Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Assent, dissent & agreement

Most of us assume that assent and agreement are the same thing. In human research ethics circles, assent is used to indicate a willingness beyond mere legal agreement. It is particularly useful in situations where a guardian has given the legal agreement, because the most scrupulous ethics require the assent of the individual.

There are a number of social situations where this distinction can usefully be employed. Invitation RSVPs and group present buying immediately spring to mind. I recently overheard a fellow commuter bemoan the expense incurred when she bought what she thought was a group present and her friends refused to sub up, claiming they had not agreed. Most of us have had to contribute to a group gift when it was made clear that our response of, "Yes, that's an idea. I'll bear it in mind" was taken as both agreement and assent. In this scenario any response less specific than, "Right, count me in, can I have your account details to wire you the money?" ought to be received as 'maybe'.

RSVPs are similar. "it sounds lovely" is not a commitment. It's a polite nothing which buys time to consult one's calendar or the preferences of one's significant other.

If you' e ever found yourself listening to someone criticize a mutual acquaintance, you will recognize that an unwillingness to compound the person's lack of manners by berating them in public is a LONG way from being agreement with their sentiments. Yet people make this mistake all the time (particulaly in their teens).

Assent, dissent and agreement are different things and we all need to be able to recognize the differences.

This is post 10 of 365 posts in 365 days.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Truth or joke?

I was reminded recently that children are very literal, on the whole.

Adults need to bear this in mind when teasing them - and often we don't. If a husband comments that his wife loves the dog more than she loves him, it's (probably) ironic, and we all laugh - the dog is far more biddable. If a child says his father loves the dog more than the son, he probably believes it is true, even if he is playing for laughs. If a father tells his daughter he loves the dog more than he loves here, she will, at some level, believe him. She'll believe it is a joke, but she'll still understand that it's true too.

Adult humour is often incomprehensible to anyone under, say, sixteen. In fact, many children can't tell whether we're joking because their fontal lobes aren't developed enough so they can 'read' people's faces. A lot of adult humour at children's expense relies on this.

Children are literal, on the whole, so be careful when you tease them, because they might believe you.

This is post 9 of 365 posts in 365 days.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seriously toying with our wild and crazy ideas

Most of us don't pay enough attention to our wild and crazy ideas. We may not wish to enact every one of them, but we should attend to them, note them and keep track of them. We can learn a lot about our deepest longings, and our creativity, from our wild and crazy ideas.

We all have days where we'd like to run away and join the circus, or give up the rat race and have a sea-change or a tree-change. Many of us would like to write a blockbuster novel or have our album go gold or invent a better mousetrap or a really popular iPhone app.

Do you always reject your wild and crazy ideas out of hand? If so, that's a pity because you're wasting a precious resource and that's not 'just being practical' however much it feels like it is.

If you collect your wild and crazy ideas, perhaps in a notebook, you can track the patterns that emerge. Do you always dream of a gap year off when you haven't prepared properly for a presentation at work? Do you dream of a sea-change after you've worked - yet another - 60 hours this week? Do your fantasies of a pared-back Tuscan Villa emerge when you stare at the laundry drying in front of the fire, along with the remains of yesterday's pasta and Sunday supplements orgy?

If an idea is compelling enough, I like to follow through and do some research. Maybe it's not so crazy, maybe it's actually quite possible. I call the phase of research "seriously toying" with the idea. Trying it on for size. I treat the idea 'as if' I were serious, even though I'm not serious - yet.

I suspect that most of us consider 'toying' or 'playing' with an idea the phase where it keeps popping into our heads insistently when we are supposed to be doing something else. And thinking 'wouldn't it be nice if...'. That's daydreaming: it's pleasant but not productive.

Seriously toying with an idea has three possible outcomes:
  1. The idea is a pleasant dream, but unworkable.
  2. The idea is do-able, and we commit to making it a reality.
  3. The idea is do-able, but not now, and we will keep a watching brief and review the possibilities in a set amount of time.
Even if the results of our serious toying lead to the first outcome, we should take away some sense of what was so compelling about the wild and crazy idea. If you dream of a tree change perhaps you should book your next holiday in the country, or look at moving out of an apartment into a house with a small outside area so you can garden, or make a commitment to go to a nearby park once per week and walk under the trees?

We all want what we want, but when we're in the grip of a wild and crazy idea we may not be totally clear on what it is - exactly - that compels us. Even if our needs and wants can't be fulfilled right now, we ought to honour them and acknowledge them, if only to ourselves.

