Original Thought · Sharing Economy · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Futility

Scale is a terrible metric for excellence. In all the cases I have considered, scalability is a detriment to excellence. Scale reduces the offering to the lowest denominator and celebrates repeatability. Scalability creates mediocrity. When we strive to be everything to everyone or to solve a condition with a grand one-size-fits-all application, we reduce the possibilities to a very narrow band of acceptable options.

absurd

When the Canadian Federal Government attempts to solve senior’s social isolation at a population level, they throw resources, time, and energy at a national program that eventually offers so little inclusion as to be useless. Social inclusion is a local issue, a community problem that requires a neighbour to neighbour solution. I know the boogeyman known as equality will raise his head and shout; “that’s not fair, some will be taken care of very well and some will be neglected. Some will be invited to share Thanksgiving and some will be at home alone.” He is likely tight but isn’t solving a problem for one individual better than solving for none?

The public and charitable sector have created myths and swallowed lies that enshrine mediocre scale over impactful equity. Both sectors have needed to give birth to an enormous bureaucracy that is at once, expensive, ineffective and inefficient. Scale in the public sector relies on grandiose solutions to small problems rather than addressing social change that is necessary to find our way out of the self-perpetuating mess. If they find a way to house one individual who has been street entrenched for years and help her find gainful employment so she can sustain herself or nearly sustain herself, isn’t that a success? Why do we need to create a universal (unexceptional) global program if a local initiative would provide a community-directed (and different from a neighbouring community) service?

The for-profit sector isn’t immune to mediocrity caused by scale. The reason may be more selfish and nefarious; shareholder value and profit, but in the end we never see the best product or service because it needs to be deliverable in Afghanistan and Alabama simultaneously. The made-in movement of artisans, guilds, growers, and artists bring a refreshing, unique product and service to friends, family, associates, acquaintances, and a small loyal following. Each item is different from the next, often designed in response to a specific request or an individual need or preference. Utility, individuality, and beauty are allowed and encouraged.

I can almost hear the hew and cry as I type these words. ” Yes, but what about …” followed loudly by ” cost”, or ” economy”, or “markets”. For many years I believed the myth of a free market and that if it was good for business it was great for the community. I think that at one time, when we had a local tailor, a local grocer, a milkman, one accountant on the block this was, in fact, a true imagined reality. But as we have devolved into corporate megastores serving pablum to droids, the good that was once bestowed in the community is now delivered through corrupt public markets. Even the stock exchanges that were once a place for considered investment are now just vehicles pushing a dying theory to its eventual and inevitable collapse. People are not served by a corporate culture. We become servants to the machine that churns obsolescence and expects obedience to the powerful purchase promises. ” Buy the next crappy thing because it won’t last long (neither inventory nor functionality).

How can I escape the rolling thunder of messaging? The invasive tracks that are everywhere coaxing me to be better, but only if I buy a new dress, a new phone, a new drug, a new temporary icon are fleeting because there is a new and better crappy thing lurking around the corner with its own marketing plan. The cycle seems unnatural to my heart and my head thinks that the perpetual Ponzi of feeding the beast can’t last.

Can I get off the train at Neighbourhood Station and still live in the world? Can I think local, act local, shop local, give local and still contribute to the global pot? I am hoping that I am up to the challenge. For me, the change that I desire (need?) will be a battle with an entrenched 20th C belief structure that until recently I believed had served me well. A redefinition of well, good, great are needed and my understanding of them will be mine. I am going to attempt a life scaled at the smallest functional level. If I am ready and capable of making a decision, then I should be the one to make it. If the family level is where it would be better made because of the impact the choice would have then the family should decide. The same is true for neighbourhoods, communities, cities. I am no longer convinced that we can make important local choices once we expand the range to provinces or states. It already feels like my health has improved and my stress has been reduced when I focus on those things that I can take immediate, relevant and concrete action on. For me, I need to be able to touch them, see them, walk to them for me to understand the issue or offer and have any hope of adding value.

What do you think?

B

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 · Teamwork · Uncertainty

The Usual Suspect Might Not Be

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

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

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

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

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

Make Today Remarkable, by doubting your initial observation,

B

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

Fear versus Hope

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

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

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

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

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

Make Today Hopeful,

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

Self Improvement · Teamwork

You and Your Neighbours Can!

