A Confidence Trick: Certainly Uncertain

Over the years as a trainer of English and presentations skills as well as personal and interpersonal skills, one question has been consistently raised. Confidence. It is something that many want yet most are unwilling to do what it takes.

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How do I get more confidence? Are there techniques to build confidence? Can you help me become confident?

There have been many more versions of this question of course but they all seem to have the same underlying theme. But perhaps the wrong questions are being asked. Firstly, what is confidence? The simple answer is trust, full trust. The dictionary definition is along the lines of a feeling or belief that one can trust something or someone. In the case of my students then that want confidence, this would mean that they don’t currently trust themselves or something they have, which moves us onto the next question.

So, when are we confident? The answer from my students is almost uniformly identical, when I know. When I know the subject well enough, I know I can manage, and know that I can answer any likely questions that may arise. According to my students then, the path to confidence is quite simple, know enough. Keep building knowledge, filling gaps, exploring until there is enough information to be confident. This is quite logical and of course indicates they don’t trust something they have; their knowledge. The obvious next question then is of course, what is enough knowledge?

Remember that all of my clients are professionals in their field, many of them are local experts and a few global leaders. They know a lot but apparently, not enough yet to fill their requirements to obtain confidence. Therefore, going on their current process, they must continue to advance their knowledge further. This must be an endless pursuit as knowledge is always limited and can never be complete, and full trust demands complete.

Limited confidence through knowing

There is an obvious problem here of course. I am sure that everyone has experience listening to more than one person speak confidently. Perhaps it is in the role of a parent, politician, teacher, preacher or some other position that seeks to be an authority on some subject. They can confidently speak about the economy, laws, dangers of this and that, the best way, societal problem fixes, the right choices, technology, love, the heavens and the earth. Another question then would be, does having or presenting confidence infer correctness?

Confidence and knowledge are mutually exclusive, they are not connected. Turn on the TV and you will see debates on a myriad of topics where both sides confidently attack the other and defend their own positions, each knowing they are right. Continue watching and listening for a few moments and you could notice something else interesting. You may begin to pick a side and in general, the side you choose will be the one that is most inline with your own views. Soon, you will judge your side as the knowing side and the other as ignorant and wrong. You have become a judge, and not a very objective one.

Believe me, Sir

I thought we were talking about confidence? We are. Remember that confidence was feeling or belief in something? Feelings and beliefs aren’t necessarily correct are they? Some confidently believe that a fat man in a red suit brings them presents once a year. We forgive them of course and even encourage and prolong the misguided confidence, because they are children that are yet to learn. They don’t yet know the truth.

Ok, back to questioning this real-world confidence problem. So, it isn’t in knowing more as that path will never bring an end, so where is it? Perhaps we are looking at the problem from the wrong angle. I said before that there was an underlying thread that tied all the questions together. If you read again, most believe that the path to confidence is one of addition. Something to get, achieve or become. Something to possess. What if we took a different approach, rather than something we need to get, we assume we already have it but there is a blockage stopping us from experiencing it.

Get the self out of the way

What could the blockage be? The answer like almost always, lays in the questions themselves. The approach to know enough is a good place to start. One of the reasons to know enough was to successfully answer questions from the audience, to be able to manage. This is to take a position of authority and teach the audience something, provide power, satisfy the ego, avoid the embarrassment of not having an answer etc.

But like that debate on TV where you picked a side, you know the audience is going to as well and, you want that side to be yours. You want them to like you, find you intelligent, attractive. You want them to trust you as the authority you portray. You know they are going to judge you, make an opinion about you, label you, support or reject you. And that scares you. Can confidence survive in fear? Fear, not uncertainty.

To die a social death is to live

The fear of the judgement of others is a very powerful fear indeed. Their judgement lands a job, builds hierarchy, social position and attracts a partner. All aspects of societal life, group fit, clothing choice and political affiliation will be judged. And there is a tendency to hide what will jeopardise position or tailor what will positively build it. There is a risk that one may even change who they are or how they portray themselves in the hope to fit in and receive a positive judgement. But if confidence is based on trust, and one doesn’t trust that they are enough to pass the judgement of others, is confidence possible at all?

The solution is perhaps quite obvious. The road block to confidence is how we rate the judgement of others. The solution is simple, stop caring what others think of you, be who you are. Or know yourself and willingly accept that you can play a role for the audience. Like an actor on a stage, you can become your role, even if it is only for a 5 minute presentation. Easier said than done?

The second choice is quite common and the easiest to perform but means each performance is a role and perhaps one can become lost in the role, judged on the role and start to identify with the role. The first choice is much harder as one must let go of social programming and external identifiers but, the solution is permanent. Many may not accept you, but those that do, accept the real you. But more importantly, there is no conflict between who you are and the role you play and having that stability in an uncertain world is sure to bring confidence.

What is real confidence though? In my opinion confidence or the best form of it is being comfortable in uncertainty which means believing one has the ability to adapt. This also requires the ability to fail because resilience shown in failure is actually part of the adaptation to the environment. However, one does not actually need confidence to perform well in fact, doubt may be a better performance driver, but, that is for another time.

Taraz

The Santa Question (not suitable for some children)

xmasChristmas is upon us again and the inevitable conversations between those with younger children arise about the belief in Santa. Recently, an article by a couple of psychologists has been floating around the social platforms about the potential damage that could be done to the parent/child relationship through the perpetuation of a lie and the inevitable shattering of the belief they created in their child. It reminded me of a picture I had made a couple years back:

Basically, as age increases, confirming information decreases (parents reduce support)  and more contradicting information enters the environment (Santa looks like grandpa, his beard is obviously fake, peer group shifts etc). This contradictory information raises questions that chip away at the belief until a level of understanding is reached that exposes the lie. At that point, the belief is gone, unlikely to ever return. (Imagine what it would actually take for an ex-believer to start believing in Santa again. It would have to be some pretty extraordinary new evidence to cause a reversal).

Now, for some background, I wasn’t raised to believe in Santa yet, still managed to decorate a Christmas tree, eat good food with family and friends and get and give a couple of presents. It was enjoyable. I was also told early on that some children are taught to believe in Santa, so don’t ruin it for them. This was acceptable to me at the time. The only time it felt weird was at school having to write a letter to an imaginary person asking for gifts. It seemed ridiculous, but that was the task (Interestingly to me, this is in the same place that is tasked with providing the background knowledge for future employment).

I still think that people are able to believe what they want but as an adult speaking with adults, I think it is also important to question beliefs to the point that they are proven as fact or fiction. Believing in gravity does not have an effect on it and not believing in it does not mean it won’t have an effect on you. But, I do recommend investigating and running tests if still uncertain. Testing is especially important for beliefs held since childhood (as these were entered into with the knowledge and capacity of a child), or instilled by others (as everyone has their personal biases that can manipulate the information they provide).

