The First Step….

What is the first step ? Do you wonder what starts you out ? blank paragraph I’ve heard from several friends that have read this blog and one of the first questions I get is… “How do you figure out what to write?”  Some ideas are set in motion through things that I read about and it gets me thinking… Others, I seem to stumble upon them. And some ideas just come to me. Almost as if they come bubbling up… and, I use the term “bubbling up” very specifically.  Recently I saw a program called Horizon, produced by the BBC and on the show the scientists indicated that there were two types of brain functions.  One of those functions is an excitatory function and this is where the scientists think that our creative or our creativity comes out of.  And there is another called an inhibitory type function that suppresses, and that this acts as a type of balance.  One without the other would be disastrous for us.

However, how do you suppress the suppressive (or inhibitory) function and allow your mind to think openly and freely ?  I don’t have an answer for that.  However, with out some inhibitory or restraint, we could have a great idea, but we would lack any focus to actually follow through with this idea without an inhibitory to keep it in check.  We would be in a perpetual state of flowing ideas, but with no conviction to execute those ideas.

One other thing I learned is that we all have what is called a Latent inhibition.  Think of it as a way for us to filter out the noise of our world.  This latent inhibition helps us focus on what we think are the important signals, and to help guide us.  For example:  picture yourself walking down a side-walk along a busy street.  Without latent inhibition, you wouldn’t be able to walk down the side-walk.  Why ?  The approaching car(s) on the street would likely command your full attention, and only allow you to only focus on the most immediate danger (think fight or flight).  However, for most of us we can just filter out the cars and all the noise and several other things. So good is our latent inhibition ability, that we may not even notice there are cars streaming past us as we walk down the side-walk.  Don’t believe me, go try it for yourself.

So that got me thinking, if we filter so much of our world out, what do we let in ?blinds Well, if you are like me, you need to make a conscious effort to be observant.

Think of it this way… better yet, let’s try an experiment.  I’m going to give you some instructions, and then I’m going to tell you stop.  Stop reading this blog.

The objective is to see what comes into your mind. Ok, here are the instructions:

1) I want you to think of an image, this image can be anything, it can be an old photo, a painting, or if you need help here is an image…  girl with hair blowing in the wind

What do you see ? a girl, riding on a train, mountains… sure but did you notice her hair blowing in the wind, can you imagine the smells ?  is she happy to be going on her journey, or is she sad to be leaving someone behind ?  What kind of a story is behind the photo ?

2) Can you form in your minds-eye what is going on… can you start to craft a story here ?

3) Ok, Stop Reading this blog and craft a story…

 

 

 

4) What was your story ?   Don’t worry, there is no right or wrong story here.

 

To be honest, it doesn’t matter what story you crafted…. but

Congratulations !   You have started to think freely.  In your childhood years, this would have been called using your imagination.  However, in adulthood, we often think that this childhood play and imaginative thinking is exactly that, childish.  I think it’s quite the opposite.  I think that if we can parcel out some time to be creative (or to smell the roses), then the ideas will come bubbling up.  The only thing about the ideas bubbling up is that sometimes, if you are observant to the ideas, some of the ideas are quite ingenious.  Think of it as being in the back seat.  So letting the creative process flow and have the ability to just watch it.  And that my friends is one of the easiest ways to start being creative.

Give it a try some time.  Who knows where it’ll take you.

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The content of your character.

 I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

If you aren’t familiar with the above quote, it was spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28th, 1963.  Those infamous words were spoken at a time when racism was still very much a problem in the US and around the world.  So much has changed in the 50+ years since.  Things have definitely gotten better, but they are far from perfect.

Lincoln_Memorial_I_Have_a_Dream_Marker_2413

So why do I bring up this quote… I bring it up because, I like to think that we as a people, as a society can do better.  I think we have it within ourselves to be better to one another.  I think it takes some work though… The amount of work can be as little as you want or as much as you want…. but, in reality it isn’t that difficult.

Ever heard of Random Acts of Kindness ?  If you haven’t, then go read up on it.  An act of kindness doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a dollar cost associated to it.  It may cost a bit of your time.  Maybe even a bit of time in thought.  But really how hard is that ?

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Sometimes it just takes a bit of situational awareness.   Recently a flight I was on was diverted from it’s original destination due to bad weather.  Having no idea on what was going to happen next, but I knew that I could utilize my extensive travel history and a belief that I’ll land on my feet regardless.   I thought that by the time I got off the plane, and due to the severity of the storm, I figured that I would be spending the night where I was.  I also knew that getting out the next morning might be problematic.   Calling to rebook a flight was met with busy signals, and airport staff were swamped.  I noticed a few people from my flight and helped them out where I could.  I realized that I was there for the night and I may as well start calling for a hotel room.  As I was on the phone with a few of the hotels, I had eventually found one that had availability.  I turned to one of my fellow passengers and asked if he would like me to reserve a room for him as well.  He very happily agreed.

