Attention Piece!

It is said that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

 

The poet J.D. McCatchy captured this essential fact beautifully in his observation that “love is the quality of attention we pay to things.”.

 

It’s a no brainer. Before we can create anything worthy of other people’s attention, you have to learn to manage ours.

 

Our world is the outcome of what we pay attention to. Period. Attention is the currency of achievement.

 

Being present is the best present we can give ourselves. And to others. There is a curious power in being present. When we are present, we see the other person more clearly. We communicate better. We make lasting connections.

 

Unfortunately, in our always on, go-go-go world, being  with someone who is fully present and therefore offering attention is rare.

 

Good work and great art comes from deep focus and deep work. Our ability to be prolific, create art that resonates, strikes a chord , tug at the heartstrings and hit people in the face with a crowbar depends on our ability to focus.

 

Consider for a moment the kind of mental world we can construct when we dedicate significant time and attention to deep endeavors.

 

Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer,” Simone Weil observed as she considered the relationship between attention and grace at the peak of her short life. “Attention without feeling,” Mary Oliver wrote a generation later in her beautiful elegy for her soul mate, “is only a report.

 

It’s hard to carve out time and space for work or art that matters if we’re always distracted by things don’t.

 

So, how much art have you made today?

 

I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door “. Marla Gibbs

 

ENDS

Belief it (or) Knott!

In our lives, many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of truth.

 

We listen and lean towards opinions that make us feel good rather than ideas that will make us think hard.

 

We regard disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn.

 

We, by design, surround ourselves with people who echo and endorse our thinking and beliefs, rather than gravitating toward those who challenge and question our thought process.

 

The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones do.

 

Intelligence is no cure; in fact it can even be a curse( we have heard of ” Curse of Knowledge “, haven’t we? ).

 

There’s strong evidence that being good at thinking can make us sub optimal and worse at rethinking. The brighter we are, the more blinded and limited we become to our own thinking. We short change ourselves. Constantly.

 

We don’t have to believe everything we think and internalize everything we feel.

 

Give yourselves an invitation or permission to let go of views that are no longer serving you well. In lieu of that, prize mental flexibility, humility,  and unabashed curiosity over foolish consistency.

 

There’s immense power in intentionally creating and opening the doors that accommodate you—instead of shrinking yourself in order to squeeze through whatever door happens to be there.

 

If knowledge indeed is power, then knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.

 

Once you’ve decided what you want from life, go off-menu. Ask for it. Create it.

Because the best things in life aren’t on the menu.

 

ENDS

 

 

Being an employee of our own myth!

We are all frauds! Forgive the blatant articulation.

 

To quote Wikipedia ” The master race (GermanHerrenrasse) is a pseudoscientific concept in Nazi ideology in which the putative “Aryan race” is deemed the pinnacle of human racial hierarchy. Members were referred to as “Herrenmenschen” (“master humans”).

 

Creating is hard for every last one of us– including for the ones from the allegedly superior Aryan race.

 

If you think creating is hard, try grave digging. Or coal mining. Infinitely harder. Do you think miners stand around all day thinking and talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? Certainly not. They just go ahead and do it ie dig!

 

Throughout life, you collect data points or dots. And you probably don’t have a clue how these dots will connect in the future. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect these dots looking backward. But, you can only collect them going forward.

 

In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones.

 

Without the mistakes we make, the decisions we regret and the experiences that didn’t live up to our expectations, we would be very short on material for our creative work.  These things are all just ingredients for your soup, material for making meaning and making art.

 

The creative process, just like the creative life, isn’t linear.  We don’t know how each of our life experiences will impact us down the road. With each step forward, the view changes, the landscape shifts and the horizon offers a different dimension. The most insignificant of our experiences and life’s little skirmishes at the moment can serve as the most informative (and even inspiring) ones in our future.

 

Our creativity is not something that someone can give us, gift us or take away. It’s something thats always within us.  Whether it’s the degrees we earn or the jobs we hate, every experience offers us seeds to plant for the stories we tell.

 

Life doesn’t pause or stop to make room for our precious creating time. So, if you are running your own life’s employment exchange, show up and ship out!

 

ENDS

 

Trapped in the WHINEyard?

The only thing that whining or complaining does is to convince other people that you are not in control. Helpful? Far from it. And for all those who are under the mistaken impression that whining burns calories, sorry to disappoint you..it doesn’t!!

 

Whineyards grow only sour grapes.

 

Come to think of it- whining is a seductive package deal. When it works, it gets us attention, lowers expectations, it gains sympathy and it forces or coerces people to identify with our pain.

