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Category: Life

we all get one shot at it; we had better make it count.

Photo Credit: "second thoughts" (CC BY-NC 2.0) by laurabillings
Fear, Insecurity and the Scarcity Mindset

Fear, Insecurity and the Scarcity Mindset

I feel as if there is a significant volume of works adoring, in a sense, and vilifying the scarcity mentality in our culture. I was fist exposed to these concepts by Brené Brown, and I was challenged by her first TED talk. Personally, I was inspired and motivated for the longest time by the “greed is good” mantra. I felt the constant longing for more was a staircase that drove us to higher levels of personal and professional development. Life is not simple. I learned that it could just as easily be a death spiral that we were riding.  Having taken this train ride up and down over my career, I have learned one key element. The lack of satisfaction with what we have or achieved thus far in life is not the panacea of upward growth I once thought when it is anchored in the bias of scarcity. We are consumed with desires for more time, effort, energy, goodwill of others, and building our professional kingdoms (power) while burning ourselves and others out.  It will never be enough; there is always another mountain to climb.

Further thought provocation arrived when I was pressured to define scarcity and its possible causes. The conversation began to focus on root causes in our culture and my sub-culture. In Southern California, we, for the most part, do not suffer from any real form of scarcity.  So, the best causal idea was to attribute scarcity mindset to a misguided belief of insecurity.  Scarcity mindset and fear are interwoven, and I believe they are mutually reinforcing.  It might be a fear of loss, of limited attainment, sustainability, achievement itself, or not knowing what is coming next that develops the fear and sense of scarcity.  These fears are the life blood of insecurity and lead people to extreme levels of consumption.  It is the “more for you is less for me” taken to an aggressive stance. The void we try to fill by over consuming everything can never be filled because of a nagging scarcity fear.  It is a zombie-like craving that controls and takes away bits of our humanity and the enjoyment of everyday experiences.

At some point in your career, you arrive at a moment when you start questioning everything.  You wonder what will be the next challenge or goal that should be undertaken. I thought a lot about what I had received, and what I am giving back.  This was the first step for me.  I stopped and began to question my motives, desires, and long-term goals. I bounced ideas off people, sought out feedback, worked with a coach, and took more time to be with my family and friends.  I made no significant changes or jumping to a different track of life.  I made a few tweaks here and there and had a realization that my thinking had to change. Like everyone else, I am a work in progress, and each day I hope to make a positive contribution to my endeavors.  I am more content with what I have achieved, adjust goals and pacing, and finally appreciate how much I enjoy helping others to achieve their aims.

I intentionally did not edit or refine from my first draft…I just felt like writing tonight, and this was what was on my mind.

Photo Credit: Stream of Consciousness (CC BY 2.0) by jurvetson
Really, How Informed is our Decision Making?

Really, How Informed is our Decision Making?

Opinions are a form of judgment that require people to perform a decision-making process. In reality, these decisions are often supported by the thinnest levels of credible information and rational thought. Formation of these ideas is based loosely on questionable facts and flashy headlines. We can see evidence of this from the world of high politics to the simplest of daily conversations.

Decision-making is highly influenced by people’s internal scripts, biases, and cognitive maps and frames that allow for mental shortcuts in information processing. These shortcuts of our marvelous minds are wonders to behold and do their best to keep us moving forward with our lives. However, I am not convinced they are capable of maintaining the pace with the increasing onslaught of information.

Recently, I had my opinions about several political and social topics challenged.  I took the time to explore my thoughts and do some research. Looking into each of these issues took about an hour, and I limited myself to primary news sources, academic research, and speaking with people who had first-hand experience. No matter how people try to avoid it, everything has a bias one way or another. We are all human, and some skepticism in what information we consume is healthy.

What was my result? Many of my positions were ill-informed and based largely on drive-by exposures to mass media. I was a little shocked at how I formed many opinions through exposures to the headlines and 30-second media blurbs.

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?
–John Maynard Keynes

Am I so different than everyone else? I started an active inquiry about topics when I found myself in casual conversations with friends and associates. I must say, my opinion formation experience is not uncommon. I am no different from these other educated and successful people who are in my life. We are in a wash of information, so we deal with it as best our minds can through the use of mental information processing shortcuts. We cannot be “informed” about a majority of topics because of limitations of time and mindshare. However, we need to be aware that others with knowledge on specific topics will use drive-by information tactics to sway public opinion.

We need to be cautious of our thoughts and ideas as they may not be as well informed as we think. Advertisers know how to move ideas through a population segment. In fact, we send people to school to learn these skills. I am not a black hat conspiracy theorist. This is not subversion, but effective use of marketing driven by various specific, and often competing, agendas.

A better practice that I try to follow:

I realize that I cannot be informed on all issues, so I stopped trying. When having a conversation with someone about a subject which I have not thought about deeply, I will share my current thinking, but let the person know they are my superficial thoughts. This feels like blood in the water with a shark circling. Watch how they will move to sway or reinforce your thinking about the topic.

