Who cares?

‘Here’s a sign I’ve never seen hanging in a corporate office, a mechanic’s garage or a politician’s headquarters:

WE HAVE AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE:

We care more.’*
(Seth Godin)

‘What you actually have control over is how much you actually CARE.’**
(Hugh Macleod)

In the infinite game that life is – the game that includes as many as possible for as long as possible – we can begin to care more right now.  No permission is required from anyone else.

What we care about most becomes our point of connection with others.  Wherever your deepest joy has people in it, or the possibility of people, is the place you can begin.

Another benefit of the infinite game is that we are outcaring with others rather than against others.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog The unfair advantage.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog How to outcare your competition.)


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Raised by robots

‘The Anthropocene is the epoch of the anthropogenic fire.’*
(Stephen Pyne)

‘What we was of our robots shows us what we need.’**
(Sherry Turkle)

One of the most sophisticated products of the anthropogenic epoch, the concept and pursuit of robots as carers leaves Sherry Turkle with plenty of concerns.  Reaching the end of her book, she returns to the matter of robots:

‘When we consider the robots in our future, we think through our responsibilities to each other.’**

We wonder how robots may be able to take on some of the messier and more intensive caring but, Turkle points out, human touch has been critical throughout our lives.  On the matter of nanny bots she ponders how:

‘We know that the time we spend caring for our children, doing the most basic of things for them, lays down a crucial substrate.  On this ground, children become confident that they are loved no matter what.’**

At the other end of our lives this remains critical:

‘The old and the elderly also desire to be consumed in this same sense of basic trust.  As we provide it we become more fully human. […]

It is from people that we learn how to listen and bend to each other in conversation. […] Humans need to be surrounded by human touch, faces and voices.  Humans need to be brought up by humans.’**

Something I often see whilst travelling on buses is a child being handed their parent’s phone to keep quiet – that’s if the parent isn’t on their phone ignoring their child.  My aim is not to judge but to point out that we are raising different kinds of human – to notice this is important. I don’t think the solution is to ditch technology but to become more savvy in how we use it.  Part of this will be the care we not only see as being irreplaceable but also increase.

Richard Sennett seems to suggest when it comes to our work and art we need the mess:

‘Indeed, in technology as well as art, the probing craftsman does more than encounter mess, he or she creates it as a means of understanding working procedures.’^

We don’t have to change too many of the words in this for the sentiment to work for human relationships too.

(*From Stephen Pyne’s Fire.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)


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Measuring for possibility

‘If you choose to […] you can do your own review.  Weekly or monthly, you can sit down with yourself (or, more powerfully, with a small circle of your peers) and review how you’re shifting your posture to make more of an impact.’*
(Seth Godin)

“One’s inner voices become audible.  One feels the attraction of one’s most inner sources.  In consequence, open responds more clearly to other lives.”**
(Wendell Berry)

Wendell Berry writes succinctly here on how important solitude is to us to hear what our lives are saying to us and to take those lives ore generously to others.  Maria Popova links these words to another of her Brain Pickings posts in which she offers some beautiful words from May Sarton’s Canticle 6:

“Alone one is never lonely: the spirit
adventures, waking
In a quiet garden, in a cool house, abiding single there;
The spirit adventures in sleep, the sweet thirst-slaking
When only the moon’s reflection touches the wild hair.
There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone:
It finds a lovely certainty in the evening and the morning.”^

Our lives have so much they want to show us but these things come to us in whispers compared to the loud, busy, brightly pulsating necessities of life.  Erich Fromm is writing about love when he highlights the issues in our capitalistic society which create something we don’t even notice:

‘The ownership of capital invested in […] enterprises is more and more separated from the function of managing them.’^^

What we have is disconnection.

We feel it though we cannot articulate it and often are unable to engage with it.  Society appears to want us to be content with our bread and circus, and have no use of subversive solitude that awakens us to the reality of the Matrix and owns the hope of being free for something more.  Elle Luna found herself writing The Crossroads of Should and Must not only for herself but for:

‘Anyone looking to follow the energy deep within their chest but aren’t quite sure how.’*^

Iris Murdoch sees what can happen when we imagine more:

‘We use our imagination not to escape the world but to join it, and this exhilarates us because of the distance between our ordinary dulled consciousness and an apprehension of the real.’^*

Though writing in the 1950s, Fromm perhaps description of what we might consider more detail to this life of dulled consciousness still feels to be how it is:

‘Modern capitalism needs men who co-operate smoothly and in large numbers; who want to consume more and more; and whose tastes are standardised and can be easily influenced and anticipated.  It needs men who feel free and independent, not subject to any authority or principle or conscience – yet willing to be commanded, to do what is expected of them, to fit into the social machine without friction; who can be guided without force, led without leaders, prompted without aim – except the one to make good, to be on the move, to function, to go ahead.’^^

In this last line we see the enemy of stillness and solitude, saving us from the dilemma of  our imagination becoming deeper and more free, where it’s unsettled loose to roam and wonder at the universe of possibilities it finds itself within.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Your soft skills inventory.)
(**Wendell Berry, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wendell Berry on Solitude and why Pride and Despair are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work.)
(^May Sarton , quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Art of Being Alone.)
(^^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(*^From Elle Luna’s essay The Crossroad of Should and Must – also a book.)
(^*From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)


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Assertion

Assertion: a confident and forceful statement of fact or belief.

