Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Substitution

Substitution has become a default mode form of protest.  When we see something that is amiss because an authority; a parent, a government, an employer refuses or is unable to accept responsibility, we step up and offer a substitute service. Our charitable model is based on substitution. Organizations feed kids, teach reading, house families, care for seniors, deliver programs and services that at a different time in a different place was the responsibility of someone else. Families, neighbors and community filled in when someone was ‘down on their luck’. Churches were once the respite from deprivation, Government took over the ‘taking care’ business and then washed their hands of it when it became difficult and costly. Charity stepped in and did the best they could considering the limitations of resources and ability.

Individually we undertake acts of substitution when we donate to a cause or volunteer with an organization.

The issue with substitution is that it absolves the authority of responsibility and unless persuasion and denunciation become part of the strategy, no solution is found. Substitution perpetuates the problem by making it invisible and by disempowering recipients with the heavy hand of service delivery.  The bigger the charity, the more removed it is from the issue and the impacted population. (Just the fact that we have created jargon like, impacted population, those furthest from the opportunity, those with lived experience speaks to the commodification of victims).
Substitution isn’t solution focused and uses palliative acts to mitigate rather than curative practices. Curative is extremely difficult when compared to palliative bandaids. Feeding kids a meal is simple when compared with solving an economic, training, capability or attitude issue in the family. Unfortunately, painkillers, analgesics, pain relievers, sedatives, or tranquilizers in the form and good intentions of programs and services does more to trap people than to lift them up. Maybe every act of substitution needs an exit plan before inception. – we will feed these kids until some date in the future while we assist the family in finding what they need to feed their own kids.

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Persuasion

As a form of advocacy and protest, persuasion can seem easier than railing and ranting. It is perceived as easier because it is less likely to offend. Persuasion can be done in writing, in person, on social media, through petition or boycott. It is most often a collective action. We band together with like-minded folks who are dissatisfied with the status quo and wants a different outcome which we can combine our signature or buying power. Persuasion is meant to nudge rather than push, encourage rather than blame, discuss rather than chastise.

The Red Cross movement is in 191 or more countries because they don’t climb on a soapbox. They are able to improve conditions and effect incremental change by quietly presenting a case.

When persuasion is the only tool, it is largely ineffective. When it is combined with the myth of neutrality, it is dangerous and complicit with the aggressor.  Persuasion is useful as part of a sales process or a coaching regime because the nudge is followed by another nudge and another and another.  In the face of oppression,  disaster, conflict, injustice, poverty, hunger or an array of social and environmental issues, it leaves the issue perpetually bringing angst, agony, and acrimony.

If you are reticent about taking a provocative action, I encourage you to write a ‘sandwich’ letter to an official as an easy start to activism. Start the letter with congratulations and cordial greetings and end it with a collegial salutation. In between, fill it with a meaty, well-reasoned position and appeal for change.

What did you see in the last 24 hours that caused you concern? Who can you write an email or a letter to? Will you?

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Denunciation

protest

The FreeDictionary.com defines denounce as;
1. to condemn or censure openly or publicly.
2. to make a formal accusation against, as to the police or in a court.
3. to give formal notice of the termination or denial of (a treaty, pact, or the like).

Over the past fifty years, I have found myself vigorously and rigorously denouncing public policy, corporate action, charitable practices and individuals from my private and in my public life. I lean towards respectful and evidence-based criticism but have found myself speaking in hyperbole and passionate posturing. Respectful denunciation is a much better and more effective approach.

In a world where injustice, prejudice, environmental degradation, inequity, and violence raises their head in every corner, there is much to denounce. This can be down without standing on a soapbox railing at authorities; Condemnation can look like standing arm-in-arm with the oppressed (physically or metaphorically). It can manifest as a silent vigil in solidarity with a cause or an impacted population. It may be a letter to the editor or an open letter to your mayor, expressing your concern and consternation about a decision or nondecision.

Denunciation is one bookend in the continuum of protest and is valuable and necessary in almost every circumstance. Amnesty International and Greenpeace place a strong boundary on the edge of the situation, and even when it inflames resistance, it nudges the middle to take a well-reasoned position and action. Social, justice or environment wrongdoing needs the point of the needle poking and prodding so that less aggressive forms have space to rise up.

I do appreciate the camaraderie and passionate position of denouncers and could easily find myself standing on a dais with a bullhorn raised in a demonstration of my objections.

Whatever your tendency, consider how far you are willing to go to help and then consider if you will raise your voice, your hand, a sign, your influence to hold those in authority to account.

Power to the people,

B

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Give it a Try

What do you do in your leisure time? No leisure – sad and dangerous. The expression: add life to your days not just days to your life” is hard to manage but in the 21st century, we need to heed the essence of the message.