This is post 8 of 365 posts in 365 days.

Friday, August 27, 2010

An adventurous life

Recently, someone told me I have had an adventurous and eventful life. The comment was an aside, partly prompted by the sort of dinner party conversation, where it is appropriate to edit out the mundane bits. It is also largely a matter of the attitude one brings to one's life. I am immensely flattered by this comment, even while I was nonplussed too.

All lives are adventurous and eventful. They can't be anything but: events occur in life, moment by moment, and none of us know what our eventual fate will be, or even what is going to happen in the next minute, let alone the next year. Yet we don't always approach our life as if this was true.

While adventures are not always comfortable or even pleasurable, they are enlarging experiences which are fully lived. We are aware that we are alive when we have an adventure.

So lunch with a friend can be an adventure. Lunch alone can be an adventure. Lunch in a new location can be an adventure. Lunch in a favourite spot can be an adventure. Or any of the above can be a mundane footnote in a day like any other.

Do you approach your life as an adventure? What would need to change for you to do so? What would change if you did?

This is post 7 of 365 posts in 365 days.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


We can be tolerant of those we see as other: those from a different family, a different culture, a different race, etc.

The exotic is comprehensible: we understand when we go to a country we've barely heard of that they will be very different. We may even be charmed by the difference. At the very least we will be relatively tolerant of it.

We reserve our greatest resentment for those who are somehow like us, or of us, but whose differences - maybe quite minimal differences - mark them out as deviant, deficient and undesirable.

Parents may say, "He's no son of mine!" Partners may say, "You're not the person I married!" Of those further from our hearts (or our egos) we may say, "She's not REALLY _____ (fill the blank)." Not really a local, not really a member, not really one of the 'in' crowd, not really in the know, not really a countryman, not really "one of us"

We tolerate an obvious foreigner, but don't extend the same tolerance to naturalised migrants. We endure the vagaries of our new work colleagues with polite complaisance, but those of our housemates through gritted teeth, with no attempt to hide the effort of keeping patience.

We have more tolerance for misbehaviour in people we don't know and don't care about, than in our own families and housemates.

Yet we hate it when our nearest and dearest are intolerant of us.

This is post 6 of 365 posts in 365 days.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Be careful where you put your feet

Be careful where you put your feet. Today I caught my boot in the shoulder strap of my backpack as I was exiting a vehicle: naturally it was a 4x4, so I had further to fall. Bruised tailbone, knee and elbow. Ouch.

I have inflicted worse damage putting my foot in my mouth. Both are to be avoided.

This is post 5 of 365 posts in 365 days.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The unwisdom of taking responsibility for others' behaviour

As mentioned recently, here is the post on unwisdom of taking on responsibility for other people's behaviour.

Do you take on responsibility for others' behaviour? You probably think you don't, but I invite you to think again.

Have you ever:
  • apologised for someone else's behaviour or circumstances? e.g. I'm sorry about my parent/child/partners ill temper, she's rather tired today.
  • apologised to someone for something they did? e.g. a person in a crowd steps on your foot, and you apologise to them as a reflexive action?
  • felt guilty when a loved one fails at something and wondered what you could have done differently?
If so, you may be taking responsibility for their behaviour, and this never ends well.

It is profoundly disrespectful of the other person, as it reduces them to an object. It doesn't feel that way, it feels loving and supportive, which is what is so insidious and difficult to notice in yourself.

We each have sufficient challenge in managing our own behaviour. If we try to control or manage others' we take the focus off where we have real power and authority, and misapply it. Misapplied care and concern and responsibility becomes manipulative (or is seen so) which robs it of its power.

It's like when you're on an aeroplane, and they tell you to fit your own gas mask first, before helping others to fit theirs.In a plane, you wouldn't try to help someone adult and capable to fit a mask because they would (rightly) see it as officious and unhelpful and invasive.

This is post 4 of 365 posts in 365 days. (1% of the way!)

Get it in writing:

A person's word should be binding. I love the story about Warren Buffett buying a company on a handshake, saving both companies many thousands of dollars in due diligence. The skeptic in me wonders who would be stupid enough to try to cheat Warren Buffett.

In dealings involving money or the potential for money, getting it in writing protects us from liars and tbeives, and also from misunderstandings.

Most is us mean what we say. Unless we are liars or phantasists, who are still in the minority. The difficulty many of us have is in saying what we mean, exactly what we mean, in clear and unambiguous terms, so that the other person understands. Phew. This is an area in which Warren Buffett happens to excel.

