Enlightened Conflict

the false comparison trap

May 30th, 2017

compare-iridescent-person-colorful-special

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

 

—–

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“The sphinx must solve her own riddle.

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

 

——

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things.”

 

—-

Bruce McTague

 

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So.

 

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

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

 

There are a number of problems with doing this.

 

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

 

And, yet, we continue to try.

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

 

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

 

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

 

I will start with the well intended.

 

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

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

 

Well.

 

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

 

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

pico memory key thumb drive

…….. our memory chip ……..

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

Our memories are constructive.

They’re reconstructive.

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

 

Elizabeth Loftus

 

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

 

——

(via 1112pm)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What do I mean?

 

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

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

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

 

 

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

 

The Constructive and reconstructive nature of memory:

 

  • Memories are distributed; not unitary

 

  • “remembering” involves retrieving and reassembling

 

  • memories can be revised over time

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  • Existence of older memories blocks access to newer ones

 

Ah.

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

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

 

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

 

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

explain with rational mind

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

Yeah.

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

Yeah.

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

 

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

It is a trap.

And a dangerous trap.

 

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

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

 

Anyway.

 

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

 

Just a couple of notes of warning on that.

 

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

 

As a corollary to <a>,

 

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

 

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

 

There you go.

 

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

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

 

shared responsibility

April 17th, 2017

 generation think attitudes collective individual share

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We tend to hold ourself accountable for things we never did.

Hearts we never broke. People we didn’t hurt.

Souls we didn’t crush. “

 

coral-vellichor

 

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All these years I’ve been looking at the wrong side.

 

(via madelinemharris)

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Ok.

 

Accountability, or responsibility, is always a good topic. And, yes, I am a big personal responsibility person. But in business, within an organization, being responsibleresponsibility tends to be more shared responsibility than simple personal responsibility.

 

Oh.

 

To be clear.

 

I believe there is a strong relationship between shared responsibility and personal responsibility. The stronger the shared responsibility attitude & behavior within leadership & mentors & role models the stronger the development of personal responsibility muscle occurs in everyday schmucks like me. Conversely, if you are surrounded with lack of shared responsibility examples <or even those who espouse ‘selectively chosen shared responsibility’> the value of personal responsibility diminishes to an individual, therefore, they see less value in exhibiting personal responsibility.

 

We don’t talk about this relationship enough.

Far too often we flippantly suggest “people should take responsibility for their actions.”

 

Well … no shit Sherlock.

 

But if your roles models or leaders are constantly passing the buck when the shit hits the fan to save their own bacon <and image> then what the hell … why would you not do the same?

irresponsibility made easy

Yeah.

Sure.

 

Everyone has to pull their weight and do their job and do what they say they are going to do … but very very rarely does an individual perform in a vacuum in a business.

 

This happens more so even in management.

 

It drives me a little nuts when I hear some leaders discuss “delegating.”

 

Somehow delegating equals “absolved of responsibility.”

 

This is stupid irresponsible thinking.

 

My belief that it is stupid thinking is rooted in some common sesne I am fairly sure the US Military says:

 

 

You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.

 

 

In other words … you can give others the power to do things … you can delegate … but, no matter what happens … if something goes wrong … the final responsibility always lies with the one who has delegated authority.

 

Sticking with the military as my guidance … this means if your business has an initiative that has gone SNAFU <“Situation Normal: All Fucked Up”> the blame … and the ultimate responsibility for the mistakes <fuck ups> falls … uhm … up.

The leader assumes responsibility.

 

This is shared responsibility.

 

In other words … this is leadership.

 

Yeah.

 

Once you become a business leader past a mom & pop management style business you have to face the concept of shared responsibility <and some embrace it and some reject it>.

 

puzzle people connect shared responsibilityDespite the fact you have delegated authority that ‘authority’ does not represent a discrete event and period in time.

You bear the responsibility for the cascade of events, decisions and actions leading up to the ‘authority giving’ which means everything you have done up until that point provides the context for the delegating … yeah … you own the arena in which you have placed the delegatee.

 

But this gets exponentially worse <if you are thinking about becoming a business leader>.

 

You actually also share responsibility for the consequences … uhm … intended and unintended.

 

This is different than delegating authority <although it relates to it> and owning responsibility for the action … this goes beyond to the actual ripples from the decisions & actions.

 

Now.

 

Some leaders have a nasty habit of assuming responsibility for the decision and the effect of the decision — within a finite period of time. The weakest leaders try and tie “that was out of my control” or “I wasn’t there for that” as soon as they can to a decision they make.

 

The strongest leaders worry less about any carnage that has been left behind but rather start worrying about any carnage the decisions & actions could possibly create for the future.

 

The truth is that business leaders should take a moment and remember the wise words of … well … an American Indian.

 

Red Cloud, an Oglala Lakota leader who led his people against the U.S. Army and later as his people transitioned from life on the plains to the reservation, stressed that when Indian people made a decision, it should be done with the welfare of the next seven generations in mind.

 

Whew.

world is yours ours share life

In a short term world where most business leaders are trying to make quarterly goals and just try and keep their job … thinking with the welfare of the next 7 generations seems … well … impossible.

 

I imagine the real point is that most good business leaders assume some responsibility for the generations to come.  Some people may call this ‘long term strategy’ and some others will call it ‘keeping your eye on the horizon’ or even ‘having a vision’ … well … I am no Harvard Business guru and all that high falutin’ stuff seems unnecessary. To me it is much more simple.

