Posts Tagged 'Refinement'

Infinite Game

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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?”

New Information

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What do we do with it? New information likely means it’s time to consider or evaluate change, which is often more difficult than it sounds.

To some people, it means admitting you were wrong.

But of course, you weren’t wrong. You made a decision based on one set of facts, but now you’re aware of something new.

To some people, sunk costs are a real emotional hot button, and walking away from investments of time, of money, and mostly, of commitment, is difficult. Add a moral component to this and the weight of change can get dramatically greater.

But of course, ignoring sunk costs is a key to smart decision making.

And, to some people, the peer pressure of sticking with the group that you joined or reinforced when you first made a decision is enough to overwhelm your desire to make a better decision. “What will I tell my friends or family?” “What will they think of me?”

The moral component, if it’s really valid and not just something to hide behind to stay comfortable, is another issue.

A useful riff you can try:

Sure, I decided that then, when I knew what I knew then. And if the facts were still the same, my decision would be too. But the facts have changed. New facts mean it’s time for me to make a new decision. This is not done lightly, without regard for what I was busy doing yesterday, without concern for the people who might disagree with me. It is done because it is right and best for everyone involved that me and my actions be congruous with what I know now. My supposition is that once they realize these new facts, they would be likely to make the same new decision I just did, or to at least understand why I need to. If they truly respect, value and even love me, then they’ll give me the space to make this course correction.

This decision is more important than my pride.

Love and Respect

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What are we supposed to do in life? Make babies? Be good?

Two of life’s most fundamental pursuits, apart from self-preservation, are to earn love and respect. Nobody ever told me this. Not religion, not school, not mom or dad.

It aint easy.

Love is often given to us, but the path to earning it can be elusive. Respect is just as complicated, though it may be a little less subjective. It starts, of course, by loving and respecting ourselves.

That’s tricky. Most of us aren’t as happy with ourselves as we often pretend. Self respect and love in ourselves is a lifelong pursuit. We never fully arrive, in part because we, more than anyone else, see our imperfections up close. So we seek the love and respect of others as validation — a kind of Catch-22.

Being good is a start. However, defining what ‘good‘ is can be awfully difficult when circumstances get complicated. You might be able to use as a guide what gives you love and respect from the people you care most about. But that’s a trap if you’re trying too hard to please them. They have their own agendas.

An artist trying to write a hit song will rarely succeed. An artist writing from the heart can catch the magic, and it just comes. Organic and pure, like good art.

This is why people say to follow your heart. So much stuff out there trying to dissuade us from that, but in my 53 years on this earth I can safely say that the ones who follow their hearts in general tend to be happier than the ones who try to follow the rules. It’s not an absolute, but the correlation is clear. And with that happiness comes love reflected back, because this is a person living true to and being honest with themselves. Just as imperfect as anyone else, but more accepting of what is, and more open to being in the moment and not clinging to things that no longer work.

Like a great song, it often seems to come to you when you aren’t looking for it.

More Perspective

 

Is perspective something you can have more of?

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The seventh post ever penned in this blog dates back to a time when it seemed the message could be powerful and clear enough when presented succinctly. It was about perspective. As with this one, and some others, it highlights that seeing things differently is at once something we understand, but don’t always really get. Thus the decisions others make sometimes seem like major head-scratchers to us.

One man’s junk is another’s statement. One man’s friend is another’s enemy, one’s debilitating frustration, another’s challenge, one’s psycho-bitch girlfriend another’s soul-mate, one’s insensitive asshole another’s hope for change and progress, and one man’s moral corruption another’s necessity.

There are very few bad people in the world. There are plenty of people who don’t see and process the world the way you do. How hard is it really to put yourself in another’s shoes and genuinely try to understand their perspective? When the distance between our sensibilities seems far enough apart, the effort wanes because we don’t perceive a compelling need to do it. We have enough people around us who are like us that we feel validated; it rarely even occurs to us that those other weirdos (assholes) are like us in some other, maybe not as easy to identify ways.

We can accept it academically. But add a feeling that they want something of mine, and now it’s a big problem.

Our perception is our reality, until we stop long enough to realize it’s all just perception.

 

Religion’s Social Reinforcement

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Once culture or set of behaviors becomes intertwined with our lives for a period of time its distinctiveness fades. In the United States, religion is a part of our way of life. While some have argued that Christianity is the national faith, and others that church and synagogue celebrate only the generalized religion of “the American Way of Life,” only recently have many realized that there actually exists alongside of and rather clearly differentiated from the churches an elaborate and well-institutionalized civil religion in America.

We celebrate some religiously based holidays in an official (governmental) capacity. Many of us share some fundamental beliefs and values in terms of how our society is organized and operated. They are based on, parallel to, but independent of the the theological tenets of each specific denomination or religious belief. This dates back to the early notions of the nation as religiously diverse by design (free from religious tyranny), but while not being too overtly biased in any one tradition, it clearly was based primarily on the Protestant ethos and set of values.

So here we are, a religious country that while presumably based on freedom of religion, doesn’t necessarily subscribe to freedom from religion, and certainly doesn’t appear to honor its own tenet of separation of church and state. (All of which varies somewhat according to your geographic location in the country.) This produces a bias worth briefly pointing out.

  1. Religious Bias – If your chosen set of beliefs happen to align well with the Protestant framework the country and society was built upon, you have it easy. Things invisibly make sense to you, and you probably don’t even see how biased and gamed it all is. Of course, if you happen to be of some other religion, lots of things stick out and seem to fall somewhere on the continuum from weird to downright unfair or discriminatory.
  2. Anti Religious Bias – In recent decades the pendulum has swung more towards an increasingly forceful resistance to all things in our culture that reek of being driven from a religious notion. The divide has widened. It has at times appeared to reach a point of near irrationality. Unfortunately, the baby sometimes gets thrown out with the bathwater here. There is a history of statesmen who happen to fit well within this parallel civil religious state, but who are great and effective leaders first and foremost. They can get tossed aside, which seems to leave even more room for the more dogmatic to get their voices heard and rise into a consciousness of a generation that otherwise would have recognized them as extreme.

