Connecting Dots, Throwing Javelins and Grassroots Movements

We all love them, don’t we? Whether it is the weather, election results or even horoscopes, the human psyche is intrigued by those who believe that they can predict the future.

Yet, in the past few of years, things that seemed to have been stable and predictable have had an uncanny knack of not being so! Brexit, the rise of Trump, global weather patterns, crazy valuations for Tech companies. Some trace this unpredictability back to the financial crisis of 2008. Others pin it to the rise of globalisation. Yet others believe that the real culprit – climate change – can be attributed as far back as the industrial revolution.

“Leaders of Hope” require a good dose of “back-to-front thinking” to inspire people to follow their vision of the future – only to become disillusioned and frustrated by the system. The pendulum swings and “Leaders of Fear” take over and simply look in the rear view mirror to say how things were great in the past and that “Back to the Future” is the answer.

With linear thinking, we tend to post-rationalise decisions and make them look logical after the event. Ever more so in large corporations and national governments. Steve Jobs put it so well when he talked about connecting the dots in his Stanford commencement speech

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

So we come to trusting the dots that will connect us to a positive future – and also trust in “gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever….” to get us there! That’s not very precise or scientific. Certainly not terribly rational and not very easy to measure either!

So, maybe all this objective setting stuff we strive for is baloney? 

In my experience, Jobs was correct. Most decisions are made from spinning around looking at various alternatives and then having an intuitive hunch that things would be better if they lined up in a direction where you have a fuzzy idea of the target zone or outcome. As time progresses, things become clearer.

I call this the “White Javelin” approach. We have a Javelin that we can throw in any direction, but we choose to throw where the light shines brightly. Once we have thrown it, we move along to pick it up and then decide where to throw it next. It is better if you keep going in one particular direction. Otherwise, you keep going over old ground and spinning around like a dog chasing its tail!

Fulfilment becomes an intuitive sense of progress towards a fuzzy outcome, which needs to feel good before each throw.  If your daily work does not give you the autonomy to decide the direction of throw or they give you a needle instead of a javelin, then I suggest you quit!

As I’ve grown older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve also become increasingly aware that everything is connected. Literally. So the desired outcome in one country, system or domain will have undesired consequences in another. The current North Korean-US war of words is but a simple example.

So, with all the unpredictability and variability of system outcomes, maybe we need a new set of meta-objectives or meta-goals that we can start to organise ourselves around so we can work out best where we throw our white javelins.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals were a noble attempt to do this. Yet a global, top-down approach is probably only going to help fix a minor part of the problem. As Arnold Schwarzenegger stated in his message to Donald Trump on reneging the Paris climate agreement: “Like all the great movements in human history, our (clean) future starts with a grassroots movement in our communities, our cities and our states.”

It gives hope to mere mortals that there is a clear path to a cleaner, brighter future through grassroots activism, clear personal intent and envisioning end-results that are for the betterment of our local communities.

Whereas linear-thinking approaches had a good chance of succeeding in more stable and predictable systems, we need new ways to shape a purpose, objectives and outcomes for a particular problem set – outside the boundaries of corporate self-interest. (what Ian Ure in an article on LinkedIn calls his “magic ingredient” – which inspired me to write this one). 

Asking lots of “W” questions is a good place to start. Why?, What?, Who?, When? and Where?

Too many “How?” questions asked too early on creates early “solution-thinking syndrome” which gets in the way of exploring alternative approaches and landing points.

Equally, too many “Why?” questions too early on can also be counter-productive because the answer might simply be: “Just because!”.  W can also stand for “Wait” – like  “all good things come to those who wait”.  Counterintuitive, perhaps, but powerful, nonetheless.

I believe that the world is a mysterious, magical and mystical place, well beyond the ken of any single human being. Science and reason are useful tools, but by adopting the Zen-like “beginner’s mind” with an inquisitive sense of discovery, prediction becomes less important. Each day brings magic moments with new discoveries and new areas to explore with our individual throws of our uniquely crafted white javelins.  We need to stop listening to the Merchants of Doom and become our own Leaders of Hope.

Go on! Throw it as far as you can and see where it lands! It will only be good! 

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To bomb or not to bomb. That was the question.

The arguments raged for ten hours in the House of Commons.  The vote was cast.   The MPs agreed by a sizeable majority that it was a good thing to let the Royal Air Force bomb Syria.  A few hours later, the Tornado Jets were set loose like the dogs of war.

