Enlightened Conflict

big secrets make small people

September 20th, 2017

 

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“Community is the fact that we work toward the same goal, that we accept our respective roles in order to reach it.

 

Values is the fact we trust each other.

 

And, culture?

 

Culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit. That matters because most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”

 

—-

Fredrick Backman

 

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“You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”

 

—–

Colin Powell

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Well.

 

secrets we all haveThe relationship between secrets and culture and community is one which is fraught with contradictions, conflict and humanness.

 

I imagine this conflict is driven by the natural chafing between self-interest and community <I have called this community individualism & Enlightened Individualism in the past>.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

We talk a lot about community and team and all of that good stuff. And we talk about it with good intentions. The problem is that true community demands some sacrifice.

 

Therein lies our big secrets.

 

On occasion we decide self-interest is more important than sacrifice.

 

Uhm.

 

This is a version of ‘what you can get away with.’

 

That phrase sounds horribly horrible. It suggests nefarious type behavior. But the truth of it is most of us see what we can get away with on some very personal day-to-day less-than-nefarious type stuff.

 

We cut some corners.

We maybe don’t tell people how we truly feel <or who we truly are>.

We steal some post-it notes.

 

These are our little secrets.

 

We may even have some bigger personal secrets that we decide are just not things we want to share <these are not nefarious … just personal>.

 

 

Regardless.

 

secret own control hide

 

For many of us … our behavior arcs toward what we can get away with. That doesn’t mean it is completely unethical, or some abhorrent behavior, just that while norms set a ‘median’ standard guideline Life is constantly suggesting ‘but this one time you can get away with doing this.”

 

The problem resides with the friction between culture & community and self.

 

What I mean by that is the stronger & more powerful the cultural community norm is the bigger your secret becomes if you avoid the norms.

 

This secret takes on exponential size if you start believing that the norms that are good for you are good … and the ones that don’t match up with what you believe is your self-interest are bad.

 

You only accept the existence of the formal and informal cultural norm structure that constitutes accepted community construct … only as long as that suits your purposes.

Your big secret, therefore, doesn’t have to do with your own behavior but rather in your non-belief ,if not overall disdain> for the community norms.

 

This leads me to hate.

 

hate everythingWhy hate?

 

When you decide to see what you can get away with you have to mentally divide community into “we” and “they.” And in doing so you make ‘we’ good <which suggests what you can get away with is on the side of good> and you make ‘they’ bad.

 

This is a simplistic tactic for attempting to carry the burden of a big secret.

 

Hate is simple.

 

Hate can be an incredibly powerful empowering emotion.

 

Why?

 

In this scenario, using hate, the world becomes much easier to understand and less confusing, in the scheme of things, if you divide everything into friends & enemies, good & evil, right & wrong and a basic we & they.

 

This helps us because the world is strewn with conflict. Not just physical war but of ideas, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. Cultures, communities and classes are bombarded with conflict after conflict. And maybe because of the sheer amount of conflict one of the first things we do is pick sides. We choose a side to stand on because … well … it is easier. It is easier than thinking or, even more difficult, trying to hold parts of two ideas which appear in conflict in our heads at the same time.

 

And once we have chosen a side we then go out and seek some information, or ‘facts’, to confirm not only what we believe but the side we have chosen – this permits us to maintain the status quo and chug along with Life as ‘normal.’

 

Oh.

 

The last thing we do is demonize, or dehumanize, the other side. We diminish them. Make them, their thoughts & ideas, lesser than.

....... making "they" smaller ........

……. making “they” smaller ……..

 

I would suggest this all just makes you smaller as a person <carrying around a big secret>.

 

Big secrets make small people … yeah … unfortunately all of us become smaller with a big secret.

 

 

And this smallness is compounded by the unfortunate fact that you become even smaller when ‘we’ are the people who others HAVE to keep big secrets from … because they believe, and know, we cannot handle them <or don’t believe in them>.

 

All secrets carry a weight to them.

 

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“To agree to keep a secret is to assume a burden.”

Sam Harris

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In fact … I could argue that all knowledge is a burden. It carries a weight of responsibility with regard to what you do with it … how you act because you have it … as well as how you think about you, and others, with it.

 

Having accepted knowledge you have made an agreement with it. I tend to small to big secrets life people communitybelieve we don’t think about this. We accept knowledge as … well … maybe like income earned – disposable income in fact. We worked for it, we earned it and it is now ours to spend as we choose.

 

But knowledge is actually more like freedom. It is an unalienable right but it is also a privilege … and therefore one assumes a responsibility to it.

 

Uhm.

 

And with responsibility comes burden. Which almost sounds odd in that something with ‘free’ in it also carries such a heavy burden.

Maybe I should just suggest that nothing really comes for free … everything has something attached to it.

 

Knowledge?

 

Responsibility … the burden of responsibility. And that is a weight you carry … one which can be as light or as heavy as you make it. But. It is a weight nonetheless. One which you learn to carry well or carry poorly.

 

Knowledge tests our ability … and our character … with regard to how well we can carry this weight. It tests how strong we are .. once again … in ability an character.

 

Having said that <and most likely having a number of people feeling a little unconfutable thinking about knowledge that way>.

