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The truth is the human mind needs to play.

Incantations

NATURE DOES NOT CARE

How horrible it must be to live forever. Nature teaches us to let go and set aside the things we don’t need. Nature does not rush. It does not thrust everything upon us like the modern world. Nature does not yell, “Figure me out!” Nature says, “Admire me or do not – I could care less what you think."

HOW DO YOU SEE THE WORLD

Oh our collective busyness. We hold it tight in our hands. No clamoring to be heard will overcome it. Earnest listening remains an elusive wish, a hope that is ungiven. Spare me your pearls. Withhold from telling me your extreme ideology. For how I interpret the world is custom to me.

DON'T CLAMOR TO BE HEARD

We start bending at an early age because we are doing something that is not authentic to our true self. Don’t waste time trying to get someone to value you. Don’t waste time clamoring to be heard – speak your own truth.

THE ARTISTS ARE OUR SOOTHSAYERS

I like to stay close to art. It shows me the personal expressions of others and how they see the world. It keeps me curious. It keeps me from having to slunk into the understood. Art keeps me from sliding into vocabulary with no taste. The Internet with all its knowledge cannot feed my human senses.

SOCIAL MEDIA

The problem with social media is that it brings overwhelming information to relationships. It encourages us to judge and compare ourselves to others in many cases. From the news cycle to sharing images, we share without regard, not realizing that we are short circuiting our conversations. We share a new promotion or raise not realizing our neighbor just lost his or her job. Worse, is we don’t give the other side a chance to share or we deprive them of the chance to tell their story. Our busyness leaves us no time to listen to one another, to be present for those that are in front of us, to be fully there when we are talking to others.

THE POWER OF WRITING

Writing is my refuge. It’s where I go to cast a spell on another. I use it to craft my incantations both strong and weak. It allows me to tiptoe atop a picket fence. It brings me solace in times of strife and the power to absorb change. It can be a hard place to live. Many ships have set sail without me. It's ok, my magic does not depend on others. Twice around the world is a treasure enough for me. Nature and solitude are my companions.

DOUBLE TROUBLE WITH TECHNOLOGY

Technology is taking the place of skills. I don't know if this is good or bad. What I do know is that working with technology can create an environment that feels sterile. Like a hospital. They greet us with salutations from the land of Jargonia. They say, "In our country we talk about hiring people that can multi-task and communicate at a world class level. We teach our younger employees how to be polite and speak with euphemism. Eventually, they will graduate to be a Senior person that can sling clichés within a community of practice. Our workers must learn to imitate so they can master the language of Jargonia." None of this takes place without the loss of authenticity.

IN PRAISE OF TEACHERS

The job of the teacher is to take the pain out of learning. It is hard work to infuse lessons with vibrant colors and stories that set aside the sterility of the technology. If done well, we act as a sounding board to allow others to articulate their perceptions of a problem. We give our students a break from their “to-do lists from hell.” By listening to others, we help them parse the differences between what they mean versus what they say. Hooray for teachers.

CREATING MAGIC

We create magic when we give others the time to tell their stories. It is like multiplying the books you read. Books, like bees, have to make a comeback. It is in listening to others that we help them maneuver around the natural and technological barriers that frustrate them.

THE POWER OF BEING INVISIBLE

I’ve seen people complain about being invisible in the workplace. To this I say that there is great power in being invisible. I need to pull up an old quote that I read by Bill Russell. He was a famous NBA basketball player back in the day. He was adept at positioning himself where the next play was going to be. He said, “Invisibility opens doors, creates opportunity, where none seemed to exist before. When we are unseen, we have an enormous advantage in moving in, doing things we wish or need to do, and in the process, to change the very dynamic of existing, seemingly closed, patterns.” So, there you have it. If you are already in position and can impact others without their knowing it, then you have discovered the power of invisibility. To pull it off requires a secret spell. Quotation is attributed to Bill Russell.

EAT MORE CHOCOLATE

I don't have the best of everything but I do have some dark chocolate. I eat it every night when the clock is split in half. It is the sort of thing that transports me from whatever cares and anxious thoughts are gerbiling in my mind, into the present moment. It holds me there.

STOP JUDGING

I wish had done better in my stats class. If I had applied myself, I might have come away with some valuable tools and discernment. Insights like not categorizing people. Many years ago, I learned about overfitting with data. Overfitting as best as I understand it means we are being too discriminatory. If I apply it to those around me, I might look past them. In truth, most people are a collection of interests and emotions. Social media extremism and our hurry up atmosphere have caused the loss of the ability to appreciate those in front of me for who they are. If I am cavalier in my attitude about it, I subconsciously slap a label or title on them. As my Hollywood friends say, "I've typecast them." To my friends in the software world, it means something else. At any rate, I pour all I know into that label and I eventually arrive at a non-thinking consensus. I might decide this person is not interesting or she is this or that. I think I understand them. I do not. I apply this to the complex issues of the day from politics to communities of people. It's the sort of thing that everybody does. It is popular sentiment, but this does not make it right. I need to remember that judgement leads to an abrupt stop in thinking. There's no more discussion or discovery. I need to give others the time to tell their stories and be who they are. As I listen to them it's like multiplying the books I read. I can help them discover what is already within them and bring it out. Boy I wish I had paid attention in stats class; I'm still figuring it out.