Some people challenge that these childhood beliefs help develop an imagination though I am not sure that is a solid argument. Imagination is a creative process where one takes what one knows and connects and combines it into something different, something new or, simulates something that doesn’t exist or is not currently available to get a better understanding. It is a mental simulation of what is not. Some of these mental creations may even have the technical gaps closed until they actually exist, many may only be possible in fantasy and others yet might never want to be made a reality even if they are possible. A belief on the other hand, is accepting that something exists or is true without evidence. A belief changes behavioural actions on poor information, or at the very least, limited information.

In the case of Santa, which is a cultural belief, it is not born within the imagination of the child, it is installed from an external creation of culture and tradition and the child acts as if it is true. As evidence, parents may use the threat of ‘behave or Santa won’t visit’ and many children will alter their behaviour, not wanting to miss out on Santa (or more likely the presents they think he delivers). This is also indicative of how belief systems and the demands of others can be combined to manipulate and elicit behavioural changes. Belief systems tend to be very strong control mechanisms and can create a wide range of behaviours from the benign to the terrible. Not only in children.

And this is why beliefs should be discussed, investigated, prodded and tested. Not just the beliefs of those that differ from our own, but all beliefs including our own. This will inevitably lead to discomfort and disagreements but before resorting to negative behaviours, each party should have to bring definitive proof that their belief is true (or the other not). This will actually speed up the search for truth as both sides will be investigating opposite sides of the coin. Once definitive proof is presented however, the likelihood of one side giving up their belief in favour of the truth is high (like a long gone, non-germ-believing doctor seeing germs move through a microscope for the first time). Any continued believing or aggression based on the disproved position beyond that point must be done with the active denial of evidence. Not a great position to be in.

If no proof can be found it doesn’t mean the belief is necessarily incorrect (the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence) but, acting as if it ‘does’ exist without evidence may be, especially if it involves the harming of others. This search for proof can continue for generations or may indeed never end but while the search continues, there need be no more aggression than the clash of minds questioning each other and asking for better evidence. Of course, this will only work if those involved are actually interested in finding the truth. Many are not because it may mean admitting they are wrong.

Personally, I don’t mind (as painful as it can be) being proven wrong even though I will attempt to argue my stance. But, I don’t want to be convinced of a truth, I want it proven to me. In a world where there is a constant barrage of metric-driven, influential and charismatic people claiming truths, attacks on those who are different, false news stories disguised as fact and extremist views of all kinds attracting believers and followers, it is vitally important for the future of communities at the global and local levels to question their current positions and ask if where they stand on a particular point is the end of the question, the start or somewhere in between. If there is no definitive answer, there is room for more questions to be raised and investigated.

Be curious. Question it all. Look behind the beard.

I hope to hear your positions, opinions, questions and arguments either here, in private messages or over a coffee.

Comment, Like or Share as you see fit.

The first time I saw her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday is Father’s day. My first. It is also three months to the day that my daughter was born although, it actually feels like it has been both a blink of an eye and an eternity.

This is the day I may get breakfast in bed, a small gift and perhaps a card with a heart on it and a baby’s hand print as the signature. The day that dads get to share in a little of the limelight and get a little bit spoiled. Fatherhood for was something that would happen the way life does, naturally. It would happen when I was ready for it. Not in a financial sense or even emotionally but, from a sense of personal responsibility. A time when I was willing to let go of my insecurities, preferences, habits and any other baggage that had accumulated throughout my life and have the courage to do what it takes to carry the new mantle of ‘Dad’.

I have heard people say that becoming a parent helps you lose your selfishness and so far I couldn’t disagree more, in a sense. For me, it has crystallised and sped a vision of self-improvement that I have always held. The courage isn’t to surrender myself to the responsibilities of parenthood but take the responsibility to discover myself fully in order to be the best parent I can be. Luckily, I have a role model. Someone who demonstrated to me a lesson of such importance, I would like to share it on.

For years, I have joked that the expecting father should be in the waiting room with a cigar in hand waiting while the child is born. And, if I had actually followed through with this, I would have missed one of my life’s most brilliant moments. The pregnancy itself had its fair share of challenges and since birth, new challenges have taken their place. However, the defining moment was a point between the before and the after, a timeless gap that has been burned into my mind and body so deeply, I cannot see it ever leaving. I am sure I cannot provide the moment the gravity it deserves in writing nor express the depth at which it was felt but, perhaps I can offer a glimpse and just maybe, the reader can capture a little of the experience. Here we go.

The water broke near midnight, by three a.m. we arrived at the hospital and at around 8 a.m. we moved into the birthing room. It was here that things slowed considerably. The contractions were close together but everything else was moving forward at a crawl. The pain seemed high but bearable enough with aid from the gas, that each time the nurse made the near hourly offer for an epidural, it was knocked back. At around two p.m, the pain could no longer be reduced enough and the epidural was accepted. As expected, things slowed down again and large doses of oxytocin were introduced to move the labour along. Near six in the evening, things leapt into high gear and moved really fast, just as the last available epidural dose began losing its effect. At a little after 7, with the last of the painkillers gone from the system, the time came to start pushing. It was at this point that the pain looked to ramp up to a level that is unimaginable to anyone that has not experienced it, and then it happened – The defining moment.

Through a flurry of action and beeping machines, I truly saw my wife for the first time. Except, in this moment, this space, she was no longer my wife or the woman I had known. No longer a woman with preferences or insecurities. There was no nationality, no culture, no political affiliation. There were no regrets from the past or desires for the future. No fear in her eyes at a pain I cannot begin to imagine, no worry about her appearance or concern of who saw the sweat, blood and tears pour from her small, breaking body. In those minutes she was raw, stripped of any superficial layer that could be used to define her, to box her in, to limit her in any way. It was now only her; pure, beautiful and extraordinary doing only what was absolutely necessary, completely in the present, fully in the now.

This is what has been burned into me, a vision or understanding of what lies beneath my wife. An individual strength so great it can tear through the universe and literally create life. I held her in those moments, witnessed her in her most authentic form where the seemingly impossible was proven not to be. Where she was both nothing and everything simultaneously, yet completely unaware of my presence even though I was mere centimetres from her face, whispering into her ear. Every piece of her had concentrated into one whole, to perform one task and anything that lay outside of what was required, was irrelevant. Thought and action united completely to do what it must. This was being in the zone at its greatest depth- perfect flow.

I can only relay what I witnessed like a battlefield reporter. I have talked to my wife and asked her questions yet she has few answers as she doesn’t remember her thoughts or actions, the faces that surrounded her, what was said or done when complications took place, the words of the midwife or the look on the face of the trainee nurse participating in only her fourth birth as a doctor performed the suction to free our daughter. She definitely doesn’t remember what I whispered in her ear or how many times I told her I love her. She was so deep in the moment and consuming so much energy, her mind had nothing left with which to create solid memories. But in those few minutes she was transparent, a flawless diamond.

