ability and capacity

20 ability+capacity

A couple of definitions, firstly, for the purpose of this thought.

Ability is a person’s talent for doing amazing things and Capacity is being able to respond positively and innovatively in a random universe.

If I had to pick one or the other I’d probably go for capacity.  Ability can be developed but capacity can be more of a struggle.

Either/or is scarcity perspective,* though, and we’re exploring living with an abundant worldview.

Both ability and capacity are necessary for a better world, so let’s aim for both/and.

Capacity is developed in our connectedness to others and to our planet, and from what we have not from what we have not, from which emerges our capacity to go further and do more.

When ability and capacity come together we become disruptive in ways which can help to shape a better world.

(*Ability on it’s own in a world of scarcity can lead to extreme haves/have nots, such as how the 200 richest people have wealth exceeding the annual income of the world’s 2,500,000 people poorest, or, 200:one third of the planet’s population.)


primed for inaction

19 your choice …

I’m really struggling to understand a book I’m trying to read at the moment.  After several days it’s not getting any easier and I found myself wondering about this.  An interesting thing then occurred.

I turned to one of my favourite writers with whom I don’t have these kinds of problem and am usually straight onto their wavelength … and I struggled to focus on what he was writing about.

This is a case of priming and there’s a lot of it about.

I’d noticed that by page 54 I was still struggling with topic of the first book and this set me up to struggle with the second.

I had to interrupt this thinking, tell myself what was happening, remember I’m not completely inept* at grasping the meaning of something, and started over.

This more commonly happens when we look at what others are able to do and don’t try to do something with our own talents and passions.  The thing is, we can admire the skill and aptitude of others without being primed into giving up on what we can do – which may well be something others are not able to do or are not interested in doing: you can develop this in a masterful way.

I just thought to share this today in case you were in danger of discounting the amazing thing you can do.

(*Almost but not quite.)

infinite inquiry

18 the curious art of speaking ...

We do not know if we are alone in this galaxy – or the universe – as those with higher consciousness.  It is possible that we are the only creatures asking questions about our existence and the existence of all things.  As such, Humans are the inquiring animal and it is a humbling position to have and maybe ultimate Human life can be described as the art of humble inquiry.

Those who inquire make space for listening to take place, and in listening resonance occurs – with one another, with the world we are a privileged element of, and with our future Selves.  There is always more to know, more to feel, more to do.  Answers are swallowed up by more questions.

Who are the inquirers in our lives, in our organisation, those who make us think beyond the normal, the usual, the WYSIATI?  They are the universe’s gift.

The infinite listener makes it possible for the voices of the many others to be heard, knowing the conversation has hardly begun and everything is still to be said.

bye, again

17 onward 1

Because you’re leaving, again.

You know life is in the journey and not in the arriving – arriving are part of the journey.  Some speak of this journey as a gift to unwrap, others as a responsibility for every Human to figure out.

It is the Human story: the migration of inquiry and thought and community and invention:

Indeed, the very liveliness of a culture is determined not
by how frequently these thinkers discover new continents
of thought but by how frequently they depart to seek them.

We are seekers more than finders, always hunting for the edges, the patterns of existence.  It’s more than knowing, it is experiencing.  We might act upon what we know, but we might not.  We are more likely to act when what we know resonates within us and we experience or participate in rather than observe.

We offer explanations for why something is the way it is, but we tell our stories to remind ourselves and others why we have to do what we do:

Knowledge is what successful explanation has led to;
the thinking that sent us forth, however, is pure story.

Check out the myths and legends which survive the test of time and we will see it is ever so.

Each of us has a story whispering to us, it just may not be the one we’re hearing.

lead something

16 the einstein club

Don’t be a follower all your life.

The dynamics for following and leading is changing.  We can’t all be leaders all of the time, but we can all lead something at least once, something the world would love to have you contribute.

When someone demands to lead all the time they produce waste.  The waste is in terms of people who think because they are not the top thinkers, creators, artists, politicians, sportspeople, musicians, business-people … they have nothing to contribute.

This morning I was arrested by just how huge an invention the clock.  Fire is a huge “invention,” so too the wheel and the printing press, changing the way we live.  And now I’m going to include the clock.

When I think about it, time doesn’t only regulate my life, it can rule it – my dad never possessed a watch, he worked his market garden from morning till night and he loved it, but my day can be broken down into minutes.  Before the clock, ‘the presumption that time could not be sold since time was a gift held in common’ held true, but afterwards, canny people realised clock-time would not only better regulate a day but was a commodity they could by and sell.  Many made a fortune out of this, whilst many more missed out.  We may be living in a time of change, though, when the balance of the is moving towards the seller.

