The Great Adding of Value

It has been over 6 years since my last post.

There is a part of me that missed the exploration of ideas that came to mind and my attempts to figure things out based on my understanding of things at that time. Another part of me felt there were no ideas left that were worth exploring which was driven by fear, laziness, or simply stalled growth. Another part of me simply forgot. I really cannot remember why I stopped, and admittedly I am a bit shocked that the last post was in 2010, but here we are.

At the end of the day it all comes down to putting effort into where we feel, believe, think, we add the most value. Whether it be value to others, or ourselves, if we’re not adding value the thought of participating is abhorrent. I suspect in the last 6 years it wasn’t clear where value was being added. It wasn’t clear where it was adding to me personally (doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have – it just wasn’t clear), which is a primary driver before you can add value to others without feeling like a fraud.

Am I adding value now by firing this up again? Really, I have no idea. I believe there is value to me personally by getting back to writing and exploring concepts because it certainly has been missed. Much has been learned the last few years and perhaps there are some ideas lurking under the surface I really just need to get out of the brain to make room. I think for now I will start adding value to me, and see where we go. Consistency will be key, and I am OK with that.

Welcome back, I’ve missed you.

Why change sucks

Ever read a post, a book, an article about why change is good, why it’s challenging, or how to dramatically engage your blah blah to be synchronized with your new mission of blah blah…? Yeah, we’ve all been there. My question is, how many times have you actually read something or heard someone flat out claim:

Change sucks because something is going to clobber you once you start and it’s up to you, and you alone to deal with it.

Well, if you haven’t before, you have now. Change, generally, is a good thing. Change for the sake of change? Bad thing. Small changes = good. Big changes = who the hell knows. The idea is good, doing it is hard, and if something screws up along the way, then it’s bad.

Change is a force, and if we remember anything from high school physics class it’s Newton’s 3rd law of motion (simplified):

“To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

This does explain why change is often de-railed once the process of change has begun. Take for example someone who wants to take control of their financial situation. They go out, buy some books, learn, and start reducing costs, saving, investing – yet what happens shortly there after? A sudden massive expense arrives out of the blue and all the hard work is suddenly dashed in a short period of time. Yes, they were further ahead, they have learned skills that can be duplicated again, and things can be gotten back on track – but it’s up to them. Life suddenly threw a curve-ball at them and future success or failure on their part will be up to them. Another example is when someone decides to take control of their un-healthy lifestyle and do something about it. So what do they do? They start to get up early and excercise, they begin to drink more water, and they start to track their food intake and make better choices. This works for a bit of time until either they suffer an injury or become ill (flu, cold, etc) which disrupts the schedule and takes them out of the game for a period of time. Take the smoker who finally decides to quit once and for all, yet during the same week something highly stressful happens and they’re right back to smoking again.

We can all look around and see this pattern happen for people over and over and over again. But why? Why is there always an equal and opposite reaction – especially when the change is significant? Does it always happen? No idea – but it does happen enough to notice it… Some would say that these are tests to see if you are truly committed to the change that you desire (god, universe, whatever), but why? What possible purpose does it serve? Why not a big challenge at the end of change so that which has changed can directly apply to, and effectively mange the challenge?

It has been said that you’re only supposed to change one thing at a time, for example, stop smoking, but don’t stop smoking, stop drinking, start running marathons, and start eating carrots all at once. Stop one thing for 21 days and develop the habit so that you can move onto the next thing requiring change and that which you have changed is now a habit. Kinda makes sense, however, the clobbering potential still applies regardless of whether or not it’s one change or 10. Changing 10 things at once is to say the least, challenging, however, it is entirely possible. Changing just one thing is also possible, yet depending on what it is can easily equal 10 things.

The point here is regardless of what, why, or how many things you decide to change, beware of the clobbering that is in your future. Yes, if you’re committed to the change(s) then it merely becomes an annoyance or a delay, yet if you happen to have insight as to why it happens (and it will) – do share. 😉

And yes, I’m currently battling a cold after a whole week of working out in the mornings and dramatically improving my intake… Clobbered.

The Power of Questions – Part 2

Let me ask you this: What question will you ask after the one you ask next?

Asking questions is easy – we do it all day long: Do you have the time? Have you seen so-and-so today? Where did we park the car? What are we having for dinner? Should we have one glass of wine each, or four? But even simple questions have the ability to mess with your belief system in a big way. Lets for example, all agree that taking the life of someone is bad. Ok – that’s a belief correct? We both believe that taking another person’s life is bad. Now what happens when you start to ask questions? Questions like:

  • Are there people that believe it is good?
  • Why would they believe this?
  • What other beliefs must you possess in order to believe that you are correct?
  • Where did those beliefs come from?
  • Is is there ever justification?
  • What about in situation X?
  • Why not? Is that belief valid?
  • and so on..

In context these simple questions provide us with the ability to explore things even if they are completely contrary to what we believe. No one ever said you have to agree with the answers, yet are you willing to ask the questions to actually get the answers? I’m not saying asking questions of a thesis/PhD-type where you’re dedicating your life to finding the answers, but what about just asking enough to learn something new? And what happens when you learn something true and correct that is contrary to what we believe?