The moment to me was purity, clarity and strength combining to act in its highest form and I am forever grateful to have been a witness. I am not sure if this is the experience of all women in childbirth or what all fathers see and feel in those moments but I feel I glimpsed truth. What I witnessed was life in the way it should be experienced. Wholly. Completely. Hanna gave me this insight and proved something to me I think I have always known; there is a power within that the mind can not imagine and words cannot describe.

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At four minutes past eight, 4 hours before the day would turn to our first wedding anniversary, my daughter Ava was born, and I became a father. And, after all that she had just been through, within seconds, my wife turned to me and asked, “Is she okay?” It is then that the next truth arrived – my wife will carry the impossible to protect her child. It is my hope, that reading about what I saw, Hanna will realise that her power inside is always present and doesn’t require a moment of intense pain or stress to use. I hope she can use it to do all she can and help our daughter discover that the same lies within her too.

For me, the path in front will forever be one of self-discovery and a quest to be at my highest form. There will be many failures, bad choices and old habits and fears will continue to surface. I will hurt people, help people, offend and encourage but, I owe it to myself, the woman who stands with me, the future of my daughter and all children as well as for the world at large to discover and use my gifts and be the best I can be. Perhaps only after walking this road, whether in joy or crushing defeat, I would have earned the right do be a role model also, the right to be called –

Dad.

Now, it is hopefully time for breakfast in bed.

Blind Hire.

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Would I ever hire someone for a position I had little knowledge of or a well investigated outline for? Would I ever base my hiring decisions on whether I like someone or because they think in a similar fashion as myself? I wonder this because it seems we make our voting decisions in much this way. How can I make a good decision on who I choose for President, Prime minister or any leadership position when I have no idea what the job requirements are or what challenges the position faces?

For instance:

  • The country needs jobs – How are jobs created?
  • National Debt is high –  What are the causes and potential remedies?
  • Social Services are under pressure – Why and what can be done?
  • Immigration challenges – What does this actually mean?
  • Global economies are struggling – What are the causes and risks?
  • Companies need to increase exports – Why, how and what resources are required?

If I can’t answer these kinds of questions at an informed, mid-range level, how do I choose a representative to handle them? Is it acceptable to make my decision based on how I ‘feel’ about the person without closing knowledge gaps with well-rounded information on the tasks with which they will deal? Perhaps they make me feel good about the way I currently think or promise to punish or remove the causes of my fear so that I can feel secure. Should I believe a candidate when they say I know, I will, I promise? Without deep understanding myself, how do I know that what they know and promise is suitable for the operating environment? How do I know that they have (or can gather people with) the skills and knowledge necessary to improve the situation? The current decision-making process seems to be quite irrational, based on media-fuelled emotion and conflicting desires coupled with a lack of understanding on both the causes of the current situations and how to improve them for the future.

Personally, with all of the complication this world has in it, I would have to question anyone that says ‘I know’ and when I catch myself saying it, I should question myself also. ‘I know’ is a conclusion and when people feel they know, they don’t worry about looking any further for potential errors, risks or opportunities. And, every time someone has said ‘I know’, at some point in the near or distant future, their knowledge is outdated, surpassed, irrelevant and what they know has actually become just another habit, possibly a harmful one at that.

I may be more inclined to lean towards someone that doubts a little, is somewhat uncertain but comfortable with the uncertainty as they are more likely to research, investigate, double check, consult, collaborate, try many things and continually adjust and attempt again. If they face uncertainty with a positive attitude, an optimism, an openness, an acceptance of risk and responsibility, then they may just be the right person for the job as each failure endured brings with it better information and creates a learning experience. And for them, each success is not an end point but a way point as improvement is seen as a continuous journey and change an inevitable part of any future.

But once I make the hiring decision, I must play my role. The role of supporter which is most important as it is the level of support that is the wind that drives change or the anchor that holds it in place. A captain can go nowhere with a ship at anchor but far with a dedicated and skilled crew and a good wind to fill the sails. Investing in the coming future can be expensive, difficult, scary and mistakes are likely to be made. Reminiscing in the past can bring feelings of comfort and safety through the golden lenses of memory and perhaps a desire to return to those times. Only one of these directions is ultimately possible.

Am I the wind of continual change or an anchor fighting the currents?

 

 

What makes a life?

 

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What feels like many years ago, I paid my way through university with a job at McDonald’s in Cairns, Queensland. While working the drive-thru window, a car came through with South Australian number plates and a man in his late forties driving. I commented how far he is from home (some 3000 kilometers) and he paused, looked at me harder a few moments and asked: “Are you Mr Kanti-Paul’s son?”

“Yes, I am.”

There are many stories to be told, many more that shall remain untold and the uncountable that will inevitably be lost through time but, I thought I would mention a couple briefly here. Stories that stand out in my mind as road signs of a life.

Raised in Malaysia to Indian parents, my father experienced many things. He learned many languages, was a brilliant student, began teaching his first qualified class at sixteen years of age (a class I will mention later) and became quite a renowned, self-taught artist. To get to do these things at all was a miracle in itself and one story that highlights this may be a story of chance.

Much of his early childhood in Malacca was lived between battles in the Pacific theatre of World War 2. At one point, when he was around 6 or so, the Japanese invaded his town. Scared villagers ran into the surrounding jungle and the invading soldiers were ordered to follow in a walking firing line, shooting all they found. My Grandma, a tiny woman with children in tow, huddled her family under a very large leaf when they could run no farther. She prayed in fear that her children would stay silent and they would survive. Moments passed that I can only guess must have felt eternal until the muzzle of a rifle lifted the leaf under which they hid and the eyes of a young Japanese soldier looked at them. With the sound of gunfire ringing close by, the soldier put his finger to his lips in a be quiet motion and lowered the leaf back down. Surrounded by cruelty and violence, a small kindness by someone choosing not to follow orders, saved a family. My family. Who knows how many similar stories there may be from those times and how many soldiers chose to follow the given orders instead.

During those occupied times, my grandfather, a Post-master, used his access to correspondence to help organise the transport of escaped Prisoners of War out of Malaysia. A very dangerous activity. One day, their Chinese neighbours, who were also part of the underground network, were caught and the town was gathered to watch as the entire family were beheaded as a lesson to prevent others. The following day, my grandfather continued his secret work. I don’t think it was defiance or stubbornness that drove him, I think it was because he felt it his duty to do what he felt was the right thing to do. I wonder how many families around the world owe their life to a letter passed through a tiny post office in Malacca and the hands of someone that risked a lot to do the right thing. Many people protect their own, some extend that protection to all and I think that carried through in my father.

Stubbornness does seem to run through the family though. As I said, my father is a self-taught artist. A ‘hobby’ that my grandfather disapproved of as it was not a proper career and subsequently prohibited my father from doing. As a result, while studying, he practiced in secret and by 12 or so, he and his slightly older brother were making small amounts of money by painting billboard advertisements on theatres for the latest movie releases. To this day, 70 years later, he still teaches art classes. As they say, find something you love.

