Friday, December 26, 2008

Blog for Blog Sake

It's the day after Christmas and I'm staring blankly at the screen ... trying to motivate myself to write something.

I have found that it takes no more than 15 to 20 minutes to write a decent blog entry .... from idea to execution .... maybe not including the spell check. So why is it so hard to write something somedays?

Obviously the idea/topic is the issue .... I have lots of them of course .... most forgotten before I sit in front of the computer. So sometimes it can be a pain.

Writing is a muscle that needs exercise ..... and I need the exercise. Especially when I have promised my editor that I will have a completed draft of my book for review in early Jan09. How likely is that to happen. Note - that was not a question.

Anyway .... hope everyone had a good Christmas and was distracted from the deep and meaningfuls for a day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Insights into Happiness as a Product

Here is an insightful passage I found in an article in the SMH's Good Weekend magazine this weekend. It is written by Kathryn Heyman, who I will be following closely from now on.

Our obsession with happiness - as though it were yet another purchasable product - is relatively recent. As a child I once tried to stand in the end of a rainbow, to feel the colours on me, running back and forth across a wet field with friends shouting directions across the cowpats. But rainbows can't be seen from close up. And the irony of happiness as a "product" is that it disappears when we look directly at it, as ephemeral as that rainbow.

From Katheryn Heyman essay entitled Joy to the World.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Competing to the Death

An unsettling observation is that for some of us death is shameful because we see it as the ultimate failure.

John Lennon said something about this .... he was a really honest guy about his feelings. He said that when he heard someone he had know had died, the first thing he felt was happy .... happy that he had outlived the departed.

So too I see for some a shame in death .... a weakening of a family's position. This is especially true of an early and unexpected death .... when one's "enemies" get a boost from your sorrow and loss.

I wish I was wrong about the above .... but I fear I am not.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Flow and Death

Death has been in my face lately ..... partly, it is because I have been reading Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, which describes how the Holocaust survivors found the strength to survive. A small book but a tough read .....

As well as that we have had a reminder of the mortality of some loved-ones ..... never a pleasant experience. I took, what was quite a harrowing call from a friend, giving me the latest on his father's cancer - right in the middle of an electronics store that had Christmas carols playing merrily in the background. The absurdity of it was quite disturbing .... I felt guilty for this apparent lack of empathy but was unable to escape to a quieter area because I really was caught paying for some Christmas presents when he called on my mobile.

Christmas is not a good time to be diagnosed with incurable cancer ..... if there every is a good time for that.

But there it is ..... death and finality making itself be known to us in the holiday season. But death is more than the ultimate flow-buster!

It makes me think that the happiness that people attribute to being in flow must have something to do with losing all sense of time that we experience when in flow. If you are sufficiently absorbed in what you are doing to forget time, then you are also forgetting about the inevitability of death.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hunger Derives from Darwinism?

Saw this interesting documentary on Charles Darwin (ref. to come).

At the heart of evolution is the simple concept of Natural Selection ..... the drive for species (and so individual members of that group) to stay alive.

As we all live in an ecosystem Natural Selection was described as an Arms Race where we are constantly in competition. The example used was that as the Lion gets better at the hunt, so its prey is also getting better at evading the Lion.

So I guess it is little wonder that deep in the human soul there is a Hunger ..... a survival instinct ..... that we are not in control off and cannot simply switch-off.

For all our civilization's pomp and circumstance, Darwin would suggest we are just animals battling for survival - both with each other, and at a more fundamental level with all other creatures in creation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Flowing Hair - Samson Loses His Mojo

Apparently Samson, the Herculean hero from the bible, lost his mojo when Delilah gave him a bad hair cut .... but I'm being glib. Of course, it was really his strength that he lost and there was more to the story than just the length of Samson's hair.

No, for him it was about the fall from God's grace .... his strength and mojo was a blessing that could easily be taken away.

Maybe these things always are a blessing ........ and it is we who have to find a way to understand that and not allow it to be perverted like most things in this world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Makes Your Mojo?

So here is an interesting question to ponder ... what makes up your mojo? What is (metaphorically) in your little fabric bag? What do you carry around .... those things that are important enough to you to keep close to your chest?

A picture of the spouse, the kids ..... Mum and Dad perhaps?

I'll have to think more about what represents the "essence of my life" .... those things that I would run into a flaming building to retrieve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More on Flow and Mojo

According to this site a precise definition of Mojo is something people might carry or wear, a small fabric bag. Its definition continues:

The mojo could contain numerous things, herbs, small, carved symbols or fetishes, or papers on which prayers or petitions were written. Usually a mojo is not displayed and is hidden under clothing ..... The migration of the term mojo into today’s language is mainly due to its use in 20th century rhythm and blues songs. However though the word still refers to a source of power, it doesn’t necessarily refer to a mojo bag. Instead mojo may simply mean magic or spells. Frequently, mojo is connected to the sexual potency of males, with females able to strip the mojo from males.

So while Mojo is technically a small fabric bag that contains some rememberances and charms, it represents (at least in my possibly convenient interpretation) a person's raison etre - reminder of what makes life worthwhile and from which we can draw strength.

