Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Human-scaled Dreams

Where I live, we just came through months of debate, discussion, dialogue, vitriol, sloganeering and dreaming about hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics. This Big Idea was supposed to create imagination, energy, economic output, and reenergize our City. After a referendum, the debate is over. 56% of voters chose not to support the bid. The morning after – there was lots of ringing of hands (understandable) and accusations. ” Now what big idea will save us?”

It got me wondering about human-scaled dreams and human-scaled actions. Would 10,000 dreams taking flight lift our city to new heights? Could we learn about each other and what we are capable of if 10,000 people recruited 10 people to come alongside them and undertake a project to bring beauty, equity, economy, creativity, imagination to life?
Would the as-yet-unimagined be the impetus for us to make our great city even greater? I think so.
I am interested in what you think? 10,000 Dreams for YYC. Would you be a part of the journey? What popped into your mind as a project? or Am I tilting windmills, again?

Let me know,

B

Original Thought · Uncertainty

Deliberately

When faced with a choice, is it always black and white? Is it ever that polar or are there other decisions that widen the options in each moment. In Calgary, we are voting in a couple of weeks on whether we should submit a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. The nonbinding referendum asks what seems like a simple question on which until last week, I was sure I would vote “No.”
I had a meeting with a Yes supporter on an unrelated issue. I asked, “ are people in your circle were talking about the Olympic bid?” He said; “ yes, and he was enjoying the discussions.”
I said the same thing I have been saying for a couple of months; “if the vote were today, I would vote No.” Before he asked why I chimed in; “ it isn’t an economic consideration, it is about social issues. I worry that this will draw focus and attention away from the important community, environmental, and social issues we are facing.”
He asked; “what if we can be deliberate in putting those issues front and center in the bid and the way that we do the games?” “ What if in 7 years, we could say that Calgary is the most accessible city in North America?” “ What if we made every decision and took every action with the intent of being deliberately nonintrusive in any development?” “ Could we work towards solving homelessness because we invited the world into our city?”
I haven’t been convinced, and he isn’t finished. He reached out today and offered to connect me and my cohort with resources and that he would be available to answer wicked questions. I am not convinced, but I am being deliberately curious and reflective.

How many other times have I seen my choice as binary when it could have been composite? Am I making biased choices without consideration for how I might leverage a different option to achieve a bigger goal? Is my brain capable of wrestling with a bigger landscape? Am I willing?

Take a deliberation break today and see how big you can expand your options.

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I Have Strong Opinions

Even in my embrace of ambiguity or possibly because of my quest for uncertainty, I have strong opinions loosely held. My position on the environment, economics, politics, family dynamics would lean center left on a traditional spectrum, mostly. My views on some other social issues are muddled and huddled in the middle and on some other issues, especially around justice, I lean into the right.

When I am talking about conservation with most of my friends and colleagues, we congregate around science, ecology, greening, and personal responsibility. The confirmation bias of my huddle is strong, and so I try to venture into the territory of other camps and hear what and why they understand and believe. My belief that we are living through unprecedented climate change and that our actions are the most significant contributor was formed by research, reflection, conversation, and personal observation but I hold my conclusions loosely enough to enter into dialogue with others. (Dialogue is the process of sharing ideas, opinions, viewpoints, and facts so everyone is heard and we can all leave having learned something.) Sometimes the nudge is less quantitative than qualitative, sometimes the shift is more about trust, and mostly we all come closer to understanding what the other is thinking.
Over the past four years, I have moved from a self-described recovering post-modern fundamentalist to a fully outed atheist. The move was painful intellectually, and I needed to break down some significant brick walls to get ready to build a different foundation. I still honor people of faith and will participate in the traditions intellectually as a show of support, and they have come to see that I believe lots of the same things as them, without the overarching narrative of God and salvation.
When I am open to the possibility that what I believe or understand may not be entirely accurate or correct, I allow space for the as yet unimagined (my brain hasn’t yet imagined it). I can’t arrive at that Eureka Moment if I remain stubbornly locked in my own prison of certainty.
Have you taken a certainty break this week? Are you actively exploring something that doesn’t fit with your biases? I am sure that the thought of shaking your foundation sounds a bit overwhelming and crazy, but I encourage you to give it a try.

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Reasonable Accommodations?

Every day, I read articles, see newscasts or have conversations with people that lead to a pivot point where I/we/society should make space to accommodate someone or something that requires a change of mind, practice or expectations.
In Canada, we are preparing for the introduction of the legal, recreational use of marijuana. For the past 150 years, usage was illegal and mostly secreted. Now we are trying to figure out how we can live together when public consumption has broad consequences and impact.

accommodate

Very narrowly, we are discussing how marijuana smoking in our 154 unit, four-story condo building will impact non-users. How do we accommodate the new state without the intrusion of smoke (odor and effect) into our homes? The reflex seems to be regulatory; create a bylaw prohibiting or restricting the when, where and how. I understand this reaction, but a heavy hand might inflame and incite without using the moment to understand what it means to live in community together. What if we had a dialogue with all parties? What could we come up with? Could an as yet unimagined accommodation be possible?

