Finding Out You Are Wrong, Should Be the Best Feeling.

The human mind is a complex device, but it is not perfect. Everything we learn, we learn through a combination of comparison to previous experiences and then using learned logic techniques to extrapolate new information, which we then can use to compare to already learned information. This is not a simple process, and much of the information we learn is interpreted by filters before being made available to the comparative engines of the brain.

I’m simplifying everything of course, because this is a short blog and I’m an opinion that is based on my own experiences, comparisons and logic.

But simply this process is fraught with potential errors. It’s very easy to learn things which make no sense outside the framework you have already learned.

When you were a child you were taught many subtle things that were only designed to make your parents lives easier. They may well have not been true. Some of these you will encounter as a child and will cause you to question your earliest beliefs, but some will pass through your experience untested and will become true to you as an adult. If these are then proved to be wrong later in your life, you will have a very hard time deciding what is true.

If you believed Santa Claus was real through to your late teens, it’s very likely you would have a very hard time ever considering that he was not real. Imagine if you had received presents under the tree every year until you were 20, and had absolutely no reason to question where they came from, because no one had ever had that conversation with you. What would it take to then persuade you that it was just a story made up my marketing companies to sell more coke.

We all have our versions of Santa Claus; some believe people of a different skin color are a difference species; some believe that socialism in the form of social security or government run healthcare are inherently evil; some believe that their particular variant of religion is the only one that is “true” and everyone else is going to hell; some believe that their family and friends are superior because they all came from the same country in Europe and all became rich due to their grandparents work. And some beliefs are very subtle, but no less damaging to our ability to learn new ideas.

The basic issue is one of trying to change a “core belief”, something that was learned at a young age and has never been tested by your personal experience.

The way the brain works creates fixed pathways for specific situations that become impossible for you to think outside of.

As a species, we must continuously test core beliefs, and where we see evidence that contradicts what we inherently know to be true, we must be willing to look deeply at the evidence and question our own reticence.  It’s hard, but it’s how we become better people.

Here are some statements that cause this form of cognitive dissonance for some people:

  • The earth is round.
  • The earth revolves around the sun.
  • The moon is not a source of light, and revolves around the earth.
  • Evolution is the name of the process of random mutations providing variety that make some variants more likely to survive changing environmental conditions than others, and over very large timescales explains the variety of all life on earth.
  • Skin color is just a simple environmentally preferential variance in a subcutaneous dye found at a lower level in the skin and is not an indicator or any other attribute.
  • The universe was not created for the pleasure of one single species on one single planet out of billions, but is most probably one universe of billions in a much larger system than we can perceive.
  • Guns are dangerous, and their use should be carefully controlled.
  • Trickle-down economics doesn’t work.

At this point a lot of people’s brains may have exploded (of course since those people are unlikely to read my rant or care about my views, It’s not so much of an issue, but maybe some exploding brains (metaphorically speaking) would do the world some good)

When you challenge a core-belief and break its hold on you, you open a world of personal possibilities.

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People of America, Your Attention Please

BRICKINTHEWALL

 

When you look at the UK decision to exit the European Union, please look very carefully; This is not the same as voting for Trump.

The UK has a democratically elected parliamentary system (A little bit like the president, house and senate, just a bit more pomp and ceremony, but about as dysfunctional), and it is currently also part of the European Union (a complex series of interconnections between 28 countries with a sometimes stated goal of becoming the United States of Europe, with some amazingly good social ideas and some really scary social and political ideas that seem to harken back to times of people with funny mustaches and no knees).

Having two overlapping political systems should seem very normal to every US Citizen, what with state and federal organizations.

But then the UK also is a United Kingdom consisting of England, Wales, Scotland and (a chunk of the Northern part of an island mostly made up of the country of Eire), called Northern Ireland, along with a smattering of other islands around it’s coasts and a couple of places that are just there for sport (yes Gibraltar I’m thinking of you). Some of these areas also have their own parliaments, which may seem confusing to you (because it is).

