Uncategorized · Self Improvement · Original Thought · Uncertainty

Learning Curiousity

Am I a slow learner? Am I in the too old to teach a new trick category? Do I continue to expect a different result from the same process? Am I unwilling to consider possibilities that don’t confirm what I already hold to be true? Yes, yes and yes but not as often as I was three years ago and not as often as I was three months ago. I am getting better at listening and observing. I have improved my willingness and ability to embrace strategies, tactics, and practices that don’t guarantee an expected and preferred outcome. I am able to say ” let’s give it a try and see what we learn.”

It’s not easy being curious but inquisitiveness has it’s own rewards too. Accepting that what you are doing, in this moment, is the best use of your time and the actions you are taking will give you the best bang for your buck is the easier road. It is more difficult to question the status quo, make an inquiry that doesn’t have a ready-made answer or just do what ‘we have always done’. It seems impossible to lift our heads and see how the world has changed since we started and see if what we have been doing has made an impact on what we are trying to achieve.

Learning isn’t a random activity. I conceded that we can acquire experience by happenstance but curiousity requires intention (non-randomness). I have gained information in moments of chaos but recognize that I ascribed the result post experience and missed a genuine window to learning something as yet unimagined because I hadn’t set out to intentionally absorb, digest and regurgitate. We can commit to being observant, reflective, questioning, and accept knowledge lightly without grasping it to our chest and pretending it is sacred.We then actively search for confirmation and actively pursue misunderstanding so that our delusions don’t disolve.

I am a self-confessed impatient imperfectionist with and extreme action bias. This leaves me jumping to conclusions and off bridges before I spend time hearing the options and then making an informed decision. My stubbornness and self-importance present as unreasonable pride and can limit my willingness to explore. Some days I believe I am the most accommodating and interested person that I know and on the next day, I am self-assured, self-righteous and self-centered. I can constantly convince myself that I understand how the world works without applying any rigor or testing to the thesis. I can smile and nod with self-satisfaction when nothing out of the ordinary or nothing I couldn’t have predicted occur. It would seem, after some thought, that the results are a function of the conditions and preconditions that I established rather than some sacred or scientific rule. The same results are a function of the same blind routine rather than the best and only impact that is/was possible.

If I consider and then change the starting parameters I can reasonably expect that the process and ends will be different. Even if I am pleased with the way things went, isn’t it incumbent on me to see how I may improve the results?
As always, when I write in the first person I could as easily be using second or third. Are you a slow learner? Are we in the too old to teach a new trick category? Do you continue to expect a different result from the same process? Are we unwilling to consider possibilities that don’t confirm what we already hold to be true?

Embrace some ambiguity today. Test a new ‘off the wall’ thesis. Be bold and go where you have never gone before.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
~ Walt Disney

Curiousity is the lust of the mind ~ Thomas Hobbes

Science means constantly walking a tightrope between blind faith and curiosity; between expertise and creativity; between bias and openness; between experience and epiphany; between ambition and passion; and between arrogance and conviction – in short, between an old today and a new tomorrow.
~ Heinrich Rohrer
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
~ Albert Einstein
Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. – Zora Neale Hurston

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
e. e. cummings

My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.
Mario Testino

As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others, and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear.
Tracee Ellis Ross

 

Make Today Remarkably Curious,

B

Uncategorized

Nostalgia

Nostalgia’s only frame is our imagination. Whether the lens is rose, green, or black, we rearrange and edit to suit the mood and moment we are trying to recreate. In the memorable moment, we store the events and circumstances arbitrarily influenced by how well we slept the night before, how much traffic we encountered, or if the sun is shining. If I have expectations that joy and laughter, or anger and sadness will be present the data that is stored through confirmation or denial of those expectations alter how the event is captured. When the extraction of a memory happens, it is revised by the proximity to the moment, the reference it is being called to explain, the stimulus evoking the need, and my mood, disposition and experiences since the last filing of the remembrance. The first telling is freshest, although potentially fictional, and then influences subsequent testimonies based on how the story impacted the teller and the audience. Black becomes grey, sad becomes despondent, or late afternoon can become evening. The shading towards larger or smaller, louder or quiet is a reflection of observation of the narrative rather than the instant being described.

The following is a chapter from my “Faded Recollections” project. See if you can hear where my shifts and shades push into the narrative. This chapter was written 3 years ago, I wonder if you can feel my state of mind then?

After ten weeks in grade 4, I had figured out a pattern that made me popular or at least not unpopular. Being a teacher’s kid wasn’t as bad as a pastor’s kid but I was always viewed with a little suspicion. ” He might tell his mom.” ” Bobby is coming, don’t let him see it”. It made it difficult to be part of a group and impossible to get a girlfriend (whatever that meant). Patty and Diane, two very cute girls, didn’t reciprocate any of my clumsy advances but there were a couple of other boys who would run to the far corner of the playground with me and sit watching the girls giggle at us oogling them. Crossing the monkey bars, two hand holds at a time and shinnying up the swing standard had given me some credibility with Brian and Allan and instilled some awe in the grade 2 kids. For north end kids, all we had was name and reputation.

