You needn’t have happened

It’s the very last thing, isn’t it, that we feel grateful for: having happened. You know, you needn’t have happened. You needn’t have happened. But you did happen.

~ Douglas Harding

Expressing gratitude, part 2

Most of the people that I work with do great work most of the time. (No, this is not about to turn into a back-handed compliment.) That means they make a few mistakes, or do a few things where I feel feedback would be helpful. Abitrarily, let’s say 90% of their work is good, and there’s 10% that I think could be improved.

…and so I start providing feedback on that 10%.

What does the other person experience? 100% negative feedback from me!

It doesn’t matter how good I might get at delivering great feedback, and helping them improve. If the only feedback I give is on the 10% of their work that I feel could be improved… ouch!

Instead, I need to think about the entirety of that person’s work. My feedback should be roughly in the same proportions as their work. This enables me to convey both the direct pieces of feedback and my assessment of the ratio in the whole. Continuing with the 90%/10% example, I should be giving vastly more positive reinforcement. That other person should be hearing vast amounts of positive feedback. This is not limited to people who work “for” you. This can be applied to everyone you have regular contact with and is relatd to my earlier post about, “if you see something, say something.”

There is a benefit for myself as well: If I’m only giving negative feedback, (focusing on that 10% as it were,) then it’s going to feel as if everything I encounter all day is negative. If I instead focus on increasing my ability to first notice that 90% of everything is great stuff, and then communicate that outwardly to the others, then it’s going to feel as if everything I encounter all day is positive. Since focusing on the negative stuff is one of my biggest problems, this is fertile ground indeed.

What’s your perception of what you encounter and does the feedback you give reflect that?

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Expressing gratitude

What if you, whenever people did good stuff for you, you let them know they had a positive effect on you? You might have to come up with a unique way of saying it if you want to make explicit that you aren’t saying “I owe you”. We’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader.  

~ J. Hazard, from https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/ctBCPaD3yYimEHXPu/magic-is-dead-give-me-attention

Somewhen around 2005 was the trough of my expression of gratitude. Having now spent increasing time with this radical new notion of “expressing gratitude” I can say for sure… that I really need to keep working on it.

I’ve been stingy with positive reinforcement for a loong time. As I’ve begun to explicitly practice the habit of expressing gratitude, externally to other people, the results have been obvious and beneficial. My current intention is work on lowering my resistence to expressing gratitude. The most recent way I’ve been reinforcing the habit is to hold in mind a common mantra which I’ve repurposed: If you see something, say something.

I’ve found three ways that I’ve been practicing expressing more gratitude. There are others, obviously, but these are the three I’m currently practicing.

The first way plays out in direct conversation. While discussing one topic, my mind produces a tangential thought about something positive this person did on some unrelated topic. Spurred on by, “if I see something, say something,” the practice is then to mention that positive, tangential thing at the next opportunity in the conversation. Loong ago, I’d have let those tangential thoughts go by, not wanting to interrupt our discussion.

In short: Simply express gratitude now.

The second way is more subtle. Since those random thoughts of gratitude-moments-past are coming up today, I didn’t notice them in the past, or I suppressed expressing them in the moment. This reminds me to be more vigilant looking for the opportunities to express gratitude.

In short: Get better at noticing opportunities to express gratitude in the current moment.

The third way is to make a conscious effort to go looking for missed opportunites to express gratitude. If I have a meeting planned with someone, when I’m preparing I can make the small effort to think of a few opportunities I’ve missed.

In short: Practice actively looking for opportunities to express gratitude.

tl;dr: Duh, Craig. Simply express gratitude.

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Reading is a superpower

The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower. We live in the age of Alexandria, when every book and every piece of knowledge ever written down is a fingertip away. The means of learning are abundant—it’s the desire to learn that’s scarce. Cultivate that desire by reading what you want, not what you’re “supposed to.”

~ Naval Ravikant

Are you part of the solution?

If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2017/02/nextstep/

This rant from Seth is a couple years old, but it remains as important as ever.

I talk often about the problems with social networks. But what I’m particularly interested in is what, (if anything,) actually works to change people’s minds. I bet you can guess what works: Basically, nothing works.

I wasted a lot of time trying to explain the problems with social networks using facts and rational arguments. You know how far I got with that. One day, I stopped trying to educate and explain, and started trying to plant seeds. Little seeds of inquisition. Little seeds of self-awareness.

How do you feel when you are not on that social network?

And how do you feel after it ate your face for 2 hours?

Do you like the way you look, all hunched over with spine twisted and your face completely facing the ground?

Could you make progress on your dream if you could just find 10 hours of time a week? (As if you only spent 10 hours on social networks this week.)

Hold your phone facing you at arms length. Look just to one side and notice the actual amount of your immediate world which it occupies. How do you feel about only living within that small fraction of your world?

