Enlightened Conflict

are my edges sharp

May 3rd, 2016


what i speak danced-on-the-edge



“Did you cut your hands on me?


Are my edges sharp? “



Sufjan Stevens






I admit.


I like sharp edges.


I like people with sharp edges.




I like a business positioned with some sharp edges.


sharp being pencilHeck.


I even like writing with pencils that have a sharp point.




Being around sharp edges translates into several things that you kind of have to figure out how to deal with.


First & foremost you gotta be comfortable with cuts.



You can’t be bitching and moaning about “its not easy” or “this can be painful” or “I want something softer.”


I know. I know.


Not everyone is comfortable with sharp edges.


It most likely took me far too long to figure that out.


To me edges made sense.



To be clear … this is having an edge or a distinction and clarity … not being edgy.




This edge thing … having and making some unequivocal non blurry attitudes and beliefs and … well … character like aspects … appeared to me to make it easier to communicate and interact. And this pertains with how we would communicate and interact personally as well as within business.


But … that’s me.

live on edge of reality life



What I seemed to overlook was that edges are … well … sharp.


And they not only can hurt but they can also kill. Sharp edges mean choices … choices by you and choices by others who could possibly be cut.


And maybe it is because of that last point in business we far too often think of sharp in butter knife terms.


Butter knife sharpness is most typically not the original intent in any business discussion but due to collaboration and a general desire for minimal risk <yet desiring maximum return> the edges become more rounded and blunt. The business idea gets wielded as a safe utensil used to softly spread some additive on the larger offering.


You can poke people with the butter knife but rarely hurt anyone in doing so.


When discussing this with businesses I most often suggest they come up with things they can stab their competition with. And use the ‘stab’ as a test for whatever they are discussing.


I am chuckling here.


Even with what I just wrote a business can be pretty creative when discussing ‘a sharp edge’ for something they have discussed & want to do.


They wrangle their business in brainstorming sessions and focus groups and leadership collaboration meetings and inevitably come to a consensus that is in their eyes … some sharp edged way to position the business in the marketplace and communicate it.





After all that wrangling all they have done is find some soft edged palatable to the majority ‘thing.’ It doesn’t hurt anyone with some sharp edge <except the truly ‘scared of any risk at all’ people> and it can only really get people excited with some gussying up.


A bunch of people will dress it up as a sharp edge but … well … it is still a butter knife.


Part of the problem is that far too often businesses simply seek to ‘compete’ and not really hurt <if not kill> the competition.


They are satisfied with standing toe to toe bludgeoning each other with dull a little rough around the edgerounded hammers … all the while suggesting that this is ‘smart fighting’ giving ‘us the edge’.




‘Edges’ <in this case> seems to me like it is simply staying in the fight and not a plan to win a fight … unless you consider standing there for hours outlasting your competition as winning.


Edges, and I mean REAL edges, are all about winning.

And by winning I mean your ‘edge’ makes someone, or someones, irrelevant.


Now. The edge you have assumed and wield doesn’t make everyone irrelevant … just some.





One last thing about not having an edge.


Unfortunately … Life and business will place you on the edge whether you like it or not.




At some time and place … whether you have walked to the edge or the edge simply appeared where you were standing … you will find yourself on an edge.


Some dance on the edge.


And then there are those who don’t see the opportunity to dance. They only see that their feet stand on the icy brink of Death.  They only see uncertainty … and <possible> death if they slip.



I don’t understand those who do not dance on the edge when it appears.


Just as I don’t understand why someone doesn’t want an edge.


Just as I don’t understand why a business doesn’t want an edge.



To be clear.


Sharp edges is not really “its okay to have 50% hate as long as 50% love.”


Sharp edges create distinction … and distinction actually creates this type of mix:


25% love/like a lot.

25% are okay with you.

25% mildly dislike you.

25% hate.well rounded sharpen



That is how sharp edges typically cut.


And in my world … that seems like a pretty awesome ratio … in business and in life.

luck & life

April 28th, 2016

 lucky chanceux





Leaving things to chance and the outside world.