Although a teacher by profession, it was eventually his art that took him abroad. Due to his continued pursuit of his craft and local success, he was invited to hold an exhibition in Australia which ended up being successful enough that he chose to move permanently to Australia and follow his career. The only problem was that Australia was still in the midst of ‘White Only’ policy for immigration, making it very difficult for any others to enter the country. However, in the end, he was able to get corporate sponsorship to back his move and he settled in Adelaide where he began teaching art, holding exhibitions and soon after, meeting my mother.

After their marriage in 1966 (which made front page of the Advertiser newspaper because mixed-race marriages were so rare- their’s was the second) they moved to Gawler and my dad took up an art teaching position at the local high school. I can’t imagine life would have been easy at the time in mid-sixties Gawler, a place not overly known for its ethnic diversity. But it was in this small town 42 kilometers North of Adelaide that he and my mother raised 5 children.

It was here that we would be challenged by our father to running races, climbing competitions, kick a football, play cricket and watch him mow a mammoth patch of grass. It was here that we would listen to bedtime stories that he made up each night about fantastical creatures or the misadventures and triumphs of a hundred other characters. It was here I would watch him get ready for work and never miss a day shaving. It was here we would be consoled after hard days at school where children were not always kind. This was a place to be yourself, regardless of the facade the rest of the world saw. It was not always easy, but it was home.

Throughout all of this he would paint. Sitting for thousands upon thousands of hours meticulously working. Mixing colours on old ice cream container lids, washing brushes in jars and peering at frames he stretched himself while they rested on long gone news sheets.  He held exhibitions, around Australia, won several awards for various pieces and our home was filled with an artistic journey that crossed thematic and medium boundaries, spanned continents and if you knew him well-enough, expressed every emotion a life can experience. All the children are artistic in some way yet, he never taught us to paint. I am not sure why but perhaps it is because painting is his love and it is for us to find our own.

I have watched my father give his all to others. And I mean everything. If he felt someone needed something he had, he gave. I think over the years, many people both related and unrelated have taken advantage of his nature. I have watched him give all he had to a near stranger while he struggled to feed himself. I have watched him give all he has to his family and never ask for anything in return. I think my dad views himself as a facilitator. I think he has a sense of duty to leave this world a little better than he found it, even if he doesn’t benefit from it directly.

When he got his first teaching position, he used his salaries to buy books, uniforms and shoes for as many children as he could because they couldn’t attend without. He was 16 and not much older than those children himself. Many years later in a restaurant in Cairns, I met one of these students, a Malaysian General. He had used his contacts to track my father down and after his retirement from the military, arranged a meeting by letter. It had been over 50 years since he had been in that first class and he still cried when he saw my father. He had been living in poverty when they had first met and credits my dad with saving him from wherever that path would have led. He told many stories of those classroom days that opened my eyes a little more to what a life may be and as he did so, he had the look of a little boy viewing his hero. In the end, he surprised my dad with a trip back to Malacca for a class reunion where more such stories were told about my father. I don’t know if my dad remembers all of those students by name and their faces must have seen much more life than when he had seen them last but, they definitely remember him.

Perhaps this is what makes a life. The impacts we have on the environment and the world around us. The people we influence. Small acts of compassion that allow a family to grow. The advancement of skills that become careers and open doors never before imagined. People that hold us back and those that advance us. Those who remember us for how we have helped or saved them or remember how we have hurt them. As we go about our daily life, we constantly shift the paths of our world and influence an unseen future. Our paths cross and move apart but have forever been influenced by their proximity to each other.

I think over the years. My dad has played a role in influencing many people’s lives. He has given talks at conferences to many thousands, his art viewed by many more. He has helped how he could, when he could and supported countless numbers to find their own way, whatever that may be. I get the impression that there are many out there who have found inspiration through my father and many lives that are a little better for having known him.

At that fast food drive-thru window in Cairns the driver said:
“I was always rubbish at art but I learned things in your dad’s class that have made me a better person today.”

I know that feeling.

To me he is dad, to you perhaps Tushar, Tushy, Mr. Paul and to many, many people, Mr. Kanti-Paul. I don’t know with certainty what makes a life, but I know that he has lived one.

Today, he turns 80.
Happy Birthday Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

The Active Avoidance of Sisu

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Sisu, a Finnish word that has no direct translation. In English, sisu may be described as the energy that lies past grit and perseverance to overcome adversity. Today I won’t look at sisu directly rather, voice a few thoughts and questions about the other side of the equation: Adversity.

If Sisu is the energy used to overcome adversity, it is important then to understand what is to be conquered. Adversity by definition is: adverse or unfavorable fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress. For me, I don’t think this really describes adversity well because, as you can probably gather, this all seems to be very subjective. What is calamity, distress or unfavourable fortune? These terms would be very heavily dependent upon the one experiencing them.

In Finland, I have heard numerous times how an ice hockey team or player used sisu energy to succeed in difficult conditions. It has been mentioned in regards to business success as well as political and industrial maneuvering. When I first arrived in Finland some 13 odd years ago, clients would often give me mini Finnish history lessons to bring me up to speed. Many broached the subject of past wars and battles where inevitably, the term ‘Finnish Sisu’ would be called upon to describe how Finland managed to survive. How does the survival of a war compare to a tough hockey game on the adversity index?

If sisu begins where determination, perseverance and grit end, wouldn’t the point of beginning be dependent upon how much grit and determination one already possesses? This would mean that the starting point of sisu for any particular individual could vary wildly from that of another, as would the adverse events required to call upon the sisu reserve. This makes the adversity level of events required to induce sisu highly personal and incomparable to the experiences of another, even if the events themselves are comparable.

“Through high school I lived a life of adversity. You see, I had an iphone 4 when all of my friends had a 5 and some even a 6. It was a tough time but my sisu got me through.”

Is this what we could hear as stories that demonstrate sisu? Does this provoke us to ignore the odds and inspire us to jump into the fray? Which situations bring out our own strengths and hidden reserves? Is mild adversity enough or does it require gut wrenching, muscle ripping, physical and mental struggle where failure or success is balanced on a razor’s edge? Perhaps an extremely adverse event to one may seem relatively mild through the eyes of another. Can an observer judge?

When it comes to judgement, sisu seems to be something that can be guessed at through third-party observations but not actually measured. Like a 1-10 pain scale, it is only relevant to the individual experiencing it and the threshold for one may be much, much higher or lower than that of another. The judgement would also depend on what types of events the observer believes worthy or unworthy of even attempting and their personal experiences and attitudes. I also suspect that when it comes to observing sisu by the actual individual experiencing it, there would be no available energy to pay observational attention, as all would be allocated to the adverse sisu-evoking task at hand. It is perhaps possible to see in reflection but, when looking back, does one realise that the grit/sisu threshold was crossed, or does survival itself prove that there was actually more energy within?