Life for kids was far more disorganized then, and way more fun. No teacher picked teams at recess for baseball or hit fly balls for Shag or explained the rules for freeze tag or fretted about boys being boys (or girls being boys). Life was simpler. You knew who liked you. You knew who you hoped would like you. You knew who didn’t like you and you shunned them just like they were avoiding you. Feelings got hurt all the time. Kids pushed each other and name called. Kids got knicks, and bled and bumps and bruises appeared and disappeared. Kids learned a lot.

November 1963 had been chilly, dipping to -20C ( 4 below on the old scale) and winter felt like it was edging in early. Well, maybe not early because my memory serves up many Halloweens with snow covering the lawns and eggs freezing on windows. Regardless, the weather hadn’t gotten frigid enough to confine the 200 kids in the basement at lunch and recess. That only happened when they were really afraid that one of us would get frostbite or stick our tongue to the bootscraper, on a dare. After all the teachers needed a coffee and a smoke in the teacher’s lounge and 15 minutes away from their charges. For Mr. Berg there wasn’t any respite. He had grade 5 kids asking inane questions, getting on his nerves, not listening to instructions and yawning in his classroom and then did supervision so his wife could get new curtains, or slipcovers, or dishes or something. “Every little bit helps”

At morning recess, he faced south leaning against the greying brick at the ready to pick up the pieces if a humpty dumpty incident happened, like when Harvey parachuted off the big swing and broke his left leg. Like the all the King’s men, he wasn’t responsible for stopping the carnage just repairing the damage and watching for true craziness and listening for potty mouths. He could hear Kevin say “shit” from 200 yards and knew that if Adele was moping by the back gate that she might be contemplating a runner. In September, Adele took off at morning recess heading east and Patty said: “ her parents found her in Winnipeg a week later.” I don’t know how a ten-year-old could travel 500 miles but that is what Patty said and we always listened when she was making pronouncements, besides the goal posts.
At lunch break, Mr. Berg faced east imagining something better. Maybe some excitement would jump in his lap tomorrow. “It is only November, I have 7 months until summer and two months away from this drudgery”. When he was in the noon position, he couldn’t see what was going on at the swings, teeters or climbing bars and was oblivious to the activities at the corner gate. Plots were hatched, nicknames were taunted, horseplay arose and I remember trying to hold Patty’s hand. Nobody swore, or thought about smoking or really hurting each other but the rules were different then.
By the afternoon recess, Mr. Berg had given up on another day and didn’t even come out of the covered entry. The principal always took an extra five minutes before ringing the bell and never did a sweep to see if he was earning the extra $2. If havoc and mayhem was going to break out, this was the time. For most of us, we had no real sense of time but it was obvious that freedom was on the horizon. Even in November, the sun was still promising something and our imaginations worked together to fill the hours between supper and street lights. We were powerless to change the cycle so we adapted to the rhythm.

November 23 started just like November 22. Harvey and I were first to the playground, just before 8:30, and staked the best spot in the grade 4 territory, on the pavement under the Kindergarten window. We bragged about yesterday and proudly prophesized about tomorrow, avoiding today. Four other boys joined us before the lineup bell rang and then the stragglers raced across the field from every direction. If we timed it perfectly, we could meander kicking stones and looking cool to arrive at the back door just as the second bell rang and the girls lined up. The daily dance started. It is hard to flirt and avoid being seen or seeing all at the same time. By now, we were pretty much in sync and our moves were choreographed like the Virginia Reel we practised in the playroom. “Would today be the day that Mrs. Mattson actually paired me with someone other than Shirley – Squirrelly Shirley?”
I don’t recall what occurred at morning recess or in any of my classes which is weird because I did well in school and this would turn out to be one of the most important days of my life. Maybe I was foreshadowing the upcoming events or maybe the rush that was coming has erased pieces, to leave room for clarity and sharpness, in what was important and remarkable.
Lunch was the highlight, for me. I rushed home to grab a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of whole milk with a plan to meet back on the playground in 5 minutes to play a game of Aerial. Aerial was a local version of football where one kid, the quarterback picked up the ball off the dirt field and all the other kids on his team raced toward the goal posts. The quarterback had three or five elephants to select a receiver and heave the ball in his direction before the opposition madly chased him in an effort to tag him with two hands. Invariably, “ I got you on the back”, “ You only tagged with one hand”, “Missed me” rang from the playground as often as the ball was caught. The team with the ball had three chances to score( CFL rules) and then the other team took over and tried to move the football across the other goal line. A score of 21-14 was a good noon hour, especially if you scored one of the three touchdowns. You could be a minor celebrity for a couple hours. “Nice catch”, “ You really deked him out”, or “ I want to be on your team tomorrow” was the highest compliment.
For some reason, the television was on. It was never on at lunch. Maybe one of my sisters turned it on hoping to catch Flintstones but with only one channel you got what was delivered not what you wanted. A news program was playing and a serious man in a dark suit was saying something important. All the suits looked dark in black and white. “ President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, at Dealy Plaza at 12:30 Central Standard Time. “ How could he be shot at 12:30 when it is only 12:10?” was my first thought and then the serious man said “ Reports indicate that the wounds were fatal but the Whitehouse hasn’t confirmed this”. Shot, president, wounds, fatal… fatal meant dead didn’t it? There weren’t any pictures, just serious man. I imagined as hard as I could what the president looked like. I had seen glimpses of him on the news that was on every day before supper, when we all had to be deadly quiet if dad was watching. I conjured his image and a gunshot with blood spurting out like when I got clunked on the forehead with a rock hit off a broken bat. I couldn’t picture dead, I didn’t have a picture of shot dead except from the occasional Saturday movie at the Capitol Theatre. Then no one ever bled, they just fell down when it was their turn.

