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When all about you are losing their heads

It seems as if the world is going mad (or I’m just reading too much news). Twit billionaires buying companies on a whim and then seemingly and wilfully destroying them and still they are held up as leaders. Prime Ministers tanking the entire economy of the UK, in an own goal, yet still the party is peddling its policies under new leadership. Irrational exuberance making a triumphant return after the dot com bust, this time in Crypto, yet the VC’s behind it now thinking they can simply flip a switch and become suers. And don’t even get me started on tin-pot dictators and failed past presidents thinking they still have a future.

Not to make this post a rant 😏

Actually, it’s a post about positive perspective.

It comes with a DanelDoodle because nothing makes the point better than one.

A nice way to get the right perspective is to think about our chances of even being here – nicely explained here.

Consider the sheer improbability of your existence and then the madness may recede just a little and your glorious, glittering presence and being may come into focus.

The way to see how beautiful life is and ignore its maddening eccentricities as well as atrocities, is to see it from the vantage point of space. When we zoom out, we gain distance and perspective. We see everyday activities as minute-level machinations and finite in their effect and impact. They will not last as the universe has for billions of years past and hence.

More importantly, we appreciate the vastness and emptiness of space and the fact that we are here is like a miracle of existence. The only sane reaction to is to glitter in response

At least this works for me and maybe it does for you too.

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Why do we work if not for meaning

This is a gloss on an Annie Dillard piece when she was writing about writing. I read her classic book called The Writing Life not too long ago and this excerpt stuck with me. I thought it could easily apply to many things but especially work. If you want to find the original piece, go to pages 72-73 in her book. Here is my take in relation to work, modified quite substantially.

Why are we working if not in hope that the work will magnify our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will impress upon our minds the value of labour, so we may feel a sense of worth and that we have contributed in some way to the very foundations of humanity.

Okay I probably overegged it. Try tell something that on a Monday morning 😬

But if not that or even part that, what then and why not?

Yes I get that not everyone has choices in life that allow them the luxury to question the work that they are doing.

But surely now in an age of the great resignation, after the futility and of the pandemic, with wars raging and madmen at the helm, why now should we not consider this alternative.

If not now, when.

I’d like to think I’ve always been in it for the passion. I’ve had several jobs that were devoid of passion, mine or anyones around me (which is often a great determinant of our own passion), and soon after I quit.

Thats the way it should be.

The pendulum for following your passion swings both ways many times. I’ve read headlines saying success at work are equally due to following your passion or nothing at all to do with it.

Let us not get too caught up in what the answer is. The points are: do you get meaning out of the work you do; does it satisfy some deeper level drive that goes beyond the need for a pay check?

I would argue that passion and meaning are closely aligned and whether you are following a passion at work or are passionate because of the work you do, it will give you meaning.

And why should that meaning not led to greater fulfilment. To experiences at work that allow us to feel alive and that we are contributing to something worthwhile. Something that “resonates with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive” (as Joseph Campbell put it in the Power of Myth).

When we spend at least two thirds of our lives working, why should we not expect this and work towards it.

Whether as employees or employers, can there be a grander vision for work?

I would argue not.

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The SenseMaking Funnel

I’m pretty keen on SenseMaking as a key 21st century skill and I also use it as a main category I write under. In most posts where I use the category, I am writing or doodling (an integral part of the process) to make sense of things for myself and sharing it in case it helps others. I have written about it as a skill though and initially tried to make sense of SenseMaking. This post does more of the latter as I delve deeper with the help of a DanelDoodle.

First the DanelDoodle then some elaboration.

A funnel and all seeing eye – geddit 👀😜 – you can click to enlarge

Info

On the receiving end at the beginning of the funnel, a necessary step. We have to start with gathering information. But if we stay here too long, we get stuck, confused and lose the plot.

Here most of all we have mostly a jumble of facts. Maybe worthwhile in parts, but as a whole pretty useless.

