Enlightened Conflict

we happy few

December 29th, 2013

“From this day to the ending of the world,few people understand

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother …” - Shakespeare’s Henry V

 

 

So.

‘We happy few.’

 

In about 1801 aboard some ship it seems Admiral Horatio Nelson, quoting his favorite Shakespeare play, toasted a small group of his best friends and the leading captains/admirals in the Royal Navy as “we happy few.”

 

Oh.

Let us remember that this small group helped a small island’s navy kick the crap out of every nation in the world.

 

That said.

When I began thinking about this and decided to write … it was focused solely on business. And it will remain so, however, as always … I seem to find that personal Life mirrors business life in many ways. Particularly if you define your Life <or let’s say that your Life is often defined by> what you do professionally.

 

Regardless.

I think we are all seeking our own “happy few.” People we can surround ourselves with that don’t comfort us … they just make us better.

 

I thought of this because I recently saw someone I worked with after almost 15 years. I had worked well with her. And after almost 15 years apart … we still worked well together. Ok. Not just well … but really well.

 

We were still part of ‘we happy few.’

 

This ‘happy few.’

The group in which we can not only be ourselves … but actually prosper.

These can be friends, coworkers or whomever.

Some symbiotic relationship seems to exist … even within some hierarchical relationship … that makes things better.

And maybe more importantly … make you better.

 

This ‘happy few’.

 

The people you go to battle with in life or in business.

The people who know what you are thinking before you even think it … and even when they don’t … when you surprise them … they don’t reject … but rather … well … think. Not out of respect but rather because they assume there has to be some thread of usefulness pragmatism or hope that can be used.

 

I have written several times about how great businesses are often somewhat based in some fashion of serendipity … having the right people at the right place at exactly the right time. < http://brucemctague.com/right-people-right-place-right-time >

 

I still am a firm believer in that.

 

Maybe even more so now.

 

Because after 15 years I have been reminded that in the seamless inner workings of a great business relationship of ‘we happy few’ … I know in my heart of hearts … if I could gather ‘we happy few’ in one place … at the right time … we would kick ass. And, in my case, having worked in a number of places … I believe I could gather the happy few from all places … put them together … and while they would all laugh at the common ‘me things’ which make me … well … me … in the end … the ‘we happy few’ would work well together as a ‘we.’

 

This happy few.

 

The few are defined by time … as well as a natural connection.

Time teaches the nuances. The timing of actions tied to intent. The ability to ‘see’ inside what is being thought in all dimensions … without all the explanation. And the comfort to stop and ask and explore and debate the unsaid before it is even said.

 

And then the natural connection.

In we happy few the leaps of logic are no longer leaps but simply common sense.

There is a tendency to not really imagine what is possible … because the happy few just see through some personal filter of what is possible.few thinking and feeling

There is no gap between thinking and feeling. It’s all connected among the happy few.  Discovery is messy but within a small interconnected group there always appears some form of tidiness.

 

What I just described is a natural thing … maybe honed by time … but the metal upon which is placed on the whetstone of time is already there.

 

Now <part 1>.

I am not suggesting the sea is always smooth. Nor am I suggesting the sailing is always seamless. In fact I tend to believe what makes a true ‘happy few’ is the conflict … and the resolution. The ability to fight and make up … without thinking it was a fight … nor that you are actually ‘making up.’

It just is.

The conflict is natural and positive … the resolution is natural and positive.

For some intangible reason the ‘what’s next’ portion of we happy few is attainable and possible and happens without any barnacles on the side of the ships to slow you down.

 

Now <part 2>.

This is all frustrating to those outside this small band of brothers.

Frustrating in that they need and want the words & explanations.

Frustrating because they want to separate <and often debate> the thinking and the feeling.

Frustrating because they can only imagine the finite and need comforting to step into the infinite.

Frustrating in that they only see the impossible and begin demanding the few whats nextpossible.