I was 9 years old, living in a different country but this was the most important thing that I had ever heard and there was no one to tell. My sisters had already headed back to school to sit by the playground and watch the big kids climb, swing and teeter. It felt like I was teetering. My heart and brain were racing. I remember touching my tongue to the roof of my mouth and it felt soft and sticky. I had stopped munching on the PB&J and was sitting with my mouth wide open staring at the first images of the car and the chaos. I didn’t see blood but in black and white not everything is clear. I don’t know how much time had passed but I eventually recovered and washed my mouth out with a big gulp of still cold milk. I picked up my sandwich and glass and took them to the sink. I wasn’t supposed to eat in the living room. There were rules that you never got caught breaking.

I knew who I could tell. There was one adult who I knew would be there. Mr. Berg would be standing guard in the schoolyard and he would know what to do with this information. I slammed the back door on my way out and took the three steps off the stairs in a leap. I raced back to school rehearsing the words, rethinking the words, reconsidering the words. As he got closer, he seemed so relaxed as if nothing had happened. “he didn’t know”. I was going to be the one to tell him, to share this important news. I had something he didn’t have. I knew and he didn’t. I slowed a bit to relish the moment of power but unfortunately, I didn’t have much restraint. From ten steps away I shouted, “ The President has been shot and I think he is dead.” All the kids in earshot turned and the sentinel swiveled in my direction. Everything went into slow motion and this was way before slow motion replay on every second play of the televised football game. The pace crept and sound lengthened so as to be almost unintelligible. Those final steps took what felt like minutes and I had become the center of attention for hundreds of kids. It was likely less than 20 kids, but when you have the spotlight it seems like more.
The moment was greater than scoring a touchdown and greater than what I had imagined kissing Patty would be like. I felt my head swoon and I started sweating and panting. I could taste steel in the back of my throat like when I fell off the roof of the school after retrieving a football. I couldn’t catch my breath.
“Stop, What did you say, young man?” ‘Young man’ was his phrase when you were in big trouble. It was like I had said “ shit, damn, piss”, he was glaring at me with crazy eyes like when Kevin pounded on Larry beside the pump outside the gate. “Why was he furious?” I was the messenger, not the shooter. My left arm felt his grasp and I was lifted into the air in one motion. “ You are coming with me. You are a liar. You can’t spread horrible rumors like that”. He shouted as loud as I had. “ Mr. Davidson will want TO DEAL WITH YOU”. Mr Davidson was the principal and grade 6 teacher. He didn’t come out on the playground unless a man arrived to do an inspection and then we all lined up alphabetically by grade so he could check out our hair, fingernails and for some reason the knees of our pants. What did he mean Mr. Davidson was going to deal with me? I had heard about the ‘strap’ but surely he meant I would get some kind of award.
We were charging up the back stairs and down the hall towards the teacher’s lounge. Before I could feel true foreboding, he opened the door and tossed me through it. I stumbled and fell forward onto a chair where the Kindergarten teacher was sitting. She looked as stunned as I must have looked. “ He is telling lies on the playground and scaring all the other kids”. And then the most shocking statement rose from Mr Berg. like a machine gun in a mobster movie, he rat-a-tat-tatted;“ He needs to be strapped for saying that the President, the president of the United States was shot and is dead. Make an example of him so he learns not to say things just to scare us, to scare the other kids”.
Now my audience was six teachers and Mr. Davidson and the venue was their territory, not the schoolyard where I knew every turn, every stone, every dip and rise. I was in their sanctuary, still not sure how or why I had arrived. My mom, who taught grade 2, must have been there but I don’t remember seeing her and we have never really talked about the incident.
But the teachers and Mr. Davidson weren’t looking at me, they were staring at Mr. Berg. I glanced up and his face was flushed, like he had just run around the schoolyard, his eyes were as big as the big red balls we threw at each other when he wasn’t watching and his nostrils were flared. I had only seen nostrils like that on the horse at grandma’s farm. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one shocked by the past five minutes.
There was silence, staring and then a sigh from the school nurse. Not the kind of sigh that says, this is good but the kind that says “oh no, what should I do?”. The principal broke the spell and stood up. As he approached, his eyes moved from me to my charge and back to me. “ What’s this about William?” I didn’t know who he was talking to but Mr. Berg started “ He came racing across the playground past the grade one and two kids shrieking that the President of the United States had been shot and was dead. I had to stop him so he didn’t really scare the little kids. You know how they are. What if what he said was true? We would all be doomed to the Russians coming over the north pole.”
The voice of authority regained composure and plainly asked “ Why would you say something like that?” Before I could respond Mr. Berg said “ He is a bad kid who will do anything to get attention. I saw him pretending to smoke just to impress a couple of girls.” I wasn’t a bad kid. I listened in class, got mostly As and Bs, didn’t swear when adults were around, didn’t tag hard in football… I wasn’t a bad kid. The voice continued ignoring the rantings saying “ who told you to say that?”
I collected myself, “ no one told me to say it, I saw it on TV and thought I should tell an adult and Mr Berg was the first one I thought of”. This time I could tell where the sigh came from, maybe from everyone. It was probably more of a gasp that sent one of the teachers to the radio on the counter. She either turned it up, I hadn’t noticed it being on or turned it on. I really hadn’t noticed anything in particular but now I saw the yellow-brown walls and thought of my last diarrhoea and realized the room smelled like sweat, cigarettes, and maybe fear (not at all like diarrhoea).
As I started scanning the room, which was way smaller than I would have imagined, the radio announcer solemnly reported “ President John F. Kennedy is dead. He was shot in Dealy Plaza in Dallas while his motorcade was on parade. Vice President Johnson will be sworn in as President this afternoon”. Then almost as an afterthought “ Investigators are searching for the gunman or gunmen”.
The silence was different this time. Not driven by fear but rather a disbelief. Not the ‘you are lying disbelief’ but the kind that rises when you don’t want to believe. I felt Mr Berg’s hand leave my shoulder. I really hadn’t known it was there until it wasn’t. He sort of swayed sideways and fell to his knees. No one breathed as if we could reverse time if we didn’t move it forward. The room was choked and I felt responsible. It felt terrible and thrilling all at once. My knowledge, my words, my little voice had power.
“ Bobby, go back out to the playground” the principal whispered. As I made my way to the door I heard
“ What do we do? What do we do now?”

