Archive for March, 2015

No Sense


Sometimes people do the oddest things. It makes no sense. All stupidity and lack of wisdom aside, studies are beginning to show that when under (enough) stress, decision making fundamentally changes. One problem with strategic, correlative based thinking is it’s rather predictable. Biologically this isn’t always good. When trying to elude a superior preditor the last thing you’d want to be is predictable. No, in a desperate enough situation you’d want actions to be random, as it may well be your only real chance to survive. The same could arguably be said of outwitting a superior foe competing for resources. Or for navigating yourself out of a hopeless situation. In short, when things get perceptually bad enough actions can show dramatically poor judgement or remarkable insight, though current research shows it possibly isn’t either. Hopefully someone will come to your rescue before you’re left to your own devices. Otherwise…good luck.

Foxhole Friends


In a military context foxholes are known as a defensive fighting position. When resorting to foxholes the implication is that things are (about to get) tough. You need to be with people you can count on to make it through. People who serve in the military together under these circumstances often stay connected and share a special bond afterwords.

Lots of friends walk through most of our lives. They come and go, but a few special ones last. They may last in our hearts more than they actually do in terms of interactions, but given the perspective that time provides we can tell when they hold a special place. As I look back on my friendships it’s clear to me that the best ones were galvanized by enduring a struggle together. It wasn’t just some special compatibility (though that’s definitely a required ingredient) that caused the lasting bond to form. It was driven by a process that manufactured a need to look deeply within another person, and myself. Intimately. The deep stuff that you can’t get to easily by just hanging around together for a while. Conflict, drama, sadness, fun and joy slowly reveal parts that enable us to make those deep connections.

It’s a rare thing, because it takes more than just some similar tastes and doing a few things together to make it all really click. The best ones happen in spite of seeming incompatibilities on the surface. The stark relief of the differences we share fade into the background as the compelling synergies take over. The fabric of each life is enriched not by the similarities to the other, but by the differences.

The struggle is the catalyst providing the opportunity for that extra, hard to define dimension. This puts a little different spin on the saying, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” It may be as much because of the teammates we earn as it is from any changes in our own fortitude.

Dedicated to Greg x 2, Marty, Doty, Kyle, John x 2, Steve, Chris x 2, Mike, Jim, Becky, Todd, Michele, Joanna, Danny, Daniel, Karen, Scott x 2, Theresa, Brian, Dana, Georgeann, Mitch, Adam, Rob, Liane, Max, Jon, Blake, and…Sonja. Good friends all (*). But there are a few on this list I shared a proverbial foxhole with, and those experiences along with their character made the depth of the relationship whole.
* Leaving numerous relatives out, as those involuntary relationships inherently had plenty of every imaginable ingredient upon which to form.

Displaced in Time



I often look at the world around me and seriously wonder if I am in the wrong time. On the one hand I see the hope of a society that’s maturing and making room for the diversity of our humanity. While it’s often one step back to take two forward, electronics are becoming better integrated into and more effective in our lives. I just really wish I could be here to see what the world is like in a 100 years or so.

On the other hand I often find myself longing for the simplicity of life as it was a 50+ years ago. How cool would it be not to feel tethered to a mobile device? How cool would it be to slow down and read, or to sit in a room with someone and just talk? Or just sit there, without having to be fed a constant stream of mostly trivial information?

More compelling than even that is the idea of being shifted by just a few years. To know many of the same people, but have a perspective of a 10 year older or younger person would be something to behold. Perhaps this is something people who are getting older think of a lot. I may seem nearly irrelevant to you, but at one time I was a vibrant person your age that you would have cared about and wanted to spend time with. Or maybe I’d just like to be around to see how things turn out for you. Maybe I could even nudge it a bit.

Since none of that is going to happen the easy choice is to learn how to be happy with what is. Whether or not this is an actual issue for you, you can add this to the list of things that probably aren’t going to change, that you have to accept and be content with. It sounds so desperate and dramatic, but it’s just a fact of life we need not dwell on.


Asking the Wrong Questions


The danger of asking questions is you’ll often get answers. Answers, or at least things that appear to be answers, are plentiful, and often very seductive, even though they sometimes answer questions that weren’t asked.

Consider this marketing e-mail:

Hi David,

Only 2% of cold calls result in a lead. And it takes about 8 calls to reach a prospect. Seems like a lot of work with no solid return. It may be time to start using another lead generation channel that has been proven time and time again to be successful in driving leads into sales.What’s the software? It’s Email Lead Generation. A solution that will help maximize your time by turning your cold contacts into warm B2B leads.

Reach a larger pool of potential customers by using our software – saving you time and money while still producing quality B2B sales leads.

Ditch the cold calling and start emailing to your list of cold business contacts turning them into leads and ultimately sales so you can close more deals and exceed your quota.

David, start your Email Lead Generation journey today. Sign up for a complimentary demo and see your sales funnel grow.