“I don’t believe in luck.

I believe in being harbingers of our fate, determining our own path, taking action and creating our own destiny in life.”




Celestine Chua





While, in general, I believe most of us make our own luck there is actually two types of luck.


The type you do make … putting in the hard work and being ‘in the game’ which really isn’t luck … it is just making the most of opportunities that arise and fateputting yourself in position for those opportunities. Maybe I could just call this ‘being harbingers of our fate.”


And then there is truly the luck that occurs randomly … chance events in which … well … you are lucky or you are not. Maybe let’s call this “the whim of fate.”


Because of what I just said personally I think it is too simplistic to suggest “I do not believe in luck.” I believe that because you can work your ass off and you can do all the right things as often as you can … and random chance … luck as it were … comes whether you invite it or not.


This is not to suggest you shouldn’t work your ass off and put yourself in as many positions and opportunities as possible to increase the likelihood that “luck” or ‘chance’ veers in your direction. But I am suggesting that if you do this you are simply controlling your position, place and proximity to the contextual fabric of what is happening around you.


And while, yes, there are certainly things you can control I could argue that most things are truly out of your control.


Because of that I believe luck does play a role in people’s lives. And luck does not favor anyone, probably does not even recognize it is impacting anyone individually and is relatively indifferent to any scorecard of winners versus losers.

We should all understand that Luck is neither a friend or foe … it is simply a selfish individual always acting in its own best interest. And therefor should our interests coincide with its interests … we are good <lucky> and if our interests do not coincide … well … that is bad <unlucky>.


All this said.

fate waiters luck

One of the reasons I decided to discuss luck is that research shows over and over again we <people in general> have a natural tendency to overestimate the degree of responsibility for our own successes.


I am certainly not suggesting we shouldn’t take some ownership & pride of our successes and how we have managed to take advantage of the opportunities.

However, to simply suggest it was our own perseverance and hard work that created the success tends to overlook the importance of a dash of luck on occasion <which happens more often than we tend to believe>.


And by overlooking luck we then have a tendency, in our minds & attitudes, to adapt what was reality in our reflection … which then encourages us to stubbornly persevere in the future in the face of sometimes insurmountable obstacles.

Ignoring luck more often than not sets some incorrect self-expectations.




I tend to believe all of us know that almost all success results from a variety of factors which include hard work, talent, some aspect of the mind & thinking, perseverance and chance. And those factors ebb and wane depending on a variety of factors <things someone who is more passionate about will tend to work harder on>. This means that while we seek consistent behavior & actions to replicate our success that success is more often a result of inconsistent factors.


That said … the inconsistency with these factors permits us to reflect backwards upon the parts & pieces we want, or choose to see, to reflect upon as we construct our stories.

Needless to say … this inconsistency within the factors of success makes it very easy to drop luck from the story.


We, none of us, don’t particularly feel comfortable giving credit to luck.

luck points dumb


E. B. White


“Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.”





Psychologists use a term called “hindsight bias.”


It is our natural tendency to think about the past that some event was predictable <even when it wasn’t> and therefore we tend to focus on the thought we had purposefully put ourselves in place for something that was inevitable <smart, hardworking people that we are>.


Studies show that “hindsight bias” actually is even stronger when associated with greater than expected successes.


For example.

PewResearch shows people in higher income brackets are much more likely than those with lower incomes to say that individuals get rich primarily because they work hard. Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.






Hard work matters.




Perseverance matters.




Talent matters.



But the one that that also matters I do not believe we discuss enough.


A connected engaged thinking mind.




“Chance favors the connected mind.”



Steven Johnson

———good luck bad luck


I mentioned earlier that chance, or Luck, is indifferent to us. I would also suggest that luck, or unluck, unfolds and therefore how you react & adapt may be one of the most important behavior traits you can own in Life.


In something I wrote back in June 2014, horse racing & life, I suggested … “so many times we say ‘this is the way to win’ … but you know what? … everyone is trying to win. Oftentimes winning is about context and managing the moment.”