Visualize your death bed. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.) Now begin to list your imagined regrets as you lay dying. (Seriously. I’ll wait.) Which items on your list were related, in any way, to online social networks?

You have Seth’s thoughts. You now have my thoughts. Do you have any thoughts of your own?

Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?

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Waiting for the next one

What, I can experience an entire trip to the mall without sighing, grimacing or silently cursing? I can sit through an entire red light without fidgeting? I can make (or miss) my connecting flight without losing my shit even once? Can I live my whole life this way?

We can, if we’re willing to give time, as a habit. Nothing else makes sense really—it’s just experimenting with a willingness to live in reality as though there’s nowhere else to be. (Not that there ever was.)

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2016/07/how-to-be-patient/

Occassionally I get the urge to attend a week-long, silent meditation retreat. (For example, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassanā retreats.)

Why?

Because sometimes I experience small periods of blissful serenity. I’d particularly like to be able to go there on a more regular basis. It seems to me that spending about 10 days doing nothing but meditating in silence would be a delightfully mind-altering experience.

Rarely, but with increasing frequency, I find myself enjoying sitting pefectly still. Doing perfectly nothing. Paying attention to the moment instead of being completely obliterated by an endless torrent of thoughts. Eventually a thought which I deem worthy enough arises urging me to go do this, or check on that, and I rise from my glimpse of serenity.

I always wonder what would happen if I just kept thinking: That’s not quite worth getting up for just now, I’ll wait for the next thought.

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Real satisfaction

Real work and real satisfaction come from the opposite of what the web provides. They come from going deep into something—the book you’re writing, the album, the movie—and staying there for a long, long time.

~ Steven Pressfield

How do you create culture?

I’ve become increasingly interested in how culture is created within teams. One part is clearly modeling the behavior one wants to see. But I’ve been spending time thinking about how I talk to others about goals, challenges and setbacks. The more I look, the more I see I’m faced with so many interwoven elements: Communication—synchronous, asynchronous, mixed?; Feedback—positive, negative, immediate, delayed, public, private; Goal setting—team, individual, conservative, challenging, insane; Growth; Trust; Shared vision; Shared mission; Morals …

I find myself focusing almost entirely on communication. I try to spend as much time as possible explaining what I’m thinking and what my goals and visions are. At the sametime, the better I get at asking questions, the better I get at understanding what’s going on. There’s a balance. Too little conveying of direct instruction and concrete goals leaves some people struggling to grow. The opposite is also true; Too much and some people are stiffled.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.

So what’s a question you ask your teammates that has led to surprising insights?

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Change is not a commodity

[C]hange does not take technology, it takes courage. And, this is why change is not a commodity. Change is not easy nor is it formulaic. But I can say this with the utmost conviction, change is inevitable and it is yours to define.

~ Brian Solis, from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2012/03/28/it-takes-courage/

If you want to affect change you must first understand which sorts of changes are difficult and why.

On the one hand, things change all the time. A great definition of “old age” is when you begin to lament the inevitable changes to the specific things you prefer in your supermarket. On the other hand, affecting a change that you desire feels extremely difficult. (Go try to bring back your favorite brand of mustard after the manufacturer has discontinued it.)

On the one hand, there’s a huge array of things I can change easily: My shirt, the book I’m reading, and the lane I’m driving in. On the other hand I quite honestly struggle changing my physical body, my bad habits, and my addictions.

On the one hand, changing thousands of minds at once is easy: Give me a few orange cones and I can make everyone change their mind about always driving on the correct side of the road. On the other hand, it seems impossible to get people to do the correct thing, when they are waiting to turn left at a two-way stop sign, and I arrive opposite them intending to go straight.

On the one hand, millions of people have been convinced to spend their time on social networks. On the other hand, try convincing just one of them to disconnect.

Sometimes a piece of technology is enough to change everything and everyone. Sometimes no piece of technology seems powerful enough to get it done. Sometimes a tiny idea spreads like wildfire, and sometimes the mindless mob wins. Sometimes people are swayed by emotion, and sometimes they make choices based on logic. Sometimes change is objectively good, sometimes it’s objectively bad, and sometimes it seems too complicated to decide.

The important question is: What sort of change do you want to attempt?

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§22 – The forty-eight other guys

(Part 34 of 34 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Understanding community has always been a challenge for me. The first key understanding was that “community” is just an abstract concept; A community does not exist in the world as a concrete thing I can point to, touch or clearly delineate. Instead, when asked to explain community, I list things which I feel identify a community: its persistence, members’ unifying or common interests, having a focus in a specific physical or online space, etc. But when I really start digging in, it’s all simply interpersonal connections, behavior, communication, expected norms, shared identity, etc.. If that’s true, then functional interpersonal communication is necessary for the creation and continued existence of a healthy community.

My question these days is: What is sufficient for the creation and continued existence of a community?

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