Saturday, July 31, 2010

Philosophy is where you find it

Philosophy is where you find it. I recently saw the film 'Invictus' (on dvd). It's a great story, very uplifting. The film Invictus makes great use of a nineteenth century poem, with the challenging but ultimately powerful conclusion:
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
Clint Eastwood was the director, and he also directed 'Gran Torino' which is another meditation on how one individual can change the world for the better. I don't necessarily agree with how the lead goes about it, but that's kind of beside the point.

Both films are only bettered by 'Amazing Grace': if Wilberforce could be an agent to change eighteenth century Britain and get slavery made illegal, almost anything is possible.

These films should perhaps make us feel intimidated and overawed, but I find I leave feeling the need to hold to that spirit, stop wasting my life and get out and make a difference. (It often takes a glass of wine, some cake, and a good nights sleep before I'm restored to respectable, self-involved apathy again, with these films trailing ragged streamers of possibility for weeks afterward!)

A completely fictional, but equally inspiring tale along the same lines is Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. The honourable hero, Cazaril, saves the day by following the advice:

Hold to virtue—if you can identify it—and trust that the duty set before you is the duty desired of you. And that the talents given to you are the talents you should place in the gods’ service. Believe that the gods ask for nothing back that they have not first lent to you. Not even your life.

Or the 'Johnny' series for young readers by Terry Pratchett, the first of which is provocatively titled: Only You Can Save Mankind, and asks the question:
if not you, who else?

I am indebted to Pratchett also for another book - Nightwatch - with a time paradox in which the hero goes back to his own past, and although warned that he risks his own (happy) future if anything changes, he cannot help interfering:
He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew... then it was too high. It wasn't a decision that he was making, he knew. It was happening far below the areas of his brain that made decisions. It was something built in. There was no universe, anywhere, where a Sam Vimes could give in on this, because if he did then he wouldn't be Sam Vimes any more.
Philosophy is where you find it, even in genre books and films. We have the capacity to be the change we want to see in the world.

This is post 82 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Graceful people always inspire me with a little awe: dancers, athletes, felines, seals, falsons.

What they each have in common is a centred physical presence, where movement is perfectly aligned with their intention. At the same time they are totally present in now - experiencing what Mickhael Czichentmihayli calls 'flow'.

People who perform repetitive - automatic - tasks intelligently for work have it too. Good cooks, carpenters, baristas and hotel housekeepers have it.

Yet quite young children have this quality too, at least some of the time. It can be harder to notice in bodies that are stubby rather than streamlined. A child dancing, or drawing or zooming a car, or riding a bike has grace.

It's a quality to watch for, for the sheer pleasure of seeing it, recognizing it, and admiring it. It's uplifting when you do so, which is itself another kind of grace.

This is post 81 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Yesterday and today

I've returned from the clutches of the malign migraine fairy at last. Mostly.

Yesterday is gone, and can't now be changed for the better, however much I might wish it. Undone posts remain undone.

Blog imitates life. Twice as much effort next time may be a fine thing, or may be a waste of effort and a trial to readers) either way it is not the same as meeting the original deadline.

Blog imitates life. Crying over spilt milk doesn't change the past, and makes a mess that needs cleaning up today before we can move on to tomorrow.

Perhaps blog imitates life and nobody even notices? Or we all move on and waste no more words on trivialities.

This is post 80 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Bite size chunks of time

A lot can be achieved in a small chunk of time. If you concentrate and don't try to multi-task.
Add a few small chunks together and we have a big chunk of time.

Don't believe me? The average person spends 100,000 minutes during their life just brushing their teeth. That's 1,666.67 hours, or 69.44 days. (It was on wikianswers, so it must be true.) What do we achieve in that time? We avoid bad breath and minimise tooth decay and gum disease. Mostly, its just a 'set and forget' habit.

In the rush and hurry of modern life, it's easy to lose track of this truth. How long does it take to properly hug your partner or your child, and tell them you love them? How long does it take to write a card or an email? How long does it take to do a few bicep curls or push ups or crunches? Yes, it can take time to do a full 30-60 minute gym workout, but surely it does some good if you at least do one exercise per day. It has to benefit you more than doing nothing.