Everything show it's age with time

Everything shows it’s age with time. Over time, even people begin to change in their thinking. As a Gen X’er, I straddle the Boomer Blockade and the Millennials. I am here to tell my older counter parts to relax. The younger generation has things well in hand. They are skillful and thoughtful in how they work. What older workers need to do is to accept and adapt to change. This is good news. Now that I know what to do, I can admit I’m terrible at it. Some of us older workers need to take different roles. This will allow the younger and more agile workers to position themselves. In most cases, we can fill a fabulous supporting cast member role. A role that helps the younger generation shine and get to the next level. It takes nothing away from us. My point is this, to progress we need to let go of outdated thinking. Sort of like letting go of anger. As the world grows more complex, it requires a nimble mind to ensure we don’t fall into extreme thinking. Gen X’ers can offer wisdom to help younger professionals discern and understand that not everything falls into simple dogmatic right and wrong camps. Many ideas do not. We should resist extreme ideologies. Those of us that are older and have mellowed in our thinking should stand as the guard rails to help those coming up. If you can’t move out at least move over and be a supporting cast member that helps others to shine.

COMMON GOALS FOR TEAM BUILDING

Accomplishing team goals. I think the conundrum for many of us is that it’s hard to follow other people’s direction and ideas. We get focused on following explicit processes rather than just adopting the values and principles of certain methodologies. It ends up moving us out of our natural flow into something that feels foreign. Can we agree on a worthy goal? If we can, then there’s a good chance, we’ll succeed. Start by having your individual team members list out the practical things they need to happen to feel fulfilled and successful in their work. Try to personalize them, customize them for team members. Maybe ask them which ideas they believe in and which ones they don’t. The ones they don’t believe in will be the ones they won’t get behind. Image below: Don't forget the fun!

LEAVING TWITTER

Why I left Twitter. There seems to be a certain amount of meanness circulating around. An amalgam of prejudice and extremism that I don’t want to be a part of. Actually, I won’t tolerate it, not in my feed anyways. Not today Satan! We need to embrace diversity, inclusion, and stop this ridiculous book banning happening in our school libraries. I feel like we are regressing. We should stop using anesthetizing jargon and language that does not do anything but demonize whole swaths of people.

The trouble with computers

In the post-Covid era my approach to work has changed. My “to-do” list from hell is measurable. It feels like a never-ending stream of interruptions. The list keeps piling up from emails, direct messages, and meetings. At some point I end up recycling taskers from the bottom of queue to the top and swear, “Today is the day I finish this.” Of course, this pales in comparison to what so many young Moms are doing: getting the family up, fixing breakfast, getting their kids dressed and off to school. Now, I don’t mean to throw the dads under the bus but let’s be real, Dad has already woofed down his food in case he does not get official breakfast. At work we are expected to drive high-performing cultures. And we do. We drive each other bonkers with gentle reminders and interruptions. There are important issues to discuss. Issues like whether you are willing to drink the office swill or are you one of those 'boujie' latte drinkers? Well, there’s no time to discuss these in depth because most of us have a meeting to get to. Which brings me to an important point. We need to make time for fun. The truth is the human mind needs to play. I mean these days I barely have time for checking my social media let alone conducting any real structured procrastination. I think it is because of the computer, I’m still analyzing and will report back when I have proof. I am putting it on my list.

Instead of quiet quitting how about quiet performing

Quiet quitting is crap. I was recently reading about the "quiet quitting" trend. In the current vernacular it sounds like an excuse. Instead of "quiet quitting" how about we do "quiet performing." "Quiet performing" is when we surge our performance when needed and we take an operational pause if that's needed, without drawing attention to ourselves. We should normalize taking the initiative and getting things done. The best thing we can do for people that are burned out is to meet them where they are at in life. We can be present and listen to them. We can provide good leadership that stamps out fear and sheds artificial busyness when we see it.

The self check out kiosk

Making sense of the modern world. Probably like your community, almost overnight our grocery stores have installed the self-check-out kiosks. This is even more evidence that technology is taking the place of skills throughout our society. Except for when my wife was telling me that I was scanning too slow, I actually enjoyed being the checker myself. I need to work on my bagging skills. Like most men I can’t multitask for crap, but before I get distracted, I want talk about the impressions I absorbed during the process. I feel empathy for the hourly checkers standing on their feet, mindlessly scanning item after item. As an aside, I am inclined to think this is a good use for technology and it is ok to displace the people doing this with the exception of teenagers. I feel like every young person should have a character-building job that they can say sucked. Nothing makes those of us carrying the financial load happier. Now back to my impressions of the self-checkout kiosk. I don’t relish scanning 100 items so I will go to someone more efficient than myself. The point I want convey indirectly is that it’s not just that technology is here to stay, it’s that the mindset that comes from accepting technology is as critical as the automation itself. I’m still learning how to find the kumquats in the look up catalog. I find it useful to ask the teenager in charge of the check out pods if he or she can help me find the fruit look up portion on the kiosk screen. Sometimes I get too many of something and need to ask where to leave it. When I leave the store, I know I will have done my job in helping the next generation build out their character.

mentis fortitudo