Author: Bill van de Graaff

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A Better Offer

imageIn a minute. Gimme a sec. Hang in there.Love it, don’t we? Waiting in queues, caught on the hop or just plain stalling, it’s a handy little tool to get us out of those tight situations that require an instant decision.Time is our most precious commodity. We cannot manufacture more of it although we can buy it to a certain extent until the supply runs out. So it’s only natural that we should be very protective of it and in doing so resort to all sorts of excuses to utilise it in the way that suits us best.

What is it that makes us pick up the phone even though we’re in an important meeting or conversation? Engaging in social media on our smartphones while we’re surrounded by people in a subway?

imageA better offer. The thought that we might miss out on something always motivates us to know what we’re included in, perhaps a facet of ‘herd mentality’ that is closely linked to a sense of identity.

‘For a limited time only’ works very well for advertisers and making customers feel ‘special’ seems to open wallets more easily.

Admittedly we need to keep abreast of what’s out there but we have become so conditioned by consumerism that everything has to be either new, improved or the latest model.

Lifecycles of products become ever shorter and inbuilt obsolescence ensures that the wheels of commerce are well lubricated. Like kids in a candy store, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs so hire purchase and credit organisations fill the gap.

We have a deep-seated fear of being ostracised from the herd and losing the protection of ‘safety in numbers’. Modern advertising is well aware of this and plays on this weakness by making us feel that we’re ‘missing out’ by not making the purchase. Fear of loss and failure.

imageThe moment a butterfly is captured is the moment it loses its freedom. Satisfying desire through consumption means we lose our freedom by becoming a slave to Desire and a sucker for sellers.

The fact that people love to buy but hate being sold to has seen the ‘better offer’ dressed as a lamb with the wolf lurking within. ‘Caveat emptor’ takes on a new cogency when dealing with no deposit, no repayments for two years when the newest model is being released in twelve months.

That ‘better offer’ may well be ‘better off without it’.

 

 

 

 

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Why go past?

image‘Good, better, best; never let it rest, until your good is better and your better best.’

That good old chestnut was drilled into us at school and we all we know what it’s like to live in a competitive society. We laud our sporting heroes and worship our great achievers, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just reinforces the ‘versus’ mentality by celebrating victory.

Nature has long been seen as something to exploit and overcome but with our industrialised footprint slowly squashing the golden goose, our ‘veni, vidi, vici’ approach has gone well past it’s use-by date.

Not that we should celebrate mediocrity instead. Far from it. The rise of the prosumer has given us two values to work with, which can be woven instead of crossed. 

Customer service has become the key to survival for business, a job for life no longer exists and ‘singing for one’s supper’ has taken on a new lease of life.

Complacency is no longer an option in this highly competitive world, the recipe for success requiring constant innovation.

Yet some things don’t change, such as our need for a balanced and stable home life. Increasingly, the stresses and demands of keeping body and soul together have impacted on family and leisure time.

In fact, our need for rest and recreation is even more important if we are to function effectively and respond to challenging demands.

Because our attention is focused on complexity in a technological environment, the best antidote is a simple pastime. Fishing, walking and playing with the kids are all good examples of how we can forget our problems for a while, or even better still, see them from a different angle.

Given that the sun shines on all of us, the simple pleasures are also available to everyone and cost next to nothing.

imageJust half a day spent in this way can recharge our battery so that we can tackle the coming week with renewed vigour. Perhaps the motto could be rephrased in this way:

‘Good, great mate, better yet’s a better bet, best passes the test and when your good is better and your better is best, then you deserve a rest’.

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Reframing Poor Traits

ref3The original post by the name ‘Make Good, Make Do’, written on the 5th January got lost due to a server upgrade, so this is a resurrection of the salient points, more for the record but also there was a valuable tool in there that should be on this website.

The tool was not an app or an object but a technique. A good word for it is ‘reframing’.

 Reframing is looking at a situation and deciding to view it in an empowering and useful way. It doesn’t involve changing events, only the way we view them.

The following example shows how this works in practice:

A woman who had been suffering from depression was asked to write down the voices in her head that kept repeating.

Voice 1 (‘career woman’) ‘I could have had a successful career as a journalist, but looking after my 2 kids was more important.’

Voice 2 (‘frustrated housewife’) ‘How can you be sure that you could have handled a career when you’re struggling to look after 2 kids?’

She was then asked to write down the voices in the following form:

When a, then I feel b, because I am needing c, therefore I would like d.

Voice 1 ‘When I think about what I could have done with my life, then I feel disappointed, because I am needing recognition of my talents, therefore I would like to start writing freelance articles in the valuable spare time that I have‘.

Voice 2 ‘When the kids don’t listen to me, then I feel angry, because I am needing more support from my husband, therefore I would like to have a childminder once a fortnight so I can have a day off.