In five minutes you can play (or practice) a tune on an instrument, really listen to a song on a CD or iPod, read a few pages of a book, look up a query online, make an appointment, do a short meditation, tidy a bench, put on a load of washing, change the sheets on a bed, pull a few weeds in a garden, water some plants, write a short poem, ... the list is endless.

Each day, we need to do something that serves our widest vision of a good life. With 365 days per year, and - hopefully! - a lot of years ahead, that could add up to sizeable chunk of time that we've consciously spent on making our vision a reality.

This is post 79 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto

I had one of those 'the future is already here' moments today.

Today was laptop update day. I now run a MacBook Pro - the 2.66 Ghz model for the curious - retiring my old iBook G4. It's been a few years since I upgraded: I have to say it's much easier these days.

As recommended by the intro video on my new Mac, I plugged it into my old Mac using 'blue string' (an ethernet cable) because I didn't have any firewire cables at home. Then I opened a utility that transfers all your information from one to the other. Then I read a book for a couple of hours.

That's it. When my new Mac restarted, all my software, permissions and files were on it. Procedural elegance is always a beautiful thing.

This is post 78 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Friday, July 23, 2010

An extended research project

Living a good life is rather like running an extended research project. We define what we mean by 'good' and then we design some test protocols, and then we see. When we have enough data, we revise our test protocols in the light of what we learned, and then we see.

In life, as in research, a certain repeatability of effect is the hallmark of accurate hypothesis. Novelty in results means you're still trying to work out how your experiment works.

What works for you? What links each of the qualities you value in life? Is there a pattern? Base your observation on fact: things you have and have done which seem 'good' to you. Future 'good' is a mere hypothesis.

This is post 77 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

10 tips for giving good phone

In the course of a week, many of us listen to - and record - 'we're not here' messages on an answering system. Most of us do it badly, and I think pretty much all of us hate doing it. As with many other things in life, I think this repugnance comes from recognising our total and utter lack of aptitude.

Here are my top 10 tips that will have you giving good phone.
  1. Be clear about what you want the message to achieve. Be brief. Usually, you will identify whose phone the caller has reached, and when the caller might expect a response.
  2. Don't be afraid to specify a 'next step' if there is one. "We will return your call, but an email usually gets a faster response" is unlikely to offend more than the long delay before you return their call.
  3. Avoid using a script as it will sound 'read', but do have the points you need to cover so you don't leave anything out. Few people improvise phone messages well.
  4. Record in a room that's as quiet as possible. Background noises like traffic outside, high wind, your squeaky desk chair, or even your clothes rustling are more noticeable on a recording - machines listen to everything, human ears filter background noise out.
  5. A minute or two before you begin, have a drink of water. Sipping works better than chugging, especially if you allow the water to sit in your mouth for a second or two before swallowing. This will flush the pipes.
  6. Before you begin to record, think of someone (or something) that you really, really love and want to get closer to: a lover, a child, a pet, your E-type jag... Hold the image in your mind while you record. It will give your voice genuine warmth so you sound alive and welcoming not synthesised by a computer.
  7. Before you begin to record, breathe out completely. Breathe in as normally as you can (avoid taking an extra big breath), begin to breathe out and then start speaking. This avoids the slight gasp we get if we begin talking while we're still breathing in.
  8. Allow longer to record than you think you need. Don't be afraid to re-do a recording 4, 5, 6 or more times. You'll get better with practice.
  9. Consider recording a master track (using the voice memo recorder on your smartphone, or Garageband etc. on your mac). You can then play this master into your phone ensuring a quality version every time. You could even have different messages for different situations, and won't have to record your office's annual shutdown message while you're still croaky from shouting over the band at last night's Christmas party.
  10. Keep your message current. If it says you're closed for Easter, you're either very late or very very early. Call yourself and listen to your phone message every so often - say once a month - so you recognise when its time to freshen your message up.
Most phone messages have a long life: months or even years. If your customers, or your loved ones, are going to hear it a lot, its a nice gesture to put in a little effort in and give good phone.

This is post 76 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three quarters of a loaf

They say that half a loaf is better than none, although it is subject to dispute.