Do you have hobbies? Are you a musician, an artist, a writer, a knitter, a sailor, a cyclist, a cellist, a baker, a canner, a gardener? When was the last time you did something for the first time?

This weekend, next week, tomorrow, this afternoon find something to do that you have never tried. If you are reading this, you have access to the world and everything in it. Find a free online Tai Chi class, a Skillshare painting class, or an online book club. Search your community for events and activities. There is a big cleanup happening in our neighborhood.
Join a rowing class, walk a pathway and record how many robins you see. Stretch yourself and make a deposit on something more outrageous like music lessons, climbing lessons and dancing lessons.

Add some life to your days by adding something as yet unimaginable to your next 168 hours.

B

Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Its a Fact

uncertaintyCommuting by foot and train this morning, I encountered a pair of young women holding placards that said ” Know the Facts” and then a sentence describing what they held to be true. For the purposes of personal responsibility, their assertions are irrelevant. Maybe because of the bold red title and the style and font, I was suspicious enough that I read their thesis sentence and then considered it as I finished my trip. In this case, I rejected their truth in favor of my understanding, experience, and research. I discerned that there was a different and better statement to accept.

It seems that discernment and consideration are in short supply. Most of the time we accept the assertions of others; experts, media, politicians, authorities. I suggest that lazy thinking and poor training has created a dangerous and futile habit.

Readers will know that I believe truth is mostly relative and perspective driven. If I believe that all men are created equal, then I take the position that inequality arises from some barrier. If I believe that all men have equal opportunity, then inequality is a distribution problem. If I believe that all men should have equal opportunities, then inequality is framed as injustice. All or none of these statements can be portrayed as facts and will garner support from a predisposed constituency.

I am not trying to convince or unconvince you of anything other than that you don’t need to accept the truth that someone else holds up. You should be willing to explore the issue, arrive at your own conclusion and with discernment build your own values set. There is significant political pressure, from both the left and right, to accept their bill of goods but ideological promiscuity gives us a chance to discover an as yet unimagined approach.

You are responsible for what you believe. An unexamined set of beliefs is a lazy and mediocre way to live through your 168-hour weekly allotment.

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Adventure

Life can be lived as a straight line, but why would we. The straight path begins at birth and ends at death and society suggests a certain prescribed direction and milestones. Following the recipe leads to accolades and improvising is met with criticism. Staying the course delivers routine, predictable, mediocre while stepping off the trail and seeking out a life, less conventional, brings adventure and unexpected opportunities and challenges. If you have read this far and can’t imagine why anyone would stray from the safety of the formula you have been following, you might want to click through to Facebook or Daily News where comfort is waiting.

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Well, welcome to my adventurous friends. One of the definitions for adventure on Urban Dictionary is; For some, it’s a new pair of underwear, a different route to work or a new pizza topping. For other’s it’s a life-threatening outdoor experience that makes life worth living. The experience usually involves loss of digits, limbs, friends or all of the above. Just to be clear, I am not counseling the loss of anything important. If you lose your breath for a moment, your confidence for a second, your sanity for a while, or your insecurity for a week, I would be thrilled.

An adventure has a beginning and probably has an ending even when we aren’t sure of the destination. For me, the start is a reflection and assessment of me. Where am I right now, what skills do I have and what do I want to learn are more important than what others might think. I try not to worry about how others may define it; if it feels like an adventure to me, it qualifies. While I strive to be unique, I recognize that there is very little new under the sun. I find inspiration and instruction (but not prescriptions) in the lives of those I admire. Whether reading history, fantasy or mystery I am tweaked by the choices and actions of protagonists and antagonists alike.I don’ want to be them or live their lives but there are elements that I steal and synthesize for my current journey. I am encouraged by characters, real and imagined, that are curious, courageous and caring. I am amazed by the distance they will go and the effort they will expend to learn. live and love. At the onset of all adventures, I feel some fear and the inertia is strong. I ask myself lots of why questions to free myself from the gravity of familiar. ” Why do I want to do this?” ” Why am I stalling?” ” Why can’t I take the first step?” ” Why do I need to take this uncertain path?” Before I venture too far, I wonder if there is someone to share the experience with and/or someone who will help shoulder the load. If yes, then I extend a transparent clear invitation to them and provide them with a schedule including a deadline to respond. As I go through life, I am also open to receiving requests to join. My tendency is to lean towards saying “yes” so I sometimes overcompensate away from the default. The collaboration serves to temper my exuberance and hopefully, a second, third or fourth set of eyes will see any real danger that I might ignore.

I don’t let the backup support network make decisions for me but I do heed their counsel. I have enough latitude to ensure that I will play free and easy enough to make numerous mistakes and learn numerous lessons along the way. I get to choose to do the unexpected along the way even if it is obvious that there is a ‘better’ way or maybe because I am not looking for the obvious better way.