Then, if we are interested in experiencing sisu and growing resilience we would have to think if our lives offer the type of adversity that inspires sisu to get involved? We live in a society where we protest the loss of a few holidays and demonstrate because we believe we don’t have enough to help people that have fled war zones. We will argue against measures that place financial discomfort upon us and shy away from making personal and policy changes although the current and future environment demands them. We ask others to look after us in many different ways, blame them if they fail to reach our expectations and get offended and target them if they say or do something with which we disagree. We continually judge everyone else based on their actions and circumstances yet fight for our right not to be judged ourselves. There is already a life filled with conflict, and much of it seems self-inflicted, but is it sisu inducing?

To experience sisu we have to face adversities that challenge us beyond our own expectations and beliefs of what we think we can do. Which would mean, doing what we think is for us, impossible. But, most people will instinctively not test personal limits that defy the odds because of the likelihood of failure and certainly not willingly attempt the impossible. Alternatively, we could experience sisu if the adversity we experience is not chosen, but thrust upon us by external factors, however, our common practice is to fight against anything that we expect will put us in discomfort, let alone awaken the sleeping sisu giant inside. We seem to want to believe sisu is within us, but will actively avoid the adverse situations that would prove it.

A poor diagram attempting to show the move:

Adversity_Sisu

Regardless of whether sisu usage is realised or not, dipping into the reserve would  promote an expanded ‘believed ability’ capacity for future use since it has been proven in practice and repeatedly doing so would continuously move the boundary and create a highly resilient individual. If one adverse event expands the grit capacity, does this translate into the ability to handle a highly diverse adverse event?

Personally, when I look back at my life, I have pushed through some very difficult times, but in reflection, were they that difficult? I now think I had much more reserve than the struggle suggested and perhaps didn’t come as close to using ‘sisu’ as I thought I did at the time. Maybe I underestimated myself then because I didn’t understand a wide range of adversity, perhaps I now overestimate my abilities because I think I have already faced the most difficult. It is highly likely that with my personal growth, the troubles of the past now appear insignificant. In hindsight, I feel I was much more than a little naive, and looking forward, I think I will look back at now and think the same again. We can believe in something without it being true, but truth itself doesn’t require a belief. Should I find out where my true limits are or, should I trust where I believe them to be?

In my opinion, adversity does not need to come through a struggle against the negative, it can come through a journey for the positive. It doesn’t have to be brought on by misfortune, distress or calamity. At least not in the way we generally define it. Sisu and its benefits could come through deliberate choices to push ourselves into adversity by tackling what we believe to be impossible for us, but worthy of our energy investments. The breaking of familiar structures and concepts and venturing into new fields, yet to be formed technologies and methods that are still only dreams. To learn about and collaborate with people, cultures and nations that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable to build stronger relationships and better solutions. To invest in the unknown, investigate the unexplored and attempt to do what has never been done. The undiscovered always lives in adversity until found and the path to a better world is impeded by those unwilling to look. Of course, negative events will still appear along these paths also but, rather than trying to avoid them, we can aim for something far greater and they will help us achieve it.

Sisu may begin at the end of our known abilities, but not the end of our ability because if there is reserve, there is fuel to learn more, understand deeper and move further. Sometimes the steps seem too big and our legs too short and we question ourselves and our power to continue, yet here we are, continuing. And, if we know that sisu is there, why are we afraid to go further than what we believe are the limits? Why not test our impossibles? When we look back, the moments we revere, the ones that have shaped us, the ones that have become a part of our story, many of these are born from difficulty and pulled from adversity. The great leap forwards in things such as technology and education, social welfare, human rights and medicine have also been pushed through uncertainty and adverse conditions. Adversity becomes the catalyst for fulfilling our potential, avoiding it creates our ceilings.

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” – Muhammad Ali

Like normal, these are just some thoughts that may inspire more thoughts and questions. Feedback and opinions are welcome.

Taraz

 

The Endless Conversation

Endless_conversation

I like to think.

I don’t pretend to be a great thinker, nor do I assume correctness in how or what I think. To me, it is just thinking. One beauty of the human mind is our power to question, simulate, predict, create, develop and change without ever having to make a physical move. The power of imagination is a resource that leads to a new world. Not just an imaginary world, but the physical material world in which we live and operate. Every invention, every product, every organisation and war has been brought about through a combination of thoughts, concepts and theories that have materialised in our reality. I don’t think this is too difficult to understand yet at the same time, how come so many are unwilling to think differently and feel powerless in their ability to do differently?

The world is complex. So complex that we as humans are unable to understand all the linkages between components and how changing one node will create a shift in every other node in the system as well as have structural effects on the links. Some of these changes are large, some small, but all have an effect on everything else. As humans we tend to think that we know a lot and it is true that each day our collective knowledge increases. However, we also seem to limit the amount of what we don’t know which is perhaps a dangerous position to take as, every time in history we position ourselves as knowing, within some period of time, what we know grows to make what we knew obsolete. Now, we know better. Again, it is perhaps easy to see that knowing is always limited. It can grow, but can never be complete.

What we know and do can have impacts we may see as insignificant today, but create massive ramifications on our lives in the future. I think, a few examples will quickly come to mind but the history of smoking or fossil fuel usage should provide a bit of evidence. Inversely, what we think as an enormous breakthrough at the time, may wither into little more than a passing fad. So, the world is too complex to fully comprehend yet we keep trying to fix it by knowing more of something we can never have complete knowledge in and then make our actions based on this limited information, complicating it further and increasing the chances of unexpected events. It seems this will be an endless journey and perhaps busy work as one correction leads on to new errors. This process may leave us feeling ineffective as we continue to chase a goal that is impossible to reach.

I think part of the reason we often feel helpless is that the system we have built is enormous, interconnected and constantly shifting. The knot we have created as a global society is in itself a massively complex system to understand and to fully understand something, objectivity is needed. Yet, we are part of this society in which we operate and invested in certain actions and outcomes, even though those outcomes may conflict with other desires we hold. As they say: ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too’. I want to be an individual and belong to a group, Be nationalistic and support peace. Have more than the neighbour whilst encouraging equality. Perhaps our desires are incompatible or at the very least, we could entertain this possibility by using that amazingly capable skill of the human brain: simulation.

Thinking differently is a challenge.  Humans generally want to be part of a group and being part of any particular group relies on thinking, rituals, traditions, actions and beliefs that are aligned with that of the group; group culture. Breaking ranks sets off cultural alarm bells and the culture police shift into top gear to bring order to their domain by expelling the divergent. And, based on their judgement, the outcast can be ostracised, ridiculed and targeted with various forms of prejudice. Essentially, being or thinking differently is risky as it can effectively be performing social suicide. When everything one holds dear depends on conformity to a certain culture and their acceptance, being different is difficult.

Even when we aren’t bound by group think, thinking differently is still challenging as it means going into an unknown and the unknown is scary. Fear stops us from a lot, even when we know it shouldn’t. You can tell a child not to be scared of the dark and that monsters aren’t real but, that massive simulation computer in the head will get to work, even without express permission. Imagined beasts hiding under the bed waiting to hear a parent’s footstep retreat down the hall before they make an appearance may be amusing to an adult, but is very real to the child. Remember, our thinking creates our world? A child’s thoughts made a real heart beat faster, created real sweat on tiny palms and very real tears on cheeks. Even if there is no monster to see it, fear has an effect.