If I say, we'll be partners, 50:50, that might sound desirable, until you realize that this requires you to buy me out of half my business' very expensive mortgage, and leaving your earnInge in the business coffers for at least five years. 50:50 is true, it's just not the whole truth, and probably not what you were expecting. For my part, I may be surprised you did not understand the Profit & Loss Sheet I gave you, and might be disappointed that you' e lost sight of future returns wanting a cash cow today rather than an investment in the future. In this scenario we are both likely to end up feeling betrayed and deceived, without there being one iota of ill will or planned deception.

As we're all human and therefore fallible, say what you mean, mean what you say, and get fit in writing.

This is post 3 of 365 posts on 365 days.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Remind me, again

Today I visited a friend whose house I've only been to once before, and that was a few months ago. We walked there together from a cafe where we met, luckily, because although the journey was short and direct, I couldn't - quite - remember how to get there. Yet as soon as we began walking, the sights were familiar enough that I could have found my way by myself if I'd had to.

It's the difference between remembering 'cold' and remembering when prompted. Context-sensitive memory, if you will. The latter being much, much easier. Which brings me, indirectly, to why I'm such a big fan of reminder systems. On any number of occasions I've thought: "this is so important I won't have any trouble remembering it..." which, it turns out, is only broadly true. Its vexing to remember that there's "something" important that you know you need to remember, but what it is...

All of us forget things from time to time. Life is more peaceful if we keep such lapses to a minimum. When I'm establishing a new habit, I've been known to leave a note on my pillow - that way if I forget all day, I still have a chance to catch it before the day is utterly over. This only works for tasks that do not require daylight or open shops, of course.

Recently, Mr O asked me to remind him about a time-critical errand he had to run on the way home from work. I agreed to do so - it was my errand he was running - and promptly set a reminder on my iPhone. When the reminder bell went, I texted Mr O. It was days later that I realised I could have saved a step if I'd told him: "just set a reminder in YOUR phone". [The unwisdom of taking on responsibility for other people's behaviour will be a post for another day.]

This is post 2 of 365 posts in 365 days.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What Katy Did Next

The reward for a job well done? Usually another job.

After a day 'off', really the result of international travel rather than the need to rest from my labors - it is time to start a new challenge.

So I guess today is not just the first day of the rest of my life, it's also...

Post 1 of 365 posts in 365 days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Isn't it amazing what you can do in bite size pieces? I'm amazed, even though I intended to do it!

In a piece of accidental cosmic symmetry, I am departing Australia for a time today also. Sometimes the ducks line up: what a reward!

See you tomorrow.

This is post 100 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Agent Provocateur

If you ask the questions you're not supposed to ask, you are probably an agent provocateur. By my definition, anyway.

What are the questions you're not supposed to ask?

Is there really a profit in giving the customer this gizmo they keep asking for?

Does anybody read these?

What will you do with this report if I give it to you?

Do we really need a meeting? Wouldn't it be more efficient if we circulated drafts? If we have a meeting do we need to give people chairs?

Why do you do it like that? What other ways have you tried?

Do we have to be boring?

You may not always be greeted with applause if you ate an Agent Provocateur, but if you gently, politely and good-humouredly persist, you will make some change(s) for the better.

This is post 99 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Render unto Caesar

The end of year tax frenzy is upon the OCW household. Made more complex by changed arrangements over the course of last year, which requires reallocating many transactions previously entered.

I'm so busy rendering unto Caesar (not to mention my meticulous accountant) that I failed to prepare a post today! But even accounts can be grist to the determined writer's mill.

It's nearly tomorrow now, and I still have a muddle to sort out in the morning. It never ceases to amaze me that I am so bad at doing taxes. It isn't civil disobedience, I don't despise the task as beneath me, and I'm neither stupid or innumerate: but somehow accounts just sucks the life right out of me.

But it must be done - and like bashing your head against a brick wall, it feels so good when you stop.

This is post 98 of 100 posts.
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Food for thought

We've been cooking up a storm today, or at least some scones and hearty winter stews. There is enormous satisfaction to be had from several tupperware containers full of delicious and healthy food. Especially warm food that can quickly reheated and still taste 'just cooked' on cold Melbourne winter weeknights!

The delight Mr O and I took in the sight of our bounty had me thinking about our forbears. If we are thrilled by knowing there is food in our cupboards and freezers (even though the shops are just a few hundred metres up the road), how much more intense must have been the feelings of the local goodman and goodwife when the crops were in the barn, the pig slaughtered and salted, and the fruits preserved against the winter to come? Not only would the sight of all that food delight the eye (and eventually the stomach) but they would have the satisfaction of knowing the family would make it through the winter.