 

Secrets are a completely different level of a knowledge burden.

And secrets are tricky.

 

Some are thrust upon you … unwanted but yet yours nonetheless.

 

Some are gifted you … carefully shared by someone who believes the weight it carries is too much for themselves … alone.

 

Some are just yours … built by you and carried by you.

 

But regardless of how you assume the responsibility of a secret … it is also basement of my brain secret meetingknowledge. And therefore it also carries a burden … a responsibility … and a weight.

 

I don’t have the scale to weigh them but my guess is that a knowledge secret exponentially weighs more than a traditional knowledge.

 

I also don’t have any research but I also tend to believe, just like extra physical weight, as soon as we start feeling the extra weight of a secret … we seek to shed it.

 

Therein lies the true test of character.

Therein lies how big secrets can make small people.

 

All knowledge tests you. Secrets test you even more.

 

Knowledge, and secrets, take a strength of self to carry its weight.

The weight of responsibility of having the knowledge, the weight of freedom knowledge typically gives us … and the weight of character that knowledge either makes you bigger or makes you smaller.

 

Whew.

That is a lot of extra weight we have accepted by taking on these secrets.

 

And this is where I bring in good … as in good people doing good things … as in good versus almost good.

 

That sometimes very thin line can make a massive difference in life. That sometimes very thin line can decide whether your secret makes you bigger or smaller.

 

Look.

 

If you are clever enough, even if you embrace community, you can get away with a shitload of stuff. But cleverness does not eliminate the fact you gain a bigger secret burden with every action.

 

And you know what?

 

The “community” knows we struggle with this a individuals. In fact it has even intent help flaws self bestcreated some ‘auxiliary precautions’ to help us avoid unnecessary secrets.

 

Huh?

 

This is James Madison’s Federalist Paper #51 or “if men were angels” argument:

 

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If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

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

 

We are no angels as people.

 

Secrets bear that truth out.

 

And … well … we all carry secrets.

those who tied the knots are responsible for untying

September 17th, 2017

knot getting shit done business solve question

 

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“Those who tied the knots are responsible for untying [them].”

 

—–

Chinese Foreign Ministry

 

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So.

 

We talk a shitload about “business problem solvers” or “disruptors” or any number of ‘problem/solution’ type things in the business world.

 

 

knot variants solve problems businessWell … maybe we should talk more about the knots.

 

Knots?

 

Well.

 

I have eased my way into a number of new responsibility positions throughout my career and one of the first things you start doing when you settle in is scan for the knots that are inherently strewn throughout the business.

 

Sometimes these are nicely tied knots someone has developed and set in place to hold together a process or system or principle to insure it holds something important together.

 

Sometimes these are nasty tangled threads created by someone who didn’t know their ass from their toes, or by the system itself <think of a lawn hose by the end of the summer> or sometimes they are representative of well-intended actions by a variety of people over time <trying to improve or fix something>.

 

And while those are all “sometimes”  … all times, all businesses, have knots.

 

That said.

I can also say that untying knots is not for the faint of heart. To do so well is to be part safe cracker, part surgeon and part Navy Seal.

 

Ah.

 

But not everyone views knots the same – in how they occurred and what needs to be done to untie.

 

I would suggest how you view a knot depends on whether you believe in cause & effect <a linear action model> or in a more ambiguous “a cause can create multiple effects’ model.

linear cause and effect thinking behavior knot

 

 

Let me explain a little.

 

When I started n the business world we spent a shitload of time discussing cause & effect, stimulus & response and … well … a lot of behavior based on a linear ‘if this, then that’ type model.

 

Not so much today.

 

In today’s world almost all situations <internal process as well as consumer/buyer behavior> are ‘knotty.’

knot untie business confusing responsibility

 

I often show a picture of an atom in attitudes & behavior discussion but I like the knot metaphor also.

 

Uhm.

 

Yes.

 

This type of thinking, unfortunately, increases the likelihood of ambiguity.

 

Ambiguity is not one of those things the business world tends to happily embrace.

 

To be clear.

 

There is a lot to be said for teaching young business people cause & effect basics.

I liked growing up & learning the business world encased in a cocoon of certainty type thinking. Linear type thinking gave me some clarity and it certainly permitted some fairly easy conclusions and recommendations.

 

Unfortunately I also found, over time with experience, this increases the likelihood of … well … a shitload of bad things – wasted energy, misguided efforts and monies being funneled into activity generating less-than-desired outcomes.

 

But.

It had been linear logic and, therefore, provided some certainty to base the recommended recommendations on.

 

Ah.

 

Certainty.

 

Certainty is something we all crave in business. But we may crave it for a slightly less obvious reason then you may think.

 

Linear permits us to more easily get the one thing almost everyone wants – a way to get out.

Yeah.

 

It’s not really about solutions or answers … simplistically … it is awareness that there could be a way out.

 

Just think about it a little.

 

Most of us when faced with some situation, issue or problem just want a way out of that situation, issue or problem.

 

And, yet, we spend gobs of time talking solutions and most likely invest far too much time & energy extrapolating out “what of scenarios” in seeking what happens when we untie the knot and move forward. It’s quite possible we should be investing more energy, instead, on looking at a knot and simply seeking the best way out of the knot.

