Catchphrases of life

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On a good day, we walk three paths. One with our feet. One with our hearts. And one with our minds.

Time with little ones is precious. A day spent with the under fives is worth a month of arguments with teenagers.

Meeting your soulmate is like two satellites orbiting around the relationship to be. Either you keep moving, or you commit to splashing down and creating a beautiful ecosystem.

Most beautiful thing in the universe -a mother’s love for her children. The most ugly thing – male vanity.

Simon

Exchange, acquire and shed

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Boredom can occur when we cannot or won’t seek out change. Or when we grow impatient waiting for something (passive boredom). Regarding the first type of boredom, a certain amount of repetition is reassuring. Too much just frustrates and exhausts us (active boredom).

In the workplace, boredom likely explains quite a bit of tense workplace interaction, job hopping and sub-optimal activity – the saying ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’ springs to mind.

Outside the workplace, because of boredom, people become activists (not the only reason they become activists). Others gamble, take drugs and alcohol for escapism, persecute others, change their image, watch reality TV, have affairs, or indulge in sports that provide an adrenaline rush.

Regardless of what makes us bored, our boredom has a threshold (limit) and we have an appetite (a capacity & desire) to avoid boredom. We also have varying levels of control over our ability to avoid boredom.

If boredom is commonplace, why do we let it remain the unspoken elephant in the room? Do we think talking about boredom makes us seem self-indulgent or powerless? In the workplace, do managers never talk about their teams being bored, because it will indicate they hired the wrong people? And can’t find enough productive things for them to do?

Presumably for each of us, our boredom threshold varies by activity, by what kind of day we had before the repetition. By our level of familiarity with the repetition. By the level of compensation for the boredom endured. And whether we suffer the repetition alone, or in good company.

To make boredom more pleasant, we can try to control the repetition or the wait, using personal flexibility.

Returning to the title of this blog, exchange involves exchanging one king of repetition for another. At an aerobics class, instead of doing exercise in silence (and by ourselves), we dance to the music as a group. As WordPress bloggers, we produce a series of (hopefully) interesting blogs. Yet it’s just as important to appreciate the series produced by others too- we learn something by producing our own. Yet grow more as individuals by paying attention to what others have to say too.

Acquire includes obtaining options in advance, that give you the freedom to change the form or timing of the repetition. Options include controlling the speed of the repetitions. Or creating options that intersperse the repetitions with more exciting interludes.

Shed means develop flexibility to avoid the wait, convert it into productive time, avoid the repetitions. Or leverage them into something bigger. Ironically, our minds make us bored.  Yet our minds are the key to our personal flexibility too.

If you find these blogs interesting, feel free to recommend them to others.

Simon

Perception, Imagination and Focus

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History may be continuous, but continuous doesn’t always imply progress. Arguing or complaining needs something else for it to become constructive. Sometimes the slow progress of one approach is overtaken by someone else’s faster approach, using a different design entirely. Economic growth and human migration come in cycles. And not necessarily regular ones either. Human relationships (trust and power levels) can change for better or worse. Meanwhile, some things, ranging from art & fashion to political movements & street-slang turn out to just be passing fads.

In this blogger’s view, staying resilient and strong in the presence of such changes requires movement flexibility and mental flexibility. Or put another way, the state of our physical and mental health depends on personal flexibility.

To take one example, curing depression may be problematic. But coping with it needs help from perception, imagination and focus – focus being where we choose to focus our attention. After physical injury, physiotherapy helps our bodies recover something approaching useable function. Perception, imagination and focus become our ‘internal support group’ for this too.

So if we need to prepare for future times where there won’t be positive progress in our external environment and if we can expect some toll on our mental & physical health as a result, then maybe now is the time to become more agile at altering the combination of; how we perceive things, what we hope for and what we concentrate on.

Maybe we can learn to apply triage to situations – the way emergency service workers assess an accident scene that has suddenly come into view. Maybe we can become more adept at playing for time or buying time, in order to develop a richer assessment of the issues (perception shifting and daring to dream).

Problem solving in the face of apparent impasse might need to take a step back, in order to make a leap forward. I once saw a great example of this in a river valley in Peru. Basically, the local people were tasked with constructing stone fortifications on one mountainside, using stone that was quarried from the flanks of the mountain opposite. In the valley between both mountains ran a large, deep river. The question became, how to we move a lot of stone across the river fairly quickly. Their solution was to stack up loads of stone blocks on one river bank, then go upstream and dig a channel (take a step back) to change the course of the river, so the blocks were now already across. Genius.

Simon

Parenting and Flexibility2

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Firstly, I don’t have a monopoly on parenting expertise. Or claim to have all the answers on good parenting. However I do have 13 years of experience of hands-on parenting that includes; parenting step-children, parenting step-children who grew up in another country and parenting three genders.

What might be interesting is to look at parenting through the lens of flexibility, to see if a fresh perspective might help some of today’s parents with some of today’s parenting challenges.