 

When whining becomes a habit, we need to continue it- so we begin to interpret events as opportunities to prove that our whining is justified.

 

People hate being around a whiner when the selfish desires of the habitual whiner becomes clear. As Lord Jeffrey put it so eloquently ” The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellect “.

 

It would be great to remember that our complaints, drama, victim mentality, whining, blaming and all of the excuses that we come up with has never taken us even one step closer to our goals or dreams. So, time to let go of the nonsense, let go of the delusion that we deserve better and go earn it!

 

Our shared reality is the world as it is, and the whiner isn’t actually being singled out. The best way to make things better is to WORK to improve them, NOT demand special attention and treatment.

 

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are far more blessed than the million plus people who will not survive this week. If you can read this blog then you are far more fortunate than the millions who cannot read it at all.

 

Optimists run the risk of being disappointed now and then. Whiners are always disappointing!

 

Nobody is going to invite you and say ‘ here’s some cheese to go with your whine “- so, you know what to opt for- and whynot?

 

 

ENDS

 

Words Worth!

It’s only words and words are all I haveTo take your heart away…crooned Bee Gees in their seminal classic single Words way back in 1968.

 

Make no bones about it. The tongue has no bones, but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words. Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Words, they have the power to build people up, confine people to where they are, and break people down.

 

 

It may not be an exaggeration to say that words create worldsRemember that words are free but how we use them is what may cost us dearly.

 

Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.”Yehuda Berg

 

Acknowledging the power of spoken words is a fundamental building block to many self-help as well as mainstream therapies. For what we say out loud is a guide to what lies within us. If our talk is critical, cynical or destructive, then we tend to find we think about ourselves in a similar way.

 

Words connect humans to one another, navigating across time and space, in a profound and impactful way that nothing else can achieve. The written word allows for the sharing of ideas, philosophies, memories, events, and stories.

 

As one scholar puts it, “writing codifies speaking, thus turning words into objects of conscious reflection”. In other words, writing ideas makes them more concrete to us, and by mulling written words, we are better able to internalize and understand them, and to allow them to affect our behavior.

 

If we understood the awesome power of our words, we would prefer silence to almost anything negative. That is what inspired the adage ‘ Silence is golden ‘.

 

The power of words in history can never be under estimated. Words have transformed nations be it the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence. These texts show how the simplest of things – nothing but paper and ink – can be imbued with immense power by those who forge them.

 

Then there are the works of fiction and tales of writers like Dickens, Austen, Twain, Hemingway, Woolf, Orwell, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, and so on that have been enjoyed and admired throughout the ages. They continue to exert great influence over society right into the modern era, performed on the stage, adapted for the screen, and studied in great detail by readers worldwide.

 

Imagine the world without newspapers, dictionaries..vast swathes of the public would have been uninformed, literacy levels would not have found some of it’s feet that it is comfortably standing on now.. the works of Mary Wollstonecraft helped to lay the groundwork for the feminism of today, while iconic figures of the past like Martin Luther King Jr made use of their own writing abilities to bring to life a more equal and understanding society.

 

Great philosophers like Socrates, Kant, Plato, Descartes, Hume etc used their works to help us change our conception of the world around us. Political musings and journaling helped us understand the French Revolution or the American Civil War without which those key events could have played out differently.

 

Written words continue to hold great power, even in the digital space. Short messages and personal stories shared across social media led to the rise of massive global movements like the Arab Spring,  Me Too and Black Lives Matter, while aspiring authors continue to share their tales on a bigger scale than ever before.

 

At a time when all of us can head online and get our message across to millions at one go all over the world, the power of words have never been greater.

 

The human tongue is a beast that few can master. It strains constantly to break out of its cage, and if it is not tamed, it will run wild and cause you grief. Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day. Not exactly the kind of diet that you would savor.

 

ENDS

Why 5% > 95% ?

No. The arithmetic may not look right. Contrarian and defies established norm. Yes.

 

But, dare I say, this is the new math.

 

A lot of our attention and effort is spent and invested in trying to onboard the laggards and the lurkers.

 

And it done by dumbing down. Offering more incentive. Creating urgency. Re-posting. Hustling to see if they would take some action.

 

Certainly not worth it.  And very frustrating for anyone who leads.

 

Progress operates on a different GPS. It has a different route to take.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone who says they are a contributor | supporter | fan | contributor | member | long-term customer showed up..

 

..then huge things would begin to happen.

 

The 95% who lurk and remain non-committal will almost always lurk. Thats okay.

 

The energy and the emotional labour has to go into the 5%. The place to focus on. 

 

Because when their persistent, consistent and generous action begins to add up, change happens. And that may bring the lurkers along. And who knows, even activate them. They will catch up when they need to.