You see, the simulator is always running, day and night and if we don’t give it something to do, it will do what it does based on what it knows. And because it would rather think itself right than wrong, it will avoid any areas that it is uncomfortable with (often the unknown) by creating fear when those areas are approached. Fear is natural. It keeps us alive in many practical ways. However, not being able to mentally simulate a process due to fear, how does that help us? Fear to think alternatively seems silly, doesn’t it?

If we are presented with a problem and we know how to fix it, is it really a problem at all? Let’s ‘pretend’ I am overweight. This is my problem. What do I know about it? Pretty soon (based on what I know) I would come to the conclusion that I should change my eating habits and exercise a bit more. Problem solved. Well no it isn’t, as I am yet to actually perform any action based on my thinking. If I think (assuming my solution is correct) and act inline with my solution, the process will lead to weight loss. However, another problem arises. Knowing what to do and doing what is known are separate mechanisms. I ‘may’ love cake, or perhaps I hate exercise, or both. This means that the solution to my problem may be located in a region I am unwilling to walk. I think this is why TV shopping makes so much money. They offer ‘solutions’ to people so that they can avoid the aspects where they experience pain or fear. In my case, giving up cake or going for a jog. When the piece of promise equipment doesn’t work, we can blame it for not being good enough and look to purchase a ‘better’ one. But to actually solve the problem, we have to get to the root of the problem itself, not avoid it.

What are we willing to suffer to solve our problems may be a decent question to ask at this point. For me personally, it seems that I am quite willing to put my body through pain and stress at a gym, yet unwilling to deny myself a piece of chocolate (or an entire block). We all have these areas that we are willing to suffer for and others that we will not go near. This seems natural. But, what if the solution to our problem lays in an area that we are unwilling to suffer yet it is imperative that we solve the issue? As an example, it seems that we have a few global environmental issues on our hands. Whether man-made or natural, changes in the climate will have drastic effects on the way in which we live and likely, even our survival as a species. I am no expert, but it would appear whatever the solution is, it lays in an area that would mean we would all have to completely restructure the way in which we operate as a society at government, industrial and community levels. The problem is, our society and the cultures held within (which we all created and are all a part of) are both uncomfortable with change and attached to current processes. The solutions probably lays in a cultural no go zone.

Change is movement, and movement requires energy (force) this force applies pressure (stress) and things move and affect other things which in turn, affect more. With our massive brains, we have been able to harness and direct energy ourselves. This gives us the ability to direct change without relying on nature to do it for us. This is great except, we don’t fully understand all of this complex universe in which we live and how our direction of energy is going to knock-on to other nodes in the system. So, we limit it to what we do know because what we don’t know we can’t factor and, it is generally scary to think about as it is enormous and the unknown contradicts our clever image of ourselves. Due to this, we end up using our hard-earned energy maintaining what we know or developing where we feel comfortable with change. This means that the society we have created with all of our collective thoughts over however many millennia has a built in system to protect it from change, even though, because it lays within a much larger system that influences it, change is inevitable and has been proven in countless ways, right down to our very own DNA.

Perhaps we just aren’t willing to ask questions. Society can’t ask questions of itself, yet each human component that makes it up can investigate (using the mental simulator) independently, discover and make small changes that could in fact become enormous changes down the line. But doing so would eventually require thoughts and actions that lay outside of the groups norms and, we know how much we don’t want to leave the group. We would much rather leave the thinking up to the smart people with high IQ’s and degrees that are qualified to do the quality thinking for us. This seems like a decent process yet they too, with all of their intelligence are consistently caught in the same trap as the rest of us. Remember the smoking and the fossil fuel examples? Expert scientists may have made and developed the goods, expert business leaders and marketers sold them, but we consumed them and therefore we must all take responsibility. This is a system after all. Without a market, every product fails.

In a training session recently, one of my students got an adjustable desk and we talked about it a little. This is the kind that goes up and down at a touch of a button to avoid or alleviate back pain. These seem to be a good idea and perhaps every office worker should have one as standard but, that is a different matter. Another member of the group had had one for a while already and I asked how often he used it. He replied not so often, but he adjusted it whenever he felt pain in his back. We tend to only shift our position when we are in pain, under pressure, uncomfortable or suffering. If we know this is the case, we can mentally simulate potential physical, psychological and emotional pain areas without any risk. Wouldn’t we then have a chance to move the proverbial desk before the pain starts?

Talking about risk, the risk assessment of a situation is something we take very seriously but very few understand. I recommend reading up a little if you haven’t already as it is great to have even a basic understanding of human thinking biases. Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ will give a very good view of the matter but perhaps you can find something better. In general though, the human mind is always looking for certainty. Security. We want a sturdy roof over head, a partner we can trust, a stable job, guaranteed returns, safe streets, positive feedback, and social acceptance. And, we are willing to do anything to get it, even if the price is the security of another. As long as we and what we see as ours is safe.

But this quest for security should raise a question: does the treasure exist at all? Thinking about this a little and applying my severely limited knowledge of the universe, I think the answer is a definite maybe. Everything is moving, no matter how slightly. Each individual atom has a storm of action inside and we know that there are much smaller particles again in the form of quarks. But, this doesn’t mean that they are even the smallest of course as tomorrow we may discover more or perhaps we already have. Anyway, all of these tiny components make up all the other components and none of the parts, whether big or small, are perfectly still. Going back to the unknowable interconnected universe in which we live, every movement has an affect on other parts and so on and so forth. Even if the initial movement was never witnessed, i.e. the big bang (is that a thing still?), every other part has been affected by it and will be seemingly affected forever. Therefore, no matter how secure a position is made, in reality, there are innumerable forces always acting to shift it. Which means every position for everything is always experiencing a level of risk.

Ok, back to the ‘real’ world for a moment. What does this mean for us, not as particles of matter but as humans? Our security is a dependent. By this I mean that our security depends on assurances of other people, systems and circumstances of which we have no control. No matter how safe our vehicles are and carefully we drive, if someone in the oncoming lane swerves to hit us, there is not much that can be done. Think about that while driving next time. Scary isn’t it? It doesn’t matter how much money one amasses in a bank, a computer glitch or an unscrupulous banker could empty it. No matter how strong a building, there is always a meteorite out there stronger. These events are very unlikely of course and maybe not even relevant, but there are scores of people who have lost, are losing and will lose their jobs to innovations in technology. No matter how good they are at their job, or how much they are liked in the workplace. Maybe that example is closer to home.

