Enlightened Conflict

what horrifies me most is

July 11th, 2017

 

completely useless me

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“What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.”

 

Sylvia Plath

 

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“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.

Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

 

David Mitchell

 

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Being useless.

 

legacy great shit noticeWhew.

 

Can you think of anything worse than feeling like you are, or have been, useless?

 

Well.

 

Of course.

What is worse is actually being a useless fuck.

 

Regardless.

 

 

99% of us think we are smart <or smart enough>.

 

99% of us have felt a sense of promise.

 

99% of us want our Life to amount to something.

 

So what happens if that 99% actually thinks they may … uhm … be useless?

While I imagine depression or becoming extremely depressed would be the first thing most people would think about … ‘horrified’ may actually be the more appropriate sense.

 

Maybe it is a general sense of meaninglessness?

 

Ah shit … I don’t know.

 

But just thinking about the possibility of thinking I am useless is a fucking depressing thought. And I am not a wildly ambitious person and I think it would be pretty fucking depressing to think that way.

 

This came to mind after I had a discussion with one of the kindest, nicest, most generous … and smart … people I know.

 

falling down the rabbit hole

After scanning Facebook updates and thinking a little bit about Life and ‘what do I have to show for it all’ their mind, quite expectedly from my point of view, started going down the ‘fucking useless Life’ rabbit hole.

 

<note: I did remind them that Facebook is not typically where you advertise your losses, disappointments and failures but rather is a place where one goes to conflate their wins, supposed happiness and successes>

 

But the conversation did remind me that assessing usefulness is not an easy task.

 

Yeah. yeah. yeah.

 

We talk about integrity, doing things the right way, honesty and kindness as well as the infamous “a flower doesn’t judge itself next to the flower beside it … it just grows” but reality continuously punches us in the face with ‘proof, proof, proof.’

 

Where is the proof for your Life and usefulness?

 

And this gets even more difficult when you look around and see people who obviously are not doing things the right way, who have a dubious relationship with integrity, truth is something they store in some closet to pull out for special occasions and, yet, they have a lot of useful stuff to showcase proof that competition compare yourself to themin some way they have been useful.

 

Usefulness can occur in a variety of ways.

 

And 99% of us know that but it sure don’t make it any easier to actually not be horrified when looking around and assessing one’s own usefulness.

 

It doesn’t make it any easier when we realize we may actually be no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Because I tend to believe 99% of us know that but felt we would be smarter enough, have enough promise and do things the right way just enough to be a little more than just one drop in a limitless ocean.

 

All that said.

 

Feeling useless, or feeling like what you have to offer is being wasted, or even feeling that doing it the right way and having integrity hasn’t got you shit compared to others assholes who have no real desire to do things the right way or do not really care much about integrity <unless they feel a need to check that box> … well … sucks.

 

I feel like I should offer some optimistic and hopeful and positive thought now … but I don’t really have one to offer at the moment.

Why?

Because what horrifies me is the thought that I may end up useless despite not being the dullest knife in the drawer, despite that fact I most likely still have some promise and despite the fact I imagine I would really like to contribute to Life in some positive morally driven thoughtful way.

 

Because what horrifies me is the thought that I could pass over into an indifferent age in which I would be viewed as useless.horrify this is bad

 

Because what horrifies me is that I do not have any advice or can even offer some semblance of an answer today.

 

Because what horrifies me is that I had no answer for the person who teetered on the edge of feeling useless … and, well, that kind of made me feel a little useless too.

 

And THAT horrifies me to no have an answer for someone else … because what happens if it is me at some point?

 

Here is what I know.

Just thinking about the possibility of thinking I am useless is a fucking depressing thought.

dreams and dream incubators

June 26th, 2017

Family of four on grass with hands up and dream

 

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“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it.

I want to have lived the width of it as well.”

 

——-

Diane Ackerman

 

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“Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything.

Those buildings. These lights. This whole city.

 

Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did.

I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.”

 

—–

James and the Giant Peach

 

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Ok.

 

Today I am actually going to talk about dreaming and business.

 

if only dreams wishes

 

Suffice it to say … someone needs to be talking about dreaming because dreamers have been having a tough time of it for a while. Shit. I could argue dreams themselves have had a tough go of it.

 

Pragmatism is the ‘watch word of the day’.

 

Reach for the stars? No way.  You need to think “attainable.”