You make decisions accepting the burden of responsibility for what will come … and may arise from your decision.

 

You share the responsibility for what will, or may, come.

 

And if you do that? Damn. You will do good and be good.

 

And if you do not do that? Damn. You may get a shitload of attention and applause in the moment and a shitload of attention and anger in the future.

 

 

Why do I say that?

 

Because if you don’t really believe in shared responsibility and flit from one decision to the next in a transactional “responsible only to the moment” way you will end up rushing from issue to issue, reacting without a plan or a strategy or <worse> no care of longer term affect, creating carnage yet to be seen <because that type of leader tends to seek only the cheers in the moment>.

 

Uhm.

 

Innovative solution plan as a pencil trying to find way out of maze breaking through the labyrinth as a business concept and creative metaphor for strategy success and planning achievement.

Just to point it out … with no plan that means anything can happen and a leader can justify anything. Because with no plan to measure a decision against anything can look right … and unpredictable can be touted as ‘flexible to the situation.’

 

All of this fits a short term leader in a short term world.

 

The people are few and far between these days who weigh their responses and assess long term affects. In today’s world it almost seems a race to be the first to judge or comment on a decision or action and far too many leaders actually manage to the public race to comment rather than the longer term assessment.

 

This is scary stuff for anyone to do but a business leader? Dangerous.

Even the best short term decision makers, if forced into a gauntlet of short term decisions, will struggle to insure at the end of the gauntlet they have kept walking northwards as they had been looking down the entire time. More often than not North will not be the direction you are facing nor will you have actually moved any closer to the North star.

 

I am not suggesting this longer term shared responsibility attitude is easy.

In fact .. it is really really hard.

In fact … it almost means you have to embrace a little “impossible” into what you actually make possible.

 

Huh?

 

 

In general I have always liked logical thinking <no matter how random the logic may be> but I always love it when someone combines some unexpected logic.

Generally speaking the best unexpected logic actually comes from those who do the impossible … thinking of the impossible and seeing possibilities — the impossible being “knowing for sure what will happen in the future.” They make the spectacular leaps/chances, accepting responsibility and sharing responsibility, so that business can make the needed changes or just do the semi-risky things that keep a good business doing good things <things that may push against the borders of the status quo>.

 

Yeah.

Spectacular errors can only happen if you take spectacular chances. I am not fond of irresponsible risk taking and decision-making, but I am fond of doing ‘the right thing’ even when it may appear to be going against the stream. Sometimes that means a spectacular success, sometimes a spectacular error. But always something spectacular.

 

And I will tell you … what more could you want to say about your life as a leader but that you have done something spectacular? Especially if that ‘spectacular’ actually happens a generation later which permits you to sit back and say “I did the impossible … I viewed the future well.’

 

Anyway.

 

Shared responsibility is the burden of any good leader. They tend to be the leaders who understand they cannot really be sure what is going to happen to them over time, they weigh the risks to the best of their ability and let the chips fall as they may.

I tend to believe their attitude is one of “you don’t want to act more fearfully than you have to.”

 

Good leaders have a tendency to hold themselves accountable for anything, everything and everyone … in varying degrees depending on the anything, everything and everyone. And, maybe most importantly, I tend to believe they understand that there is a relationship between shared responsibility and personal responsibility.

 

And, practically speaking, you will never be viewed as a true leader if you do not.

 

Well.my life is my message duty

 

You know what?

 

To end this thing today … let me offer two other words, typically associated with responsibility, obligation and duty.

 

Obligation refers general to something you are compelled to do by regulation, law, promise or morality. I think good leaders feel obligated to assume shared responsibility.

 

Duty, more so than obligation, springs from an internal moral or ethical impulse rather than from external demands.

I think good leaders feel a duty to assume shared responsibility.

 

Shared responsibility … not only do I believe we should discuss it more often <because it will foster better value in personal responsibility> but I also believe we should be demanding it of our leaders more often.

not being owned

April 17th, 2016

world of my own

 

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“I am the sea and nobody owns me.”

 

 

Pippi Longstocking

 

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i would fight myself if i could

(letthechipsfallwheretheymay)

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So.

 

Not being owned sounds like a simple thing.

 

Yet.

 

Over and over <and over> again we permit something … or someones … to own void swallows self strength own you lifea part of you.

It can be direct or it can be indirect.

It can be consciously or subconsciously.

 

 

To be clear.

 

This is not a society thing <albeit society is a nasty twit on occasion> … this is a self thing.

 

And this is not a corruption thing <albeit money is a nasty twit on occasion> … this is a self thing.

 

So what do I mean by a self thing?

 

One of the very very few things you can actually control in life is “self ownership.”

 

Owning who you are as a person. Owning your integrity. Owning your character, dignity and moral compass. And, I imagine, owning your behavior & attitudes.

 

 

Now.

 

This ownership isn’t easy. It isn’t because … well … what you own a shitload of people and things are constantly seeking ways to steal it.

 

And owning a good security system will not do shit for you.

You need to learn self-defense.

 

And by self defense I actually mean defending against your self <and not someone or something else>.

 

You have to choose to fight yourself.

 

Fight against some nasty instincts <which more often than not head you in the wrong direction>.

Fight against temptation <of which the world has an endless array it constantly parades in front of you>.

Fight against some internal mind games <think doubt, fear, acceptance, etc.>.

