Creativity and Conflict

An interesting post by Scott Belsky . Here is the key idea

Choose to create or choose peace, but don’t fool yourself into believing you can have both in full force. Greatness is sparked in dark places.

Agree? One feels comfortable either just before a story begins or just after it climaxes and ends. There is a place for comfort. But life is not just about repetitive attempts to find comfort. Life is, at the end of the day, a story. our stories. And to live these stories, we need to understand that stories are based on meeting and overcoming conflict.

Tracking Tools

Lists are perhaps the simplest and bet tools that help us track where we are and where we are going. So what lists do you — and hsould you  — maintain?

Trying to manage too many lists leads to burnout. But too few, and you lose out of important data. This link suggests the following lists

  • goals
  • tasks
  • contacts
  • expenses
  • tools
  • self-improvements
  • creative ideas
  • future plans
  • contingency plans
  • bucket list

Do you agree that the above are critical and sufficient? I am not sure that I would. First, I think ten is too many. For example “goals” and “future plans” are clearly related – so shouldn’t they merge into a single list that includes objectives and paths to get there?” Second, there is no unifying theme that connects these lists. The unifying theme is what delivers the logic to data retention.

so what is your unifying theme? It is the narrative voice to your life story.

A World of Enlightened Opinion

A while ago, some folks (me included) were surprised by how things could go viral on the internet. Looking back, we should not have been surprised. Things have been going viral for as long as humans have been around. We just didn’t use the internet to help speed up the process.

In this sense, while some of the argument that Malcolm Gladwell made in “The Tipping Point” has been found to be wrong, his underlying point is well taken – it pays to understand why things go viral. Jonah Berger points out in “Contagious” that part of the reason is how the message hits us. For example, does it connect with something we regularly do?

But there is something more basic going on. That more basic thing has to do with the effects of things going viral. When they go viral, they change our perspective. Viral things more us to a decision – even if that decision is about what we like and do not like.

This is why a message as simple as “I do not like X”, if repeated enough can have a viral effect. Perhaps that is the secre3t of Fox. Fox does not like Obama. Keep saying it. That message went viral and created a community of persons who shared that dislike. Fox made that dislike important.

In other words, viral messaging is about opinion forming. It is a form of argument. Learn how to make an opinion go viral, and you will have mastered a basic 21st century skill.

The Focus on Process

This video from BI is about sports. More specifically, it is about how one improves his or her play by improving one’s ability to focus. The lesson comes from the Japanese Samurai, who understood the value of focus in upgrading their fighting abilities in battle. And this less applies beyond sports and beyond work.

Here is the key question — how much during the day do you focus on process and how much do you focus on results? If you are focusing on results, you are focusing on something that you cannot really control. If your focus is on process, you should be able to see a path to upgrading what you do.Remember – you cannot control results. But you can and should control the process that you use to get there.

We can spice this up a bit with a bit of wisdom from Steve Jobs. Jobs famously said that it is a real eye opener to realize that all of the things around you were created by folks who are no smarter than you are. This applies to process as well. When you focus on process, you are focusing on your process – not something that other people do, but what you do. And because you are unique as an individual, only you can see the processes that affect how you live.

The Debate about the Value of Happiness

Happiness is “in” these days.l And, I can understand why. If one accepts the definition of happiness developed by Czikszentmihalyi, (seeing meaning in what we experience) it is hard to argue against it. Who wants less meaning?

But not everyone is persuaded that this is the right definition. André Spicer and Carl Cederström follow a different path of argument. For them, happiness is a positive emotional reaction to our surroundings. And they argue that trying to be positive all the time has its downsides.

They are right. But they also miss the point. Happiness is not about feeling positive no matter what. It is about getting more deeply engaged in what we want to do over time. Csikszentmihalyi was quite clear on this. It is less about a forced positive smiley face than about finding the strength to rise above whatever life throws at you.

Career Talks!

BI offers a nice playlist from TED that targets issues facing folks who need to think about career. This is all good stuff. But there is something more basic going on in the 21st century that will affect career planning.

What is it? In the 21st century, we will see traditional career paths lose their predominance. We will still need medical services, for example, but we will not get them from people we traditionally called doctors. So going into medicine aint what it used to be. Ditto for law, and perhaps even more so.

For this reason, strategic thinking about career places new demands on young folks. Those demands are to focus on the path itself — the way you connect creatively rather than just learning info.

Catch Knowledge or Use it?

Over the last several centuries, we have become a bit obsessed by the concept of learning. It is a worthwhile obsession too! It has opened the door for millions to “create” a new identity based on what they have learned rather than what they were born to. A boy may have been born a farmer, but via learning, he can become a doctor, lawyer or perhaps even the president. And this stepping up allows all of us to enjoy the high levels of connection made possible by a flood of people into the knowledge based career paths.

But is learning the ultimate? I would argue that it is not. When we learn, we take over “accepted wisdom”. In other words, we strive to understand what others before us have created. For example, calculus from Newton. In other words, learning is a backward looking activity. There is nothing inherently wrong with looking backwards.Indeed, we probably should do more of it in order to capture more of what the people around has learned. That is something that “knowledge management” strives to do.

At the same time, looking backwards is not the same thing as looking forward. Looking forward is a strategic challenge and it requires a different perspective. For example, a person who has mastered quantum mechanics may be not up to the task of dealing with climate change.

I would argue that the 21st century will embrace this idea  – that we need to be more forward looking in a strategic sense, in order to create the type of future that our children are more likely to enjoy. In this light consider this cautionary note for persons who aspire to get paid for giving advice

If you are going to be an adviser and integrated part of your client’s team, you have to have ideas about what the future holds. You need to know what challenges your client is likely to face, and you need ideas about the opportunities that the future will provide them. You need to be future-oriented.

The bigger and more strategic your thinking, the deeper your knowledge, the more valuable you are to high-level stakeholders. They want to know how to guide their business into the future, and they need to see around corners. You need to have ideas about what lies around those corners.

Future thinking is about forming opinions rather than giving right answers. And so the last sentence in the above quote should actually, read “You need to have ideas about what is most likely to be found around those corners”.  And not just that, the more important strategic question is what you should one do about it. How do we best create value in light of what is most likely to occur?

Get Ready for the Gig Economy

Fred Wilson comments on a speech by Hillary Clinton about this topic. Their point, reductions in the scope and number of full time employment opportunities means figuring out what protections contract workers deserve.

The more basic point — if you want to succeed in this environment, you need to be prepared to go beyond finding a good job. Good for you if you find one. But more than likely, it will be just one step in a rather long process.