Self Improvement

River Cleanup

Why has become the big question. Of the W’s and H, Simon Sinek and others have lead us to understand our ‘why’ ahead of any other question. This is a laudable approach, as having an approach is better than winging it (maybe), but may act as a stalling tactic. It can also lead to perfection bias. (If it doesn’t meet the why test completely, then it shouldn’t be done.) The way I use why isn’t as a genesis test but as an omega confirmation.
For me, when I know the what, where, how and when I can test it against why. Why doesn’t generate the action it serves to align it and confirm it through the strategic positioning.
If I see litter alongside the pathway, I can think “that is terrible, someone should pick it up”. Who should that be? – Me? Does taking responsibility for helping solve what I encounter fit with my values? Yes – so the who is me. What should I do? If I pick up the trash and hide it so no one can see it, does that conform with my value of doing the best that I can? No – so I need to do something else. If I pick up the garbage and carry it a couple of blocks to a receptacle, would that serve my purpose? Yes -ok, that’s what I will do. I will come back at the end of the week and remove that piece of rubbish. No – that doesn’t fit with my belief that action always is better than delaying. Do it now.
OK, I will charge into the bushes and grab up the mess. Even though that meets my action bias, it contradicts my value of safety so I need to consider some of the possible hazards and plan to act in a safe manner.
So I pick up the trash, right now, in a safe manner and carry it to a nearby trash can. Who, what, how, where, when all confirmed by my why.

Thanks to everyone in Calgary who is doing that exact thing this morning during the Annual River Cleanup. You and your efforts are appreciated. Be safe, be well.

river cleanup

Thanks For making today remarkable,

B

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 · 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

Cycles

It seems that everything is on a cycle? There was a supermoon this morning and it was the closest it has been since 1948 and it won’t be that close again for more that 60 years. The economy goes up and down. Seasons change (although not as I remember them from my childhood). Moods swing, weight swings, temperament changes and countries and governments change.

SONY DSC

We can resist cycles but they mostly happen anyway. We can deny them and they still have an impact. We can accept them and miss opportunities. We can embrace them and make more of the next phase than we imagined.

Everything isn’t coming up roses right now but we can grab the season and pick pansies, asters, irises and crocuses and if we are adventurous and courageous we can plant seeds of cucumbers, melons, mums, and lillies that will be ready when the next cycle arrives.

We can be part of creating the next cycle; not by sitting idly by, not by self-righteously complaining but by choosing the action we take and observing the outcome.

SONY DSC

Self Improvement · Teamwork

Are You Exercising Due Consideration?

What if you took as much time and consideration about your next charity donation as you do about your next smartphone? (Samsung Note 7 aside). Would you check out available options that would meet the issue itch you are trying to scratch? Did you know that there are pros and cons to every charity? Do you just ‘buy’ the default without thinking about how your gift might be used? Do you visit websites and read reports and stories? Compelling narratives about how and why individual organizations enact their mission and the difference it is making are easily available or they should be. If I can’t find them regarding a specific agency, I drop them from my list of potential recipients.

I have heard friends talk about how they visited the Apple store 4 times and talked to 3 different geniuses and read consumer reviews about a product they were considering that might make their lives marginally better (or worse). They then rush to the Red Cross website in response to news coverage of Hurricane Matthew hitting Haiti and without consideration donate money to a life and death situation. I asked ” Did you consider Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)?” ” or Oxfam?” ” or Care Canada?” They shrug and indicate that it isn’t their job to investigate if they money would be put to good use. With that attitude (and no judgement of the agencies named here) they might just as well be throwing the money in the air.

Each opportunity to make a difference that we discover should be given the IRC test. Is the action immediate? You are ready to do something and putting off the action will not benefit you or those people that are impacted by the issue or problem. If an action meets the immediate criteria, it will also immediately cause ripples. Not all actions are going to make the same ripple and while we can never be sure how the ripples will grow, we can anticipate what the results might be.
The second criteria is relevance. We can get caught up doing things that are not relevant to the issue or a solution. In order to be relevant, the action needs to have significant bearing on or connection to the act. Don’t be fooled into doing ‘busy work’ just for the sake of doing something. Ask questions about the effect of your actions. “What difference does this acton make?”
The third and possibly most important criteria for choosing everyday action that the action needs to be concrete. While it is important to raise your awareness of an issue, attending an information session does not constitute concrete action. After your awareness has been raised the next step becomes action.

Donating money as a humanitarian response to a catastrophe or a chronic social problem is a type of action that many opt to exercise. What if you just did a simple IRC test – will the money have an immediate impact, will it be relevant to the issue and the anxiety that I am feeling, and is the money going to make a concrete difference for the impacted population? If yes – proceed. If no – look for a better way or a different cause.

The world needs us all to become more discerning and diligent in the choices we make.
You can start today.