In this I believe I am suggesting you accept the fact that luck plays a role in Life and that you cannot control it … and you should actually expect it to stick its face into your business. and that if you have a connected mind, a mind which isn’t closed to learning & unlearning, a mind which is open to adapting against ‘status quo’ behavioral rules, well, you may actually have a chance with … well … chance.




not being owned

April 17th, 2016

world of my own




“I am the sea and nobody owns me.”



Pippi Longstocking




i would fight myself if i could






Not being owned sounds like a simple thing.




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

It can be direct or it can be indirect.

It can be consciously or subconsciously.



To be clear.


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


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


So what do I mean by a self thing?


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


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





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


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

You need to learn self-defense.


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


You have to choose to fight yourself.


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

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

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





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


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

created my own world



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


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


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


Do not be owned.



at what expense?

March 22nd, 2016




“There is no happiness for people at the expense of other people.”




Anwar Sadat







There is a lot of talk about winning these days. That is simply a bastardized version of a focus on ‘outcomes’ which is the bane of the business world today.


Happiness is being tied so tightly to ‘winning’ that its cost, the expense as it were, is suffocating the larger perspective.

expense of the moment

This expense can come in a variety of larger perspective forms … character, self-limitation and time.

This is a tricky balance for anyone.


This is actually a discussion on the balance between me <as in the individual> and we <the business … or how we earn our living>.





I talk a lot about balance in Life & in business.



Balance as in good & bad or pragmatic & hopeful or pessimism & optimism. These are the quandaries that seeking success creates from a moral, organizational culture/political and even spiritual perspective. Stuff like that.


Here is a truth not maybe people discuss.


Success should demand some sacrifice.


Uh oh.


But have you noticed how rare it is that when someone is focused on winning they rarely talk about ‘at what expense’ other than effort?


That is a reflection of a decision that ‘the win’ is the only thing that matters and the expense is always worth it <to win>.


This is an incredibly easy trap to fall into.



Because most of us really have no clue what we want to do in our lives and with our lives. Yeah. we may have some ‘short horizon priorities’ but anything that resembles a ‘more than minor Life’ is more often than not simply out of our mental framing.


This means that it is pretty natural that in a world where pretty much everything seems in flux that we want to have some things that are tangible to measure progress and ‘what is.


This means that ‘winning’ all of a sudden assumes a fairly high priority in one’s Life and in business.


This also means that ‘at what expense’ is more often than not relegated to the trashcan because ‘the win’ is all that matters.


Let me be clear.


While I just rationalized how and why this happens … this is fucked up.





“People do things to survive, and then after they survive, they can’t live with what they’ve done.”



Adam Johnson




It is fucked up because all of a sudden this ‘winning’ thing we are focused on begins to infringe upon our Life purpose … or the soul of who and what we are.


You may look at winning as a means to survive but afterwards … maybe not hard to plan success_and_happinessimmediately but at some point … you realize you have to be accountable for what you have done under the guise of ‘surviving.’


I don’t really care how you define ‘life purpose’ but simplistically most of us want to reflect upon our lives not only looking at success but at the quality of the success.


And by ‘quality’ I mean “at what expense did I achieve that success?”


Here’s the truth.


We exist for some period of time.

During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. The important things are supposed to give our lives meaning and happiness. But what if you get them wrong? What if you fuck up the big important things?



What happens if you fuck up the unimportant things?


This is why moments matter. Uhm. This is why all moments matter.



This is why ‘how you win’ matters.



This is why ‘at what expense’ becomes maybe the most important question someone can ask when pursuing winning.





Everyone asks “what do we need to do to win? … but ‘expense?’ … not so much.


I imagine my real point is that with such a huge emphasis on winning we need to recognize that everything involves sacrifice.


Everything includes some expense.


So despite the fact the answer almost always seems to be “win” <at any cost>… the question is ‘at what expense is tolerable?”


And therein lies the issue.


Money, energy & time are the three easiest expenses. Everyone focuses on these because, frankly, they avoid the bigger potential expenses.


Self-limitation is the next expense that steps up. This one is fraught with peril.