 

And that is where linear thinking kicks nonlinear thinking’s ass.

 

With ambiguity the way out is not only less clear but, at times, it can seem like a crapshoot –what is behind door #1, versus door #2 … a well as door #3?

And who the fuck wants that in any business decision maker situation?

 

Which leads me back to knots.

 

As you move up in management, and Life I imagine, you either get better at linear to navigate ambiguity thinking experience business knotseeing the knot and seeing how to untie a knot … or you remain a linear cause & effect decision maker.

 

I would suggest the world can use both; however, the world <business or otherwise> cannot exist solely with cause & effect decision makers. In addition .. each group and drive the other one frickin’ crazy.

 

But … suffice it to say … we need knot un-tiers.

 

Being an un-tier actually consists of two aspects … one attitude and one expertise.

 

Attitude: personal responsibility.

 

You own the knot.

This is a metaphor … a metaphor for a problem and owning the problem.

We all inherit problems. And the most successful of us look at them as knots, not ‘some simple fix <do this/get that>. The most successful of us don’t sit around bitching about the knots, whether they were there already or created by someone else, but go about assuming responsibility for any and all knots and go about untying as many of them as we can.

But here is the thing about this responsibility. We own the knot. We do so because we know that once we are in a position to get shit done … all that matters is getting shit done. And you know you have the responsibility to do what needs to be done to get shit done.

It does no good to say “not my knot.” You have a job … they are all now your knots.

 

I would note that untying knots is kind of a “go big or go home” type venture. I say that because in business once you begin untying … well … you have to keep going. Knots, good and bad, exist for a reason … so eliminating, or rearranging, a knot will have consequences — stopping is not an option.

 

 

Expertise: ability to navigate the interweaving that binds a knot.

 

Untangling is part vision and part deft touch.

Anyone who has ever untied an ‘impossible knot’ knows that you cannot simply tug & pull … you have to ease one aspect and pull another and maybe even push in other place. Deft. And as you do so you have the vision ability to see the unseen parts and get a sense of where one ‘weave’ has appeared and where it has come from, what it crosses and if it is actually entangled with another weave.

 

———

 

knot theory getting shit done do business

—–

 

I would suggest that this is partially an ability to navigate some ambiguity.

 

Ah.

 

That last ‘navigate ambiguity’ leads me to one last thing.

 

Cause & effect thinkers can be a cleverly dangerous group of business thinkers to work with.

Using the business knot as the example … the most dangerous thing a linear thinker can do is offer everyone the false linear cause & effect conclusion.

 

Huh?false linear cause effect knot business decision

 

Think of this knot as like shoelaces. The knot is there with the aglets <the small sheath, often made of plastic or metal, used on each end of a shoelace>. The linear thinker, incapable of untying the knot suggests the knots doesn’t matter because if I have the left aglet, and the right aglet, they suggest “I can clearly see the ultimate cause & effect”.

 

That is wrong. And dangerous for making a business decision.

 

Not to put this too harshly but that logic is like saying “I love all jelly filled donuts” not knowing some are filled with shit.

 

All that said.

 

I will say that once you have tied a knot you do assume some responsibility for it – keeping it, explain it or even untying it. I mention this because a lot of us leave positions, jobs & companies and far too often leave a knot behind with no explanation.

Maybe we are embarrassed to highlight a knot or maybe we just start thinking “not my worry anymore.”

Well.

It doesn’t really matter what you think … you own the knot and you have a responsibility to talk about any and all knots with anyone who may someday want to untie it.

the oversimplification crisis

September 11th, 2017

 

occam economy choice simplify

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We miss out on the value of the message itself as a vehicle for driving virality.”

 

Jonah Berger

 

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“Say something meaningful in an interesting way.”

 

Bruce McTague

<author of “the shortest business book ever written”>

 

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So.

 

 

oversimplification wrongThis is about how we have a simplification crisis.

 

 

Ok.

This is about how we have an oversimplification crisis.

 

This crisis is making us … well … stupid.

 

 

Ok.

This crisis is making us stupider.

 

 

Look.

 

What I mean is that in a world in which we know that everything is complex, and more often than not, more complex than our own pea like brains can handle, we unerringly swerve toward simplistic headline conclusions and oversimplifications and absurd bullet point conclusions.

 

This surface skating intellectualism just makes us stupider.

 

Now.oversimplify assumption risk life business

 

We may convince ourselves we do this simply as a mental survival technique but I would argue, and I do, that it actually is the opposite of a survival technique … it is destructive behavior. It is destructive in that it destroys the overall thinking of what is actually a population quite capable of being intelligent, if not intellectual.

Yeah.

It makes us stupider.

 

I thought about this the other day because I have conversations with some incredibly smart and talented people who know a shitload more about more things than I could ever imagine and this topic came up. I note the smartness of these people to highlight how unusual it is that I can say something that actually can make a group of these people stop, be silent and then go “hmmmmmmmmmm.”

It is a rare thing.

 

And, yet, it happened the other day.

 

After some extensive conversation on North Korea, global trade challenges, Trump <of course> & foreign policy we opened the discussion to “what is the biggest challenge facing us …”

 

My thought drew some <thoughtful> silence.