B

Monday 168 report Sleep 18, Workout 3, Learn 4, walk 6, Read 3, Eat 2, Netflix 6, Work 6

Tuesday Sleep 14, Learn 4, Workout 4, walk 2, travel 2, Read 4, Work 10, Eat 2, Write 2, TV 4

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Truth or Dare

William Shakespeare ~ In Act 1, Scene III of the famous play, Hamlet, Polonius says, This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man/Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

shakespear

There is a lot of Greek philosophy embedded in the quote, especially the Stoics and Epicureans,  and Shakespeare was a wise and learned guy who certainly borrowed ideas and words from previous writings. The idea of copywright and intellectual property wasn’t well formed in 1603 or 350BC and citing sources wasn’t as prominent. Over the years we seemed to have reduced the meaning from Polonius’s mouth to make it sound more like Ayn Rand. Rand suggested that commitment to yourself is a commitment to your mind and as such an extension of the individual. She articulately and cleverly used this idea to demonstrate the futility of collectivism (I disagree with her thesis but still admire her intellect).

I am not sure what the Greeks were thinking and don’t have anymore than the context of Act 1 to know what Bill meant but for me the meaning is a paradox that I have been uraveling for years, both abstractly and in practice.

For me it plays out as a choice to think or act. With my tendency to impatience and imperfection and my bias to action and destinations, I struggle with the reflection and analysis. I can convince myself that by the time I arrive at a moment of truth, I have already equipped myself with research and advice. When I am feeling impetuous and instinctive I hear “to thy own self be true” as a siren call to trust the loud inner voice.When I  am less certain hear the progression and rhythm of ” as the night follows the day” and worry that I am being impulsive rather than logical. On my best days, I am able to see the biggest picture and realize that all the fretting into one decision isn’t as monumental as I am making it. I can act, evaluate, adapt and decide to move on again or not.

I do want to be true to me and ergo true to you so I will commit to disclosure of the best and not so best that arises.

 

Make Today Remarkable, for you,

B

Self Improvement

Teamwork

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Andrew Carnegie How do we discover and agree on a common vision if we all have a personal agenda. I have worked on teams that excelled and achieved uncommon results and worked with others on projects who believed that working together meant we all could do much less (because of our collective effort) and get the same results. The difference wasn’t the quality of the vision but rather the commitment of the people. Teams are relationships and not all people understand the commitment they make when they enter into a collective endeavor.

sharing

“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.” Patanjali Key to this quote is dedication and unselfishness before instinct, boldness and effort. Both require courage and both should be held to severe scrutiny. When joining others on a team project, their dedication and yours should be confirmed and an understanding arrived at that anyone can openly question another team members’ obligation to the common goals. Additionally if someone takes a selfish approach they should be subject to and willingly accept reproach. Then the gifts and talents become important and remarkable results will arise.

In the vein of easy to say harder to do, Casey Stengel said “Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek the best people but team leadership needs to ensure through autonomy, mastery, and purpose that everyone is pulling the same ropes in the same direction. Any free loaders, malcontents and egoists should be released of their commitment and given the opportunity to seek other challenges. When that decision is needed, it needs to be fast, full and forceful – leaving no doubt or room for negotiation. Big, wicked problems can’t afford toxic participants on the solution focused team or the whole barrel becomes rotten.

Team leadership isn’t easy and it probably shouldn’t be. Disagreement is healthy, dissent necessary but distrust is dangerous. Encourage the former and then come to an acknowledgement of a path or process and don’t detour until the way is impossible or unfruitful. If you hit a wall that is unmovable, leadership should accept responsibility and redirect the team to a new starting point. If distrust wells up, face it and name it as quickly and honestly as possible. Make amends, atone, or abandon but don’t press onwards with doubt and skepticism in the air.

Make Today Remarkable, by challenging yourself and your team,

B

Uncategorized

The Power of a Myth

Mythology exists in all aspects of our life. We believe we are a country of intelligent, entrepreneurial, caring, radical individualists who come together to share our resources and skills and make the world a better place. It likely doesn’t matter where you live, The myth of people and place is pretty powerful. And there is some truth in every myth.
We listen to our Genesis stories; as people, cities, companies and celebrate them by rewriting them to fit our current expectations, mores, attitudes and regrets. The adaptability and flexibility of our stories reflects that we understand that they may never have happened but are definitely true.

My myths keep me safe, keep me calm, help me stay rooted and inspire me. I have absorbed some from my kin and their strange Scottish Scandinavian practices and history. I was taught some from my grandmother and mother that form the basis for my morality and responsibility. I have crafted a few myths myself so I am able to continue doing what I do and to justify my actions in the face of resistance. As the narratives become embedded they earn mythology status, for a time. They are relative to an audience that is predisposed to the lesson. Christians lean towards and love Christian narratives although most zealots would be uncomfortable with the myth reference since they see the stories as complete and inerrant.

