Enlightened Conflict

impatience and choices

March 5th, 2013

“Impatience kills quickly.” –  Katerina Stoykova KlemerImpatient Bird

 

“Mental clarity ain’t for the faint of heart.”-  Katerina Stoykova Klemer

 

Well.

I believe we could all become more adept at making choices.  Because, if anything, we seem to have become worse at making thoughtful choices. Heck. Maybe even ANY choices.

Now.

I am all for, and a huge proponent of not dicking around <the technical term for ‘wasting time overthinking’> when a choice needs to be made.

But there is a difference between making speedy decisions and making a decision because speed is the main criteria.

Of course … this is festina lente.

Make haste slowly.

And it is becoming more important to think this way because the fear of choices … leading to making the most obvious or most popular or the most expedient <speediest> … is plaguing not only our personal lives but more importantly the business world.

Fortunately there are scientists at work trying to figure out why.

In the meantime Psychologist Barry Schwartz has put forward an interesting (and slightly disturbing) theory about choices and happiness.

 

“The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.” – Barry Schwartz

 

Mr. Schwartz calls it the paradox of choice.

It seems the more choices we have, the less likely we are to make a decision, which ultimately makes us unhappy.  Schwartz suggests that choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed and, ultimately, not happier but more dissatisfied.

Barry Schwartz studies the link between economics and psychology.

I found it interesting because he actually suggests <kind of> that having more options doesn’t increase our overall satisfaction <benefit + happiness>.

Here is his talk on Ted:

 

http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html

 

impatient patienceMaking choices … having the mental clarity to do so in a typically impatient world is made more difficult by the fact many of us begin by thinking of regret. Yup. The fear of choosing one thing before you even choose the other. All of this being tempered by the “now factor” <I need to make a choice now>.

I call this the internalization of opportunities/costs/loss.  Or maybe it is simply dwelling on the benefits of the next best options that have been forgone by a choice <losing something, albeit even speculatively, that you never had>.

Every choice has opportunity costs.

And since we live in a world of infinite possibilities, it’s so hard to figure out what to do, when, and where.

If you start thinking this way … well … you begin living in a world strewn with hypotheticals.

If I do A, then this will happen.impatient and irritating

But what if I do B?

Will I be happier?  Will I get back more? Will everyone around me be more satisfied?

Or what about C? That looks good.

But someone suggested D.

You get it. There are 26 letters in the alphabet and while most of us stop way before Z … even getting to D can be maddening.

It seems like the world is your oyster … everything is possible … but you don’t take advantage of any opportunities because you’re not sure of what’s best.

To make matters worse, more choices tend to raise our expectations: we think more choice = better quality.

Anyway.

I use scientific advice to suggest that there are some happy few people who look at each choice discreetly. More choices do not equal better quality to them. They do not need the ‘more’ they simply need the context. These people drive us crazy because they do not typically offer us choices <we may like ‘more’ but they offer ‘less’> but rather they offer us ‘the’ choice.

And it is often a good choice.

The best? Shit. Is there really a best? There are most often better choices than others … and they identify the better of the better.

This is typically where we end up screwing up the value of these people. Because we want ‘more choice’ and they want ‘right choice’ <and move along>.

We are impatient humans … yet we always want more … and we seem to always want it all in less time.

It is an ongoing daily struggle.

Let’s get personal first. Daily Life.

This is about how most of us are not good at assessing ROC <return on choice>  the return on whatever we have invested in making the choice as well as once the choice is made.

We suck at this.

There is the investment in developing the choices <and however many we need to feel like we have enough to assess … assuming that is a finite number>.

There is the investment in actually assessing the choices <better, betterest & best … assuming a best can be actually identified>.

There is the investment in the actual choice.

Oh.

And there is investment post-choice.  Yup. Even if we choose the rightest choice we either have angst over whether it was the best or we have angst hangover from the choice process.

Ok.

Let’s go business next.

I call this the paradox of organizational choice.

The end result is the same as Schwartz’s <too many choices creates diminished value>. But the path to the result is different <if not just as paradoxical>.

Here is that paradoxical business organization logic path.

Faster good choices are better.

Few good “choicers” <people who can do the first thought> available.

Many within organization believes they are good ‘choicers’  <and permitting them to make choices has a paradox effect of building their personal self-esteem as ‘good choicers’ while actually implementing less than optimal choices thereby encouraging poor choice making>.

Organizations, to be more efficient & effective, should drive choices <all> to the select few good ‘choicers’

Unselected majority ultimately grumpy <but organization actually benefits>.

Wow.

That is not only a paradox but a Gordian knot <or in layman’s terms … ‘playing Twister with your organization’>.

 

Look.

All I am suggesting is that some people are really good at making ‘impatient choices.’ They have that mental clarity that actually improves in impatient moments … and the maturity to slow down the moment and say ‘let’s not be so quick to make haste’ <and actually be right about it>.

But not everyone is like this.

And, in fact, they are a minority.

impatience clarityI imagine the optimal world would be to funnel all choices through this minority.

Imagine being the key word … because that is an imaginary world. We couldn’t do it.

If your life, or your business, has one or two … use them, preserve them, foster them … and trust them <you will go farther than you ever imagined>.

If you do not have the luxury of having one of them around <which by the way … is an entire article on how most of us suck at accepting someone is better at this than we are> you have to learn to manage impatience. Yeah. Easier said than done.