Powerful answers appear to solve problems and address concerns. But which ones? I would argue the answer above is for the the wrong question. I’m not suggesting their product won’t help. It very well may, which is part of the problem. The question isn’t – or shouldn’t be – how to maximize the results of interrupting potential customers with quasi-random solicitation and marketing messages. It should be more along the lines of, what can you do to make yourself notable and relevant enough to generate bonafide interest?

All too often we ask questions that are as much about making us feel good as they are about real change and movement. Sure, I could implement some new program, and it might even appear to work (for a while), but in the bigger picture it’s not really the right strategic action. The danger of those kinds of good feelings is they stand in the way of being your best. Think carefully about what the right things to pursue are before you ask, and get answers.


The Curse of Insight – It Takes One to Know One


Have you ever noticed how people who are the most suspicious often turn out themselves to not be trustworthy once you really get a look behind the curtain? How about a person who acts moral, and is outspoken about and judgmental of others…until later the truth about that individual is revealed? What about the therapist who sees disfunction all around, but is riddled with inner turmoil?

What you tend to see in others is a reflection of yourself. Of the baggage that you’re carrying. That doesn’t mean you are wrong about them. In fact, you may be immanently qualified to see through all the disguises and distractions to the truth that those people themselves may not even know. But it probably does mean your assessment is somewhat out of balance. It’s as much about yourself as them.

Coming of Age


This kid has no idea what’s in store

At age 16 I thought I knew a lot. I knew I was intelligent. I knew how you could use your mind to analyze things. I knew some things I wanted to do, and believed there was a way to figure out how to do them.

At age 23, I thought that 16 year old me was stupid, and now I know what I need to know. The 16 year old me hadn’t really had to solve many difficult problems on my own. Hadn’t had to navigate the transition from school to the ‘real’ world. Experiences showed me there’s a lot more depth to just about anything than is immediately obvious on the surface. I knew what love meant. I knew how relationships worked. I knew how to get a job and work. I knew the value of hard work and passion.

At 30, I thought that 23 year old me was stupid, and now I know everything. The 23 year old me had been in love, but hadn’t had to solve the real problems of long-term relationships. He hadn’t had to transition geographically, start a new career, turn his life on end and start from scratch. Now, that I had done all that I know everything.

At 40, I thought the 30 year old me was stupid, and now I know everything. Now I saw that the world is not black and white. And what you think is right, is not always right. You see that you could be like the people you used to vilify. You really need to look at the same thing in differrent ways before you judge it.

At 50 I realized that the 16 and 23 year old me made better decisions because he looked at life in a much simpler manner.

Happiness, Part xx3, Validation

We are trained almost from birth to listen to and obey the wishes of others. Much of this is necessary, of course, but it often bleeds into other areas of our lives and continues for too long. A stimuli most of us grow up with and the effects of which culminate over time. It’s hidden everywhere in our culture. Ultimately, most of us don’t fully develop our sense of personal sovereignty and inner guidance; and thus, we believe or at least worry that someone else has the more correct way or knows better than we do.

We discount our own intuition and mistrust ourselves as a result of this learned response. Subsequently, this becomes a filter for how we view the world, and for how we view ourselves in the world.

We come to rely on the opinions of others for validation, because we expect they know better than we do. And the more we get validation from others, the more we seek it. It becomes an addiction. When we are validated by someone else, it triggers our psycho-biological reward system releasing dopamine into the brain. We feel good. We feel accepted. We want more of that feeling.waxmuseumfire

The rub is because we do not validate ourselves, we hold ourselves back, which leads to rarely getting the validation we want from others. Or worse, we may restructure aspects of our lives and the way we live in order to garner attention. Our ideal identity lost in the quest for external validation, a barrier to reaching our full potential. We’re incomplete.

If we would just validate, trust and know ourselves this cycle could be broken.

The Little Things

newshoesMaybe it’s the new shoes, or it could be the the joy that someone cares enough to make it happen. It’s often the little things, the intentions behind the actions or gifts that we take meaning from. Even if the meaning we think is there actually isn’t, we still benefit so long as we believe.

It’s fragile. Maybe someone believes in you. Are you ready to work to validate that? To lift the person up and help them fly on that belief?

You have a lot of power to do something good no matter which side of the gift you’re on. In the end you help yourself, of course.

10 Quasi-Random Philosophies on Life

From someone who has been flying around on this rock for a while. This is by no means meant to be all-inclusive. Just a few things to pay attention to, perhaps stated in new ways that are empowering. As with many things in this blog…it’s easier said that done.

