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The Journey of a Thousand Miles

One foot in front of the other, repeat. Moving forward isn’t difficult to imagine but it can be hard to accomplish. When I head out for a run in the morning, I am full of enthusiasm and energy but after a few hundred feet, my brain starts telling my body all the reasons that I should turn around and go home. ” you are too tired” ” you didn’t eat breakfast yet”,” you don’t have water”,” Your knee is sore”, ” you are working too hard”. This goes on for about 3 kilometers. At about 12 minutes, the naysayer’s brain becomes quiet and I am in a rhythm that allows me to clock miles while disposing of unwanted and unneeded baggage in my head.

” The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, then starting on the first one.” ~ Mark Twain

If I have a project that isn’t literally bipedal motion, I still need to move it forward step by step. As a destination focused person, I struggle with the incrementalism of this approach but can attest to some monumental failures when I tried to get ahead of the next action without taking the previous. Even when I reverse engineer a plan, for myself or a client, I then need to begin at 1 and move through 2,3,4, … to 123,124 …
Following each measured step can be monotonous but I have learned that it is the most efficient and more often, I discover that there are multiple stems that could be tried and I get to make more informed decisions at each juncture. There have been many times that this one-step-after-another process has lead me to an as yet unimagined possibility and ultimately to a different and better destination.

This has occurred so often that I am now treating each stage of the journey as a mini destination. The running metaphor runs out of steam at this point but I confess that there have been times where I had gone too far and needed to coax myself along with the mantra ” you can stop and walk in 100 more steps” and then I have slowed and walked and said ” you will start running again in 100 steps”. Luckily I have never needed to go on full out repeat of that set but it is a good reminder that setting small goals that lead to bigger ones can be motivating and reduce the paralysis of being overwhelmed.

The final benefit of methodical forward motion is that you eventually reach the destination; maybe not where you thought you would be or on the schedule you expected, but you get there. Finishing a marathon in 3 hours is a whopping big goal but finishing a marathon is still an amazing accomplishment. And the best thing about reaching your destination is the feeling of achievement that goes with it.

Step up today and step out. Stretch out your leg and put your foot down, lift up your other leg and do it again. Who knows where you might end up.

B

Self Improvement · Original Thought · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Simon Says

simon

Simon Says’ was a game I played as a child. A group of us stood and one of us was Simon. He proceeded to give commands ” Simon says stand on one foot”, Simon says hold up your right arm.”, “turn around”. If we didn’t do what Simon says or did do what was commanded without Simon says, we were eliminated. The last one standing became the new Simon. Supposedly, I learned to listen rather than react and to obey when the right person gave the order, In reality, I didn’t learn either very well. Obedience and its synonyms submission, subservience, deference stick in my craw when the orders come from some authority, real or referent, that is looking to kick me off the island if I don’t comply completely. Mindless blind compliance ensures that we live a life of mediocrity and never reach the potential we were designed for. When I refer to design, I am referring to the millennia-long evolution that has brought us to this time and place. The destination wasn’t ordained, the process wasn’t prescribed. Evolution doesn’t have an endgame beyond the immediate issue and the solution path it has chosen. Evolution is adaptive. When a change occurs, it is measured and if it improves survival, it is fostered and if it detracts, it is rejected and a new adaptation is tried. But all decisions have an impact and the consequences aren’t easily forecasted so the journey and the destination are still an adventure.
“You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole.”
— Fichte, The Vocation of Man (1800)
I am not sure how apt Fichte’s quote is but it provides for me a sense of the power of the unwinding march.

Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.

Noam Chomsky

Back to obeying the leader for fear of being called out. In a game, this might be trivial but following orders without understanding them, considering the ramifications, or speaking out against them when they violate your sensibilities and values is demoralizing and destructive. When a boss ‘suggests’ that quotas could be met if corners were shaved and you trim the edges regardless of the consequences, you impact more than sales. If a religious head advises that a certain behavior is a sin and associating with anyone who commits the act is also a sin and you begin to distance yourself from a friend or family member, you may think you are saving your tomorrows but at what cost for today?

Obedience without question or consideration is subservience, not loyalty or patriotism or fielty. Obedience without question removes the need for courage, conscience or consciousness. Those three c’s are important enough that they have survived millions of evolutionary adaptations and surrendering them to a president, priest, or popularity contest winner is a tragedy. I am not suggesting mindless cold-hearted disobedience. I am recommending deep reflection and careful consideration before acting on the commands of someone you know, trust and/or respect. If you have doubts or reservations about the character and motive of the commander, then be doubly cautious in joining their parade and marching to their drum beat.
In the end, I hope I am remembered for something other than “he was good at following orders.”

Make Today Remarkable by asking ridiculously impossible questions.
B

 

 

 

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Wicked

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

goodandevil

What makes us wicked? Apparently, according to Robert M Sapolsky from his book “Behave” the little girl with a girl is just like the rest of us. ” Sapolsky has been reflecting on the origins of human behavior, starting deep in the brain moments before we act and working his way millions of years back to the evolutionary pressures on our prehistoric ancestors’ decisions, with stops along the way to consider how hormones, brain development and social structures shape our behavior. He also has been thinking about free will and comes to the conclusion, based on the biological and psychological evidence, that we do not have it.”~ Stanford News, Nathan Collins.

