Enlightened Conflict

staying above even when stepping down

June 25th, 2017

 

inspire people dont give up

 

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“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

 

—-

J.R.R Tolkien

 

 

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“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

—-

William Shakespeare

 

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Ok.

 

lead togther step down dominant

This is about business and business leadership.

 

Leading is a big job. It carries big responsibilities and big burdens. You have to be big enough in some way <skills, charisma, character, smarts, etc.> to stay above the organization and employees. And I say “above” because part of leading is being able to see above the heads of everyone so that you can lead and align and step in when & where appropriate.

 

Above is not dominance per se just that you maintain a dominant position from which you can most effectively & efficiently lead.

 

Now.

 

Here is what any good leader knows … you don’t have to be big to … well … be big.

Heck. You don’t even have to act ‘big.’

 

In addition.

 

A good leader can leave the comfort of the ‘throne’, i.e. the trappings of the ‘bigness’ –the natural ‘dominance’ that comes with a title — and still remain above even when stepping down from all those things.trump dominant Genuine people fake people

 

However.

 

Not everyone is a good leader. And not every leader is particularly good at navigating the natural doubts <am I doing the right thing, am I doing the best thing, am I doing the thing I should be doing, etc.> that come along with being a leader. By the way … any good leader has some doubts on occasion … it keeps them grounded.

 

Regardless.

 

What that means is there will inevitably be business people who fear looking small. And they protect their illusions of ‘bigness’, or being bigly, mainly in several ways:

 

  • They diminish everyone they can in the attempt to make others as small as they can so that they look bigger no matter the comparison

 

  • They find a ‘safe space’ in which they place their metaphorical throne and make everyone come to them <this is kind of like the boss who purposefully has their desk built slightly higher and the chairs facing the desk slightly lower to insure they maintain a physical dominant position>

 

  • They avoid, as much as possible, one-on-one interactions with anyone their own size <unless they can control the environment>.

 

  • They ground themselves in platitudes under the guise of “flexibility & adaptability” so they can avoid having to defend anything specific with anyone who could diminish their bigness

 

 

Well.

 

Why I decided to write about this is … uhm … day in and day out Donald J Trump offers us in the business world reminders of ineffective leadership style and the characteristics of insecure leadership.

And the number one business dunce stupid brand marketingcharacteristic of insecure leadership is the inability to step down and still stay above.

 

Insecure leaders are extremely hesitant, if not completely resistant, to leaving their ‘dominant position.’

 

Let me explain ‘dominant position’ because it can sound bad <and it is mainly meant to express a position of authority>.

 

A CEO or a president is clearly in a dominant position by title and by responsibility and, in most cases, by some larger skill that got them to where they are. A true ‘dominant position’ <let’s call it “authority”> combines all aspects.

 

Therefore the person in the dominant position combines substance & style. And this is where insecurity steps in … because if a leader has any true doubts with regard to their ‘dominant position’ – mostly doubts on their substance — they start exhibiting some insecure characteristics.

They will dial up their style aspects to cloak any substance deficiencies and become excruciatingly careful with regard to how they interact with other people.

 

But the one I thought about today was “stepping down.’

 

Let me explain.

 

I heard Donald J say the other day “they should call us to participate.” In other words … they need to come to me <thereby establishing some aspect of subservience and feeds the sense of ‘dominant position.’

 

shift up or down

This was not a one-off comment.

He does this … every … frickin’ … day.

 

Trump never “goes to people” nor does he unite by inserting himself into any opposing groups <people who may not agree with him> opening himself up to say “let me be part of what you want.” I cannot envision him ever going to opposition and suggesting he wanted to work with them <they have to come to him>.

His whole leadership style is driven by an insecurity of ‘dominant position’ and he fears stepping down from his position because he fears it will expose the fact he isn’t really above anyone other than in title.

 

In other words … he fears looking small <or ‘not bigly’>.

 

And therein lies the larger lesson.

 

Good leaders don’t become smaller when they step down or go to people rather than make people go to them. They know there are no ‘little people’ but rather only big responsibilities of which everyone has.

 

Little people are little wherever they go … even if they just sit in the corner office.

Unfortunately for us a little leader knows this … and doesn’t know this.