I imagine the point here is by acknowledging and accepting the issue gives you the opportunity to actually deal with the issue.

 

And in the end … organizational impatience leads to the permitting of poor choices <and a quicker death of a thousand cuts>.

Personal impatience in choice making probably just leads to general unhappiness <kind of a different thousand little cuts>.

Dealing with impatience … and balancing impatience & patience ? … well … it ain’t for the faint of heart.

integrity: the 99 or the 1?

April 12th, 2012

So.

I am fortunate enough to be part of TED (who I respect). And I have been involved in several discussion threads which are going to inspire some posts.

Lately I have been participating in a maddening discussion thread on “Do you think living by values and having integrity is a thing of the past?”

It’s mostly maddening because we sound old. Heck. The question sounds old.

I know every generation as they get older always thinks it was better “before.”

Another maddening part is what I call <as a generalization> the “1 perspective”.

In that the actions of 1% create a perception that they are bigger than they are <note: 1% is a generalization, possibly hyperbole, and absolutely not research-driven>.

By the way …  I do not believe values/integrity are a thing of the past. I also do not believe that there is a massive downward spiraling of values/integrity taking place. I also do not believe it is the end of the world as we know it <from a values & integrity standpoint … or any standpoint I may add>.

Anyway. All that said.

I am fairly sure I didn’t make many friends in this thread when I suggested integrity is about accountability and not words (or philosophical thoughts). I said something along these lines.

Ok. The original question specifically asks “are values & integrity of the past.” And this conversation is weaving its way through economics (capitalism/materialism destroys morals/values). Religion (a religious laissez faire attitude undermines traditional values). Generational (kids today are all about “me”). Anthropological (some Rappaille reptilian brain driving actions). A beautiful “ignorance is the enemy” thought (higher knowledge & understanding will develop integrity). Even some ‘crisis’ type thoughts (we have never been through anything like this before).

Here are just some random thoughts given all I have read.

All older people believe younger generations don’t have the same values they have (had). Every generation feels that way. They are correct. Integrity is integrity but each generation will implement it in a different voice.

But that’s not really the point.

Here is what I know (in my heart of hearts).

I could put 12 15 year olds from 15 different countries on a panel and show them a 5 minute video on a variety of corruption, inhumane actions, killing or some relatively despicable bullying-like activity from around the world and I will guarantee you that all will know what is wrong. And while they may not know the right words they will say it is some form of value lacking activity or lack of integrity. In other words they certainly know what “right” behavior is.  Inevitably they will ask of us, our generation, “don’t you recognize it is wrong?”

And then … “You do?”  Well. “Then why don’t you do something about it?”

Now. Make that panel 22 year olds and it will go exactly the same way with one additional question to our generation … “if you aren’t going to do anything about it get the hell out of the way so we can do something about it.”

Every ‘old’ generation thinks about what is lost.

Every new generation aims toward what is to be gained.

That is the beauty of generations.  Maddening at times but beautiful.

Now.

The only thing that has changed over time is transparency. Because of the internet we don’t have more social revolutions or social anything … we just have more transparency. No more or no less values or integrity.

But. The transparency dials up accountability and responsibility.

Because now that 1% (or so), who don’t exhibit the behavior or ‘integrity of actions’ that attitudinally we know is wrong, not only can’t get away with it but their transgressions get communicated over that megaphone called the internet, therefore, those responsible for stopping it are held more accountable than ever.

That means we are responsible for the actions of our peers. And our actions reflect upon what future generation’s think (maybe not what they actually do).

Think about that.

Accountability.

Isn’t it possible that our generation’s integrity will be judged by how we respond and lead toward ‘what is right’?”

Maybe before we wonder about whether it is something of the past (which I think we all know isn’t really true) we should be accountable for our present. And who is going to lead (because while it is absolutely about the individuals even ‘individuals’ need leaders)?

Yeah.

Well.

I now have a small group of passionately pro bruce TED fans.

And a bunch of grumpy old folk  who are anti-bruce.

And a bunch of really philosophical mumbo jumbo I had to delete because it made my head hurt.

The funny thing? (or sad I guess). I am an old folk.  Ok. Before someone jumps on that … let me say I am “of an older generation.” And I cannot believe I am in such a small minority.

Regardless.

I do feel a growing sense of responsibility toward the actions of my peers in my generation.

<hence the reason I write ad nausea about it>

Anyway.

One comment said ignorance is the enemy. Of course there are multiple levels to that comment. But most importantly to this topic we can’t use ignorance as an excuse anymore.

We see lack of integrity more than ever before – not because there is necessarily more of it just that what there is cannot be hidden as well as it may have been in the past.

We will be judged by what we do, or don’t do, with this transparency.

And we are accountable not only for our generation but also the message, and example, we set for future generations.

But here is the good news.

Young people know what is right. And if we do nothing they will just shove our butts out of the way and deal with it themselves.

I continue to believe we don’t have diminished values or integrity overall. Although I tend to believe some generations have a skewed perspective, or tainted perspectives, yet our youth is still good to go if we adults give them some direction.

And I do believe globally we are going through some issues <crisis?> that makes us question overall value & integrity. Some thoughts just because I have seen what people have been discussing:

-          Web. Just my opinion. The web is simply a facilitator. The web doesn’t create anything. People create. The web simply disseminates what people say and think. I could argue that the web hasn’t facilitated any crisis but rather has grinded us down into inaction through information overload. Regardless.  That is a different discussion. Let’s just say I don’t believe the web is degrading our values or integrity.