 

In addition … the outside world seems to get crazier and crazier and more chaotic which encourages the majority of us to just hunker down and get shit done.  It encourages us to not only NOT think about dreaming but even worse …“why dream? I just need to figure out a way of surviving.”

 

All that said.

 

I have two thoughts today.

 

The first is the increasing importance of businesses to an individual’s dreams, and dreaming, and the second is just about dreaming itself.

 

Ok.

The first.

 

I believe the business world is going to start playing an incredibly important role with regard to the future of dreaming.

 

In fact.

 

I believe the successful business organization of the future will be a ‘dream incubator’ rather than the current, more pop culture popular, ‘purpose drive’ organization.

And I say that as a ‘purpose driven organization’ believer.

 

Let me explain.dream wall sitting alone thinking

 

The outside world, as I have noted earlier, doesn’t really seem conducive to dreams and dreaming.

 

The inside world, your job and business Life, is becoming more and more focused on the daily grind and meeting the needs of the grind. In general we are getting squeezed but dreaming, in particular, is getting suffocated.

 

This means there is little space in-between the outside world and inside world for dreams and dreaming.

 

This is where I believe business steps in and maybe sharpens its elbows and creates some space for individual people to remember having dreams can be good and dreaming can actually be a good thing.

 

Businesses can step in and remind people that there is big value in pragmatism and personal responsibility in doing a good job AS WELL AS there may be an equal value in placing a dream or two within the pragmatic ‘do what you need to do’ Life … it kind of adds some rich & royal hues to what could be a duller palette.

 

Now.

Let me address the practical aspect of business and how the idea of ‘dream incubator’ can fit … because a shitload of shortsighted business people are going to suggest they have no desire to have their employees “dreaming” … they want them focused on doing their jobs.

 

Purpose was offered as a glue to hold together, and align, functional behavior <departments & responsibilities> of an organization while providing a deeper value to instill in attitudes & behavior. It certainly offered a version of a North Star from an ethical & moral standpoint but its true objective was to take the place of ‘vision’ in a pragmatic business world seemingly devoid of anything but functional outcome driven behavior.

 

Good intent. Good objective.

 

My belief of ‘dream incubator’ is less functional driven but rather attitudinally driven.

 

My belief is that in a world in which dreaming is not being encouraged a business which encourages you to pursue your dreams WITHIN the business itself will be rewarded <attitudinally, functionally & profitability>.

 

purpose versus dreams organization business 2

 

My belief is that employees, in general, are not driven by their departmental function <which is actually more the ‘keep your head down and do what you need to do’ daily grind> but rather by their dreams — $, ideas, innovations and … well … let me call the last one “perfection.”

 

<please note: this is a simplified version of a more complex organizational idea which I have shared elsewhere, in other words, I know there are more layers to this concept>

 

 

Let me start with ‘perfection.’

 

Some people dream of operational excellence. They get frustrated with politics and missteps and the normal inefficient behavior of a normal organization. These are the ones who offer up the zany process changes which, as a manager, you look at, screw up your face and think “Jesus Christ, what a mosh pit this would be to implement.” And, yet, these are the same zany changes which the organization most likely NEEDS to do to step up from where it is currently running.

 

 

 

$

 

It would be naïve to ignore the fact some employees are financially motivated and that their dreams are tied to more material aspects. They want money and things and your objective should be to inspire them to dream for more and be the organization which can enable their dreams to come true <within the construct of whatever is construed as ‘fair play’ within that organization>.

 

Ideas.

 

ideas dream make fly people think believe imagine educateSome people dream of thinking … and thinking up ideas. Imagine a business which encourages the epe who like t come up with ideas actually helps their ideas come to Life … even if they do not directly apply to the business itself.

 

Huh?

 

Here is a secret a lot of good business people know. While we love to talk about focus and ‘staying in our lane’ and the danger of less-than-strategic expansion, the truth is that a business can accommodate a shitload of different lanes if they are actually good lanes <and good ideas>.

I know when I managed groups while I needed people to focus on what they needed to do … I always encouraged them think about new ideas and talk to me about their ideas – even if it didn’t have shit to do with what we actually did to earn our living. Why did I do that? I could offer a dozen reasons but suffice it to say that it offers them a valuable sounding board for whether they have a viable idea or not <which they liked & appreciated> and I would get the brain working on non-related shit <which invariably gets you thinking about your related shit differently — and I liked that & appreciated it>.