Frustrating because all they see is the mess in discovery and not the tidiness in the what is discovered.

 

Well.

This is ultimately all frustrating to the happy few because they are already thinking of ‘what’s next.’

 

This happy few.

 

It’s different than  family. It is certainly a professional thing.

Family can make you blind because its … well … blood. With family you can go through walls for someone … often for all the wrong reasons because of the one right reason … its family.

 

In the professional world?

This small band goes through walls for only one reason … the right reason. It is never <if but rarely> blind … but based on respect & trust & a sense of completion of something good based on something more than feeling <which family sometimes leans on>.

 

I feel sorry for those who professionally have not had the ‘we happy few.’ I would guess if you haven’t experienced it … you have been a little less successful. And I will not have to guess by saying you just haven’t received the full benefit of professional life.

You may attain a different success … but you haven’t attained the success of the camaraderie and trust and … well … the real opportunity to be open and be yourself in the professional world.

 

And maybe it’s that last thought that is the most important.

 

Because having been a leader <even in a smaller sense of the word and world> one of the most difficult things is to be … well … yourself. Open yourself up to exposing the flaws and mistakes and the sometimes stupidity that comes as the façade to what comes before something not stupid. And with ‘we happy few’ you have that small window of opportunity to open up. You don’t forfeit all the things that come with being a leader or having to lead … you just gain because you actually get to grow as a person.

 

And that is what we happy few is all about.

be yourself but judged

We got better.

They made me better.

And in doing so I got to lead and be a leader <through some luck of the draw>.

 

We happy few means being one of the luckiest people in the professional world.

 

And I believe Admiral Nelson knew that.

He was good at what he did. He was smart and intuitive and courageous. But I think in his heart of hearts … he knew he was lucky in that he was part of ‘we happy few’ which enabled him to be the best he could be.

His “we happy few” permitted him the luxury to rely on simple strategies rather than complicated complex plans. The interconnectedness of the small band made not only him, but all of them, certain in the knowledge everyone would support one another in striving toward the bigger objective … and yet be confident enough to use their own initiative when required. While the thinking was complex and sometimes leaned on a good dose of imagination in the end the thoughts were easily communicated in simple written instructions reinforced verbally when possible or necessary.

His captains were intelligent, experienced officers … they needed no more.

 

And that is what we happy few is in the professional world.

 

They need no more than each other to be happy.

 

 

 

 

———: historical note.

 

About Nelson’s “we happy few.”wellington nelson and dow

Nelson’s happy few were the Royal Navy captains who served under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson.  Several of which infamously served as his flag captain at different times. He originally used the term only for his captains at the Battle of the Nile but in correspondence it was deemd a broader perspective in Nelson’s eyes.

 

The ‘band of brothers’ comprised, in order of seniority, James de Saumarez, Thomas Troubridge, Henry d’Esterre Darby (1764?–1823), Thomas Louis, John Peyton (1760?–1809), Alexander Ball, Samuel Hood, Davidge Gould (1758–1847), Thomas Foley, George Westcott (who died of a wound sustained during the battle), Benjamin Hallowell, Ralph Miller, Thomas Thompson, Edward Berry, and Thomas Hardy. Those whom the naval historian Sir John Laughton considered worthy of an entry in the original Dictionary of National Biography were, with one exception, outstanding officers. Saumarez, Troubridge, Louis, Foley, Hood, Hallowell, and Hardy would hold important commands as admirals. Ball was the first governor of Malta, although he died before reaching flag rank. Thompson ran the Navy Board for a decade. Hardy topped them all: he became first sea lord in 1830 and helped erect Nelson’s Column. By contrast to the others, Edward Berry was prone to serious errors of judgement at sea and in combat. <source Andrew Lambert – Oxford University Press>

 

The one left off the list was most likely Nelson’s best friend and most respected companion … his second-in-command at the Battle of Trafalgar Cuthbert Collingwood. I have used Cuthbert in a post before: http://brucemctague.com/moment-to-do-the-extraordinary

still in search

September 29th, 2013

 “I’m still in search for what’s meant for me. I don’t know if i’m living or just alive. end of the world insistI look for paradise on Earth.” – Infinite <contributor on weheartit>

 

 

I look for a lot of images and thoughts on weheartit.com.

