Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Reasonable Accommodations?

Every day, I read articles, see newscasts or have conversations with people that lead to a pivot point where I/we/society should make space to accommodate someone or something that requires a change of mind, practice or expectations.
In Canada, we are preparing for the introduction of the legal, recreational use of marijuana. For the past 150 years, usage was illegal and mostly secreted. Now we are trying to figure out how we can live together when public consumption has broad consequences and impact.

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Very narrowly, we are discussing how marijuana smoking in our 154 unit, four-story condo building will impact non-users. How do we accommodate the new state without the intrusion of smoke (odor and effect) into our homes? The reflex seems to be regulatory; create a bylaw prohibiting or restricting the when, where and how. I understand this reaction, but a heavy hand might inflame and incite without using the moment to understand what it means to live in community together. What if we had a dialogue with all parties? What could we come up with? Could an as yet unimagined accommodation be possible?

In a previous life, I helped university students, living in residence,  create, monitor and adjudicate community standards. There were still conflicts and disputes, but when everyone understood that their actions and inactions impacted others, there were significantly fewer incidents.

Maybe that is part of our path forward.

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Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Give it a Try

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

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

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

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

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Original Thought · Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If you were inspired, provoked or entertained by this post you can ‘buy me a coffe’ by clicking the button on the right

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.

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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.

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Original Thought · Self Improvement · Sharing Economy

Disruptive Collaboration

We are smarter together than apart. The sum of our experience is more valuable when used collectively. It takes a village … Then why do we resort to an echo chamber when we are trying to solve a wicked problem? How do we get plowing down a path that becomes the only direction we look? An article on Aeon this morning entitled ” Group Smarts” by Jane Hu and some suggestions around building a ‘smart’ team. This matched, somewhat with a presentation I heard, on Saturday, at ‘Soul of the New Economy’ about Messy Collaboration. I will pull some thoughts from both and add what I think is important from my philosophy and practice.

From ” Group Smarts” Ms. Hu quotes Sir Francis Galton ( 1906) on the results of a contest he ran to guess the weight of an ox. “This result is, I think, more creditable to the trustworthiness of a democratic judgment than might have been expected,” when collectively they averaged 1197 pounds and actual weight was 1198. When collectively working to a defined conclusion we collectively do a good job. But how do we do when there isn’t an answer to be calculated or a past experience we can draw from?

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Because of my affection and admiration for the hive, I did pause to think about bees and there ability to manage complex problems that require enormous collaboration. I marvel that the hive can be maintained at a constant temperature, optimal for the Queen and brood, by tiny fanning wings cooling or even tinier thorax muscles vibrating to add heat. My astonishment for the hive extends to how together they solve social problems like free loading drones or season changes. Each worker bee lives with a collective purpose – the next generation. The thousands of flights they take to bring nectar and pollen back, the cleaning and preening, the care of the brood focuses on insuring the survival of tomorrow’s workers. In recent years new circumstances have challenged hives across North America. Colony Collapse Disorder seems to be associated with neonicotinoids in pesticides and genetic mutation of monocrops is still destroying hives but the bees are adapting, breeding resistance and beginning to cope.

For bees under normal circumstances or for us in the adding and subtracting world, straight lines to a norm are helpful. “We have always done it this way so let’s do it this way again” In complex and shifting sands we both need some disrupters who begin the slow process of shifting the mindset and turning the caravan. In wicked and desperate situations we shouldn’t just accept dissent but we should find a way to demand it. In the past large stalward groups tried to plant naysayers like the advocatus diabli of Pope Leo X (1513-1521) but after a time they aren’t taken seriously. The devil’s advocate lacks the conviction to disrupt for long or to stray too far because their ‘job’ may be on the line.

I wonder if process can make room for and cultivate discord and resistance. Would built in tests; checks and balances, be enough to pause the race towards a preconceived and accepted conclusion? Would ‘forced’ divergence after every convergence help to moderate the echo chamber? I have used rapid prototyping and improv to add tiny explosions on the track and seen stunned expressions turn to awe turn to inspiration. As yet unimagined solutions rose through the tension and new approaches were discovered. This isn’t a on size fits all correction but I would encourage exploration of possible practices that add detours. Most teams will eventually manage the change if they aren’t constantly hustled to the next step. If the point is to discover a different and better approach then rushing towards a louder, brighter, faster version of today isn’t likely to generate it.