Plus. People like thinking about their dreams even if they can’t actually do them.

 

Innovations.

 

I don’t need to say anything about this. This is obvious. The best innovations are usually a reflection of smart dreaming.

 

Ok.

The second.

 

I believe we need to remind ourselves on occasion that it is okay to dream … and dream big.

 

dream window of opportunity imagine

And that relentlessly pursuing a dream can be inspiring … not discouraging.

 

Now.

 

Being a big dreamer doesn’t mean that you walk around with your head in the clouds. It means that you have a purpose … a big purpose that makes your life bigger and fulfills some promise within you.

Of course … as usual … the key is to find a balance. Think ground and clouds.

Maybe think about it as being pragmatic with no guardrails. A contradiction? Sure. But big dreams are a contradiction. As a practical relatively pragmatic human race we would never have them … unless some of them defied the odds and actually came true.

 

Yeah.

Some really do happen.

 

Anyway.

 

I like the thought of business accepting the role as a business incubator and actually re-energizing the human spirit toward dreams and dreaming.

I like the thought of a business being a ‘dream incubator’ is fulfilling a role life & society seem to be abdicating.

 

Look.

 

extraordinary robbedI have always been a huge proponent that business should accept a larger role in driving societal norms & mores and, in this case, I actually believe that in doing so the business acumen & success is rewarded.

 

Whew.

 

Can you imagine how many resumes a business would get if it said “we want you to make your lives extraordinary, help you make your dreams come true, because if you do … we believe our company will be extraordinary.”

 

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Dead Poets Society:

“Make your lives extraordinary.”

 

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questionable civil discourse, calm the rhetoric … and leading

June 14th, 2017

obama sad thoughtful tough

 

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“We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

 

—-

Barack Obama on January 12th 2011

 

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On a day which we are faced with someone who decided to take a gun and shoot words rememberpoliticians … and appear to target politicians … I am reminded of several things.

 

The first thing is the rhetoric.

The rhetoric of the citizenry but mostly the rhetoric of our elected leaders. I say that because words have repercussions.

 

Yes.

 

I do believe in personal responsibility and choices are made by individuals.

 

But I also believe leaders lead with words <because most of us cannot view their actions>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat their words as if we will not remember them forever.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if they are truly enemies <and even use that word on occasion>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if the opposite’s behavior is unfathomable behavior for sane, moral people.

 

And if our elected officials treat each other with verbal hyperbole as the standard rhetoric discourse … and the highest of the elected leaders, the president, tosses out the word ‘unity’ on occasion but 99% of the time does nothing verbally or behavior wise to unite … well … the electors will be tempted to do as leaders do.

 

We need to calm our rhetoric. We need to remind ourselves what we teach our children … that you don’t always get what you want and that most progress sis made in mutual effort.

 

We all need to be speaking more calmly and acting more civilly but we should be demanding our elected leaders do so. I get angry with how they act and what they say because it suggests to people that is behavior we should all embrace — and it is not.  Stop, and stop it now.

 

speechless

 

The second thing I am reminded of is one of the best speeches President Obama ever made.

 

To share my thoughts I will borrow <steal> liberally from a NY Times article written by Helene Cooper and Jeff Zelenyjan. The article was Obama Calls for a New Era of Civility in U.S. Politics and it shares the speech Obama gave on January 12th 2011 in Tucson after the shooting of a US Congresswoman and the deaths of 6 other people.

 

Apparently Obama wrote much of the speech himself the day before.

 

I suggest everyone read the speech but today I will share highlights because it is a nice reminder on a day on which we need some reminders.

 

 

President Obama offered the nation’s condolences on Wednesday to the victims of the shootings here, calling on Americans to draw a lesson from the lives of the fallen and the actions of the heroes, and to usher in a new era of civility in their honor.

 

The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.”

 

It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully” and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

 

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

 

The president led an overflow crowd at the evening service at the University of Arizona in eulogizing the six people who died on Saturday and asking for prayers for the wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who the authorities said was the target of an assassination attempt.

 

He warned against “simple explanations” and spoke of the unknowability of the thoughts that “lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.”

He suggested that the events should force individuals to look inward, but also that they should prompt a collective response against reflexive ideological and social conflict.

