The Power of One

person raising hands mid air sidewards while standing on gray steel railings
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Think-tank charities typically advocate for reform, to influence decision making at government level.

Some nations (the US, France and the UK) appreciate the role independent think-tank charities have to play, both domestically and to help them evolve their foreign policies. Others including Japan, China and Germany seem to encourage such charities efforts where they’re already aligned to current government policies.

What value do think-tank charities add and what can we take from their approach to help us in our own lives?

Some problems don’t get solved by simply scaling up the current effort. Look at the US involvement in the Vietnam war as a case in point. Simply putting more police on the streets of London, or widening the London congestion zone, won’t solve knife crime or decrease air pollution respectively. What think-tanks can do is apply fresh thinking and find the best leverage points to effect positive change.

Can we all be our own think-tank charities to effect the changes we want to see? It does require self belief (confidence). It also requires flexibility thinking. Being our own, personal, think-tank charities (the power of one) will challenge us to use fresh thinking alongside existing (tired and sub-optimal) solutions. A bit like keeping your existing tool box. But adding more tools that can help with other DIY jobs. Half the job is the reflection & fresh approaches. The other half is the advocacy action taken.

Food for thought?
Simon

Photographers of Life

Is photography a recipe and metaphor for living? Should we make similar decisions about shutter speed, depth of field, subject composition and photo vantage point in our life, as we do taking pictures?

As photographers, we know that together, those four things add power and impact to the picture. We juggle them and toggle between them for the best combination. And we make a series of minor adjustments within each one too. Good photographers think rapidly and flexibly when we do all that. Who knew taking photos could be so complex!

Freezing motion or letting motion blur using camera shutter speed is like deciding what rate to absorb information at. We’re reading a news feed, listening to a funeral speech, or driving a vehicle. Do we absorb (and react) fast or slow? Do we do a deep dive into some specific detail. Or decide to keep just a general impression?

Having woken up to a new day or encountered a novel situation, depth of field is like choosing to combine various pieces of information together versus emphasising one in particular. A woman dates a guy. She finds him handsome, funny, kind to children and animals. But untrustworthy. Someone asks us to sign an agreement, or volunteer to help someone. What depth of field is appropriate?

Composition is about presentation. What combination of information will achieve the most impact for others? Should we mask our real feelings, or risk upsetting someone and killing their enthusiasm? Should we always project confidence? Will we look stupid if we ask a basic question?

As photographers, vantage point is largely under our own control, regardless of the subject matter. What do we choose to search out and take meaning from? Should we find the moral high ground? Can we step around an immovable obstacle to gain clarity?

A final thought. Perhaps it’s our flexibility to switch rapidly along the spectrum of shutter speed, of depth, of composition and of vantage point that gets us the best results of all.

Simon

From help me… to help me to help you

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Photo by Martin Péchy on Pexels.com

If many people aren’t so much against us, just for themselves, then how can their behaviour and attitudes help us grow indirectly?

One obvious one that springs to mind is young children. They’re naturally self-centred as are on a steep learning curve about the World. Our job as adults is to help them cope and thrive in positive ways, to help make the future World a better place. Their feedback coaxes us as baby sitters or parents to behave better (be more patient and generous) and learn to improvise with just crying to go on. As a side benefit, the fresh way they look at the World helps us as jaded adults to look at things we take for granted. And see the beauty, the simplicity, or the humour that we previously overlooked.

For those of us that own pets or have gardens, our observation of the pet (or plant’s) response makes us a better pet companion, or a better gardener. Their ability to adapt sometimes surprises us. I saw a great Facebook post recently of a chimpanzee in captivity that could understand American sign language and one of the first things it taught its offspring was that sign language!

To some extent, other people’s problems become our opportunities. All we have to do is communicate well and take the time to listen. In return we get a sense of value, a feeling of satisfaction, a growing reputation and perhaps some kind of monetary reward too.

We might be under time pressure ourselves, but if we take the time to listen to someone under the same time pressure, solving their problem while buying time to solve our own problem, it can work out well for all concerned.

Food for thought?