In a previous life, I helped university students, living in residence,  create, monitor and adjudicate community standards. There were still conflicts and disputes, but when everyone understood that their actions and inactions impacted others, there were significantly fewer incidents.

Maybe that is part of our path forward.

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Flowers Grow in the Dark

 

flowers

Daffodils, pansies, asters and even roses may not be appreciated on dull gray days or at night, but they continue to be there, and they continue to offer their inspiration and beauty.

The title of this post comes from a line in Rebecca Solnit’s “Hope in the Dark.” As I was commuting this morning, I was listening to Chapter 21 and was shaken by the reference to flowers. It was a bright morning, and the majesty of the wildflowers along the pathway was easy to spot but having returned home late at night along the same route, I started wondering if they were blooming with such glory after the sun went down.

After a bit of research, or what we consider research today, I discovered that while not entirely correct flowers do continue their growth process regardless of the light conditions.

How well do I stand up to that test? When things are going well, my motivation is high, and I can border on mania. I am productive, creative, cordial, strong, smart, and likable.  When a dark spell sets in, either externally created or internally generated, I don’t do as well. But this is when shining is the most necessary. How can I be the best version regardless of the conditions? How can I become agnostic about my surroundings and internal pathology?

For regular readers, you know what I am going to posit. I must choose to plow through, climb over, go around the obstacles (weather, resources, people, me) and intentionally keep moving forward towards today’s goal that leads towards the higher level goals in my life. I will still falter and fail. I will continue to mope under certain conditions, but if I lay my intention – ‘to continue forward” on the table in front of me, I know that I will continue my growth process.

Take a look at the flowers today, breathe them in so they are captured on or tongue, in your nose and as a part of your memories so you can find them again when darkness sets in. Then be courageous and keep moving towards your goals.

B

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Who Are You?

Are you optimistic, pessimistic, neutralistic? Is the world abundant, scarce or three bears just right? Is your view of the world about how you perceive the truth, your disposition, and/or your experiences? I can find myself feeling ‘hell-in-a-handbasket’ like my father, my grandfather and I am sure on occasion my grandchildren or I can deliberately expect and demand a different perspective from myself and different results from the world. My tendencies are a matter of wiring and if I don’t want to continue wallowing in self-pity I can undertake to rewire my brain to observe the magic, beauty, and mystery alongside the tragedy, hatred and vitriol.

For me, it begins with morning meditation. I use a guided application called “Simple Habits” and practice is the first activity I schedule after my feet hit the floor. It isn’t a spiritual exercise as much as a consciousness and mindfulness kick start. This morning’s meditation was about gratitude for discomfort and how the aches and pains I feel physically and emotionally are likely my body and brain attempting to protect me from additional harm. Without feeling the twinge in my left Achille’s tendon, I might run until something snaps. If I didn’t feel anxious, I might jump off the next cliff without some measure of investigation and reflection. If I didn’t feel regret for not saying something to a loved one in a time of trouble, I might become callous and distant.
I don’t have any chronic conditions that cause me distress do I am not sure how someone could feel grateful for that kind of infliction but I encourage you to take a moment to understand and appreciate your stress, aches, or anxiety. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in it and don’t just accept the situation if there are options to improve or dissipate them.

My tactics for reframing are ecological, entertaining, and explicit. If I want to change my patterns, thoughts or actions I need to be aware of the surroundings that I find myself in and the surroundings that fit with how I see the changed self I want to become. In order to be more grateful, I can’t be surrounded by ungrateful or selfish people. I need to be surrounded by light, love, and learning. I can’t continue doing the same things in the same places in the same way that brought me to the valley of distrust and disappointment. For the circumstances to change, I need to change my where and how and who. Escaping from stinking thinking is essential. It means that there are people in my life today that can’t be in my life tomorrow. There are places I need to stop going and actions that I must stop undertaking. We all have a preferred or imagined ecology that fulfills more of our aspirations and unfortunately, it won’t manifest itself. We need to seek it out through our actions.

I can be shallow and unfocused and unless the change process is fun, I know that I might retreat to the depths that I am trying to escape. Fun need not be onerous or expensive. Meeting with uplifting people for an activity, a meeting, a coffee, a walk will put a smile on my face even when or because the conversation is an adventure. I met with three friends this morning for ninety minutes and we ranged across the sublime and inane to the profound and debatable. We laughed, we shared, we disagreed and we hugged. We expressed our gratitude for each other and the time spent and booked another gathering for a month from now. I left inspired, thankful and challenged. The stimulus of camaraderie and conversation caused neurons to fire against my hippocampus and began nurturing new pathways.