Scotland is really poor most of the time, well it’s not actually poor, but it costs more to run than the gross domestic product it produces. This means it needs a sugar daddy to buy it a nice apartment in exchange for a few castles and access to its ample supply of sheep and whiskey. It seems that under the auspices of the EU, Scotland was just one of many areas in this situation, and so a good supply of readies was always available with more always promised (but never quite delivered), and the Europeans were more interested in using it for holidays than f&*ing the sheep, which made them easier to deal with than the politicians in Westminster (England).

Wales on the other hand is really full of sheep, and men with good singing voices, and generally they like to be left alone (to sing to their sheep we all assume), so being part of Europe was not generally seen as anything of value, but it’s very expensive, so with a few exceptions most of Wales wanted to be left out of Europe and left alone as usual.

Northern Island on the other hand is full of people who shout all the time, and really like drinking. This is exactly the same as the people in Eire (Ireland to you), and they can walk there for a pint and a good argument and then walk home again. While going to drink in the rest of the UK requires a boat, which is actually harder than walking. So the Northern Ireland folks mostly want to be part of Europe, specifically with those in Ireland. Except some don’t and they have in the past made that really clear, by fighting amongst themselves in quite serious ways and blowing lots of things and people up. Since those who want to be part of Europe mostly don’t use contraceptives while those who want to be part of the UK do, time will be the great decider, as one group has massive families (of voters) while the other doesn’t. At some point in the next couple of generations the vote will go to those who want to become part of Eire, and the hope is the shouting and drinking will be enough until that happens.

The English on the other hand are more complex, anyone old enough to have a parent or grandparent who fought in WWII wants to leave Europe (remember what we fought for in the war etc.), while everyone who is younger wants to move to Spain and party while collecting government handouts. In fact, it seems most of the largest city (London) wanted to remain in Europe, but it rained quite hard in London on the day of the election so a lot of younger people it seems stayed at home. I wonder if this lack of a focus on actually winning comes from their schooling where sports are not about winning but about spending an afternoon in the sun in a Lacoste shirt and shiny new white trainers and receiving a medal for just being alive.

Anyway now that the UK (Britain is its other name) has voted to exit Europe (Brexit, get it now), and everyones heads have exploded, because up to now no one really thought this would happen, it was supposed to be a moaning vote (a way of expressing a complaint that could be ignored) and like all moaning votes was never supposed to lead anywhere. But it has and now everyone is realizing they really should have worked out a plan of what to do next.

But being British means that they are used to making stupid mistakes and then turning each mistake into something unexpected and brilliant.

Anyway people of America please look very carefully at the Brexit vote, it is not like voting for Trump, the UK still has a democratically elected parliament not run by a raving sexist, bigoted, xenophobic bull-shitter (of course that also could happen in the UK, there is one or two waiting for their chance, but it has not happened yet).

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The Internet Of Objects – Ideal Or A Path To The End Of Everything

In the 1980’s and into the 1990’s there was a movement in technology towards objects. The idea was than any and all data, applications, devices etc. could be broken down into a series of discrete pieces of information, and the use of this information could be described in a consistent way. This would allow everything to work together harmoniously without complex pre-work to describe what everything was.

The issue (at that time) was that for most types of data the meta-data to describe it was actually much larger than the data itself, and this was a huge problem when networks were slower than the spoken word and data storage was more expensive than postage. So the idea slowly died and morphed, and we have been left with a really messy series of standards which make sharing data and devices complex and expensive.

Now I know that I am paraphrasing the whole issue here, but there is no doubt that where we are, is not where we want to be in terms of integrated systems.

Imagine if every piece of data was wrapped in a consistent set of metadata (data about the data).

Imagine if you were sent an email with a specific type of data attached to it, that the data would self-describe its value, keep a record of who created it, what application was needed to use it, and even where the code to use it resided.

