Thursday, November 18, 2010

is being tired a valid excuse for not helping the world?

A full work day, being a dad, being a husband and a few household duties or projects thrown in here and there and there isn't much left of my energy and yet......

..... there are conversations I would like to contribute to.

I recalled a quote tonight from Ross Perot  and it made me think. 
  "the activist is not the man who says the river is dirty.  The activist is the man who cleans up the river." ~ Ross Perot
 it made me think about an article in a magazine I flipped through in the library today at lunch. The magazine, Canadian Dimension, a left wing opinion magazine had an issue dedicated to feminism today. I could not help but notice that as I read through articles scanning for the issues women saw as the most important today that much of the text was just ranting about women needing to organize, fight back, take back and make the world right. I kept looking because I wanted to know what issue they were tackling, to make right. I did eventually find one before I gave up and went on to Pop Mechanics, it was the issue of physical violence in the home towards women.  A valid issue. I was left disappointed though, since I was willing enough to read the magazine and curious as to how I might influence in my life and work and I was left instead with the feeling that the majority of the words written pointed to crackpot and only a small number to activism or ideas of how I the reader can make a difference. How sad. 

So I got to thinking, if I was going to choose an issue to try to influence outside of my direct sphere of private influence for good (i.e. family and friends) what would I choose and how would I go about doing it. I already contribute financially to charities but if I were to use my words on a blog or submission to a paper or supporting policy change or creating conversation for policy change or what-have-you, irregardless of the method, first what would I pick.  I was left feeling tired. Which is what I started with in this post, the question of whether being tired is a sufficient answer.  I think the answer must be NO. 

So with that answer in mind I  picked myself up and I dusted myself off and thought harder. What I came up with is that I would like to find a way to contribute or create conversations about social innovation.  They could be based on community, spirituality, economic, environment and any other number of of issue sparks but ultimately that's what gets me excited. I get excited about helping to get people thinking difference about the social constructs that we gripe about and manage without actually coming up for air and thinking of actually changing them. 

So now I have a dilemma, do I spend my spare time (what little there is) reading more about and seeking opportunities or do I spend it entertaining myself or making more money.  I will have to think about this some more. . . . 

How about you? how do you want to help the world?  do you think we should?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

children in grown up bodies


occasionally my work inspires me for my ideas of what to write here and today I am filled with a desire to vent.

I am regularly reminded that while our bodies age, and our vocabularies increase, the level of maturity is not guaranteed to follow. Moreover wisdom may never come to an individual despite many opportunities because they are lost in a selfish mode that has served them well. Make no mistake, I believe the selfish do not acquire wisdom and that it is clearly a gift resulting from selflessness.

What has irritated me today is people who don't understand that to work together you need to offer constructive feedback or solutions to each other.
  • Telling someone that their plan is bad is not helpful, at all. 
  • Pontificating about how your own plan might possibly be different, and better, and more like a theory that you had had is also not helpful. 
  • What is helpful is drawing attention to a particular point that you think you can offer an option or an alternative too. 
Sadly though some people get used to others allowing them to speak their minds without any tangible contribution to the conversation, other than to voice their idea, which they have heard before and is not relevant to the discussions or decisions at hand. Incredible. Must be nice to be so important that people must listen to you despite the fact that its not helpful.

Sadly I almost laughed because while the "feedback" was coming in I likened it to my kids and their wild requests that come in from time to time. It goes something like this:

"Would you like to work together to clean up your lego so its easier for you to build new things?"

"No, I would like to take an inventory of all my lego and throw out the stuff I don't like and buy new stuff!"

"I see, do you realize that we could spend more time playing if we just cleaned it up and you could start playing"

"I want new stuff. New stuff is better. Obviously I can't make good things with old stuff. Because you won't think about new stuff your ideas are old, outdated and bad."

"Ok, but we have discussed many times before how we could organize your lego better, so now we just need to get into action and start to look at doing it. If you like we can do the first idea and see how that goes and do more."

"Did I not make myself clear? Only cool people build lego with the new themese and the new way of doing things. I would rather sit here and complain about the old way of doing things, even if I don't get my way, than fix the old way and get to play"

I find it interesting when I talk to people about this and I relate one of the issues embedded in this is related to their expectations of resistance or over selling and under delivering. Take for instance the Toyota stance on car pricing. You can generally expect that the price posted on their web site is close to what you would pay. Walk across the street to the GM dealership and you can hack thousands off the sticker price. So if you go into the world thinking that others will take advantage of you unless you kick and scream until they give you what you want you tend to think its fair game to demand more of others assuming that they will just negotiate back.

As an honest person this really tickets me off however. When I create an estimate for something (some piece of work) I use my expertise and experience to assess the right method of attack and the resulting target for completion. I allow for some contingency depending on the risks, I am not an idiot, but I do not "pad" my estimates because I like to have some free time or because I like to let the customer include things "for free" or because I am lazy. So when the wrong kind of person comes along who does "pad" and has those assumptions I am going to clash with them. To make matters worse, when the same issue happens with ideas wherein I proposed an idea to a solution, taking into account the reality of the situation, I am proposing the best that I think can be done in the time allowed. I am not, as the "padder" thinks choosing the least effort solution hoping to impress in the end by doing more. I want a realistic target and realistic expectations.