What I mean by that is they can sense their littleness therefore they go out of their way to stay within whatever cocoon of ‘bigness trappings’ to encourage the belief they have that they are actually big. And, yet, they don’t know this rump dominant Do you think clouds look down on people and thinkbecause they tend to have an oversized view of themselves <every should come to me attitude>.

 

They see themselves through a fairly warped view of self-relevance … “everyone else becomes more relevant by being around me therefore they become bigger in my bigness.” And that partially outlines their main fear.

Loss of relevance.

Anyone who becomes more relevant than them is a danger. Loss of power, the illusion of or real, is the danger.

 

What that all means is that an insecure leader more often than not lives in a “you need to come to me, call me or ask me” mentality.

 

  • Foreign dignitaries come to visit him <and he does not visit them>.
  • Democrats should call me instead of being obstructionists.
  • People need to visit him at the White House <or Mar a Lago>.
  • He never works with people or offers to meet them.

 

He treats everyone as if they should be subservient to him and if they do not meet that desire he is dismissive or even attacks them as ‘obstructionist.’

 

leadership go your way

 

Let me be clear.

 

No sane business leader <in this generation> has this attitude.

You cannot.

You cannot because you know many of the people working for you are actually smarter than you and a shitload more just may know something you do not know.

You cannot because oftentimes your peers, who actually report to you, may actually be better than you at some things.

You cannot because you know that good people never want to feel subservient but rather want to feel being a key part of overall success.

 

Most of those who lead have learned these things not by attempting to learn to be ‘above’ but rather by learning how to lead. And you learn that mostly by getting into ‘the game’ and realizing you can play anywhere at any time. I know that I took an advertising job as a young newly promoted VP in NYC not out of any desire to be the best but because I was curious. I was curious to see if I could “play in the NYC advertising game.” I didn’t need to be the best nor did I desire to dominate … I just wanted to see if I could play.

I can tell you that once you become comfortable with knowing you can play at the biggest level and the lowest level you have a fighting chance to become a leader.

 

Look.

 

We all have numerous character flaws and it is a sad truth the majority of us can’t see them. This is even more difficult in a leadership position because you do naturally become more self-aware of any of the things you are good at and yet also not good at … but you also lean heavily on the things you ‘perceive’ got you where you are today.

 

I say that because insecure leaders are relatively hollow on the self-awareness.

Looking at Trump it is easy to see that he grew up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. He lived in a bubble in which young, mentally lazy, rich, amoral white men routinely got away with whatever they wanted. These same characteristics are exhibited in his insecure leadership style.

 

Here is what I know.

trump ominant look down on other people

Big leaders are big leaders.

 

And they are big because wherever they go they retain their bigness. That means they need not ‘stay above’ to be big … they can step down … sit in town halls answering questions from real people as well as sit down with people who didn’t vote for you as well as sit down with peers and discuss ideas … and walk away just as big as they entered the room.

 

Small leaders cannot do those things, therefore, they do not.

 

I have now given you a way to judge big leaders from small leaders. Judge away. Every leader should be judged … and judged harshly … because … well … they are leaders and that is their burden.

legacies, never being seen & pondering 2100 posts

June 24th, 2017

blog writing

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just-shower-thoughts:

 

    One of my greatest fears is that someone has written my favorite song, but they’re not famous enough for me to hear it.

 

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“As I make a final right-hand turn onto our street, my GPS informs me that I’ve ‘reached my destination.’

 

‘My destination,’ I laugh aloud to myself.

 

My GPS doesn’t know squat.”

 

Colleen Hoover

 

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“I’m so scared of dying without ever being really seen. Can you understand? “

David Foster Wallace

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“I did something and it was never seen.”

 

Someone’s grave stone

 

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Ok.

 

 

This is written as I ponder my legacy, legacies in general, and my 2100st post.

 

writing-typing-legacy-blog-thoughts7 years 7 months 4 days.

91 months 4 days.

396 weeks 1 day.

2773 days.

2100 posts.

A little over 5 posts a week for over 7 years.

2,100,000+ words <a conservative estimate>.

 

My words and thoughts over the 2100 posts have remained consistent … on November 18th 2009 I wrote my first Enlightened Conflict post and 6 days later I offered my second post and wrote this:

 

… it is in my DNA to be “constantly preoccupied with possibilities of new combinations.” Now. That can make me a pain in the ass to work with. One time a mentor, and a manager I loved working for, once said to me, “sometimes you are a pain in the ass, but I am glad you are my pain in the ass.”