Tornado

The rest of the country stood by like a confused onlooker.  Whatever your beliefs, whatever your fears, however good your knowledge of the situation: none of those would count.  In May, the UK’s democratic system transferred our voting rights for another five years to a bunch of elected MPs to take nearly all decisions on our behalf.  We’ll all get a vote on whether or not we want to stay in Europe – but that will be equally confusing too.  Just like the Scottish No vote last year.

David Cameron’s timing for the bombing Syria vote was lucky.  The Paris atrocities a couple of weeks ago certainly added considerable weight to the case.  His party held the line, and increased a narrow Tory majority by doing whipping deals with selected allies and the vote for the “ayes” was further buoyed-up by the schism in the Labour party.  So the “ayes” had it and the NATO alliance held together because that’s what allies do.  Stick together in hard times.

What other solutions were put forward?  What other creative ideas were framed?  What other, more effective ways of preventing further bloodshed were considered?   What were the real options to stop further escalation the a tit-for-tat of a bomb in a beach resort or another vulnerable European city versus drone attacks and bombing raids on strategic Daesh targets in Syria?

I remember visiting Beirut for a day in 1978.  I was in transit from Egypt to Cyprus.  Middle East Airlines put me up for a free night in a four-star hotel as part of the deal of flying via their country.  It was a great deal for the penniless student that I was at the time.  I took a taxi around the central part of the city on the way back to the airport.  On every street corner there was a burned-out armoured car and a different faction guarding their patch.  Nothing much seems to have changed since then.

The UN Climate Change Conference, which started in Paris this week, has given some hope that we might be reaching a level of consciousness that understands that climate change is going to continue to hit random parts of the world as a knight moves around in a game of chess.  Although ridiculed by some newspapers for his views, I can see the connection that Prince Charles made about climate change causing drought in Syria which in turn causes a shortage of natural resources (like water),  which in turn cause a refugee problem in South Eastern Europe.  The world is so connected now – more than it ever has been, perhaps.  It is the butterfly effect in action.

We need to think differently and organise ourselves differently if we are going to solve the complex problems that the world is currently facing.  I used to think that X causes Y was the only way to think.  I’m not so sure anymore.  Just look at the weather.  Everyone’s weather in the world is apparently affected by changes in water temperature just off the West Coast of South America with the El Niño effect.  And so it is with international politics and relations: everything is connected.

I’m sure computer modelling and technology can help here – but we need a lot more than “big data” and analytics and advanced aerial killing machines directed from many thousands of miles away to solve these problems.  In particular, we need to understand that each of the world’s primitive fragile systems of fresh water, clean air, natural energy resources and inhabitable land are themselves so interconnected that together they will have the greatest impact on the world’s population migration and quality of life of all of us in the coming twenty to thirty years.  Southern Europe is currently under siege from migrants who themselves are refugees from a part of the planet that is fast burning-up.  Areas which have traditionally sustained life, but which can no longer do so.

What to do?  Commentary by analysts simply isolate the issues.  Linking them together does not seem to happen so much.  It might be my associative mind, but the inter-dependencies BETWEEN the systems mean that the gaps between the systems might just hold the answers.  As regular readers will know, one of my favourite expressions is that: “the answer lies in the space between”.

On first glance, it was very encouraging to see Mark Zuckerberg give up 99% of his fortune to charitable causes.  Line up all the rich kids and strip them of 99% of their fortunes.  Job done!  Yet, reading between the lines, the vehicle Zuckerberg will use will be a limited liability partnership (LLP), not a charitable foundation.  The LLP will be allowed to lobby, make a profit and won’t have to give away a pre-determined amount of cash to other charities every year.   Smart man, Zuckerberg.  Maybe he is onto something.

It is time to think afresh about how we take decisions and how we control the excesses – whether they be banking bonuses, lobbying for vested interests or pollution.  Relying on individual human nature won’t solve these problems.  Traditional economically-driven regulation won’t hack the course either.  The current systems are so stuck in the past; they need a complete rethink.

Waging war by throwing deadly flying machines at an enemy who can only fire back with machine guns and suicide bombers will only dig us deeper into the proverbial.  It may well take Zuckerberg, Gates and a few others with purposeful family-centric LLPs to crack many of the problems that our more outdated institutions have failed to solve.