Certainly the chasm between the different religious groups, not to mention those who do not believe in anything religious being part of our government, stands in stark relief these days, largely due to our ability to consume the media that paints these pictures. Often people on or near the fence are pushed away in the crossfire.

Perhaps we would be better off it it wasn’t so blatant. Things would be a little less cozy and comfortable for those who’s values align with the prevailing values of the society we have now, but if the overall populace were more validated and respected, the chasm could close. I argue that if we’re smart, in a rising tide lifting all boats way, the WASP’s would proactively give up the bias to help produce an environment of better dialog and growth. This is one where meeting half way may not be enough. Things have been too skewed for too long, and aside from arguably not being right, it’s obviously just not going to work effectively anymore.

Civil religion (“civility” being the operative concept) can be a great way to build a society, but in order to work it must walk a well thought-out line between being too biased towards one group versus being too watered down to be meaningful. That’s a big challenge for some capable leadership. Without it, things will continue to degrade.

Ominous.

 

Getting to the Change

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One of the most difficult skills to master in life is helping people  (ourselves included) make changes that will benefit them in the long run – even if it means annoyance or sacrifice in the short term. That could mean anything from getting a child to clean his or her room to convincing a customer to switch from a competitor’s brand to yours.

We’re all selling something, but you can’t force anyone to buy it. Worse, if someone feels you are pushing it on them, emotions will take over and they will resist buying it even if it hurts them not to.

That’s why the best salespeople see themselves as trusted service providers and advisors, not product pushers. They understand that change isn’t easy, and that’s what makes them effective in creating strong relationships with customers. Regardless of the context or gravity of whatever the situation is, these basic questions apply:

  1. What does the person want to change?
  2. Why does the person want to change?
  3. What does the she really want? What is the ultimate goal?
  4. What is preventing someone from changing? Why has he or she not already changed?
  5. What motivates the him? What makes her tick?
  6. What is involved in making the change? What will it take?
  7. How will the person behave before, during, and after the change?

You can practice this almost anywhere you encounter people, even picking random ones out of a group at a restaurant or park. See what answers you can come up with: Why is this person here? Where does that person want to go in life?

To quote Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” How many times a day do other people ask you to do something without going to the trouble of outlining how you’ll benefit from taking on the task? People need to feel ownership over change, even if the idea doesn’t come from them. Before you ask someone to take a step in a new direction, be sure to communicate your vision of a new and great experience.

Stuck

ManandWomaninCupEverything that happens to us is generated from something we did, something someone did to us, or just a chance occurrence. Regardless of which it is, the ball is in our court to act, or wait until someone or something changes things. We generally would prefer to take action, but sometimes we can’t see the way out. We are stuck, unable to move forward, or to move it off center. It happens to nearly all of us on occasion. We get stuck for a variety of reasons. Three that come to mind are:

  1. We can’t see the forest for the trees or just don’t see the problem for what it really is.
  2. It’s scary to change our current situation because it’s serving us in some way, or there is a fear of the unknown. What if the change makes things worse?
  3. We are in a double bind, which means we feel damned if we do or don’t.

To get unstuck, there are a several techniques to try. I think these are somewhat obvious, but seeing it in writing can help provide clarity.

  • Play out the fear of change all the way to the worst case scenario and then evaluate if it’s really all that bad or if there is anything good about it. If there is some good (this is the key), move towards it. Just try it and feel good about your courage to grow in the most positive direction possible. You will work the rest out.
  • Ask what the costs are if you stay stuck, and play it out to the worst case scenario. If nothing changes, who will be hurt and how bad can it get? You may be able to continue to be dissatisfied, though it’s not good for you, which probably means others are being negatively affected.
  • Ask yourself what someone who truly loves and wants the best for you would advise. Sometimes, we aren’t as compassionate with ourselves as we are with those we love. Hearing and trusting their voice in our head can be used as a guide for what to do. But be cautious. This can easily turn into you choosing what will make others happy. That’s not the point. And keep in mind…they are afraid, too. Not objective. You have to weigh the agenda of the source, but it is worth considering.
  • Look at how the current situation is serving your needs, even at low levels. Sometimes we settle for low level fulfillment instead of going for the thing that will really fill us up because it feels safer to stick with the devil you know instead of the one you don’t. Consider the positive benefits of raising your standards. I was once told that “it’s never a bad thing to raise your standards.” This goes for yourself and for who you’re with.
  • Ask yourself if you have a true commitment to growing. If you do, and you recognize that if you aren’t growing, you’re dying (inside), then consider what you’ll do to grow. Will you take a chance and try something new, even if its scary and there is no guarantee it will work out? Can you feel good about yourself for being brave enough to just try it and course correct later if need be? (Hint: Yes)
  • Consider that there is a life lesson in this situation, and determine what it is. Ask yourself if you are ready to learn it now, and if not, why. Are you hoping the Universe will take over and make the change for you? Not choosing is still a choice. And if you don’t make a change, something happens that’s not your choice and you have to deal with it anyway. Isn’t it better to make the choice on your own and feel like you have some semblance of control over the situation? When you don’t, you open yourself up to something happening that takes the control away from you, requiring you to put the pieces back together and move on with your life, the hard way. You also open yourself up to the problem repeating until you show up for it and “walk through the fire” by making the choices that are authentic to you.

As with many things in this blog, it’s easy to say. Easier to read and understand. Hard to do. Sometimes you have to push harder.



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