In truth, it’s more about what we do with our time.  The printing press used to be useful to the few who were literate, but with increased literacy the world has changed again.  Literacy allows us to hold on to thoughts by writing them down, to ponder and develop them.  Printing allows us to share our thoughts with others.  I once sat in a space reflecting the impact of the printing press: the wall was covered with columns of newsprint, and the space was filled with people’s thinking in the forms of books – piles and piles of them.  The writers didn’t have to be there to orally pass on their ideas, and I can read them whenever I have the time to.

If you are reading this, you’re reading something I’ve published.  We may never meet but you know what I think and it may urge you to do that thing you do in some brilliant way (this is my hope).

Mark Levy combines the power of the clock and literacy when he suggests seeing what we’re capable of in ten minutes of explosive writing: set a timer (non-ticking type preferable) and write down your ideas or dreams as quickly as possible, not stopping for grammar, spelling, or punctuation corrections, finishing only when the timer goes off (even if you want to continue).

What you’ve done is a powerful thing; it is far more likely to come about now you’ve written it down.  (If you want to share it with someone, I’m all ears.)

Set the timer again – ten or maybe fifteen minutes – and re-write what you’ve put down, developing it as well as tidying it up.  You’ve just used up less time than it takes to watch one episode of a TV soap, come up with an amazing idea (I really want to hear it), and used more than double the calories!*

Now ideas and permission and technology (including maker technology) are aligning, making it possible for each of us to become a leader of something we’re passionate about.**

(*It’s estimated watching 30 minutes of TV uses around 30 calories, and light office-work double that – you may be perspiring as well as inspiring after your writing, though.)
(** Whether you intend making this your paid work or the work you do beyond the job.)

diaries and narrative arcs

15 the narrative arc of everyday 3

Diaries are written backwards, telling what happened.  Narrative arcs are written forward, connecting past, present, and future together.  They’re shorter on details than diaries, but they remind us of the direction and intention we want to live with when we wake up in the morning.

To identify the narrative arc requires great honesty – the kind of things I’ve mentioned lots of time: who we are and what we can do and what we have.  More than what we think about something but what we feel in the deepest places of our lives, and what we’ll do to bring into being.

Everyone’s narrative arc or story is different.  They inspire me – which is another thing about how narrative arcs make such a difference: when you do what you must do, I want to do what I must do, and, who knows, there may be things we must do together.



travelling here

14 the possibilities of here

We can stay in the same place and travel great distances.

Two people can live in the same city,* even the same neighbourhood or street, and make it look like they’re living in totally different places.

One loves the diversity they find themselves a part of and, soaking it up, it is always a new place to them, the other wishes others were more like them, resist the differences, and wish, “If only it was more like this … .

The infinite traveller understands that travel is not about the destination but the journey: ‘not to overcome distance but to discover distance.’

The finite traveller can cover great distances but it’s as though they’ve never left home – food, clothing, reading, thinking and more all remain the same, three continents from home.  For all the machinery and technology they have used, in one sense, they have gone nowhere.

Yet we can discover distance by staying where we are and opening our minds and our hearts to others as discoverers of more.**  You are more talented than you think, there are things which deeply move you, you have great resources, there are astonishing people around you; these things have always been so, you just didn’t realise it, thinking you had to travel distances – more training, more influence, more opportunity.  Who you are – your genius – open up a new world of possibilities for me right here.

Infinite travellers understand, those who ‘dramatically open themselves to a renewed future’ are ‘those who look everywhere for difference, who see the earth as source, who celebrate the genius in others, who are not prepared against but for surprise.’

(*Or town, or village.)
(** Stephen Sutton expressed this so well; he’s been posthumously awarded an MBE today.

a strange relationship

13 it's all your best bits ...

Every so often I make mention of how we need to connect to one another, to our future Self, and to our world.

This morning I read these words from James Carse, affording me the opportunity of exploring this strange relationship between Humans and the world more closely:

That nature has no outside, and no inside, that it suffers
no opposition to itself, that it is not moved by unnatural
influence, is not the expression of an order so much as it
is the display of a perfect indifference to all matters cultural.

I’m trying to get my head around all of this so please bear with me, but I take this to mean there’s no such thing as un-nature: nature simply is.  Nature is not opposed to itself but in all of its activities remains fully and always nature.

Our language about nature is our way of making cultural sense of it all.  So Carse continues:

Chaos and order describe the cultural experience of nature
– the degree to which nature’s indifferent spontaneity seems
to agree or disagree with our current manner of cultural self-control.

Nassim Taleb teaches and writes on randomness, and the impossibility of prediction – as if we have any control over what we call order and chaos (we recall prediction is interpretation in reverse – another way of seeking control); Taleb identifies ways of working with randomness, Carse also believing this to be the best way:

The more clearly we remind ourselves that we can have no
unnatural influence on nature, the more our culture will
embody a freedom to embrace surprise and unpredictability.

