Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 11, 2019

When we interact with someone, we often operate under the unspoken 50/50 rule:  “I’ll do my part, and you do your part.”  Which is also sometimes known as under the name of “It Takes Two To Tango.”

Which is great, right?  I mean, clearly there are (at least) two parties involved, so each should be doing their bit for things to work out.  Except – and you knew this was coming – there’s this thing we do.  Well, a couple of things, but the biggest of them to speak of tonight is the “integrity baseline syndrome.”  Which is fancy name for the effect where we start off in a relationship at 50/50… but then you don’t do/be/handle/etc this thing that I think you should have, so now I’m going to pull back a bit, so we’re at 45/50… which of course means then that you notice I’m not doing/being/handling/etc as much as I should, so you pull back, 45/40, so then I say you’re not efforting enough and pull back to 38/40, and then you… and I… and you… and I… and before you know it we’re both pretty much being 0% responsible for the way the relationship goes.  It’s all eggshells and accusations.

(Of course, not all or even most relationships go that way, but they likely end up with each of us cycling around 25% to 35% or so… which feels fine, normal, and even right because it’s what we’re used to, it’s how relationships always have gone… but it isn’t where it could be.)

The extra kicker about the IBS, which you may have already noticed, is that many of the “you didn’ts” are unspoken by us.  They are never communicated, created, nor checked in on.  So, the transgressions we use to cut our percentage are often involuntary, unexpected, and even unseen.  There’s no explanation for why the other person suddenly seems less invested or active or engaged.  Which both hurts, and then prompts the further pullback, leading to the downward spiral.

The hilarious* thing is that many of these standards and ideals are amazingly arbitrary and trivial.  No, this isn’t about if the person abuses or controls or takes advantage of you, but rather the expectations of what a “person with whom I’m in this kind of relationship with should do” kind of way.  Does it involve gifts?  A certain way they listen to you?  Scheduling?  Activities?  Certain statements they should reiterate with a particular frequency?  There are hundreds of these, and so many of these are deeply individual; we created the expectation of what’s right and proper based on what we saw modelled growing up, both live and in fiction.  We decided it all.

Turns out, the other person may not have decided the same things.  And they have equally weird and specific metrics they’re applying to you!

So here’s the crux:  It’s best to enter into and maintain relationships where each person takes on 100% ownership of how it goes.**  And since you can’t act for another person, it means taking on being 100% responsible for how all of the relationships in your life go.

There’s great joy and power in this.  Extra joy, really, for what’s available in a high-ownership relationship is amazing and so much above what we’re used to as we dabbled around our 25%ness.  And given that forming connections is one of the most meaningful and fulfilling things there are for us human beings, this is super important.

An acquaintance once shared a story about their first Christmas with their, at the time, new boyfriend.  Starting in October they had been going out seeking the most amazing gifts they could think of and discover.  It was great, and they were super excited, hiding the gifts all over their shared place, all ready to surprise come the day of unwrapping.  Until they had a thought.  “Wait, if I’m using all the good hiding spots, where are they hiding their gifts?”  So they, as casually as they could, asked, “Hey, how is your Christmas shopping going?”  “Oh, I don’t buy things.”  And like that, an explosion.  Storming around the house, yelling “you’ve ruined our Christmas,” ready to throw them out, and lots of crying, especially from the boyfriend who wasn’t even sure where this was coming from.

Fortunately, mindfulness was present and so before too long my acquaintance caught then excused themselves for a moment as an interrupt, regained their centre, and returned to conversation.  Through talking, they learned that gift giving just wasn’t part of the boyfriend’s upbringing, both because they never had much money and moreover it wasn’t how they showed love to each other.  It wasn’t part of their world.  “I honestly don’t know how to do it,” he said.  “Would you like to learn?”  A pause to consider.  “Yes. I would.”

That Christmas was wonderful.  And in a delightful “be careful what you wish for” twist to the story, that boyfriend ended up being a MASTER at gift buying, so much so that my acquaintance’s mother prefers the gifts that the boyfriend buys to those from her own child.

100% ownership for how things go.  Disasters avoided, great enlivening relationships available, and the chance for things to be wondrously amazing.

 

* Hilarious in the “man aren’t we humans ever fascinating!” kind of way…

** Again, this is not control; see this post.***

*** Because if it doesn’t go as you’d like it to in order to maintain the relationship, you have the say in how it ends as well, whether it ends or not and whether it ends gracefully or in a train wreck.