Was what I did a kind gesture?  I like to think it was.  I didn’t have to pay for his hotel room, I just had to ask the hotel on the other end of the phone to hold two rooms instead of one.  Pretty simple huh ?   Really, it’s that easy to be kind and to help to someone else.  “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others…” says the Dalia Lama.  You don’t have to give the shirt off your back to help someone, although that would be a very noble gesture.

I have a dream… I think living in a society where people are kind and respectful to others would be fantastic.  I think that this is one part of what MLK meant by “The content of their character”

What is the content of your character ?

 

 

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Resolutions

New-Years-Eve

As we start a new year, it only seems fitting to talk about resolutions.  What is a resolution really ?  In my opinion, it’s just a way of saying that you are determined to do something.  Noble intentions for sure, but in the real world the intentions will likely get lost once something else comes along (ie: you get busy, life gets in the way, etc.) Then, all of a sudden, say in September, you’ll be thinking… “Ya, I made this resolution…”  Don’t worry.  In September it’ll be a fleeting thought, and by December you’ll be onto a new resolution.  Why do you think Gym/Fitness memberships spike in January and then by March/April there are huge sales on memberships ?  Yes, it’s like we are pre-programmed to be this way.

walk-in-the-snowThe one thing a resolution lacks is conviction, or a goal.  You need to drive towards something.  It’s great to say I want to lose weight for summer, but what are you going to do to obtain that goal ?  How are you going to execute it ?  Are you going to go for a walk every day to start the exercise ? or What.

I’m no motivational speaker, nor am I going to profess to know all aspects of human behaviour.  I can only recite what works for me.  I’m a creature of habit, or routine.  So, if I’m going to commit to doing something, then it has to be part of my routine, or something I need to incorporate into my routine.  For me it’s easy to say, that I’m going to run more often and further distances.  However, having a goal to work towards and putting it as part of my routine will ensure that I actually do it.  I’m betting you are the same way.

I get a chance to work and be associated with some pretty incredible people.  Take for example one of my cousins, who had a weight issue.  I didn’t realize she had a weight  issue.  However, she set a goal to lose weight, she had a means to execute it, and went out and did it.  The secret to her success, a 6km walk every day, along with eating less, and healthier foods.  The result, a loss of 100 pounds so far. Needless to say she is pretty stoked about the results. Here is her story.

I was recently privy to another friend who wants to set up her business.  She has performed a number of different job functions over the years, from project manager, to change management lead, to change adviser for corporations.  But recently she saw that her passion was for helping others with their career planning and providing them assistance to establishing themselves.  She herself has a coach that is helping her get her ideas rolling.

Or if you want a shining example of resolve.  This is a fantastic example, a friend’s husband has decided to write a Million words.  He is doing it in increments, 1000 words for 1000 days.   He calls it crazy, I think he may be partially right, but you have to admire the commitment there.

So why is any of this important to you ?  Well let me ask you this, do you wait until January 1st to make a resolution, or do you make goals throughout the year ?  I’m not saying that only making goals once a year is wrong. This just isn’t the way I work.  I like to make goals as I think they are relevant to my life at the time.  Then determining how to implement those goals into my schedule/routine is the next challenge.   No one said that making a change would be easy.  Just ask me about the 18 weeks of training I did in order to run  my first ever race and first ever marathon.  Finish Line

So what are you going to resolve to do this year ?

 

 

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The Churn

I heard this term used the other day and it both amused me and made me angry. The term, when used definitely had a negative connotation to it. It basically spoke to the fact that there was more effort being spent in trying to organize, communicate, and re-verify than was actually spent doing something productive or moving forward.  It also referred to the fact that decisions and direction that had were made previously were now being re-examined.  Some have called this Analysis-Paralysis.  Whereby there is so much effort in just analyzing (basically shit) that nothing really productive is being done.

This lead me to start thinking about the churn in our daily lives.

How much time and effort do you spend daily just churning ?

I like to think I spend very little time and effort in the churn.  Sometimes it’s necessary to spend the time and effort as it becomes an investment.  Kinda like the old adage “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime“.  But often I think that the personal churn is quite unproductive.  So why is it that this is done ?  Why do we do this ?  Well to be honest, I don’t have the foggiest idea.  However, let me qualify, if you think you may be churning, you may in fact not be.  Say for example you are evaluating something, for example purchasing that new pair of shoes, and whether or not they will work for you… that is not churn.  If you are rethinking your decisions from the days events and are wondering if what you did was correct, you may be churning. If you are re-thinking your days events and learning from them… that is not churn.  If you are thrashing in your emotions… that’s a different story.