In the end, when I reach the destination or when I am sure that I am not going to get there, I try to celebrate. Adventure allows for gratitude in both circumstances and if I am willing and patient it offers information and data that can change the approach in subsequent attempts or act as fodder to create another opportunity.

Seeking out adventurous in our daily life can be difficult and daunting. Starting with smaller challenges might not be worthy of someone writing a book or movie, but they can act as momentum for something bigger. Read an online blog or journal written by someone you disagree with and then take an issue or position that you ‘truly’ believe in and write 250 words debating your firmly held position. Try cooking something new. Google Icelandic recipes or Bolivian food and try creating one of the dishes. Take a child to a trampoline centre or mini golf course. Sign up for a fitness class at the Spin or Rowing facility. Drive a completely new route to somewhere that you regularly go. Leave your phone at home for one day. Apply for a new job, even if you aren’t looking. Apologize for something that you have neglected. Start a side gig. Create a business that you are passionate about (small scale) and figure out how you can deliver something of value and add some new money to your wallet.

This early list isn’t exhaustive or comprehensive but don’t let the list or your indecision stop you. Do something manageably adventerous, today and get ready for something bigger.

 

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Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Its Up to You (believe it or not)

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.

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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

If you liked this post, you can buy me a coffee buy clicking the button to the left.

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Wow

Where is your wow? When are you wowed? In all the inequity of our world, we all have a special something that we can do to make others think and say ‘wow’. A great smile, a gentle touch, a kind word can lift others up. Remarkable service to clients and customers, inspirational writing to an audience (large or small), and demonstrated caring for family or friends would be wowing. Can you make the best cheese biscuits, paint an uplifting canvas, or can you perform some amazing or unusual physical feat? Have you considered how you can wow others and are you setting out every day to do just that? If you commit to being the sparkle in someone else’s day, I guarantee that you will find many times throughout your day that someone will intentionally do something that has you saying “wow.”

This isn’t mystical, karma, spiritual but rather it is practical. When I am genuinely interested in uplifting someone else, I give off vibes, aura, permission for others to choose me (rather than some grumpy, unreasonable customer) as the beneficiary of their goodwill. It is just easier to be nice to nice people. I don’t apologize for recognizing the connection and have decided to invest my time, my resources, my gifts and myself in the company of pleasant folks. I have tried to be the wower for complainers, naysayers, and nothing is ever good-enoughers but it is too exhausting, and I get dragged to their level and find myself nitpicking, whining and underappreciating.

Most days, my wow resides in an ability to gather disparate ideas and synthesize their essences into the big picture. The big picture isn’t always what everyone else is hoping for, expecting to see, or are happy hearing. The wow doesn’t have an exclamation point after it as in ” Wow! That is remarkable.” but more like “wow, that wasn’t what I imagined would happen.” I can elicit the former, but with my disposition and tendencies, it is probably insincere and unsatisfying. Your way of creating wow and hearing will be different from mine (as it should be) but can be equally inspiring and valuable. When I hear ” I didn’t like hearing what you had to say about the project but it was something we all needed to hear,” I take it as an acknowledgment of the contribution and my ego hears it as a compliment.

Today, I said “wow” to a colleague when they presented an analysis complete with spreadsheets and decision trees. The response wasn’t because of the work and due diligence but because we both know that this work required hard work that doesn’t come easily for him. The three letters put a smile on his face and inflated his chest more than anything I have shared with him over the last three years. ” I really appreciate that!” was inspiring for both of us.

Wow, can come in the unexpected, the unneeded, and the unappreciated. Wow can be delivered without being acknowledged but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t remembered. A door held open, a smile, a pay-it-forward coffee that is consciously and intentionally delivered doesn’t evaporate into the ether. It lives on through moments and people and can arrive in unimagined moments to raise your spirits, boost your confidence and offer encouragement.

Make Today Remarkable, by giving your best and biggest wows,

B

Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Transitions

Do transitions maker you anxious? Do you have trouble moving from one activity or environment to another? Do you prefer to stay home after a busy day and long commute rather than going out on the town? Even when I am in control of the circumstances, I still need to self-motivate and self-regulate in times when I need to transition from a comfortable situation to an unknown opportunity.

Imagine how anxious you might be if you weren’t in control and didn’t have a voice in where you were expected to go next. Predictability is a strategy that many employers use but that level of familiarity breeds contempt and boredom. A better approach would be to design respectful, productive, shifts from one approach, assignment, or expectation to something different.

Today I witnessed anxiety, pain and discomfort from an employee who is living with uncertainty and anxiety about where and what they need to be undertaking in the next phase of their employment. I also saw a small child fall to the ground and flail and scream when it was time to go home.

Whether working with a team or shepherding a family these 6 tactics should be part of the plan.