That is an intensity of feeling I am unlikely to experience, but then I'm not likely to experience famine either, so that seems fair - you can't have one without the other. I recall that in some famines, you couldn't buy bread with a gold bar because there was no bread (or grain) to buy within reach. Lacking modern transportation, a famine which affected an area of a couple of hundred miles was affecting the whole of your reachable world.

It must have been meaningless to many of our forbears to even dream of 'life satisfaction' or 'self-actualization' (in whatever terms they would have used) with the possibility of death from starvation a real and present danger. Food for thought, that.

This is post 97 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Perfect mañana or good enough today

Today I have fallen prey to perfectionism. With only 4 posts to go to complete the challenge, I began to feel I ought to end on a high note, and suddenly nothing I can write seems good enough.

Morale sapping, I assure you. Perfectionism run riot and creativity doesn't stand a chance. When this happens, the only way forward is to keep going, keep creating and let the results be what they are. Because not doing something in fear of failure is to become the hostage of anxiety: mañana doesn't mean 'tomorrow' it just means 'not today'.

This is post 96 of 100 posts.
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Sesame Street Simple

I recently read that A. J. Laffley, who was CEO of Proctor and Gamble for a decade, has a philosophy:

As an entrepreneur, as a music tutor to adults (and children), as a marketer, and as a communications writer, I find this advice useful. It is the - simple - strategy at the heart of success in each endeavour. If A. J. Laffley found it useful in the cut-throat world of international cleaning and personal care supplies, who are we to argue?

Yet simplicity as an approach seems to be rather despised today. Albert Einstein is reputed to have said, 'as simple as possible and no simpler'. It's been used ever since as an excuse to cover a multitude of sins. While 'simple' in advanced physics may be genuinely complex, this is rarely the case when communicating with humans.

Sesame Street simple is a modest skill - it doesn't draw attention to itself, it draws attention to the message. A good example is this 3minute animated explanation of wikis by commoncraft. (The website includes other gems such as 'phishing'.) A complex or confusing explanation may make us assume the explainer has a high IQ (or merely that we have a low IQ, or that the explainer is confused too), a simple explanation makes us feel intelligent. It's then we appreciate that the explainer did a good job, although usually only if we've experienced a bad explanation first, otherwise a good explanation seems natural and obvious.

So the next time you need to tell someone something, keep it Sesame Street simple. As artist David Hockney is quoted as saying: "Anything simple interests me."

This is post 95 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seeing ourselves as others see us

If only we had some idea of how others see us. We might be made uncomfortable at times, but we would have some chance of amending our least admirable traits.

Regardless of the increase in society-wide inconsiderate behavior, most people feel too uncomfortable to call others on their bad behavior.

It takes only a moment for most of us to call to mind some behaviors we least like in our friends and colleagues! Usually traits they are utterly oblivious to... And which we don't have the heart or the interest to tell them about. It's easier to avoid the aggravation unless there's a compelling reason to do so.

So we stumble through our lives, fibbing, excusing, manipulating, demanding and generally being focussed on our desires and needs to the exclusion of others'. Worse, we think we're getting away with it because no-one has pointed out how transparent we are, some if not all the time.

According to Bob Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule, we all act like a jerk sometimes: a bona fide asshole is someone who acts like that all the time.

If we could only see ourselves as others see us.

This is post 94 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Fulfilling the spirit of a commitment is as important as any action. To fulfill the form without engaging with the spirit or intent is tokenism. Sometimes such tokenism is the best we are able to give.

This is post 94 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kindness and control

It is easy to confuse kindness with control. It is hard to own our own shadier motivations, and keep our focus on all the outcomes, not just those that affect us.

It is often when we feel most virtuous, most righteous in our kindness that we are most in danger. The parent who smothers a beloved child's independence rejoices in keeping the child safe, protecting it from the results of unfortunate decisions.

The partner who 'runs interference', insulating their husband or wife from an importunate acquaintance or family member is pleased to offer such small and loving service and help to keep the peace.

We protect our loved ones from unpleasant realities, the consequences of their actions, and the risk of physical or emotional pain. In doing so we risk infantilising them, protecting them from opportunities to experience life in all it's complexity, to grow as individuals. We also keep them dependent on us, the kindly ones.

