Jump Out!

Yesterday I flew from the UK to Germany to have the first meeting this year with a client that I last worked for ten years ago.  Getting up at 4.00am and struggling through the security gates which reminded me of a cattle ranch and then twisting and turning through the duty-free glitter path that is the only way to get to the plane at Stanstead Airport, I took a short 20-minute taxi ride to the client’s office that turned out to be more expensive than the flight itself!  It was a beautiful day and I had a good two hours before the meeting to walk down memory lane.  I needed to make sure I was energised and that my mind was clear.

The most surprising thing for me was that the  client faced pretty much exactly the same challenges that they faced when I was last there.  It was like seeing an old friend in the street that I had not seen for a while and saying “Wow!  You haven’t changed a bit!”  They were stuck in a rut.  And what is more, they acknowledged the fact.  It got me thinking: how difficult it is for all of us (and large organisations in particular) to adapt and change.

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Whilst chatting to a friend today, the exact same thought arose in a different way.  We were reflecting on what we had achieved in 2015 and what 2016 holds in store for us.  Like wine, we tend to describe the past year as a “good year” or a “difficult year” or even an “annus horribilis” – depending on what has happened.

I think I would call 2015 a year of transition.  What one word would describe this year for you?

Yet another friend said that their work has gone very well in the past year (to the detriment of everything else) and that he was way off on the objectives he had set himself which were to spend more time with his family.  Success is both personal and relative – not just from individual to individual – but also in terms of the emphasis we put on specific relationships and projects.  Everything has an opportunity cost associated with it.  Life is a balancing act.

For example, in the first six months of this year, I became very distracted by a project which meant that I took my eye off the ball for several other things in my life – both personal and business.  Setting a balanced set of aims and objectives at the start of the year is so important.  Reflecting on the objectives that I set myself at this time last year, I completely underestimated the passion that I had for this unplanned distraction.

Understanding the dependencies and trade-offs that need to be made is so important.  Yet we are emotional creatures and can often be overtaken by distractions and unpredictable events that come at us from stage left.  Planning for unexpected turns is also important.  As the great Peter Drucker said: “It’s not the plan that’s important, it’s the planning.”

Fish Out of Water

But perhaps the most difficult thing in all of this is to break old habits.  This is the case with my client in Germany – and is also so true of  myself as we move into 2016.  In order to change, you need to jump out of an existing pattern and create a new pattern – like the goldfish jumping from one bowl into another in the picture.

Some say that if you practice a new habit for 30 days, then it will stick.  I tried that by giving up alcohol for 6 weeks in mid-October.  Those friends who got a bit worried need concern themselves no more!  I started again last week.  Which just proves that the 30-day rule doesn’t work!

The creation of a new habit requires the displacement of other habits that you need to stop.  And it needs to happen so that the new pattern becomes unconscious behaviour.  Yet, when you jump to a new habit pattern, it can be quite lonely for  a while.

Unless you can create a substitute pattern that is more fulfilling and purposeful, the tendency is to jump back to what is familiar.  All the 12-step programmes understand that.  The first step is always to admit that you are powerless to the particular addiction or pattern.  In doing so, you become conscious of it and can change it.

Think about it.  Which patterns do you want to dissolve or move away from in 2016 to give yourself more time to do the things you really want to do?  What entrenched (perhaps unconscious) patterns do you want to jump out of?  Write them down and share them with a close friend or relative.  Get some support on the shift to a new pattern.  It is much easier like that!

That’s what I hope to do with my German client.  Given that they are conscious and want to change, we will start by describing the new fish tank.  All the good things about the new environment and the benefits of being there.  Then finding one or two fish that will make the first jump.  A bit like “Finding Nemo”.  The good news is that there are plenty of fish to choose from and I believe that, 10 years on, the temperature in the current tank is a bit too warm for comfort.

Please comment if you see any other analogies or have any relevant stories to tell!  In particular, let us know what patterns you want to jump out of and let us know how you are thinking of doing it!

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Give Thanks! Fire, Aim, Ready.

Last week we explored what it was to be “on purpose”.  The various meanings of the word and the importance of living a purposeful life or working within a purposeful organisation.  It has been very encouraging that so many readers have commented on the post and that the ideas resonated with many of you so well.  Thank you also for the feedback: it is always welcome!  I wish you all success in thinking more about what it is to lead a more purposeful life and continuing the quest to find more meaning in it and in the work you do.

This week I want to deepen that thinking and explore the relationship between purpose and the main aims (or goals) that cause us to line-up the activities that we perform as we go about our day-to-day lives both at home and at work.  I believe that this process is at the heart of what it is to be successful.  Indeed, success is a very personal and subjective thing.  Sure, others might judge your success – but that is by THEIR opinion, not yours.  It is important to shape the factors that will make you successful by moulding them out of what you are and what you want to be.  Sourced from your passions and purpose, as it were.