 

And if you visit my LinkedIn site you will see a past client says:

......... Me .............

……… Me ………….

 

If you don’t want to be “nudged” into new ideas and creative solutions – don’t ever call Bruce McTague. If, however, you want to look at things through a different telescope and find 3-dimensional ideas you’ve never considered, call Bruce now. Not tomorrow. He’ll make you uncomfortable, but I firmly believe that if the idea doesn’t make you uneasy, it’s not a big idea. Easy to work with, but always stretching your mind, Bruce is a true business Partner. You’ll grow working with Bruce.

 

2100 posts later and I am still a contrarian, still snarky, still writing about the possibility of new combinations and still a pain in the ass.

 

But with almost everything I write I try and offer pain in the ass type thinking … not fluff. On November 30th 2009 I wrote this: communicating meaningful information so people can make meaningful choices.

 

I am still not a nudger and I am absolutely unflinchingly focused on communicating meaningful information, thoughts & ideas so people can make meaningful choices and think meaningful thoughts.

 

Well.

 

All that said.

 

At 2100 you have a tendency to sit back and wonder what happens if I actually

did something in my Life and nobody notices it when I am gone?

 

And before you think this topic is bullshit or “that’s not something I worry/think about” take a second and think about this.

 

Why do so many people buy symbolic bricks with names on it on a wall somewhere?

Why do we put stars in the ground with people’s names on it?

Why do we have gravestones and epitaphs?

 

We do these things because we want people to remember at least something about us. It doesn’t have to be big … but … well … something for god’s sake.

 

All of that leads me to legacies.

 

Everyone leaves something behind … some footprint.

 

With me … my largest footprint <at the moment> would be everything I have written.

Which makes me slightly wonder what happens with my 2100+ pieces on Enlightened Conflict … does somebody stumble across them and publish some or do they fade way into the nothingness of ‘something done but never seen’?

 

Will someone own my words & thoughts when I am gone?

 

I wrote recently that I own my words and thoughts … therefore … in some way I assume they must have some value <at least to me> … maybe just pennies but of some value.build legacy create something mctague 2000

 

It would be nice to think some of these thoughts get passed around from person to person like pennies — everyone has some, they are often overlooked until needed to complete a transaction and are annoying when you realize you left some in a pocket when you do the laundry.

 

But most importantly I see these pennies being used to create a transaction. In my mind … in this case the transaction is thinking … and maybe a purchase against what I see as the true corruption of our age … ignorance.

 

 

 

Montaigne:

The corruption of the age is made up by the particular contribution of every individual man; some contribute treachery, others injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice, cruelty, according to their power; the weaker sort contribute folly, vanity, and idleness; of these I am one. It seems as if it were the season for vain things, when the hurtful oppress us; in a time when doing ill is common, to do but what signifies nothing is a kind of commendation.

 

 

 

I admit that I believe these types of pennies are becoming more and more valuable.

 

I believe that because I worry that time is currently painting a portrait of disappearing thought in which all who see this portrait are corrupted by what they can no longer see … and walk away thinking ignorance is beautiful.

 

Yeah.

 

That corruption breeds a sense of everything changing … but in an invisible way. We only see the change in a low level slightly nagging unease & unhappiness. In a way our moral & character health deteriorates despite our relentless pursuit of feeling better through pills, supplements & absurd self improvement plans.

Mentally our focus shifts toward what is visible and away from the invisible <that which creates the unease> and we fixate on what we think we know rather than unlearning what we know.

 

We stop engaging with thought … and even engaging with the thoughtful people <the intellectuals — real & faux> because it is … well … easier.

 

The sad truth is that we are largely doing all of this corruption to ourselves. We do so because conflict is necessary to make the invisible visible … but conflict, and making the invisible visible, is hard & sometimes hurtful.

 

invisible grain of sandWhat does this have to do with a legacy?

I could argue that if your thinking is invisible in some way … possibly a big way … you run the risk of becoming so invisible that when you leave there remains no footprint to mark your steps in Life.

 

I imagine leaving Life as an invisible person has little appeal to anyone. Not that you desire to be the most visible person in the world just that you would prefer knowing that when you were gone who you were just became completely invisible.

 

Please note that I am not tying visible to any success but rather thinking <although I imagine it could be tied to ‘doing something that may truly matter’>.