Then again, I suppose that rich families and the dynasties that they create have always ruled the world.  All other structures are impermanent, insignificant or mouthpieces of the ruling classes.  Mr Zuckerberg for President, anyone?

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Acting On Purpose: A Twin-Edged Sword

Picture the scene.  A young child who has done something wrong.  A parent standing tall over the child looking on in disgust or anger.  The young child cowering, knowing that they should not have done it – whatever the act was.  The parent erupting: “You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”

Doing something on purpose, in this case, is doubly bad.  It adds to the criminal act because it was “on purpose”.  It is the difference between manslaughter and premeditated murder.  Somehow, when a crime is committed, when it is done “on purpose”, then it is so much worse and carries a heavier penalty.
Picture another scene.  A company gets amazing results.  Profits are up.  Revenues are up.  The workforce has high morale.  The CEO is asked: “Why are you are doing so well?  How did you make so much profit”  He or she answers “Our primary objective isn’t to make a profit – although it is nice to make a profit so we can develop better services for you.  The main reason that we are doing so well is that we are all in service for a higher purpose”.

Think of some recent technology successes: Google and Apple.  Each one highly profitable, yet much more importantly, each one serves a higher purpose.  “Do no evil”.  “Putting a ding in the Universe”.  Interestingly, in its early days, Microsoft had the mission of putting “a computer on every desk and in every home”.  In 2013, Microsoft changed its mission to “morph from a software company to a devices and services company”.  In doing so, their purpose became clouded (literally) in confused corporate-speak and financial engineering.  As soon as the purpose (or mission) is framed in terms of profit or puts shareholder returns above everything else, the writing is on the wall that the organisation to become less successful.

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Such a powerful phrase it is, then. “On Purpose”.  It shows premeditated intent.  Driven by purposeful desire, it can create extraordinarily beautiful things.  It also drives people to follow great leaders – not because of the ego or personality of the leader, but because the whole tribe/team/organisation believes in a higher purpose beyond the power of a single human being.  It is why great religions have such enormous followings.  Abraham, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed.  Each, in their own way, started a religion which today still have many followers.

Purpose also drives revolution and could be seen as the lifeblood of change.  The events in Paris last week were a tragedy, attacking the French libertarian belief system to its core.  The repercussions are still to be played out in terms of hardening European borders, increasing the checks on people travelling to and from Europe as well as the need to control the mass migration to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.  In some cases, it is a cash of ideas, ideals and purposeful intent.  In another, it is driven by a desire to find a better life for yourself and those who depend upon you.

However hard it is to imagine  a cause is so strong for someone to want to blow themselves up in martyrdom, history shows that there is nothing new to such an extreme act.  Religions are full of martyrs – often given god-like attributes after their demise.  For someone to die “on purpose” or in total alignment with their belief system is somehow at the extreme end of heroism and martyrdom.
Back to the first scene that I started with at the start of this piece.  What is most interesting is whether you saw yourself as the child, the parent or an onlooker?  Think about it!

At an individual level, many of my close friends in their late forties or early-mid fifties are in transition from a full-time career in corporate life to a much less secure “portfolio career” in post-corporate life.  Is it at times like this that you really do question your own purpose in life.  You think “what is this all about?”.  “Why did I spend over 10/20/30 years working for such-and-such a cause and end up with …..?”  It is a time for reflection and searching for a deeper meaning in your own life so that it can become more purposeful.

In thinking about your own purpose, I like to think of an analogy with the Global Positioning System or GPS.  I used to do offshore sailing back in the 1980s and early ‘90s – when the navigation was all based on charts using pencils and compasses and triangulation to work out where you are.  How the world has changed!  Via the GPS system, you can now know exactly where you are – even if it is thick fog outside.  A Guiding Purpose Statement (or GPS) should do the same for you at major transitions in your life.

Gps device on sailboat

Over the next few weeks, I am creating a programme to go deeper into some of these ideas.  If you would like to find out more, please do email me at: lorne(at)objectivedesigners(dot)com and I will send you an outline of what I am thinking about – plus a few questions that might help us create something that is a bit different and special.

The main purpose is to create a group that can support  folk as they transition from a more structured (corporate) part of their lives to a portfolio career where you have to take more personal risks and seek deeper meaning in what it is you do and how you express yourself.  I’ve been through it myself – and have some lessons I would like to share – but I am sure many readers will also have equally valid ideas and suggestions to help others through this period of their lives.