Most people operate at this level – passing on facts and passing them off as knowledge.

Knowledge

This is where you start with the real process of making sense of facts.

Mostly it’s about organising the facts into some improved order. You structure the information you have received and convert it into some degree of knowledge.

The end result should be a knowing of what all the facts mean, in totality. That is, the collective meaning of all the facts and the impact they might have on actions. This last point, a conversion into something more meaningful that can culminate into improved behaviours, is deeply important.

The knowledge could simply take you to a deeper level of understanding, but this is less useful.

Wisdom

So true SenseMaking is when you convert all the knowledge and meaning into action and ideally a lived experience.

Then you are at the seeing stage, with your own senses you have learned, understood and acted on what you have learned and seen how this works.

I include the practical, experimental elements to this phase because I think it is what really brings knowledge to life. But it doesn’t have to be.

You can just see things better, more clearly. What a pity though don’t you think, if you can’t translate it into some that takes you beyond your starting point?

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Resilience is an attitude and other things you can control

I’ve just started a new initiative – setting up a store on this site. Its been something I’ve been wanting to do for ages but I’ve been dithering. I was reminded by this quote of the need for action.

If you focus on resultsyou will never changeIf you focus on changeyou will get results.”

Jack Dixon Welsh Rugby Union Player.

In other words, just do the thing or it, as a certain shoe maker also put it. Which I did do for the store, over the festive break.

So one of the things I can control, in reference to this part of the title, is what I change. But for me its not so much about change but the attitude I bring to it – cue a new DanelDoodle for the occasion.

It’s not so much a reactive approach but a proactive one. You have to make your mind up and take the right attitude.

On this last point I have to concede that this approach does not work for all and does not consider the severe debilitating effects that mental health issues have on this approach.

Resilience has a close cousin – perseverance. Perseverance equally requires a commitment to purpose that keeps us moving forward into the attitudes and activities that serve to fulfil it. More on that here: Thought rocket: arc of change and bending reality

This is not just important personally but also at work as Microsoft has discovered by looking closely at resilience: The Resilience Quotient.

For managers across a wider range of organizations, the key consideration isn’t whether an employee comes equipped with resilience as an innate trait. It’s gaining a better understanding of resilience as a state—and helping everyone on their teams develop their own capacity for resilience to the best of their ability.

The article goes on to explain that resilience has characteristics of both a trait and a state. “A trait is something that you presuppose cannot be changed,” he says. “A state is something you can change about a person.” In other words, some aspects of resilience seem to be with you for life. But some are fluid.

This fluidity is what I am referring to when it comes to attitude and being able to lean into it and choose the attitude you will bring to something or take in response to something.

So for me attitude is key, resilience and persevere is borne out of attitude.

Attitude is everything and in our control

What is not in our control are things I have positioned outside the circle in the Doodle:

  • Timing: Right attitude with right timing is an invincible combination. But how do we know if the timing is right? Rarely can you, unless in hindsight. So always veer on the side of having the right attitude, because our attitude is in our control, while right timing is pure chance.
  • Events: ‘Events, dear boy, events’, as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once said, or to put it a little more pithily, shit happens 💩 When it does, find some lemonade or put on some rose tinted glasses and see things with new eyes.
  • Other peoples responses: You cannot control how other people respond to you but you can control your response to them. So if someone treats you badly or responds badly to something you have done, don’t take it personally and that applies to life.
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The tyranny of personality and the overcoming of it

I have just finished reading Don’t Take Your Life Personally by Ajahn Sumedho who is an American Buddhist monk. This is a review of sorts but mostly it’s an observation on the tyranny of personality that pervades modern society and how we can overcome it. The book and its views form the backdrop to this observation and cements long held and similar views I already had. I highlight passages from the book and meld my observations amongst them. What has become a scourge of epic proportion that blights our mental wellness does have remedies though, which I found in the pages of this book.

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