 

And, while I am talking about the legacy I personally want to leave behind, I would imagine this thought bleeds into almost everyone’s Life. Yeah, in this case, I don’t think I am different than most people.

 

We all would prefer to not be corrupted by ignorance and we would prefer to want to ‘do something’ and, preferably, something dynamic beyond our own purposes.

 

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“[My ultimate goal is] to leave this world a better person, and for me to not be the only one who knows it.”

 

Gavin DeGraw

 

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Ah.

But the idea of being dynamic beyond your own purposes is fraught with peril.

 

It means … well … dreaming big. Okay. It means thinking big <and, yes, I do believe far too often we aim too small and too low>.

 

As for me and my thinking big?

 

I want to attack ignorance as if it is the enemy and, looking back, the majority i will talk about anythingof my 2100 posts have relentlessly unflinchingly, never nudging, attacked ignorance. I have done so using the idea of Enlightened Conflict as a North Star.

 

I believe conflict of thoughts is healthy and believe vocalizing the conflict is necessary for progress. I believe Conflict is natural and will always exist – between countries, religious beliefs, ideologies, the haves and the have nots, etc.

 

And I believe with my writing I have a unique opportunity to insure conflict of thinking can be managed to some extent by encouraging positive conflict or enabling conflict with rules.

 

I debate with people … I write about thinking … I defend our youth … I rant about the old way of thinking … and, lately, I have found a muse in Donald J Trump <in fact … my 2101st post is a Trump business lesson>.

Trump has offered me the opportunity to have a living breathing example of almost everything I detest in business leadership, business acumen and how a business shouldn’t be run.

 

I do not detest him as a person <I don’t know him> I just detest how he conducts himself as a leader and a business person. He has reminded me that passion can inspire thinking and writing and reminds me that business sometimes needs to stop nudging and be more demanding of what is right & good.

 

Regardless.

 

think imagine legacy young learn unlearnIn the end … all I want is some enlightened thinking and new ways of looking at things and often, as a contrarian, I will use someone or something as a foil to make a comparative.

 

This style and way of thinking has proven to be a good timeless way of approaching things because should you view a post in my first 100 you would find it is still relevant and will still contain thoughts you may find scattered in my last 100 posts.

 

Anyway.

 

One last thought on legacies — compromising.

 

I still worry about compromising.

 

I know I have some fear that compromising has left far too many people numb to life … or maybe just numb to their dreams. Or maybe more specifically numb to ‘doing something that matters’ and, certainly, numb to thinking and new thoughts.

 

I still worry about me compromising. And maybe I fear that numbness if I end up compromising.

 

I kind of think this is a legitimate fear.

 

I, as everyone else, certainly want to be happy. Live. And love. And be loved. Read. Travel. See things. Meet people. Meet more people. And learn. And unlearn. And learn some more. Nowhere in there do I see compromise … I only see doing shit. And, in my eyes, nor do I see any ‘nudging’ but rather unflinching doing.

 

Yes. Doing something unflinchingly.

 

Because doing something unflinchingly that can leave the world a better place?

 

Whew.

legacy learn imagine hope mctague

I gotta tell ya … if you even have a glimmer of hope of getting to do something big … something really big … something that matters in a big way … something that someone would recognize someday  as a legacy idea … well … I don’t know. It kind of seems like you have to go for it – uncomprisningly and unflinchingly.

 

I have to think that if am going to lose, I want to know I lost doing something and not losing because I compromised in some way.

 

That said.

 

I don’t want to be known for writing 2000 posts, or however many I end up writing, I would like to have a legacy suggesting I did something that mattered <and someone could point to what that something was>.

 

In the end.

 

2100 posts and counting.

I very rarely have duplicated a thought, I have never run out of new quotes to share and I have never had “writer’s block” or not had something to write and, yet, I have consistently pounded on stupid & senseless business acumen and the misguided tripe people are fed with regard to Life.

 

That sounds big … and, yet, small at the same time. I have to imagine whether someone has written as much as I or not … most people will find that they have done something that sounds big but may look small in the harsh light of reality.

The only way I know to build a meaningful legacy <making what may appear small big> is to do what I do … not nudge and be absolutely unflinchingly focused on communicating meaningful information, thoughts & ideas so people can make meaningful choices and think meaningful thoughts.