Simon

Flexibility and governance

A political party (or school) wants to change voter (or student) behaviour. They can attempt this by challenging the assumptions held (reality replacing perception, or perception replacing reality, witness fake news, propaganda and misinformation by governments) to improve the expectations (foster hope), to in turn improve aspirations (ambition). Ultimately it is voters’ aspirations (for fame & wealth) making them feel confident enough to take business risks, start businesses, pay new taxes and create new jobs.

The trouble is that voters aren’t sure whether political promises and assurances are reality replacing perception, or the reverse. Of course, the opposition political party will claim political assurances by their rivals are always 100% fake news. And voters struggle with politicians’ intentions outweighing their abilities. Or something being the right policy initiative at the wrong time.

Sadly, too many politicians chase representation (representing a group of voters existing assumptions) rather than adding value by refining the ‘crude’ into a high octane, clean, green ‘product’.

Life is too short for us to keep monitoring politicians shortcomings and gaffes in the media. When did politics morph from keeping it real into bad entertainment?

Simon

Keeping it real

Developing our personal flexibility (PFL) is how we keep it real.

The PFL might be deliberate reflection of an event, but with alternative interpretations. Or it could be the reinvention of something. For example, the engineers who developed the internal combustion engine weren’t just thinking of how to make horse-drawn transport go faster.

Personal flexibility helps us avoid compromises we are uncomfortable making. But embrace the compromises we should make e.g. in relationships.

PFL takes energy & imagination. But in return, makes us feel alive and useful. With PFL, our lives can have just that little bit more purpose and meaning.

One issue I’ve been thinking about recently is how do we respect our roots, but not be defined by them? Our forebears valued certain things. And like all families, included good & bad people – all of them flawed human beings in some way. We can respect their struggles to realise the positive dreams & aspirations they had for themselves and their families. If our forebears taught us anything, it was: (1) respect and support those we are in close contact with (2) continue to aspire for a better life and (3) be the best people we can be.

Regarding (1) if we dislike certain family members (or work colleagues), what we can do is show support on things that move them forward in a positive direction. And hope momentum does the rest.

Of course we all need to stay agile to life’s opportunities. And keep creating new doors that we can potentially open (PFL). Some people call this personal networking.

Lastly, regarding preserving our roots but not letting them trap us in one place, our PFL helps ease the tension. We can also relax on this issue as we get progressively older – by living an honourable life, we have less to explain and less to prove to anyone, relative or not.

If this resonates, feel free to share your experience too.

Simon

Flexibility shining through

grayscale photo of baby feet with father and mother hands in heart signs
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Our choices create bridges to new aspects of our lives. And enable new branches on our family tree to develop too.

Our choices may be optimally timed, morally righteous and/or inherently wise. But their direction and sustainability are a product of the flexibility we have at the time.

Our family tree develops its height and shape due in a large part, to the flexibility our forefathers and mothers thought they had. There is perceived flexibility and reality flexibility. And not always great alignment between them. To elaborate, some of our forebears may have emigrated to new lands expecting a better life, simply because they perceived the flexibility they would have there to be almost infinite.

Where perceived flexibility greatly exceeds reality flexibility, we take risks. Where our perceived flexibility is significantly less than reality flexibility, we squander chances. Clearly we have to act too. But our effectiveness in acting is often due to flexibility we have, or think we have.

There are at least two things to improve, to enable our lives (and our family tree) to flourish. The first is to grow & maintain our flexibility per se (grow and keep our options open). The second is to keep trying to close the gap between our perceived and reality flexibility.

One tool to close that gap is flexibility itself. What’s a simple example? If we become more flexible on what we value (become less materialistic and more ambitious but for different things), our perceived flexibility can reduce to match reality flexibility. We then take jobs that involve fewer compromises and probably less stress. We live with less credit card debt. We seek less punishing avenues of stress relief – less gambling, binge drinking and sugar consumption. We sleep better and feel fitter, with fewer sporting injuries. In some cases, lowering the perceived flexibility can itself improve reality flexibility.

For some people the reverse is also true. By daring to dream and not settling for second best, they inspire those around them to lift their game, benefiting everyone. A low perceived flexibility can lead to self harm, anger issues, mental health problems, or turning to a life of crime. Beliefs become fatalistic and self fulfilling. Instead be realistic and recognise the value of real options ahead of time. Keep asking what are the things that open doors and keep on opening doors?

In summary, flexibility is like the sunlight and fertiliser for your life and your family tree both.

Simon