Kinda like the difference between the smaller tablets and the Ipad. Gotta "pad" the size of the screen to over compensate for the actual work its going to do with you. ;-)

so people, please be kind to each other and helpful. We have enough backseat geniuses out there and us drivers are really thinking of installing a privacy shield to block them out.

ok, I feel better now. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

would you like mensa with those corn chips?

ok, well sorry to tease if you have never heard of Mensa but it is not a kind of salsa but rather a club. "Mensa is the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test. " [Source: Wikipedia]

I was reminded of Mensa this week when a friend of mine was telling a story of a supermarket checkout conversation he over heard.  The teller had no idea that Napoleon was a historical figure (let alone his last name) but a teacher cleared all that up explaining that he was a ruler from Italy! Where it gets ugly is the two of us thought that she was incorrect since he was the emperor of France. Well, it turns out he was both, and at the same time. So, and don't tell anyone, we were wrong. Our assumption that we knew history better than this other person turned out to be incorrect and, while only I was silly enough to investigate, I am left feeling a bit put out.

So what does this have to do with Mensa? Well, my issue is I would like to keep getting smarter as I get older and when I was younger I aspired to one day write the Mensa test and prove it. With age and family though that aspiration has changed to creating an environment for my kids where knowledge is readily handy in their personal development and they are not one of the googler generation who know nothing but "lets google it". (That's right, I don't believe googling everything increases knowledge or intelligence a great deal because far too much of the results are opinions, bad assessments or motivated with someone else's personal gain in mind or hastily forgotten because it can be).

So, who cares? Well, the issue is (I think) that the more knowledge we possess or wisdom we have gained from compiling it, stirring and mixing the more easily we can form our own new ideas that are different or potentially even new. Well, at least that is my theory.

More importantly, I think it contributes to a class system and separation in our society between rich and poor, the "haves" and the "have nots". Interestingly enough though, I would say that western society sees the "haves" as those that can afford material wealth. Eating healthy is not a desirable acquisition, we take our clean water for granted and our health care systems are such that we lead long lives even if we treat our bodies like crap. A smoker can end up taking off 8-10 years of their life from the habit but they could still live to 70 instead of 90. Today the average female lives to 80 but a hundred years ago that would have been 53 and 160 years ago in 1850 it would have been 40. So society as a whole benefits from the increase in human capacity. So, then in a western society where we continue to live longer who are the "have" and "have nots"?

Getting back to the start of this point and my observation on the lack of knowledge by the clerk and my incorrect assumption about the accuracy of the person who comes to her aid, I think the "have nots" are those people who are moving through life only with the knowledge required to sustain themselves and entertain themselves in the short term. Not a -bad- life really. Good food, a warm bed and lots of entertainment that takes them through a range of emotions in a way an old fashioned life just couldn't do. So why are they "have nots" ? My theory is that when these people hit a wall or find a spark within them that wants to light a fire of change, they cannot do it themselves. Worse though, I think because they do not have a wholesome sense of curiosity outside of their sphere of current knowledge and an understanding of just how hard the world is for the leaders and the successful they give up and retreat into even lesser state of human potential. That human potential that sparked within them is extinguished and it is like a match once lit, it cannot light itself again.

if instead of sheltering folks less in-the-know and we share our knowledge for free shouldn't it work out? no, because compared to today's entertainment its boring.

ok, I realize this post really hasn't gone anywhere but I am perplexed at the idea that not all humans want to learn, better understand the world and with each passing year discover how they can contribute to our future in some way.  See, instead what I see are people who do go through the effort but get tired of waiting for the world to come to the same conclusion and make incremental changes and so they take matters to a more radical level. They understand the problem and can't wait idly by any more and so they speak out and take action and instead of appealing to the masses they sound just like another crack pot.

So how do you continue to develop yourself intellectually, share ideas and information with the world, help others get engaged in that journey, shape the future for the better and not sound like a crack pot?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


when I am busy, I perceive time to be going faster than when I am idle waiting for a time.

the relationship between our mind and time is a curious thing.


well consider this, our brain is capable of both conjuring up an idea in an instance or taking its time and slowly pulling it together. the same brain.

don't believe me? ok, forget new ideas.

you are going to the basement to get something but you get there and you have forgotten what it was you were going for. why is it that sometimes you can remember instantly and other times you are at the top of the stairs (or worse laying in bed trying to forget about the day and go to sleep) when you remember why you were going to the basement.

now, riddle me this, does our brain ("us" as a participant in this somehow) plan these things? and if it does, then how does our brain know that by manipulating the time involved in our actions there will be different results.

back to the issue of how much time our brain takes to form an idea, or make a decision. how much of that is under our control and how much is an internal function which we only seem to loosely influence?


well, how about this new variable in my quest: what about the influence of stimulation on the mind whilst it's busy messing with our time space continuum and our stuff? I find at varying times I have more time on my hands where I have no outside entertainment or sounds coming at me and it influences my thoughts, or the ability to have multiple thoughts.

we have more information, collective knowledge, individual knowledge, analysis, research, etc, etc than ever before but we also entertain ourselves like never before and the latter is the stimulation I am most concerned about, particularly of the mindless crap variety.

brain time is a puzzling thing.