Peril in that if you admit you are not capable of doing what must be done you become a … well … loser. We have set some absurd expectations with regard to ‘the sky is the limit’ and ‘if you want to win you need to do whatever it takes.’ The latter avoids a possible truth that ‘whatever t takes’ may actually be beyond your own slef limitations. But nonetheless … limits are for losers.


The last expense is character. Throw in maybe integrity, compassion and possibly dignity <yours and others>.


This is the expense that ‘winners’ tend to avoid discussing because it dangerously nears “nice guys don’t win’ territory. And as we eye this ‘nice guy’ <or ‘play by the rules’> expense we suddenly step onto the slippery slope of moral relativism. We begin justifying our behavior based on other’s behavior. If someone is cheating, or stretching the rules, or … god forbid … simply being slimy soulless cutthroat competitors … well … then we begin to morph into their behavior because they have established the rules to win.

This is just a race to the bottom.




This is the expense that almost everyone avoids discussing because it dangerously nears ‘ethics’ or “what is right versus what is wrong’ <which, when it comes to winning, becomes an incredibly uncomfortable discussion>.



And all of this last expense circles how we, each of us, would answer ‘what does it mean to live a good life?’


This is really all about living ethically and conducting business ethically. This is doing the right thing braveryabout what you do and how the objectives need to align with a certain moral code <this can get even trickier because not everyone’s moral code is the same>.


It is certainly ethical to pursue money, status and ‘the win.’ But do we have a moral obligation to pursue those things not at the expense of others or by doing the right thing’?



You actions matter.


How you achieve a win matters.


Winning, or achieving outcomes, is desirable … but you should always seek to identify ‘at what expense?” If you do not do this … while you may be able to count a shitload of wins … they may end up looking a little hollower in the end.


For, in the end, the expense is that of character. And that is an expense that no win, no number of wins, can ever generate enough to pay the cost.





“If I’m sincere today, what does it matter if I regret it tomorrow?”



José Saramago





resilience, personal responsibility & progressively not getting stuck

March 10th, 2016

resilience tattoo




“Our humanity is not an attribute that we have received once and forever with our conception.

It is a potentiality that we have to discover within us and progressively develop or destroy through our confrontation with the different experiences of suffering that will meet us through our life.”


Xavier Le Pichon





“You’ll have to help yourself.”



Lemony Snicket






This is about us.


People. Individuals.




Let’s call it “the power of I.”

where are you moving better




And the fact we either grow or diminish what we have in terms of “I”.






That begs the question … what is the power each of us have?



I would suggest that your power is actually a reflection of your character <and its resilience>. Character actually begets all the shit we truly care about … resiliency, personal responsibility, integrity, morality, In addition … it is character that dictates whether, and how, you either progressively develop or diminish.


And therein lies the true power of I.



Yet, we face an inherent ongoing challenge to this power.



Character is not solid … it can get chipped.

What I mean by that is once you start taking shortcuts, the ones that appear to make the Life travel a little easier, a little cheat here … a little lie there… maybe a little taking advantage of the system … all of which chips a little of your integrity & character away.

That may not seem so bad … but character is a non-renewable resource.



In addition.


Each time you take a shortcut, no matter how small, and get away with it … it becomes even easier to decide to do it another time – that’s the slippery slope of character erosion.



Just think about what I just wrote for a minute.


You can be crappy at reading, writing and arithmetic … or pretty much anything that people bitch about all the time … but you can’t get along being crappy at Life itself.


And you certainly cannot get along with a crappy character.


You have to fight the good fight in Life, try and avoid the short cuts, and maintain your character and have faith, and courage, to keep character from eroding in the face of Life. Surprisingly … this is an ongoing fight day in and day out week after week.



Now. That said.


Character is a tricky thing to self assess. Interestingly … we all think we know ourselves well, but, psychological studies show otherwise.main thing dedicate


In fact, <unfortunately> most of us are somewhat deluded about ourselves.



And in that delusion we tend to be slightly misguided with regard to what we should do and how to do it <because the basic premise of who we are is flawed>.



