Uncategorized

What Gets to You?

There is a gap between aspiration and implementation that needs to be filled. If my effort doesn’t reduce the chasm, then the goal is merely words. If my personal mission, for 2017, is to significantly influence 100,000 people this year but I sit quietly on my hands waiting for the best time to make a perfect appeal, I will likely get comfortable with the waiting rather than the action. I am an impatient imperfectionist with a serious action bias so I am more likely to leap before assessing how far I need to jump or how far I might fall. The specific metric isn’t as important to me as the doing. I would sooner fall 50,000 short while taking some for of action to inform, encourage, incite, provoke and coach rather than 100,000 short perfecting a perfect message (nonexistent). I blog, podcast, tweet, post, coach, speak, present, propose almost every day. The analytics I am using suggest that I have legitimately reached 300,000 unique individuals so far this year. More than 2000 have replied, commented, shared, challenged, celebrated. But how do I measure the in-betweeners? Between reach and engagement? Between engagement and action? Between status quo and change? Does it matter?

I am also an extrovert who uses the outside of my head to ‘mull’ and ” reflect”. The above paragraph leads me to a reflection that I need to define significant and influence before worrying about #’s to improve the decisions that I make. If I believe significant is measured by any engagement ( is a Retweet equal to a comment, is a question better than a like, are criticisms an improvement over exposure?) (my initial answer would be no, yes, yes).

What moves a reader from passive consumption to engagement? What can I do to foster more questions? Does it matter if the engagement is a sidebar to the initial medium? How do you accept or welcome someone’s influence in your life? Do you realize and recognize when and how your views, approaches, and opinions are being shifted? Is logic a contributing element? numbers? stories? depth? brevity? clarity?

Are you more likely to shift positions with a preponderance of evidence or an abundance of confirmation? Does a 300-page case study sway you more than 300 people aligning with a specific idea or trend? What influences you? Is there something that I could say or do or some way I could express my ideas that would be more likely to resonate with you?

Do you comment when something triggers a reaction (positive or negative)? Do you share through your network? Do you follow bloggers, tweeters? for their content? or just friends?

Still trying to figure this out after 600+ posts,

B

Uncategorized

Are You Happy Now?

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha

“Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one — himself. Better to conquer yourself than others. When you’ve trained yourself, living in constant self-control, neither a deva nor gandhabba, nor a Mara banded with Brahmas, could turn that triumph back into defeat.” – Gautama Buddha

Choice is a social construct. It seems that the consequences of choice and range of options to choose are dictated by the circumstances of life. If I have limited income and very little financial resources my options for transportation solutions are different from someone who has significant margin in resources. But we can still make decisions within our personal menu and in the area of values and worldview, we can expand our menu (by choice) to include a wider array of selections.

I have written here about trust as a choice; one that once made becomes invisible. I have expounded on curiousity as being a frame we opt for. There have been numerous posts on how courage is a selection we are able to make many times each day. While the consequences of these determinations aren’t equal among different people and different cultures, the choice is still available.

I was volunteering last week at Calgary Reads Big Book Sale (100,000 used/donated books) and was sorting and curating the Health and Wellness section. I noticed that there were 11 books, written in the last 6 years, that had ‘Happiness’ in their title. Skimming the pages, I was struck by the focus on environmental and external forces and their impact on my happiness. The authors suggest that my happiness is a consequence of my where, when, how, and what. If I am unhappy, it is because of the circumstances in my life. I am in the wrong job, wrong relationship, wrong city …
None of my skimming revealed a thesis that my happiness is mine to choose or even that I have any serious influence on the happiness I feel.

Simply, happiness is a choice. A difficult one sometimes but still a personal choice.
Recognizing the situations and dynamics that bring you joy is important because it makes the decision to be happy easier. But the experience doesn’t create the feeling. The conditions are more like a placebo that requires a commitment to the generate remarkable impact. If I believe that going to Disneyland would be a trying and frustrating experience (I do) then arriving at the gate in Anaheim would likely be a disappointing and troubling day. If I have a medical appointment and decide to joyfully live in the moment and commit to exuding happiness throughout the session then I will see the good, the opportunity, the possibilities and feel less anxious (if not pleasantly surprised).

It may just be a delusion or a reframing of my conditions but I have taken the path of happiness under less than ideal conditions and found that my disposition changed the situation or at least changed how I perceived it.