I really like talking with eager, talented neighbors about social change. Maybe, too much. Conversation, discussion, debate, brainstorming, ideation, evaluation, analysis are all great tools but without action and disruption, it is only empty rhetoric or worse self-absolution.

I heard Mark Lakeman speak last night at a Resilient Community event. He made many provocative statements and offered dozens of actions that he and his village have taken in Portland, Oregon. My paraphrase of the one that stuck with me was ” We don’t deserve to talk about sustainability if we can’t solve issues of abuse and injustice towards women.” I would add that we don’t have the right or reason to survive as a species if we can’t solve abuse of children, women, and seniors.

Action

I recognize that issues can be wickedly complicated. But when we use the complexity as an excuse for inaction, we become complicit in the issue and its impact. When we delay our action, hoping to find the best options, we leave people struggling and in danger. Many readers know that I have a significant action bias and that I have made hundreds of decisions that later need adaptation and improvement. But by acting, the ball started rolling and its momentum, direction, and scale could be altered.

I recall seeing a sign in the airport in San Francisco, a number of years ago. ” If you see something, say something”, resonates with my action focus and I would amend it to read ” If you see something, say something, and do something”. Do anything, do the best that you can in the moment, do the least that you can do in the moment, just do something.

You/I may not be able to solve the issue for all sufferers or even solve the problem completely for one person, but we can act. And we can surround ourselves with like-minded, willing and able, neighbours. What if four concerned citizens all agreed that there should be no child hunger at their community school? Or that the two children from their block would always have lunch. Or that the senior, living alone, would have someone to have a cup of tea with and talk with, every afternoon. Or the woman from the house where there is always shouting would have a safe place? If you look at your world and see something amiss, can you ask ” what can I do?” And then can you imagine you and your ‘team’ taking some meaningful action?

Every day in thousands of communities, millions of neighbours have come together to make it their problem. Their ‘it’ is different from yours, their response isn’t the same each time, but they are all acting and in their action they are making themselves and their villages a better place.

Make Today Remarkable, by beginning a conversation with a commitment to act together,
B

Self Improvement · Teamwork

Is a B+ Good Enough?

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A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with? This was the WordPress writing prompt one day this week. I have been thinking about the question in the light of my Remarkable People philosophy; remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen themselves and others. Who do I spend time with? Is the 100 hours a week with my beloved a significant impact in how I think, how I feel and how I behave? No doubt that her kindness rubs off on me and her commitment to family makes me a better father, a better grandfather and maybe a better brother.
Does seeing my youngest grandson for a day a week make me appreciate small things and big things and all things like books, toys, smiles,? He helps me notice trucks and machinery and squirrels and birdhouses. I am more attentive to my surroundings after a few hours in his presence.

Am I better when I am on vacation with friends who show consideration and courtesy to everyone they encounter? Does their willingness to be of service in tragedies, be of good cheer in adversities and be generous in the face of inequities make be more willing?

What does it mean to be average? Are you smarter than 2 people but less smart than 2? Do you have less compassion than some but more than others? Money? Health? Relationships? Can the average be raised? Lowered?

If you use your strengths to strengthen others and others do the same, can the bar be raised? I believe it can. If true, then it does matter which five people you spend time with? It matters more how they share their gifts, skills and strengths with those around them. It matters how we choose to influence and be influenced. I know that when I spend time with angry, cynical people, I am insensitive and self-righteous. If I listen to rhetoric and join in vitriol, we all become intolerant and joyless.

I was reading a review of “A Paradise Built in Hell” by Rebecca Solnit that reinforced my belief that we are all remarkable when we build on the gifts we bring to the table and community. The reviewer asks “If we think about our own personal experiences, no doubt we have each gone through something “disastrous” in a communal setting. In those situations, there is always something that compels us to rise to the occasion and to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. We begin to feel our common humanity a little bit more.” Have you risen to the occasion in 2017? Have I risen to a challenge? Will I rise tomorrow and then again and again?
Have we used our strengths to strengthen ourself and others? How have you been remarkable? Fourty-five days into this year, I realize that I haven’t been remarkable on very many of them. That is sad enough for me but if my actions, my words, and my attitudes are having a significant imapct on the folks I hang out with, then shame on me.

