Reflections A-C

Ambition – pride and confidence become the legs for ambition to run on. However, too much speed is fatal. Too little speed means watching the world go by without us.

Anniversaries – rest the clock for a day to the feelings we had when we first met. Anniversaries are like fishing nets, dragging in time to nourish us. They make us untangle the moments we value the most.

Café society – one person’s caffeine arrival is another person’s great escape. Offering coffee on sublime time and a five-finger response to a one-finger world. Express expresso expression.

Career planning – is like skating on ice. You can only go in a straight line for so long. And even then, the surface ahead is of uncertain strength.

Comfort zones – personal comfort zones are footprints in a circle, that slowly become one foot in the grave. Opportunity zones are paths leading to the horizon, that lure the human spirit on a quest.

Computer gaming – if Einstein had been a modern day, patent office clerk, would he have spent his time playing online computer games, instead of reshaping the field of physics?

Conflict – warring countries are like athletes fighting on the starting line, while other countries go on to win medals and fame. National progress relies more on inventors and teachers. And less on soldiers.

Conservation – global warming needs cold air solutions, not hot air discussions.

Twin strands in your job

Just as twin strands make a rope stronger, is it smart career management to seek out twin-role jobs? One form of these is doing a combination of department & project roles, to build different kinds of skills and experiences.

Another form is to line-manage several functions. How can this be achieved if you have qualifications and work experience in one function only? Volunteer for short term tasks that give you that broader function exposure. Offer to take an oversight role of another support function in addition to your core one. In your next organisation, apply for a wider role.

As some organisations rationalise their senior management team, they’ll then want managers with wider functional experience. As people get promoted, more functions will inevitably come under their remit. Either way, the twin-strand form of business flexibility comes into its own.

Simon

Comfort Zones and Personal Flexibility

If a person’s comfort zone is basically their attitude projected onto physical space and time, then personal flexibility might be a useful device at both ends of the projection.

At the source end, flexible thinking can work on attitude – sometimes we surprise ourselves at our own bravado, patience and tenacity. Feeling good, we might offer up a extra patience, a random act of kindness, or generosity. Or have an epiphany, and make a paradigm shift accordingly. One example of this is going from being a (romantic) relationship partner with a fear of dying, to becoming the parent of a new born, where you would literally die to save them from dying (apologies to the relationship partners who already think that about their partner).

Meanwhile, flexible provisioning works on time and space. If we change the range of resources available in our environment, make the timing of their availability more under our control, or alter the resource capacity, our comfort level can quickly change too.

A tyrant or bully has a comfort zone that exists in the space beyond and below the moral high ground. Their comfort zone can be countered by action to change their attitude (changing their incentives, imposing penalties, or threatening retaliations). Or by altering resources in the environment they seek to dominate. For example, downplaying the value or lending out the resource to another strong party in the short term.

If the bully is inside our own heads, a similar personal flexibility approach might apply. Therapy and friendship networks can help on attitude. Medication and smaller steps (to progress) can influence the resources available.

Ultimately we need to keep shifting our comfort zones. If only to cope with ongoing change and uncertainty. And to grow as human beings.

Simon

Personal Flexibility and Cycling

Over Easter, I was lucky to go on a 140 mile, 3 day cycling trip with some friends, around the south of England. And I learned some interesting things about personal flexibility that I’d like to share.

The first example was on the train, travelling down to the start point of the ride. I got chatting with one of the other cyclists, a fellow parent. I asked what his school age son wanted to do after finishing secondary school (high school). The dad’s approach was to encourage his son (who like many kids, didn’t know what he wanted to do after graduation) to take subjects that would simply help him keep his options open. This has two aspects, taking a wide range of subjects. And taking some universally useful subjects like English and maths (literacy & numeracy heavy). In short, more doorways beat fewer. And some doorways serve as portals to bigger worlds.

Once we all assembled to start the ride, it was obvious that the amount of cycle luggage varied from one cyclist carrying everything for every eventuality (resource versatility), through to another travelling light to conserve energy (event versatility). Both are forms of personal flexibility, just emphasising different types.

Another example once the cycling trip had started in ernest was the relative positioning in the riding group i.e. each rider staying fluid and flexible to help the others as needed. And to chat to different members of the group.

Some of the cycle route involved smooth road-riding in designated cycle lanes, or along disused railway embankments. Other sections however involved descent down bumpy, gravel-heavy tracks. It dawned on me that those of us who coped best had previously done broader preparation (road riding and off road riding) i.e. choosing to move forward by moving further out of your comfort zone to widen your coping skills for situations you might encounter.

One night on the trip, we camped and all 4 of us chose a different shelter approach. One chose a large tunnel tent. I chose a simple basha (tent fly), hung between two trees. Another slept in a tiny minimalist tent for one. And the fourth, unhappy with his tent, slept in the open, next to the campfire instead. Most importantly, it wasn’t a resource competition and we weren’t critical of each others shelter arrangements, Each person simply observed alternative shelters, while making their own as comfortable and effective as possible. At the campsite, we also had to improvise with the materials at hand.

On the trip, when the subject of road user behaviour and planet-friendly transportation came up. It struck me that to have an informed discussion, you really have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, before you critique things from your own perspective.

Thanks for the flexibility insights and the adventure guys!

Simon

The Power of One

person raising hands mid air sidewards while standing on gray steel railings
Photo by Sanketh Rao on Pexels.com

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

Flexibility shining through

grayscale photo of baby feet with father and mother hands in heart signs
Photo by Andreas Wohlfahrt on Pexels.com

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