 

 

Regardless.

 

Many of us flippantly state “I am my own person and nothing owns me” and, yet, under the glaring spotlight of truth & reality we will find that more of us is owned by someone or something than we would like.

 

Many of us shrug our shoulders when faced with this harsh truth and say “those are not the important things” or “that’s just Life.”

created my own world

Well.

 

It is not ‘just Life’ and they are not just ‘little unimportant things.’

 

More of us should stop, take a moment, and think about whether we want to react to external ownership efforts or proactively “fight myself” over the right to own myself.

 

Each of us is the sea and no one owns a sea.

 

Do not be owned.

 

 

personal responsibility personal acceptance

December 1st, 2015

 

accountable point

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“You’ll have to help yourself.”

Lemony Snicket

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“It may be the wrong decision, but fuck it, it’s mine.”

Mark Z. Danielewski

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“More than anything, to me, he was dad. And what a dad. He loved us with the passion and the devotion that encompassed his life. He taught us to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves.

—-

Justin Trudeau at his father’s funeral

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Personal responsibility is hard.

 

 

Much much harder than conceptually it sounds like it should be.

accountability actions consequences

 

I do not have any research today to show how people who have a strong sense of personal responsibility attained that character trait <although if you google it there are gobs of people with an opinion on it>.

 

 

 

For everyone who had great parents who taught them I can give you a dozen examples of people with crappy parents who have a strong sense of personal responsibility.

 

For every victim mentality person I can show different contextual situations that got them into that state of mind and, just as well, the path to a strong sense of personal responsibility is numerous and rarely a straight path.

 

 

But, even without research I will suggest a couple of things:

 

 

1. Personal acceptance.

 

letters to myself post it

To have personal responsibility you almost have to have a strong foundation of personal acceptance.

I imagine I could suggest that if it doesn’t than you are simply ‘posing’ in an attempt to look like you are responsible <and that rarely can stand the test of time>.

 

Regardless.

 

Somehow, someway people with a strong sense of personal responsibility have developed a strong sense of self. Not necessarily confidence … just self. They recognize ‘they is what they is’ and accept the flaws <and try to improve in some way> and accept their strengths <but never take them for granted>.

 

In their personal acceptance we, around them, see ‘solid.’ We love these people on our business teams and friend teams … as peers or as leaders … because regardless of their IQ or leadership skills or professional skills … they are lighthouse people in their own right.

 

These people can also be baffling to the perfectionists in the world because part of ‘personal acceptance’ is understanding, if not embracing, imperfections.

 

 

 

2. Lucky to be here but many others are just as deserving.

 

 

Let me suggest that people with an incredibly strong sense of personal fate waiters luckresponsibility will also most likely be the people who suggest they had a little luck along the way – lucky in life situations, lucky with mentors, lucky in opportunities – and even though they had worked hard they had done nothing to actually deserve the luck.

As a corollary to this thinking they would also believe, as part of the luck aspect, that there are many others just as deserving. This attitude creates a sense of responsibility for actions, behavior and attitudes. Mistakes are owned and successes are shared.

 

Some people may suggest that personal responsibility and accountability is a reflection of integrity or humility.

Well.

It may be.

But I rather believe it is more a sense of understanding that successes are more often than not a reflection of just hard work but also circumstances.

And, to that point, inherently someone with a strong sense of accountability balances success with the understanding that a portion of success is luck – luck of circumstance & luck of being the one where many were just as deserving if provided the opportunity.

 

 

 

Like I said in the beginning.

 

 

This is not based on research and you can toss this into your ‘Bruce bullshit bin’ if you want.

 

 

But I do not need research to state that personal responsibility and personal acceptance takes work. Lots of work. And lots of fortitude.

 

It is the kind of thing you spend your entire life working hard to not only ‘be’ but to live up to the character standard you have set for yourself. A standard which you will never measure others against because … well … it is personal.

 

You are accountable to your own standard and responsible to meet it. And everyone not only has the ability to set their own but they also have an unequivocal right to do so without anyone else telling them “how to be accountable.”

 

 

————

“It was instead something that we would have to spend the rest of our lives to work very hard to live up to.”

==

Spike Leeself unpronounceable

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Personal responsibility is actually one of Life’s lightest burdens if you choose to accept it. That is why I am so often surprised by how many people actually do not accept this burden.

 

But, in the end, personal responsibility is a personal choice. No one can convince you to do it or be that way. You have to help yourself on this one because no one else can.

lesser of two evils

August 9th, 2015

———–opinions fight myself

“… but there is a certain point where trying to choose between the lesser of two evils is just an exercise in futility.

It doesn’t matter what you choose … both are so bad you struggle to discern which would be worse.

Therefore, I refuse to choose.”

=

Alex Verus

———–

 

 

 

So.

 

 

I just finished reading a book where this character says the quote above.

 

 

We have all been in a situation where all the choices look bad, or not so good … but definitely not good.

 

 

This is the choice of the lesser of two evils:

 

choice plans doors question

The lesser of two evils principle (or lesser evil principle) is the principle that when faced with selecting from two unpleasant options, the one which is least harmful should be chosen.

 
Let’s just say … well … it sucks.

 

 

And it sucks even worse when we stop and fruitlessly seek some silver lining in what is , frankly, no good choice.