There are myths about the glories of capitalism that supporters love and myths that deride and denigrate capitalism that detractors love. Myth – Under capitalism, anyone who works hard can succeed. Myth – Under capitalism only those with a silver spoon get to eat from the golden dish. Sometimes the myth is accepted by both perspectives but for completely different reasons. Myth – We are all in the same boat.

I was raised with a protestant work ethic with tinges of puritan morals so shaking those off and seeing the world with more joy, hope and optimism was a long process and there are days that the baggage rears its head as a defense mechanism against an idea, a party, a person who I disagree with. When I am struggling to understand I can twist and turn my personal narratives with all kinds of logical fallacies. I see injustice when none exists, I hear slander in feedback, I taste opposition in diversity but on the days that I trust and hope (another area of mythology) I grow in all those circumstances.

Myth, as a social construct, is most often destructive as we are seeing in a current election campaign. The myths of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, money creates sides and factions. And when you choose a team or are picked for a team loyalty overwhelms our senses. I have found myself accepting and then defending something that didn’t sit right because it was part of the team’s narrative. Political parties and religious factions have notorious influence on the common sense and common decency of adherents. When the narrative creates a them and us, it is time to deconstruct it and hold it up to the brightest light because it is likely in service of an agenda that is self serving and selfish.

I love myths, ancient and modern. Like the heroes of ancient myths, modern superheroes have extraordinary powers. The most famous superhero is Superman, created by American cartoonists Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster in 1938. In comics and on radio, television, and movie screens, he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way,” using his powers of flight and incredible strength, powers he possesses because he is from another planet. Like most modern superheroes, Superman keeps his identity a secret and pretends to be an ordinary man. Such myths suggest that anyone can have unsuspected potential for heroism.

Make Today Remarkable, because you believe the myth that you are,

B

Self Improvement

The Gift of Fear

“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.”
– Nadia Comaneci

fear is a liar

If someone who overcame every day, tried harder and became one of the best gymnasts of all time can trample big fears surely we can stomp out ours by charging ahead and taking them on. I am not suggesting that we take dangerous and crazy risks just to prove we are brave but I think we all can learn to face down our fears by facing them, acknowledging them and still moving forward.

I have written about intentional versus organic often, some may say ad nauseum and believe that nothing happens without deliberate action. But intention without action is as empty as waiting for the world to change or improve on its own. So if you are facing fears, anxiety or uncertainty you can’t just intend to face them – because you won’t. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), wrote more than 1000 years ago “Hell is full of good intentions or desires.” The quote is often mistakenly attributed to Samuel Johnson because James Boswell in “The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D.” ,1791, records that “No saint, however, in the course of his religious warfare, was more sensible of the unhappy failure of pious resolves, than Johnson. He said one day, talking to an acquaintance on this subject, “Sir Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Nancy Bouwens in “3 Ways Facing Fear Will Make You Brave” offers these steps;

1. Take the first step while still afraid. Hesitation is the enemy, it holds you in the current state and makes excuses for not acting.

2. Brave means standing your ground. Once you have taken the first step retreat isn’t an option. Internal forces and external ‘threats’ will try to make you back down. If you do, know that you are defeated.

3. Brave means not giving in. Overcoming fear isn’t a one step process. You may be afraid in certain situations for a long time. But quitting isn’t a small step backward, it is a return to the trap and paralysis.

Courage is the opposite of conformity and when we are courageous we are at our best.

Make Today Remarkable, by being afraid and acting anyway,

B

Self Improvement

Another Way

There is always another way. If the path is blocked or a barrier rises up, there is always another way. I’m not completely sure that is always true but it is the premise that I begin with when faced with an obstacle. If i encounter resistance, it is an opportunity to reflect, reset, and restart or resist, regroup, and reconfirm or retreat, reform and reengage. Or any number of other re’s . What the barrier identifies is a possibility that hasn’t been considered and shouldn’t be taken as a criticism or a personal affront. The barrier may simply be surmounted, circumvented or crashed or there may be a reason to think about the approach and discover that there is a different and better way to get to your destination. Don’t be deterred unless reflection tells you that the new information offers an insight that you hadn’t considered. Then there may be a reason to reimagine the destination in a new light. Tilting at windmills is something I have done and only rarely has it been satisfying and even more rarely has it been successful. But if new information serves to inform the map and suggest a detour then that is valuable to achieving your goals.

I try not to anticipate a block in my path and try not to be watching for it but when I encounter one , I want to be able to examine what put it there, does it serve a purpose, is it an accident or an anomaly or should I be concerned about danger or other ramifications? I suspect that most of us get a feeling of disappointment when confronted with a setback but if we can get past that to the learning there is another way, there always is.