There are risks to working in disruptive collaboration. Strong personalities can attempt to dominate so facilitators need to be tactful and democratic. Variations on a theme have significant gravity so there needs to be a counter force pulling away from the safety of familiar. It seems that once the orbit changes the force needed to resist the status quo lessens and when teams witness unimagined solutions or exciting trajectories, they become confident in the exploration and can hold the unordinary and practical at the same time.

We are smarter together when we work smarter. When we broaden our horizons and search for a distant source of light, we might just discover a planet or a galaxy of better ideas.

Make Today Remarkable,

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Original Thought · Uncategorized

Choices

Can the world change at a global scale or is all meaningful and lasting innovation local? This week, I heard John McKnight say ” generousity is the lubricant that makes neighbourhood viable.”. I don’t believe we, as individual actors, have the capacity to create and deliver the level of generousity he envisions except at the most local and democratic level. In 1804 Thomas Jefferson was running to be PoTUS on a campaign that could be summed up as ” I believe every American, given the opportunity and circumstances, can and will take care of herself, her family and her community”.

I may be naive and too optimistic but I trust that the spirit of magnanimity and the commitment to our tribe is still alive, if not well, in North America. If we can awaken personal responsibility, involvement and awareness of consequences we can begin rebuilding our local communities on generousity, care and respect.

The breakdown of global systems, organizations and theories, while devastating, may be the critical impetus to allow mutual aid and unmeasured reciprocity to embed itself into our culture again. As we need each other, we can serve each other. Brexit, divisive European and American elections, financial and environmental crises, distrust and anger are matched by a rise of optimism, service, entrepreneurial spirit and loyalty. There will be clashes and ‘haters are gonna hate’ but past the vitriol there is a new way waiting for us to steel ourselves and demonstrate the seed of hope.
The news, as it is portrayed and the divisions it creates is one way to view the circumstances. But a change of perspective fosters a different response and results in a different future. We can, individually and in small tribes, change how we see the world, how we respond to challenges, a alter the future with relentless small scale incremental shifts in our decisions and actions.

We can choose not to participate in the fall and degradation. It is a matter of commitment to a different path. Make your choice and make your community.

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Choices #celebrateblessings

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

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Are You Listening?

I need an audience. Without readers, my words fall on deaf ears- no matter how clever, important or irrelevant they seem to be. But do I need to earn the right to speak my truth into the world? Do I need a plan to cultivate listeners? Should I be writing less but better? More and more spontaneous?
When I began I was just writing for me. It was my process and it cleared my head and brought clarity to what I was thinking. Somewhere around post 125 I began to think about you, the reader, and what you were thinking. By number 500, I was focusing on appealing to a specific model reader (who I imagined was out there waiting for my next post). After 600 on makeityourproblem.com and a nearly daily shipping of content to other blogs and forums I realized that my ideas were being censored by an imaginary prospective subscriber. I was tempering my language and censoring ideas that were either too main street or too out of the park. Do all creatives begin to create what they imagine the world, their world, wants?

My mantra that remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen others when they embrace their personal responsibility rather and allow society to absolve them is the genesis of my musings and prose. I seem to have forgotten the motivation and mission. I want to significantly influence thousands of people in their journeys to living a ‘big life’. Are you influenced by these posts? Do you feel that you are living a bigger life, leaning towards being remarkable? Do you remember any of the past 600 posts or the calls to action in about half of them? Would you recall and act if the message was more compelling? Would a change of medium (video, podcast, animation) make a difference? What if the message was being created and delivered by someone else? would a different style be compelling? If this was always satirical would it be impactful?

This year there have been about 25,000 viewers to makeityourproblem.com. I don’t know if that can be considered significant. I sure don’t know if any or all found a gem or a germ they could take away. Maybe the numbers are to small and in order to influence thousands, I need to reach hundreds of thousands. Would you react differently if you knew that 100,000 other folks were ingesting and digesting the same content?