This is not one of those choices where someone says “sometimes the wrong choice puts you in the right place.” The only place this choice puts you is in a bad place … maybe less bad than somewhere else … but bad.

 

 

 

In game theory it is typically known as the no-win situation – an unavoidable decision with unavoidable an outcome which encompasses the losses of whatever value resides within the choice.

 

 

And, yet, the character decided to not choose.

 

At some point it becomes an exercise in futility.

 

 

 

If there was ever an example of ‘no choice actually being a choice’ this may be it.

 

 

But in this case it may actually be ‘the win’ choice.

 

 

Huh?

 

 

It seems like when faced with a lesser of two evils far too often we look at harm associated with the choice itself … and not the harm to ourselves.character dignity glory worth

 

 

 

This may sound crazy … but … survival is not always the desired outcome.

 

 

Huh?

 

 

Well … if survival means sacrificing all that you find valuable & important to your self … well … you better be damn sure it is worth the evil you are choosing.

 

 

And that is what the character in the book is saying.

 

 

“I choose neither of the evils because if I did … I live … but I may not be able to live with myself.”

 

 

Well.

 

 

I probably think about this ‘live with myself’ with regard to my decisions more than most people … and possibly more than is productive or healthy for me.

 

 

But.

 

 

I have seen success … and I have seen failure.

 

I have had rewards … and suffered penalties.

 

I have risen toward the top … and scrambled to get free of the bottom.

 

 

Through it all the only one, the only thing consistent, is me.

 

 

Just saying ‘I survived’ <and this can be in business, life or situational> is not enough for me. Possibly because I have seen the wounds inflicted upon character, esteem and integrity with basic ‘I survived’ choices.

 

 

Personally, I don’t want to survive if I have to sacrifice … well … me <the character portion … not the physical portion>.

 

 

This personal decision comes with a cost. But it is a cost I am willing to bear because it only costs me material rewards & society-based successes. It doesn’t cost me any of what resides within me.

 

 

 

Look.lovers quarrel choice

 

 

Choosing between the lesser of two evils is almost always actually choosing between three evils … the two choices and what evil it inflicts upon yourself.

 

 

I cannot tell anyone what to do when faced with a ‘no win’ scenario. That is for each person to face on their own and decide what is best for them.

 
But I can tell everyone you should think about it.

 

 

It can be a ‘no win’ choice just make sure you, yourself, also doesn’t win.

 

 

Because losing yourself in addition to having to choose between a lesser of two evils means … well … evil has won.

contextual contextual contextual

May 10th, 2015

——

we are mosaics

“Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned.

They are not units but fractions.”

=

Woodrow Wilson

——

 

 

Well.

 

 

In business and in Life …  people like consistency.

 

We actually like rules.

 

 

And we really <really> like some guidelines for how to do things, what to say and when things should be done.

 

Oh.

 

 

And … we love, yes, LOVE to look to the past for answers or the ‘formula for what to do or how to act.”

 

 

Ah.

 

 

That sneaky ‘learn from the past or be doomed to repeat mistakes’ advice.

 

 

True … but not true.

 

 

What makes it not true?true not true

 

 

 

Context.

 

 

 

Future truths, or solutions, only partially reside in the past. The other part lives in the present … and what is swirling around that moment.

 

 

Which brings me back to the opening quote.

 

 

We like to see things as units and yet they are simply fractions.

 

 

Some people stand on fractions and act like they are whole solid foundations.

 

Be wary of those people.

 

 

 

They are not really seeking truth … just answers … okay … well … maybe just an answer.

 

 

——-

 

 

“Fear not the path of Truth for the lack of People walking on it.”

 

 

=

 

Robert F. Kennedy

——-

 

 

 

I admit … the trouble we constantly run into is … well … context.

 

We are always contextual … mosaics of the moment … and this is troubling for those seeking simple answers.

 

And, frankly, most of us would love a simple answer now & then <if not all the time>.

 

But some people thrive on simplicity and black & white.

 

 

Please do not read into what I just wrote that these people live a colorless life.

 

Everyone has color and everyone certainly has pieces of light within and without.

 

 

==

 

“We are mosaics.

 

 

Pieces of light, love, history, stars … glued together with magic and music and words. “

 

Anita Krizzan

 

==

 

 

 

All I am suggesting is that magic, or the contextual aspects, in Life creates a certain intangible aspect to everyday situations. And while this intangible thing is a nagging aspect in common everyday life & business … at critical points, let’s call them ‘semi-critical moments or junctures’, the contextual intangible aspect is nerve wracking.

 

Nerve wracking because we want a simple solution in semi-critical moments.

 

And context demands some complexity. It demands looking at fractions and not the whole.

 

 

This means we constantly struggle with the fact <the Truth as it were> we, as individuals, businesses, countries and societies, are simply fractions and not the unit.

 

 

I would also suggest decisions, business & in life, are simply fractions and not a self-sustaining unit.

 

 

And, yet, we try and make most of our decisions as if everything is aligned and unmoving … kind of like taking a snapshot and taking action.

 

 

Uh oh.

 

 

wide open spaces far to goThis means, contextually, whatever action or decision you take or make will be relevant to what was … not what is.

 

———-

 

 

“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.

 

That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

 

 

Milton Friedman

 

————-

 

 

In closing out this thought I would like to point out that this thought, while it seems like a stronger Life thought, is maybe even more importantly a business thought.

 

 

Far far too often in business we ignore the fact each decision is contextual seeking comfort in “let’s look to the past for the answer.”