‘An assertion begins with your take on the world, but it also requires action.  It has to be open to debate.  An informed team member should be able to disagree with you, and your engagement with them can make your assertion even more insightful and powerful.’*
(Seth Godin)

Here’s the kind of assertion that emerges from who we’re becoming.  It is the contribution that we can make into the life of another or of an organisation.  It expresses a willingness to cross the boundary of self into the the world of another and others.  It values reaching out beyond self:

‘When all property is privatised, faith is privatised and all men feel fear at the boundary of the self.’**

The fear of others is overcome when we bless and bring grace.  Paulo Coelho charges us to be the first to act in blessing others, Richard Rohr reminds us of what this assertion must be through and through:

‘Bless and you will be blessed.’^:

‘It is grace before, during, and after.’^^

If this isn’t where the assertion is coming from then better not to make it.  But if it is coming from our best Self which longs to join with others, assert on.

In their new book The Power of Moments, Dan and Chip Heath identify four characteristics for the moment that makes the difference for us – I borrow these for us to look more closely at the power of assertions.

The assertion needs to be elevating, transcending the normal.

It needs to provide insight, something that comes from a shift in understanding about ourselves and the world.

It has to be something that brings our best self to others: pride is the word the Heaths use.

It has to lead to greater connection.

(*From Seth Godin’s The most important journeys come without a map.)
(*From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
(^From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)
(^^From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)


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How much is it worth?

‘There are two types of cost: the cost of actual materials […], called “cost of goods” and the costs incurred every month to run things […] called “overheads”.*
(Tom Hodgkinson)

“The desire for autonomy, for control over our working day and the sense of freedom and self-respect such control provides is a vastly underestimated social aspiration for much of the world’s population.”**
(James Scott)

How much does it cost? and How much is it worth? are totally different questions.

In our quest to have autonomy, develop talent, and live for a purpose greater than ourselves (we want our lives to matter), we can find that it is it’s easier to value hard skills than soft skills.

Douglas McWilliams describes the growth in the so called Flat white Economy in London:

‘There are three factors that brought the FWE to London: the timing and take-up of digital technologies; the speed with which the UK has taken to online retailing and marketing; and the availability of a labour force with a high level of available skills and a high level of creativity.  London has the most creative labour force in the world; creativity is crucial to the digital economy.’^

One of the good things about this is the multi-ethnic nature of this workforce, valuing diversity.  But there’s another “growing economy” which we don’t notice in the same way: the care of the elderly.  Here softer skills are used to care but these are not valued nor remunerated adequately.  Speaking of the university course as more than a commodity, Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber suggest:

‘Perhaps we could temper the course as commodity with course as story.’^^

The same might be a better way of framing our care for those of our society who are living longer – it’s a story we all own.

Some may object that those who have trained hard and long deserve to be valued more.  Perhaps this attitude is why even our politicians appear helpless to change our perceptions of social care, which fails to see how a brilliant carer has developed complex skills though their contact with people – skills many others do not possess and therefore would be denoted as unskilled in.  Those caring are the best ones for showing us how to value what is happening in person to person interaction and caring.  And whilst I focus here on the care of society’s elders, this is about the value we place on the talents and passions we each have developed.  It doesn’t cost much to hire a carer but they are worth the world:

‘All being can correctly and rightly be spoke of with one voice (univocity). […] What I am you also are, and so is the world.  Creation is one giant symphony of mutual sympathy.’*^

This statement from Richard Rohr comes from a story, not from a spreadsheet.

I know, if I were to spend an hour in conversation with you, I would know your worth by the end of it and I hope you would too.

(*From Tom Hodginson’s Business for Bohemians.)
(**James Scott, quoted in Tom Hodgkinson’s Business for Bohemians.)
(^From Douglas McWilliams The Flat White Economy.)
(^^From Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor.)
(*^From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)


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Proof of life

‘We become original through practice.’*
(Seth Godin)

‘It has become clear to me that if I had spent my life avoiding any and all potential risks, I would have missed doing most of the things that have comprised the best years of my life.’**
(Chris Guillebeau)

Seth Godin is considering two styles of practice: by rote and by failure – the latter being the art of ‘creating original work that doesn’t succeed until it does.’*

Inspiration doesn’t appear fully formed.  Some of those I work with may hope that identifying their talents and passions is the solution to their problems or confusion.  If a solution means simplifying things then it certainly isn’t.  Because of the possibilities that knowing our talents and passion opens to us, life becomes more complex – even perplexing – and the only way forward is through practise.