Today is the 3/4 mark of my challenge, and I find that 3/4 of a loaf is a whole lot better than none. At the beginning, I quoted Seth Godin, that real artists ship. Shipping changes thing. As Tschaikovsky famously remarked, he would turn up at the keyboard each morning around 9am, and the Muses would usually show up around then too.

Even tonight, when a bad bout of insomnia last night robbed me of all but 3 hours' sleep, I can still find something to say. It's even fairly grammatical.

Until I saw which post number I was up to, I planned to write about Giving Good Phone, so I guess that will have to wait for another day.

This is post 75 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Managing expectations

The following ad is rather beautiful, but suffers from the problem of over-inflating expectation.

Not unexpectedly, the woman faints when the bank actually calls her back when they say they will.

Unsatisfied by mere miracles, the ad goes into overdrive when the concerned bank managers fan her with palms. So now, I want that level of service.

I know I'm not meant to take it seriously, but I now have the impression that I am not meant to take any of the ad seriously. Oops.

The secret of managing expectations is to under-promise and over-deliver. Not the other way around.

This is post 74 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where did it all go wrong?

How hard is it to keep on track with any plan? Pretty hard: take weight-loss for example! We plan our work, and work our plan. When it goes wrong (as it too often does) we're left feeling foolish and inadequate. We seldom stop and do enough analysis. Which is a shame. Usually we were a bit half-arsed in one area or another.

Do you (secretly) prefer planning to doing?
Do you hesitate to start until the plan is a thing of such perfect beauty that actually doing it might prove a bit of a let down? If your visualisation is good enough, chances are you've experienced the gratification already, and you're ready to move on to your next plan...

Do you (secretly) prefer doing to planning?
Do you get twitchy with wasting time navel gazing, all the thinking and talking? Do want to jump right in and get some action going? After all, half the issues that come up won't emerge from even the best planning, so get started already and make it work, right? What? Will your actions all contribute to the desired outcome? Maybe you kind of lost track of what the doing was all about anyway, you're all about the journey, not the outcome.

Or you could be like me, and shift between the two, depending on your mood or the task at hand. Both my best work, and my worst, have occurred when I did a bit of both! Working out what was different in my successes and my failures made life a lot easier.

Some examples from music teaching:

The planners keep practice diaries, and record the homework assignments religiously, and can tell you exactly what time of which days they have set aside to do them. They have a rewards system for each successfully completed practice session, culminating in a largish reward when a certain point is reached, eg. a new piece is complete. Sometimes they're so busy designing the process, they might, it's a bit embarrassing really, they might not quite get around to actually doing every practice session, especially if something else in their life throws out their rigorous schedule.

If I don't head them off at the pass, they eventually decide: Maybe I'm not talented enough to learn music, this is really hard, so I can't be any good. Or maybe it's just not the right time, it might be better to wait until I have more leisure so I can really focus on music...

Or, they decide to do more than was asked of them (more is always better, right?) and end up exhausted and distraught and their lack of achievement - they only achieved 50% more than I asked of them, after putting in about 150% more than I wanted.

If I don't head them off at the pass, they eventually decide: Maybe I'm not talented enough to learn music, this is really hard, so I can't be any good. Or maybe it's just not the right time, it might be better to wait until I have more leisure so I can really focus on music...

The doers get home and sit down at the piano and play for at least as long as I recommended. Or longer. They have a whale of a time, learning by doing, exploring a bit of this and a bit of that. Except they don't always remember to do the homework that was assigned. Or all of the homework assigned. They didn't really see the point. Or they did extra homework on two days, to make up for not doing homework on the other five, because hey, it's the same amount of time, except that they don't seem to have made as much progress as they thought.

If I don't head them off at the pass, they eventually decide: Maybe I'm not talented enough to learn music, this is really hard, so I can't be any good. Or maybe it's just not the right time, it might be better to wait until I have more leisure so I can really focus on music...

Other doers go home and do the homework assigned, then get stuck into another piece that looks interesting and they're sure they can work out on their own. Something not-too-hard looking like, oh, the full version of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer. It's just chords, right? They spend extra time (more is always better, right?) and end up exhausted and distraught and their lack of achievement - they spent hours and they've only got the first few measures happening - and after 10 half hour lessons too!