 

I said “oversimplification.”

 

To me … oversimplification misleads and creates bad decisions and, worse, creates bad thinking <which leads to bad opinions, attitudes and thoughts>.

 

And I offered a couple reasons why I believe this is happening <I did this because if you can identify the issues you can find solutions>:

 

 

We have convinced ourselves we do not have time for complex

 

 

big fat waste of my time business show for itGoing back to the ‘destructive behavior’ thought I shared earlier …  oversimplification is anything but efficient. It actually demands more time in a variety of ways. The two simplest ways it does so is <1> the time we over invest attempting to isolate the simplest version of what is anything but simple and <2> the amount of time & energy we have to invest explain everything beyond the simplistic tripe initially offered, to thwart misguided behavior & reactions to the oversimplified offering & to redefine the oversimplification into bifurcated parts of the oversimplified whole.

 

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that we all have shorter, and shortened, attention spans.

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that people best retain “one thing.”

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves in our perceived “never enough time” world we have to topline everything <to fit everything in>.

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that in a blizzard of nonstop things constantly vying for our attention the only way to capture someone’s attention is in some pithy soundbite.

 

Basically we have convinced ourselves that hollowing out an idea and a thought actually benefits not only the idea and the thought … but us!

 

This is fucking nuts. Absolutely crazy.

 

Unfortunately, and truthfully, some things are just too complex to communicate in a sound bite or in 3 seconds or less.

 

No matter how brief and simple you want to make it … well … it is neither brief nor simple. It is complex and sometimes the opposite of brief.

 

It isn’t just about telling a story.

 

Nor is it just about finding influencers to broker the story.

 

Nor is it just about practical value.

 

Nor is it just about emotion.

 

Unfortunately it is a combination of those things. Yeah. Effective communication is … uhm … complex.

 

 

We have convinced ourselves that simple & simplicity is reflective of common sense.

 

 

time to do it right do it overI admit.

 

I have never been shy about calling bullshit on the simplistic tripe being spewed under the guise of ‘expert advice’ or ‘common sense.’

 

That said.

I will suggest no topic has  been tortured more by common sense than simplicity.

 

 

Common sense suggests the simplest thing is the best.

 

Common sense suggests it is easier for a person to remember one thing and one word.

 

Common sense suggests in a complex world we humans crave simplicity.

 

Common sense suggests in a busy world we only have time for simplicity.

 

Common sense suggests a lot of nonsensical bullshit.

 

I will not argue that making something as simple as it can be is good but … well … simplistically … oversimplification is misleading and ultimately creates bad less-than-informed decision making AND thinking.

 

We have used this common sense simplicity bullshit for one simple reason — it serves us well in challenging the most established legitimate rule of Life & things. And that rule is “the world is complex.”

 

We embrace simplistic solution after simplistic solution, all labeled as ‘common sense ideas’, which are often counter to what an expert would suggest <which is often deemed “too complex”>…  only to find 90% of the time common sense was not only just simply wrong but also made us stupider.

 

I have written about simplicity and the complexity of finding the simplest way to communicate the complex many times and as I do so today I would remind everyone of what Jonah Berger offered us for a nifty sound bite compilation of sound bites to create a sound bite philosophy:

 

Here are his STEPPS for making anything go viral:

 

–          Social Currency: We share things that make us look good (even if that means pictures of our cat).

 

–          Triggers: Easily memorable information means its top of mind and tip of the tongue.

 

–          Emotion: When we care, we share.

 

–          Public: Built to show, built to grow.

 

–          Practical Value: News people can use.

 

–          Stories: People are inherent storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.

 

And while this is about “making things go viral” it is actually about finding the simplest way to communicate complex shit in a way that it is actually retained in a cognitive way.

 

I would also note that this dos not reflect “one simple thing”, sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mindit does reflect the complexity of reality and the mind and it reflects how to … well … help make us less stupider.

 

Ah.

Cognitive way.

As in “we actually understand what it is we heard, saw or read.”

 

That is an important thing to ponder because over simplification cheats cognitive value as well as the value of whatever it is you have to offer people. Simplicity may be “memorable” but it doesn’t really lodge itself in anyone’s mind & memory in any meaningful way.

 

In fact.

 

The less depth you offer in your oversimplification the more you are at the mercy of the mind that decides to remember you. What I mean by that is if you don’t provide the depth the mind will create some perceptions around whatever it lodges in the pea like brain.

 

Uhm.

 

This means the pea like brain lodges only what is actually the brain’s perceptions of what to remember and not what you <a> know to be true, <b> think it may be important for that mind to know or <c> want the brain to store away in its mind.

 

faulty reasoning oversimplification overlookI imagine what I am talking about is some wacky version of awareness versus engagement but that shit is bullshit too.

 

It’s all bullshit because we should be turning away from simplification and engagement and connection and simply focus on “say what you need to say to persuade someone to think or do what you want them to think or do.”

 

All the other bullshit just confuses things.

 

If I tell someone that ‘being noticed ‘ is the most important thing, than some asshat is gonna come up with some zany oversimplified shit that gets noticed but doesn’t effectively communicate one thing <let alone all the things you may have deemed truly important in the beginning>.