 

While the tone and content were distinctly nonpolitical, there were clear political ramifications to the speech, giving Mr. Obama a chance, for an evening at least, to try to occupy a space outside of partisanship or agenda.

 

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

 

suicide losing care“If, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse,” Mr. Obama said, let us remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.”

 

In the end.

No, I do not believe we will learn anything from today’s event <or the other shooting events that cost people’s lives today> but maybe, just maybe, we can start talking to each other like we don’t want to shoot the other person if given an opportunity. That is a good start.

balanced versus proportional

June 7th, 2017

balance proportion life business things

 

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“You cannot live without establishing an equilibrium between the inner and outer.”

 

—–

Paul Auster

 

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“I used to think of you that way, you know. Like the sun. My own personal sun. You balanced out the clouds nicely for me.”

 

He sighed.

“The clouds I can handle. But I can’t fight with an eclipse.”

 

 

Jacob

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“The idea that talent is directly proportional to your trophy cabinet is one I oppose.”

 

—-

Alex Turner

 

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Ok.

 

balance elephantI have been extremely consistent over the years with regard to my belief that I think balance is the key to almost any successful endeavor – in life & in business.

 

Suffice it to say … I am a big balance person.

 

And, yet, the other day during a business discussion it occurred to me that I may not be using the right word or even have the concept correct.

 

I may actually be a ‘proportional’ advocate.

 

Business, more often than not, is about assessing the correct proportional value of a topic, fact or idea and assigning the correct proportional response to that value.

 

Sure.

 

That may inevitably arrive at something we could call “a balanced response” but to get to the so-called balance we need to think about proportions.

 

I imagine, in my head, this means I need to stop viewing things as a zero sum balance but rather as proportional to the situation in hand.

balance and proportion graph

 

I did some research and back in 1975 a guy named Piaget described the essential characteristic of proportional reasoning as it must involve a “relationship between two relationships.”

 

Now.

 

I am not really sure what that means but I am guessing it means that proportional assumes some dimensional aspects while balance is simply a relationship between two more concrete things.

 

He also suggested that proportional involves something called “additive reasoning” which, to me, explained my misrepresentation of balance.

 

Balance suggests an either/or trade off … something like teetering on a balance beam … proportional suggests a more spatial trade off … or maybe ratio based trade off. What I mean by that is I can add one thing as part of a compromise and its true value is a zillion and give up one thing as part of the same compromise and its true value is 1/10th of a zillion.

 

I balanced my response but gained a proportional advantage.

 

There is even something called ‘the constant of proportionality’ but that becomes too complicated for my pea like brain so I will let you google it and see if you can explain it.

 

balance wheel of life proportionateI imagine my real point is that most of us, most likely, are proportional thinkers and not balance thinkers <although we say we are balanced>.

 

More often than not we invariably assess things through assimilation and the synthesis of multiple things <numbers, ratios, tangible, intangible, and … yes … even missing information & components>. Our decisions are a messy mix of analyzing a series of unequal and equal things shaping them into the proper proportions to make a … well … proportional response.

 

All that said.

 

Here was the bigger epiphany to me.

 

While balanced may be the improper term the more I focus on it the higher the likelihood I would actually end up doing the wrong things.

Huh?

If you focus on balance you will inevitably try and force equality in all things. That may sound good but it ain’t really reality. Simplistically it means you are focused on the wrong outcome & objective.

 

Instead, if you focus on the best proportional response to every situation, you may not end up with a one-to-one balanced relationship on any one comparison you review <which creates issues in its own right> but you will end up with a balanced relationship on any given series of comparisons.

 

That last paragraph may actually showcase why most people focus on balance. In a simplistic measurement business world we are almost always demanded to show one-to-one or linear explanations.

 

Balance does that.

 

Proportion does not.

 

This means to embrace being proportional means you will have to accept the burden of explaining the more difficult to explain, to showcase asymmetrical as actually being simple and dimensional can actually reflect symmetry.

 

Nothing in what I just shared in that last paragraph is easy. Particularly in thoughtful rabbit idea quick slowtoday’s business world.

 

All I really know is that whether I like it or not I am actually a proportion person and not a balance person.

 

It only took me over 25 years in business to figure that out <no one has ever suggested I am a quick learner>.

 

Think about it. You may actually be a proportional person too.

Enlightened Conflict