We have limited control over how the regions of our brain become habituated. Evolutionary changes fixed certain paths millennia ago and hormonal response to pleasurable and painful stimuli point and prod us to act in certain ways depending on context,

He relates a story about a young man entering a room through a closed door and is surprised to discover his grandmother sitting on a chair. He crosses the floor to her and gives her a long warm hug. In a second version a young man entering a room through a closed door and is surprised to discover an alien with slime and sharp teeth. As the creature moves toward him, he picks up a weapon and kills it. In both stories, the young man’s brain receives the same dopamine hit because in both cases the action is what was right to do.

What is right to do and the motivation to do it is the meta narrative that covers all the chapters in Sapolsky’s easy to read and sometimes funny. Richard Wrangham from the New York Times describes “Behave” ; “We begin in the first second before a behavior is produced, our guide taking us confidently into the amygdala, the dopaminergic system and the frontal cortex. We continue the tour with events that occur minutes, hours, days, months and years ago, finally stretching back thousands of generations to the level where Darwinian processes explain why the systems that produce behavior evolved in their particular, haphazard way. By the time the book returns from these expanding horizons it has given readers the opportunity to feel astonishingly comfortable with a rich slew of fascinating neurobiology basics.”

So if Sapolsky has an inkling of ‘truth’ in his thesis, am I not responsible for my actions ‘cold hearted kindness’, ‘warm blooded rage’ or any other combination? Like one of the writer’s in Christian scripture says when asked “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!” Of course not. We must be held to account for our actions regardless of the supposed causes of the actions. He asserts that even when there has been a brain injury that impairs some function, we can’t accept or condone behaviour that violates our current norms.

“To illustrate, he cited the case of a Catholic nun who ministers to prisoners on death row in Louisiana. These men, he said, are “some of the most frightening, nightmarish humans who have ever walked this Earth.”

When asked how she can spend her time with such men, Sapolsky said the nun answers, “The less forgivable the act, the more it must be forgiven. The less lovable the person is, the more you must find the means to love them.”

“As a strident atheist,” he said, “this strikes me as the most irrational, magnificent thing we are capable of as a species. We are not just a ‘unique-ier’ species, we are the ‘unique-ier-est,’ simply because of this. …

“And this one does not come easily … this contradiction, to take the impossibility of something to be the very proof that it must be possible and must become a moral imperative. The harder it is to do that, the more important it is.””

As I journey from a recovering post modern fundamentalist to a burgeoning social humanist, I have needed to re evaluate where my morality resides and where it came from. At one time I believed that it was endowed by a Creator who dictated both the rules and the sanctions for violation. I now think that my morality is far more dynamic and contextual. What I hold to be good, fair and just is more a function of how the regions of my brain react to the circumstances. Similarly, my neuron activity that arises in moments of fear, disgust, or distrust are triggers for action that would be indefensible under different conclusions.

My life is a draft and as I work through it, by writing about it and living it there are edits and amendments that are required. I appreciated that you are following along.

Make Today Remarkable, whatever that means for you today,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Grab a Pen and Paper

If you are reading this today, it is too late. Let’s look towards tomorrow. Before you crawl into bed tonight, stop and write down your 3 goals for tomorrow. Put the list of three things somewhere where you will see it first thing in the morning. I always try to follow Mark Twain’s advice around goals; “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Once I get the biggest, least appealing goal out of the way – often within the first hour, I am on track to accomplish even more.

remarkable-people

Back to the night time list. If you write meaningless or vague goals that don’t inspire you, they will likely get left undone or you won’t be able to recognize when you have achieved them. Goals beget goals like steps turn into a movement. Start with something smaller, and meaningful that begins where you are. There is no point in creating an unrealistic goal of doing 100 push-ups if you haven’t ever done 1. But ” I will complete 10 push-ups before 9am and another 10 push-ups before noon” may be doable and specific enough to succeed. This type of goal can progress by adding reps (10 3xs a day) or more push-ups (11,12,20…) or becoming habitual 2×10 every day.

I prefer to set goals around my strengths. So reading 150 books in a year was feasible and I am well on my way to exceeding the target. I needed to break the big goal into smaller chunks. ” I will read 100 pages of “Superstitions” by Bruce M Hood before 9pm tomorrow” is specific enough for me but if my schedule and lifestyle was busier, I might need to ” read 100 pages of “Superstitions” by Bruce M Hood between noon and 1pm and on my 40 minute commute home, tomorrow”. Knowing how you succeed and what will work for you is the path to capitalizing on the opportunity.

I am a morning person and a, usually up about 5am so getting stuff done early in the day works for me. If you tend to be a night owl, that might be better. I can’t draw a circle, freehand, but I can write 1500 words a day so if I have a goal of shring a position, an idea or a message, I play to my strong points.