 

I admit … I balk at a lot of the bullshit offered online about simplification <and the importance thereof> because … well … it is an oversimplification which diminishes the importance of ‘communicating depth’ and increases the importance of ‘being noticed.’

I do not like that equation.

 

Effective communication is not a binary choice.

 

Effective communication, as with almost everything, is a complex challenge in communicating a complex thing well – because if you can communicate a couple things well it actually increases the perceived value <which then inevitably creates a stronger “memory stamp” … with value attached!>.

 

Which brings me back to our oversimplification crisis.

 

I could clearly argue that in today’s fragmented messaging world where information multiplies at light speed and a day still remains 24 hours that we humans are constantly honing our “incoming thoughts” filtering mechanisms.

 

I could also argue that our filtering system, as it exists today, sucks.

 

We have dumbed down our communication and thinking behavior to such a hollowed out status the majority of time we skate along the superficial irrelevant surface of reality.

 

If we are lucky, the ice doesn’t crack.

 

But the truth is that oversimplification only offers the thinnest of ice to skate on and inevitably we fall thru the ice … over and over and over again.

 

Uhm.

 

And in the business world falling through the ice is bad. It is, metaphorically, making a bad decision based on shallow thinking and paying for it.

 

Yeah.

I did say the biggest issue we face is oversimplification.

I said that because if I can solve this, if I can have smarter people communicating complex things more smartly and I can have more everyday schmucks understanding that simple solutions are more often like trying to place a square peg in a round hole … well … I think it unravels a shitload of other problems we face in today’s world.

 

I imagine I am arguing that if more people are less stupid and more aware of the reality of things the more effective & efficient we will be in addressing the difficulties reality tends to place in front of us.

 

period end-of-story_design

 

In the end I will go back to where i began … “say something meaningful in an interesting way.”

 

There are no rules nor boundaries in this statement.

 

You use as many words, or as few, as you need to say … to say something meaningful in an interesting way with the intent for it to be understood … and, ultimately, persuade someone to think something.

 

Period.

humans can do it so quietly

September 5th, 2017

Finding the white space

 

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“The worst thing about falling to pieces is that humans can do it so quietly.”

 

inkskinned tumblr

 

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“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”

 

——

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Well.

 

Stark.

 

That is what I felt when I put these two quotes together for the first time.

stark horizon life view

Starkly absent of cynicism, pessimism or optimism.

 

Just stark.

 

Stripped of any hues of Life.

 

That’s what I felt.

 

Shit.

 

I then sat back and said “whew, if I felt that … imagine how someone feels who actually writes these things.”

 

And maybe that is my point.

 

Most of us can only imagine how it feels.

 

Most of us, at our worst, get only a glimpse of this starkness.

 

And even then our stark is most likely not this stark.

 

 

Now … what I do know that humans can fall to pieces incredibly quietly.

 

I do know that starkness is difficult to express to someone who has never seen fill-emptiness-empty-with-various-thingsstarkness.

 

I do know that there are most likely more people who, on the outside, are holding their shit together so well that most of us don’t even think to offer a ‘are you doing okay’ question.

 

I do know these are the people who so quietly are falling apart.

 

So here’s the deal.

 

Falling apart is falling apart. What I mean by that is everything, and I mean everything, that falls apart makes some sound. You just have to listen closely enough to hear it.

 

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

 

No, now you’ve got me interested, I want to know

 

exactly what seems wrong to you, how something could

 

seem wrong to you. In what way do things get to be wrong?

 

——

John Ashbery

 

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

 

 

You have to listen closely for the sound one makes when they fall to pieces noise silencequietly.

 

For there is a sound.

 

It may be just a whisper of a sound. You may even confuse it for the rustle of falling leaves.

 

But.

 

Quietly or not … as the pieces fall apart they make a sound.

 

You just have to listen closely.

 

This gets even trickier. Let me go back to my ‘stark’ opening. If you have never truly experienced stark, it is difficult to see this kind of starkness.

Sure.

You may get a sense of ‘something wrong’ but far too often we skate along the superficial surface of ‘something wrong’ assuming lack of depth or “not any starker than we have ever seen” and … well … we miss the true starkness.

 

My point?

What may sound like the rustle of some dead leaves on the ground may actually be the sound of some starkness we cannot even imagine.

 

By the way … what differentiates humans from other species isn’t opposable thumbs or the size of our brains … but rather compassion and an interest in humans – interest as in doing better, being better and jut … well … a better life <and helping people be better if they are not>.

 

While, of course, we want it to be better for ourselves we don’t want it to suck for others. And we certainly don’t want anyone to have such a stark existence that their Life retains no color or, worse, no hope.

 

The difficulty in fulfilling this inner innate characteristic is the outer irate characteristic of Life. It is always angrily demanding you to focus on it … and not the other humans occupying Life.

 

Look.

 

I am not suggesting running around listening to everyone’s whispers looking to save everyone.

 

I would suggest that the two quotes I used reminded me that saving a human … life whispers listen closelyjust one … can sometimes be enough.

 

Just listen closely.

 

Humans can fall to pieces so quietly. And no human, even someone we really do not like much, deserves to have such a stark existence that … well … they can only stare blankly at a Life falling apart.

