Enlightened Conflict

have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss

October 13th, 2017

red shoes_adventure_by_zvaella

 

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“We all have one foot in a fairytale, and the other in the abyss.”

 

—–

Paulo Coelho

 

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My anger at the world coils inside of me.

It’s a directionless seething, there’s no name or face to aim at.”

 

————–

Claire Zorn

 

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Well.

 

color outside the linesLife demands us to draw a lot of lines.

 

And more often than we would like to admit … it demands we place one foot on one side of a line and the other foot on the other side of the line.

 

That may not sound … well … right.

Or maybe the best thing to do.

It may even sound like I am suggesting you ‘straddle the fence.’

 

This isn’t straddling … this is about being grounded or balancing oneself.

 

If you don’t place one foot solidly on either side, you can be quite easily consumed by the extremes of Life which are, more often than not, found on only one side of a line.

 

If you don’t place one foot solidly on either side, you can be quite easily consumed by others who seek to consume what you may think you don’t really care that much about <but you should … and actually do when you care to think about t enough>.

 

If you don’t you can be quite easily … well … consumed.

 

I guess what I am saying is that Life demands you pragmatically be active in drawing some lines so that you have some sense of when you are getting too … well … “too”. So you can have some sense of … well … where to actually place your feet that is meaningful.

 

Maybe what I am saying is that many of us have no problem ‘making a stand’ but if you really aren’t sure where your line is then it is quite possible you aren’t really sure you are taking your stand in the right place.

 

Maybe think of it this way.

 

It’s kind of like making sure you have things in perspective when you take a stand.

 

It’s kind of like demanding realistic hope.

It’s kind of like demanding some hopeful despair.

It’s kind of like demanding you believe in some fairytales and some abyss-like darkness.

 

It’s kind of like demanding lines for yourself so you can deal with the lines Life is going to demand of you.

 

Look.

 

I don’t really believe there are angry people … they just have so much anger within themselves that their line is drawn differently than others.

 

I don’t really believe there are dreamers … they just have so much imagination within themselves that their line is drawn differently than others.

 

But here’s the deal.

 

You have to draw some lines.

 

draw your lines and choose your side moralThere has to be some reality to ground some imagination.

 

There has to be some truth to ground some questioning.

 

There has to be some principles to ground some rebelliousness.

 

There has to be some fairytaleishness <I made up that word> to balance out some of the inevitable abyss.

 

You do have to have one foot somewhere other than where your other foot resides.

 

I know.

I know.

 

That sounds a little of whack from conventional wisdom because far more often you hear “both feet on the ground” and shit like that.

 

But if you have two feet on the line … well … you have chosen to stand on a thin balance beam and will teeter your entire life. That is tiring & dangerous.

But if you have two feet on one side … well … you have chosen a life of fairytales … or a life in the abyss.

 

All that said.

 

Yes.

 

There are times you draw a line and make a choice to shift both feet solidly onto one side. I would suggest this is a situational decision and not a “living Life” type decision.

 

That is right and that is wrong.

That is good and that is bad.

That is normal and that is not normal.

 

Those are most likely the moments in which Life says “now, in this time and place, here is the line … on which side to you choose to stand?”

I would suggest sometimes we fuck this up by confusing a ‘Life one foot here & one foot there’ decision and a contextual situational decision. What I mean is that in that time and place you may try and keep your fairy tale foot in place and your abyss foot in place … and mistakenly take on a different type of decision demanding a different type of line.

 

That would be a bad decision.empty shoes

 

In that time. in that place. In that moment.

 

You shift your feet.

 

Sigh.

 

I never suggested lines were easy. Just that Life demands we draw a lot of lines. I would suggest that if you do not draw some lines you will find yourself lost in anger coiled within, or maybe constantly living a less than fairy tale life dreaming it all away, or stuck in some dark abyss seeing no way out.

 

Yeah … lines come in pretty handy at times. Pretty handy in managing Life. I can tell you <for sure> that lines can be pretty handy at helping you decide when something should end … and something should start.

those who tied the knots are responsible for untying

September 17th, 2017

knot getting shit done business solve question

 

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

 

—–

Chinese Foreign Ministry

 

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So.

 

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

 

 

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

 

Knots?

 

Well.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That said.

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

 

Ah.

 

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

 

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

linear cause and effect thinking behavior knot

 

 

Let me explain a little.

 

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

 

Not so much today.

 

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

knot untie business confusing responsibility

 

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

 

Uhm.

 

Yes.

 

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

 

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

 

To be clear.

 

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

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

 

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

 

But.

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

 

Ah.

 

Certainty.

 

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

 

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

Yeah.

 

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

 

Just think about it a little.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Which leads me back to knots.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Attitude: personal responsibility.

 

You own the knot.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Untangling is part vision and part deft touch.

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

 

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knot theory getting shit done do business

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

 

Ah.

 

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

 

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

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

 

Huh?false linear cause effect knot business decision

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

All that said.

 

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

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

Well.

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

the randomness of thinking & thoughts

August 31st, 2017

context make things better young

 

Well.

 

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

 

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

 

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So.

 

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

 

Huh?

 

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

 

Couple lessons in that:

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That is thinking.

 

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

 

—–

unharnessed the flying horses that were whirling along

 

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

 

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

—-

 

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

 

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

 

Which brings me back to my opening sentence.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Look.

 

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

 

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

 

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

nobody gives a family guy

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But here is what really worries me.

 

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

 

That is what worries me.

 

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

 

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

 

In fact.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

unicorn and ally

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

be-better-exponentially

 

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

August 28th, 2017

 

work doing the best you can not enough

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

 

——

Henry Kissinger

 

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

 

God (in Futurama)

 

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Well.

 

 

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

 

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

 

Uhm.

 

But.

 

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

 

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

 

But.

 

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

 

People like reliability.

 

People like consistency.

 

People like a foundation of quiet competent leadership.

 

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

leadership confidence credit insecure Trump

 

 

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

 

That said.

 

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

 

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

 

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“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

 

—–

Winston Churchill

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

 

I would note that reassurance is a powerful tool.

 

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

 

Now.

 

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

 

Aw heck.

 

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

 

—-

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

————

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Oh.

This kind of suggests that greatness is a contradiction.

 

Let’s use Winston as an example.

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

 

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

 

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

All despite his ego.

 

Great leadership reflects a unique balance of ego and humility.

Ego to effectively lead and humility to be effectively followed.

 

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

 

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

 

Well.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

In the end.

 

do what you said you would

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

 

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

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

 

 

Enlightened Conflict