-          We have seen all of this before. These aren’t really unprecedented times. The web is new but the world had the same values discussions in the 1920’s (and there was a world wide depression). The world had the same values discussion in 1521 with Martin Luther. And all of these same values discussions went worldwide even without the web. Strauss & Howe have argued we are a historically generation cyclical civilization … doomed to make similar mistakes as generations cycle through and experiences change which affects our ability to solve the problems.

Which leads me to …

-          Crisis and facilitating change. A lot of smart people in TED wonder if we are destined to face a crisis if we don’t do ‘something.’ Well. this is a chicken or egg discussion. As a civilization, large populations of people, do we need a crisis to create change or do we facilitate the change to resolve a crisis (which inevitably will need to be resolved).

We people are pretty consistent. It typically takes a pretty big problem <crisis> before we step up to the plate and make the big changes in behavior needed to resolve it. And there is a cycle in that also.

People see crisis looming.

People talk.

Some people do.

There is a lot of angst <and gnashing of teeth>.

A larger group steps up and takes control and solves the crisis.

In the end? The world will not cease to exist. It just may cease to exist as we know it today.

And you know what? That’s okay. The majority of people will still value human life and choice and conduct themselves with integrity. A minority will always do the opposite.

Schumpeter called all this Creative Destruction.

All I know is this. There will be a crisis. There will be a solution. And life will go on <changed or not>.

Next.

The tough majority or minority discussion where values & integrity plays a role.

-          Economic inequality. Or Capitalism (or greed).

<note: I am not going to suggest socialism or even economic equality … just fairness>

Any time historically economic equality (or maybe better said … at least a realm of believability between the haves and have nots) has gone out of whack people have:

  1. Bitched, and
  2. Did something.

There are so many types of capitalism out there but suffice it to say I think unmanaged capitalism will always lead to inequality. Those who have … want to have more. And those who don’t have … want what they don’t have. That inevitably leads to crisis when it is clearly out of whack. And, once again, history has shown this again and again … on a country by country basis as well as globally.

What is going to happen (no … I do not have a crystal ball).

-          Leadership. Ah. Crisis leads to leadership. Inevitably we need someone (or a small group of people) to guide us through the crisis. And maybe that is where his whole values & integrity discussion circles back to. Can we find leaders who are pragmatic enough … with integrity we can hold onto … to guide us through to whatever the next phase is. And that is where I get jammed up. I don’t doubt that there are leaders out there with our best interests in mind … I struggle to see how they can fight their way through the ones who use “values” to forward their own agenda.

But. I have faith … and I have hope. I have the belief that someone who is a shitload smarter than I am who has the same good intentions that I have will step up to the plate and lead.

Anyway.

In the end … this whole thing really is about integrity.

(defintion): Integrity is a concept of consistency (lack of contradiction) of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes. In western ethics, integrity is regarded as the quality of having an intuitive sense of honesty and truthfulness in regard to the motivations for one’s actions. The word “integrity” stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character.

99%, by in large, do act with integrity.

That 1% just looks huge.

And, no, I do not think we’ve turned into a nation, or world, based on nothing but greed <or “what’s in it for me”>.

I do believe many of us have gone into a defensive mode … meaning “I need to protect my interests” but that is much much different than “what’s in it for me” mentality.

We may need to take a radically different approach.

But I tend to believe we just need a radically good leader.

The 99% will diminish the 1% if led correctly.

I am not absolving the 99% of doing something … for even in their own actions they can affect what will happen … and even where we end up going.
The road will be long and slow and will take the commitment of everyone not just leaders.

By the way … that last thought is a biggie.

There is a big danger in wanting too much, of asking too much, too fast. This is not in the immediate gratification category.

We often criticize our leaders for not doing enough or for not solving the problems.

We refuse to accept the complexity of the world and the somewhat limited power of leaders to have an immediate effect.

One of the biggest issues we need to face is the simplification of reality and believing that simple solutions will solve the problems.

Yes. Some things can be handled simply. But most are pretty compex issues that need to be untangled.

As one TED commenter said … “

“The reality is that this world is muddling along in the right direction. Of course if 7 billion people are willing to do the right thing it will go a lot faster.”

lightbulbs die people depart

March 22nd, 2012

“Light bulbs die, my sweet. I will depart.” – Mr. Magorium

I enjoy truly good movies in that they take metaphorical characters to the extremes to make a point. And I love it when they do so to make a point about life … and living life.

Mr. Margorium’s Wonder Emporium. It’s an odd movie.

But it is an odd delightful movie.

And metaphorically speaking they box you in with the characters …

- the cynical practical responsible ‘grown up’ (lovingly called Mutant) who has lost the joy of imagination (let’s call it the magic in life) …

- the child who represents the joy that can be found when you are open to life’s magic …

- the mystical adult (Magorium) who lives in an adult world with a decidedly un-adult view (and is slightly an outcast) …

- and … well … the hopeful future (Mahoney) … entering the adult world with the spark of magic within but has trouble seeing how that spark fits in an adult world (lets call her ‘hope eternal for that which is magical in life’). <I bet I use that phrase again some day>

Let me begin with the ‘hopeful future’ and the resistance Life has a habit of those maturing into adulthood. As Mr. Magorium suggests to Mahoney … “you have a sparkle” … something reflective of something bigger trying to get out.