If I have a monthly monetary expectations like $5000 in sales commissions, or $3000 in new business, or $10,000 return on investment, I need to set daily goals that will keep me on track to do the work that leads to the money. ” I will make 5 follow-up calls to clients between 10am and 11:30am”, ” I will prospect 10 new leads by cold calling 60 names from the company list tomorrow afternoon. I will keep calling until I have reached the 60 calls.”

When you set a good goal and can’t ever achieve it, ask what isn’t working. Maybe you are playing against tendencies, against best practices, or against your best interests. Or the goal doesn’t really have meaning for you. Or you don’t have the resources or tools to complete the tasks. Evaluate and adapt the goal or drop it.

Start tonight by writing your goals for tomorrow and then wake up ready to get started.

B

Original Thought · Teamwork · Uncertainty

The Usual Suspect Might Not Be

I suspect that my suspicions are unwarranted. Or at least they are unsubstantiated. My ability and tendency to make decisions easily and quickly mean that I also come to judgement quickly and easily. If the ease and speed aren’t tempered with research, reflection and discernment, then my confirmation bias takes over and I begin to categorise ideas and people based on sketchy and incomplete information. Unfortunately, first impressions, valid or not, are lasting. If I conclude that someone has ulterior or selfish motives, it will take a long time and consistent effort to move me from that position and I will likely hear everything they say through a muddy translation.

Changing how I react to perceived circumstances is entrenched from years of using this heuristic. My rush to decide won’t be easy to change but I can be aware of by predisposition and be aware that it may not be accurate. Awareness of my tendency opens the possibility that I can deliberately short circuit the shortcut.

Have you ever made a choice, a decision, a judgement and in the light of time, information, and/or confirmation changed your mind? I have been enamoured with an idea that I later realized was clunky logic. I have been awed by a person and her rhetoric only to discover that there wasn’t anything substantial there. I have opted to dislike a friend of a friend because of how I interpreted something that they said only to discover that my translation of the event was significantly different than theirs and they became a respected colleague. I have rejected people and ideas because of their proximity to ideas and people that I disagreed with so I discredited the new ideas and people by association.

I have also felt the sting of guilt by association, the pain of rejection because of a misunderstanding and I know I have disappointed people because their initial view of me and my capabilities exceeded my willingness and skills.

Knowing that and having felt that I should be able to draw on the sum of my experience rather than a narrow bandwidth of it. If I can pause and draw on the wider view, my snap decisions should be better,

Make Today Remarkable, by doubting your initial observation,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Sharing Economy · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Fear versus Hope

I am afraid that the fear mongers are winning and yes I see the irony. After writing for weeks about hope and her great liberating, creative, and generous power I find myself slipping over to the dark side more often than I like. Even though I understand that choosing hope has a positive and infectious impact on my life and those around me, I feel like I have been inundated by media, social media, and conversations with a message of distrust, hatred, and terror. So much of what I hear and read has a bias towards suspicion, division, and polarization. Is our world tumbling out of control? Will the schism we are creating bring dire and fatal consequences for our species?

I am taking off the grey coloured glasses of despair and seeing the world in the brighter glow of hope. What I take in through my eyes and ears will be curated towards the best of our city, province, country. I am not going to naively ignore news but I will intentionally seek generative, positive stories. Afterall, the best and the worst are nothing more than fictions that we tell ourselves and if collectively more of us lean into narratives about responsible government and personal responsibility, climate care, equity, joyful relationships, then more coverage of those will be offered and more will be generated.
My position isn’t Pollyanna pie in the sky. It is a deliberate and intentional choice. I can be positive and passionate and opinionated and respectful with being inane, insane, or weak. Hope can raise the water for my little boat and can carry a flotilla of like minded travellers. Therein lies the rub. I am looking for people who are willing and courageous enough to say no to fear and yes to hope.

We can build a new movement; one that is democratic without being political. One that is passionate without being partisan. One that is confident without the vitriol of certainty. Are you interested in joining others to create something hopeful, even if it just adds joy and inspiration to those on the boats? What if the Armada’s positivity infects a few dozen, a few hundred, a few thousand new sailors? Are you seeking hope? Do you know others around you who are ready to stake their position and take a stand? If we created an online presence like a Facebook page (or other suggestions)
would you join and contribute? Hope won’t win if we just lurk around her edges. We need to wrap our arms around her and then tell others our stories of hope.

Today I had three conversations with younger people from early 20’s to early 30’s who seem immune to the rubbish that is being spewed through conventional and new mediums. Their outlook on today, tomorrow and the future were refreshingly expectant. They weren’t so much concerned with the trappings of the world but more interested in what they are and will experience and the value that they can add to their friends, family and community.

They believe they are and can make a difference in the world and they are. It is that simple and that complicated but it began with a choice to view the world in a light shining brightly.

Make Today Hopeful,

Bonce-you-choose-hope-anything-is-possible