Imagine if every internet connected device could provide details on its use, location and current state when asked. So when you enter a house and you could automatically be part of that houses network. Your environmental preferences would automatically be shared with the house, and your entertainment preferences would be available on each device in the house. Obviously assuming that you had the approval of the houses prioritized users.

Imagine that when you program your phones map app to take you to a specific place, your diary and the diaries of everyone you are meeting that day are automatically updated with travel times and arrival times. And the systems in the place you are going to are updated with your drink and food preferences and a desk is reserved for you automatically for when you arrive or the meeting room you are planning to use is automatically chosen based on the number of people who are meeting.

Imagine if in an emergency all the connected devices in a building on fire could be viewed by those trying to help. Every temperature sensor and video feed was automatically available to them, and any phone picked up would automatically connect to the on-site emergency teams without any buttons needing to be pressed. All water, gas and power would be selectively turned off or on by the emergency teams as needed.

Imagine if the sensors in every car, street light and road sign were shared amongst themselves, providing a mesh of knowledge available to every road user, and that journeys were planned with the knowledge about the current conditions, dynamically updated with the planned journeys of every other road user.

Imagine if a doctor was able to review the health data of a patient collected by the patients watch, phone, home and pharmacist building a profile of the patient’s history to help diagnose from subtle changes in their physical condition important early diagnosis of problems allowing for much better treatments.

If every piece of data and every internet connected device could describe itself in a consistent and meaningful way, the possibilities are endless.

There are of course risks associated with easier communication, risks that actually may be greater than the benefits.

It’s almost an evolutionary level risk.

Within a species a continual flow of random mutations creates the likelihood that some variants will survive in any type of changing environment or to put it another way diversity is good.

If all information systems were to follow a single standard, then the possibility would exist of total destruction of the entire system. We have already seen that computer viruses designed to attack windows systems can impact millions of systems at the same time. Smug mac users have always felt safer, but that safety only comes from the simple fact that they are a separate sub-species. It is very hard for an infection to spread across species (biological or technical), but in a world where all data and devices were unified behind one standard, that standard itself could become a risk.

The value of total interconnectivity is immense, but the implications of everything being compromised would be too terrible to consider.

Is it possible to create an interconnected would that is secure enough to be viable?

That is the cold war not just of this century but probably for the whole future of humanity.

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There are about seven billion people on earth.

And the average person expects to live for around seventy five years.

If you wanted to think about each person alive at the moment you could afford to give each person around 1/200th of a second of thought individually.

So it’s not that surprising that we give most people on earth very little thought.
I’ve never been deeply sad. I’ve lost people I love to horrible diseases, and some to old age, but I don’t know what it could feel like to be so sad that I wouldn’t want to live any more, I guess I’ve never been depressed.

And then someone that you know peripherally through their work dies by their own hand, and each of us wonders if that was anything, however small we could have done that would have made their lives just a little bit better, maybe enough that they wouldn’t have wanted to kill themselves.

It’s a simplistic thought, and most of us know that it’s not practical to think retrospectively. Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve just wastes energy and almost never changes future behavior.

This week Robin Williams, one of the funniest people I have ever seen took his own life! Someone whose drama, comedy and banter was always something to treasure. I love his films, his standup, his sitcoms and interviews. But wow what a price to pay for talent. I never knew that his private thoughts were so tormented. I know I wasn’t alone, the people whose lives were better for his creative output must be at least in the hundreds of millions.

Truly shocking to find out that someone who seemed so together, intelligent, and in tune with and able to influence human emotions is such nice ways was so unhappy, even just for moments (however long or short) of his life.

If makes you realize just how fragile happiness can be.

I take pleasure in making people feel good, and I do hope that sometimes I make a difference in some people’s lives.

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The 7 Habits of Corporate Executives

I’ve read and listened to a good number of books on business, marketing, management, etc. which offer many excellent approaches, techniques and tips to run a successful, innovative, motivated team and organization. These books were/are best-sellers.