1. Don’t undermine, deride or deny the feelings that are being experienced, even if you don’t feel the same way or understand how someone else might be feeling. observe the body signals and listen to their words with openness and curiosity. Acknowledge the feelings and encourage everyone to safely express their concerns. It may feel that being a command and control leader or parent would be more effective and productive and it may be in the shorter term but the anxiety, emotional upheaval and health challenges this can cause will be more costly in the long run. Be the type of leader who leads with consistency, compassion and care will give you real authority and license to hold high expectations and be respected for helping them through the awkwardness rather than pushing them into a chasm.

2. Offer a clear, brief explanation as to why the change is needed. ” I understand that you are busy calling all our accounts receivable but I need a weekly sales report to give to the president” ” I can see that you would like to stay at the park but we need to leave in five minutes so that we can get home to start supper before mommy gets off work. She is working very hard and will be very hungry. Can you help me make supper?

3. Even in moments of anxiousness and distress don’t behaviour that is unacceptable or for expectations to be lessened. It may seem counterintuitive and callous but in stressful situations and transitions, consistency is more than ever.

4. Be generous with gratitude and judicious with praise. They need to know that their efforts are appreciated but lavishing too many accolades creates neediness.

5. Be patient. Be patient with the people and the process. Let reality sink in and leave time for reflection and understanding. Through our patience and trust, we give employees and others that we support a safe place to air their concerns, acknowledge that they are heard and still lead them through the rocky change.

6. The hardest thing to practice when faced with resistance, is determination. Don’t backtrack, don’t concede, don’t surrender or your leadership/parenting will become suspect.

This isn’t a silver bullet that will work in every situation (nothing is) but if you follow these steps and master the listening and negotiation skills that go along with them, you will have fewer tantrums, rebellions or productivity drops.

There’s a little bit of pain in every transition, but we can’t let that stop us from making it. If we did, we’d never make any progress at all. ~ Phil Schiller

Make Today Remarkable by leading rather than pushing,

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Arrogant

Over the past month, I have been accused of being arrogant on at least four occasions. The accusers didn’t say I was arrogant but that what I was saying was arrogant. According to Meriam Webster’s definition of arrogant;

1 : exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner an arrogant official
2 : showing an offensive attitude of superiority : proceeding from or characterized by arrogance an arrogant reply

I concede that what I said was controversial and worded in a way as to provoke debate but the only dog I have in the race is my opinion. I didn’t exaggerate or express superiority in my position even knowing that the people I was talking with held, a strong polar position. Am I responsible for how my views make you feel about yours? Can I express a differing proposition and allow you to express yours without delving into accusations of assumptive presumption?

If I state, as I did, that “I have easily and comfortably moved from an agnostic to an atheist”, which carries with it a challenge to understand am I pretentious? In these cases, I am sure that if I had said ” I am a follower of Christ”, these individuals may have seen pious sensibility rather than arrogance. Are superiority and inferiority built into differing opinions? I recognize that I see confidence in some leaders, who I share some agreement, while other people that I know look for high-handed pompousness. If I disagree with a policy, I can view the politician as mean-spirited while a supporter sees practicality.
Are my monikers and labels just laziness and laxness? Do I choose mean-spirited for its impact? Should pompous, haughty, proud, insolent, overbearing and arrogant be saved for circumstances that warrant their definition? Have I resorted to a logical fallacy when I create a straw man by invoking a fascist or pervert label when the words or behavior that I am critical of is neither? Did I get a taste of my own exaggerated medicine?
When I make a comparison between two things that share some characteristics, I need to be careful that the analogy only stretches to the common ground. When I am tempted to make a point by extending a ‘guilt-by-association’ inference I need to step back onside. I hold some strong views on equity, social justice and economy that are shared by people that I find detestable. Does that mean that I am detestable too?

Are the phenomena new or have we been shortcutting and caricaturing for centuries? My sense of awareness around the behavior is heightened, and I would like to blame it on the models we see from world leaders in government, business, and charity. But I am not sure that is a valid assessment. I have found examples of biting political satire from the 15th Century, so maybe this can’t be blamed on President Trump, Prime Minister May, Kim Jong-un, Silvio Berlusconi or Robert Mugabe.

Changing how speechwriters, editors, journalists, and pundits choose to describe ‘the other’ is outside my span of control. I can take everything with a pinch of salt, and I can consider how I choose my descriptors and match my intent to my words. That still leaves me a lot of latitudes and obviously, I can ignore the stated intent and be rancorous and obnoxious, but maybe this will force me to acknowledge my intent and accept responsibility. As in many things that I think and write about, this is easy to say and harder to do.

I keep learning, adapting, improving, faltering and getting excited, disappointed, confused but it id the only way I know I am alive.

B