Humans, then, are an expression of nature.  This also must mean whatever we do is an expression of nature too, though we are capable of executing choices which are detrimental to our species.  In the end, Earth is indifferent to whatever damage we do; if we make the planet inhospitable to ourselves (and many other species), Earth will recover, whether it takes millions or billions of years to do so.  Yet we might also say, nature has produced something which can oppose itself, which is not indifferent to its opportunity to live.

When we understand ourselves not to be outside of nature but part of nature we learn how to live more freely and spontaneously.*  Which brings us to technology.

Our technology is part of what it is to be Human – from the first tools of some 70,000 years ago up to today – being Human (as part of nature) has improved both qualitatively and quantitatively because of our inventions.  It offers tools for increasing Human fulfilment and satisfaction expressed through diversity and quirkiness over and over again, but is never an end in itself, having the ability to both free us and enslave us.**   We need the technology but are also harnessed to it – machines need Humans to serve them in order to function.  We can begin to take on their characteristics.^  It is true for too many that their creativity is diminished by machines.

Perhaps, perhaps, the more we learn from nature, the more we’ll be able to create and use our technology to become more Human.


(*One source suggests there’s much to learn from nature, including interdependence, multiplication, energy transformation, multi-usage, symbiosis, and function.)
(** Before we think we’ve found what it is to be Human, be aware “Variability can now become part of an automated design and production chain.”)
(^A computer used to be someone who crashed data, then a machine came along which did this for us so we gave it what had been a Human label or function, but now we say we have become Human computers – meaning machine-like.)


you lose

12 we stand poised between ... 1

Last night I found myself in a finite game.  I lost.

I tried to play an infinite game but finite games are powerful things if you know how to play them.*

Here’s how it was a finite game: I was representing a colleague at the meeting – the meeting consisting of a small number of people holding key roles in the organisation; we had a time sensitive agenda which required decisions to be made on the night; this was a repeated game (occurring a few times every year) in which it appeared to me that those who spoke most resistantly and loudly prevailed; all the possibilities which didn’t make it onto the final list were lost.**

Earlier in the day I’d been describing the infinite game and the finite game to someone over a hot drink.  He asked some great questions which made me work to describe the infinite game, especially how its aim is not to have human opponents, ultimately taking on those things which threaten all Humans and our world: environmental catastrophes, disease, illiteracy, injustice, et cetera.  Of course, there will always be those who see the infinite player as their opponent, but the infinite player see these as people to bring into the game, somehow.

Ultimately, the finite player wants to control people – anything from including them in their field of influence to excluding any contact or influence with others.

The infinite player wants to learn and grow through the other, and hopes, through seeing the future together, for possible collaboration.

This is not to try to explain why things worked out as they did last  night, but to include it as part of the ongoing narrative – the infinite game is not lost.  I think the reason I’m still part of this organisation is because I believe the infinite game will prevail – that is, everyone will win.

One interesting juxtapose to all of this: funite players are fearful of the future, they seek a repeat of the success of the past.  They use prediction to control their opponent  – a prediction being an explanation in reverse.  They appear very reasonable because who wants something to go terribly wrong?  What we do not see, however, is ‘The uncritical substitution of plausibility for probability [which has] pernicious effects on judgement when scenarios are used as tools of forecasting.’

Obversely, the infinite player is a prophet of hope, knowing we are far more likely to succeed when we decide upon something together: we may not know exactly what will be but we have seen a need and we bring our significant skills and energy to bear upon it.

The infinite game goes on.  We win.

(*Infinite Game = include as many as possible and keep the game going – when necessary change the rules.  Finite Game = a select number of people with winners and losers – always play by the rules.
(**We almost got to these people going back to their areas of the organisation and encouraging people who wanted to begin something they were passionate about – the larger organisation would then help them to make this happen.)

life beyond cliché

11 i wonder if real art ...

Cliché is one of the many words we’ve inherited from the world of printing.

It denotes a ready-made phrase .  Instead of setting up the type every time a phrase would be used, the printer would cast said phrase as one piece.  It would then be slipped into the typeset whenever needed – which probably would be a lot.  (Apparently the word itself derives from the sound the type would make when dropped into molten metal to form a printing plate.)

No one really wants to live their life that’s a preformed phrase, or a script or text to be slavishly followed.  We prefer to live originally, in ways full of possibilities.  They don’t have to be big possibilities, only tell me that tomorrow is open and unscripted, not bounded or pre-formed.

We are far from perfect, far from being complete … and that’s the great thing, the thing which gives us hope.  If it were perfect and complete, then it wouldn’t be living, we’d be performing some script or other.

Of course, you may like cliché, maybe there’s a phrase to describe you that it’s become a cliché.

Or maybe you’d love to dump the phrase, not to be typecast.  Perhaps the opposite of your cliché is the art only your life can produce.

All of the above is to say, I am your audience.