I am embarrassed to say that I have allowed the opposite to happen. In a fit of ego or self-pity, I have chosen unhappiness and it festered into unkindness, unforgiveness, anger and despair in a place and time where I should have been overcome with glee. I think the term nocebo applies.

My mind (yours too) is powerful enough to alter reality, change perspective and revise the past and future so it shouldn’t be unimaginable that it can bring happiness into existence regardless of the swirling negativity or potential chaos.

Choose to be happy, act as if you are happy, see the world through happy eyes and speak happiness into the world and keep your eyes open to see what unimagined joy manifests.

Make Today and Tomorrow Remarkable,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Wow, Wow, Wow!

I had a breakfast meeting today and at the end of the hour, she said: ” I dare you not tp be wowed”. The circumstances, she was referring to were clear and when we got to the appointed wow point, I certainly was wowed.

When was the last time that you allowed yourself to be awed? Have you been blown away by something in the last six months? Have you heard someone tell a story that blew your mind? Did you read an essay, a story, a book that left you changed?

Or are you cynically reserved in your response to the world around you? Do you expect to be astonished? Are you willing and able to be filled with amazement? What are you waiting for? Isn’t life meant to be joyously and lavishly enjoyed?

awe

I am open to being impressed (not easily) often. I am committed to keeping my eyes open to wonder. When I look for it, it rises up and surprises me in ways that two minutes before, I wouldn’t have imagined. When I am inspired early in the day, I am inspired often throughout the day. Wow seems to beget wow. In a state of awe readiness, I am more aware and appreciative.

Not coincidentally, I am also more ready to be a source of awe. The work I do is better to best when I have been lifted by beauty, majesty, creativity and surprise. Rigid gives way to curious. Yesterday frees up a different tomorrow. Ambiguity celebrates and status quo retreats. As yet unimagined directions and original animations to long-standing questions or issues arise. When my work is better to best (rather than mediocre to good), I witness excellence more often (in myself and others).

Like so many things; trust, love, courage, allowing myself/ourselves to be amazed is a choice that gets easier the more often to choose it and the rewards magnify with each instance.

Are you ready to be amazed? Choose to be wowed, this afternoon, I dare you.

Make Today Remarkable,

B

Self Improvement

River Cleanup

Why has become the big question. Of the W’s and H, Simon Sinek and others have lead us to understand our ‘why’ ahead of any other question. This is a laudable approach, as having an approach is better than winging it (maybe), but may act as a stalling tactic. It can also lead to perfection bias. (If it doesn’t meet the why test completely, then it shouldn’t be done.) The way I use why isn’t as a genesis test but as an omega confirmation.
For me, when I know the what, where, how and when I can test it against why. Why doesn’t generate the action it serves to align it and confirm it through the strategic positioning.
If I see litter alongside the pathway, I can think “that is terrible, someone should pick it up”. Who should that be? – Me? Does taking responsibility for helping solve what I encounter fit with my values? Yes – so the who is me. What should I do? If I pick up the trash and hide it so no one can see it, does that conform with my value of doing the best that I can? No – so I need to do something else. If I pick up the garbage and carry it a couple of blocks to a receptacle, would that serve my purpose? Yes -ok, that’s what I will do. I will come back at the end of the week and remove that piece of rubbish. No – that doesn’t fit with my belief that action always is better than delaying. Do it now.
OK, I will charge into the bushes and grab up the mess. Even though that meets my action bias, it contradicts my value of safety so I need to consider some of the possible hazards and plan to act in a safe manner.
So I pick up the trash, right now, in a safe manner and carry it to a nearby trash can. Who, what, how, where, when all confirmed by my why.

Thanks to everyone in Calgary who is doing that exact thing this morning during the Annual River Cleanup. You and your efforts are appreciated. Be safe, be well.

river cleanup

Thanks For making today remarkable,

B

fiction · Original Thought

Can You Experience My Story?

Just by imagining what you experienced as you tell me a story about seeing a black bear while hiking in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, my mirror neurons fire as if I was on the trek with you. The better you tell me the story, the more I ‘live’ the experience. We are wired to engage with stories and yet we pretend to be concerned with ‘facts’.
If I share a story, I hope to engage you. The more often I tell it, the more often I engage with it. My memories are from my perspective and distance and time can create challenges if veracity and validation are important. I have been writing a piece called Faded Recollections for a couple of years and some of you would have read excerpts in the past. I share this chapter as a way of hopefully reinforcing my thesis that you can share the experience if the story is well crafted. As always, your thoughts, impressions and candor are welcome.

