Posts Tagged 'open doors'

Infinite Game

infiniteseries

Short term thinking sometimes causes us to betray ourselves in the long run. It could be from making a bad, if convenient or safe decision. Often it’s from making no decision. How long is the long run? It’s hard to know, and seems to depend a lot on context. Some people tend to measure the world in flashes, and they’re happy to do something they call generous for a few seconds, as long as they get a payback before a few minutes up. More common and more celebrated are people who play a longer game. They build an asset, earn trust, give before getting, and then, after paying their dues, win.

There’s something else available, though, something called an infinite game.

In finite games (short and long) there are players, there are rules and there are winners. The game is based on an outcome and is designed to end. In the infinite game something completely different is going on. The point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is. And so, players in an infinite game never stop giving so they can take. Players in this game throw a slower pitch so the batter can hit it, because a no-hitter shutout has no real upside.

A good mom, of course, always plays the infinite game. But it’s possible to build an organization or even a society that does this as well. Build hospitals and schools instead of forts and barricades…

You probably know people who play this game. You may well have been touched by them, inspired by them and taught by them. The wrong question to ask is, “but how do they win?” The right way to understand it is, “is it worth playing?”

Fear of Fear

fear of fearMost of the things we avoid are avoided because we’re afraid of being afraid.

The negative outcomes that could actually occur due to speaking up in class, caring about our work product, interacting with the boss – there’s not a lot of measurable risk. But the fear… the fear can be debilitating, or at the very least, distasteful. So it’s easier to just avoid it altogether. We avoid the feeling of fear.

On the other hand, artists and leaders seek out that feeling. They push themselves to the edge, to the place where the fear lives. By feeling it, by exposing themselves to the resistance, they become more alive and do work that they’re most proud of.

It usually looks higher from up there. When we find ourselves on the edge of a precipice, looking down at the depths of the chasm below, it’s easy to think that our plan is far too risky, or our behavior too weird.

The funny thing about perspective is that most bystanders don’t see you standing on a precipice at all. They see someone doing something a little risky, or even questionable, but by no means off-the-grid nuts. You’re far more likely to go not-far-enough than you are to go too far, especially if you tend to find yourself worrying over what others think.

Internal monologue amplifies personal drama. To the outsider, neither exists. That’s why our ledge-walking rarely attracts a crowd. What’s in your head is real to you, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can see the resistance you are battling. And most don’t care about it.

How deep is the water? If it’s over your head, does it really matter?

At some point, when the stakes are high enough, you will swim. And when you swim, who cares how deep the water is?

How much does it cost you to avoid the feeling of risk? Not actual risk, but the feeling that you’re at risk? What are you missing out on? Feeling risk is very different than actually putting yourself at risk. Over time, we’ve created a cultural taboo about feeling certain kinds of risk, and all that insulation from what the real world requires is getting quite expensive. It’s easy to pretend that indulging in the avoidance of the feeling of risk is free and unavoidable. It’s neither.

The fear doesn’t care, either way. The choice is to spend our time avoiding that fear or embracing it.

 

Abundance and Safety

abundancefish

No question that for most people in the United States there is an abundance of almost everything needed to live a fruitful and interesting life. Clearly not smooth or easy across the board, but certainly miles better than things were for the average person a hundred years ago.

Amazingly, we still struggle with having what’s often referred to as an abundance mentality. We still separate, divide, protect, even hoard resources. We operate out of fear, or in a mindset to keep safe what we have while we sometimes want what others have (validating our fears).

Consider the story about the two shoe salesmen who went to Africa.

After a week, one man calls the manager and tells her, “I’m coming back home. There’s no hope here. Nobody here is wearing shoes, so there’s no one to sell to.” He boards the next flight home.

The second man calls and says, “You wouldn’t believe what I found here. There is so much opportunity. No one here is wearing shoes. I can sell to the whole country!”

It’s all a matter of perspective, and our perspective is often frustratingly biased towards a lack of abundance, and fear over what might be lost.

I have been referred to as a “risk taker” by a friend. Hrm. Really?! I’ve worked at the same company for 24 years (through five roles), and lived in the same area for that time. Sure, I drive sports cars fast, invest money in risky ventures, and go out on limbs in some other areas, but I wouldn’t characterize myself as a risk-taker at all. Well, maybe relative to this person I am, and that’s my point! I really just try to see that there is an abundance of opportunities available, so a little risk in places is a good practice. If I stumble, I can pick myself up. Otherwise life gets too stale.

Adventure may be dangerous, but routine is lethal. You deserve better. Put some danger in your life and live. Something really beautiful could happen.

Yield

Asian culture does a better job of fostering the idea of asymmetrical trades – yielding. Humility.

A maneuverable motor boat yields to a sailboat because it can more easily recover from the turn.

A bicyclist going downhill yields to one struggling uphill, because he can get back up to speed more quickly.

The senior executive invests a little bit of time helping the junior one, because no one else has the skills to do so, not because reciprocation is the goal.

Asymmetrical trades are a key to getting society to work. It starts with giving.

Yield has two meanings, and one leads to the other.

Infrastructure

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No man is an island. Yet we aren’t all truly connected either. The new age of electronic connectedness provides many of the components of feeling connected — enough that we can tranquilize ourselves that we are — but when it comes to interpersonal interaction there’s less true connecting going on than ever, in part because of the facades we create with media, not to mention our obsession with our mobile devices.

What can a man live without? There’s a short list of a few things required for survival.

Okay, but let’s move beyond mere survival. What do we need to flourish? That’s a much more complex issue.

Infrastructure. We need the pieces in place that help open doors and smooth the way for us to overcome the forces in ourselves and the world that try to keep us standing pat, retreating in fear. We need nurturing of just the right kind. We need to be educated, but not just in the way the schools teach (how to conform and be good consumers and workers). We need a supportive social network. A real one, not just some friends who are hiding behind their own facades or too scared to fully engage or take risks on our behalf. We need to see close up examples of real initiative and leadership. We need to be coached by someone who shows up as credible and sincerely caring about our best interests, not crippled with fear and self absorption. And we need the humility and honesty to be willing to receive these gifts.

We need love. Real love. Not just the emotion that someone would be bummed if we weren’t part of their life anymore, but people who are secure enough in themselves to act in a manner that we learn to be secure in and love ourselves. We need to love ourselves, and respect ourselves. Otherwise we can’t truly help anyone. And if we can’t help anyone what good are we?

We all need that infrastructure, to be connected.

It has to start somewhere. You can be the one to reach out. You should reach out. You may help yourself most of all.



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