My only visit to the teacher’s lounge was over as the door closed behind me. The hallway was empty and seemed longer than a few minutes ago. I was on a rollercoaster as the floor pitched and the walls shook. I was at the stairs before I knew I was moving and through the east doors. The light was bright and my eyes dilated from the glare. The image ahead of me was fuzzy. It seemed all the kids were huddled in a semi-circle around the entrance. There was no one on the field, or on the swings or at the gate. They were all here waiting. They weren’t pushing. There wasn’t any swearing or name calling. My ears rang from the stillness. Still swaying from the hallway pitching, I hit a wall of anxiety and worry.
Harvey and Brian started it. The applause rippled through the circle. Even Patty and Diane were clapping. My only possible response was a smile, a crooked disbelieving smile. I told the group, who listened without interruption the news I had heard on the TV. The reaction wasn’t like the teachers or like what Mr. Berg anticipated. Like me, they didn’t know what to do with the information. There wasn’t enough information to think about the consequences. Slowly small groups drifted away back to regular lunch hour activities. I was famous for a day but the story of the teacher’s lounge got me an audience every time I told it until I went on to middle school.
We were all changed that day whether we knew it or not. Innocence evaporated for some, dread directed decisions for others. Our future changed and we can only imagine how another 5 years of Camelot might have played out. I learned that knowledge is power and even when you don’t completely understand it you can still wield the sword.

 

The sword and shield are important tools in the reconstruction of the past. In rereading the piece today, I still believe that there is no intentional misrepresentation but acknowledge that there could easily be significant misremembering.

Original Thought · Uncertainty

You and Only You

Fiction friction occurs when I scrape my imagined reality up against someone who has created a different narrative. If I rub my centrist, libertarian, ideological promiscuity up against your socialist, environmentalist, feminism or your socially conservative, monotheism things heat up. When I brandish a capitalist fiscal framework and you are armed with an egalitarian universalist schema a battle is likely to ensue. Is there a way to overcome the Us/Them divide? I have asked dozens of friends and colleagues, reached out to influencers in numerous fields and pressed my memory for times when the chasm was successfully closed. The usual approach is to seek common ground and work from those moments of agreement forward rather than backward. One of my closest friends was once an adversary who I held in extreme prejudice. She stood in front of me in presentations to authorities and governing bodies decrying the position I was soon to take and defending the status quo as beneficial to those she represented. We didn’t share the same worldview, we didn’t share ideology, and we didn’t share collegial conversation. Seven years ago, a common friend invited us, separately, to a fundraising event and then sat us together at a table off to the side. The interaction started aggressively with each of us staking and defending a macro position. Our common friend said ” You are both better than that, start over again.” We did. I asked ” what is the most important issue that we are facing, today?” Her response wasn’t terribly different from what mine would have been and that evening over a pint or two, we debated, discussed, defended with curiousity and respect and arrived at a 12 point plan to make our corner of the world a better place. The goals were the same even as the approaches were different. I learned that I/we can’t build bridges if we stand on opposite sides of the divide and hurl accusations and insults at each other. We don’t often agree but we share life together, when we can, trying to understand the other and holding one another with affection and admiration. Finding common ground didn’t remove the friction but it helped me understand why her fiction was so different from mine. I have shifted my perspective on some ideas and she has altered her position on some. We still create some heat when we meet but we don’t hold grudges and we lead with grace. Inside respectful differences lies the as yet unimagined. We can fear it as unknown or use the tension to spark and ignite a different way.