  1. Realize that nobody cares, and if they do, you shouldn’t care that they care. Got a new car? Nobody cares. You might get some gawkers for a week—they don’t care. They’re curious. Three weeks in it’ll be just another shiny blob among all the thousands of others crawling down the freeway and sitting in garages and driveways up and down your street. Got a new wardrobe? Went to a swanky restaurant? Exotic vacation? Have some photos to share? Nobody cares. Have some personal drama? Need help? Again, most people don’t care. Too busy. Too preoccupied with their own stuff. Don’t base your happiness on people caring, because they won’t. And if they do, they either want what you have or resent you for it. Or they’re looking but feeling ‘blessed‘ they aren’t in your shoes. No amount of drama will change this. Though some do enjoy participating in the drama, it’s really all about themselves.
  2. Some rulebreakers will break rule number one. Occasionally, people in your life will defy the odds and actually care about you. If they value you, they’ll value that you value certain things, and they’ll listen. When you talk about all of those things that nobody else cares about, they will demonstrably consume your words, and in those moments you will know every part of them is there with you.
  3. Spend your life with rulebreakers. Marry them. Befriend them. Work with them. Spend weekends with them. No matter how much power you become possessed of, you’ll never be able to make someone care—so gather close the caring. They are precious.
  4. Money is cheap. I mean, there’s a lot of it—trillions upon trillions of dollars floating around the world, largely made up of cash whose value is made up and ascribed to it. Don’t engineer your life around getting a slightly less tiny portion of this pile, and make your spirit of generosity reflect this principle. It’s all relative. You’ll never have ‘enough,’ and it’s not worth the cost.
  5. Money is expensive. I mean, it’s difficult to get your hands on sometimes—and you never know when someone’s going to pull the floorboards out from under you—so don’t be stupid with it. Resist debt on depreciating assets, and don’t incur debt in order to assuage your vanity (see rule number one). Debt has become normative, but don’t blithely accept it. It represents imbalance and, in some sense, a resignation of control. Be careful how you invest. Student loan debt isn’t always avoidable, but…if you’re just dropping tuition dollars for lack of a better idea at the moment, withdraw and go wander around Europe for a few weeks. You’ll spend less and learn more in the process.
  6. Learn the ancient art of rhetoric. The elements of rhetoric, in all of their forms, are what make the world go around—because they are what prompt the decisions people make. If you develop an understanding of how they work, while everyone else is frightened by flames and booming voices, you will be able to see behind veils of communication and see what levers are being pulled. Not only will you develop immunity from all manner of commercials, marketing, and hucksters, to the beautiful speeches of liars and thieves, you’ll also find yourself able to craft ways that influence people. When you know how to speak in order to change someone’s mind, to instill confidence in someone, to quiet the fears of a child, then you will know this power first hand. However, bear in mind as you use it that the opponent in any debate is not the other person, but ignorance.
  7. You are responsible to everyone, but you’re responsible for yourself. I believe we’re responsible to everyone for something, even if it’s something as basic as an affirmation of their humanity. However, it should most often go far beyond that and manifest itself in service to others, to being a voice for the voiceless. If you’re reading this, there are those around you who toil under burdens larger than yours, who stand in need of touch and respect and chances. Conversely, though, you’re responsible for yourself. Nobody else is going to find success for you, and nobody else is going to instill happiness into you from the outside (see #1). That’s on you.
  8. Learn to see reality in terms of systems. When you understand the world around you as a massive web of interconnected, largely interdependent systems, things get much less mystifying—and the less we either ascribe to magic or allow to exist behind a fog, the less susceptible we’ll be to all manner of breakdowns and misunderstandings.
  9. You both need and don’t need other people. You need others in a sense that you need to be part of a community—there’s a reason we reflexively pity hermits. Regardless of your theory of anthropogenesis, it’s hard to deny that we are built for community, and that ‘we‘ is always more than’me.’ However, you don’t need another person in order for your life to have meaning. That can come from what you contribute.
  10. Give more than is required of you.



This bullet-proof vest could have been demonstrated without putting anyone at risk, but the story is far more compelling, not to mention easier to tell, this way. Risk, in fact, is the way to display confidence or superiority. There are numerous examples of this in the animal kingdom.  It’s likewise biologically wired into us. But to hold up to scrutiny the risk must be genuine. We believe the vest was tested beforehand (at that distance, with that caliber of firearm), so the message contained in the image says more about the vest than it does the bravery of the person wearing it. In a different context – any untested one different enough from this – our feelings about him change.

Humans have evolved into sophisticated, linguistic beings that are quite capable of manipulating circumstances to provide a good show. Good enough to sometimes trick our biological instincts. We are often willing to take small risks to make a big showing. Think about the man who acts tough and confident because he knows it’s unlikely he will be challenged. Or the one who is eager to display his intelligence, believing nobody is going to seriously test it, or test other areas where he may be deficient. There is a little risk, but it’s calculated that the potential benefits (getting the girl or job, for example) outweigh it. Taking the apparent risk to act that way often fulfills the prophecy, because who would act that way if they didn’t have the goods. Right? And the poor girls buy into this because it’s biologically wired into us. They perceive that this is the mate they want because the actions, which are partly or mostly a show, suggest it. Only to find out later things are much different than how they were built up in the mind from the displays that were shown. Because the areas that were at risk in the social or courting setting are not the same areas that are at risk later. What a cruel joke.

But we’re not stupid. We have also learned that the person too eager to show off is probably hiding something. So the sophisticated performer learns how to temper it, how to fake sincerity.

Choices are made with limited information and a little skepticism, and the rest is left up to hope, which is driven by our own needs. We settle. Try as we might to see through to the truth we ultimately are still bound to our biologies and what we want.




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