It is a perfect time of the year to look back and look forwards.  Particularly as today in Thanksgiving in the Americas.  Even if you are not from that part of the world, it is a useful exercise to be grateful for all that has happened to you in the past year and for the friendships and experiences you have had.

At the same time, it is also worth looking forwards.  Thinking about the habits that you want to grow, or the ones that you want to release.  Thinking about the ideas or relationships you want to nurture and the ones you want to celebrate or change.

There is an old phrase “Ready, Aim, Fire” that covers the stages you go through when firing an arrow at a target.  For a bit of amusement, I decided to reverse the order of these three steps to see what new thinking might emerge.  It ended up as  “Fire, Aim, Ready”.  Not a very significant sequence of events if you want to hit a target, you might think.

FIRE

But wait!  What if we use the word “Fire” in some slightly different meanings: FIRE that you are fired-up by – or FIRE when you have a “burning platform” that needs immediate attention – or FIRE when we fire someone from work or a relationship.

If you write down your purpose and underneath put the three or four things that are firing you up at the moment or that they need immediate attention, then FIRE becomes a good first step to deciding the few things on which you should focus.  Either because they are important (as in fired-up) or because they are urgent (as in burning platform) or else you want to be rid of it (as in “you’re fired”).  What few things do you want to add, act on urgently or get rid of in your life?  For me, I have a bonfire worth of business books that have been lying up against the wall on the landing for the past year!

AIM

By listing-out these few aims (or goals) and then understanding what sort of change is needed in your life, you can then try to envisage what life would be like with more (or less) of the factor.  New role at work, more time with family, change-out the car, less time tripping over books.  That sort of thing.
At this stage, it is so important to write these ideas down on a bit of paper.  Sure, a computer will do, but somehow writing them down on paper and referring to them on a regular basis helps speed the process to achieving the aim – and either adding to or subtracting from the fire!  They need to be the bigger things in your life.  Otherwise, you will bury yourself in a long to-do list.  If this happens, try to pick the top five or six ideas and work on them.

READY

If nothing else, by doing this exercise in the next few days, you will be in a better position to shape your ideas, projects and activities as we move into 2016 and be ready to design some bold, boring or fun New Year’s resolutions over the next few weeks ahead of the rush.  Typically, in the past, I have jotted my resolutions down on a paper napkin with a hangover from the holiday period on 1st January and then throw them out with the rest of the excess paper a few days later!  It is only in the past few years that I have become a bit more disciplined – but I still have a way to go.

Writing out your aims and then having the discipline to review them regularly reaps the rewards.  Not least, by the above definition of success, you will be much more effective in aligning your activities to your purpose and living a more fulfilling life!

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Next week we will focus on how you can measure your aims (or goals) by breaking each one into a series of defined objectives.  Not only will this allow you to envision more clearly what success looks like, but it will also let you recognise success when you arrive at your destination sometime in the future!

If you are interested in digging deeper into these ideas in the New Year – as well as wanting some help to accelerate success in achieving your aims and objectives, then please do email me at lorne@objectivedesigners.com and I will send you some additional information in December.

And to add a Zen-like koan at the end of all of this just to get you thinking even harder (or not at all):

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” 

Lao Tzu

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Oh, and some of you have kindly asked about my friend’s planning application that I wrote about two weeks ago.  The inquiry has been adjourned until 21st December – so we might well not know the outcome until the New Year – but I’ll keep you posted when I know the result!

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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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What’s Your Favourite Colour?

I’ve always been fascinated by colour and believed that men and women see colours differently.  So I was both interested – and not surprised to see what researchers have found on the subject.  It proves that men and women not only prefer different colours, they also see more hues of colour than men.  Men, on the other hand, prefer shades.  Perhaps it goes back to our ancestors, where women were more attuned to gathering different types of fruit and men were looking for subtle shadows of beasts behind a bush.  Who knows?  Makes you think, though!

By the way, my favourite colour is blue!  But I was surprised that no men liked purple!  It was my favourite colour once as a teenager.  Before I turned to red – and eventually to blue.  I wonder if others have changed their preferences through their lives?

Oh, and just for fun, why not put down your favourite colour in the comments box below – and we’ll see if the research is borne out by those who read the blog.

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Into the Vortex

After the feeling of being stuck. Of being bogged-down. Of going round and round in circles, the thought changes.  What if round-and-round gets you somewhere?

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Life flows. Events line up. Coincidences happen without any effort. Dreams start to crystalise in elegant ways that you had not expected.  You deepen your ideas on where you are.  Present.  Alert.  Observant.

Life speeds up. The pace of change shifts from first gear to fourth – apparently without going second or third. Patterns emerge that you have been working on for months – or even years.  Life becomes effortless.