No certainty yet, so why then the maybe? Do you see the pattern above? In each case the same event takes place. A loss event. Life, money, home, job. Things that we identify with. (Loss of life might be the ultimate discovery in security but may not be worth the investment) Well, for humans our certainty doesn’t depend on being able to predict what will happen, how it will happen or any aspect of it. It depends on how secure we feel. Perception of security shouldn’t be mistaken for security itself and when someone offers security, question it thoroughly as it is very, very unlikely that one can actually deliver on the promise. If we don’t fear the loss of something, there is no risk in losing it. This doesn’t mean not caring at all, if anything, quite the opposite.

Ever heard of happiness being in the now or be grateful for what you have? How can we live in the present or be grateful if we are continually chasing the future security for the very things we are meant to be enjoying and being thankful for as they are now? Not what they may or may not be or whether they are even there, damaged, destroyed or stolen tomorrow. As the saying goes: we don’t know what we’ve got til its gone. This again suggests we will not move o pay attention until in pain. When we are unattached we can see it clearly, hold it as it is and love it for what it is and, if we must, let it go cleanly having experienced it fully and being thankful for it. But this is not the way we generally work, if something we experience brings joy, we want to stretch it further, protect it, possess it. And when we think it is ours, we will hide it away, cover it up, save it. We become collectors. Even of people we say we care about. And if someone shows a little too much interest in what we hold, we will defend it, attack them and stake claim to what is ‘rightfully’ ours. Yet an uncomfortable question often remains unasked or ignored: These things we claim as ours, did we ever own them at all?

The things we enjoy we protect and the things that bring pain we avoid. We are encouraged to do what we want, but what we want seems to follow the trend lines of the group with which we identify. I asked students from different companies and fields what is their definition of success. The answers were both interesting and expected. At first each was unwilling to answer and all gave their first answer as: ‘success is personal and unique’. Very uniform. For each I asked a followup question: What are your indicators of success, how do you know you are successful? Each took a moment to think and came back with the first indicator being how they feel with their performance of the task and the following results. They went on to add things like feedback, reward, promotion, recognition, respect, advancement. And for each, to continually feel successful, progress in these areas would need to be made.

I know this isn’t a very in-depth study and I don’t think it will satisfy rigorous scientific evaluation for methodology, but it was quite uniform in response. What I find interesting is that the first indicator was an internal evaluation of the self in respect to process and result, all the rest were external. If our indicators for success rely on the opinions and judgments of others our definition of success is a lot less individual than we seem to think. On top of that, requiring progress means a need for continual evaluation and advancement. More can always be added. It may be called feedback for a reason, the monster is insatiable. I then asked another question, if you feel successful yet all the external indicators say otherwise, are you successful? Again interesting results. All said that they would and it doesn’t matter what others may think. I am doubtful but will take it at face value for now. How about you?

If our pay desire depends on meeting a boss, company or client expectation but to do so, we would have to perform our work in a less than personally successful manner, what would we do? Is it possible that our best work or the necessary work gets deferred to the will of an external indicator or to the cultural norms of a business? Do we begin to focus on what will get us noticed or a pay rise and promotion (the indicators of success) rather than the best work we can do? Are we able to fully question a system on which we depend for our income, social status, family security and the roof overhead or do we justify our behaviour because of them? We are back to the problem about questioning society. We can’t be objective because we are invested in particular outcomes. And when it comes to success, the indicators are often uniformly dictated and rated by the culture and society of the time. Even our own feelings of success may be learned and therefore not ‘ours’. This means we will bend to its will because to do different will likely bring discomfort and feelings of failure from the societal standpoint.

So our personal feelings of success seem to be largely influenced by how our group judges success and we know that groups don’t shift quickly. When we apply this to innovation and development, the value of something is more about the perception of value than real-world value. Most new products are geared toward the avoidance of pain and discomfort or marketing of them rather than the understanding or healing of the pain itself. The entertainment industry comes to mind where massive amounts of money are generated but the value added to society may be negligible. This of course can be argued but you may have heard the quote asking: “What if the cure for cancer is trapped inside the mind of someone who can’t afford an education? Instead, What if the cure was trapped inside the mind of someone highly educated but spends their hours throwing a digital candy pig at an angry viking farmer? Seems silly again, doesn’t it?

I read somewhere that there were over 300,000 App companies and obviously many, many more developers within. With reportedly 2% of the companies making 50% of the profits, perhaps the market was a little saturated. Especially since one might question the differentiation between the apps and value of said differentiation when there were millions of apps already created that satisfy very similar needs. At my gym, there are people that have different approaches to exercise. Some stretch a lot, some do cardio, some lift heavy weights, some use machines, some split their body part training days, some interval train and probably many other variations. Some of them, thankfully less than earlier it appears, only work their upper body with heavy weights. These people invest all of their time and energy (resources) into a section of their body that returns limited benefits in the practical world. Others however, apply many methods to all body parts and often randomise the training in order to never get too comfortable. I am not sure, but without going too deeply into this here, one approach has a narrow view and application and one broadens potential body usage and perhaps offers wider practical benefits. My point might be that perhaps these highly educated app developers could spread their skills a little broader than currently. Perhaps we would micro pay for that.

The problem with this of course goes back to the issues at work. If a programmer is looking for security in their life and it appears that in most societies that security comes from material gains, one must invest where the market is willing to pay. I have always found it curious that people often expect clean air and water, reasonably priced food, education, social security etc. as a human right but will pay enormous amounts for entertainment activities. But, that is where the money is. So, many of the world’s highly trained, technical minds are working at solving the problem of what to do while waiting for the bus while others work at creating systems for marketing and delivering the entertaining activity to the user. To be fair, not all companies and programmers are doing this, but you may get the general idea of where it is headed.

Education is one of the most important tools we have to improve this world yet, in many ways we seem to be sliding backwards and the stability we seek (may not exist) is getting further and further out of minds reach. Many hands make light work, unless those hands are doing the wrong things. Education systems seem to aim more towards creating workers than creating change and institution focus points are often outdated by the time they reach the job market. Successful school results mostly depend on a good memory recall ability (yet there was no class in memory skill development) and conformity to the institution. Creative, curious children go in, programmed machines often come out. But this doesn’t matter too much of course because by slowing the shifting of traditional industry, we don’t need many creative thinkers. What we can do is sell the idea that the past was better and the culture and values it had are superior to others we have not yet developed. That way, people will fight to hold onto a golden past while pretending to be looking for a better future. History repeats, doesn’t it? Perhaps this is more by design than natural law. In humans for example, history doesn’t repeat in nature, your DNA is unique and will never appear again. Even if you are an identical twin.

To be fair, it isn’t the fault of the institution or any individual teacher within. These institutions are ours, we created them. After many years as a business English trainer, the amount of time I heard ‘My English isn’t very good because my high school teacher was terrible’ is near uncountable or, ‘we weren’t taught to be confident’. I wonder though, did any of the students learn? Because, if one did, the teacher isn’t the problem. Perhaps the teacher should consider their teaching style and accessibility issues, however what about the responsibility of the student? Are we looking to be entertained or are we looking to discover something new and valuable? Are we looking to understand the structure of what we learn or just trying to past tomorrow’s scheduled test?

