Category Archives: Blatant self promo

Lifewriting – A Few Basics

You may not be fully aware of it, but your life is a story. It is a story that you tell to others in pieces. Like when you get together with a friend to catch up!. It is also a story that others will tell about you, after you are gone.

If your life is a story, how well do you tell it? Who is the hero? What is the hero’s challenge? These are important questions that most of us don’t think about. And yet, our ability to answer these questions and others will dictate how memorable we are as people.  They sum up as well what value we see in what we do with others and for ourselves.

BTW, I do not propose that your life story has to fit  a Hollywood style formula. To the contrary. You are writing it. you can write whatever you want. Nor am I proposing that your life is all about a single thing. It is instead about multiple things that come together.

Here are several “tips” that you might consider if you want to think further about creating and telling your life story

  • stories emerge from character more than plot. In other words, plot follows character, not the other way around.
  • stories are broken into pieces. In books, these are chapters. In life, there are similar divisions. Each part connects to the last and to the next. You cannot suddenly jump out of the flow. The driver of that flow is often a mystery., but it is powerful.
  • stories take place in settings. Your attitude towards those settings re critical.

Here is a link for further discussion of these ideas.

Good luck!

BTW. you might want to consider this thought via Tom Peters

“The key question isn’t ‘What fosters creativity?’ But it is why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.”
—Abe Maslow

And finally, consider this

“If you want to build a ship, don’t gather people together to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but instead teach them to long for the sea.”
—Antoine de Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince)

That longing for greatness drives progress and on a more human level, creates great  life stories.

5 Core Activities for Saving the World

In the old days, folks added value mainly from their physical work. They might plant and harvest crops, or make a tool, or whatever. But it was work that made the world go round.

We work less than we used to because automation does a lot of that work for us. And that trend will accelerate as machines get smarter.

So what will we do? If the past is used as a measure, many of us will spend a lot more time watching tV. Yikes! But some of us will do other stuff that is a lot more fun than watching TV. And it might save the world.

These other folks will find ways to add value through what we might call “mental work”. They will engage in learning, and find ways to apply that learning to add value to the folks around them.

What will that look like? There are essential 5 tasks that require mental input to add value. They are

  • finding new knowledge. For now this is what our great scientists do. Note that new knowledge in it self has no value, except to seekers who revel in the discoveries.
  • Connecting knowledge to challenges. This is what trail blazing inventors do. Dr. John Snow did this when he connected knowledge of bacteria with outbreaks of cholera in London. Snow and others like him reveled in solving problems.
  • inventing new products and services using that connection. Think about making a quantum computer. Folks who do this love tinkering and creating.
  • improving the performance of new products. Early cars, phones, computers, etc. all sucked. Step by step, markets informed firms how to make these products more useful. Think of Henry Ford and his glee in making the Model T.
  • sharing the discovery path. Distributing success stories speeds up the pace of copying and thus innovation.  Folks who do this are great teachers. They want to help folks climb the ladder of success.

BTW, you might have noticed that doing each of the above activities well requires radically different skill sets. The finders need scientific background. The connectors need problem solving skills. The inventors and improvers need engineering skills.  The sharers need communication skills. Of course, these folks need other skills too. But you get the main idea. To make this work as an engine for progress, we need to develop (1) training and career paths for each type of person, and (2) institutional connections between them.

We should keep in mind that  these things can happen on their own. We don’t need institutional structure to enable folks to be curious, to share information, etc. But with the support of institutional structure, folks can focus and move up the ladder to perform at a much higher level. Think, for example, how the institution of organized sports have raised the level of athletic performance.

Greg Satell gives some fun examples of how this has worked so far. His examples are great — and they show that up to now, a lot of the discoveries that have led to great value added were  made in an ad hoc sort of way.

We can do better!


Help! My Eye Got Scattered!

According to Dr. Edward Tufte, the way I start my day is all screwed up.