By the way, on my search for more meaning and purpose, I have come up with my own GPS: “To help people communicate more effectively”.  It helps me to bridge my interests in telecommunications, media,  marketing and conversational flow between systems.  I’m currently refining it to be a little more tangible, but it will do for the moment.  If I can help you in this mission – or, indeed if you can help me become more effective in my mission, please also email me!

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The Nature of Reality

I have always been fascinated by debates on the differences between objectivity and subjectivity; art and science; East and West; X and Y.  The truth normally lies somewhere in between.

85 years ago two great minds met in Berlin and debated such issues in what must be one of the most interesting thought pieces in the history of the twentieth century.

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THE NATURE OF REALITY

Albert Einstein in Conversation with Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore visited Einstein’s house in Caputh, near Berlin, on July 14, 1930. The discussion between the two great men was recorded, and was subsequently published in the January, 1931 issue of Modern Review.

TAGORE: You have been busy, hunting down with mathematics, the two ancient entities, time and space, while I have been lecturing in this country on the eternal world of man, the universe of reality.

EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the divine isolated from the world?

TAGORE: Not isolated. The infinite personality of man comprehends the universe. There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the truth of the universe is human truth.

EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the nature of the universe—the world as a unity dependent on humanity, and the world as reality independent of the human factor.

TAGORE: When our universe is in harmony with man, the eternal, we know it as truth, we feel it as beauty.

EINSTEIN: This is a purely human conception of the universe.

TAGORE: The world is a human world — the scientific view of it is also that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world apart from us does not exist; it is a relative world, depending for its reality upon our consciousness. There is some standard of reason and enjoyment which gives it truth, the standard of the eternal man whose experiences are made possible through our experiences.

EINSTEIN: This is a realization of the human entity.

TAGORE: Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through our emotions and activities. We realize the supreme man, who has no individual limitations, through our limitations.  Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals; it is the impersonal human world of truths. Religion realizes these truths and links them up with our deeper needs. Our individual consciousness of truth gains universal significance. Religion applies values to truth, and we know truth as good through our harmony with it.

EINSTEIN: Truth, then, or beauty, is not independent of man?

TAGORE: No, I do not say so.

EINSTEIN: If there were no human beings any more, the Apollo Belvedere no longer would be beautiful?

TAGORE: No!

EINSTEIN: I agree with this conception of beauty, but not with regard to truth.

TAGORE: Why not?   Truth is realized through men.

EINSTEIN: I cannot prove my conception is right, but that is my religion.

TAGORE: Beauty is in the ideal of perfect harmony, which is in the universal being; truth is the perfect comprehension of the universal mind. We individuals approach it through our own mistakes and blunders, through our accumulated experience, through our illumined consciousness. How otherwise can we know truth?

EINSTEIN: I cannot prove, but I believe in the Pythagorean argument, that the truth is independent of human beings. It is the problem of the logic of continuity.

TAGORE:  Truth, which is one with the universal being, must be essentially human; otherwise, whatever we individuals realize as true, never can be called truth. At least, the truth which is described as scientific and which only can be reached through the process of logic—in other words, by an organ of thought which is human. According to the Indian philosophy there is Brahman, the absolute truth, which cannot be conceived by the isolation of the individual mind or described by words, but can be realized only by merging the individual in its infinity. But such a truth cannot belong to science. The nature of truth which we are discussing is an appearance; that is to say, what appears to be true to the human mind, and therefore is human, and may be called maya, or illusion.

EINSTEIN: It is no illusion of the individual, but of the species.

TAGORE: The species also belongs to a unity, to humanity.  Therefore the entire human mind realizes truth; the Indian and the European mind meet in a common realization.

EINSTEIN: The word species is used in German for all human beings; as a matter of fact, even the apes and the frogs would belong to it. The problem is whether truth is independent of our consciousness.

TAGORE: What we call truth lies in the rational harmony between the subjective and objective aspects of reality, both of which belong to the superpersonal man.

EINSTEIN: We do things with our mind, even in our everyday life, for which we are not responsible. The mind acknowledges realities outside of it, independent of it. For instance, nobody may be in this house, yet that table remains where it is.

TAGORE: Yes, it remains outside the individual mind, but not the universal mind. The table is that which is perceptible by some kind of consciousness we possess.