 

 

I admit I find it slightly odd because in today’s business world every single mistake or hiccup/interruption in the status quo is labeled a crisis … and crises tend to produce real change.

 

 

On the other hand … maybe that is my explanation to the oddity.

 

 

Because they really aren’t true crisis we tend to depend on the ideas lying around.

 

 

And the most typical ideas lying around are “what can we learn from the past.”

 

 

If you ever wonder why great decision makers should be paid some inordinate amount of money … reread this. Great decision makers see the past, the present & the future and envision the mosaic better than most of us <certainly I>.

 

 

They understand the situation is simply a fraction of what is.

 

 

see what we look for

 

This should also help explain why so many people make incredibly bad decisions.

 

 

 

Every moment, every situation, every success and every failure … is contextual.

 

 

In fact … contextual exists in almost every situation in such a wide vivid mosaic perspective that … well … ‘learning from the past’ almost seems like an inordinate waste of time.

strength is never solid

September 1st, 2014

struggle and virtue

—–

“I am a strong person. But every once in a while I would like someone to hold my hand and tell me things are going to be OK. “

=

Unknown

——–

 

Well.

 

 

We so often talk about ‘strong people’ as being these pillars of granite … solid and seamless in moments of need or challenge … unflinching in the face of whatever it is they face.

 

 

But more often strength is not a solid piece of granite.

 

 

It may be a shield or a shell … or it may be that the person has the ability to put stop handa strong hand forward … and stop what needs to be stopped.

 

But in all these cases … strength is neither a complete solid wall nor does it not have some weakness … or maybe some fragile aspects in which to balance everything.

 

———

“It is one thing to be brave in front of others, perhaps for fear of being branded a coward and becoming diminished in their eyes, but another entirely to be brave when there is nobody to witness your courage.

The latter is an elemental bravery, a strength of spirit and character.”

=

John Connolly

———-

 

 

 

 

Oddly … strength is … well … a paradox <or in some sense a contradiction>.

 

 

 

 

It is about setting unequivocal limits … and yet having no limits.

 

 

 

 

It’s about adapting yet unwavering.

 

 

 

So.

 

 

Let me discuss this limit thing for a moment.

 

 

 

Emotionally strong people do not really need constant action and excitement … or even a crisis … to define themselves and their lives.

 

 

This suggests they put some limits on things.

 

 

This is not to suggest that they don’t enjoy excitement in their lives … but they aren’t ‘doing’ junkies.

 

 

 

Strength is usually defined by some self awareness.

 

 

Awareness with regard to some character type things <which are embodied in actions and behavior decisions>.

 

 

 

Let’s call these our ‘limits’:

 

 

 

–           just don’t do some things

ignorance tiger sheep

Well.

 

 

 

Suffice it to say we all do things that we don’t enjoy doing … but we should never do things that we don’t want to do.

 

 

There is a nuance in that … but an important nuance.

 

 

 

The strong self aware understand that nuance … and almost always manage to figure out what they need to do … not at the expense of ‘what they don’t want to do.’

 

 

This translates into that when it comes to character defining decisions there is always a line.

 

 

The line isn’t about what you enjoy doing or what you like or dislike … it is about … well … character.

 

 

 

And being able to live with yourself and look in the mirror.

 

 

 

–        saying “no”

 

No complete sentence

 

Suffice it to say … if you can’t say “no,” you will get taken advantage of.
I will not suggest you won’t be taken seriously but I will suggest that if you cannot say no you will forever live on the slippery slope of credibility and trust.

 

 

 

 

Saying “no” reminds people that they cannot control you … only you control you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

–             it’s really about plateaus … not limits

 

 

 

 

Face it.

 

 

 

There are only plateaus, and they are not meant for you to stay there, but only resting places for someplace beyond.

 

plans patterns

 

Please note I did not say ‘someplace higher.’

 

 

 

“Up” is overrated.

 

 

 

It is more important to move anywhere <mentally, physically, career, Life> than it is to move ‘upwards.’

 

 

 

I’ve always believed in pushing yourself further and taking on new challenges.

 

 

 

 

I believe this because I tend to believe there is no such thing as that infamous trite cliché ‘being the best you can be.’

 

 

 

“Best” is a relevant thing … at least to the moment. Maybe it is better said that ‘best’ is contextual.

 

 

 

There is always room for growth and change and new possibilities of being the best you can be.

 

 

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

 

 

Strength is tricky.

 

 

 

It is partially inbred as an attitude … but it is also forged thru the furnace of Life.

 

 

—–

“Sometimes you don’t realise your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness”

=

we are mosaics

Susan Gale

——-

And maybe that is why strength is never solid.

 

 

 

Because strength is often about weakness.

 

 

The chinks in your armor define your strength … uhm … not your theoretically solid seamless armor.

 

 

 

Which leads me to my final thoughts.

 

 

 

Strength is nothing more than doing what it takes … with character.

 

 

 

 

In order to be strong we will inevitably embrace some different variations of our self. This naturally happens as we encounter knew things and new ‘weaknesses’ we never knew we had.
Within those variations are some aspects of solidness … but other aspects are adaptable and resilient in their ability to morph to the situation.

 

 

 

And, in the end, I imagine strength in a person can be defined one way:

limitations perfection

 

———

“I endure.”