 

The chasm will get bridged at its own pace. And that’s perfectly fine.

 

There’s nothing wrong with the laggards and the lurkers. Remember, they are potential action-takers.

 

But for now, our focus, action, respect and gratitude is for all those people who are already showing up. And shipping out. Which is the 5%!

 

So, let’s stop falling over ourselves to dumb down. Average it out. Trying to appeal and please everyone and anyone.

 

When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone. And if you’re not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind change maker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.

 

So, seek your MVA(minimum Viable Audience). This would be counter to what are taught (or expected to learn) in the ‘ School of Capitalism ‘ , but this is the simplest way to do the work that matters, impacts, changes and leaves an inspiring legacy.

 

Now you know- Why 5% > 95% ?

 

ENDS

Time Paws!

Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”

 

Sounds very contrarian but rings true what Leo Tolstoy quoted in War and Peace ”  The Two Most Powerful Warriors are Patience and Time “.

 

Time: it’s free, it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it!

 

You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once lost, you can never get it back.

 

Either you are using time. Or it’s using you. You can watch the clock, but if you do that, it’s watching you.

 

Clocks have an agenda. They were never a part of the natural human condition. They are a recent invention of the Industrial Age. And the very fact that they have an alarm built is a clue. Rings a bell?

 

It’s definitely possible to put time to good use.  But, if we are without a compass and a goal, we can find it using us.

 

Whenever you are stuck searching for the optimal question to ask, remember, ‘ Getting started changes everything ‘- and the time to start is NOW.

 

The invention of the calendar was to keep the outside world at bay and reclaim the agency we lostto respond instead of to react.

 

There’s reason to be aweptimistic– and nothing better than tomorrow! To embark on the ‘ journey to better ‘.

 

ENDS

How about changing your ‘ mailing address ‘ ?

When you look back at life, do you pat yourself on the back or turn your back on life?

 

We never forget the postal address of our past. Where we often mail metaphorical letters. Mostly letters of beration. Admonishment. Of the mistakes we made. Of the wrong decisions we took. Regretting the missed opportunities. Spending valuable time wallowing in self-pity.

 

Often taking the easy route or short cut to blaming our younger self for the mess we may be in.

 

Let’s do something contrarian. Begin with changing the mailing address. What would you be saying to your future self?  And how would you feel when you read that letter in a few months or few years from now?

 

May be you would realise that the crisis or cataclysm that you are facing right now did not turn out as badly as you feared. Maybe you would express some optimism that you could convert to action. And maybe you would develop some empathy for your past self, who was just doing the best you could.

 

So, let’s change where we where we post to. Begin at the destination and travel back to a better addressA future back perspective is a much better one than a present forward one.

 

Nothing is a mistake. There is no WIN. Or no FAIL. There’s only MAKE. Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted.

 

In an expanding universe, time is on the side of the outcast. Those who once inhabited the suburbs of human contempt find that without changing their address they eventually live in the metropolis. Karma has everyone’s address. Yours is in the mail now.

 

Yesterday has passed. We can treat it as a gift or an asset from our previous self. Having said that, there is no gun on the head. You don’t have to accept it if you don’t want to. Tomorrow is a bigger, better opportunity. But, if you are still defending that stuck project of the past( where you have sunk in big emotional labour among other things), you are not making headway as you can’t show up for the new better. Oh! that sunken feeling!

 

ENDS

 

Creativity & The Certainty of Uncertainty !

When nothing is sure, everything is possible “- Margaret Drabble

 

Just as change is the only constant, the only certainty is uncertainty. And knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. Life is shot through with uncertainty and sometimes that uncertainty rears its head in profound ways. The assertion here, however, is that there really is no creativity without uncertainty. Put another way: dubito ergo creo. This is Latin for, I doubt therefore I create.

 

The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers. Unleash, invent, create, discover, endure, heal, inspire, transform. Hope hinges on uncertainty. The audacity of hope is what keeps us going. Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.

 

The outside world provokes, persists and insists that we change the story we tell ourselves. Our attitude doesn’t have to be driven by the outside world, but sometimes they overlap.

 

Specifically, when we experience uncertainty – no matter how uncomfortable and unsettling and destabilizing it can feel – the good news is that it opens vistas of possibility for new thought and action. If we have the confidence and willingness to take creative action in that moment, then our experience with uncertainty can lead to new ways of thinking and acting. Taking action, of course, does not guarantee creative outcomes, but it is through new thought and action that we can, at least temporarily, re-stabilize our experiences in new and better ways.

 

“In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty…in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning. And in our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.” ~ Deepak Chopra.