If I don't head them off at the pass, they eventually decide: Maybe I'm not talented enough to learn music, this is really hard, so I can't be any good. Or maybe it's just not the right time, it might be better to wait until I have more leisure so I can really focus on music...

Our society has a pervasive myth that learning music is hard, and requires talent. This primes most of us to failure at the get-go. Learning to play the piano takes about as much intelligence and hand-eye coordination as driving a car. (Learning to play the piano well enough to make a career out of it is a lot harder, and so is being a professional racing car driver.)

This pervasive myth means that many people give up their musical journey before they have to, rather than seeing that they are applying too much or too little energy and persistence to their plan of action. Or too little much or too little thought and attention to their plan of action.

And that's where it all went wrong.

This is post 73 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why Are You Telling Me This?

Sounds a bit...blunt, stated like that, doesn't it? Attention is precious.

Why Are You Telling Me This? (aka What's In It For Me?) is the question that anyone, reading practically any unsolicited item, asks. Even less politely, Why the **** Should I Read This? When drafting a communication, you need to answer WIIFM very quickly. It's a myth that your staff actively want to read the staff procedures guide, or that your clients want to read any particular advertising puff piece you put out... unless you answer the most burning question.

Why Are You Telling Me? works in conversation too. We've all known people who 'over share' just as we've all been stuck beside the person with voluntary mutism at the conference dinner/wedding reception from hell. It's a truism that women communicate to create intimacy and men communicate to exchange information. If true, it suggests men and women spend much of their lives fundamentally misunderstanding each others' communication (and thus, zoning out as soon as possible). Which explains a lot, really.

So a woman may begin a 'listen to how I handled this really difficult situation' conversation with, "I had a real problem with work colleague X today..." Only to have a man jump in and explain what action she should take. He thinks: question answered, satisfactory conclusion, communication terminates. She thinks: what a prat, he doesn't listen to a word I say AND he thinks I'm an idiot who needs to be told what to do all the time.

I once had a friend whose grandmother would spend most of the phone conversation describing what she was watching on television, as in: "oh goodness, the dow jones has just fallen 22 points... anyway your aunt's surgery went well last week... well I should think that footballer would be suspended after his performance on Saturday - it just came on the news - what was that you said, dear?" I'm assured it was a foretaste of one of the outer circles of hell. Grandma's intention was sharing a snapshot of her experience as a way of building intimacy (I'm guessing), but it left my friend feeling her grandma was more interested in bad television than interacting with her, and plaintively asking: "Why would she think I care about the dow jones? or the football?!"

It's not entirely comfortable to understand that even our nearest and dearest may (or may not) be all that interested in any given snippet of communication. They are interested in us, but sometimes at the macro level, rather than the micro* level.

And so we resort to blogspot, creating a communication cargo cult in which we hope someone out there on the web will be as interested in reading/hearing what we say, as we are in saying it. May the force be with you as you communicate today, whatever your chosen medium.

*unless they've 'friended' us on facebook/twitter.

This is post 72 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Someday means never. That's what Tom Cruise tells Cameron Diaz in 'Knight and Day', so philosophy can be found anywhere, even in a screwball rom-com/action flick.

Someday means never, unless we make it happen. Somehow. If we wait for Life, Fate, The Universe or God to deliver our dreams on a plate, we might need to pack more than a few Snickers to keep us in the meantime.

Dreams don't come with guarantees, of course, but most of them don't come with use-by dates either - not the best dreams, the ones that fulfill us most deeply.

So we need to take what steps we can, as opportunity presents itself. Better yet, we can create opportunities. On the way we need to remember to enjoy the journey. Maybe that way someday will come sooner than we think.

This is post 71 of 100 posts in 100 days.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

The future is a long way off

Returned from the abyss. I would have posted if I'd been physically capable of doing so.