=

E. Lockhart

 

————

 

 

corralling chaos (a management lesson)

August 17th, 2014

chaos control leadership

—–

“True freedom is where an individual’s thoughts and actions are in alignment with that which is true, correct, and of honor – no matter the personal price.”

=

Bryant H. McGill

——-

 

So.

 

 

I recently wrote about my college job, fake security guy with a company called Contemporary Security Company <CSC>, and it made me think about another good business lesson I learned.
I call it corralling chaos.

 

 

chaos team alignment

Maybe it is more simply managing people.

 

 

Whoa.

 

Comparing chaos to managing people?

 

 

Yup.

 

 

Look.

 

 

Unless you want to hire a bunch of clones or do some mind meld trick upon hiring someone … you are going to inevitably have a wide variety of specific skilled people, a mosaic of personalities and characters … and … well … humans being human within your purview.

 

 

I learned this very quickly as a youngster at CSC.

 

 

And, by the way, I didn’t learn this because I was some brilliant leader or insightful organizational behavior person at the age of 18 … I learned it out of simple survival.

 

 

Once I became a supervisor I definitely had a ‘Bruce team.’ A small group of guys who I always selected <or they selected me> to be surrounded by to manage and utilize.

 

 

In hindsight I was a little different than some of the other supervisors.
I liked using the same guys even though the assignment was different.

 

I liked tweaking each guy’s ‘comfort zone’ to show them how to adapt.

 

 

I think I subconsciously recognized that it probably helped me out under a variety of assignments in that these guys … and these guys were wired differently … wouldn’t take a cookie cutter approach to how they handled things.

 

 

Not only did they see that things could be done differently <than maybe what their first instinct was> but also they became comfortable with some things out of their comfort zone.

 

 

The best example I have is two guys who were with me whenever possible.

 

 

They were book end personalities.

 

CSC 4

 

Lamont.

 

 

African American. Sharp & smart. Took life seriously. Scowled a lot. Maybe 6’ 1” and 280 pounds of hair triggered whirlwind of aggression.
You only walked up to Lamont from behind very carefully.

 

 

I vividly remember walking up behind him and tapping him on the shoulder … and he spun around with a semi graceful martial arts form <… c’mon … how graceful can a 280 pound guy be> … crouched and coiled to part my head from my shoulders.

I also vividly remember his eyes were laser-like and seemingly completely clear of anything but ‘destroy.’ Without relaxing … he said ‘little buddy … you shouldn’t sneak up on me like that’ … and then he uncoiled.

 

 

 

Dave.

 

White suburban kid. Maybe not the sharpest knife in the drawer. 6’ 2” and chiseled 220 pounds or so. Played defensive end at Orange Coast junior college.

Easy going … smiled a lot. The first time I met him on the job I saw him wade into a drunken brawl of maybe 6 guys and singlehandedly blow it up with maybe only one punch thrown by him <which admittedly put that guy out of commission>.

 

These two guys became the bookends that held most of my teams together.

 

 

Lamont was like an assassin.

 

Dave was like a bull.

 

 

Lamont I restrained.

 

Dave I released.

 

 

Both could intimidate in their own way … but their instinct was always to act with power of action … and not words.

 

 

My bosses struggled to understand why I always wanted them … no matter the assignment.
Lamont was often seen as uncontrollable <therefore they hesitated to want to put him in more ‘delicate diplomatic’ situations>.

 

Dave was often seen as ‘not too smart’ <therefore they hesitated to want to put him in situations where he may have to think on his feet>.

 

 

Beyond the fact I saw how these guys could be used effectively … I probably more recognized that situations my bosses ‘foresaw’ within an assignment more often became unforeseen actions & consequences.

 

 

chaos and safety

Security at some event with zillions of people wandering around <many drinking> all with an attitude that ‘hey … I paid to be here … so I can do pretty much whatever I want’ is inevitably one of much randomness.

 

Interestingly … that describes the business world fairly well <without the drinking>.

 

Managing people isn’t really about plans & planning … or even having a plan … it is more often about how to deal with what happens when the plan breaks apart.

 

 

Look.
Plans and planning … and all the things under those headings <business plans, contingency plans, succession plans> … are all good things … uhm … until they aren’t.

 

 

All the plans that once bring order, continuity, and control often become rigid obstacles to progress and adaptation.

 

 

Lamont, Dave … shit … whatever personality I was supervising … I found that most people are trying to do what they believe is in the best interest of the organization.

 

 

I also found the trouble was often they may not have the same point of view on what that is.

 

 

And, yes, that leads to some version of chaos.

chaos corral outcome and understanding

 

You can have two people conducting themselves with the best of intentions and trying to do the right thing.

 

Both options are valid.

 

 

Uh oh.

 

 

But the conclusions they reach end up in direct conflict with each other.  This creates confusion <with each other as well as those around them seeking cues on what to do>.

 

 

A lot of the supervisors around me did two things.

 

 

 

One.

 

Bitched & moaned about ‘the guys they managed’ and said ‘they just don’t get it.’

 

 

Two.

 

Picked guys for their team that they could ‘control.’

 

 

Me?

 

 

I guess I decided to take responsibility for getting out of the chaos.

 

 

I assumed from day one that it was me responsible for allowing chaos.

 

 

 

 

I also assumed I couldn’t control anyone … certainly not someone like Lamont or a number of other highly wired individuals I liked to have on my team … but I did assume I could point them in the right direction <with regard to attitudes & actions>.
I picked guys for my teams who could get shit done. And get shit done within some principled behavior guidelines.