Today, ask yourself a difficult question: who in your life NEEDS you? Why do they need you? In what way are they incapable of caring for themselves? How much power or influence do you have over them on account of your kindness.

Whether giving or receiving, it's important to recognize the difference between kindness and control.

This is post 93 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Monday, August 9, 2010

Sleep: it's not just for the weak

When you're discombobulated and struggling to work out what to do next, sleep may be the best option. Often a nap puts matters into perspective. Even if it doesn't, you're more equipped to deal with what is going on. Sleep clears the mind and restores the body. It's not Just for the weak, it's for the strong too.

This is post 92 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chores and a penitential attitude don't mix

Today I weeded for 20 minutes. I did the same yesterday. So about 15% of the garden looks good.

It is difficult to think much about other things while weeding in the mild winter sunshine, which is why it's a great active meditation. One stray thought did cross my mind: too often we bring a penitential attitude to daily tasks. It is this sense of mortifying or subjugating the flash that makes the task unpleasant. It is the sense that such tasks are somehow a punishment, or at least a distraction from our 'real' life that robs them of satisfaction and meaning. (Oh well, I've had my fun, now I'd best weed the garden.)

Most of us don't object to the relentless necessity to eat at least daily or more frequently, indeed we look upon it as a secure source of pleasure. Somehow, for many of us, cleaning the house or weeding the garden doesn't rate the same level of cheerful anticipation. Yet we may enjoy the results at least as much as the results from eating.

This is post 91 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Saturday, August 7, 2010


Revenge is an expensive indulgence, like chocolate it is delicious at the time, satisfies a natural craving, and the damage it inflicts takes a while to show up.

This is post 90 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Friday, August 6, 2010

Do It Now

Here's an experiment. When you finish reading this post, spend 5 minutes doing something you love and wish you could do more.

There's no time to quibble, and no need to 'accomplish' anything. This is about pure experience. Make no prerequisites: if you want to dance more, then dance - the music of your imagination is sufficient. If you don't want people to see and you're at work, go into the bathroom and dance in the cubicle. If you want to draw a biro and a piece of newspaper are enough (as long as it's your newspaper).

So, what did it feel like? Audience participation encouraged.

This is post 89 of 100 posts in 100 days.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

All or nothing!

Have you ever found yourself deferring a task until you had enough time to do it from start to finish? As if it somehow reflects badly on us to do something in stages. Now I love a 'killable' to do as much as the person, but I've come to realize this heroic approach to productivity might not be the best solution in all situations.

Take weeding the garden. 15 minutes per day would be sufficient effort to keep a small suburban courtyard garden and associated gravel paths pristine.

I recently caught myself thinking, 'the weeds will be easier to see if they're bigger'. True enough. A couple of days of dry weather and I decided to wait for the next rainfall, when the clay soil is more friable and weeding is a breeze. True enough. Less than a fortnight later (look, work was busy, ok?), I caught myself thinking, 'I won't weed today because the weeds are so established it will take all day. I don't want to spend my whole entire Saturday weeding.'

The heroic approach is the antithesis of 'a stitch in time saves nine' or in my case, a weed in time. The heroic approach is a form of perfectionism, an insidious delusion that tells us unless all the circumstances and results are PERFECT then there's no point. Perfectionism runs even more rampant than weeds, and can keep you locked in stasis for hours, days, weeks, months, years.

A friend recently told me a out her moving meditation: each day she had to go out to the garden and fill a plastic bag with weeds. That was all. No special instructions about thoughts etc. This helped her become less stressed, more centered. And her garden looks great too. Neither all nor nothing.

This is post 88 of 100 posts in 100 posts.
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Managing expectation

Every day, when dealing with our families, our romantic partners, our children, our friends, our work colleagues, and our 'customers', we must manage expectations. Most of us were raised to be nice people, so we are spectacularly bad at this.

It doesn't help that most people are also excellent manipulators - at a completely unconscious level most of the time. If someone says, "No", we cajole, entreat, bluster, blame, criticise and generally pile on as much blackmail as our power in the relationship and our good manners or conscious allow us to. Strangely, we never put it in such blunt terms. If we're passive aggressive - and most of us have at least a small streak of PA - we make sure that the nay-sayer will suffer enough to think twice before refusing us again.

We read a lot about dysfunctional families, but most workplaces also operate like one big, hopefully happy, but quite dysfunctional family too. If your workplace culture doesn't permit failure, then there is little incentive to give a definite answer. Whether 'yes' or 'no' or 'by next Wednesday', the risk of failure is too high. Or perhaps we don't have the power to enforce a definite agreement.