His advice?

You have to live … “I have.” – Mr. Magorium

Short line. Big thought. And maybe the biggest tipping point decision one has to make moving from youth to adulthood. And it is a biggie of a decision.

Anyway.

Between these 4 characters you wander through pretty much every aspect you have in your own pea-like brain.

And while the movie is meant for kids it is also fun for adults … and it is thoughtful for adults.

This movie is a wonderful little film with Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman is Magorium who has decided it is time for him to leave this world and let Portman’s character run the shop <symbolic for youth to adulthood>. Magorium is awesome. He is a man with crazy eyebrows and a pet zebra and has owned his toy store for over 113 years. Obviously this isn’t an ordinary toy store (oh … is any really good toystore anywhere truly ordinary?). This is a magical toy store that has a temper tantrum when it hears the bad news Magorium is dying. The problem is that only Magorium knows that he’s dying. He’s not sick or weak, and he doesn’t foresee some violent or accidental death. He just knows <and his may be one of the best parts> because he once found the perfect pair of shoes and fell in love with them so entirely that he bought enough to last his whole life.

And now he is on his last pair.

Therefore … his life is over.

And with that … he states ‘light bulbs die … he is simply departing’.

What a wonderful thought.

He is departing ‘a whole life.’

Don’t we all wish we could end that way? And maybe there is a part of us who like the concept of departing rather than dying.

And maybe make us think a little, through this incredibly strange character, why is his life whole (that is pretty much what the movie is about … and showing how others can also live a whole life)?
The easy lessons (kind of). He does not judge but sees things with fresh and open eyes. He doesn’t condemn actions simply encourages to act & think differently.

He treats time as a gift of freedom to think and remember and understand that which was, that which is and is willing to recreate that which is … well … impossible … to transform time.

Its not just having an imagination … it is an attitude.

“you have to believe it to see it.”

<how awesome is that thought>

And when I heard that I went back into my files and pulled this out … “seeing-is-believing is a blind spot in man’s vision”- bucky fuller.

Boy. I agree with that. It is a failure of imagination if you solely believe something must be seen to be believed. Ok. Maybe not even a failure of imagination … something worse. It is almost a belief that nothing new, nothing seemingly impossible, is possible.

So. This sometimes silly movie makes you think about all of this is and about learning to … well … unlearn. To free yourself from all the things that you ‘know’ and the things which may keep you from undiscovered roads.

And that sometimes believing in something is more important than anything else. And asking you to remember that all things which happen to you endlessly beget new thoughts that could change your life (and it’s a never ending process).

And if you do that?

Well. life is magical.  It’s kind of like a magical … toy store … as it is.

And with that thought … you hear the best advice of all …

“Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.” – Mr. Magorium

Life is an occasion.

In the end that is what the movie makes you think about … the magic within you, within any of us … that we need to rise to … or lose it.

And that is the point for Molly Mahoney who also represents “hope eternal” for all adults (the metaphor).

“What Mahoney needed was the opportunity to prove to herself that she was something more than she believed.”

Silly movie with a non-silly lesson.

You need to believe in you. And, I guess, believe that you have some magic somewhere inside you.

It is a neat lesson.

And a lesson provided in a pretty magical way.

echoes in eternity

March 8th, 2012

“what we do in life will echo in eternity” – Maximus (in Gladiator)

Because I just used this quote with regard to myself, and project global generation, I thought I would complete the thought with a full post. I kind of wrote about this thought several years ago: http://brucemctague.com/moment-to-do-the-extraordinary

I called it ‘moment to do the extraordinary’ using a quote from Admiral Collingwood at Trafalgar. Regardless.

This is kind of a simple thought (with complex ramifications).

Our actions impact others.

Oh.

And they live on.

Sometimes for eternity. Surely not all will <whew. thank god> … but some will.

And ‘what we do’ isn’t just a reflection of who we are (although it certainly reflects upon your character and how you are judged) but this is bigger than a ‘me’ type thought.

This is a “more than me” type thought.

The kind of thought that makes us think about choices and what we elect to do … because … well .., what we do echoes in eternity.

In one short sentence Maximus suggests that the way we live in time affects our present … and determines our eternity.

He suggests what we do in the present will affect not who we are and what will happen but also our future … beyond death.

Ultimately he suggests that you … well … matter.

That your thoughts matter.

That your choices matter.

That your actions matter.

And not only within this moment. But in the moments which end up in eternity.

It IS a simple thought. Your life matters not just to you but to others.

So it is simple with complex ramifications. What you do is up to you, but your life matters to the degree that you choose it to matter. All this type of thinking translates into an awareness that Life means something…when you are aware of it in a conscious way (i.e., you pay attention to it).

But it is bigger than the ‘here & now’ life you are living … this quote suggests that this makes our decisions infinitely more important than just the here and now.

Anyway. In eight relatively little words he suggests a lot … and it may seem complex <or maybe I am just making it complex> but the meaning of life is actually quite simple in that it is about choice.

Life is a conscious choice … or series of choices … on your part in that you get to choose your present, future and eternity ‘you.’ No one else. Just you. Yup. Your life, its meaning, is up to you.

In the end I imagine this is all about realizing ‘a moment’ really can matter … if you want it to.