In the business and not for profit world, culture & policies blend with goals & support functions. You might think of it as ‘setting the tone’, mingling with ‘setting the scene’. In parenting, setting the tone and setting the scene are also important.

Setting the tone in a family is arguably about setting some kind of structure, responsibilities and boundaries. As well as providing guidance from those in charge. The family comes to develop some kind of family-level ethics and values, typically involving loyalty to the family. And one family member representing the rest at various events. The family is seen as bigger than any one member. Setting the tone doesn’t involve spending money, so much as intervening at the appropriate time with the appropriate message.

Setting the scene includes making commitments, often involving parents giving time & money to create an environment for the children to develop in. An extension of this is when parents choose to entrust the education of their children to a school and its teachers. Parents typically also tell their children that they are available at short notice. Whenever the children face a problem beyond their control.

How does all this relate to flexibility? Firstly kids love flexibility. Especially where they benefit directly from it. Real life requires some level of flexibility from parents too. Situations arise on a scale of serious to trivial. Life threatening to minor. Formal to informal. Urgent to non urgent.

One idea in a two parent active family (active parenting by both parents), is to alternate the roles of setting the tone and setting the scene between the two parents. Why? Through alternating the roles, there is more scope for consistency. And if one parent is absent, the other can perform either ‘setting’ role more confidently.

A final thought. Can parenting be enriched by pairing up all nine combinations of setting the tone (ethics, structure and mentoring) with setting the scene (scope, sponsorship and logistics)? For example, can the parents emphasise family ethics and parental logistics together? Or family structure and parental scope together? In other words if delivering a serious, dry message on tone, balance it with a more positive message on setting the scene as well. At worst, it will deliver fresh, rounded messages to the kids. At best it will strengthen the pace of their development.

Simon

Diversity and Flexibility

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We quite happily accept a diverse range of food dishes and food presentation styles. Regarding music, we like live performances and listening on our headphones.  We may enjoy a range of music genres. We might sing in the shower but prefer others to sing on stage. What to wear each day? We like various colours, patterns, levels of warmth and levels of formality in our clothing wardrobe.

We like happy surprises. We people watch and take a variety of photos, including selfies. We travel as tourists to see exotic sights and experience something of different cultures.

We read a variety of books, blogs, articles and adverts. We may download various TED talks and YouTube videos, both to be inspired, to be entertained and to learn something.

We appreciate the changing seasons. And watching children or pets slowly grow into fully-fledged adults. We like more than one sport and different kinds of entertainment.

We find a bit of variety at work brightens the work day and makes it seem a bit shorter. We like gardens with diversity in them. We like politicians who aren’t just clones of each other.

In short, we enjoy diversity and variety. So why is it when it comes to our fellow humans, we are so intolerant and so inflexible?  Some of us consciously or subconsciously discriminate on gender, age, personality, confidence level, values, maturity level, ethnicity or disability.

The thing about variety is it can involve risk. But in areas ranging from biological evolution and design, to portfolio finance, variety can also diversify risk, add vitality and minimise threat of a poor outcome. For that alone, we should appreciate the value of diversity in human communities.

And since we seem to appreciate diversity in so many other things, why not add an appreciation of human diversity too (this appreciation is yet another form of personal flexibility and flexibility thinking). It will be in good company, after all.

Simon

Plans, positioning and flexibility

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Strategic planning time is probably as scarce in our personal lives as it is in our professional lives. In both, assuming more of the same may be necessary. But developing a strategy is also needed, since significant external change will likely disrupt the present day momentum. As with the surge in a waterflow, the more powerful the flow, the more eddies there are to examine for opportunity as well.

Developing a strategy to manage our careers involves being resourceful & flexibile in finding gaps in the market that we can fill and that the market will value. Some gaps in the market are about product or service improvement (depth or breadth). Others, in an age of uncertainty and constant change, are about providing insight.

Three types of people will pay good money for insight. Those who have the most to lose. Those on the way up who want to reach financial stability sooner. And those who desperately need a solution.

One of the most important services that AI will likely provide is to properly value insight. Without all the biases, egos and prejudices that humans hold dear. AI will show us all what flexibility really means.

Simon

Education and Flexibility

As parents of the next generation and as taxpayers funding the public education spend, we should question whether the right subjects are being taught in our schools (the curriculum).

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Perhaps the future of education is less about putting knowledge into children’s minds. And more about putting skills into students minds, hands and feet.

Instead of teaching subjects like ‘science’, ‘mathematics’, ‘history’ and ‘geography’, perhaps we should re-assemble that content into themes like ‘numeracy & literacy’, ‘resilience & change management’, ‘leadership & problem solving’ and information search & analysis’.

When you think about it, teaching traditional subjects like science, maths, history and geography really only qualifies someone for a career to teach those subjects. Everything else is a compromise and an adaptation. Therefore, why not re-assemble such groupings into more generic themes that are relevant to future careers (some yet to be invented)?

Simon