A delightful lady of my acquaintance, recently deceased, used to tell her children, "When I'm can't read anymore, it'll be time to unplug the machines and put me out of my misery." Shortly before her death, a stroke meant she could no longer read and she reminded her son of her oft stated position. He was, I imagine, somewhat apprehensive about what she would say next. In fact, she shot him one of her unique mischievous looks and said, "Watching television isn't so bad."

My father used to loathe 'needles' and always said that if he had to inject himself to live, then he'd have to die. Yet when he required daily insulin injections, he didn't hesitate. He commented that its different when it's really real.

We are, as a species, pretty hopeless about envisaging the future. When we envisage old age and infirmity (if we ever do) we always forget that inside, we will still be us. We will still feel like ourselves.

The future is a long way off. I'm quite in favour of living wills and the like, make no mistake. But don't try to second guess everything. Allow yourself to be surprised. Even daily injections and television may not be as bad as you always feared.

This is post 70 of 100 posts in 100 days
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Courtesy and cars

Yes, it is a bit of an oxymoron. Especially today at peak hour as a light rain misted the roads. Melbourne drivers go mad at the slightest rain.

I could entertain us both with harrowing tales of speeding, tail gating, failure to give way to merging cars, running red lights in order to clog up a major intersection, but that isn't the text of today's lesson.

We focus easily and enjoyably on others' errors, which give us a warm glow of victimhood and superiority. The glow increases if we pause for a moment as the stray thought crosses our mind: "Gosh, I hope I don't do that!".

We like to believe we don't behave so badly, certainly not intentionally. Few of us take the next - necessary - step of genuinely evaluating our own actions and making sure we don't behave so badly.

Do you really give way every time? Or do you decide you deserve to go first because some yahoo cut you off a fee blocks back, and you're running late and...

Courtesy requires that we treat other people's needs as just as valid as ours are. So all too often, courtesy and cars IS an oxymoron.

This is post 69 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Kindness and Honesty

"...often, strange as it might seem, we hide those very aspects: our tenderness, goodwill, original thoughts, our capacity for being moved. We do this partly out of a sense of reserve: We don't want to overwhelm others with our gushing emotions. But mostly we do it to protect ourselves. We don't want others to see us like that. We would feel weak, exposed, perhaps ridiculous. Better to appear a bit cynical, even hard, or, at the very least not so dangerously open. In that way, however, we separate from the most spiritual and beautiful part of ourselves - and prevent others from seeing that moment I realized how weak and awkward we are when we try to hide our feelings. And how important it is, within limits of tact and good taste, to be honest and freely show who we are and what we feel."
Piero Ferrucci, The power of Kindness, pp. 24-25

Honesty allied with kindness is simple, but not easy.

For many of us it is easier to be kind to others, or at least to do what others ask of us in the name of kindness, than it is to determine how to be kind to ourselves (honesty) and then act on that without external permission or validation (kindness).

This is post 68 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

On criticism

Most people do not experience criticism as an expression of your love.

This is post 67 of 100 posts in 100 days
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Saturday, July 10, 2010


Today Mr O & I bought a lamp. When you choose a life partner, you ought to check compatibility of light sensitivity. No-one tells you this.

No-one tells you that the rest of your life will be a continual tug-of-war if someone nearly night-blind marries a photosensitive. It's a tale of woe and subterfuge, I assure you, with 45 watt globes being swapped out for 100 watt globes (and vice versa) to screams of outrage when next the switch is flipped. It's a tale of moaning about how impossible it is to read in the dark, countered by moaning about how the light is too bright and hurts.

On the plus side, after nearly 20 years we've learned a lot about indirect light placement and each other's wattage needs. So the purchase of a lamp that suits both of us is akin to an outbreak of peace in whichever international crisis is headlining today. It's a bonus that it wasn't even expensive.

Heat, air and lighting. Fashions in interior design come and go, but if you get the heat, the air and the lighting right, people will enjoy being in a space. They create comfort and lead to happiness (mostly by not impeding our progress toward happiness, the way cold, airless and dark spaces do).

I've come late to materialism, but there are some things that money can buy - but only money allied with awareness and discernment. Spending for spending's sake does not confer the same benefit. It's not the money, after all, it's what you buy with it. Heat, air and light. I find that thought strangely illuminating.

