the finiteness of infinite possibilities

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“The talk you hear about adapting to change is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.

The only way you can manage change is to create it.”

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Peter Drucker

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“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

———–
John Green

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Ok. This is about Possibilities and infiniteness. A long time ago I wrote ‘multiple sized infinities’ where I attempt to debunk the “your possibilities are infinite” snake oil life coaching advice. But here I focus on the finiteness of infinite in business.

I will do so in 2 ways:

decision making mode. I’m not sure how helpful it is to encourage people who need to make A decision that the possibilities are limitless.

maximizing individual’s productivity. I’m not sure how helpful it is to encouraging a person who has a job to do, and desires to do it as well as they can, that their possibilities are infinite.

 

Decision making.

Oddly I will begin speaking about possibilities by talking about shaking the etch a sketch. I do that because any discussion about possibilities begins, and ends, with: “whatever got you to where you are today is not enough to keep you there.” This is where the etch a sketch comes in because that quote is right AND wrong.

Right in that you have to ditch maybe 80% of the thinking & ideas because they were building ideas and now you have to leverage velocity off of what you have. You need to shake the etch a sketch & redraw systems, process & ideas.

Wrong in that most likely your business is constructed around 4 cornerstones of principles. Or maybe it has some strong cultural boundaries.Both of those represent the good stuff that makes your business WHO it is not what it does. That’s the etch a sketch itself. The construct which holds what gets shaken. Without it the sand flies all over the place and you have … well … shit & you need to start all over (that’s bad).

This makes possibilities finite simply by the valuable boundaries of what makes a business a business. And before someone tosses out “outside the box” bullshit, these boundaries can be pushed out but stepping across means breaking principles which make your company. in other words. If this business finiteness doesn’t meet your needs don’t step out of the box, go to another company.  

 

Individual productivity.

Let me talk comfort zones here. far too often infinite possibilities encourages people to look for shit outside their comfort zone or outside some box. As I pointed out in my comfort zone piece, that’s wrong. Individual productivity, individual meaning & individual purpose is generated by pushing OUT the boundaries of what you are currently capable of. This distinction is important because meaning shouldn’t be a onetime thing it should simply be an extension of who you are and what you do. Keep it within your zone just push the boundaries out.

Anyway. Infinite gives Possibilities a bad rap. What do I mean? Far <far> too often we talk about possibilities as “the possibilities are infinite.” We make them sound like they all reside somewhere ‘outside the box.’ From an organizational leadership standpoint this sounds quite inefficient. But the truth about possibilities are infinite is that it is bullshit. In fact. In all this bullshit we are screwing what is actually a good concept, or the possibilities truth. The future is NOT filled by infinite possibilities.  Now. We may have more possibilities than we think we do, but they are certainly not infinite.

In fact the possibilities in any given time and situation are quite finite in a variety of ways:

  • Time inevitably squeezes your possibilities quite often into an almost suffocating finite space.
  • Ability, or capabilities, inevitably squeezes your possibilities quite often into a fairly pragmatic sphere of finite space.
  • Context, or the situation itself, squeezes your possibilities quite often into a less than infinite, or maybe better said “a variety of different sized infinities,” choice space.

We do possibilities a huge disservice by suggesting ‘infinite.’ Shit. We do ourselves a huge disservice by suggesting ‘infinite possibilities.’ At any given time you, and the organization, are absolutely surrounded by possibilities. But possibilities do not always lie directly ahead of you or in the direction you face. Possibilities swirl around you in a multi-dimensional fashion.

Therefore, possibilities can reside in any direction.

Therefore, in order to see all possibilities you may not be able to rely solely on peripheral vision, but to turn around and view in a 360degree fashion <and, yes, if you turn around I would note you are then looking forward just in a different direction>.

Therefore, progress can reside in any direction.

But this is not infinite. It just may feel like it is infinite simply because of the complexity associated with context and what your mind can realistically grasp. We would do better if we admitted infinities, in terms of possibility, reside in all directions – not just forward. We would be much better served if we admitted that not all infinities are same sized. I also believe we would be much better served to admit that possibilities are finite to any given individual. Possibilities which be much better served if we suggested the depth & breadth available within the finite space available to us.

The power of purposeful possibilities. Purposeful possibilities means you aren’t chasing possibilities, but rather seeking meaning. Meaning at work is relatively simple. Every job shouldn’t be a valuable job, it should be a valued job. Valued by the one doing it & by others around. If you find you are valued for what you do, you will inherently begin seeking to be better because we know we are contributing. That’s meaning.

Finding the “better” within what is, i.e., a better inside for a better outside.

The better inside is obvious. This is purposeful adaptation and a constant fine tuning of how things are done and products & services offered. But we cannot, and should not, forget that all of the ‘better inside’ feeds a ‘better desire’ outside.

Pragmatically, people desire something better than a good numbers report. Sure. That is the day-to-day ‘meet the needs state’ type stuff going on in their heads, but at some point they lean back in their chairs, either in the office or in the comfort of their home, and they desire … maybe even need … to see something better to validate themselves as human beings beyond simply ‘doing their job well.’ They want to feel they have done something better, offered something better or contributed something better. In my words, they’d like to be in touch with their “muchness.” I say that because it is clearly different than infinite, or the pursuit of, possibilities. It is simply expansion of who & what you are to its greatest size & ability.

In the end. Infinite possibilities are not infinite, they are finite. And I truly believe we would all be better off as we pursue creating a better business world, one in which purpose is embraced and people can find some meaning & value in what they do if we didn’t overwhelm people with infinite and tell everyone “finite is big enough for all the good things we want to happen to happen.”

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Written by Bruce