If there’s a silver lining to every cloud, then applying a little alchemy can go a long way.

Our job as transformers is complete if we can convert a negative into a positive. This is also the key to personal development. Great strides in inward progress can be made by applying this tool.

ref1It’s basically getting a situation to work for you rather than against you. The tool described is but one of many reprogramming techniques that can be applied. Positive thinking really does work and a little bit of mercy goes a long way in attracting mercy in return.

If we can help ourselves then we are in a position to help others, which is reward in itself.

 

jic1

Please get off my case

jic2‘Just in case’. How many times have we been told that?

‘Ever since being a kid’ would most likely be the reaction of a fair proportion of us. Thank God for mums who insisted we she should take our raincoats to school, ‘just in case’.

Seriously though, apart from physical contingencies such as a first aid kit or fire extinguisher, the ‘just in case’ scenario can be taken to extremes in the ‘case’ of hoarders. ‘I might need it one day’. Yeah, right.

We’re all guilty of this sin. Not that it was our fault. We were taught this.

Our education system has and in many ‘cases’ still is, based on the principle that learning needs to be a memorising process. Remember this, ‘just in case’ you need to know it.

This ‘walking encyclopedia’ mindset has now arrived at it’s nemesis in the form of ‘singularity’.

‘Singularity’ is the term given to the point in time when artificial intelligence equals human intelligence, of course some would argue that it happened long ago in their demographic.

The internet is our modern library of knowledge and with search engines, that knowledge is now accessible by anyone on the planet. We don’t even have to know where to find it anymore.

So what’s this got to do with the price of fish, in any ‘case’?

It is impossible to retain all the knowledge necessary for us to function in this modern world. We have become dependent on machines to the point that we are largely powerless without them. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as we have a redundancy plan for system malfunctions.

Last weeks post on this website was ‘lost’ as the website host restored from a latest backup which was taken before the post was published. C’est la vie, one would have to have a ‘mirror’ database to avoid this sort of thing happening at some stage. Yes, it would be prudent to make separate backup copies of everything valuable, it shows how trusting we have become but also how increasingly reliant we now are due to time constraints and pressures.

Fortunately, it was just one post that went west, the rest are all there. Small losses are sustainable, it’s a different story to losing a whole website, which can happen.

The reason the Internet came into being was to provide resilience and redundancy for the armed services computer communications. jic3If one part of the system went down, then communications would reroute themselves through other parts.

We also need this flexibility in our approach to modern problems. If on the one hand we don’t find a solution, we need to look ‘on the other hand’ and be resourceful.

QED, I rest my case.

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Becoming me

butterflyWe are who we are but we’re always becoming something. Change is the only absolute that is both saviour and executioner, the ultimate tool for recycling that gives us the kaleidoscope we know as life.

We’d be dead without it. It’s an irony that most of us focus on the the things that don’t change such as fixed assets, possessions and stale intentions. If man is a creature of habit then habits need to change as well.

If Change is the River of Life, then Focus is the helmsman that will steer our craft towards our desired Destination, for our Becoming will be determined by what we focus on.

Whether it’s being sucked in by an immediate reality or visualising the aspirations we have, they mould our being in the process, similar to a piece of clay on a potter’s wheel.

As we are constantly in a state of transition, there is a linear relationship of one moment to the next. The expressions ‘pregnant silence’ or ‘simmering with emotion’ or ‘seething with anger’ imply an impending outpouring of energy, somewhat like a volcano about to erupt.

In the same way that this represents an unstoppable force, so to does the next moment hinge on the fallout of the previous one. It is this next moment that is critical in shaping the direction of the following one. This is where magic can happen, ‘in the twinkling of an eye’, as it were. By refocusing or retargeting our attention to the desired outcome rather than allowing events to run their course unimpeded, dragging us along with them, then small changes in direction will achieve big changes in points of arrival.

Of course more is required than just crinkling ones nose and making a wish à la ‘I Dream of Jeannie’. This is more than just wishing and hoping, however. It’s an application of ‘intent’ to alter the course of events by ‘steering’ the intrinsic energy of the moment with our own inner gyroscope. (See also this related post)

Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’ says it all:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

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Global village, cyber community

image“Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.”

– Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964.

Marshall McLuhan’s insights made the concept of a global village, interconnected by an electronic nervous system, part of our popular culture well before it actually happened.

Marshall McLuhan was the first person to popularize the concept of a global village and to consider its social effects. His insights were revolutionary at the time, and fundamentally changed how everyone has thought about media, technology, and communications ever since. McLuhan chose the insightful phrase “global village” to highlight his observation that an electronic nervous system (the media) was rapidly integrating the planet — events in one part of the world could be experienced from other parts in real-time, which is what human experience was like when we lived in small villages.