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Philosophy Tuesday

June 4, 2019

I remember when, a few years ago, Warren Buffett let it be known that he pays his secretary $200,000 plus a year.  Moreover, I remember a bunch of the reactions to this.  “Whaaaat?” was one common refrain.  “That’s ridiculous!” and “You can’t pay a secretary that!” were two other accompanying exclamations.

There’s a bunch to unpack here, isn’t there?

First, espoused in the above is the mind trap of thinking that there is some inherent, actual, way things are in this world as though given down from the universe above.  Just as gravity pulls and water flows, so too are salaries of secretaries governed by these unseen forces.  It’s just physics!  (But it isn’t.)

Second, coupled with the above is the notion that things in “the economy” should and do have an absolute or real price/worth to be paid, rather than remembering and engaging with the notion of value.

An employee* is of value to a company.  That is why they are there, working.  If they weren’t of value, they wouldn’t have been hired.**  The last thing a company wants to do is to increase its employee base unless it has to.  And so, without those workers, the company would not be doing as well as it is.  Even the brilliant leader with a brilliant idea*** wouldn’t be sitting on top of a successful (and/or profitable) company if there weren’t the workers generating the thing that is being provided to the market thus bringing in the revenues that leads to the company’s success.  Our architecture firm, no matter how great the principals in charge, would not be able to produce all the work we do and keep all our clients happy so we could charge our fees for our work if all the architects, managers, drafters, and support staff weren’t there doing their jobs.  Disneyland wouldn’t be the happiest place on earth and overflowing with high-paying guests if the janitors weren’t there to keep things remarkably clean and thus ensure a great park-going experience.  Just like the coffee provider listed in movie credits, everyone engaged is a contribution towards the final product.

Which brings us back to Warren Buffett’s secretary.  Given what she provides for Warren in his week to week business life, what she manages and arranges so he doesn’t have to, and what she organizes and delivers affords him the foundation upon which he is able to do what he does.  Without her, he would be less effective.  In other words, she is crucial in the results the company produces.  So why shouldn’t she be compensated commensurate with that value?****

Getting caught up in the norm as reality and listening to “the market” as reality are easy traps to fall in to.  But shake our views clear bit and approaching our lives and interconnectedness with both mindfulness and relatedness allows whole new realms of value, contribution, and civil humanity to open up and invite us to step towards.

 

 

* Employee is being explored here, but of course this applies most poignantly outside of the business world as well, in our personal lives, families, communities…

** OK, natch, there are many companies, especially large ones where people can hide out, where there are employees who are not helping things along and could even be detracting, and yet they remain on the payroll.  These exceptions (as maddening as they can be if we have to deal with it!) do not nullify what’s being espoused.

*** Which itself, this notion of singular geniuses, is mostly overblown, but that’s a whole other topic…

**** I even would make the argument that given Buffett’s income that compensation may well be low (though truthfully we don’t know her exact wage) she should be compensated even more, just as all the employees at Disneyland should be paid a solid living wage and even beyond.  “I pledge to pay employees what I can, not what I can get away with.”

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 28, 2019

I have not watched any of the Game of Thrones*, but it has been pretty darn inescapable for the past few weeks as the final season wound towards its finale. And so it was that across my path came this article at Scientific American that piqued my interest, for it delved into realms both rich on a storytelling level but even more so in the philosophical realm. Besides a treatise on the path of the final episodes there’s a great exploration that ties very nicely into the concept and notions of the Path of Least Resistance as well as Systems.

Give it a read. There’s a lot of good stuff in there and where I begin to mine it for insights is here: If we’re not well versed in writing, or even consuming, stories that flow from a sociological level/view verses the individual/psychological level/view, then we’ll likewise not be well versed in seeing how much we all are swept away by the sociological waters we swim in. It therefore becomes more difficult to see the systems and shared identities that shape our views, reactions, and even (T)ruths:

“In sociological storytelling, the characters have personal stories and agency, of course, but those are also greatly shaped by institutions and events around them. The incentives for characters’ behavior come noticeably from these external forces, too, and even strongly influence their inner life.

People then fit their internal narrative to align with their incentives, justifying and rationalizing their behavior along the way. (Thus the famous Upton Sinclair quip: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”)”

It can be tough to swim against a current. It certainly takes effort, especially when it confronts something we’ve made a part of our identity. And so once again we’re pointing towards the path of least resistance. Society, systems, structures are all there, flowing. It becomes easiest to simply go with the flow, no matter whether the outcome is a good or deleterious one, whether for ourselves, others, or the world as a whole.