I am not suggesting collaboration or even cooperation as a predictable approach to problem-solving. We do need to demand enough diversity of opinion and approach in our lives in order to overcome the inertia of mediocrity that we live in. I need to understand how someone that I dislike because of our differences can possibly think what they think. I am unable to battle racist tendencies if I am unaware of or refuse to acknowledge the reasoning and arguments of a racist. We can’t overcome wicked problems by blaming the victims but we can’t really solve them without understanding how we are all complicit (including the victims). Even typing the parenthetic bit, I realize that it will cause friction with many readers and would outrage colleagues if I said it out loud in a meeting. How can we warm up the discussions without burning up social and political capital? I am learning the lesson and still usually err on the side of too much fuel to the fire.But I have also been involved in far too many debates where all we hear is our own voices bouncing off the walls and faces in the room.

Have you experienced fiction friction this week? Is the broken world we live in adding constructive or destructive flames? Do you need permission to be provocative in your proximate relationships? Do we need a reminder to redress with respect and to listen with attention and intent to understand? Can I enter a discussion without wondering or worrying about winners and losers?

This morning I had three coaching sessions where I was able to practice controlled burn and saw all three clients react with their own measured, heated response. I learned something new, they committed to doing something different and we left the sessions without anyone feeling injured or insulted. The experience leaves me hopeful that we can intentionally change how we rub up against each other without becoming too smooth or being erased completly.

Make Today Remarkably Hot,
B

Original Thought · Uncertainty

Foxes and Hedgehogs

In the midst of the 2017 fall election in Calgary, Alberta I am reminded of a quote from the Greek poet Archilochus, who lived around 650 BCE, ” The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The sly fox knows how to deceive his prey and predators with misdirection or misrepresentation or by hiding in the weeds. Even after he has been caught in the henhouse, he won’t just own up to the crime but deflects it towards a skunk, a weasel or another fox.
The hedgehog knows that transparency is the best defence and when he makes a mistake he acknowledges his position and rolls into a ball seeking atonement. He really knows many things but they all revolve around honesty. He knows he is a hedgehog, he knows he isn’t a horse or a hare or a frog. He has accepted his role and has determined to be the best hedgehog in the woods.

I am biased regarding the politics of my city. I was biased going into the campaign and signed the nomination forms for the incumbent mayor and incumbent councillor. I pretended to be objective and neutral during the debates I heard; pretended in the sense that objectivity and neutrality are myths. I bring the sum of my experience to my analysis of ‘evidence’, as do you. I heard nothing that changed my opinion of the candidates and was not persuaded to consider changing my vote. I cat my ballots in the advance poll in favor of Mayor Nenshi and Councillor Carra. I did, however, move my vote for Public School Trustee. The candidate that I initially was leaning towards did nothing to convince me of his trust and I was offended by the heir apparent message that I heard from a campaign worker. I exercised my franchise fully and I anxiously await the results.

In reality, whatever happens on Monday will have little effect on me personally. My taxes might go up 5%, I might pay additional fees for services I use or don’t, I might need to petition my representatives or engage in public forums but all those things have been part of my life for the last 30 years.
However, Monday’s results will have a dramatic impact on our city. Collectively we will be a different place depending on which frontrunner wins the Mayor’s chair. We get to vote once every four years and then wait and see how it plays out. There seems to be a clear enough difference between camps that I/we could predict where we might be when we go to the polls in October 2021. I have declared my subjective preference and no doubt that helps create a vision of a progressive, positive, passionate city where anything is possible for everyone. My worldview worries that under a less visionary leadership, we will see a city that is devoid of culture, except cowboys and hockey teams and a less caring and less equitable place to live.

I recognize that if your preference of candidates is different from mine, you may see hope and possibility through a different lens but that is what democracy is supposed to afford us.
For the next 48 hours, I am going to proudly wear purple and represent hedgehogs as best as I can.

If you live in Calgary, I encourage you to get out and participate in the process. Vote for whoever you choose but don’t let others make decisions on your behalf by not marking your ballot. Stand up and be counted. It’s too important not to.

Make Monday Remarkable,

Bob
And then let’s get back to building a world-class city on Tuesday morning.

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

You are Remarkable

Maybe it is a revelation, maybe a realization, maybe a ruination but this morning a bolt from the blue reminded me that I have a theory about Maslow’s Pyramid but I wasn’t observing it in my life. Most social scientists and public intellectuals believe that the way to fill the pyramid for others (I assume for ourselves) is to begin at the base and pour resources and time into creating what we determine to be the right measure of basic needs and then move to the safety and then belonging and rarely to esteem and almost never to self-fulfillment.
For ten years I have been saying that Maslow’s hierarchy is correct just upside down. I don’t know what old Abram would say but I speculate that he was far more concerned with quality of life rather than mere survival. He would agree with “adding life to our days rather than just adding days to our life.” While starting with the bottom of the triangle might alleviate some pangs, it seems inevitable that we just help people to live longer and slightly better in their misery.

maslow

What could be achieved if they knew and understood that they (we all) have a personal mission to contribute to our own well being and the well being of our family and community? What would it look like to create circumstances that fostered, encouraged and rewarded those who used their strengths to strengthen others?
Would the pyramid fill itself if we all lived to our potential and celebrated the promise and potential of others in our midst?