This is post 66 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I've been reflecting in courtesy, of late. Maybe it's middle-age catching up with me - what a witty friend calls 'getting in touch with one's inner old trout' - but I'm becoming more aware of a general lack of manners and courtesy.

It isn't located in any particular generation, either. It seems that courtesy is yet another casualty of our time-poor, harried lifestyles.

Perhaps lack of consideration for others is the inevitable consequence of lack of consideration for ourselves?

Even in business or the so-called service industry, a lack of basic consideration and/or respect undercuts the most unctuous servility of manner. Here are some examples of what NOT to do.

Keeping people waiting without explanation or apology.
At a posh chocolate cafe recently, one customer service person fiddled endlessly, and pointlessly, with boxes and packaging, avoiding eye contact with waiting customers.

Not signaling the end of a customer transaction, or the necessary next step.
At a checkout the customer stands, uncertain, with their receipt in their hand while the service-person busies her/himself. Eventually, the service-person barks (in this scenario they always bark), "Was there something else?" Or the customer asks, "Is that all?" and is met with, "Yes, that's it." Or worse: "what are you waiting for?"

The variant on this is expecting the client to know your internal processing. Banks and telcos are notorious for this. I recently opened a new business account to better fulfill my needs. The bank staffer asked if I needed to have eftpos facilities with that. I said I already have them. I thought I made it clear that the new account will supersede the old account after a necessary transition period. Turns out there is a whole separate process to be undertaken, to get my eftpos linked to the new account, which was explained to me in aggrieved 'how can customers be so stupid' tones.

I'm coming to the conclusion, in an old-trout fashion, that front-line staff don't need more customer service training - which tends to encourage proceduralism anyway. No, they just need to learn some basic manners!

What manners are those? Other people are really real and their time is valuable and they are not mind-readers and it's your job to make their life easier, not the other way round. And say please and thank you and make eye contact, and would a smile that makes it to your eyes be totally out of the question?

This is post 65 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Habit as a surrogate for competence

I've started a new writing contract. As always, there is a period of adjustment where one tries to be effective and efficient while having almost no understanding of How We Do Things Here. Stranded on a metaphorical island where the natives may be friendly (sometimes they're not) but you know you are in an unfamiliar culture, where mistakes can be dangerous to your health.

It reminded me - again - how much habit stands in for competence. Stay in one workplace long enough and regardless of your personal talents and skills, you'll be reasonably effective because you know how to get things done. When in fact you know best how to get things done here. In a new workplace, without habit and experience to guide us, we are - temporarily - all at sea.

Having done contract work several times, flying without a net doesn't unduly distress me, but it does bother me. It always comes as a slight surprise just how difficult it can be to feel crisp, professional and competent when you don't have basic stationary or know where to get some, let alone having the correct permissions on your desktop. There's something very humbling about having to ask the way back to the office when you come back from lunch.

So there you have it folks: familiarity breeds IQ.

This is post 64 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aptitude and it's absence

Once we're adults, we seldom learn a completely new skill, from scratch. We scaffold from existing skills, which gives us a comforting illusion of aptitude or latent talent.

When we encounter a skill where we have no aptitude, what do we do? I suspect most of us just give up, lacking any positive feedback of praise (external) or enjoyment (internal). It's hard on our egos to continue doing something badly, especially if progress is glacially slow.

A friend whom I admire greatly once told me that he had 'zero' aptitude for managing staff. He avoided team leadership for as long as he could, but eventually if he wanted more interesting work and more money, he'd also have to have direct-reports (aka underlings). He told me that lacking any natural understanding of people managing, he'd had to go back to first principals and deliberately learn how to get from 'crap' to 'less 'crap' at managing without needing aptitude. Over time he gradually became adequate and later good. He claims that experience and perseverance is much more important than aptitude, which he still claims to lack.

Aptitude and it's absence can both be problems. but only if we allow them to be. What do you believe you're 'crap' at? When my friend talks about managing staff, he radiates well-earned capability and pride.

This is post 63 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Losing count

Wow. I've been posting from my iPhone via email and haven't kept good enough count. I think I had about 4 'post 55's back there... thought I was in Groundhog Day for a minute.

