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.

Other People Don’t Always Suck

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I work in a big office building. Not one of those massive downtown behemoth’s that have separate elevators for upper and lower floors, but given the area of the city it’s located in, my office building is a big blue glass monolith that you can (sadly) see for miles around. Seriously, I can walk to the end of my street, look left, and literally yell “Thar she ‘blows!” while pointing off in the distance at the big blue whale rising above the sea of trees. The special days are when you’re looking east towards the office, the sun is setting in the west, and you get this nice blinding reminder (literally) of what awaits you the next day… The point here is that it’s big. With big offices come hordes of people you don’t know, and cleaning staffs that scour that sucker for hours long after you leave for the day…

One of the big concerns in large offices where not everyone knows your name is simply, theft. For a while there, just after I had first started, laptops were being removed from people’s desks – during business hours! Constantly there were emails circulating throughout about how to secure your equipment, not to leave laptops laying around, and if you didn’t recognize anyone in the office to challenge their reason for existance. Did I get challenged? Yes, a couple times, however, after about a month of everyone interrogating everyone else in the office who was meant to be there, we all just gave up on vigilante security and went back to just locking our stuff to our desks (yay Kensington!).

So the daytime theft had decreased, yet at night the odd backpack left at a desk was rifled through, or prizes meant to be given away for contests suddenly evolved, grew legs, realized this was no place to hang around, and walked away. The next day most conversations would consist of how terrible that such a thing happened, yet each time ended with something like ‘well, it should have been locked up anyways’… Wait. No. It shouldn’t. Sure everyone comments about how sad it is that we have to lock our doors when we leave in the morning, how we need security systems for our cars (that don’t necessarily work), how our stuff on our desks needs to be locked away, etc. etc., yet WHY does it have to be like that?

Property theft is one of those things that I never really understood. At what point to you have the right to remove something from my possession, without my approval, and do with it what you will? Why is your selfishness and sense of entitlement greater than mine or anyone elses in the world? What makes you so special?

Now keeping all of this in mind, what do you think went through my head first when I discovered that I had left my watch sitting on my desk when I got home? Yeah, not pretty. See, depending on the shirt I’m wearing that day, if my watch band is exposed, it scratches on my keyboard rest, or just generally makes a lot of noise as I use my computer. So to combat this I simply take it off and place it on the supporting leg of my monitor until I’m finished for the day, or until I get up to go somewhere. There have been the odd time where I’ve gotten up to go get a cup of mocha (coffee + hot chocolate; can you possibly go wrong?!), forgotten the watch, and it’s still been there. Generally during the day (and given the location of my desk) I’m not overly concerned about my watch evolving and walking away. On this particular evening however, I was ill, tired and just wanted to go home. I packed up my stuff, made sure I had everything and headed downstairs to kidnap my wife from her cube (yeah, same company, same building – but different floors, and different brands). As per usual, something in the back of my brain was trying to tell me that I was forgetting something… Side note: Brain, it would be REALLY useful if you would just tell me what I’m forgetting, rather than just annoyingly hint at it for hours on end.

After being home for a while, I suddenly realized exactly what  i had forgotten at work. I quickly located another source of time, realized that even if I left now the cleaning staff would have already been through, and now had two simple choices: either go to the office now and possibly have the rest of my night ruined, or simply resign to the fact that there is a 50-50 chance that I’ll be disappointed in the morning. I chose the latter…

When chosing to be either surprised that there is still honest people in the world or that everyone sucks, it begins to mess with your brain a bit. There is the part of you that figures the minimum wage, non-english speaking cleaning staff just had a pretty good score tonight and that you’re a complete idiot for leaving something like that on your desk – but there is the other part of you that figures (especially when you realize that you’re being a jerk and that the previous line of thought is the entire reason why we keep our stuff locked down), no, generally people are honest and respect other people and their property. Our brain might even go as far as to justifying the disappearance of such an item in that perhaps this new immigrant who doesn’t speak the language, fled a war-torn country, is working this menial job just to put food on the table, and that perhaps if they’re able to get a few more dollars for my materialism, they could probably buy some warm winter clothing for their children…. or something along those lines.

If you truly let the brain run wild down certain lines, you can quickly find yourself out to hate everyone, or out to pity everyone including yourself… and this really doesn’t do anyone any good. On the other hand, it is important to remember that other people don’t always suck. Not everyone is out to rip you off by stealing your stuff. Not everyone has an over-inflated sense of entitlement, and not everyone deserves to be suspected of stealing something before anything has even happened, or before you even know whether or not you’re even at a loss. Sure, there are jerks on the public transit every morning and every night with the previously mentioned over-inflated sense of entitlement, but there are also the self-aware people who aren’t about to bang into you with their backpacks, or yell into their phones on a bad connection.

For the most part I beleive that honest and good people far outnumber the ignorant in our society – if you don’t think so, then you could be right, and if you are, then it’s your fault.