 

And, yet, sure … I still do wonder what will happen to everything I have written because … well … at the moment they are my legacy. I imagine I am not alone in thinking that “I did something and it was never seen” on my headstone isn’t really what anyone wants.

For now all I can do is insure that I do something meaningful in a ‘non-nudging way’ and hope it gets noticed.

2000 legacy posts write

 

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About the author:

Bruce McTague is probably considered a sometimes irascible pragmatic contrarian. At the same time he is most likely considered a naïve believer in the inherent good in people and believer in the value of Hope as an engine for real progress.

He has been called cynical and optimistic.

And because of all of that he believes Life, just as people, are a complex bundle of contradictions therefore simplicity is often that refuge of fools.

He believes there is no problem or conflict that cannot be solved if people are willing to face harsh truths and make the hard decisions. He also believes that the world would be a much better place if everyone would spend just a little more time unlearning what they have learned, think a little bit more and that we would all benefit if we became better at articulating our thoughts.    

Lastly, in the end, he believes that everyone everywhere deserves to have hope.

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“I don’t want to be remembered.

 Memories age and you might remember words I whispered in your car but you’ll forget how my voice made your name sound safe. You will faintly remember that there was once warmth in my touch but the skin on your chest where my hands made a home is cold now.

 

Time will steal all the sharp edges that made it seem real. Years will rob you blind and you’ll simply be living with my blurry ghost.

 

That’s worse than being forgotten, so confuse me with another girl in a coffee shop and change my name in future stories. Walk down memory lane and unlock the exit.

Ignore the ghost that packs up the memories and leaves and do me one last favor; shut the door behind me. “

 

write-from-the-start

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come to an entirely erroneous conclusion my dear Watson

June 9th, 2017

conclusion header facts truth

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

 

Sherlock Holmes

<The Adventure of the Speckled Band>

 

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

 

Sherlock Holmes

 

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

 

proverb

 

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So.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Shit.

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

 

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

 

The practice of Truth is actually a profession of facts.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sigh.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Well.

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

truth facts numbers understand question

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

 

Yes.

 

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

 

We stop short.

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

 

Yikes.

 

Dangerous thought.normalizing behavior light matches flame fire danger

 

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

 

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

Uhm.

That is not unequivocal truth.

 

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

 

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

Why?

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

 

All that said.

 

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

 

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

facts results truth conclude

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

 

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

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

 

—–

Jacque Silette

 

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

 

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

 

Geez.

 

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

 

 

Unequivocal truth exists.

 

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

 

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

 

 

nights bigger than imagining

June 2nd, 2017

stars and night sky

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“And the nights, bigger than imagining: black and gusty and enormous, disordered and wild with stars.”

 

—–

Donna Tartt

 

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“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”

 

T.S. Eliot

 

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Well.

 

stars and planets at nightDespite the fact most nights remain the same amount of hours, minutes and seconds day to day a sleepless night can often look bigger than imagined. I have found that sleepless nights are less about restless minds and more about capacity in a squeezed space.

 

Huh?

 

Let me tackle squeezed first.

 

In general the world is a pretty vast place and our lives can seem fairly inconsequential. The good news about this is that within all that vastness there is a lot of room to let some of the more horrible or horribly mundane crap just slip by.

 

The bad news occurs when all of a sudden Life, and the world, shrinks and you feel squeezed. And this can happen a lot easier than one may think.

 

Ponder what I am going to say as “the big squeeze.”

 

Everyday everyone faces some naturally occurring ‘shrinking’ aspects which in and of themselves can’t shrink your Life enough to matter. Let’s just say this is the daily grind of work, chores and family & Life commitments. Some things go well and some things don’t.sometimes the smallest things

And then, of course, there will be a day or two where the things that “don’t” significantly outnumber the things that “do.” because this is day to day shit I view this as getting squeezed from the sides. They kind of suffocate you a little.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

And then there will be some days where you have that ad hoc shit you have to plan to get done … the faucet is dripping, the car engine light is on, someone hit the mailbox, crap like that. 95% of the time this kind of shit never goes as planned. It takes too long or it doesn’t get done right the first time or … well … suffice it to say … the easy stuff never gets done as easily as you would want.

And then, of course, there will be a day or two where the things that never get done as easily as you want actually end up just not going right. This is stupid little shit … but maybe think about it as maybe getting squeezed from underneath – an unexpected aggravating shift on the ground below you.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

And then there will be some days where you turn on the TV or maybe scan the internet news breaks and … well … some shit has hit the fan. Your country has made some monumental decision that seems to shift its place in the world.