EINSTEIN: If nobody were in the house the table would exist all the same, but this is already illegitimate from your point of view, because we cannot explain what it means, that the table is there, independently of us. Our natural point of view in regard to the existence of truth apart from humanity cannot be explained or proved, but it is a belief which nobody can lack—not even primitive beings. We attribute to truth a superhuman objectivity. It is indispensable for us—this reality which is independent of our existence and our experience and our mind—though we cannot say what it means.

TAGORE: In any case, if there be any truth absolutely unrelated to humanity, then for us it is absolutely non-existing.

EINSTEIN: Then I am more religious than you are!

TAGORE: My religion is in the reconciliation of the superpersonal man, the universal spirit, in my own individual being.

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I Met Her Once….

I met her once.  We had been waiting expectantly for half an hour.  She was late.  When she finally entered the room, she surfed on a wave of power and authority – like the entrance of the Queen of Sheba without the music.

Calm, collected, nose in the air, she frowned with complete disdain for the cohort of journalists who were between us and the doorway.  The flash-guns had fired like a set of uncoordinated fireworks as soon as the door had opened.

I remember vividly the soundman for the BBC camera crew who had a long, extended microphone covered in a sausage-shaped, fluffy sound muffler.  He was lying on the floor to get out of the way of the cameras that were pointing at her.  She virtually kicked him and made a comment (I can’t remember the exact words but it was something like) “that’s where you guys belong – on the floor”.  She could easily have said “scumbag” – but I don’t think she did!  It was all part of the drama.

She gave her short speech for the evening news and the twenty or so journalists were ushered out of the room with the sense of urgency that a hassled mistress of the house would want when letting her servants  sweep the floor after a spill or a mess had been made by the dog.

Thatcher

She said “Are they all gone?”  There was silence.  A few nodded their heads to affirm they had all left.  The atmosphere changed immediately.  Less formal.  Yet still quite tense.  She was on a mission.  She wanted answers to questions.  She was impatient.  Dennis just wanted a drink.  He relaxed everyone by saying something like “Good, let’s have a drink”.

She was born the same year as my father, in another era, another age.  What was important then is now no longer so important.  What was pressing then is now, in hindsight, much less pressing – even trivial.   Yet, at the time, she had the power.  She had the authority.  She had the sense of purpose.  She got the attention and wanted change.  Yet, for all the words, my longest-lasting memory was the feeling I had when she entered the room.  Words cannot describe the electric presence she exuded.  I’ve seldom had that feeling from anyone, man or woman, either before or since.

 

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Spring Forward, Fall Back

Last weekend, for many of us, the clocks went forward and we lost an hours sleep.  Many in the West celebrated Easter – either by going to Church or gorging themselves on chocolate.  Perhaps both.  March ended and April began.

Today remained bitterly cold – and although some of our smaller daffodils are out, the larger ones are still tight in their spring green wraps.  We seem to have been locked in a strange weather pattern in the UK for a year now – with March being the coldest on record for 40 years.  Many forget that this time last year we had 18 months of drought.  Whoever did the rain-dance this time last year sure did a good one!

In China and other countries in the East, it was a holiday – the Qingming Festival.  This festival has various translations including: Pure Brightness Festival; Clear Bright Festival; Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day.  Traditionally celebrated on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox,  it is a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime and to tend to the graves of their departed ancestors.

Tomb sweeping

The festival’s origin is credited to the Tang Emporer Xuanzong in 732. Wealthy citizens in China were reportedly holding too many extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies in honor of their ancestors. Emperor Xuanzong, seeking to curb this practice, declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestors’ graves only on Qingming.  The observance of Qingming found a firm place in Chinese culture and has continued to root itself in many other parts of Asia.  Any excuse for a holiday!

The idea that we come out of the winter and into pure, clear brightness – and spring-clean the tombs of our ancestors does not really have an equivalent in the West.   The Christian Church displaced many of these more pagan traditions for  celebrating Spring by defining it as the most important festival of the Christian calendar: Easter.  The chocolate companies partly displaced this with Easter Eggs and everything chocolate.  We don’t really have an equivalent celebration or holiday to go and sorting out our ancestors’ graves on one particular day of the year.  I suppose the closest we get is the idea of a “Spring Clean”.

Whatever your belief system, though, Spring is a magic time of the year (if is ever  going to be allowed to break free from the cold clutches of winter this year).  It is a time of hope.  A time of renewed energy.  A time for cleaning those parts of your life that need cleansing.  A time for being positive and leaning forward.

