Last week there were no Thursday Thoughts. I was in Edinburgh and thinking far too much to write about it. Today I had to go up to London and got writer’s block until a chance Skype conversation with Malcolm about random stuff. It got my right brain going and I am now back in the flow.
In much of the work I do, I am drawn to creating order from chaos by documenting the present situation. One very useful tool is to take an inventory of what is. A version of the truth that is accurate enough to be good enough. It is like the difference between German and British accounting: German accounting is always exactly wrong: British accounting is almost roughly right!
So it was I was chatting to Malcolm on Skype who was listening to Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time – a discussion on James Joyce’s Ulysses. At the start of the talk, Bragg points out that it is one of the most famous books of the last century – and one that few have read cover-to-cover – myself included.
It got me thinking about the fact that 95% of books are never read. Mine included……
So I thought, what about an inventory of all the books I have – and then work out how many I have actually read? More than 1,000 books – and less than 5% read? I suppose that the types of books I collect are not novels. They are more like factoid books, text books, “how to” books. Bee books, personal development books. I don’t read novels. My father used to say “Life has enough drama in it that I don’t need to go to the theatre”. I think the same about reading books.
So the inventory, used with the mirror, forces to look at yourself, your behaviour, your reality. But the Skype conversation I was (and still am) having with Malcolm on this touched on another interesting thread. The fact that I am of a generation where physical books represents learning, knowledge and intelligence. But for my children, the world is very different. An Amazon Kindle could contain the same number of books as on my bookshelves and many more besides. For generation Y (which I call Generation Why – because they always seem to be asking the question Why?) the value of owning physical books is almost diametrically opposite to mine. To take an inventory of Apps on my MacBook (which I also collect) takes less than 5 seconds. The software can be updated across the internet when new versions arrive. Information is more transient. More connected, near-free to produce.
So what? Well it is time for me to start to clear the clutter of my bookshelves. To stop ordering physical books on Amazon. To change my behaviour. One of the most difficult things to do. But the inventory and the mirror are perhaps the most powerful tools to help change behaviour. Question is whether I can reduce my inventory without being distracted by workload, the bees, the dogs, the children – oh and that urge to go onto Amazon to buy another book on my Wish List!
Time for an inventory. Time to put the mirror up! It works with clients – but is so much harder to do to oneself!