 

the randomness of thinking & thoughts

August 31st, 2017

context make things better young

 

Well.

 

Be prepared. I almost always open with a quote but today I open with a sentence … a 198 word sentence written by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr <father of US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.>:

 

—————————

 

 

Many times, when I have got upon the cars, expecting to be magnetized into an hour or two of blissful reverie, my thoughts shaken up by the vibrations into all sorts of new and pleasing patterns, arranging themselves in curves and nodal points, like the grains of sand in Chladni’s famous experiment,—fresh ideas coming up to the surface, as the kernels do when a measure of corn is jolted in a farmer’s wagon,—all this without volition, the mechanical impulse alone keeping the thoughts in motion, as the mere act of carrying certain watches in the pocket keeps them wound up,—many times, I say, just as my brain was beginning to creep and hum with this delicious locomotive intoxication, some dear detestable friend, cordial, intelligent, social, radiant, has come up and sat down by me and opened a conversation which has broken my day-dream, unharnessed the flying horses that were whirling along my fancies and hitched on the old weary omnibus-team of every-day associations, fatigued my hearing and attention, exhausted my voice, and milked the breasts of my thought dry during the hour when they should have been filling themselves full of fresh juices.

 

——————————–

 

 

So.

 

vision-intentions-attitude-bigger-betterWhen I read this sentence <read it several times in fact> I thought of “filling up” and “emptying out.”

 

Huh?

 

Oliver Sr. was no dumb shit. His brain was filled with more “kernels of knowledge sand” than most of us will ever be filled with. And, yet, he outlines how the knowledge works best when emptied of structured thinking and any specific destination but rather when “without volition” new thoughts are unharnessed by old learning rearranged.

 

Couple lessons in that:

 

  • New thinking is almost always simply a new way of looking at something everybody already knows.

 

  • In an age of instant gratification, smartphone access to any answer you would ever want and a belief that the fastest answer is the best answer it is good to remember that thinking is like baking. You have ingredients and you need to properly bake them to arrive at something special.

 

 

This isn’t to suggest that there is no hurry but rather you use the allotted time in the best possible way.

 

I worry more about the latter than I do the former in today’s world.

 

I worry about it because thinking is more often like what someone referred to Emerson’s writing as “a chaos full of shooting-stars, a jumble of creative forces.”

 

That is thinking.

 

Thinking doesn’t pretend to follow rules, enact some methodology or even use dream window of opportunity imaginethe words it is ‘supposed to use.’

 

—–

unharnessed the flying horses that were whirling along

 

my thoughts shaken up by the vibrations into all sorts of new and pleasing patterns, arranging themselves in curves and nodal points, like the grains of sand

 

fresh ideas coming up to the surface, as the kernels do when a measure of corn is jolted in a farmer’s wagon

—-

 

And more often than not, in an attempt to be more efficient in a time constrained world, we try and micro-structure our thinking.

 

It seems like as the world became more enlightened by mass media, structured education systems and “college for all” we have become … well … more sensible in our thinking.

 

Which brings me back to my opening sentence.

 

It breaks all the rules of not only how to write but how to think.

 

And, yet, it captures the essence of thinking … it certainly captures the magic of thinking … and, unfortunately to the thinking methodology Nazis, it certainly captures the practicality of freedom in thinking.

 

thinking lazy capacityOur world today is strewn with catchy incorrect memes, rewritten history, faulty logic and misleading statistics all offered to us out of context.

 

The internet, while offering us a boundless offering of truth & facts, has only encouraged sloppy, lazy thinking.

 

It should be enlightening us but, far too often; it actually encourages some fairly absurd unenlightened thinking.

 

Thinking, and I mean real thinking, can cure this unenlightened cancer. The cancer is not social media or this absurd love of brevity … it is us and our thinking.

 

In thoughtful moments I tend to believe people know this. They know social media and smartphones and the internet is not the problem … it is us. Yeah. All those things make us susceptible to these wacky conspiracy theories, false statistics and alternative facts but they do not live unless we breathe life into them.

 

Look.

 

I do worry about thinking on occasion. Shit. I have even written about how I cried about thinking in today’s world.

 

I have a number of friends who send me memes and out of context quotes to make a point and ask me my view.

 

I probably send more time fact correct and making people aware of truth than I do sharing my own opinion. That worries me. in fact this is a direct quote from me:

nobody gives a family guy

======

 

But here is what really worries me.

 

If you, not a dumb guy by any stretch of the imagination, can truly believe even 75% of what you shared with me then what does the everyday schmuck believe?

 

That is what worries me.

 

=========

 

Thinking does take time and some space and … well … even some work <even if that work is to find empty space and not working>.

 

And, even then, the problem is that you can search the internet far and wide without finding a clear repudiation of some falsely stated, good sounding piece of untrue crap.

 

In fact.

 

If you do spend some time researching something you will more likely find a massive gap between public belief and expert knowledge.

 

There is often such a delusional gap between reality and “belief” it often seems absurd … and absurdly difficult to bridge the gap.

 

We need more thinking today than ever before. And, sadly, we need more thinking on simpler things than ever before.

 

Oliver Sr. was thinking on big things and big thoughts. And we need people like that.