Spring is sprung and the green shoots are surely going to break through soon!  Happy Qingming Festival – and may your ancestors’ graves be much cleaner today than they were yesterday!

Source: Wikipedia, http://www.chinatouradvisors.com (picture) and my Garden

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The Story of the Broken Pot (of Honey)

The older I get, the more I believe in coincidences.  And one of the strange coincidences that I have recently discovered is that there are a set of stories that are told in slightly different forms all around the world – as if they all had their roots in one story told many thousands of years ago.  A fine example is the Story of the Broken Pot:

Once upon a time there lived a woman called Truhana.  Not being very rich, she had to go yearly to the market to sell honey, the precious product of her hive.

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Along the road she went, carrying the jar of honey upon her head, calculating as she walked the money she would get for the honey.  “First”, she thought, “I will sell it, and buy eggs.  The eggs I shall set under my fat brown hens, and in time there will be plenty of little chicks.  These, in turn, will become chickens, and from the sale of these, lambs could be bought.”

Truhana then began to imagine how she could become richer than her neighbors, and look forward to marrying well her sons and daughters.

Trudging along, in the hot sun, she could see her fine sons and daughters-in-law, and how the people would say that it was remarkable how rich she had become, who was once so poverty-stricken.

Under the influence of these pleasurable thoughts, she began to laugh heartily, and preen herself, when, suddenly, striking the jar with her hand, it fell from her head, and smashed on the ground.  The honey became a sticky mess upon the ground.

Seeing this, she was cast down as she had been excited, on seeing all her dreams lost for illusion.

Idres Shah in his book “World Tales” (which is where this story came from) notes:

“The tale is called a number of things like – “The Girl and the Pitcher of Milk”.  Professor Max muller remarks how the tale has survived the rise and fall of empires and the change of languages, and the perishing of works of art.  He stresses the attraction whereby “this simple children’s tale should have lived on and maintained its place of honor and its undisputed sway in every schoolroom of the East and every nursery of the West.”

“In the Eastern versions, it is always a man who is the fantasist and whose hopes come to grief: in the West it is almost always a woman.  The man generally imagines that he will marry and have a son, while the woman tends to think of riches and marriage.”

A collection of stories similar to this one was compiled as a set off folktales by Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1430 entitled “Air Castles” – about daydreams of wealth and fame.  The theme is so strong and spans all cultures and societies.  Just one of the many coincidental stories that have been recognised across space and time.

And so it was, last week, I was visiting Telefonica’s incubator (which they call an Academy) in London.  There are 19 startups (or eggs) being hatched – each into what will hopefully be new chickens.  However, given the statistic that over 65% of companies fail in their first two years, I could not but think the question as to which ones might be successful, and which ones not.  Which ones would hatch and which ones would be eaten before hatching?  Talking to the head guy there, he said that it was surprising that some of the start-ups that showed no hope four months ago are now doing really well – and others that showed great potential have somehow stumbled.  Each of the eggs will be moved out from the Academy at the end of March – and I wish them all the best of luck in moving from the egg stage to the chicken stage!

Oh, and just to round off this Thursday Thought, I visited my own beehives on Monday to give them some sugar cake food.  All was well – each of the six hives had bees!  I just hope they will all survive through February and March.  No honey in the pot yet, but I still dream that their stories will make me rich and famous one day!

I am going to be exploring the power coincidence in a lot more detail in the coming months.  If you are on Twitter you can read the regular tweets and observations on coincidence and business by following my new Tweet stream  @coinmark.

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Story from: “World Tales” collected by Idries Shah published by the Octagon Press 1991 – page 27

Picture – Copyright iStockPhoto – I bought it and if you want to use it you should buy it too!

More bee stories at my other blog: www.beelore.com

 

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The Story of the Imprisoned Tinsmith

The ability to seek and identify structures, patterns and designs below the apparent surface of experience is the secret to success in communication, relationships, accelerated learning, languages, and many other things besides.

Someone asked me the other day why I chose to call myself a designer, rather than a consultant and I told them the story of the Tinsmith.  The story originally came from an order of the Sufi’s called the Naqshbandi Order.  Naqushbandi quite literally means “designer”.

“Once upon a time in a city far far away in a time long gone, a tinsmith was falsely accused of a crime he had not committed.  Being poor and without any powerful friends to influence the judge, he was imprisoned.  