Tempest in a teapot.

You give up control, because otherwise those tiny rituals that were once so important will stop you from riding the wave.  You surrender to the Universal stream of Life.

Then things go quiet.  The entry into the centre of the vortex creates an intense sense of peace. You are in the eye in the storm.

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All is clear. All is aligned. You can make choices that you’ve never seen before.

Play with the energy.  Feel the power and use it for the good of yourself and your community.  Point the axis to where you want to go.  New openings will appear.  New guides will arrive to help you on your new path.

You are not just in the vortex.  You are the vortex!

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 All images from Crestock.

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The Universal Relaton Field

Whilst away at Easter I started to read Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell’s book “Godhead: The Brain’s Big Bang” which was published last year.  It is the latest accumulation of Griffin and Tyrell’s ideas on the Human Givens, and the importance of the REM state in sleep and the Universal Relaton Field.  Yet to list out the other many ideas in the book is impossible.

What is impressive about the work is that it attempts to bring a set of organising ideas to some of the BIG questions that mankind has asked since the beginning of history such as: “What is consciousness?” and “How was time created?”.  It gives some very interesting frameworks for understanding the universe by relating concepts like the big bang theory to the development of the human mind.

By drawing on their previous ideas of caetextia (or context blindness), the authors link the development of the human brain to the two very separate ways that we think: left-brained thinking and right-brained thinking.  This is very similar to the System 1 and System 2 in Kahneman’s “Thinking, fast and slow” which I reviewed a few Thursdays ago.

However, Griffin and Tyrell (being psychoanalysts) bring out some very interesting new theories on how the human mind developed to become more conscious – both to become more objective (or left-brained) as well as subjective (right-brained).  Each half of the brain (in balance) creates a rounded self-consciousness which connects both sides of the brain for human living.  However, too much focus on the path towards objectivity (which they also call the arc of descent) creates a tendency towards scientific genius and autism.   Too much focus on subjectivity (or the arc of ascent) creates art and a tendency for certain folk to become schizophrenic.  They also suggest that mood swings, depression and bipolar disorder are, perhaps a mixture of both without the ability to create balance between the halves – and yet have also produced many of our most creative geniuses such as Robert Schumann, John Keates, William Blake, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Peter Gabriel and Spike Milligan…..and their list goes on much longer (p.96)!

However, the book is far more than a set of ideas on the development of the physical brain and mental health.  In the second and third parts of the book, the authors bring together a set of very powerful organising ideas on how human consciousness connects with the “one-ness” of the Universe through an invisible field of “relatons”.  Since only 4% of the Universe is made up of matter that is visible (detectable by radiation), the authors believe that the field of relatons (or subjective matter) is contained somewhere within the remaining 96%.  These relatons have some very interesting properties.  They are undetectable (like all dark matter).  They are also capable of relationships with solitons (objective matter) and are always generating consciousness (or information).  And when two solitons are joined as matter, relatons are released!

The struggle that the mind has in balancing between objectivity and subjectivity (and the ability of such thinking to drive us mad in the process) was well narrated in the timeless classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”over 30 years ago – which had a major influence on my thinking at the time.  The authors suggest that this balance-of-two-halves-in-time (between the two sides of the mind) appears to echo the same dance that plays out from the largest to the smallest objects in the Universe and that somehow time breathes in and out between objective and subjective states through states of probability.

The book is not just analytical and mind-stretchingly interesting.  It intersperses spiritual stories and poems – and one of my favourites is here:

“How often do you sense that there is a profound meaning in a poem but, without an organising idea to consolidate it, you can’t hold on to it and it slips away from consciousness?  T.S.Eliot knew this, as we see from other lines of his great “Burnt Norton”, where he reveals his intuitive grasp of the nature of truth but also that he is aware of the failure of words to hold on to what he has grasped:

Words, after speech reach

Into the silence.  Only by the form, the pattern,

Can words or music reach

The stillness, as a Chinese jar still

Moves perpetually in its stillness.

Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,

Not that only, but the co-existence,

Or say that the end precedes the beginning,

And the end and the beginning were always there

Before the beginning and after the end.

And all is always now.  Words strain,

Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,

Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,

Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,

Will not stay still.

Overall, the book presents a fascinating set of ideas and theories which draw on thinking from our latest understanding of the physical brain, quantum mechanics, spirituality, creativity and the development of mental illnesses – and much more besides.  Big ideas which the book far better articulates on over 450 pages than I can in this short article.

I remain fascinated on how we can apply some of the ideas to the areas of Information Management and Organisational Design.  My previous article on Organisational Caetextia started to explore some of these themes.  Expect more to follow – particularly with colonies of bees interwoven in the stories!

I hope that it makes some of you interested enough to buy what I think is one of the best books I have read in the past year.

Picture: (c) iStockphoto not to be reproduced without licence.

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