 

What worries me is that in today’s world we need more people doing more thinking on the kernels of corn, the grains of sand and the horses themselves.

 

 

unicorn and ally

I worry about that because if we don’t have more people doing that kind of thinking all we will end up doing is rearranging unfortunately misguided untrue kernels of corn, fake grains of sand and unicorns not horses.

 

I imagine my real point today is that effective thinking is dependent upon tow things:

 

  • insuring we have lots of “true grains” of sand in our heads <not alternative facts or falsehoods>

 

  • insuring we have some time to properly jostle the kernels of corn <or grains of sand if you don’t want me to mix my metaphors> to rearrange them in new configurations

 

I don’t believe the world, society or any business wants us rearranging lies, fake and unicorns in order to form a better union.

be-better-exponentially

 

you do not get credit for what you are supposed to do

August 28th, 2017

 

work doing the best you can not enough

===

 

 

“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.”

 

——

Henry Kissinger

 

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

 

“When you do things right, people won’t be sure that you have done anything at all.”

 

God (in Futurama)

 

===

 

Well.

 

 

Think what you want and say what you want to say about Kissinger … but the unseen lifeopening quote is awesome <although, geologically speaking, it may not be truly accurate>.

 

In our quest for recognition as a leader many business people, and leaders in general, seemingly get shoved <on seemingly a daily basis> into some absurd universe where everyone judges you <mostly on some absurd views of ‘being noticed is what matters’ or ‘shine bright like a diamond‘>. I say that because this means thinking of yourself as a piece of coal seems … well … quite underwhelming and quite ‘unleaderly’ <I made that word up>.

 

Uhm.

 

But.

 

One of the most frustrating things you learn early on in a management career path is that you do not get credit for what you are expected to do.

 

And maybe what makes this most frustrating is that this lesson applies to a crisis as well as the most mundane everyday grind responsibilities.

 

But.

 

The thing is as you gain more and more responsibility you learn that this is actually a good thing.

 

People like reliability.

 

People like consistency.

 

People like a foundation of quiet competent leadership.

 

People like you doing what you are supposed to do <with little fanfare>.

leadership confidence credit insecure Trump

 

 

This is a lesson learned early on in a management career … and you can tell the leaders who <a> did not learn it or <b> saw the lesson but lack self-confidence … because they … well … ignore the lesson and exhibit ongoing aggravating self promotion <even on the things they are expected to do>.

 

That said.

 

This doesn’t mean you aren’t tempted to take amount or two to point out in some fairly loud messaging that you want some credit for what you are doing.

 

This is the ‘dance.’ The management & leader “credit dance.’ I call it a dance because every good leader knows they have to do some self-public relations and, yet, they don’t want to be seen as doing any overt self-public relations.

 

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

 

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

 

—–

Winston Churchill

=======

 

Being a great leader is all about doing your job and doing the right things at the right time … and <I imagine> figuring out how to actually tell people that you did the right things at the right time. This means not being seen a as blowing your own horn or being some narcissistic attention seeking, credit seeking asshat but rather one who understands it really isn’t about gaining credit or accolades but rather reassuring people that the right things, the good things, just get done under your watch.

 

I would note that reassurance is a powerful tool.

 

It is powerful because doing things right isn’t about small … nor large … but if you do it right … really right … people will not really be sure that you’ve done anything at all and, yet, feel reassured that you are there.

 

Now.

 

In today’s bombastic world it can actually become a bad thing if no one notices. Why? <insert a ‘huh?!?’ here> because someone else at the exact same time is telling everyone what they did … and yes … unfortunately … often the squeaky wheel does get the grease.

 

Aw heck.

 

The truth is that the value is never in the credit. And leaders know that. And we everyday schmucks need to remind ourselves of that more often.

 

—-

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

————

 

Leaders know that the little things can matter and that just delivering upon good person what you do not what you saywhat you are supposed to do really matters <a lot>.

 

A subtle touch can create the needed ripples. Doing what you are supposed to do insures the right ripples are always … well … rippling.

 

Good leaders know you can be the initiator, instigator or implementer … or even all of them … and it doesn’t really matter.

 

I would note that within the realm of doing what you are supposed to do about the only thing that can truly diminish ‘greatness of simple doing’ is not accepting responsibility – for the bad and the good and all that it takes to get to either place.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that what I just stated is ‘character’.

 

Leaders don’t lead by asking or telling people to follow it most often happens by doing the shit you are supposed to do really well.

I know. I know. that doesn’t sound “great” but greatness really cannot be achieved without it.

 

Oh.

This kind of suggests that greatness is a contradiction.

 

Let’s use Winston as an example.

Huge ego. MASSIVE ego. Charismatic speaker. Maybe one of the greatest orators of all time. Made some huge mistakes. HUGE mistakes.

 

But humble in his responsibility. He permitted  the people to get credit for success and strength and what needed to be done … all the while doing what he as supposed to be doing.

 

He was vocal, and sincere, on issues and the people of Great Britain getting credit.

All despite his ego.

 

Great leadership reflects a unique balance of ego and humility.

Ego to effectively lead and humility to be effectively followed.

 

I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere on the line between those two things.

 

I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere in between not getting credit for what they are supposed to do and actually being acknowledged for enabling greater greatness.