He was given a wish before being sent to the cells and he asked that he be allowed to receive a rug which should be woven by his wife.  In due course, the rug was made and delivered to the prison.  Upon receiving the rug, the tinsmith prostrated himself upon the rug, day after day, to say his prayers.

Prayer Mat

After some time, he said to his jailers: “I am poor and without hope and you are wretchedly paid.  But I am a tinsmith.  Bring me some tin and tools to work with and I shall make small artifacts which you can sell in the market – and we will both benefit.”

The guards agreed to this and presently they and the tinsmith were both making a profit from which they bought food and comforts for themselves.

Then, one day, when the guards awoke to find that the cell door was open and the tinsmith was gone.  Some spoke of magic or perhaps a miracle because no prison in this kingdom had ever been escaped from.

Many years later, a convicted thief confessed to the crime that the tinsmith had been accused of.  As a result, the tinsmith was pardoned and two weeks later the tinsmith and his family reappeared in the city.  The governor of the province heard of the tinsmith’s return and summoned him to his palace.

The governor asked the tinsmith what magic he had used to make such an impossible escape.

The tinsmith replied “My wife is a weaver.  She designs rugs, mats and carpets.  She weaves patterns into the wefts and warps of her fabric.”

“By design, she found the man who had made the locks of the cell door and got it from him, by design.”

“She wove the design into the rug at the spot where my head touched in prayer five times a day.  I am a metal-worker and this design looked to me like the inside of a lock.  But I lacked the materials to make a key, so I made a business proposition to the guards, by design.  I then used the materials that the guards provided me to make many small artifacts, including a key that would unlock the cell door.”

So, by design, I escaped.”

“We are all born with a brain”, said the tinsmith.  “When we begin to understand the patterns and structures of our thinking, we can start to liberate ourselves from the enslavement of our limitations.”

Story adapted from the book: Sufis: The People of the Path: The Royal Way by Osho – Chapter 5 – Design within Design

Picture from Museum of London

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Powerful Forces Are At Work!

My father used to have a phrase that he used from time to time when something inexplicable happened.  “Powerful Forces are at Work” he would say.  In the past week or so, I have had a very strong feeling that somehow the universe is reconfiguring itself and that powerful forces truly are at work.  This is a difficult feeling to articulate – but the it got me thinking about our personal turning-points, crossroads and moments of truth that make us change and grow as we go through lief .  Naturally, we can all share in global turning points like the economic crisis.  But the ones that are closer to home, the ones that are personal and sometimes painful; the ones that are more subjective .  These are a lot more powerful change agents than the blah-blah we get from the constant barrage from the media, news and modern-day consumerist group-think.  Indeed, the Transition Movement is a collection of such ideas – interestingly portrayed in the Wordle below:

transitions-wordle

 And so it was that we passed 12:12 on 12/12/12 today.  It marked another milestone for Susie and me – because we got engaged at 7:07 on 7/7/07 and our subsequent wedding was on 8/8/08.  Apparently there were more people married on 12/12/12 than at any other time in history!  These dates seem to hold a romantic charm.   We won’t have any more quite like that unless you plan to live until 01/01/2101.  Most of us will be long gone by then!

Transitions in time are made more meaningful when there are coincidences – in this case with a string of numbers lining-up.  We still have one more this month on 21/12/12 – which is, apparently, the end of a cycle in the Mayan long-count calendar.  Some predict disasters, others a transition of the human race to a new level of consciousness.  Yet others think it will pass without incident.

But what if this month truly was a major transition and a marked positive shift in human consciousness?  What would that shift feel like?  What would each of us be doing differently as a result of it?  How would our behaviours change towards our selves, each other and towards the environment?  What small changes could we individually make that would create a big difference in 2013?

In the run-up to New Year’s Resolution time, it is something to think about, anyway!  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Oh, and here is a Wordle of this article:

Wordle of Article

Make your own Wordle at: http://www.wordle.net

 

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How Long Does it Take for Us to Forget?

This week’s cease-fire in Gaza probably passed most people by – except for quick glimpses of rockets being fired back-and-forth and the commentary from safe television studios by those who try to collapse a whole history lesson into a few minutes of short, sharp sentences.  I am sure we were all relieved that the war was halted by an equally abrupt ceasefire.