While McLuhan popularized this concept, he was not the first to think about the unifying effects of communication technology. One of the earliest thinkers along this line was Nicolas Tesla, who in an interview with Colliers magazine in 1926 stated: “When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”

McLuhan’s ideas have permeated the way we in the global village think about technology and media to such an extent that we are generally no longer aware of the revolutionary effect his concepts had when they were first introduced. imageMcLuhan made the idea of an integrated planetary nervous system a part of our popular culture, so that when the Internet finally arrived in the  village it seemed no less amazing, but still somehow in the natural order of things.

It would be interesting to hear what he would have to say today, fifty years later.

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Scared of Scarcity

imageSubscribers to email updates of this blog received a Special Bulletin of a press article last week that addressed the paradigm shift required by political parties to address the needs of the 21st Century.

The following extract from that article says it well:

“The thing is, the 21st century is shaping up to be not just slightly different to the 20th century but radically different.

For a start, economics has grown up. It no longer assumes that resources are effectively limitless or that the Earth has an infinite carrying capacity. It no longer ignores all those inconvenient externalities like pollution or climate change.

And, possibly most important of all, it is starting to adapt to the fact that we’ve virtually solved the problem of material scarcity. Consider that our world produces enough food and material goods to satisfy the needs of every human on the planet. So our problem now isn’t one of staving off scarcity, it’s of fair distribution and how high we can elevate standards of living.”

This realisation is the first step in adjusting to a new paradigm in which our function will be very different to the traditional model of our place in this world.

In “Escape from Freedom”, Fromm points out how a few centuries ago people’s lives were very predetermined. Peasants, for example, knew that they would work the same type of jobs and believe in the same religions and plough the same fields as their parents before them did, and even marriages could be arranged.

According to Fromm’s analysis, people had relatively little personal freedom in a static society. With the arrival of eras such as the renaissance, the reformation and the industrial revolution, this static quality along with the hold and significance that politics and religion played on people’s lives, slowly began to fade as people acquired more personal freedom.

According to Fromm, this phenomenon never halted but has continued and is thriving in present society.

This emancipation has led to a heightened level of freedom that has presented us with an array of decisions and choices about how one can lead their lives, choices to be made range from whether to and what religion to follow, what political orientation to adopt, where to live and even our sexual orientation.

Unfortunately while our personal freedom has been growing, our old sources of emotional sustenance and security have diminished in effectiveness.

“Fromm notes that the church, the village and the family used to provide people with a more solid base of security. In a static society people had a resolute faith for a single faith which told them exactly how to behave. Today, we have a multiplicity of churches that provide a clear value system for fewer people” (Weiten, 1990).

The stability of the past also facilitated solid friendships to occur and maintain over large periods of time. Today with our busy lifestyles people have a propensity to move and relocate to ever shifting communities where the bonds with neighbours and counterparts are much weaker.

The family has also not escaped these modifications, the tightly knit extended family has become a thing of the past, and when we consider factors such as divorce and mobility, even the nuclear family is no longer tightly knit, hence the family has become a less dependable and stable source of emotional support. This has led Fromm to conclude rather startlingly that “as our old sources of security have declined we have found it more difficult to cope with our newfound freedom. Rather than embracing our newfound freedom many of us find it scary and threatening, in fact, many of us find our freedom so aversive that we try to escape from it. This escape often takes the form of submitting passively to some authority figure such as a political or religious leader“(Weiten, 1990).

In summary, Fromm’s analyses puts forward that the progress that we are so fond and proud of has actually undermined our sense of security, scrambled our value systems, and confronted us with difficult new problems of adjustment. 

imageMind you, that was 25 years ago and today our concerns are more over global issues than local ones, we are starting to accept our role as global citizens within a Machine environment.

The stewardship emerging in this way is what will come to define us.

May it be for the better.

 

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jobs

No more gold watch

 

gwIn a democracy it’s your vote that counts but in a feudal society it’s your Count that votes.

The anachronistic icon of the gold watch at retirement is a relic of fealty or loyal service to a lord.

The changing topography of our interactive environment has redefined our relationship with it and the coming wave of technological impact will turn the notion of servitude on its head.

In last week’s post we looked at the impact of machines upon work and lifestyle. The golden handshake is no longer appropriate as jobs-for-life no longer exist and loyalty to an employer has become subject to cancellation without notice. The gold watch is a symbol of becoming surplus and put out to pasture.

Our inherited work ethic comes with a sleeper program that recognises that moment of redundancy and subconsciously we devalue our worth because we’re not working.

That feeling of being superfluous is bad enough but pales into insignificance compared to the feeling of obsolescence as smart machines redesign themselves unimpeded by a biological chassis that has a much slower evolutionary spiral.

As we saw in ‘Found in a Lost World’, our place in it will be to provide that gift of love that no machine will ever have.