Powerful to Powerless
Did the silence mean it was going to happen again? If I held my breath, would time stop?

After hours of clinking glasses and men laughing, the party, upstairs, came to a sudden halt. He was visiting from wherever he came from and the Pilsner or Bohemian and cigarettes always came with him. Crude jokes, a couple of punches and arm twists, a dollar and the big bottle of red wine followed. The man made my father laugh – no one did that anymore. His visits were the highlight of his year.

Darkness covered the corner of the basement where a curtain defined my bedroom. What time was it? Midnight? Would he be too drunk? Too tired? Tonight? I pressed myself against the concrete wall and pulled the covers over my ears. The cocoon was so small, maybe I could disappear tonight. Maybe I could transform into a superhero.

Superheroes didn’t feel this much fear. Superheroes fought back regardless of a 100 pound weight difference. Superheroes didn’t need their parents to fight their battles, even when they are 9 years old. Tonight I was going to fight back. I was going to say “No, no, no”. Tonight I was going to scream. Tonight I was going to stab him through his heart.

A light at the top of the stairs went out and the shadows crept away. The steps on the treads shifted from stomps to tiptoes. The sanctuary curtain was torn open and disappeared. Not in the world but in my head. I wasn’t here. I wasn’t helpless. I wasn’t abandoned. This didn’t happen again.

I was 6 the first time I remember Roy visiting Regina or the first time I remember him at our house. He was always around my aunt’s house in Saskatoon. “Wanna play catch?” “Let’s go to the park” ”Would you like a chocolate bar?” My cousins never went with him. They were always busy or out of sight or in the bathroom. O’Henry, baseballs and swings. Roy always had time for me. “ “You are becoming a little man, aren’t you”. “ Climb up on my lap and I will tell you another story”. One gold tooth, sweat, and tales of headless horsemen.

I think he did some kind of work with my uncle, maybe painting, or pounding, or lifting or grunting. Something for those sausage fingers and rough hands to squeeze and pull and push and caress. Man work where you didn’t need to ask if you could, you just knew you could. Start a job, finish it. “ money in your pocket let you do whatever you wanted to do”.

My dad didn’t really like anyone but he seemed to really like Roy. He didn’t talk about much other than football. “ If God made cows then we are supposed to eat them – with mashed potatoes and gravy”. “The government needs to teach kids reading, writing, and rules”. “ We have a little bit set aside to buy a truck but things are tough”. Roy drew him out. They shared something from their past but I never knew what it could possibly be. Mutt and Jeff, Laurel and Hardy, Jekyll and Hyde and yet they fell into each other’s company, bear hugging, catcalling and baboon laughing. Between visits, my dad sank back into a silent stupor with occasional outbursts and roars. Work, beer, sleep, work, beer, sleep, … until Roy graced the back door with chaos and mayhem on his shoulder. I loved the light he brought. Garlic, sweat, dirt, shone from his pores and everything was instantly and temporarily brighter, lighter. Twinkle, twinkle eyes, crooked man smile, and always a secret to be shared or never to be told.

In those days, everyone looked back with nostalgia. “ Will it ever be a simple as when we were kids?” “Remember the time we went swimming at the Red Bank and Charlie got caught skinny dipping by Sister Anna.” “ A deck of smokes used to be 35 cents”. Safety, sanity, silliness and no responsibilities. Life was better then and wouldn’t be better tomorrow. Things could never be the same.

Breakfast, school, cartoons and lunch, school, playground, supper, back alley, sleep, breakfast, school, cartoons and lunch, school, playground, supper, back alley, sleep …. Me and Brian.

When you don’t know what poor is, you aren’t. Ladders turned into sailing ships, trees into fortresses, sticks were swords or guns or spears and playgrounds were where kids shared secrets, surprises, and challenges. Street lights coming on signaled something different – no need for shouting “Billy”, no cell phones, no worried parents. Just streetlights coming on and dozens of kids racing home.

Dreams were simple, sweet, safe and if scary not so scary as to make you wet the bed. Exhaustion, growth, and youth brought 8 hours of sinking deeply into a soft mattress, cool sheets, warm blanket and a new day – much like the others but with a promise of adventure and unknown.