However, the news reminded me of a time when I was much smaller and of the 6 Day War of 1967 – and more particularly my father’s reaction to it.  He had strong opinions about this part of the world having been posted to Palestine at the end of the Second World War.  By luck, he was minutes away from the King David Hotel (1) when it blew up on 22 July 1946.

The bomb killed 91 and injured 46.  The Irgun planted a bomb in the basement of the main building of the hotel, under the wing which housed the Mandate Secretariat and a few offices of the British Military headquarters.  If my father had arrived a few minutes earlier, I would not have been born.  Nor would my brother nor sister.  A sobering thought (for my siblings and me, at least).

My father therefore had a very different perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict – and would merely say “remember what happened to the Palestinians.”  This did not have anything like the meaning for me as it did for him.  And for my children, it is probably just  another history lesson in a country that they have not yet visited somewhere in the Middle East.  In reaching a bit deeper into the subject, I came across a quote (2) by David Ben-Gurion (the first Prime Minister of Israel):

“I don’t understand your optimism,” Ben-Gurion declared. “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it’s simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out.”

What struck me by this quote was not so much that the Prime Minister of Israel was admitting to the fact that the Israelis had stolen “their” country from the Arabs, but more the idea that it takes one or two generations to accept; one or two generations to forgive; one or two generations to forget.

It reminded me of some research I did a few years ago on the famous Russian economist, Nikolai Kondratiev (3).  Kondratiev came up with the theory of the long-wave economic cycle which takes about 50-60 years from peak to peak.  Kontradiev’s views were so controversial in his country at the time that he was sent to the gulag and was executed in 1938 at the age of 46. It was Joseph Schumpeter who named the wave in Kondratiev’s name in 1939.  I remember reading about long wave economic cycles about 20 years ago and wondered what might cause  these types of patterns in history.  I can’t remember exactly where I heard the theory at the time – but I remember hearing the idea that the 50-60 year cycle is natural because “it takes two generations to forget”.  Given that a significant number of children are born to women between 25-30 (from(4) – see chart below), this is somehow quite an interesting idea.

If you take the theory and apply it to the cycle from the Wall Street Crash in 1929 (and the Great Depression of the 1930s) to the financial crisis of 2008 and our current post-crash turmoil, then 1929 to 2008 is about 80 years.  Some of you might point out that the time between is not 50 or 60 years, so the theory does not hold.  But perhaps this is due to the fact that we are now all living a bit longer?  In any case, the underlying pattern of loosening financial controls within the international financial system seems clear – as is the pattern of forgetting the lessons learnt from the previous generation’s Grandparents.  I’m not a qualified economist – but as an inquisitive observer, the theory somehow makes sense – even if it is not numerically accurate.

So we have wars, we have waves and we have history repeating itself and it got me thinking about the recent flooding that is currently taking place (again) across many parts of the UK.   Over 5 million people in England and Wales live and work in properties that are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea. (5)  Yet there seems to be considerable political pressure on encouraging the building industry to “get building” so that we can kick-start the economy.  In Kent, where I live, many of the new houses have been built on the flood plains around Ashford – and there is the famous story of the Vodfaone Headquarters building in Newbury being built on the old racecourse that was well-known for flooding.

And so it was that I came across a story (6) about the tsunami that struck Japan last year.  Many people living by the sea lost their lives, but there was one village, apparently, in Aneyoshi that has a stone which reads:

High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants.

Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. 

Do not build any homes below this point.”  

Those who headed the warning (like the residents in Aneyoshi) were spared from the destruction of the recent tsunami. Other towns did not. Yuto Kimura, aged 12, from Aneyoshi said they studied about the markers in school, and when the tsunami came, his mother got him from school and the entire village climbed to higher ground.

And so it is.  Maybe we are all cursed with the fact that it takes two generations to forget.  But for the wise ones who read the markers that have been laid down from previous generations, it is worth teaching the next generation about the deeper lessons from history.  It is worth encouraging them to take less time to accept, less time to forgive and more time to forget the important things in life.

Then again, we are all creatures of habit, so I expect the addage that “it takes two generations to forget” will last for many more generations to come!

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_David_Hotel_bombing

(2) http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/David_Ben-Gurion

(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Kondratiev

(4) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2051374/Average-age-women-having-baby-climbs-29-start-family-later.html

(5) http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/default.aspx

(6) http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/969855–japan-nuclear-plant-plugs-highly-radioactive-leak

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