My life is full and rich – not in the way bottom up pyramid fillers might see it but full and rich from where I get to sit. I am blessed with a partner (for the past 42 years) who shares most of the values and goals that I do. We have 3 remarkable sons who have amazing partners and inspiring children that we get to share life with. I am able to read, write and share what I am thinking with thousands of people, that I might never meet and live life with a couple dozen people who celebrate me, support me, challenge me and somedays irk me. I am working towards my potential and feel fulfilled.
I have a strong self-esteem bordering on delusions of grandeur that I credit to my level of awareness and compassion for others.

We want for nothing but couldn’t point to a plan that justifies the abundance. Our roof is dry, our walls are warm, our larder is stocked. We have the ability and freedom to make sensible choices about where and how we live. For both of us, each day is an adventure filled with surprises that we notice and appreciate and surprises that unfortunately we miss or worse take for granted.

Our current adventure has us living in the midst of 10,000 books and each week we get to lift up 100 children and their families by sharing the joy and confidence that reading brings. We don’t know where the next experience will take us but believe that whatever the shape our years form, as long as we fill it by strengthening others that we don’t need to fret about the bottom.

For my Canadian friends, Happy Thanksgiving and for others, take time to celebrate all the blessings you have and then spread some to others along with your love.

B

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

What We Need More Of

What we need a lot more of is exuberance, enthusiasm, and elation. The world around me and the one created by media is vitriolic, spiteful and polarized. I find the atmosphere draining and depressing so I am calling on all my friends, family colleagues, readers and any strangers who happen to encounter this challenge to step into the world today, tomorrow and the next day – Until October 1 with the 3 e’s on your face and sleeve.

Be exuberant. Be ebullient, buoyant, cheerful, jaunty, lighthearted, high-spirited, exhilarated, excited, exultant, euphoric, joyful, cheery, merry, jubilant, vivacious, enthusiastic, irrepressible, energetic, animated, full of life, lively, vigorous, adrenalized; be full of life and optimism. Smile when you are walking down the street, down the hall or through the park. Smile a ridiculously big smile at every person you encounter. Laugh, giggle, snort when something tickles your funny bone. Don’t suppress it because of some imagined social convention.
Sing along with the radio, cd, or mp3. Listen to uplifting, inane, silly songs and join in. Try Mary Poppins, Frozen, or Weird Al for inspiration. Sing loud and like you mean it (even if you don’t).

Stand up with your back straight and your shoulders back as you skip, march, prance and dance through your day. Be an invitation to exuberance for the world that sees you and wonders, sees you and smiles, sees you and joins in.

Be enthusiastic. Be eager, keen, avid, ardent, fervent, passionate, ebullient, zealous, vehement; excited, wholehearted, committed, devoted, fanatical, earnest; go hog-wild, can-do, gung-ho, rah-rah. Cheer on someone who is trying, be first in line to accept responsibility or to try something new. Wear your passion on your sleeve by celebrating a great idea, a small victory, a valiant effort, a team success. Share the victories with others and include them in the credit.

Be Elated. Be thrilled, delighted, overjoyed, ecstatic, euphoric, very happy, joyous, gleeful, jubilant, beside oneself, exultant, rapturous, in raptures, walking on air, on cloud nine, in seventh heaven, jumping for joy, in transports of delight; on top of the world, over the moon, on a high, tickled pink. The other two e’s are easy to see and easy to demonstrate – they exist outside of us and are on exhibit for all to see and experience. Being elated is inside of us and is more difficult to hold on to. But like most things, elation is a choice. I get to decide, you get to decide, we get to decide to feel joyful in difficult times, to be delighted by the blessings we have not dejected by any perceived deficiency and tickled pink with the privilege of relationships we have.

As I reach the end of this post, I do a twirl and laugh out loud. Will you do the same? As I step away from my computer, I commit to smiling and celebrating with those I encounter this morning. Will you do the same? In the moments between my desk and the door, I simply choose joy over anger, glee over anxiety, and appreciation, love, and mindfulness over the messages and images that will likely bombard me this afternoon. How about it, are you ready to be exuberant, enthusiastic and elated?

Make Today Remarkable,

B

Uncategorized

The Unhealthy Consumer: When is it Enough?

I probably have enough of everything.