This is really really important for us to think about because research has clearly linked social mobility to social and emotional skills. Emotional skills ranging from empathy and the ability to make and maintain relationships, mental toughness, delayed gratification and self-control all contribute to social mobility <and Life success>.


These research findings all point to the same conclusion — that character counts.


Now. Research also points out that character is developed not necessarily instilled <experienced versus taught>.



Research shows that people who overcome adversity and realize their full potential tend to exhibit many of the same traits.


Traits that can be thought of as a belief in one’s ability to achieve, an understanding of the relationship between effort and reward, the patience to pursue long-term goals, the perseverance to stick with the task at hand, and the ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable setbacks.


These various traits all fall under the broad heading of “character and resilience.”





That said.


If character is about experience then I get to bitch a little about personal accountability or personal responsibility.



Or … in other words … responsibility for your own actions.



Today it seems like a shitload of people suggest their actions, faults, any excessive unacceptable behavior, or any … well … generally heinous or unacceptable behavior … are a reflection of outside influences, society driven/motivated, challenging home growing up, poverty, ethnicity, or any experience that we can identify as ‘generated pain’ which inevitably impacted us irresponsibility made easyin childhood. Let’s title all of that under one big fat heading of “excuse.”



It is almost like no one, okay, far too many, wants to accept responsibility for their problems.



All I can think is that some people … this is what they learned. Which makes me ask … :who the hell taught them this?”





On the other hand … I know for sure that some of us learn that when you screw up it is on ‘you’ and no one else. This ‘learning’ teaches us that basically you can be frequently wrong, frequently stupid, frequently imperfect … but if you have been taught to be accountable … to admit it … you may get some shit from people but you will also be known as someone who is accountable for their own actions.


You assume responsibility for all the good and bad that you do.



This can be harrowing at times and incredibly rewarding at other times.






“If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”




Anna Quindlen





And this leads me to destiny, fate … and resilience.






I believe we make our own destinies.

A destiny may await us but we need to go & do things, to make choices, in order to actually get to our destiny.


Every day we are presented with choices.


Some we don’t even recognize. Some we don’t even see <until they are past>.

Some we see and make a choice. Our destiny is a reflection of these choices … made and not made.


Making your destiny is hard. Because we see, and don’t see, choices and make, and don’t make, choices.



“Of course it’s hard! If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Hard is what makes it great.”

<For the Love of the Game>



This is a Life truth. Shit. It is true about everything we do <even making the perfect cup of coffee in the morning>.



And that is where resilience comes into play.



fail persist succeed resilienceBecause you will always have disappointments. You will always have dreams that don’t come true. You will always have bad shit happening. And you will always make some bad choices.


And in all of what I just wrote we have a habit of getting stuck.



You get stuck knowing what you already know.


You get stuck on what happened in the past.


You get stuck thinking about shit that you cannot do anything about.


You get stuck on disappointments, dreams that don’t come true and bad choices.



We just get … well … stuck.



Resilience is all about being able to overcome all the simple tragedies you face in life. Not the big dramatic shit just the everyday shit.







George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.”





As far as I’m concerned, Shaw was a punk.

‘Cause you know what? Tragedies happen.

What are you gonna do? Give up? Quit?

No. I realize now that when your heart breaks, you gotta fight like hell to make sure you’re still alive. ‘Cause you are, and that pain you feel, that’s life.

The confusion and fear, that’s there to remind you that somewhere out there is something better. And that ‘something’ is worth fighting for.





Resilience really isn’t about hope or dreams or vision for what you want & desire and doing what you need to do to stay on that path.


Resilience is more about recognizing Life is hard and the practicality that if you want to make some progress and develop … you gotta fight like hell to not get stuck.



Simplistically you take personal responsibility for not getting stuck.growing up life challenge resilience


And you now what? You have to.


Because Life makes it really really easy to get stuck. You can get stuck on so many things it is scary if you think about it.


But you can really only get stuck if you let it happen.



Progress is, more often than not, in your hands. Which means your destiny is in your hands. That, my friends, is the power of I … the power driven by the engine of Character. Character is your destiny.


Enlightened Conflict