Now if we take the list of questions from above out of context, take out the ‘personal/beliefs’ references, and then apply them to….. the economy? religion? technology? anthropology? linguistics? Every day we are continually marveling at the advances and decline of humanity, yet advancements come from the hands of people who ask questions – decline comes from the hands of those who stopped asking.

… to be continued

The Power of Questions – Part 1

I do know that a question led to the purchase of a 1440 page book, yet on another level it is quite possibly proof that I did indeed injure my brain in a skateboarding accident many, many years ago…

It is said that the average 5 year old asks between 300-400 questions per day which to me is both insanely disturbing yet absolutely incredible. If we think about our day to day lives (now much older than 5), how many questions do we ask vs. how many statements to we make? My guess is that at first we likely don’t ask as many questions as we once did, yet we likely ask more than that because there are many questions we didn’t even realize we were asking.

Yes, of course it’s not about the quantity but the quality, right? Well generally, however, who are you to decide what a quality question is or not? Ok sure we can likely agree that rhetorical questions are not quality, but other than that, will you not ask because of you’re allowing your bias to screw up your judgment? Lets skip the debate over what makes a question good or not and purely focus on the actual power of asking a question.

While wandering through the book store I was skim-browsing some of the titles in the business section when I started to notice books by economists. Now having learned a bit more about economists and how they perceive and explore the world around them, titles I recognized started popping out. Always the junkie for purchasing books (reading optional – the intent is always there to read the book, yet it could take some time before I get to starting it.. Finishing it is a whole other topic.), I started to explore a couple books. What is this book about? Where do I know that author name from? Is this book really what I’m looking for? Is there something better right in front of my eyes that I’m not seeing? How much is this book in my hands? That much? Why? and so on…

After picking up a particular book to explore further and then looking for a more suitable perch for my coffee than the last precarious location, I noticed a massively thick book sitting on the top shelf. Ooooh, what’s that? Now the title of the big book is rather intriguing: “The Real Price Of EVERYTHING” edited with an introduction by Michael Lewis. At first I wondered if it was literally a book filled with items and their price at the time of compiled all printed insanely small and on bible paper to ensure maximum pages – thankfully it was not (but if the print was really small, and you were able to gather the data in a relatively short period of time – how many items could be listed in ~1400 pages?).

Rest of the long story short, I found myself asking: What if I actually read this entire book?, and the power of a simple question now sees a gaping hole where this book was located in the store, a surprised look on the cashier’s face as it slams into the counter, a little old lady thinking it was a bible then realizing it is not, and this book on the end of my desk in one of the cat’s many favourite sitting places. Sure there was the expected justification before, during, and well after the purchase, yet the power of a single question changed everything.

To be continued… (Part 2 in a couple days)

If you can’t win, ever – don’t even play

spymaster_logoA few weeks back I was introduced to the game called Spymaster. Spymaster is a fantastically addictive game where you play a spy, and based on your Twitter following this will provide you with certain benefits. Within the game you can go on missions for money, you can buy items to increase your attack/defense levels, and my personal favorite part, you also have the ability to assassinate other Twitter users who are also playing the game. The user interface is pretty good, it can take as little as 30 seconds to play a turn, and it’s quite well thought out.

So here is the challenge. Along the way you gain experience points which in turn helps move you up the levels. At the time of writing this I am at level 20 out of a possible 40 levels – I’m half way there. Now, because there is no level 41 (currently – they may add more levels later), there are potentially hundreds or thousands of people at this level. Also, much of your strength in the game is determined by the number of Twitter followers that you have. So we now have a ceiling on how high you can go in the game, if you don’t build your Twitter followers you will always be the whipping boy of larger players, and really, once you make it to the top – it’s really really crowded with no clear winner. Basically, all the people who have reached level 40 are now just collecting money, buying stuff, and attacking each other. There is no victory – just wasted time. Sure, you could make the argument that the entire thing is a waste of time, and no doubt, some will. That’s fine.

Looking at life however, how many games do we play where there is no possibility of winning? I believe that Sun Tzu put it best when he wrote:

Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

The true hardliners take the stance that if you haven’t already won, don’t even play. In life, it’s always a bit challenging to be that definitive, but the basic principle of  that if you don’t even stand a chance of winning – don’t play. But what about all the glorious learning through failure that could be had? Well, how much fun has it been so far? Sure, there are times where we fail, and we learn, but to actively go out and look for things to fail at? I agree, it doesn’t make much sense.

The fact is that if there is the possibility of winning, then you have the possibility of winning. That’s a good thing. You also have the possibility of losing, however, in this case you have the opportunity of learning so that you can win in the future. Also a good thing.

It came to the point in Spymaster where I suddenly realized that unless I wanted to game Twitter and dramatically increase my following in a very short time, for no other gain than the game, then there was no possibility of ever winning. Why was I even playing? We don’t need more things in our lives that we can’t win at. We need more things that we can win at and we need to take the time to recognize these.

If you can’t win, ever – don’t even play.