 

chaos control game

I kind of assumed my role was to ‘be still amidst the chaos and active in repose’ <Indira Ghandi>.

 

 

Be a compass as it were.

 

 

 

 

Look.

 

 

I certainly didn’t understand all the real thinking behind good management and leadership at that age.

 

 

 

What I do know now for sure – good leaders provide a compass.

 

 

A good leader helps others think through implications that can impact the broader team’s goals and objectives.

 

 

Once people have orienting values and principles, their ability to think and operate independently accelerates.

 

 

 

Good leaders hold people, themselves included, accountable to a set of values and principles.

 

And leading is often measured by how you deal with the times which inevitably occur when the leader needs to confront a difficult decision that puts principles to the test.

 

 

Corralling chaos is all about getting comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable.

 

 

My guys recognized that always sticking to the plan without fail provided a false sense of security.

 

 

They knew from experience that there needed to be some flexibility with “how” the “what” is implemented.

 

 

 

They embraced the purposeful discomfort and I rewarded the purposeful discomfort.

 

 

I left room for serendipity.

 

 

I left room for what is called “interaction with an unintended outcome” <Scott Doorley, Stanford>.

 

 

Some smart guy, Atul Gawande, states there will always be people who excel and thrive in complex and chaotic environments.

 

 

People who “have a better capacity to prepare for the possibility, to limit the damage, and to sometimes even retrieve success from failure.”

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

 

I agree with that and I don’t agree with that.

 

 

 

I agree that some people are better than others at the ability to quickly assess situations and take decisive action based on their experience and instinct.

 

 

 

I don’t agree that anyone and everyone can become better and hone this ability. In fact … part being a good leader is trying to figure out how to maximize this ability within employees <because it enhances autonomy which increases organizational efficiency>.

women leadership

 

I have no clue if I am particularly strong with the ‘capacity to prepare for unintended consequences.’

 

 

 

What I do have a clue on is that no matter how strong I may be … I can’t prepare for everything and can’t solve everything and I can’t be everywhere at all times.

 

 

I liked having a variety of skilled people available … no matter how difficult they were to manage.

 

 

 

Why?

 

 

It increased the likelihood the team could handle any ‘unintended consequences’ as they arose.

 

CSC taught me a shitload.

 

 

It taught me very quickly that when supervisors complained that people are working against each other, that they are not aligned, that they don’t seem to ‘get it’ … that they are full of shit.

 

It taught me first & foremost that a supervisor needs to look in the mirror.

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

Is chaos a bad word to use when discussing people management?
Aw.

 

Probably.

 

inspire leadership

But here is what I do know.

 

 

I would rather corral chaos than ‘light a fire under someone’s ass.’

 

 

Is that a management style?

 

Sure.

 

 

I imagine so.

 

 

I imagine it is actually a management or leadership choice.
And when I look in the mirror with regard to management style I am okay with what I see.

 

And I thank my CSC job for helping me be okay with it.

 

—-

CSC becks

If interested, after you read this post, you can visit his past CSC ‘learnings’ posts:

<learning to say no>

http://brucemctague.com/big-fred

=

<practicing actually means more relaxed>

http://brucemctague.com/the-wall

=

<action has its time>

http://brucemctague.com/there-is-a-time-to-talk-and-a-time-to-act-part-1

=

<gaining perspective>

http://brucemctague.com/what-you-do-not-see-at-a-concert

 

 

what you do not see at a concert

August 2nd, 2014

music points of view shakespeare

 

 

 

Ok.

 

 

 

This is about music … and my job in college as a ‘fake’ security guy <for a company called Contemporary Security> walking around in a cool yellow tshirt that said “SECURITY” on it … telling people what to do at concerts and sporting events and trying to only get into altercations I knew I could win.

 

 

To be clear.

 

I loved this job and loved the guys I worked for and with.

Good organization and, in general, good culture and fellow employees.

 

In addition.

 

On a professional “acquiring skills for later” level … I learned a lot at this job … some basics that if I had not paid attention to would have represented missed opportunities for learning. I learned shit i have applied in business to this day.

 

 

If interested, after you read this post, you can visit his past CSC ‘learnings’ posts:

<learning to say no>
http://brucemctague.com/big-fred

=

<practicing actually means more relaxed>
http://brucemctague.com/the-wall

=

<action has its time>
http://brucemctague.com/there-is-a-time-to-talk-and-a-time-to-act-part-1

=

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

I hadn’t thought about this job in quite some time.

 

 

And then I saw that Steve Perry <ex-lead singer Journey> performed in NYC for the first time in a long time. it reminded me of one of the best moments that you don’t see at a concert.

 

In the good ole days there were things called stadium concerts. These were day long concerts where a full lineup of great bands would queue up and play one after another … and the best of the best would end the day.

 

 

Ok.

 

They still have these. But now they are events <like Bonnarroo or Glastonbury> when before pretty much every big stadium in America schooled these things.

 

 

 

The one I remember was in the Los Angeles Coliseum and Journey headlined <I think there was also The Babys – with John Waite and Johnathon Cain … who had not joined Journey yet, Aerosmith, The Motels and a couple other bands I cannot remember at the moment>.

 

Roadies old

 

Because I didn’t have anything else to do that day I volunteered to work the sound check the day before the concert as they set up the stadium <yes … they set up things the day before so that as the gates opened up on show day at some ungodly early hour the bands only needed to have their ‘set up’ put in place as they entered stage>.