What we discover along the way of forming the paths we must walk is that we’re not only identifying our work or contribution (that may also be our job but not necessarily) but we’re also finding our Self – the person who can become, as Richard Rohr helps us to see:

‘I must know that I am, at least in part, the very thing I am seeking.’^

Erwin McManus tells of how he and his wife Kim were asked to complete a “Proof of Life” form on a visit to the border of Lebanon, in case they were captured by ISIS.  This confidential information was to include things that only they would know about themselves , therefore verifying they were still alive,  Erwin provides this question for us to ponder:

“What would you say are the most powerful proofs of my life?”^^

What would be my proofs?  Yours?

Are we moving in the direction of these?

All of this will require our attention.  Everyone who lives in this direction will need some way to reflect upon their lives ensuring tomorrow opens up with more.  Everyone’s way or means will be different.  Some will spend more time than others?  Some will reflect through an ever-changing flow of questions, others may pose themselves with a few critical inquiries.  Some walk, others sit.  Some read, others watch.

Because of our ability to keep growing and developing – no one has ever reached the limits of their growth potential – there’s nothing to fear, nothing to destroy.  This doesn’t mean there’s no cost.  The most critical thresholds we’ll find ourselves crossing will require us to pay the price of openness, compassion and courage.

This reflection is being conscious of our consciousness, of which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says:

 ‘The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer.’*^

This paying of attention so that we notice the small things, the details and nuances of what are our talents and passions and creations is what makes our continuing practise possible ways that will move us through the failures so we might finally succeed at something no one else has ever attempted – which is one reason for not simply copying others:

‘attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience’.*^

(*From Seth Godin’s blog Two kinds of practice.)
(**From Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit.)
(^From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)
(^^FromErwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(*^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)


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Light it up

‘Mimicking feels easy and safe.  What feels risky for you is to truly think for yourself.’*
(Hugh Macleod)

‘Values are the nervous system of a brilliant life.  They connect everything.  Put simply, values are right up there with oxygen.’**
(Michael Heppell)

It’s difficult to think for ourselves.

Sometimes when it is said to us, “You must think for yourself,” what’s really meant is, “I want you to go away and think more like me.”  When any of us think, we’re using thoughts from those who’ve gone before us.  What we call thinking for ourselves is the ability to  take these thoughts and make something new from them – I think what Hugh Macleod is suggesting.  Hopefully these become valuable both for those around us and also for those who follow, who will use them to make something new of their own – thinking for themselves.

Part of this unique reworking is how we wonder within the world, what we see and feel, leading on to what we do.  Earlier today I read Kathleen Jamie’s Moon and was mesmerised by what the poet saw, helping me to see:

Last night, when the moon
slipped into my attic room
as an oblong of light,
I sensed she’d come to commiserate.
 
It was August. She travelled
with a small valise
of darkness, and the first few stars
returning to the northern sky,
 
and my room, it seemed,
had missed her. She pretended
an interest in the bookcase
while other objects
 
stirred, as in a rock pool,
with unexpected life:
strings of beads in their green bowl gleamed,
the paper-crowded desk;
 
the books, too, appeared inclined
to open and confess.
Being sure the moon
harboured some intention,
 
I waited; watched for an age
her cool gaze shift
first toward a flower sketch
pinned on the far wall
 
then glide down to recline
along the pinewood floor,
before I’d had enough. Moon,
I said, We’re both scarred now.
 
Are they quite beyond you,
the simple words of love? Say them.
You are not my mother;
with my mother, I waited unto death.^

Our curiosity as an opening of mind must move on to an opening of heart and the possibility of personal change, and with it confidence that we have something worthwhile and valuable, though we fear it may not measure up to what others think and do.

From this perspective, the number of imaginings and re-imaginings from what we have received from those around us and have gone before us are overwhelming.  But we are thinking for ourselves, we will not stay behind:

‘When we refuse to stay behind, we become conduits to the future.’^^

Our imaginative thinking changes the game.  Sherry Turkle highlights the problem we create when we work with quandaries – the situation shaped when we ask, “Do we do this or that?”:

‘The forced choice of a quandary, posed over time, threatens to become no quandary at all because we come to accept its framing […].’*^

Why does it have to be this or that?  Why can’t there be other possibilities?  The ones you want to bring?

Edgar Schein identifies three significant ways of Helping.  There’s the expert or professional help personified by the consultant; there’s the diagnostic help personified by the doctor, but before we get to needing these helps, what we could do with is the inquiring help personified by the process facilitator:

“In life, the challenge is not so much to figure out how best to play the game; the challenge is to figure out what game we’re playing.”^*

Your thinking may be the game changer we need.

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: How to think like Elon Musk.)
(**From Michael Heppell’s How to be Brilliant.)
(^Kathleen Jamie’s Moon.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(*^From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together,)
(^*Kwame Anthony Appiah, quoted in Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)