When the topic is of particular significance to me, my family, business, or community, I do my research. Every information source has an agenda, so I expect it. I look for reputable sources that are fact based and not primarily opinions or interpretations. I try to spend an hour or two to develop a baseline understanding of the arguments. Warning: personal biases will quickly come into play – watch for confirmation bias in the information source selections!

I do my best to question my bias and rational. I want to understand what were the motivators and influences of my initial position.

After researching and thinking about it, I will wait a few days before making a decision or opinion formation.  I review my notes and thoughts before making a newly informed decision. I do not always change my starting opinion about a topic or issue. As often as not, my starting place remains the same, but I am better informed on the issue.

This is not the end. I do my best to stay up on the subject and look information that may cause me to reevaluate the position. I consider the ability to change my mind as an attribute of strength and not indecisiveness.

Always, remember that John Maynard Keynes quote!

Photo Credit: "guess who farted in the elevator?" (CC BY 2.0) by istolethetv
Refusing to Ride in Silence

Refusing to Ride in Silence

It is a morning ritual that a significant number of people experience every Monday through Friday.  No, not the daily Starbucks run, but the time we spend riding up to our offices in an elevator.  It seems like a good time to say good morning to people and exchange some basic pleasantries.  However, most of my fellow riders are engrossed in other things and avoid making any eye contact.  I honestly believe the smartphones that have captured all of their attention is a tactic to avoid the scariest thing imaginable, genuine real-life human contact.

Do not miss an opportunity to engage briefly with people while riding the elevator.  Most people do not expect it, and that is half the fun.  Be the one to break the silence and start the conversation.  The dialogue will begin to naturally flow from that point forward.

Every day, I make a point to say “good morning” to my fellow elevator occupants.  When I disembark, I politely wish everyone a pleasant day.  I smile and try to start my day off in a positive and upbeat fashion.  I do not want to be the cranky person that darkens the moods of my fellow office building citizens.

So far, most people are willing to engage in small talk, as long as they do not have to start the conversation. This morning I rode with a person whom I have spoken with six or seven times over the last two months.  I started the conversation, and we exchange pleasantries until we arrived at my floor where I disembarked.  I do not know if the feeling is mutual, but I think we had a pleasant conversation and a good start for the day.

It is possible that I am completely misguided. Maybe all these individuals whom I ride the elevator with think that I am just some nut job sufferings from an overabundance of morning enthusiasm.  I am quite convinced that my children believe this is the case.  I will keep chatting my way through the elevators to improve my small talk skills and to meet interesting people inside the building.

If you ever in Southern California and a strange guy is chatting in the elevator, it might just be me.  Take a moment and say “hi.”

Photo Credit: Civility 2 (CC BY 2.0) by gabrieleventi
When Asking for Help, Be Super Courteous

When Asking for Help, Be Super Courteous

This is common sense, but I do not see it frequent enough. When asking for help, be extremely courteous and polite to the person who provides the help. I know this is a shocking thought but bear with me for a moment.

It is common for me to spend a significant amount of time in various technical forums. I do not believe in reinventing the wheel when it comes to resolving a problem. 95% of all technical issues are not new. I prefer to spend my time researching the problem instead of getting frustrated by doing random troubleshooting steps.

The anonymity of the Internet has never been known to bring out the very best in people. How people talk with others online is shocking. Why take frustrations out on the very people who are trying to help? Especially, when they are doing so at no charge. I was researching a problem with WordPress and was reading support postings for various themes. Luckily for me, the solution was found in about 30 minutes of searching. However, the experience left me disappointed at how many times I read users making demands, lashing out, and having unreasonable expectations of developers.

The developers are giving these products away for free. Again, these are free services. Why are people so demanding that developers turn code changes around in a day or two? They are not paying these people anything. Furthermore, the users’ attitude and demands lower the chances the developers will continue responding. Some of the threads had great dialogues where the developers were very active in their support. When the user became demanding, the developer simply stopped responding. I do not fault the developers at all.

If you want someone to do something for you at no cost, then extreme courteousness and politeness are needed.

Be accommodating to the support provider’s schedule. These people have day jobs, other obligations, and families. Remember, a significant number are doing the development work out of the kindness of their heart. Be nice, be thankful, and be appreciative of all the great work these developers do at no charge.

I would like to thank the developer of my theme, Falguni. It is excellent code, and she is super responsive in the forms. Plug-in authors Automattic, Michael Torbert, John Godley, Frederick Townes and Pankaj Jha, Thank You for all the considerable work!  As a member of the community, you do great work, and it is incredibly appreciated. Of course, none of this would be possible without the incredible job from the team of developers at WordPress.org.

Be polite, be courteous, and be grateful.

Photo Credit: "Conversation" (CC BY 2.0) by Sharon Mollerus
Dealing with Different Decompression Times

Dealing with Different Decompression Times

I do not often post about other articles I come across online. I prefer to comment on them, and if I like them, I will post them to LinkedIn. However, when something speaks to me, or it is a topic that is under appreciated by the masses, I will take the time to write a short post. I came across one such article today. Ed Batista wrote a piece on Harvard Business Review talking about the conflicts that arise between couples when they get home from work. This is a topic that many people in leadership do not fully appreciate or acknowledge the toll it takes on families and relationships.