And while you are limited in what you can see <timewise> at any point you should, and most of us do, have a sense of eternity. In that there is life, and lives, after us. And in some way … sometimes small … sometimes big … we will echo within that Life.

Maximus is correct … what you do in life does indeed echo in eternity.

Simple as that.

dirty windows

March 5th, 2012

“And I do not assume that my experience is universal. It is simply mine, and I offer it to you as a window, dirty though that window may be.” – opticalnoise (a blogger)

Ah.

Sometimes young people say things with the type of panache you only expect from older people.

This young blogger wrote the quote and I liked it enough to use it.

Experiences are personal (unless there is enough similar critical mass to make it quasi-universal).

And in the business world I often find myself debating with people when they offer their experience as …. well … not dirty but rather … well … universal (and that is an issue).

Two thoughts.

-          Research of one is not research.

-          The odds that the person relating the experience (in business management) actually reflects mainstream American (or any mainstream consumer) is so low that even Las Vegas wouldn’t take them odds.

Bottom line? Realize that your experience is most likely not universal (particularly when discussing business … but beware on personal advice also).

This may seem like a no brainer, but I can’t tell you how often this basic rule is ignored. I think a large part of it is that is because people personalize their experience (or their wife/husband’s) that they cannot fathom that no one else feels exactly the same way.

Anyway.

All that said I am now going to share my dirty window experience list (although I actually stole the thought from a blogger named arina and put my own dirt on some different windows).

I created the list because I almost have it all figured out (yeah … not so much). Thinking back from my personal experiences I believe there are a few universal experiences (let’s call them windows we all peer through on occasion just for the sake of this post) that seemingly work without fail throughout life:

-          The Karma window

Karma is this random thing floating out there in the ether that somehow impacts cause & effect on all of us. Simplistically … for every action there is a reaction. Yeah. Every action <and thought just in case you have forgotten>. It is amazing to me how often we forget that our actions always, yes, always, have repercussions.

Whatever force we exert … things we send into the ether around us in the form of our thoughts, feelings and actions … comes back to us in kind (if not sometimes multiplied). There are no exceptions and you get no free passes. Oh. Please note I included thoughts & feelings in the “cause” column. That is truly the Karma aspect. Somehow … someway … thoughts & feelings enter into the ether as some type of tangible force (or ’cause’) that often creates a nuclear-sized effect. Never forget that.

-              The Life window

This may actually be a different pane of glass in the Karma window. We are all connected by invisible glass in one window … called the Life window. When we hurt someone or when we pass judgment on someone … we are affected as well. Sorry. Life, for some reason, just likes to keep everything balanced.

What that means is you are probably better off (or more likely to be happy) if you attach what you care about (and Life objectives) with good intentions for other people. If you look at it selfishly, when your objectives benefit other people there is less difficulty in achieving them. Oh. And others will assist you. If you don’t look at it selfishly … well … just assume more good shit will happen in your life if you do good shit (and think good shit about other people).

-          The Creation window

Everyone is creative and every one has unlimited creative potential. It is just how you define creation. Create art. Create financial success. Create the most awesome balance sheet your company has ever had. Create a kid that will be the next president. Everyone one of us has the potential to create some type of greatness. You just have to make sure the window is open and the blinds are open. Oh. And make sure you know that you actually have that window.

-          The Neutrality window

Life is neutral. It does not play favorites. This is probably a derivative of the balance thing. In the absence of good & evil Life probably wouldn’t choose sides but rather stay in bed taking a nap. Life does not decide someone is more important or less significant. Life never randomly punishes.  Life never randomly rewards. Nothing is random but pretty much (with some notable exceptions) everything is earned. Everyone is given an opportunity to learn something (which ultimately is the key opportunity for personal success). Everyone pretty much has a chance in Life (albeit it is tougher for some people than others).

-          The Action window

This is the window right next to the neutrality window. In the absence of individual action Life will do its own things in its own time. Life does not just happen to us. It requires our active participation. Remember. Life is neutral. If you are inactive … Life is inactive <with you>. It will not take interest in you until you take interest in it. It is too busy paying attention to people paying attention to it.

-          The You cannot Ignore ‘What is’ window

“What is” will evolve into “what will be” when ignored. That I guarantee. In other words … you will continue to receive what Life gives you even if you refuse to accept it. If we ignore our problems, they will only get bigger and more urgent. If we ignore opportunities, they will cease to exist. If we refuse to learn lessons from the past, larger, more serious, lessons will be given to us. If we obsessively pursue a goal or idea that is not right for us, it will elude us until we accept that we can live without it.

-          The Stagnancy window

This one is the opposite side of the Action window pane. And this one is a warning. Stagnancy is addictive. What I mean by this is, if the view from your window is awesome, you can find yourself sitting there doing nothing but enjoying it. So. This I guarantee … it may be a beautiful view today but if you don’t move … and just stay there … it will lose its appeal. Stagnancy is the death of inner growth and happiness (or seeing beauty in life). When you do not use skills you lose them. Similar, without continuing effort in personal growth, you are doomed to fall back as Life continues moving. What happens then? Obsolescence.  Life, and people, and thoughts, and whatever …. just pass you by.