My first year of university I went into a macroeconomics lecture with 300 or so other students. The lecturer was from central Africa and had a very strong accent. I have to admit, I understood very little of what was said and afterwards overheard that other students had problems catching it also. Lecture two came and I entered the same lecture hall with about 200 students and with a lot of struggle, I understood a little more but still missed a great deal. Week three, 150 students remained and we were all getting quite comfortable with the accent. She was spectacular. Her examples were real-world and practical, the information was brilliant and her presentation was enjoyable, funny, colourful and engaging. Near the end of the course, she was called away for a week or so to give a talk to the UN on the economic issues confronting Africa at the time. 150 students went on to take her microeconomics class also. Another 150 students missed out. And they never realised it.

Brilliance can be hidden within a terrible presentation and nonsense can hold gravity with a brilliant delivery. Judging a book by its cover comes to mind here. We can severely damage the quality of our information pool if we discount what is poorly packaged and inflate the value of the attractive. In many cases when we look back at where we have come from, it was the information obtained in adversity and struggle that we value the most. This may be a bias of course as information is information, regardless of the effort taken to obtain it. If good information comes easily, be grateful. But also don’t be afraid to do a little work. Self-study, investigate and ask questions. I don’t think we can expect everything of value to be handed to us in a neat little package with a pretty ribbon wrapped around and tied into a bow. In fact, perhaps we should question when information does come perfectly packaged and easily digestible. As they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

I have been tapping away at the keyboard for awhile and am mildly impressed that you have made it this far. You may be thinking damn, I got a little bit into it and was thinking to stop but kept going. Though soon, once I had invested all of this time, I had to finish reading otherwise it would be a waste of what I have already invested. Don’t worry, I have watched many terrible shows for several seasons because of this mental bias and many large investment projects have reached completion and met a failure that could be easily seen at the halfway point. You may also be thinking that I am some self-righteous so and so and has no qualification or right to comment on any of the areas covered thus far. You are right of course, yet here we are. Should we continue a little farther?

Being right seems to be imperative to our feelings of self-worth. But being right is quite an exclusive club. There are a few equations and a few known natural laws that are correct. To be a truth, it has to be unbreakable and singular. Which means it can’t be true now, but not tomorrow. If truly truth, it always was and always will be true. It is perfect and perfection can’t change as it isn’t time dependent, it is an absolute. In humans though, we have a limited concept of truth that ignores the data we don’t yet know. At some point, someone might have believed that the world is flat. Believing something doesn’t make it true. Otherwise, I should still be able to run as fast as when I was young(er).

We all say that we want to know the truth yet simultaneously are rather unwilling to investigate and question our own beliefs. But why? It is obvious maybe: we don’t want to be wrong. Why would we question our position, an uncomfortable act in itself, only to prove ourselves incorrect in something we have potentially been acting upon as if true our entire lives? This process will lead to certain pain. It makes far more sense to ignore the possibility, denounce detractors and cover our eyes, ears and any other hole questions and contradictions may leak in. The problem is, once the question is raised, innocence is lost. One must then actively work to not explore the possibility of being wrong which is a choice to remain ignorant. The funny thing with this choice is of course that once the question is raised can one truly continue to believe without a shadow of doubt? Or, will that niggling feeling always remain in the back of the mind. What if I’m wrong? When it comes to beliefs, not many believe so strongly it seems that they are willing to rigorously test their belief until they prove it right. But then, what if we ARE right?

To me it seems that there is a lot of conflict going on. Lots of people claiming right and wrong and everything in between. I don’t think anyone can be right if they have to argue as once right is truly found, it can’t be argued. Once seen, the truth cannot be unseen. This is not the Matrix. Or is it? Before teaching to fight for what one believes in,  the first lesson should be to question whether the belief is valid and actually worth fighting for. A few more questions aimed this way and a lot of prejudice and violence would not eventuate and a lot of discovery would be made. Remove the societal programming and we can discover who we are rather than the labels with which we identify.

I do think that there is a solution to the problems we face and have always faced. This society we live in is ours and each unit within has the power to affect it. I don’t mean that we could affect it, I mean that we are affecting it. Constantly. Each movement we make, every word we speak has an effect on the world and everything it contains. It ripples and flows through all eventually. We even affect the atmosphere surrounding the world and send probes into deep space that have an effect on some other world. All of these systems, hospitals, governments, innovations, wars, businesses, schools, charities, space programs and families, have been created from our thinking. But not just ours. The collective thoughts over the space of many millennia that have combined and transformed, reproduced and mutated. A massive movement of thought. And the beauty is, it is ours. We can direct it, harness it and release it. We can choose how we use it and where we take it. We decide how we evolve. And if we choose to, we can do better.

This is what I call the endless conversation. We are all a part of it, affect it and influenced by it. Our words and actions add to the conversation, our art pushes known boundaries and science provides technologies that inspire others to join in and create new conversation streams. Some threads of the conversation funnel through a complicated process into simple solutions that become tools to simplify other parts of a different conversation string. Active or passive, we place pressure on each strand, pulling this way and that with some looking to develop and move across strings and some, holding onto the threads of the conversations that they know and with which they feel safe. There are an immeasurable number of strings of infinite length with endless possibilities. Pathways that I see as eternally leading towards the same point; truth. Whatever that is.

This is why I think.

I am not trying to convince you of anything as I hope you are free of all influence and authority including mine, but perhaps you will find something here useful. Maybe a single word, a phrase or the beginnings of an idea that will spark your creativity. I imagine you being curious, objective, unattached and willing to think for yourself without prejudice. I picture you as free, an individual that discovers your gifts with the integrity to grow, create and simplify this world into a better place. I hope you are compassionate towards others and offer a hand to those in need, those that may not yet have learned what you have learned. And forgive and move on from those who are unwilling or not ready to take your hand. I hope you learn from them also, as value can be found in the most unlikely of places. At times you may hold an incorrect position, discover it, acknowledge it, learn from it, let it go and move onward. There is so much in this life to enjoy, there is no need to hold on to what is gone. You will face many challenges and challengers but this is nature in its element as pressure produces change and there is beauty in the uncommon, the different, the variation. There is beauty in everything if you pay attention. And we are all unique. All beautiful. Become aware of your environment as there is intelligence within and it holds lessons on simplicity, function and structure. You will not fit in with everyone so accept this but know you will always have your place and leave a mark as every movement you make, each string you vibrate, will forever travel along the networks of the universe. Energy cannot be made or destroyed, only transformed. All that is, always was and will always be. Only the arrangement of the energy changes, like the notes of music. You are this energy, discover it for yourself, use it as you choose, move what you will.

For my unborn daughter, Your journey has started, the ripple has begun, the first strings pulled, your effects felt. You have already moved me to be my best for You and are now and forever a part of the universe. I look forward to meeting you, learning with you, adventuring, journeying and discovering together. I look forward to the discussion, listening to your music and seeing what piece you will play in the endless conversation.