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

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Football

Sports metaphors lack grace, but I will begin the year with one that those who are fans (casual or rabid) of North American Football. You have just been given a fresh set of downs – what are you going to do with them? If you are a Canadian, you have three new opportunities to move the ball to a new marker at least 10 yards away. If you live in the United States, you get four attempts.

Untitled design (1)

You can run, pass, handoff, lateral, fake, pound straight ahead or use finesse. The choice is yours and will be dictated by your comfort with risk, your flair, and how easily you make decisions. The clock is running and time doesn’t stop often. What you do first will impact how close you are to the next goal, and the results of the first try will influence the second, third, and fourth. There is a bit of pressure but being in the game means that you need to be willing, if not ready, to play.

I am a fan of some razzle-dazzle and appreciate daring offense. The sum of my experience and acquired tendencies would have me throwing down the field on all three attempts on the first series. A new game has started today, and if I take a risk and I fail, there is still time to learn from the results and adapt my game plan. If I complete a throw and score, I will take that information and refine my expectations for the next opportunity that I get. In football, you can create additional opportunities to play offense by playing strong defense and stopping your opponent from scoring. I can’t make stretch my metaphor that far, in life, without adding aggressive competition. I don’t believe that when someone else succeeds, I lose (except in game theory and practice). I favor a more collaborative approach. In this time, in this place, with these people, we should be expecting remarkable results. If we all pull together and apply our energy, intellect, and determination to any problem, I am confident that together, we can find an as yet unimagined approach and solution.

That doesn’t mean that we acquiesce. We should be ready to respectfully defend our position and to challenge the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of others. If I do that right, I allow my curiosity to observe, reflect and adapt to new and shifting information and circumstances.

While I am part of many teams and I appreciate the skills and dispositions of others, I need to be the quarterback of my own life. In those situations where the circumstances are fully within my control, and the impact won’t adversely harm those around me, I can/must make my own choices. If I am not observing, reflecting and adapting my own life someone else will be dictating every how, where, when, and who.
My health and happiness depend on my acceptance of and responsibility for the autonomy. I am also accountable for the results that my choices deliver. When they are as good or better than expected, I should celebrate. (Not with some ridiculous touchdown dance but with a moment to acknowledge to myself the accomplishment). When the results are less than expected, I should learn from the moment. What variables didn’t I consider? Do I need additional skills, training or coaching? Is there a nuanced approach that I should try next or do I need to rethink the plan? The key to success is observe, reflect, adapt, and try again. Even when I succeed I can look for ways to add value to the choice and then watch to see if there was an improvement. A 1% increase (whatever that means) for even half my attempts could mean a significant difference after 100 tries.

Some days, my instincts, my intuition, and my experience will tell me that today’s conditions would be better served by running north-south and on other days I might recognize that a series short passes will be a better strategy. There isn’t a magic bullet or elixir or formula that is a one-size-fits every situation, but if we wake up determined to play the game and are aware of the current situation, we can draw from our growing playbook and attempt something we never dreamed possible. When we falter, fall and fail, we will pick ourselves up off the field, check for bruises and then call another play. Being in the game is more rewarding and fun than sitting on the sidelines so as you finish reading today’s post, get up and run a few plays.

Make today and every day remarkable,

B

Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

December 30, 2017

Are our best days behind us? Or do you see a promising future? Either way, it is mostly perspective. If I look back wistfully to a better time when I was happier, smarter, taller, thinner, fitter … the view is tainted with nostalgic naivety. I remember the best of times in the past and have conveniently forgotten any discomfort, stress or anxiety. Troubles seem to have melted away, and I see only the high points. This is probably a healthy outlook (back look) because there is very little that can be done to change yesterday and if we narrowed our perspective on the negative, we would find ourselves swimming in the same pool of despair and discomfort. Beginning the next adventure with that cloud hanging in the rear window can suck the enthusiasm and possibilities out of the journey.
When we look forward to moving forward and anticipate remarkable opportunities, we are most likely to be attentive and observant, so we see them as they appear. (they don’t really appear, we create them by intentionally doing those things that are necessary, but if we aren’t looking for them, we pass them by).

As I tear another page off the calendar and hang a new set of pages on the wall, I am aware of a couple of potential projects and need to continue to cultivate relationships and knowledge so I will be involved. I have committed to five daily actions that lead to my five 2018 goals, but none of them will happen unless I am diligent and intentionally habitual. Completing five new tasks every day (none of which are directly related to the work that I do) requires me to change my morning routine and move some current practices to other times or eliminate them from my priority list. I have spent years learning about my disposition and tendencies and recognize that if I don’t apply rigor, accountability, and positivity to my priorities, I am prone to self-sabotage and excuse making. 2018 is the “Year of No Excuses”. I can accept that there are reasons within my control and much that is outside my influence that can and will impact my progress but those reasons can not become excuses for not continuing, for not overcoming and for not finding a different approach. My self-examination and reflection over the past five years have verified that I am ‘destined’ to doing great things when I am prepared for, confident in and hopeful about all my tomorrows, whether I can see them from where I am standing or not.
If you haven’t taken time and exerted energy in examining your life so far, your conditioned practices, and your desires for the upcoming trip around the sun, I encourage you to block a couple of hours today, tomorrow and Monday to reflect, write, plan and ready yourself for the “Year of No Excuses”. Some helpful starting points for your reflection and planning might be in these questions.

1. What action, project or assignment from 2017 are you the proudest to have been involved with?
2. Why does this action, project or assignment from 2017 make you proud?
3. Are there similar, associated or ancillary projects that could be part of your 2018?

4. What work did you undertake in 2017 to improve your physical, emotional and mental health?
5. What resources; people, material, practices were helpful in the improvement?
6. How can you jumpstart the next level of physical, emotional and mental health improvement?

7. Who was your most important relationship in 2017? Do they know how important they are to you? Did you add value to their life in 2017?
8. Did you neglect relationships in 2017 by being too busy to connect? Can you change the situation?
9. Are there people in your life that drain your wellbeing? Do they know how they impact you?

10. What three desires/goals do you have for 2018? How will you feel on December 31, 2108, when you celebrate that you have achieved them?

If you haven’t taken time yet to answer questions like this and can’t/won’t make time to respond over the next three days, don’t throw your hands up in frustration. It is always better to start late than not at all. If you need a kickstart, we can provide you with a Q1 coaching program with an hour session every week until March 31, 2018. We can help you work through these questions and other exercises that will help you with accountability to those things that are important to you. You can join us in the “Year of No Excuses” and make the next 8760 hours the best so far.

Make this year remarkable,

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncategorized · 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.

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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.

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