We work diligently in our careers and all too often take home the stress we experience during the day. While it is not fair to come home in this mindset, I believe we are human, and it is hard to shake off a rough day in the typical 30-minute commute home. By no means am I excusing the behaviors of people, but I am just as guilty as the next when bringing home a bad day from the office.

Below is my comment on the article. In addition to the recommendations provided by the author, a little early communication between partners can go a long way to disrupting the conflict cycle.

I think this is underappreciated and recognized condition for many people in the professional community. It is incredibly tough to shake off a rough day at the office when we walk through the door to our home.

My wife or I will typically call each other on our way home to give and receive brief rundowns of our respective days. It is also an opportunity for us to understand each other’s current state before walking in the door. This way, we help each other cool down when we get home even if it means just providing some quiet space.

Photo Credit: "Emoji Stickers | Wicker Blog" (CC BY 2.0) by Wicker Paradise
Getting Your Point Across in a Text Message

Getting Your Point Across in a Text Message

It is well documented that nonverbal communication transmits a significant amount of contextual information during personal communications. When using a written form of communication those clues are absent. The result is an increase in the chance of a misunderstanding because of the missing information. Emails have a reputation for being misconstrued and read in a negative context even when it is not intended. Email is no longer the preferable digital communication method for many people. Texting and instant messaging have supplanted the favored communication channel for many younger people. So we had a hard time understanding context when an email is used, now the problem is made more complicated as the message lengths become shorter.

Ashley Carmen wrote an interesting piece on The Verge talking about how people do not interpret emoji icons in the same way. I had taken for granted that the emoji image was standardized across devices. This is not the case as different platforms display the same emoji symbol differently. Adding these little images to text messages is a frequent occurrence. Reading her article made me wonder if the inconsistent emoji images had clouded the meaning of some of my messages. The short answer is clearly a yes. I asked a couple of people who I spoke with today about whether emoji icons had made them question the meaning of a received message. Both people confirmed they had experiences where they questioned the underlying message because of an emoji icon. Okay, a n=3 here, but I agree with the researchers’ position.

This serves as a good reminder to make sure that we are very clear in the writing of our text and email messages.

Treating text messaging as a quick communication method that does not need the scrutiny of a more formal communication such as an email is counterproductive. All communications regardless of their platform must be understandable by the receiver. There is nothing wrong with utilizing emoji images given its context is proper, but we should be aware that it may hinder the effectiveness of the message. Taking a moment to check the clarity of the message before sending it is always prudent advice. Ask yourself if this image or icon is adding clarity, authentic emotion, or introducing some vagueness that is not needed. The last thing any of us needs is to spend time explaining what our message meant when someone becomes offended due to a different representation of an emoji happy face.

Photo Credit: "Facts Do Not Cease To Exist" (CC BY 2.0) by sillygwailo
Our Truths are also our Facts (regardless of the underlying facts)

Our Truths are also our Facts (regardless of the underlying facts)

“Archaeology is the search for fact… not truth. If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”Indiana Jones (and the Last Crusade)

Is there a conceptual difference between truth and fact?  I see a clear separation of these ideas. The concept of “Facts” embodies the tangibility and concreteness of existence or knowledge of an occurrence. The meaning behind a fact may be debatable, but its occurrence or existence is widely accepted. The idea of truth is murkier. The “Truth” of something is real and factual for a person, but it is bound and understood through their personal perceptions and interpretations. As such, truth is subject to debate. What is the “truth” for one person may not be true for another. It is important to understand that each person’s truths are also their facts. This is one of the reasons why we have a fractured world. I base this position on Max Wertheimer’s excellent 1934 paper entitled “On Truth”.

As we understand the idea of individual’s truths versus facts, our ability to interact with people achieves a new level. Often, it is the truth of the situation that must be addressed and not the facts. Connection breakthroughs occur when we seek to understand the other person’s truth before we try to apply our version of the truth. Interestingly, as we do this our view of the acceptable possibilities and potential of any situation is expanded as we experience more of the other person’s truth.  New ideas and creative concepts sprout from this level of mutual understanding.

The variability in perceptions and interpretations of the truth is the source of its power and mystery. It can make people think and seek a level of understanding before it is possible to internalize its meanings. Finding truth is a scary process for many people as it shakes the foundations of their knowledge and long-held beliefs. I love the concept of truth because it can be soft and guiding, or a quick jab to people’s tender underside. It all depends on the individual’s openness to pursuing understanding at that moment. The truth may also be seen as an action or the search for understanding, meaning, and applicability beyond the sterility of the underlying facts.

Finally, the clarity experienced through understanding the truth when supported by the facts and applied to life’s purposes can become a fundamentally altering event for a person.  This leads to real wisdom. I see wisdom as the application of understanding that derives from the pursuit of truth that is grounded in facts. While I do not consider myself wise, I work each day to understand the world through the lenses of truth and facts. One day with continued effort, I hope to reach a stage of wisdom.  Of course, the truly wise may say that state is unachievable but its pursuit is the right journey, but that is a line of thinking for another day.