Tufte says this

“In doing creative work do not start your day with addictive time-vampires such as The New York Times, email, and Twitter. All scatter the eye, and mind, produce diverting vague anxiety, clutter short-term memory. Instead, begin with your work. Many creative workers have independently discovered this principle.”

What! Get down to work! Eeewwww!

In fact, he is right. If you start ´your day with extrinsic stuff, like what idiotic things Donald Trump said the day before, you lose focus. And especially for creative work, focus is the first thing you need to generate.

What Did Alexander Learn from Aristotle?

We are told that Alexander was a great strategic thinker. But we do not know what gave rise to his genius. Was it just something that he inherited? Or was it something that he learned from his tutor Aristotle? We do not know.

My own guess is that Aristotle mastered certain elements of strategic thinking that he applied to politics and war. In other words, he was not just a military strategist. He was a master strategist who applied his thinking to military issues.

If I am right, what goes into mastering strategic thinking? If we  could get these basics in hand, we might expand our own capacities in life beyond what we think is possible now. Not to fight with others as Alexander did, but to build better strategic frameworks and relationships. Can we?

I think we can. And based on my own teaching over the last decade and life experience, I have created a “short course” on this subject. It is very short – just five short sections. It will not make the student a great strategist. It will instead, introduce a vocabulary of strategic thinking that can be practiced.

Interested? Let me know in the comments and I will get in touch with you. There is no charge – just a shared adventure to experiment with these ideas.

Time to UnCollege?

There is no question that Dale Stephens is on the right track. His “Uncollege” programming idea — an alternative to a 4 yyear college degree — was too bold. But he is nailing it now with “gap year global”. Gap Year Global is a programme that gives you tools that you need BEFORE you go to college to get more out of that experience. Right on!

Gap year Global immerses you in your field of choice. I like that. And it offers lots of coaching. Also very good.

And it would be better still if if offered intensive coaching on life strategy linked with communication skills.

Now that would be awesome. And oops … that is what I do.

No wonder I like it!

Conviction as Magic Elixir

Conviction is defined as a “firmly held belief”. Not just any old belief, but one that one is prepared to act on in the face of opposition.

So what makes a belief turn into something that is firmly held?   We might want to give this some thought. Why? Because we see loads of people acting on “firmly held beliefs” that have no demonstrable  basis in reality. They may have the firmly held belief that aliens have landed on the planet or that vaccines cause cancer or that Elvis is still alive somewhere. They do not just believe these things, they are agitated by their beliefs  The beliefs have morphed into convictions. And this is problematic.

It is problematic because, as Jeff Lawson points out,  we need convictions to anchor our activities. Convictions see us through the hard times.  And if our convictions have a basis in reality, this enables us to achieve highly valuable goals. Conviction can be a great positive thing. A magic elixir.

But how do we know that our convictions are not just illusions. How do we avoid becoming Emma Bovary?  Dr. Frankenstein? Fabrice del Dongo? Adolf Hitler? The list is a long one. How do we know when to check ourselves? To pull back and rejoin the herd?

There are no good tools for this. We might call it “de-programming”. A cure of some sort. It was a critical part of Dostoyevsky’s “The Devils”. And in that story, it does not come out well.

One thing we do know. When we perceive that we are in crisis, we are more vulnerable to taking up convictions. Our judgment is blurred Our capacity to build around reality becomes less as we latch onto something, anything, that we think will pull us out of crisis.

Something to think about.

A False Sense of urgency?

With the steady bombardment of info coming at us 24/7, it is not surprising that folks have difficulty prioritizing. It is easy to get lost in the sea of input and forget why you are in that sea.,

And so, we need better tools to build and maintain our priorities. For ourselves and for the institutions that we are connected with. John Kotter helps with his book “A Sense of Urgency”. Fred recommends it.

But I think we need to go further. With Trump soon to be in office, we might start asking ourselves, what are our national and global priorities? What kind of world are we building for our kids?

I have written before that the conservative idea that markets take care of themselves has duped some into thinking that they don’t need to worry about anything other than getting ahead for themselves. Guess what. The world doesn’t function that way. The future won’t build itself. We need you to help.