-          The Impatient window

Impatience is sneaky in life. Sometimes it can disguise itself as ambition or ‘goals’ or things like that. Because the allure, and desire, of success is something we all desire. And we may like the idea of instant gratification or easy success or short cuts … but deep down all of us know that things of value have to be earned. And that is where impatience rears its ugly head. You are peddling as hard as you can toward success … but as look through this window you are impatient, and it is challenging, because you want it NOW … but this window is about patiently waiting for the reward to come in its own time. Ok. This doesn’t mean you should be scared to do things nor shouldn’t be ambitious … this is more about having some common sense. Good things typically don’t come easy. If it were all that easy anyone could do it. Maybe learn to be patiently impatient for success.

-          The Reality-based Optimism window

Here is a reality <2 of them actually>. Negativity begets negativity. If you think negatively I can guarantee you will never attain happiness. Uh oh. But. If you always think optimistically I can guarantee you will always be disappointed (sorry about that).

So can you ever be happy? Yup. By being realistic, but being optimistic. A truth in this window? Good things DO happen to good people. Well.  Let me be specific … that is ‘good people who exhibit some reality-based goodness’. By the way … for anyone who wants to debate the view from this window …. research (published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)  predicted in simulated models that generosity/trust pays. Mathematically they found it pays to be trusting in the long run even though you will sometimes be cheated (so that is how Santa can figure out how to assess naughty or nice).

-          The Trade-off window

For everything you gain you have to give up something else. A simple complex one.

And the last.

-          The Desire window

This window sometimes has a weird filter over it that makes things not look as they really are. What I mean by that is not everything we go after is what we truly want. Sometimes we only think we know what we want … and sometimes we don’t know what we want until we get it. Maddening? You bet. But everyone has this window. Unfortunately this window is most typically found in the main room so you look through it a lot. This window is also, individually, often the dirtiest. You will be tempted to go to other people’s houses and look thru their “desire window” and hope for some guidance. Sorry. No can do. Your Desire window is your Desire window.  I kind of think they are like snowflakes … no 2 the same. You will probably not have a more aggravating window in your home. Too bad. Every home has one.

So.

There you go. I will admit though … while I made my personal experiences universal … I do look through other people’s dirty windows as often as I can. Like the opening quote said … they offer a view … regardless of how dirty the view may be.

iacta alea est

February 29th, 2012

“the die is cast” (iacta alea est) – Julius Caesar

die is cast by HotWheeler deviantart

I was tempted to call this ‘now or never part 2.”

For this is all about post choice/decision.

And the fact there is no turning back.

The fact that “we have made our choice … and the die is cast.”

<die as in dice>

Julius Caesar said this as he crossed the Rubicon, defying the Roman Senate, and starting civil war.

Caesar was stating that he was making an irrevocable decision.

And, as dice is a game of chance, he will have to play them as they are cast.

I think more people should think this way with regard to choices. Too often I feel people think a choice is simply but of a moment. And the next moment they can make another choice.

And that may be the case … sometimes … but as noted in ‘now or never’ … not all the time.

Some choices are truly forks in the road where you cannot go back and start over.

And I believe most of us would be better off if we thought more of our choices should be thought of this way. As ‘the die have been cast.’

But, hey, that’s me.

Ok.

One more thing.

Let me take a minute to discuss an “irrevocable decision.”

“It is always thus, impelled by a state of mind which is destined not to last, that we make our irrevocable decisions.” - In Search of Lost Time, Volume II: Within a Budding Grove

Now or never is a state of mind which is but a window in time. It is there … and gone. And it is within those windows in which irrevocable decisions are made.

To use the quote … it is within this window you throw the dice.

Now.

“Irrevocable” is a lot like “forever” or maybe “never.” I mean that big, all encompassing, fraught with peril, audacious-type thoughts are captured in those little words.

And that is why many people do nothing in now or never moments. You just hold the dice.

Because it is scary to make an irrevocable decision.

It is kind of scary to know you will have thrown the dice … and will never get to throw them again. And have to play them as they lay. Regardless how they lay.

Yup. That the die have been cast.

But know this.

If you do nothing when it is now or never … Life will cast the die.

And Life will make the irrevocable decision.

Personally?

I would rather cast my own dice.

Nothing against Life but <I am sure he is a great guy or gal> … but I do not know it well enough to trust it with my fate.

waiting versus living

February 22nd, 2012

Mr. Magorium: “37 seconds.”

Molly Mahoney: “Great. Well done. Now we wait.”

Mr. Magorium: “No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.”

- Mr. Magorium’s Wonder emporium

(here is the clip just so you can see the wacky Mr. Magorium: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9XcG7e9a4E )

I loved this.

37 seconds … well used … is a lifetime.

We breathe.

We pulse.

We regenerate.

Our hearts beat.

Our minds create.

Our souls ingest.

It makes you think of … “oh, I only wish I had time to … bla bla blaaaa …”

Or.

“I wish i had more time.” (followed by a wha wha waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa … that’s whining in case you need a definition)

Look. Here’s the deal.

Everyone has the same amount of time.

We all get 24 hours in a day. We all get 365 days every year (except one and it is really only one month anyway).

How we choose to spend that time is about prioritizing. Figuring out what is most important to us <and, yeah, I said ‘us’ and not someone else and responsibilities and stuff like that>

In fact … how you spend the time is kind of irrelevant … it’s just the fact that you actually have a choice with what you do with your time.

We make choices.

We live with the consequences.

Use your time for something useful (or don’t).

That’s up to you.

But, please, please don’t tell people you don’t have enough time.

37 seconds … when well used … is a lifetime.

prevent or encourage

November 14th, 2011

“He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it.”