I'm used to losing count in my knitting, but I didn't realise it could happen with my posts as well. Might have to add a counter to my calender - at the moment I just have a repeating item. (It's all about the processes.)

I hope I'm lose count as easily in relationships. I'm not fond of transactional analogies for love. It's true sufficient "love deposits" will help if you ever stuff up big time, but it's easy to turn a friendship or a marriage into a trading scheme: I'll see you that venting session about work, and raise you a dirty kitchen and a half dozen homework supervisions.

If you're going to keep count, keep a gratitude list. Today I'm feeling particularly grateful for
  • the sunshine after several cloudy days,
  • a clean house,
  • the especially delicious coffee made by my local barista,
  • the smooth action and responsiveness of my (newish) sewing machine,
  • a delicious and unexpected homemade apricot crumble, and
  • crisp cotton bedsheets
  • my loved ones.

This is post 62 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thinking & Feeling

Yesterday I discussed seeing with your hands and feeling with your eyes. This got me thinking about trying to feel with our heads and trying to think with our hearts - or worse, with regions further south.

A clever friend once observed that you can't think your way into an emotional experience. Some of us try to.

Thanks to Antonio Damasio (author of The Feeling Of What Happens and of Descartes Error) I do think we can do some thinking with our heart (our feelings) but they aren't the best organ for processing linear logic.

Part of appearing wise seems to be recognizing the right tool for the task at hand.

This is post 61 of 100 posts in 100 days.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Feeling with your eyes and seeing with your hands

Two simultaneous cries went up. "Oh! I love THIS!" and "What? You like THAT?!"

We were furniture shopping and heard the same refrain several times we tagged along with another couple on the hunt for that most elusive creature The Perfect Sofa (at an affordable price).

It took some time for us all to realise that each had different criteria. Mrs Shopper is very visual and also "a bit OCD". Mr Shopper is kinesthetic so it's all about how things feel.

Mrs Shopper loved the shape of the deep seats, and the interesting texture of the subtle nubby weave mocha fabric cushions - which wouldn't show finger marks or need too much plumping. Mr Shopper hated the rough nap of the same weave, and the dense, firm foam on the cushions. When Mrs Shopper thought another sofa was 'hideous' and 'would mark in minutes', Mr Shopper was so busy enjoying the cloud-like density of the pillows and the lush softness of the velvety wide wale cord covers. I don't think he noticed it was slate blue, a colour Mrs Shopper doesn't want in her lounge room.

While they stuck to generalizations: 'great', 'yuk', 'fabulous', 'awful' tensions were high. Once they realized what their partner was on about, they were able to stop wondering what planet they were on.

The next time you can't see another person's point of view - let alone agree with it - remember the sofa search and ask yourself if you're trying to see with your hands or feel with your eyes!

This is post 60 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

A third way

For most of us, its a case of "my way or the high way" - at least as often as we can ensure our desired outcome. We'll compromise if we must, when the other person holds all the Aces, or because we've never been taught another way out of a deadlock.

When you're locked in a seemingly life-and-death struggle with someone you care about, always remember there may be a third way.

A third way is not a compromise, which I mistrust because sometimes half a loaf of something you don't actually want IS worse than nothing at all.

A third way is something else that satisfies both parties equally. So if, for example, one of you wants to watch Top Gear, and the other wants to watch NCIS, and neither will give an inch, then you might agree to go for a walk instead, or play Parcheesi or something.

A third way works when compromise won't. It's much harder because both people have to be honest about what will work, and both must be creative about finding a mutually satisfactory third way.

It's A win, rather than THE win. If your object is to crush your opponent, you won't see the point. You have to keep discussing options for longer than is necessary for compromise, so a third way works best when the stakes are high.

Wish me luck as I start work on a third way in the coming weeks.

This is post 59 of 100 posts in 100 days.

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A short intermission

I failed utterly to post yesterday. I was too sick to remember - and too I'll to care if I had remembered!

This is post 58 of 100 posts in 100 days.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010


Sometimes, we run out of words. Or our feelings and ideas run ahead of words, defying expression.

Sometimes silence is all we have to say.

This is post 57 of 100 posts.

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