Some nutjob terrorist has committed some heinous act to innocent people.

Some “thing” happens that feel like a shift in the bedrock of ‘what is.’ It may not directly affect you but you sense that it is a monumental thing which will most likely affect you <even though you aren’t sure how yet>. This is big shit … this just makes you feel a little like the weight of the world has gotten a little heavier and the world as you have known it has become a little murkier. You are getting squeezed from above.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

life big squeeze

 

Now.

 

I will now get to capacity.

 

Let’s assume on one day all there of things happen … you get squeezed all on one day. Oddly, this becomes a test of your capacity <which implies largeness>. And, yes, maybe it is about largeness. As in how large you can remain as you get squeezed.

 

Some nights it isn’t easy to not get suffocated.

Other nights you find your capacity and push back a little.

Most nights you find just enough largeness to not get … well … too little.

 

But the nights in which all three aspects I outlined squeezed you I would suggest … well … the word ‘forlorn’ comes to mind.

 

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

 

“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.”

 

J.R.R. Tolkien

 

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

 

I use forlorn because I associate it with capacity as I am discussing it today.

Forlorn has a sense of shrinking to it in that the good in Life seems to shrink forlorn bird in a cage squeezeand that which is bad seems to grow and you are left with that wretched forlorn feeling which dogs you throughout a sleepless night. Forlorn seems like it is more appropriate than lonely or lonesome in that it specifically embraces a senses of wretchedness and desertion or abandonment … in my mind … ‘despairing of the arrival of a friend … in this case … a friend called Hope.”

 

To me … all of what I just shared with regard to squeezing and capacity captures the essence of the worst of the worst sleepless nights.

And, if I were a betting man, I would bet we have all had a few of these.

 

Ok.

Here is what I know.

 

Most of us get through these nights. Despite the vast emptiness of a night, more vast than we imagined it should be, we cast about among the chaos of the stars and find some light.

I like to think of it as we clamber through the clouds and exist.

 

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

 

“I will clamber through the clouds and exist.”

 

—-

John Keats

 

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

And the outcome of most of these nights, in addition to being tired, is out of the gauntlet of forlornness we seem to come out with a degree of hope. point where too tired despair night get to work

 

Hope for a better day <at minimum> and maybe Hope for something better <at maximum>.

 

In other words, out of the bigness which seems to squeeze us if but for a moment we rummage through a sleepless night … one black and gusty and enormous, disordered and wild with stars … and come out a little less black, a little more calm, a little more ordered and a little more focused on some star.

 

 

confusing America First and Economics First

June 1st, 2017

normalizing america bad behavior values phoenix

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

 

“America is great because she is good.

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

 

Alexis de Tocqueville

 

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

 

“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,

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

hope light at end of tunnelIn the end.

 

Whew.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sigh.

 

There is a price to pay for such positions.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

For that, I will never forgive Trump. Ever.

 

the false comparison trap

May 30th, 2017

compare-iridescent-person-colorful-special

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

 

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

 

—–

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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

 

“The sphinx must solve her own riddle.

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

 

——

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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

 

“Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things.”

 

—-

Bruce McTague

 

===========

 

So.

 

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

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

 

There are a number of problems with doing this.

 

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

 

And, yet, we continue to try.

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

 

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

 

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

 

I will start with the well intended.

 

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

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

 

Well.

 

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

 

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

 

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

pico memory key thumb drive

…….. our memory chip ……..

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

Our memories are constructive.

They’re reconstructive.

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

 

Elizabeth Loftus

 

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

 

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

 

——

(via 1112pm)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What do I mean?

 

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

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

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

 

 

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

 

The Constructive and reconstructive nature of memory:

 

  • Memories are distributed; not unitary

 

  • “remembering” involves retrieving and reassembling

 

  • memories can be revised over time

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  • Existence of older memories blocks access to newer ones

 

Ah.

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

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

 

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

 

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

explain with rational mind

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

Yeah.

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

Yeah.

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

 

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

It is a trap.

And a dangerous trap.

 

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

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

 

Anyway.

 

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

 

Just a couple of notes of warning on that.

 

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

 

As a corollary to <a>,

 

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

 

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

 

There you go.

 

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

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

 

Enlightened Conflict