Browsed by
Tag: Choice

Photo Credit: "Fireworks of the American Flag" by Beverly & Pack
An Optimist at Heart

An Optimist at Heart

I am looking forward to the New Year as 2016 was not the best of years for the world.  The US elections were difficult and left most people angry for one reason or another. If you watch the cable news, it seems the world is heading to hell in a handbasket.  The over saturation and exaggerations by the media is depressing.

With that being said, I hope and pray that 2017 will be a better year for us all.  The past is behind us, and we can look upon the future in directed anticipation of making it better.  Whatever your slice of the world that you wish to address, it is time to get in motion.  Take it on and do something new. Success or failure, it is the journey that ultimately matters. Who is with us and the lives we impact is what counts in the end.

I am an optimistic realist and see no value in obsessing over the negativity we will confront. I will try to do something each day to make my slice of the world a little better.

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: freeimages.com/Robert Lincolne
Work is a Means to an End

Work is a Means to an End

Meaningful work is a preferred method by which the majority of people wish to get many of their goals in life. Well, this is at least my firm belief. The work in-of-itself is not “the goal” or the be-all end-all purpose for our lives; it is a vehicle that moves us down a chosen path. Albeit a simple concept, it took me a while to internalize its meaning and applicability.  Many people get caught up in their careers while losing the connection to themselves. The inner person may become twisted and warped resulting from a lack of internal alignment between personal values, goals, and actions.

Looking back, I understand why my mentors and leaders placed a high value in the idea that work or a career is a method of achievement and not the purpose of life or the central point of our identity. My executive coach accelerated my learning in this area by incessantly challenging me to question my long-held beliefs.  I would seek shelter in the safety of what got me to that point before gently (or not so gently) pulling the rug out by merely questioning me in a way that cut right through the layers of obfuscation I had carefully constructed.  This is what I needed for me to realize the fallacy of my earlier logic that put work ahead of everything else and allowed me the freedom to explore new concepts.

The difference for me arrived when I understood that work and career are a vehicle of life and should be designed to give an opportunity for me to achieve, explore, and expand whom I am as a person while providing a valuable service to my firm and the needed financial support to my family.

I work because I want to work; where I want to work; and I am with the people I want to be around.  Work is not optional for me; I have to work if I want to fund my family’s lifestyle and prepare us for retirement.  Still, I work because I want to work, and I work where I want to work. My career is personally fulfilling, but it is not who I am or what I do with my life.  Work is no longer my identity. It is part of me but not all of me.

As I shifted and understood my real priorities, changes flowed naturally.  I have lower stress, a happier life, and even more professional success. I did not realize how much easier things become when you are aligned in thinking, values, and actions. By putting first things fist, I support the needed alignment for both personal and professional success.

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.