I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones. —John Cage
We get so stuck in the details of life, the daily grind, the endless to-do lists, agonising over issues we’re facing at work or home. We’re so close to the rungs of the hamster wheel, we end up counting them endlessly as they cycle by, over and over again. The alarm clock wakes us up at the same time every morning. We eat the same breakfast, read the same news sites, drive the same way to work every morning, greet each other in the same automatic way when we get to our desks, and get our regular cup of coffee to get us going to do it all again.
Our lives can be more than this, yet we often don’t see that. We have our faces so closely pressed up against the window, the screen, to try and see more of the detail of what’s inside. Step across to the other side of the street, then have a look. You’ll see that there are more shops than just the one you usually shop at. There are more people walking by than you usually talk to. There are other streets that you’ve never been down.
The world has been around a lot longer than you. It’ll be around a lot longer than you too. Step back a bit and get some perspective.
Thank you Jovanka for inspiring me to start writing again.
The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates
As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. – Proverbs 26:11
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” – Thomas Edison
There’s a serious evil lurking in our corporates. It’s in our faces all the time. It flaunts itself in front of everyone. It keeps us looking into its eyes, distracting us from the real story going on around us.
The slide deck is not your friend.
How did it become so pervasive? No longer simply for presentations, it’s become the only mechanism to convey corporate information. Gone are Word documents, with their boring and tedious “longer-than-140-characters” paragraphs. There no longer seems to be a place for prose, for exposition, development and recapitulation. Where are the powerful storylines, their arcs of narrative and their rousing climaxes?
Instead we’re force-fed the spam of uniformity, of visual sugar packaged into wide-screen bite-size chunks, lulling us with the lie that – click – the world moves – click – predictably forward in – click – linear steps.
Perhaps we present because we feel the need to present, not ourselves, but the self we want to present, never truly present?
I won’t fit into that box. No, you won’t draw a border around me or fill me with your conformity. There are stories to be told, characters that cannot be aligned, adventures beyond the fourth wall.
Yes, I know everyone else is doing it. Exactly my point.
If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.
Change is a strange thing. We want it, but when we realise what’s required we often rally against it.
Take the example of buying your own house. You’ve been renting for years and you know it’s high time to get your own place. The process takes a long time but when all the paperwork and admin is done, you celebrate! Next looms the move. You dread having to pack everything up and work through all the junk you’ve accumulated over the years. There’s so much to do and so little time! Isn’t moving supposed to be one of the most stressful experiences ever?
You chose to buy a house. You chose to make a change in your life. Did you think there wasn’t going to be tough times ahead, stuff to let go of, work to do to make the change successful?
You could change your perspective, become excited about opportunity to go through your belongings, take stock of your possessions, discard that which is cluttering your life and which you really don’t need anymore, even though you’ve been carrying it around for years. You could embrace the hard work that’s required, strong in the knowledge that you’ll be grateful to yourself for doing so, making the new place a fresh start.
Or you could avoid the entire experience and continue renting your small, well-worn apartment, sitting in your favourite frayed armchair looking out the window wistfully, wondering what another life out there might be like.
The western culture is very goal-driven. We create goals for everything.
We want to lose weight for summer, so we get a personal trainer and for the next 3 months drag ourselves out of bed to the gym. We get a stringent eating plan developed by a leading dietician and restrict calories. All the pain and denial is ok, because we’re focusing on that day that we will strut confidently onto the beach glowing with pride and enjoying the attention.
We might want to be a rock star, dreaming of performing live in front of a large crowd at a festival, so we carve out hours before and after work, forgoing any social life, practicing until we’ve got all the difficult parts completely under our fingers. To make it all seem worthwhile, we hold an image of ourselves on stage revelling in the crowd’s cheers.
What if we looked at it differently? What if the gym workout itself was the important part? A continuous focus on enhancing your technique; reviewing and improving your running times; tracking and increasing your weights; finding unique ways to train certain muscles; observing and improving your form.
What if the daily practising of the instrument was the real benefit? The discipline of allocating dedicated time and sticking to it; the practise of breaking down the musical phrases and repeating them slowly until they flow without finger slips, then slowly increasing the speed; the practising together with other musicians to all bring the music to life.
Perhaps learning to work together to help the company win is the biggest benefit? The empathy you develop for others in your team when you’re all working towards a common goal; the fluid communication that you develop when really working close with others; the understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and the support and encouragement you give each other to ensure that you all get over the finish line.
These things you do during the process of reaching your goals, the tools, practises, techniques and lessons are what stay with you far beyond the goal. They will translate into every other area of your life, enriching you far more than the day on the beach, that night on the stage, or indeed that new sports car you bought with that bonus.
Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say “We have done this ourselves.”
Lao-Tsu, founder of Daoism