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

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

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Are you Courageous?

Courage; where does yours come from? Courage isn’t the opposite of fear, it is the opposite of complacency. Complacency is the bastard child of certainty and convenience. When those two get together, they sap our curiousity, commitment, collaboration and destroys our courage by convincing us to continue clamoring confidently along. When we believe we are right, we don’t need to be courageous – just stubborn. When convenience removes all challenges or worse convinces us to avoid circumstances that cause inconvenience, we get stuck deeper in the muck of mediocrity (complacency’s cousin). It doesn’t take much mediocrity to bring about inertia. When the muck gets above our knees we become paralyzed.

Does it sound like a terrible state and a trap to be avoided? I spend a lot of my day reminding myself that I need to create a bit of chaos so I remain curious and vigilant.

The practice of avoiding complacency and encouraging courage, for me, is about embracing a bit of ambiguity in every moment.
I avoid over analyzing circumstances, which is an easier practice than I imagined. If I start digging into weeds, I lift up my head and think about the garden and the sky. If I go all big picture and start considering the global ramifications, I try to focus on the bottom of my feet and breathe deeply.

I have, thanks to Gretchen Rubin and Bernadette Jiwa’s work, adopted a habitual morning practice. It still causes me some angst to say that because I once felt that habit was a handcuff. But now I begin my day at 5am with a guided meditation and some language learning. By the time I get to my first coffee I have awakened my heart with reflection and my brain with a small challenge. The remainder of the morning before a run or workout has me roaming news and information sites. A forty minute to an hour exercise session takes me to 07:30 and the routine ends. The rest of the day can feel like fire fighting (some of the flare ups that I started) and work with clients and causes.

While I am often sharing responsibility for my time with appointments and meetings I avoid letting someone else highjack my agenda for the day. The choices I make either lead me to predictability or adventure. Predictably I usually choose adventure. If I believed in destiny, I would say ” I am destined for the next adventure” or ” Adventure is my destiny”. If I succumb to spending 12 hours working on a clients problem and curtail my personal plan for one day, I can make up for it. But if a demanding issue, that isn’t within my manifesto, begins to consume me I need to take back ownership of my schedule.

In an effort to combat certainty and manifest courage, I passionately stand up for my values and respectfully listen for points of agreement and points of diversion and then try to understand and synthesize differing points of reference and view. In diplomatically defending my ideas, I am forced to consider the why, what, where of the views and why I am so sure that they are valid. I bring myself to listen to and hear opinions and ‘facts’ that differ from mine and consider why, what, where again. It is hard to get complacent when I intentionally put myself on a rollercoaster.

In my bravest moments, I am not afraid of the change that comes from embracing uncertainty. I still surprise myself when I hear my voice digging in on a position with defensive posturing. ” Experts have shown”, ” We all know”, “The facts are” are all cowardly bullying if I am sincere in exploring new ideas and testing old ones.

I try to avoid definitive statements, definitive articles, and definitive tone when in a discussion or friendly debate. My curiousity should be to understand not to win points. If I practice an indefinate approach and keep my head, hands and heart open, I will hear, see, and feel the world differently and that is what excites me.

Make Today Remarkable, by exploring the impossible, embracing the unimagined and trying the undoable,

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · 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 · 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

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Serenity

The Serenity Prayer is a troubling bit of naive advice.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.

The more well known first five verses set up the contrast between action and inertia, between courage and wisdom, between divinity and humanity. For believers in a monotheistic world, it seems to be a means to shift blame and justify inaction. For unbelievers, it points to wisdom as the inspiration for decisions rather than any god or gods. The Glori Patre formulation brings familiarity.

The second stanza becomes very Buddhist for the first three lines. Accepting the world as it is rather than as I would have it be, is easy to say and certainly harder to do. In my morning meditation, I can be accepting of my surroundings; the light, sounds, and energy around me. I have learned to accept my aches, physical, emotional, and intellectual for the moments that I rest in awareness of my body but the experience is fleeting as I return to the room, the house, the world.

The metaphoric invocation is abrupt but temporary in line eight. Almost as an aside, an incantation that harkens the magic and power from beyond. The poet becomes frenetic jumping from self to Saviour as the reason to live and the means to solve the anxiety of decisions. If I relinquish the decision and the responsibility for it, I am absolved. Even if I don’t fully and truly accept the Christian myth, I am restored for making or not making a choice to act.

The prayer ends, as all good prayers should, with the incantation; repeated and bleated by so many. In the call for agreement, we reinforce the fiction that we have created together and which is necessary to make any sense of our world, our place and the concept of prayer.

As the prayer closes, it makes the big promise that regardless of whether I have wisdom or courage or knowledge and without consideration for how my self-imposed choice impacts others, I will live forever with the one who releases me of the responsibility.

To be clear, I have prayed this prayer on many occasions and my significant action bias always won out even when I didn’t have the necessary information to make the choice wisely. For the times when I know that my choice to act caused harm and for those times that I don’t recognize the hardship I contributed to, I accept responsibility. For the times that my limited view of the world suggests that my action was neutral or helpful, I accept responsibility too. No passing the buck, no shared fiction, just me being responsible or irresponsible in the moment.

This post was precipitated by having someone say to me ” God helps those who help themselves” in what I felt was a callous response to some homeless people we had an encounter with. He didn’t appreciate me suggesting that his statement was an acknowledgement that there is no god and if he still believed there was then, from my reading of scripture, that he was missing the big point by weaving a thick veil with a whole lot of very small stuff. Not my finest moment. But I was frustrated by his words and concerned that I didn’t have a better response to the two women and a man other than the giving of alms (which readers of this post will remember, I have referred to as a status verification absolution practice. ) If charity is the best we can do, so be it. But charity shouldn’t stop us from looking for root causes. If we continue to manage social issues, social issues manage to continue.

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. ~ John F. Kennedy

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Success

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What constitutes success? How do you measure the value of a minute, an hour, a lifetime? Is the accumulation of material goods and zeroes a meaningful metric? How much is enough? Is there such a thing as too much?
For regular readers, you will know that I tend to believe and try to practice the belief that our lives aren’t measured by what we have but rather by what we do. Too much creates an expectation of more and a dissatisfaction with the present.
If I live my life with open hands; allowing gifts and possessions to be shared rather than accumulated, my hands never seem to be empty. When I close my fists on money, material belongings, relationships, ideas then there isn’t room for additional, new, exciting possibilities. There isn’t a motivation to seek out new people or room in the closed fist to caress a new idea.
My success is measured by the incremental changes that my curiousity and relationships bring me. I am better (more successful) on the days that I am open to the unknown, interested in mystery, and able to have impactful and challenging conversations with the people that I encounter on the adventure of my day.
We have stuff and sometimes I cling to it but mostly it gets in the way of explaining, learning, sharing because the stuff says more about me (and things I don’t aspire to have said) than my intellect, rhetoric and actions. If the bling and accessories don’t add to my essence then they are detracting from who I want to be and how I want to be remembered.

Shedding stuff is difficult, especially if we have vested personal importance in their status and allowed them to become proxies for true meaning. It may be easier to succeed in not acquiring objects that are peripheral to your life mission. If I want to live a more self-sustaining life, does a luxury SUV or the latest Keurig machine fit inside or outside the path? (does the latest anything fit?)

In a Business Insider article Arriana Huffington says “To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric,” she says, “a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”
In the same article Winston Churchill says “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”.

It seems that others have been asking the “what is success” question for decades, maybe centuries. How do you know or feel your success? Do you? What needs to change so your metrics are meaningful for you? Are you ready and willing to shift your focus and live life a new way?

B