 

Well.

 

I know it isn’t popular to say this but most of the best things in Life, and leadership,  are found in the unspectacular:

 

  • The best people more often than not go unseen and unnoticed by the majority.

 

  • The best moments more often than not go unseen until looking back.

 

Just as perfection is most often found in the imperfections … spectacular is most often found in the unspectacular. And, yes, doing what you are supposed to do is unspectacular.

 

But I would argue the spectacular would never ever happen if the ‘supposed to do’ shit never happened.

 

In the end.

 

do what you said you would

Great leaders are often judged by what you don’t see them doing. This also means great leaders are often judged by what they feel comfortable remaining silent about … by what they don’t say about what they are supposed to do and supposed to be.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this is a little more difficult than it may appear. It is a little more difficult because a great leader does have to have some ego and some higher level of confidence and, therefore, some positive affirmation kind of helps to put some well needed oxygen back into the confidence balloon.

It takes a awhile to learn you don’t have to ask for oxygen or even try and fill it yourself … well … at least good leaders learn that … the bad, insecure ones never do.

 

 

the wasted microphone

August 23rd, 2017

speak out microphone find your voice

 

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

 

“We yearn for opportunities, we pray for opportunities and we seek for opportunities.

The good news is that we meet opportunities.

The bad news is that we miss the opportunities only to come to a later realization of missed opportunities.”

 

Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

 

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

 

Ok.

 

The list of things that Trump does from a leadership standpoint that aggravate me is a relatively long list.

 

But one thing he does should make every business person who has ever desired little patience for stupidity microphoneto be in a management and leadership position tear their hair out.

 

He wastes the microphone.

 

He squanders opportunity after opportunity in front of the microphone.

 

Here is what I mean.

 

Anyone in business who desires to lead knows their future resides in ideas. And an unheard idea is … well … no idea. The reality in business is that something unheard doesn’t really exist.

 

Therefore you do anything in your power to find an opportunity to share your idea, or ideas, through some microphone. And once you gain the microphone your nervousness is less about the microphone but more that you will squander the opportunity to present your ideas and encourage progress, of thought or in action, with regard to your ideas.

 

Sigh.

 

Trump squanders these opportunities.

He wastes his microphone moments.

 

 

He doesn’t share ideas.

 

why not today microphoneHe doesn’t try and sell you on some policy or ‘thoughts we should consider for the future.’

 

He doesn’t present any specifics with regard to what he would change and why <other than some vague ‘we need a wall for the safety of the country’>.

 

He doesn’t present a case on anything.

 

He doesn’t really ask anyone to believe in anything specific from which they would benefit.

 

In other words … he wastes the microphone opportunities to further ideas or encourage progress.

 

Sigh.

 

I would kill for one opportunity to present ideas to the size audiences he delivers his word salads to. Shit. Any sane business person would.

 

It is frickin’ maddening.

 

It is apparent that he has no ideas. He delivers scripted words as if they just don’t taste right in his mouth as he says them. He reads them, doesn’t really seem understand them and certainly hesitates to believe many of them.

 

In front of a microphone he is … well … a box checker.

 

He is given words to say and … well … he checks them off.

 

Off script he most likely has a list of topics, which comes across as extemporaneous type adlibbing, and checks them off <delivering against the boxes with as much storytelling, hyperbole and self-gratification as possible>.

 

None of those boxes, unfortunately, are ideas.

 

In business this is a sin.

 

Even at sales meetings or national full organization meetings where your road to success business graffitichallenge is to ‘inspire the troops’ you underpin the morale boosting and cheerleading with specific ideas and policies and programs so that people have some idea of what will make success … well … success.

 

You do not miss those opportunities. You do not because missed opportunities can wreak havoc through lack of direction, indecision and misapplied resources in un-directed energy.

 

We, in business, know that even an inspired audience will seek reasons to not do shit which is, uhm, actually seeking reasons to doing nothing.

 

“It’s not the right time. We have too much to do now.”

 

“Let’s wait until after the next meeting.”

 

“it sounds good but we need ‘x’ before we can do it.”

 

 

All business leaders know that any big decision rarely pleases everyone.

 

All business leaders know that your job is not a popularity contest.

 

All business leaders know that tough decisions, some unpopular decisions, need clear explanation to move forward.

 

All business leaders know that opportunities in front of the microphone are not to be wasted by NOT actively addressing these things when you have the podium.

 

All business leaders know you have to keep moving forward, therefore, using the microphone for anything other than moving the ball forward is wasting the opportunity.

 

That is why Trump can be so maddening to a business guy like me.

 

He has the microphone.

.......... Trump at the microphone .........

………. Trump at the microphone ………

He has the audience.

He wastes the opportunities.

 

I would kill for one of his opportunities and he squanders one after another on the indulgence or satisfaction of one’s own desires <self gratification>.  He doesn’t seem to understand the best way to receive all the accolades he seems to dearly desire is by sharing ideas. People love ideas … and remember who gave them the idea.

 

While this whole presidency is bizarrely bat shit crazy the fact Trump wastes his microphone opportunities on bullshit “us versus them” narrative and not ideas is just maddening.

Enlightened Conflict