Miss Vivienne, an 8 year old girl is rising to the occasion in San Francisco with Making A Stand to eliminate slavery. She is selling lemonade on her street and encouraging others to join her around the world to raise awareness and resources to stomp out bondage and abuse.
Closer to home Emma is using her heart and art to strengthen homeless families in Calgary. She creates one of a kond mini masterpieces and auctions them on a Facebook page.
WestJet staff and volunteers lift the spirits of weary travelers by reducing their anxiety. THey respond with kindness to meaningful and meaningless questions and requests without missing a beat.
A friend is preparing meals and providing support to her extended family, from outside the city, as they go through medical treatments.

The possibilities to be remarkable are abundant and maybe ever present when we open our eyes and ears to the world that surrounds us.

Think about 5 people (or 10, 20, 30) that you would like to surround yourself with and rise to the occasion together by celebrating, supporting and sharing each other’s lives. Are those the folks you spend time with? Are you the kind of person that they should be investing their relationship energy to be with? Are you raising the bar this week or are you pulling the average down? We all have bad days, bad weeks, and trying times but if we know that as they fester, they infect others would we have fewer of them?

My challenge and now yours is to be someone who chooses to set the average very high and then set about to be someone who raises the curve.

B

fiction · Teamwork

Together

Once there was a land where the great rivers flowed from the mountains onto rolling hills and across fertile plains. Blue skies, red sunsets, amazing vistas and abundant wildlife abounded. Freedom loving, hardworking people came and for a hundred years and they worked together and built upon the land. The tilled and seeded, raised livestock and built cities and more freedom loving hardworking people came to join them. They mined, felled, drilled and dug the bountiful natural resources and built a strong caring community. A community where cowboys cared for children and city dwellers supported farmers. A community where each person accepted responsibility for themselves, their family and their neighbours grew. If a barn was razed, it was rebuilt. If a road was impassable, it was cleared. If someone was troubled, they were lifted up. If a barrier was identified, it was overcome – together.

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There was a bounty shared by all who cared to join the inhabitants of the land. The blessings of opportunity, promise and hope teemed in a measure equal to the material blessings that were created. Hope was born out of industriousness and inclusion. As hope flourished, unimagined opportunities manifested themselves and unexpected forms of providence appeared.

Neighbours didn’t always agree but they lived together with honour and respect. They debated passionately but held space for the opinions of others.

A man came into the land and saw all that was good and he was jealous. Envy and despair grew in him and he set out to undermine and destroy what the people had built.

Saying to one here “you deserve more” another there “ why work so hard” and another “ that isn’t your job” At first his prodding was ignored and the people kept living together in community but the man’s voice was joined by many others with the power of print, radio, and TV. Their message began to take root. “Why worry about your neighbour. Was he there for you?” “Leave that for the next guy to do. You have done your share already”. “Let’s hire someone to do our work and we can relax in the sun”.

After a few dozen years or so, the passion and purpose that built the land was forgotten and the language of self-reliance and responsibility was erased and replaced by delegates and servants hired to look after every need. The sky darkened and neighbours built fences of fear. Trust evaporated and was replaced by rules of entitlement. People still came seeking liberty but they didn’t find freedom and opportunity and the sweat of their brow or the power of their skills wasn’t appreciated. A community turned into a group of individuals who happened to live in the same place. The man and his ilk said ” Our economy is strong”, ” we have too many freeloaders”, ” we need to protect ourselves”, ” we can’t let more people come here”.

Soon neighbour threatened neighbour. Disagreements were handled by the court. Prisons were built and filled and more prisons were needed. Debate became vitriolic rhetoric full of untruths and logical fallacies. Distrust turned to disgust and then to hatred. Hope evaporated and opportunities disappeared. People stopped coming and started to leave. The man and his bloc were satisfied that their jelousy had poisoned the community and they packed their carpetbags and moved on to infect another place with their economic arguments, their prejudice, and their fear.

This story is written by someone who observed the shift – a child born in the midst of abundance and caring who now nearly 30 years old, sees scarcity and greed. Her great wish is for a return to ‘the good-old-days’ but realizes that fear has its foothold and is gaining strength. It would take leadership, commitment and comp[assion to restart the journey towards hope. She can’t do it alone but she can do her part with a challenge; “I leave you this story, how it continues is up to you ..”

Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

You Suck, I Suck, We All Suck

I appreciate that political correctness and liberal politics continue to abhor unfair, abusive, illegal, and immoral treatment of others. When politicians and government make grand statements of attrition and reconciliation, they need to continue to have an eye to the reality of the present. In Canada, when all levels of government apologize for the treatment of first nations people for the way we treated them at first contact, it is empty words because of the abhorrent conditions we continue to press them into. When a city council changes the name of a bridge because the person the bridged honoured for 50 years was a proponent of the residential school system while urban aboriginals are dying from their poverty, it seems disingenuous.

An eye to the past is important so that we don’t repeat our mistakes and help us continue to learn from them. An eye to the past can act as a shield to taking meaningful, difficult steps to remedy a current situation. If I/we don’t know how to, don’t have the commitment to, or are afraid of the ramifications of a difficult issue, like first nation poverty in Canadian cities we take an easier path. Creating an Aboriginal Poverty Reduction Strategy that sits on a shelf without resources or teeth is self-serving and possibly mean-spirited but somehow offers satisfaction to the writers and their sponsors. It may not help those struggling with poor housing, poor nutrition, poor health, and poor self-esteem but it gets headlines in the mainstream press and impresses potential voters and supporters.

I use the tactic too and am frustrated by the obvious dodge it can become. When I don’t know how to remedy a wicked question, I often answer a different one. ” How do we eliminate child hunger in Canada?” and I responded with a school lunch program in Calgary for children identified by an authority as being food insecure. I accepted congratulations for the work (3000 kids a day got fed) and celebrated the immediate, relevant and concrete solution to a very narrow problem. But the solution of providing a nutritious lunch to some hungry kids at school, on school days doesn’t begin to answer the wicked question. I don’t recall anyone challenging what we were doing because after all we were feeding hungry kids and it feels good to be doing something. Successive parliaments and numerous legislatures have passed unanimous motions to eliminate child hunger to great applause and little impact.

All of us need to get past the rhetoric and easy actions and begin having very difficult discussions and trying unbelievably risky experiments if we hope to solve the issues that are destroying lives and killing people. If we continue to manage social issues, social issues manage to continue. Most of what we do and say feels and sounds good but without challenging what we are doing, it seems that we are perpetuating the problems with a faint hope that they will somehow disappear.

Think and Act on Solutions,
B

 

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Some Ideas Should Be Self Evident

Just because someone has influence doesn’t mean they have character. ~ Art  Jonak

It became crystal clear again this week that in the absence of character bluster and bravado are a poor replacement. When authorities and leaders resort to ad hominem and strawman attacks because they have made self-righteous and self-aggrandizing choices that they can’t defend with logic or honesty.

It would seem that I should be equally skeptical of the corollary ” just because someone has character doesn’t mean they have influence”.  It would be depressing and disappointing to consider that honesty, transparent, caring people lack influence. It is likely just a matter of scale. If 100,000 Twitter followers or 10,000,000 YouTube views suggests influence then a meaningful relationship and mentorship is insignificant. But if a changed life, a changed disposition or a changed heart is the measure then influence may be inversely proportional to following or views.

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I had two remarkable meetings today where we discussed a range of issues and differences of opinions. I left both with a fresh perspective, new data points and challenges and a sense of fulfillment. Both meetings were far more influential than any Facebook post or Instagram photo I will encounter today.

Make Today Remarkable, by setting your expectations at a human scale,

B

Self Improvement · Teamwork

Which List Would You Prefer?

Looking at the two lists below, which list or words would you never want used to describe you; Bob is …. Jill is ….?

A

adaptable adventurous affectionate agreeable ambitious amiable amusing brave
bright broad-minded calm careful charming communicative compassionate
considerate courageous courteous creative decisive determined diligent
diplomatic discreet dynamic easygoing emotional energetic enthusiastic
exuberant fair-minded faithful fearless forceful frank friendly funny …

B

aggressive aloof arrogant belligerent big-headed bitchy boastful bone-idle
boring bossy callous cantankerous careless changeable clinging compulsive
conservative cowardly cruel cunning cynical deceitful detached dishonest dogmatic
domineering finicky flirtatious foolish foolhardy fussy

+/-

List A or List B? adaptable or aggressive? courageous or cowardly? I recognize that any list isn’t as simple as positive or negative. As I think about List B, I wouldn’t be offended being called changeable, flirtatious and being called forceful or emotional from List A might cause anxiety for some.

Lists and rhetoric aside, how do you want to be described today and in your obituary? Now, more importantly, what are you doing to earn those descriptors?

Make Today Remarkable by choosing to be remarkable,

B

Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen others.