My final tactic; explicit is really an e word for intentional. ( I love alliteration so much that I always trying to catch it in my lists – ecological, entertaining, and explicit). In my worldview, nothing happens organically. Or nothing will predictably happen without intention. I must invest my resources and time in creating a V2.0 or V11.5 of me and I need to be vested in the outcome.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” ~ Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Make Today Remarkable, by choice,

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Is That a Knock at Your Door

Today the rap might just be a tap-tap. It might sound like someone banging to get in. Are you ignoring the visitor? Her name is Opportunity and she brings you possibility and challenge. When you open the door and let her in she takes the permission and will be knocking at your door almost every day. She challenges you to do what you should and encourages you to do what you could and leads you to do what you must.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~ Thomas Edison
There have been many times that I heard her rapping and instead of welcoming her challenge, I bolted the door and pretended I wasn’t there. I remained still and quiet and actionless and supposedly safe. I have dealt with regret of missed opportunities by pushing myself to peek through the peephole and opening a crack to see what she brought. I haven’t accepted all or even most of the challenges but my courage grew to the point that I have taken up some of them. I learned something from all of them, even those where I didn’t succeed. There have been some enriching experiences that flowed from opening the door and I have become more comfortable with answering. The knock doesn’t cause apprehension anymore because I recognize Opportunity from our many encounters.

I think the adage that “opportunity only knocks once” is a crock.  If we ignore her, she knocks softly but is still there and when we greet her cautiously or enthusiastically she returns to bring us the abundance (hear experiences, relationships, impacts) that we feared.

Open the door this afternoon and listen to what she has for you.
B

fun · Self Improvement

Magic

I love magic. I love being surprised, and I like not knowing how the illusion is done. I like magicians and their flare and the sense of impossible. I love magic, but I don’t believe in it.

I have seen what appears to be magic happen in my life and the lives of people around me. I have watched folks do the work and achieve the results, and to those who missed the effort, it seems like an overnight mystical success. I have watched friends recover from an illness because they followed the regimen of the medical profession and made a severe lifestyle change. Seven years ago, running a 10k race was an illusion, yet I will run two or three this year.

I have seen more amazing sunsets than I deserve and now understand enough of the science to realize there isn’t a master magician making artwork. My jaw has drooped in surprise when something fortuitous happens because I have a basic understanding of odds and the laws of large numbers.

I have mused about Maslow and the infamous pyramid. I theorized that Maslow and the pyramid are right even if how we use it was never the intention. I frequently intone that the pyramid is upside down and if we achieve self-actualization, the rest fills magically. Here I use it to mean as part of a logical and challenging process. When we realize the fulfillment of our talents and potentialities, we have all the tools necessary to achieve safety, security, health and wealth according to our needs and desires. It may seem magical to those observing from afar, but it is indeed part of intentionality.

Just like a magic trick, all these shifts seem impossible to the audience, but the magician has worked hard to make it happen. Unlike a trick, we can benefit from seeing behind the curtain when people seemingly work magic in their lives.

B

The Cultural Curiosity Daily will be a hodgepodge on some days and a treatise on others. If you are entertained, provoked, inspired, edified or angered by any of it you can respond with comments and as always you can ‘buy me a coffee.

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Wide or Narrow

The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out. ~ JRR Tolkien

Start wide, expand further, and never look back. ~Arnold Schwarzenegger

Let’s not be narrow, nasty, and negative. ~ TS  Eliot

There is in true beauty, as in courage, something which narrow souls cannot dare to admire. ~ William Congreve

Certainty narrows, curiosity widens. ~ Bob McInnis

We live in a world of unparalleled possibilities yet more often than not we rely on the tried and true heuristics that worked yesterday and on all our yesterdays. Fear, laziness, complacency or ignorance convince us that there is ‘nothing new in this world’ that is worth exploring, worth trying, worth learning. In my not so humble opinion, there is everything new in this world, and I can soak it up, synthesize it, reflect on it and then reflect the as yet unimagined creation to those willing to see it.

My youngest grandson loves binoculars. At three, he prefers to look through them backward from how I use them. He ‘likes things far away’ better than close up. I have tried them both ways at his insistence and realize that I see more clearly having seen the tree and seen the leaves. Simply by adding one perspective widened my view of and appreciation for the world. If I had continued to bring things close, I wouldn’t have seen the forest.

When I read Robert Sapolsky, YH Harari, and Ali Bryan over the last few months, my perspective widened. When I investigated and booked a trek, my world became wider. (and when we climb the Via Feratta, it broadens). By looking at the world differently, we see a different world. When we read or listen to a new voice, our understanding gets broader. If I go somewhere and do something for the first time my experience of life is deeper.

I can be a creature of habit and choose to live narrowly, or I can opt for richness and surprise. Mediocrity lives and thrives in habitual practice, routine observations and rigid, echo chamber ideas.

This week, let’s explore getting wider and broader.
B

The Cultural Curiosity Daily will be a hodgepodge on some days and a treatise on others. If you are entertained, provoked, inspired, edified or angered by any of it you can respond with comments and as always you can ‘buy me a coffee.