MakeItUltra™

By Eric Perry, PhD-c


“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” ~Will Rogers

Whereever we look, we are constantly being fed the idea that we need more “stuff.” We have 24 hour television channels devoted entirely to enticing us to buy more and more items we don’t really need. Every commercial break is an opportunity to sell to a captive audience. For those who do not watch television; the internet is always open, perpetually stocked with anything a person can imagine. Magazines flaunt the latest gadgets, cars, clothes, makeup, and anything else they are paid to advertise. Within social media, so-called influencers aim to sway the way we live. We are constantly encouraged to be olympic level consumers. The average American household has $5,700 in credit card debt. If we exclude those who pay their credit card off in…

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Original Thought · Uncertainty

I was Invisible

When I was in the woods today
I had a bit of a start
She walked past
without seeing me

I didn’t blend in or camouflage
she just didn’t seem aware of me
Her big brown eyes were shining
here ears were flagging for noise
The nose twitched and searched
and still I wasn’t there

How many times, in a week, do I make others invisible? Do they know that I don’t see them? Do they care? I was taken aback by the doe’s reminder of my insignificance. She said ” your presence here means nothing to me” “you are of no value and offer no threat so for my purposes, you don’t exist.”

When I pass someone sleeping on a bench, without feeling anything, am I saying the same thing? If a woman is crying and I ignore her, am I signalling that her problems aren’t mine? When someone in front of me litters and I don’t say or do anything, have I also ignored his and my responsibilities?

Being observant is the first step to empathy. If I am able to erase human tragedy, suffering, or delete behaviour that is offside, I can’t possibly begin to understand enough to care or care enough to understand. After observation comes acknowledgement, ” I see you and I see your burden.” ” I feel your pain.” ” I need to say something or do something.”
Step three is deciding. So at this point, you are still off the hook. You haven’t made a commitment to action. I make decisions easily; too easily many would say. So I don’t know what process you go through to choose. You might do a pros/cons list or a cost-benefit analysis or need to do more research (which is really just an excuse). You may find reasons to intervene or evidence to rush away. If you choose to ignore what you have observed and acknowledged, you are likely already dozens of meters past the situation and like the deer in the forest have said ” you are of no consequence to me.”

On the other hand, if you choose to say or do something act quickly and with respect and compassion. Be open-handed, open-hearted, and open-minded. “He who hesitates is lost”. Do or say what comes to your mind. Trust that you don’t need a PhD in Caring or Respect before you know how to be human. You have been training for this all your life even if you have ignored the lessons or avoided using them, you’ve got this. You’ve got this because it doesn’t need to be perfect. ” Are you okay?”, a smile, sit in silence beside someone, be a fellow human, can change the moment. You are saying without uttering ” I see you, I care, Can I help?” or ” We are rotating on this sphere together and we both need to do our part to make it better” or ” today you are down, tomorrow it could be me”

I can’t predict what you will, could or should do because I am not you, in your shoes, in whatever situation you are finding yourself. I can guarantee that ignoring what is in front of you is complicit with the issue that troubled you enough to get to deciding. Caution and neutrality are always complicit with the antagonism or aggression in the circumstances. If I don’t care enough to intervene, I don’t care at all. If I don’t care enough to say something, I become part of the problem.

I hope you choose to see those people and behaviours in your world, today, tomorrow and tomorrow again and that you find the compassion and courage to stand with someone you know or someone you will never know.

Make Today Remarkable, or at least bearable, for someone else,

B

Uncategorized

Capacity

How do you know if you have reached your capacity? What happens when you exceed it? Is that even possible? When I reach a new training goal and exceed my capacity, I just move the line to the new personal best. If I could increase my capacity by 1% 5 days a week, the gains in a month, a year would be remarkable. My squat personal best is 250 pounds of 5 sets of 5 reps. A 1% increase would add 2.5 pounds tomorrow, which seems entirely doable. After 5 days my capacity would be set at about 263 pounds. For my age and frame size, there is likely an extreme capacity. With a little bit of Google sleuthing, it seems that the record for a 64-year-old is 369 pounds. That seems impossible for me to imagine lifting but shouldn’t we strive to reach the outer limits. And if the record holder, John LaFlamme, add 1% a week for a month he would reach more than 390.

What about other workloads? If I write 2500 words today and read 200 pages can I increase both by 1% tomorrow? That is only one more sentence and a couple more pages. If I contacted 6 prospects tomorrow could I contact 7 and then 8 and then 9 or ten a day, by the end of this week. Are we afraid of capacity or is capacity a synonym for fear? Fear erodes capacity; fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of success, fear of commitment, fear of accountability. Let me offer this assurance if you try to improve you will fail, the outcome is uncertain, you may be asked to do more, you won’t have the same excuses, and you will improve (probably not all on the same day but maybe).

What if your potentials and mine are infinite? Well, not technically infinite but so much greater than we are reaching as to seem unlimited. Do you have enough desire and drive to move your needle 5% a week or even 5% a month? What activities and projects are you working on? How could you apply a metric and the set a 5% improvement target? Let’s pretend that you aren’t already walking your 10000 steps a day, like we have been convinced that we should be doing or that you aren’t drinking 64oz of water every day. Improving on these might go hand in hand. If you are walking 6000 steps and drinking 4 glasses of water already you might be able to add 60 steps and an additional 4 oz tomorrow and then repeat and repeat and repeat until you can check the box. Sometime next week you would be up to your 8-8ounce glasses and be pounding out 6500 to 7000 steps. Within a few weeks, you would have increased your capacity and reached the goal through habitual, committed improvement. (Be sure to consult your medical advisors before undertaking any new strenuous activity that could exacerbate an existing condition)

Technology can be a great tool to help remind, prod, coach, and hold accountable our improvement goals and serve as a record of the achievements. I use Duolingo to both encourage and prompt me to continue with my French lessons. Curious.com keeps me learning across an array of subjects by sending an email and then suggesting additional lessons. Noom counts my steps and my TomTom calculates my distances and 5X5StrongLifts coaches me in weight training and kicks my butt when I don’t. In my coaching practice, I act as all of those to my clients and hold them accountable to both the goals and schedules that they have created.