I often find that young people have a nice knack for reminding me of several things:

 

-          The constant battle between hope and despair

-          We never stop growing up

-          Life is truly a journey <and rarely do we reach a real destination>

 

 

And I imagine what young people really remind me is that no matter your age … we are all kind of still searching for ‘what’s meant for me.’

 

I know I am.

 

I know most of my friends are.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I know.

We talk about what we have and ‘things we have’ and how our children are our legacy and all that stuff … but deep down … when we really talk about what we think … we all are still kind of searching.

 

Are we as hopeful as this tween <’look for paradise on earth>? Nope.

We have been tainted by life somewhat and have our sights on something slightly less than ‘paradise.’

 

I tend to believe we older folk are simply searching for something meaningful.

 

I imagine that is what Infinite is really talking about … but in ‘tweenese’ <they have their own language sometimes>.

 

But as you peruse the images and thoughts she has on her wallpaper you wander through beautiful hopeful thoughts, disturbingly despairing and hurtful thoughts, angst over self, dreams of something better … and the normal every day young challenges of boys and friends and gossip and school.

 

I imagine those same thoughts are a reflection of even us old folk <without the dating and school and stuff like that>.

 

Like it or not, young or old, Life has a tendency to never reside in answers … but in questions. In wondering about things.

Things like:

 

-          Where are we?

-          Where are we going?

-          Where do we want to go?

 

Big questions.

Questions which gobs of books tell you how to navigate and answer and resolve in your head.

Well.

Throw those stupid books away.

 

infinte who you want to beWhether you are 15, 35 or 55 … those questions remain with us as we run Life’s gauntlet of hope and happiness on one side and despair and disappointment on the other.

 

We just keep going.

Searching for whatever it is that will be ‘us’ in the end … and … well … as Infinite suggests … maybe we find whatever paradise there is.

 

There are no answers.

Just keep asking the questions.

 

Personally?

I like that thought.

 

Life is about asking questions.

 

Oh.

And paradise.

 

That certainly is something truly worth seeking.

seize fate

September 22nd, 2013

 

“I shall seize fate by the throat.” ― Ludwig van Beethovenfate master of

 

“Destiny is for losers. It’s just a stupid excuse to wait for things to happen instead of making them happen.” – Blair Waldorf

 

Well.

I just used the Beethoven quote when discussing Beethoven.

And.

Here I am using Beethoven and Blair <from Gossip Girl> to make a point.

 

Whoa.

Whoda thunk Gossip Girl and Beethoven would be used together to make a thoughtful point.

 

Anyway.

 

Fate & destiny.

It’s easy to think of these things as some invisible hand guiding our direction in life.

<note: I wrote another thought on this discussing the links of coincidence and fate:  http://brucemctague.com/coincidence-and-fate >

 

Personally?

I like the thought that we have some destiny … some fate …  awaiting us. That there is some reason for being here.

Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

 

 

The struggle I imagine I have in my head is that I like doing … and not waiting. And the thought of permitting something theoretical like ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ to take me by the hand and lead me somewhere doesn’t sit well with me. And I also imagine that part of Life is figuring all this shit out.

 

And, frankly, I don’t think I am unusual in this type of thinking.

 

 

We have a tendency to use terms like fate & destiny in hindsight … ‘it was fate’ … or … ‘it was my <or his or her> destiny.’

 

And when you recognize that fact <looking in the rear view mirror> then you have nowhere else to go thoughtwise then  to keep moving and not waiting.

 

Look.

 

You can wait.

Or.

You can do.