There are times I will look at my day and wonder if I made the correct choices, but it’s usually in an effort to learn from the things I’ve done.  Hence, I’m skeptical on whether I’d  call it churn, but instead,  I like to think of  it as productive work.  Productive in the sense that I’m able to better myself.  Learning from my mistakes or seeing what I could do differently to have a better impact.

When I examine my decisions that I made throughout the day, I don’t think of as churn, but Karma-yogamore of a making sure I did the right thing… have I made the right decision or if I’ve done something incorrect.  I like to think that my thought process is more of a Karmic process versus a guilt process.  A while ago I had said that I don’t believe in any one religion.  So after being raised Christian, I find that I have quite a few Buddhist beliefs.  Ya, I know… go figure.  But that’s another discussion.  Hence when I say that I think that my processes are more Karmic, I am thinking, have I done something that Karma would come back to haunt me on this one?   Case and point… did you know there are very few litigation lawyers in Thailand… wonder why ?  Because the Thai people believe in Karma, still trying to figure it out… well,  The Thai people think that if you have wronged someone, that Karma will come back to you.  Hence this governs their actions.  Noodle on that for a while…

Anyway, back to the churn. I think the lesson here is to try avoid the churn and make sure that your time is productive.  It’s ok to be introspective, and to analyse ones actions, but stewing about those actions is (in my opinion) a waste of effort.  Here is a challenge for you,  When was the last time you got a chance to be introspective ?  If you can, take a few moments for yourself, to be with yourself and discover the things that are going well as well as the things that are not going well.

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I get that taking time out of your very busy and already over-committed day may be difficult and finding the time to do a bit of “Navel-gazing” may seem superfluous.  But stopping to smell the roses is worth it.  I think that with some practice you can actually turn your introspective time into a time where you can focus on what is important in your life.  Focus on the good things that you have to be thankful for.  May be after a bit of focus, you can see how really unimportant the churn really is.

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mm mmm bmmm mmumf

So we all talk… we communicate, we convey.  What is it that we convey/communicate/talk about ?  What sets us apart?  Is it the way we deliver our message, is it the content of what we communicate… our ideas, opinions, feelings ?  Or is it just sometimes we only want to be heard.  But heard by who ?  Just anyone?  or do the things you say need to be heard by someone who has some sort of connection to you?  Communicating

Communication is a two-way street.  If anyone ever tells you that it isn’t or that they don’t need a receiver they are lying to you.  You can make communication a one-way street, but then you’d be talking to yourself.  I admit I’ve talked to myself, but usually in short bursts (usually to cuss myself out for doing something utterly stupid).  I don’t natter on to myself, and before you pass judgement, I have worked with a few who have done exactly that, talking to themselves (for hours) and about themselves (ie: in the 3rd person), trust me, it is the easiest way to make everyone give you a wide berth.

In today’s world there seems to be an over-abundance of communication, but I think most of it is one-sided.  So why is it that we have this need to let everyone know what we are thinking and feeling at all times.  With technologies like Facebook, Twitter and blogs people an opportunity to vocalize themselves in an absolute sea of verbal diarrhea.  There is so much talking, that there ends up being very few people to listen, or for those to figure out what to listen to… remember the two-way street concept for communication ?  Think about this; if you calculated the amount of time spent in communications, would you be the person talking, or the person listening ? or do you think you have a balance there ?

I think I have a pretty good balance and that isn’t just because I’m in a profession where I need to do more listening than talking.  There are some professions where that is exactly what you are paid to do… Listen.  My cousin is one such example, a clinical psychologist.  She gets paid to listen to people and their problems.  This isn’t the career for me, and I applaud her for her choice.  Also, I don’t think I could have gone to post-secondary for 14 years, like she did.

Only ChildI’m an only child, and as such,  I grew up with a few friends. So for the most part I grew up by myself.  I don’t regret that, and I don’t look at my parents and think that they should have had another child just for my amusement.  No, instead, I accepted my situation and made the best of it.  I like to think that my formative years prepared me well for my life and career.   I grew up listening.  When I was a child, you spoke when you were spoken to.   Hence, I have a pretty good attention span, as you had to know what was going on, especially on those rare occasions you were actually asked a question.  But, for the most part, I spent quite a bit of time with my own thoughts.  I could quite happily just sit and listen to my thoughts in my head.  Have you ever sat down and listened to your own thoughts ?  Do you know the sound of your own thoughts ?  Do they make sense ?   What do they sound like ?

Have you ever sat in a room full of people and just listened ?   If you haven’t, try going to a pg-sledgehammerbusy coffee shop and doing just that.  You may want to disguise your efforts by putting your ear bud headphones in, but refrain from turning your music on.  Try to listen not to the content of the messages, but in the way the message is being conveyed.  You may be able to learn quite a bit just in the conveyance of the message.