Our sense of self-worth will undergo a metamorphosis not unlike the chrysalis becoming the butterfly, a complete and radical transformation of the notion of self.

This is known as a ‘change of state’, similar to water becoming steam. There are two ‘types’ of heat. There is ‘sensible heat’ which can be measured as an increase in temperature. Then there is ‘latent heat’, which is the heat required to effect the transition from solid to liquid or liquid to gas and does not register an increase in temperature. As an example, it would take about the same amount of heat to convert water at boiling point to steam as it would to raise it through 3 degrees Celsius.

Now one may well ask, what does this have to do with personal development?

Personal development implies change that can be measured, however the end goal of transformation stands outside the boundaries of the process which brought it there, as with the butterfly.

Adaptation requires the ability to change behaviour according to environmental demands.

evoDarwin’s Theory of Evolution rests on this fact.

In Nature, survival depends on this ability.

Our future survivability will rest as much on our identity or sense of who we are, as it will on the lessons we have learned.

Even though there’s no more gold watch, time is still ticking.

Thank God.

soma

This Pepper won’t be assaulted

imagePepper is the world’s first emo robot and represents a huge leap in artificial intelligence. It can read facial expressions, voice tones and body language and then respond. Pepper is designed to be cute. He stands about 120 centimetres tall and has big puppy dog eyes.

On sale for $2,000 from next year, Pepper is sure to be a big seller. As a household robot, Pepper will do the washing, the vacuuming and all the mundane chores with a smile.

But Japanese industry and government have serious plans for Pepper and robots like him. They want to build 30 million Peppers to create a workforce that can make Japan the world’s number one manufacturer again.

It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be replaced by robots, an estimated fifty percent of all jobs in corporations will also be replaced by machines by 2025.

There are two obvious sets of conclusions one may draw from this development. Whichever one is adopted makes no difference to the impact of this juggernaut. The important point is how do we adapt to this new landscape where the meaning of work becomes redefined.

From what used to be a privilege for only the wealthy, having servants to do our bidding will be as ubiquitous as smartphones in a subway.

So if this is the Brave New World, what do we do with our new-found freedom from mundanity? There will obviously be some major shifts in the way we perceive the world and our place in it.

If the Internet Age gave us unfettered communication and knowledge dissemination, will the Machine Age liberate us from mechanical ways of thinking and allow our creative juices to flow?

This may well be the case for early adopters but many will be at somewhat of a loss, unsure what to make of not having to work for a living. The implications for governments in supporting the population will necessitate a foundational restructure of social policy and corporate taxation.

robotWe are fast approaching what is known as singularity, whereby machine intelligence surpasses that of humans. Perhaps that is why Aldous Huxley included the karuna bird in his famous novel, a creature that performed the function of a town crier or loud hailer reminding us of the need for compassion towards others in our society.

We now trust our lives to machines when we fly, drive and do our banking. 

What seems like a quantum leap to us now is just the next step in the journey.

 

lk1

Lookin’ back to Luckenbach

lk2Luckenbach, Texas. A sleepy village made famous by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s song, represented the escape from high society to the simpler life.

‘Stop the world, I wanna get off and make it go away’ are words we’ve all heard or said at some time or another. With our increasingly busy lives, the importance of ‘time out’ has gone from a necessity to a luxury.

We can’t all just drop everything and go, the world would fall apart if we did. So how can we cater for this universal need in the midst of our daily lives?

For those of us fortunate enough to have a garden or backyard oasis, the natural, calming influence of birds, flowers and foliage can provide a recuperative tonic. People who live in apartments can utilise their balconies to create a small nature space, those without them can set aside one corner of a bedroom or study for reading or meditation or just listening to music.

The important point here is to create a dedicated space for relaxation that doesn’t get cluttered with daily flotsam and jetsam. Having a retreat space ensures that we know it is possible to ‘escape it all’.

Not only will we feel rested but also recharged and able to make more effective decisions with more energy and vitality. It’s the old story of the woodsman stopping to sharpen his axe.

Rather than allowing the events of our routines to couple together like carriages in a train, a little time management can ensure that we do make space for conscious relaxation, family time and the pursuit of sports or hobbies.

Prevention is better than cure, so this is maintenance instead of insurance. We owe it to ourselves to maintain a balance in our lifestyle.

Waylon and Willie may believe that ‘the only two things in life that make it worth living are guitars that tune good and firm feelin’ women’. At least they’ve found their remedy, yours may be different but if it works for you that’s all that matters.

For those who are time poor for reasons outside their immediate control, this might be useful.

l3Even just putting aside one hour per week to pursue your personal desires will help to relieve stress and feel repurposed.

‘We’ve been so busy keeping up with the Jones
Four car garage and we’re still building on
Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love’

Thanks Waylon, thanks Willie.