 

You can permit fate … or what ‘is supposed to be’ dictate your future.

Or

You can seize fate by the throat and refuse to let destiny live … as it currently exists.

 

Life is sometimes meant to be battled, wrestled and yes … even grabbed by its throat … to get what you want out of it.

 

Sometimes you have to be stubborn and always you have to be at minimum an active participant … and at maximum you have to be an active combatant.

 

I began with Beethoven because he used his stubbornness to strengthen him and he came to terms with his deafness in a dynamic, constructive way.

 

Free me of only half this affliction and I shall be a complete, mature man. You must think of me as being as happy as it is possible to be on this earth – not unhappy. No! I cannot endure it. I will seize Fate by the throat. It will not wholly conquer me! Oh, how beautiful it is to live – and live a thousand times over!

 

he seized fate by the throat … shook it mercillesly … and plunged into composing <the rest of his Life>.

 

Mentally his thoughts are captured in these words:

 

“Ah, it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce.” – Beethoven

 

Blair from Gossip girl … not as eloquently … simply suggests that destiny is for losers.

 

We will not all be Beethoven or Blair personally … but we can all certainly embrace the attitude.

 

If you are eager to accomplish great deeds … heck … accomplish any deeds then Fate sometimes needs to be seized by the throat.

 

You know … I imagine we all have to believe in some way we are here for a reason.

And that is where Fate or Destiny resides.

 

The reason.

 

Fate and destiny are the end accomplishment.

But it’s kind of up to you to figure out what that destination is.

 

Fate or destiny is quiet fellows.

They tend to keep their thoughts to themselves.

 

Even worse?

They have a tendency to hide so you can’t sit them down and say ‘what is my fate?’ … ‘what is my destiny?’ … ‘tell me where to go’.

 

Sometimes you kind of have to reach out blindly … grab the sonuvabitches by the throat and say ‘here is my fate’ … this is my destiny.’

 

Trust me on this.

 

fate choosingIf you do that … fate or destiny … as they struggle for some air … will tell you of you are being stupid with what you are thinking … or you are on the right path.

 

I imagine it is easier to suggest that theoretically they are waiting somewhere for you to welcome you when you get there.

 

Sure.

It would be a shitload easier if the bastards would actually tell us … maybe even send a short email suggesting some things … but they don’t.

 

And will not <if you are waiting expecting them to>.

 

You are here to accomplish something.

You are here to do something that will ‘echo into eternity’.

 

It may not be a 9th symphony.

It may not even be a moment in the spotlight as a gossip girl.

 

But.

 

You should refuse to settle for anything less than what you believe your reason to be here is.

 

In the end.

Beethoven did say it best.

 

“Fate shall certainly not bend and crush me completely.”

life is a ragged diagonal

June 30th, 2013

“The line of life is a ragged diagonal between duty and desire.” –  William R. Alger choice duty desire

 

Well.

I am not sure I have ever seen a more succinct explanation for Life as a struggle as well as Life is never a straight line.

 

Life truths?

Life is an ongoing struggle.

And Life is rarely a straight and narrow path.

 

Why are these ‘truths’?

Because inevitably all lives are made up of choices.

A shitload of ongoing choices … small and large and every size in between.

 

And these choices we make … all tell us the path(s) our lives will take.

I do not believe our Life, or destiny, is pre-ordained in a black & white definition. What I mean is that even if I did believe in a higher order <God has a plan for each and every one of us> destiny I would tend to believe it was a map of possibilities.

Therefore … we make choices aiming toward something <whatever your personal something is> … and amble down a path that is not preordained but rather ones we choose.

But.

I like … no … love the thought that we get tugged by duty <right thing to do> versus desire <some type of self-gratification … spanning from full indulgence to full altruism> as we make all these choices.

 

It means a diagonal line.

Nope.

A ragged diagonal line.

Should we choose one way … that is the way we will go.

Should we choose another way … we go that way instead.