So its no wonder that most nice people have a host of vaguely agreeable nothing-says to suit any social interaction.

Disappointed lovers, children, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues and customers all think we agreed to X, but when X never eventuates, they get mad. Next, they review their assumptionss, realise the were promised precisely nothing, and wish we could say something concrete.

In a spectacularly bad customer service interaction with a large domestic telecom, I once complained to Mr O that the complaints resolution staff wouldn't be specific. I'd have felt better if they'd promised restitution, even if they later renegged - at least it would show they understood what the process should involve, ie. some sort of promise to the customer.

Most of us believe its better not to commit, then we can't be 'wrong'. I argue, and passionately believe, its less wrong to admit you over-reached than to be vague. In our current culture, vagueness is perilously close to sin by omission.

So be specific. Make promises concrete and time limited. Say when, where, how, who and - if necessary - why.

Don't say: We'll talk soon. Make a time and place, be there, and talk.

Don't say: Now is not a good time. Unless you'll say when IS a good time.

Don't say: Soon, unless you mean in the next couple of weeks. Do follow up.

Don't say: It'll be in next week, come pick it up on Tuesday. Say, "We usually get deliveries by Tuesday and I'll call you then to confirm whether (or not) it has come in, and chase it down if not."

Most of us don't expect perfection, we just want to know WHAT to expect.

This is post 87 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Which roles do you play? Where do you play them?

Are you the helper? the strong one? the needy one? the ideas person? the one who brings everyone down to earth? the smart alec? the quiet one? the wild one? the doer? the overachiever? the people-person? the peacemaker? the argumentative one? the neat freak? the nice one? the go-to guy or gal? the suck-up? the sleaze? the optimist? the dreamer? the pragmatist? the humanitarian? the subversive? the radical?

It fascinates me to watch people role play, and to recognise my own masks or personae when I catch myself at it. I don't mean being false, or hiding our 'real' selves, just that most of us express different aspects of our personality in under different circumstances.

We can be quite different in different situations: with an old friend in a bar, with our work colleagues at the office, with our (ex)romantic partner whom we meet at party, with our employer during our annual review, with customer service staff while making a complaint, when we're ill, when we're happy, when we're sad, when we're angry.

We can be quite different people in different relationships. The Chairman of the Board of Directors doesn't treat his mother like he treats his underlings; his mother doesn't treat him the way his Board of Directors does either.

What is most interesting is not (necessarily) which persona we express, but which situations call out different aspects of us - and why.

This is post 85 of 100 posts in 100 days.

Monday, August 2, 2010

World peace? No thanks

Recently I was thinking about wishes, of the 'if you could have anything at all' variety. That old chestnut 'world peace' flashed into my mind. It doesn't feel authentic to me. Peace is too often portrayed as an absence of conflict, which is A) unlikely and B) undesirable. In all the utopian writings I've read this involves a universal consensus. Presumeably that's an eternal consensus too, as mechanisms for change never seem to be necessary in utopia. They sound stagnant and creepy to me. The end of that road always seems to involve the 'neutralising' of any dissent for the good of society. Urk.

Not that I'm a fan of war, and the wastefulness of war, far from it.

If we're programmer more for individuality and variability than for similarity - and I think we are - then the thing that needs fixing is how we manage conflict. So I"ll pass on world peace and have a double helping of creative and constructive conflict resolution when someone offers me that wish.

This is post 84 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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Sunday, August 1, 2010


Being present is something that challenges most of us a lot of the time. Unless our immediate circumstances are delightful (or threatening) we just leave some or most of our awareness in a more compelling temporal zone, either the past or the future. Anything is better, we seem to believe, than here and now.

We seem to think the purpose of life is to provide us with entertainment, so we channel surf our memories and our dreams instead of living this minute.

I suspect many of us live in this half-hearted fashion most of our lives, until death brushes by us and we realize that every single boring or banal minute is precious, if only because it is a minute in which we choose what we will do with it.

As I strive to be present more often, to both bear witness to my experience and to act more consciously, I find my life infinitely richer. Richer as I live it and richer in memory. In order to remember something, you have to take it in in the first place. I admit with regret that there are whole months in my past that are undifferentiated blurs. I recall the merest outline of: went to work, came home, hung out with friends and family, did not enough housework, shopped, you know, stuff...

So this week, add a little something extra to your daily grind, stay present: the magic ingredient is yourself!

This is post 83 of 100 posts in 100 days.
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