movement thereby justifying the smartness aspect of simplicity.

Simplicity reality, more often than not, is an amalgamation of multiple fragments crating a mosaic which is pleasing to the eye <and relatively easy to grasp>.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of some opposing thoughts in that, typically, if you have one… you can’t have the other.

 

Contrary to simplicity narratives the complexity actually brings in the pragmatism of a simplistic reality <and I would argue effectiveness.>.

 

All this means is that simplicity is rarely simple and trying to capture it in a meaningful single word or image is … well … not only silly but sells the depth & breadth of a decision or situation or idea or thought … or reality itself … short.

 

Reality is complex.

Life is complex.

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity.

 

Simple is hard.

 

It is hard because sometimes, okay, most times simplicity is arrived at by distilling complex solutions/ideas down to its most efficient form.

 

business simplicity complex woekI would note that from my own business experience I would say that many times simplicity ideas can only be found from checking out all of the different solutions. And after sifting through everything simplicity is more often found in a “doh” moment <not an “ah ha!” moment> in that you may be surprised by the fact simplicity is just the thing that makes the most sense at the end of the day.

 

And why is simple THAT hard?

 

Well.

 

Al Einstein said, “Make things as simple as can be—but not simpler.”

 

Geez.

 

So simple isn’t the least.

It may actually be somewhere above the least and significantly below the most <complex>.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek simplicity. But what it does mean is that simple or simplicity shouldn’t be defined by rules or milestones or trite “say it in 10 seconds or less” dictates or, well, any boundaries.

 

Simplicity defines itself it is not defined. Simplicity is reflective of the time, place, people, situation and solution needed.

 

Ponder that my friends.

 

What may make simplicity even more complex is, oddly enough, that part which should make it the simplest.

 

Simplicity, more often than not, is the nitty gritty stuff and not the more glamorous big vision or “big idea” stuff. It is about marrying principle and pragmatism and gradual improvement – piece by piece and part by part.

 

To me, simple and simplicity tends to be found in shit that most people would think has nothing to do with simple:

 

  • Coalesce fragments

 possibilities-plans-ideas-infinity-life-business-choices

“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.

Willard Gibbs

 

I think people would be much better off f they understood that while simple may be represented in ‘one thing’ it is actually representative of many things.

The best of the best ‘simplicity finders’ are the ones who are the best at coalescing fragments. Gathering up disparate pieces of information and figuring out how to make them whole in a way that

 

 

  • Box in complexity

 

Let me begin by paraphrasing a quote about how Sylvia Plath wrote…

 

“Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life.”

 

Margaret Rees

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I used the quote because far too many people think simplicity is about stripping away things to showcase the core instead maybe they should be thinking about stripping away the veneer so that the truth can be laid bare.

Let me explain <you will not agree with this if you do not agree that simplicity is a ‘whole made up of fragments’>.

 

Simplicity, to me, is about using the complex parts to box in the whole.

 

making your point bracket triangulate business combine experienceYou either:

 

 

  • Bracket what you want to offer <simplicity resides within two opposing thoughts>.

 

 

  • Triangulate what you want to offer <simplicity resides in the middle>.

 

 

  • Box in what you want to offer <simplicity gets squeezed into middle>.

 

Now.

Some people may use what I just shared and say “simplicity is the distillation” and I would push back by suggesting “simplicity is reflective of all the parts as it shows the whole.”

Am I parsing words?

Maybe.

 

But when someone says ‘show a picture’ or ‘say it in 5 seconds or you lose them’ and be done with it … I just don’t think it is that simple. Simple stimuli are just as likely to confuse. Provide ambiguity. Generate a feeling of ‘lesser than’ <”I am missing something of value or I missed the opportunity to showcase some value”>.

 

— note: there is a lot of research supporting this thought —

 

Look.

 

Our minds are like real estate.

 

Space is limited and we can’t let every thought, idea, product, person or whatever have a place to stay.

 

That means where the rubber hits the road with regard to being simple and simplicity is that it must create some connection with whomever is touching that simplicity

 

I will end with Chopin. Chopin is one of my favorite classical composers. I seriously doubt anyone who has ever looked at any of his sheet music would suggest his music was not complex. And, yet, close your eyes and listen … it contains a simplicity that connects.

 

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“Simplicity is the final achievement.

After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

 

Frédéric Chopin

 

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

 

All I know is that we have totally fucked up the idea of simplicity to a point where simple, or simplicity, is more a myth than reality. This myth has hollowed us out – hollowed our thinking, our communication and our culture.

 

beauty in the breakdown 2

Most of the worthwhile things in Life are not hollow … they have depth & breadth … they are … well … complex.

 

Reality is complex.

 

Life is complex.

 

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity but I would suggest that the beauty can be found in the breakdown of the complex to its simplest form.

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

 

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

 

 

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.

 

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

“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.

 

and, just think, we have 1300 more days of this

May 1st, 2017

 

 

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 pretending-to-be-normal

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?”

 

“People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?

 

Why could that one not have been worked out?”

 

President Trump said during Washington Examiner interview today

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In 2013 bibliographers estimated that more than 65,000 books have been i-cannot-believe-that-happened-what-is-going-on-ouch-ponderwritten about the Civil War.

 

 

Sigh.

 

 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

 

 

======= GETTYSBURG ADDRESS: Abraham Lincoln =======

 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863

Enlightened Conflict