 

 

On that day each of the bands just strolled in and did what they do to warm up and make sure the sound system was set up the way they liked it. And each band does it their own way.

 

 

That day I was standing at the sound system which was set up maybe a third of the way back in the stadium directly in the center of the field in front of the stage. A mass of confusing boards and little blinking lights and knobs and such all managed by maybe two guys chugging black coffee like they had been in a desert for three days and who looked like they should be in a homeless shelter.

 

 

Random people walked around the stadium and my job was to make sure any of the random people who did not actually belong near the million dollar valued sound system didn’t accidentally come by and twist a knob or something.

 

 

It was Journey’s turn to tune up and do sound check.music mr magoo 1956

 

 

Please remember.

 

I am old.

 

This was before they had wireless mikes so everyone was wired up and was limited by how far a cord could go and their ability to not get tangled up in their cord.

 

 

Neil Schon and the drummer just kind of got things started.

 

 

music point of views smellsAnd if you haven’t seen musicians playing nothing, and everything at the same time, you haven’t seen and heard music at its best.

It just this rambling incohesive brilliant musicianship.

 

 

 

Oh.

 

 

And then Steve Perry wanders on stage in jeans and a tshirt holding a mike just watching the other guys play.

 

perry and schon

 

And without saying anything all of a sudden the band eases into a song almost one by one … but all together … and Steve eases in with vocals in his distinctive clear voice.

 

It’s the kind of thing that is so stunningly easily beautiful that you just have to stop whatever it is you are doing and stare.

 

Time kinds of stops.

You are in the middle of a stadium and while people are still moving and there are the regular noises of people doing what hey need to do … and yet … there is nothing else but the music.

 

 

To be clear.

 

 

Even people who are used to this recognize special moments.

 

 

People around me stopped.

 

Even the sound guys, who you knew had heard his dozens of time, stood still for a moment as it all synced up on stage.

 

 

The moment passed but the band seemed to shift seamlessly from one song to another and on occasion stopping to tune something or just talk amongst each other.

 

 

They had been doing this for a while and me being me … had stopped paying attention and was kind of mindlessly listening.

 

 

And all of a sudden something felt different about the music and I started paying attention. The music sounded different.

 

 

I turned around and Steve Perry was standing maybe 10 feet away from me facing the stage … singing. perry singing

 

 

Now remember … this was before wireless microphones. He had been wired up to walk all the way from the stage, maybe a 1/3rd of the way into the stadium, with his microphone to the sound system and hear what it sounded like.

 

 

I don’t remember the song. I wish I did.

 

 

I do remember a nonchalant Steve Perry, his voice crystal clear, pitch perfect, watching as the rest of the band clustered on stage watching each other work their way thru the song … I remember Steve Perry stopping and watching as Neil Schon effortlessly worked his way thru a solo … and seamless picking back up with vocals as Neil slid out of the solo and back into the song.

 

 

I remember Steve Perry looking over at me <ok … maybe he was looking at the guys in front of all the knobs and boards> and smiling, as he sung, and give a thumbs up because he lied what he was hearing.

 

 

Hey.

 

 

With my CSC security job I saw a lot of shit that most people do not see at a concert … but this was a special moment.

 

 

I am sure warming up and sound checks created great moments that most people never see all the time.

 

 

But this was my little glimpse into what makes great bands and great musicians great.

 

<and, please, Journey was a great band with one of the greatest rock … ok … any genre … lead singers of all time>

 

 

 

So.

 

 

 

Professional learning? Beyond the obvious practice & rehearsal <for the musicians and the ‘support for the presenters’… perspective.

 

Yup.

 

 

Perspective.

 

How often in business do we fall into our own little groove and fall into sync with the people around us and … well … we think all is good. We think it is good because it feels good.

 

Perry stepped out of the onstage groove and got perspective. He wanted o see what the people saw … he wanted to hear what the sound guys heard.

comfort zone

 

Oh.

 

And he took himself out of what I would perceive is a good comfort zone. All by himself … away from the others he is most likely in subconscious sync with on stage … he sings … they play. He … well … disconnected from the comfort zone in a way.

 

That, my friends, is stepping out of the comfort zone for perspective.

 

I stored that learning away in my ‘futre professional thoughts to to remember’ in my pea like brain.

 

I still use it today.

 

Even when things are going right … and they feel right … and maybe even because they are feeling right … I like to figure out a way to gain some perspective.

 

And, frankly, we all need perspective.

 

 

Anyway.

To end this.

 

I wanted to share a clip of what this behind the scenes looks and sounds like from the good ole Journey days but I couldn’t find one.

<nuts>

 

 

But.

 

I thought I would share this fabulous clip of Stevie Ray Vaughn during a sound check. I was fortunate enough to see Stevie play maybe three times before he passed away.

 

 

Regardless.

 

This is a reminder of how good these musicians really are.

 Those were the days … a roadie in the 70s.

—–

 

 

“Stevie just waking up then warming up. Insane how good can you really be that tired? This was filmed Jan 1986 by Greg Savage of Savage Guitar Design.

How can that guy just walk up, plug in and play like he’s been playing all day long? The man was a natural.”

=

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Sound Check:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grBmQwLSlDw

=

——–

Hope you enjoyed.

Enlightened Conflict