So what did you hear ?  More importantly, who did you hear ?  With the sea of communication and messages, and all of these things vying for attention/time, what do you spend time listening to ?  Just remember, what you consume will feed you, and listening is consuming.  You may want to be choosy.

 

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Inattentional Blindness

So have you heard of this term before… “Inattentional Blindness” ?  Don’t feel bad if you haven’t.  I didn’t know about it until a short time ago.

So what does it mean…. well the according to Wikipedia it means this.

And if you want to see it in action, then check this out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6qgoM89ekM

Interesting huh ?

The term came to light for me in a BBC documentary, and I found it astonishing.  The show focused on the fact that many of us believe that we are good at multi-tasking.  Yes, trying to do a multitude of things at the same time.  The documentary also focused on, well “Focus” and “Attention”.

multitaskingWith so much going on in our daily lives, people are being bombarded with sensory input and we are being plagued to do more in less time.  Hence we all are being forced to multi-task.  Most of us think that we are really good at it.  At this point I think that rose-coloured glasses need to come off.  The fact is, due to evolution, we aren’t.  As sophisticated at multi-tasking as we think we are, we just don’t really do it that well.  Kinda like, in much the same way we all think that we are really good drivers.  When in reality the vast majority of us are average drivers at best.  For drivers and you would-be gurus of multi-tasking, I introduce you to… The Bell Curve.  The vast majority are pretty much average, some are really good, and some really suck !  Don’t worry, there is nothing wrong with being part of the average.  I’m ok being an average driver, and I’m ok, not being an Über multi-tasker.

snake oilSo how do we get better at it, Multi-tasking that is.  That my friends I do not have an answer for.  Although I’m sure that there will be the myriad of products/methods that someone will try to sell you on.  Everything from the snake oil remedy to something that may sound a little more reputable.

So why do I bring this concept up ?  Well for starters, the concept that things can happen around you and you can be completely oblivious to them is a fact.  However, there is always a plethora of things going on or happening around you.  You just need to be receptive to the ones that really matter – seeing the important.  So what really matters, what’s important… That my friend is for you to discover.  What I think is important is likely not your idea of what you think is important.  And even the things that I think are important to pay attention to today are vastly different from what I would have thought even a few years back.  Don’t believe me, take up a new hobby.  Then watch what is does to your focus.

I think it goes back to the old adage… Take time to stop and smell the roses.120213105032-roses-lose-scent-story-top

 

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What motivates you ?

So what makes you get up and out of bed in the morning ?  What makes you do the things you do ?underwater-surfer_52784_990x742

Recently I’ve been reading some material on motivation and the material presented to me  really makes sense.

tom_sawyerIn essence, the material I’ve read says you can be intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated to do a task/activity.  Intrinsically motivated is where you do this because you want to.  You have an inherit need to either do the right thing or do it because you want to do it.  Typically in intrinsic motivation, there isn’t a monetary reward for doing something.  Say you have a hobby, such as cooking, or painting or dancing or writing.  You do these things because you gain a personal satisfaction from doing these things.  Now let me introduce you to Extrinsic motivation.  This is where you are motivated by an external factor.  Say, Monetary reward, or you are being told to complete something.   I would say this about your job that you are extrinsically motivated (ie: you’re paid), but some people love their work and would do it even if they weren’t paid.

So try this… apply extrinsic motivation to your hobby now… how would you feel about completing that activity ?   Would you derive the same amount of pleasure from your hobby ?

I’m betting the answer is No.

Or maybe you might, but at some point in time, I don’t think that it will be your hobby any longer.

So with that being said. Let’s define the task.  If you are in my line of work, that means either solving a problem, or completing a deliverable.  In my case, you never want to take you eyes off the prize (aforementioned: problem or deliverable).  In my career, completing the task is extrinsically motivated.  I get paid for completing deliverables and solving problems, and I’m ok with that (in fact sometimes it’s difficult to turn off).  Most of us that work are extrinsically motivated, you get paid to do a job and even get incentives if you do that job well (eg: bonus or other non-monetary rewards).

However, I’m thinking that when you were young, you didn’t say, “Gee, I want to do ____(fill in what you do most often in your work day)  for the rest of my life”. I know I didn’t say “Gee, I want to be a lean, mean,  deliverable producing machine !”  If I did, the school counselors would have been all over me like white on rice. Then I’d be riding the short bus home.

So what is it that you think motivates you…. what is it you want to do most ?

What makes you run….

photo by Elaine Aragon, Europeaupif

photo by Elaine Aragon, Europeaupif. http://europeaupif.blogspot.ca/2012_04_01_archive.html

 

 

 

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