Even when it is completely against our own self-interest.**

But the effort is worth it. When the already automatic systems are nudging us already almost certain futures that are not working as we’d like them to, it’s most fruitful when we aim to alter the systems rather than exclusively aiming to alter individual(s). When we can divert the flow towards great outcomes, then great outcomes become easy:

“But if we can better understand how and why characters make their choices, we can also think about how to structure our world that encourages better choices for everyone. The alternative is an often futile appeal to the better angels of our nature. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they exist along with baser and lesser motives. The question isn’t to identify the few angels but to make it easier for everyone to make the choices that, collectively, would lead us all to a better place.”

Through a broadening of storytelling to include sociological viewpoints, we can better gain that understanding. And while such stories may not be “out there” yet in great quantities (as this season of GoT apparently showed), we can always practice that storytelling in our own lives with that most important narrator – the one in our head. With mindfulness we can guide our inner commenter to encompass both the psychological and the sociological, gaining broader perspectives from which we can choose, be, and act in service of creating the society we truly want.

 

* As much of a surprise as that might be to many of you…

** And against that which fills our being with fulfillment and satisfaction and is a true self-expression of our central self and who we want to be.

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 21, 2019

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful what we pretend to be.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

 

(Or, to put it another way, we are who we, and our identity/identities, says we are.  Our views about ourself shapes us fully.  And so actively cultivating an identity that matches our authentic self is therefore very much of prime importance to living a great life…)

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 14, 2019

Often the most frustrating things

About a tragedy –

Whether one unfolding,

One yet to come,

Or one done and gone;

Whether personal,

Or of a nation,

Or of the planet;

Whether solid,

Or existential;

No matter the type –

Are the twin responses

Proffered by many:

 “It doesn’t/won’t make any difference to MY life”

Or

“It had nothing to do with me, it just happened.”

 

Indifference and lack of accountability

Are the two most destructive traits

Of humanity.

 

We have the capacity to care.

Empathy and responsibility

Are two of our most beautiful traits

When we choose to employ them.

 

It can be so easy,

Instinctual even,

To close our eyes and pretend

It’s not our problem,

And that things that affect others

Are somehow beneath our care.

 

Yet, we desire others to be there for us

When tragedy strikes.

Why do we try to have it both ways?

 

We are rapidly running out of time

On so many things.

And, really, little is truly

Independent from us.

It comes around to affect us eventually.

 

Now is the time

To engage our hearts,

Our empathy,

Our compassion,

And unleash our finest traits.

Before we are no more.

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 7, 2019

It is always worth remembering that,

just as cruelty and mistrust can spread,

so too can love and kindness.

 

(adapted from John Green)

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Philosophy Tuesday

April 30, 2019

“Management’s traditional assumption is that employees are recalcitrant and irresponsible. As a result, they design both equipment technologies and organizational technologies to ensure compliance, minimize employees’ scope of discretion, and reduce their reliance on employees’ skills. And management should then not be surprised when employees respond by apathy and antagonism — a result which in turn comforts management in their initial assumption that employees are recalcitrant and irresponsible.”

Paul Simon Adler (emphasis mine)

 

(This is such a great reminder.  When we approach people as jerks (or etc), we very much tend to get jerks back.  We are leaving them no other avenues for expression.  And then when we, surprise surprise, get jerk back we get that little rush because, by gosh we were right, and thus we totally get to justify our initial jerk interaction.

It is well worthy to be mindful of this downward spiral, not only in the field of business* but everywhere else in our lives as well: friends, family members, our children, people on our sports teams, hobby acquaintances, supermarket clerks, people at the DMV… and even beyond to those of differing groups, views, upbringings, social status, origins, life experiences… The list goes forever on.  No matter whom, it remains that when we relate to another or a group of others as a particular way, that’s what tends to come back to us.

Our listening is incredibly powerful.  When we listen to people as small, we get just that.  When we choose to listen to someone from and as an empowering place, the possibilities for great things opens wide.)

 

* The quote itself comes from a research paper looking into the NUMI plant, which was a closed GM plant that was re-opened as a so-called venture with Toyota, although really it more or less was a case of having Toyota run the joint.  Prior to shutdown, the plant had been a poor performer, with lots of employee trouble.  Upon re-opening, nearly all the employees were re-hires.   Under Toyota’s management style (which involved a very different “management vs worker” dynamic), the plant’s productivity, quality, and profit rose tremendously, employee turnover and sick days dropped, and worker satisfaction reached towards the nineties.