This means Life consists of paths that branch out turning right and left, this way and that way, running straight and crooked, turning sometimes randomly & severely in a variety of angles.

 

choice circle-of-lifeSurely some paths are more likely than others … but we can choose any path to take.

 

And each choice begets more branches ahead … some seen and some yet to be seen.

 

Now.

I imagine if one lives a stagnant unmoving life … the choices may be simpler and the events affecting the branches are fewer.

 

Yet <just in case ‘stagnancy’ appeals to you as an ‘easier life choice’> stagnancy or ‘hiding from Life’ doesn’t guarantee shit..

Why?

Because as your path crosses with others … others who are also making choices … choices of strangers, family, friends, enemies, whomever … their choices affect our path.

And their choices sometimes force choice where choice never resided before … or if we even wanted to make a choice at all.

The more people we meet … the more paths & branches crisscross … and cross again.

It becomes a tangled confusion of so many choices and paths and interlinked branches it becomes easy to think of it all as chaos.

Especially if you think of people and events as threads and not dots in a moment in time:

 

“There is a trail of existence that follows everyone, threads of life that people spin out and leave behind wherever they go. Threads cross all the time. Threads cross and cross again – time and place if in no other way – even when the people appear unaware of each other. No one pays attention to others around them unless the overlap happens again. Sometimes, people miss each other only by a few seconds, yet they are connected. Sometimes place is the reason for the overlap but time is not. Sometimes the overlap is purposeful other times happenstance. The threads are there, no matter. Ah. When they glow, they are one destiny.”  - Inspector O <james Church book character>

 

Your life is affected by these ‘trails of existence’ … impacted by what was, is and what will be.

As I type that it can become easy to think you have no control <or simply throw your hands up in the air in frustration>.

Well.

While we certainly can be impacted by others or ‘things out of our control’ … what remains in our control, always, is the choice.

The choice to do what we may with the circumstances at hand.

The choice remains with us.

The choice between duty and desire.

 

In addition.

In each tangled chaotic web of events, threads and paths … it is all bounded by the practical. The practical aspect of what you can actually do … and cannot do … within the choices you make.

I am not speaking of dreaming the impossible <because dreaming is good> but the actual reality of what can be done.

 

Oh.

And duty & desire.

There is where free will seems to reside.

The choices made by duty & desire.life is messy

 

This all sounds chaotic and impossible to navigate.

 

But think about this.

Look to the past and it appears to be a neat set of choices made … and not made.

A schematic of choices made of duty … and those of desire.

And encounters of events and people who forced us to make choices.

Oh <nuts>.

I imagine if anyone were to look to the future it would simply appear to be sheer chaos.

A snarled thread of paths and choices.

 

Relax.

This is where the original quote comes back to play … our destiny resides in our choices between duty and desire.

Sometimes the choice is black & white … and often it resides in the gray.

Unfortunately regardless of its hue or shade or color … it places us on a path toward our destiny.

 

A ragged diagonal path through Life.

 

Well.

This all may make us uncomfortable … all this choosing amongst the snarled threads of Life wondering if each choice is somehow easing its way down the ragged diagonal path toward a destiny we either actually seek … or one we will be comfortable with in the end.

Uncomfortable because we people like have to have an explanation that satisfies us.

life searching for whyAnd by having this attitude we run the risk of just not seeing it as it is … simply making choices in the moment between desire and duty.

Look.

I now I am biased and have my own opinions on Life.

 

Heck.

Many months ago in 2010 I wrote this:  http://brucemctague.com/everywhere-at-once

 

And closed my thoughts with this: ‘Where do I want to be 10 years from now? Everywhere. All at once.’

 

Agree or disagree … but … it is a ragged diagonal path we live.

All of us.

 

I imagine if you define it simply as a shitload of choices made between duty and desire the ragged aspect will not bother you as much … because you are on a path toward a destiny that can be explained in the end.

 

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.

Enlightened Conflict