The 1% better every day is credited to Kaizen and in modern terms, this might be the impetus but our neolithic ancestors improved on a daily basis or face dire consequences. Their increase in all kinds of capacity leads us to today where the urgency to improve isn’t as pressing as it was once was. If I don’t learn to conjugate the verb avoir or do 5 sets of bench press and overheads, I probably won’t be eaten by a predator. Where fear once compelled us it now seems to fear detours and derails us from moving forward. The motivation is more intrinsic and inspirational rather than pragmatic survival.
My simple and simplistic analysis would then suggest that capacity is up to me. If I want to improve my fitness, my health, my financial resources, my relationships then it is up to me to participate in the work at the least and design and command at the most. The same is likely true for all of us.

B

Original Thought · Sharing Economy · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Futility

Scale is a terrible metric for excellence. In all the cases I have considered, scalability is a detriment to excellence. Scale reduces the offering to the lowest denominator and celebrates repeatability. Scalability creates mediocrity. When we strive to be everything to everyone or to solve a condition with a grand one-size-fits-all application, we reduce the possibilities to a very narrow band of acceptable options.

absurd

When the Canadian Federal Government attempts to solve senior’s social isolation at a population level, they throw resources, time, and energy at a national program that eventually offers so little inclusion as to be useless. Social inclusion is a local issue, a community problem that requires a neighbour to neighbour solution. I know the boogeyman known as equality will raise his head and shout; “that’s not fair, some will be taken care of very well and some will be neglected. Some will be invited to share Thanksgiving and some will be at home alone.” He is likely tight but isn’t solving a problem for one individual better than solving for none?

The public and charitable sector have created myths and swallowed lies that enshrine mediocre scale over impactful equity. Both sectors have needed to give birth to an enormous bureaucracy that is at once, expensive, ineffective and inefficient. Scale in the public sector relies on grandiose solutions to small problems rather than addressing social change that is necessary to find our way out of the self-perpetuating mess. If they find a way to house one individual who has been street entrenched for years and help her find gainful employment so she can sustain herself or nearly sustain herself, isn’t that a success? Why do we need to create a universal (unexceptional) global program if a local initiative would provide a community-directed (and different from a neighbouring community) service?

The for-profit sector isn’t immune to mediocrity caused by scale. The reason may be more selfish and nefarious; shareholder value and profit, but in the end we never see the best product or service because it needs to be deliverable in Afghanistan and Alabama simultaneously. The made-in movement of artisans, guilds, growers, and artists bring a refreshing, unique product and service to friends, family, associates, acquaintances, and a small loyal following. Each item is different from the next, often designed in response to a specific request or an individual need or preference. Utility, individuality, and beauty are allowed and encouraged.

I can almost hear the hew and cry as I type these words. ” Yes, but what about …” followed loudly by ” cost”, or ” economy”, or “markets”. For many years I believed the myth of a free market and that if it was good for business it was great for the community. I think that at one time, when we had a local tailor, a local grocer, a milkman, one accountant on the block this was, in fact, a true imagined reality. But as we have devolved into corporate megastores serving pablum to droids, the good that was once bestowed in the community is now delivered through corrupt public markets. Even the stock exchanges that were once a place for considered investment are now just vehicles pushing a dying theory to its eventual and inevitable collapse. People are not served by a corporate culture. We become servants to the machine that churns obsolescence and expects obedience to the powerful purchase promises. ” Buy the next crappy thing because it won’t last long (neither inventory nor functionality).

How can I escape the rolling thunder of messaging? The invasive tracks that are everywhere coaxing me to be better, but only if I buy a new dress, a new phone, a new drug, a new temporary icon are fleeting because there is a new and better crappy thing lurking around the corner with its own marketing plan. The cycle seems unnatural to my heart and my head thinks that the perpetual Ponzi of feeding the beast can’t last.

Can I get off the train at Neighbourhood Station and still live in the world? Can I think local, act local, shop local, give local and still contribute to the global pot? I am hoping that I am up to the challenge. For me, the change that I desire (need?) will be a battle with an entrenched 20th C belief structure that until recently I believed had served me well. A redefinition of well, good, great are needed and my understanding of them will be mine. I am going to attempt a life scaled at the smallest functional level. If I am ready and capable of making a decision, then I should be the one to make it. If the family level is where it would be better made because of the impact the choice would have then the family should decide. The same is true for neighbourhoods, communities, cities. I am no longer convinced that we can make important local choices once we expand the range to provinces or states. It already feels like my health has improved and my stress has been reduced when I focus on those things that I can take immediate, relevant and concrete action on. For me, I need to be able to touch them, see them, walk to them for me to understand the issue or offer and have any hope of adding value.

What do you think?

B