– Seneca (a 1st century roman philosopher)

I like this quote because of its simplicity.

No gray area.

Black & white.

Do something to correct a wrong or you are inherently encouraging wrongness.

This is more than moral or ethical responsibility.

This is more about actions speaking louder than words.

Now.

Just because it is simple doesn’t mean it is always easy (although one would imagine it should be simple all the time).

I imagine people could look at his and send me a laundry list of situations in which Seneca “overlooked” and it is not as simple as he states.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … sorry folks.

It’s this simple.

And Seneca must have been a smart man because he has another quote to address those who suggest t is not that simple.

“The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.”

-          Seneca

Sometimes doing the right thing creates adversity.

And sometimes you have to be brave just to do the right thing.

And sometimes you have to prevent wrong when you see it regardless of the situation simply because if you do not do anything … you encourage it to happen again.

—– about the picture:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) launched this tag line in 2003. It has licensed its use for use in public awareness campaigns about security.

doing the right thing

November 1st, 2011

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain

So.

This one has been stewing in my pea-like brain for awhile.

Every once in awhile you have a conversation with someone that makes you think … because it kind of rocks you to your core of being.

I had one of those.

I had dinner with an old friend. This is a friend who may qualify as one of the nicest guys on the entire planet … and a guy who has seemingly lost faith in human race’s ability to do the right thing.

Sound harsh?

Well.  It sounded tough sitting there too.

And it made me not only think about him, and what got him started down this path and the ultimate place he current resides mentally, but it also made me think about us … as people.

I will begin with the crux of the discussion.

He began with “Why don’t people do the right thing when they obviously know what the right thing to do is?”

And he said it with a cynicism and disdain in talking about why people don’t do the right thing (even when it is so obvious it is impossible not to know).

This was a 3 pitchers of beer type of ‘how do I wrap my head around that question and why is it true?”

So.

The issue seems simple at its foundation.

Simple … because knowing what’s “right” isn’t enough.  People can easily discern the difference between right and wrong. We all really know the right thing to do.

Well.

Lets say 99.9% of people do.

And I say this upfront because I believe a lot of people get caught up focusing on the wrong things when thinking about this issue (because a BOATLOAD of people are thinking about this issue).

It’s in our actions that it all seems to start falling apart.

“I know I shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

Some people are so far gone that this thought is fleeting prior to taking action. But, thankfully, for most people this is a thoughtful – or thoughtful enough that it is recognizable mentally – process.

Therefore I want to focus on what happens between what we know we should do and what we actually do.

Whew.

Let me suggest several things about not doing the right thing:

  1. We are not born wanting to do the wrong thing. In fact as children we see the best in everyone. We have hope that good is the majority and is the strongest and will win out over “those who seek to do wrong.” So something goes wrong over time (ok. So something happens over time that skews that perspective).
  2. Changed perspective doesn’t happen overnight. Sure.  Some ‘big thing’ can happen that swings you 180degrees in terms of cynicism and self focus.  But more likely we begin to see questions of “do they have good intentions” creep in when assessing what actions we SHOULD take and slowly cynicism overcomes ‘light with dark’.
  3. It is now a cultural/generation issue (so I am saying it is a BIG issue). It appears we are shifting as people who used to believe ‘innocent until proven guilty’ to a culture of ‘guilty until proven innocent’. That, my friends, is a big thing.  A really big thing. And, frankly, I worry it will affect children’s attitudes as they grow up. Regardless. We are becoming a people focused on“ I have to focus on what’s right for me because if I don’t I am gonna get screwed.”

And that means while we often referred to the Millennials as the “me generation” we should be altering that to say we are ALL now in the “me generation.”

Ok.

Let’s be clear. I am NOT writing about social responsibility.  This is about individual responsibility.

This is about ‘me’ making a decision (with an eye on how it impacts the overarching ‘we’).

Look.

The gap between understanding what is right and the action is manageable – society pressure withstanding. Even though you may know something is wrong and you have a desire to want to do it you, an empowered individual, need to figure out how to leave it, this ‘me-focused-desire-thing’ in your head’s fantasyland.

Unfortunately. We are human. And the outside world affects how we think and how we behave.

I am not going to suggest this is a moral or ethical discussion (although much of it is).

I am going to suggest that the true battle today on this “do the right thing” war is more about the individual <and what is inside the individual>.

And I do so to make a point about the individualism versus collectivism construct battle (an “I versus a “we” moral construct … or ‘what is right for me’ versus ‘what is right for the ‘we’ battle).

Because the battle is, and should be, fought individually.

This is about pessimism winning out over positive.

Or even cynicism overcoming optimism.

And all these things become important because a thought becomes a belief. And a belief becomes an action. And, ultimately, an action becomes our behavior <re-occurring actions>.

All of these words I am using should be suggesting that there’s more to this issue than a simple question of right or wrong.

There are many things wrapped up in “why aren’t people doing the right thing more often.”

 

“I just try to do the right thing at the right time.  They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Yeah.

This is about winning and losing.

Winning and losing in life. Not a game.

Plato and Socrates believed that moral virtue was the most valuable thing.

Essentially, they believed “virtue is its own reward.” The key to this lies in the notion that “virtue is the health of the soul.” Therefore doing the right thing doesn’t translate into anything tangible (ignore the whole concept of “good things happen to good people”) but rather something of a higher order self-benefit.