I am taking a chance on a Saturday to write about my secret hopes for this space and for the decisions that I make in my community. Honestly I am apprehensive being so vulnerable and insecure and afraid of rejection. There is a small part of me that hopes no one is listening and another part that is excited that there may be some of you who will reach out a provide honest feedback so I can improve.

Maybe the seasons are changing and as with all things this one has passed.

Cheers and Three Cheers,

B

Self Improvement

Where Do Original Ideas Come From?

Where do novel ideas come from? From deep study and reflection on the examples we already have or from wide and ranging discovery of paths not connected to the way we understand the present? Convergent or divergent?

I can get stuck in one or the other easily but have recognized that the most original and novel ideas come from doing both multiple times. In a world that is looking for predictability, because that is what we know and where we feel safe, the impetus is to land on one solution too quickly. The choice might seem logical and maybe even clever because it aligns with something we can relate to a previous experience. “A is like b and B worked when we did C’. Some decisions we make can survive and thrive in opting for predictability. If we are looking to get more of the same for the next year it works to use charts and tables and forecasts. If I want to lose 5 more pounds and it took burning 17500 more calories than I took in over 10 days to lose the last 5 pounds, I could predict a similar pattern for the next 10 day 5 pound plan.

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But, the world we are living in is changing; changing faster than we can imagine or believe is possible. Fortune 500 companies use to spend an average of 65 years at the top of their game, now the might make 7. The things I take for granted in communication; Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Smartphones, didn’t exist 5 or 6 years ago. When I was in high school I took computer programming and needed to take my punch cards to the university to run on a computer that filled a large room. Now my cell phone has 100 times the power. In 5 years it will compute at the speed of the human brain and by 2050 it will have the power of all of humanity. Electric cars, hover boards, MOOCs, Pokemon GO … The world is changing fast. I can’t use prediction to forecast accurately what action I need to take today to be on track 2 months from now. Adaptability and flexibility will become the most important skills for the next generation or at least for the next while. The ability and comfort to thrive in ambiguity will be the difference between making a difference and being forgotten.

So I arrive at the conclusion that we need to do many things, most things, maybe everything differently. To get there we need to break out of the prison of bias and mediocrity. We need a plan to knock down the bars and make a great escape. This will take some diligence. Think like you are making a break from Alcatraz or Smokey Mountain Penitentiary. Nobody succeeded because they were all trying the same thing. How widely and wildly can you think about the problem? Can you imagine enough possibilities that you list a dozen crazy ideas? And then how do you decide on which ones make the first cut? second? Final?

Over the next couple of posts I am going to think about divergence and convergence then for a couple of posts work through convergence back to divergence and arrive at an original idea.

Make Today Remarkable, by thinking crazy thoughts,
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Self Improvement

If You’re Happy and You Know It (even if you aren’t and don’t)

Can people around you make you happy? Turns out that we are masters of our own domain and many of our emotions are within the span of our control but, the big but is that if we are surrounded by negativity, it begins to pervade our tendencies. If we hang out with negative people we begin to have negative feelings regardless of how we structure our mindfulness. Even, if we read negative status posts on social media, we get nudged towards negative thoughts about our own lives. A large Facebook study determined that the degree of happiness and contentment we feel is significantly impacted by who we follow and whose posts we spend time reading.

If we can be influenced by fleeting glimpses from Facebook, imagine the impact that we can have on those who we are closest to; our partner, children, friends and coworkers or they can have on us. Are you being dragged down by constantly surrounding yourself with unhappy people? Are you choosing to be unhappy in this moment, today, this week? Would you prefer to feel joy rather than despair? This is where the power over your own decisions comes back into play. You get to decide how you act (If you consciously choose to) and how you feel. When you finishing reading this post, spend 10 minutes exuding happiness, being exceptionally social and expressing gratitude.

Start with 10 minutes and build to an hour, then 2,3,4. You will be amazed at how quickly a dramatically your experience and that of those around you will improve. Once the momentum shifts to happiness, the impact goes viral and becomes infectious to a much larger audience. It takes commitment and persistent incremental change to keep the ball rolling but my/your 10 minutes can grow into a neighborhood celebration.

The world is large and we aren’t but we can make a big difference if we commit and change how we act.

Make Today Remarkable, by choosing 10 minutes of happiness, being social and expressing gratitude.

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