That somehow reminds me of the Vodophone ad showing how we store all our "emotional possessions" in our mobile phones - music, photo's, maps and even access to our friends. So maybe the modern day equivalent of the Mojo Bag is the little mobile phones that we carry around everywhere.

Without these rememberences and charms what differentiates our lives from thousands of other people? What gives us our uniqueness .... and defines our own goals, our motivations, our joys, our happiness? My friend, it all can be collected into a little box - or bag - that we can take on life's journeys.

Flow and Mojo

I've been thinking about motivation .... the drive to strive. An essential ingredient to keep flow flowing, to keep seeking new challenges through a virtuous or vicious (I don't know which) feedback cycle.

In trying to get myself motivated .... even to explore flow .... I am afraid I have lost some of the desperate hunger of youth. That got me thinking, like Austin Powers, have I lost my mojo?

Which made me curious as to what mojo really was - beyond the comic symbolism it represents in Mike Myers crazy comedy.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about mojo .... it's worthy of more consideration.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Front-End Loading vs A Few Good Minds

I've blogged about Front-End Loading (FEL) before and it came up again yesterday. I listened quietly as someone was advocating FEL as the answer to project success ..... but as he went on to describe it as a tool to reduce the uncertainty and ambiguity about the expectations of business users my guard went up.

I certainly do believe in FEL but not simply as an excuse for large teams of analysts trying to determine what has to be done. In my experience this just leads to further confusion and time-wasting. The more people on a project the more likely it is that it goes off the rails.

When I say FEL it is more about having the TIME to get things right not simply the RESOURCES. In fact, I know that the fewer people that are brought on to establish a coherent picture of what is needed, the greater the chances of success.

It is the coherence that is so hard to establish - the mission that will drive and focus the team towards the necessary outcomes, and not be distracted by inconsequential issues that tend to cloud any initiative.

How do you get that coherence ..... well, it may sound arrogant but what is needed is a few good minds (or AFGM - an more politically and context sensitive variant of a few good men).

Now try and tell q senior executives that their urgent project will be undertaken over the next few months with a team of less than five! That's what I call real front-end loading ..... think time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hunger and the Mid-Life Crisis

Here's a little poem by Shel Silverstein I found while cleaning up my study .... I think what he terms the "search" is closely related to the Hunger that I'm trying to understand.


I went to find the pot of gold
That's waiting where the rainbow ends
I searched and searched and searched and searched
And searched and searchced, and then -
There it was, deep in the grass,
Under an old and twisty bough.
It's mine, it's mine, it's mine at last ....
What do I search for now?

Shel Silverstein, in Where the Sidewald Ends.

Just got me thinking about the fact that this (lack of) motivation, or hunger, I seek to understand is a little more complicated .... I did have it once but now, after the basic accomplishments in life, I seem to have lost it.

Is this really just a mid-life crisis?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Flow and the Hunger

While I have been interested in gaining flow I recognize that to do that one must have clear objectives ..... oh, and sufficient motivation to set out to achieve them.

So when I fixate on "the Hunger" it is because I am intrigued by people who are motivated .... really motivated, beyond simply lip-service ...... because I am not.

At my age you acquire some wisdom .... like it or not .... which means I try to see both sides of most things. But this is not always good for getting motivated.

When I set myself some abstract objective, before I get down to something that can be acted on I can see the negative, the pitfalls, the uselessness, even before I get started. The "so what?" or "who cares?" questions cripple me.

This is especially true of my personal objectives .... I seem to only get motivated by artificial stimulus ... in other words, I work well to achieve someone else's objectives. Whether that is my wife's, my boss at work .... my parents? Just not good at doing my own thing.

I don't apply my brain in my own service .... I never finish anything for myself ..... no deadline I make is important enough.

Where do others find their motivation? Where do you buy this Hunger? And to an observer, is it always a little pathetic ..... patheticly needy human behaviour? A weakness? A discomfort? What I call the "pea under one's matress?

That is the contradiction of flow - that to have the drive and hunger to achieve an objective, one needs to be unhappy? And when we are really happy, we just don't care to apply ourselves to achieve any worthwhile objective?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Flow and Networking as a Lifestyle

An example of the Hunger that seems to be necessary to survive in today's business world appears in Penelope Trunk's blog - also an example of why I am really uncomfortable networking.

It is precisely the "networking as a lifestyle" concept that makes me acutely aware of the fakeness surrounding business today. It's not that I think the individuals concerned are bad people .... it's just that I don't like the desperation and neediness of it all. It does not make me feel better that we all need each other equally .... I prefer to act without apparent motive. That goes to some pretty deep wiring .... some may call it prideful, but I prefer my interactions to be without strings attached.

To be conscious of what we can get out of each and every individual is the antithesis of what it takes to be in flow. I would prefer to let personal interactions take their natural course - to flow - but then it may be charged that I am not very good at separating personal from business interactions.

Whatever .... I'm with Samuel Johnson when he said:

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.