Once you stop being curious, once you know too much, the promise fades and then is gone. Night just brings morning and day brings more of the same. Stealing candy, curiosity and dreams. Hope glimmers for a while. Trust tries to press through. Love is seen but not felt. “I need to get up every morning and get out into the world and keep looking for the secret, keep looking for a time to share it, keep hoping that someone will ask. Running helps, rhythm and breathing stops my brain from returning. When my legs are churning forward, I can’t go back. At 1 mile the veil lifts and light peeks in. 2 miles and heat rises from inside and warmth on my face is understood. Beyond 3 miles anxiety returns as the awareness of the end gets closer. I can’t run forever but maybe for an hour. I can pull a Houdini again this afternoon or this evening and on Thursday. Keep running.

He would catch me some day. I knew the bastard was behind me, getting closer. He was near enough that I could feel his breath chasing me down. His panting wasn’t laboured but enjoyed. His body was strong and soon he would reach the end. 1 mile, 2 miles 3 miles – darkness. Powerful to powerless.

Original Thought · Self Improvement

I Know, Does She?

Power and privilege are interchangeable as the ladder and the wall that allows some to climb higher than others. Sometimes, the support is the wall of power that defends the ladder that infers license to wield additional power. My array of pretentious permits; race, gender, age, education, confidence, place of birth, time of birth, wealth all conveys unearned and unwarranted perceptions (both internal and external) of where I fit in relation to others. I can deny, ignore, undermine, or accept the condition and/or choose to deny, ignore, undermine, or accept the responsibility that comes with the state. Power and privilege can be a destructive and abusive force but it can also be an equity building mechanism if used as a strength to strengthen others. If someone with power agrees to either use their influence to reshape the landscape or willingly demonstrates that they are able to share power or is compelled to cede to authority (a different brand of power, equally susceptible to corruption), then the dynamic can create a semblance of equity.

Education and intrinsic knowledge are the great levelers and are the most difficult to distribute across birthright barriers (or any other concession advantage). Can we go much beyond creating infrastructure? Public education serves as a conduit to the egalitarian expression of opportunity but genetics, socioeconomic realities, parental involvement, peer influence, resource availability, familial and kinship experiences, and expectations have an impact on the how widely the opportunity is accepted and exploited. Imagine that two students of equal ability but from widely different homes are provided with the necessities of learning; same school, same teacher, same curriculum and same cohort. They have the same attendance (nearly perfect) and the same disposition towards classroom learning. One student has parents that have attended and graduated from university who work white color jobs and are home for supper every evening. The household is relatively quiet, well appointed, and has an Internet-ready computer. The second student’s parents both work two part-time jobs in the service sector and struggle to earn enough to maintain their rental accommodations and pay all their bills. While they try to provide a good model, they are usually working before the student rises and don’t get home until 8 or 9 pm. The home has an older computer without the ability to connect to the Web.
While the public playing field is level, the private has barriers and embedded disadvantages.
One child will likely acquire more knowledge, better grades, and have a richer understanding of the importance of post-secondary education. He will have access to better employment opportunities and his knowledge (and society’s admiration) will add to a power imbalance.

This wandering, wondering post began when a question about knowledge popped into my head a week ago. Is epistemology always privileged? The summary of my meanderings is above and my conclusion is that always is too strong a qualifier. But, there is a definite advantage to having knowledge and the ability to learn. The imbalance magnifies through each life-stage and may be insurmountable by high school.

Under our current equality frame, I can’t imagine a solution. In an equitable model, where each student received what they need, we may be able to offset disadvantages but populist pressures seem opposed to anything resembling equitable treatment.

I can only do what I can do, we can only do what we can do. What I have figured out is that I have some skills and abilities (as do you) that would be an asset to one student. I have or could easily acquire mobile Internet access. I can read and comprehend difficult material and can share my understanding in one-on-one volunteer tutor sessions. I can encourage the young people in my life to demonstrate that they care by ‘helping’ a fellow student.

Is this a perfect solution? No, or at least not yet. Would or could a bureaucracy create and sustain a better solution? Likely not. Would we be a better community, city, country if we cared enough to involve ourselves in each other’s lives? Definitely.

Make Today Remarkable for someone else,

B