 

Courtesy: ISD Global

Organizations are created, powered, and led by people. To lead organizations well, we train people in disciplines such as marketing, finance, and leadership. But uncertainty presents a special challenge since few of us have received training in how to deal with it. As a result, although we may call for innovation, transformation, and change, most people back down at even the hint of risk, falling into a series of behavioral traps that limit organizations’ ability to grow and adapt. The challenge is that all growth, change, and transformation inevitably come paired with uncertainty. We have to go through the uncertainty to get to the possibility.

 

The concept of creative learning describes how we can be moved into a state of actionable uncertainty whenever we experience optimally discrepant learning stimuli, which is something that is sufficiently different from our prior knowledge, understanding, or skills. Let’s remember our brains are hardwired to be lazy, so the reliance on default mode thinking and being in comfort zones is a natural fallout. Creative learning stimuli are optimally discrepant, meaning that they are not so different from our prior understanding that we can’t make sense of them, nor are they so familiar that we simply incorporate them into what we already know. This aspect of creative learning is similar to Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget‘s conception of accommodation, which asserts that whenever we encounter new experiences that cannot be easily incorporated into our existing understanding, we need to change our existing knowledge structures to accommodate the new experience.

 

There are least three creative agency beliefs that seem necessary for us to act in the face of uncertainty. These beliefs include: creative confidence beliefs, perceived value of creativity, and creative risk taking.

 

Creative confidence or, more specifically, creative self-efficacy, refers to the confidence that we can think and act creatively in this moment. So, in the midst of uncertainty, our creative confidence beliefs become fluid and influenced by features and interactions situated in a particular time, task and context.

 

Perceived value of creativity also plays an important role. Even if a person has confidence to think and act creatively, if they do not value doing something new or different then they’re not likely going to invest the effort necessary to engage with the uncertainty they are experiencing in a creative way. Consequently, perceived value of creativity moderates the relationship among people’s potential to act creatively, their creative confidence beliefs, and their creative performance.

 

The third self-belief that seems to play a key role in taking action under uncertainty is the willingness to take the risks necessary for creative action. The willingness to take creative risks serves as a moderator between creative confidence and creative behavior.

 

Taken together, our judgements about our confidence, perceived value of creative action, and willingness to take creative risks seem to work together and inform us as to whether we will take creative action in the face of uncertainty.

 

We seem to be moving onward and upward from IQ(Intelligence Quotient) to EQ(Emotional Quotient) to AQ(Adaptability Quotient)in uncertain times, the best strategy is adaptability. Covid-19 amply demonstrated the significance of adaptability as a powerful asset for individuals and organizations alike.

 

Creativity often aids adaptability. A creative approach to new and unfamiliar situations can often help circumvent apparent awkwardness and head off the lack of confidence that may begin to develop as others watch us struggle to adapt.

 

The future is uncertain..but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity “- Ilya Prigogine.

 

ENDS

A question of questions!

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”: Voltaire 

Question is defined as a sentence or phrase used to find out information, insight or intelligence.

We may have all experienced this. You are checking out of a hotel room after a few days’ stay. The lady at the checkout counter politely asks you ‘ How was your stay? ‘ And this question seems not to have changed over the years across time zones and continents. And in most cases, a polite yet non committal answer evolves  ‘ It was good ‘ (even though the stay may not have been).
 
What if (question?) we are asked ‘ What could we have done to improve your stay with us ? ‘ . The energy and the dynamic changes completely. Rather than go on auto pilot mode and offer the default response, you are buoyed by the keenness of the hotel staff to improve the guest experience and you end up offering honest feedback. The answer may not give them exactly what they want to hear. But it will give what’s valuable for them to learn.
As the old proverb goes ‘ Better to ask a question than to remain ignorant ‘.
What if Obvious Questions collide with Contrarian Answers? It’s a discussion worth having. When smart, committed people disagree about the answer to a question, it’s a question worth pursuing.
Progress or outcomes? There is no toss up- its got to be progress. Ditto with questions.
HR reviews could have better progress and responses if employees are asked ‘ What challenges are you facing now ? ‘, as that question presumes that challenges are the norm, not the exception. Rather than ask ‘ Are you facing any challenges?’ , when most will say no. They might fear that their admission will be seen as a weakness.
Good insights, contrary to popular wisdom, don’t come from a smart answer. They come from a smart question.
” We awaken by asking the right questions. We awaken when we see knowledge being spread that goes against our own personal experiences. We awaken by seeking answers in corners that are not popular. We awaken when we see popular opinion being wrong but accepted as being right, and what is right being pushed as wrong “- Suzy Kassem
ENDS