Uh oh.

Trouble.

Because the intangible ‘health of soul’ doesn’t mean shit when you start thinking about tangibles when we begin to view the rest of the world as “out to get me.” And we begin cocooning our decisions and center everything around “what’s in it for me” (or “I have to look out for me because no one else will’).

Yes.

I do understand that all of us have an interest in adding to our happiness, whether that is some pleasure of the moment, success in a job, or whatever it takes.

If what is right and what is in our own interest coincide, we have no problem doing the right thing. Or maybe we’re willing to do the right thing (and avoid some guilt) only if it’s a little inconveniently “not the right thing for me.”

But. It is when what is right and what makes us happy are opposites (or we feel significant risk to our benefit and happiness) when we reach a real dilemma (problem).

I am not naïve. I know that at times like this, when strong desires pull us in opposite directions, it’s hard to do the ethical ‘right’ thing <for someone else>.

And when we do resist the temptation of doing something other than the right thing we usually want to feel that somehow we’re going to get something for it. That may not be very high-minded, but most of us, when confronted with moral dilemmas, really want to ask: “What’s in it for me if I do what’s right?”

It doesn’t have to be fame and fortune, it may just be a good feeling about who we are, or it can be pain avoidance (I didn’t get screwed or yelled at or whatever). But most of us want a good positive response reason to be good.

Enough already.

Back to the core issue. Doing the right thing.

Why should we do the right thing?

A simple question. The answer, although it may seem simple, is probably the most difficult task in ethics. Legal systems and religious traditions seemingly have an easy time giving us the answer.

“We should do what’s right in order to avoid punishment for doing wrong–either in this life or the next.”

But real every day life just isn’t that simple (see the word “legal” and “religious” I used in the sentence prior and the nuances and debatable aspects of both make your head spin).

All of this is very hard to do.

Yet. It does boil down to something really simple in concept.

This all seems to boil down to “step up and do the right thing…” or “just do the right thing…”

Sounds easy.

But, once again, even that isn’t simple. Doing the right thing isn’t that easy. In fact, it’s pretty near impossible some of the time.

Someone online outlined a couple problems as examples:

1. Doing the right thing is hard work and horribly painful. – It hurts. Doing the right thing is always harder than doing the wrong thing. That’s why it’s so easy to not do the right thing. You naturally just slip into the behaviors that hurt you the least. When you have to make hard, painful decisions that affect you and the people that you love, doing the right things suddenly looks like the wrong thing.

2. Doing the right thing isn’t always clear. — What is right today might look horribly selfish and self-centered a year from now when you look back. Isn’t it better to have that introspective discussion now rather than a year from now? And even when you look at the choices in front of you with an open mind there are always a few options that you probably haven’t considered. You don’t know everything. Choosing “good” might look bad if a “better” or “best” were clear.

In every aspect you can think of … well … it is difficult to do the right thing <and be sure it is the right thing>.

Any aspect.

Figuratively, emotionally, financially and even physically.

But. Here is the deal (as I get close to finishing this rant)

In general, being successful has always been about doing the hard things.

So doing the right thing falls squarely into this category.

Yeah.

Once again. I get it. It shouldn’t be hard. And we shouldn’t have to feel pain (financially, emotionally, whatever) if we do the right thing.

But.

The only way you can truly get a grip on this ‘do the right thing’ issue is to wrap your head around the fact we are all in the hope business.

All of us.

Every day.

Even seemingly inconsequential type actions.

We all are dealers of hope. Because if we don’t do the right thing then we give no one ‘hope’ it can be better or get better.

And if we do not look at it that way then it becomes a doom loop of ‘doing the wrong things.’  How to break the loop?

Well shit.  Do the right thing.

Why? You have forgotten something. Cynicism and the belief you are gonna get screwed if you do the right thing has made you forget you can make a difference.  And even if the difference is one person … or one event … that one person maybe begets another person … and another … and then, well, you are starting to make a difference.

But someone has to be the first.

Because if we don’t step up and start doing the right things I fear in the end we will not be able to measure our lives in anything but material and tangible things.

In “here is what I have and did” rather than “did I do the right thing” measurement.

The first is great from an individual standpoint.

The second is better because it shows up on your gravestone and people stop and read it and they smile and they feel better.

It impacts others not just ‘self’ (although it does affect self in a very meaningful way)

In religious circles they state this as “setting aside pride, lust, materialism and act based upon love, compassion and self sacrifice.”

So.

As I stated earlier in this little diatribe of mine … this is NOT about social responsibility.  This is about individual responsibility.

This is about ‘me’ making a decision (with an eye on how it impacts the overarching ‘we’).

That’s what it takes to be a hero, a little gem of innocence inside you that makes you want to believe that there still exists a right and wrong and that decency will somehow triumph in the end.  – Lisa Hand

My friend’s discomforting discussion reminds me we all need to step up and be a little bit of a hero. On a day to day basis.  And not for the sake of being called an actual hero but for the sake of … well … what is right.

And the impact you can have on one person … and in this case a friend. Someone who could easily have been called the nicest guy in the world and life has eroded to a state of cynicism. Because someone didn’t step up … and do the right thing. So that decency triumphs.

All that said.

And if you agree.

Then just do the right thing when you have the opportunity.

“Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.”

Judy Garland, to her daughter, Liza Minelli

Enlightened Conflict