7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_PeopleI know that the senior management of virtually every organization reads them and that many assign them to their teams and the next generation of leaders. “Long-term thinking,” “train, nurture and retain staff,” “always look at things from the perspective of your customers and prospects,” “treat everyone with respect and assume positive intent,” etc.

So my question is, “Why is it so rare that senior management actually follows any of that advice?”

Why do its readers go from "Good to Ghastly?"
Why do its readers go from “Good to Ghastly?”
Are they just not bright enough? Weak minded? Unable to change bad habits? Prefer “politics” to actual achievement as a strategy to advance? I mean really, WTF?

Did they mean well but revert to “Lord of the Flies” behavior after one bad quarter? Or are they just hiding their “crazy” in public most of the time? I’m asking because now that I’m back on positive side of the ledger I’m horrified at how bad it had been so often at so many places for me, my family and my friends. I had a chat with my first real business “mentor” the other night regarding helping his daughter get started in her chosen field and I was reminded how shocking it was when I first worked with him and was truly trusted, supported and empowered by him and the entire management team when we worked together in the 90’s.

We were all “jazzed up” to go to work every day, weren’t afraid to take calculated risks, and achieved great success with a small team and virtually no budget. Motivated, smart people we were and we innovated virtually every day to make the place better. Did I find a great leadership through my own research? LinkedIn? FuckedCompany.com? No, it was pure luck for me (and for them), that we “found” each other and were able to do great things and enjoy the process.

Why is that so rare today? Are 70% of Americans just idiots (as one of my best friends continually points out)? Do people really just not listen and comprehend good advice anymore? Are all “organizations” above a certain size just destined to go horribly dysfunctional because of their size? Is even the best corporate culture guaranteed to dissolve above 100 employees?

Soooo many "leaders" need to really read this book.
Soooo many “leaders” need to really read this book.
I don’t know the answer and believe me, I’m not complaining – I love competing against badly managed companies with toxic management styles and dysfunctional cultures. The bigger and better resourced they are, the better; it makes for greater satisfaction when you beat them and have your pick of their customers and their best employees.

I still would like to know the answer but until then I’ll just enjoy the fact that the competition is not going from “Good to Great,” doesn’t live by the “No Asshole Rule” and clearly hasn’t adopted “7 (or even 1), Habit of Highly Effective People.”

p.s.: When asked what my favorite “business” books are, the response is simple: “The Essential Drucker” and “The No Asshole Rule.” Great advice to work and live by everyday-

Best. Business. Book. Ever.
Best. Business. Book. Ever.

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Tide and the Choices “We” Make

I chose aeronautical engineering as my major in college despite it being brutally difficult and not having the recommended prerequisites in high school.

I left it after two years.

I chose to get into marketing for a technology company; I did well but switched to Sales to make more money (and did).

I wasn’t a natural at Sales (and didn’t love it), but was a grinder and used my skills learned behind the bar at the family’s and other saloons to have success.

I hated the taste of liquor but fairly quickly learned to like drinking it “neat.”

I grew up thinking guys who used “grease” in their hair looked odd and made a mental note to never do it. I have used “grease” or gel for decades.

All of the above are true of my Dad. And of me.

Highest price; still most popular with all classes
Highest price; still most popular with all classes
My mother used strange “home remedies” and I felt like we were primitive “mountain people” every time she cured a sty by cutting a potato in half and rubbing half on my eye and burying the other half where water drips.

It worked and all manner of “poultice” and home remedy became staples in my home.

I noticed in college how much more expensive Tide is than the other laundry detergents and I knew that Cheer and All were just as good.

My household only buys Tide (just as my parents did). Every semester I poll my larely international NYU grad class (who often complain about their finances), as to what detergent they buy, and then which detergent their parents bought – the results are 75-80% “Tide” for both answers… every time.

When in doubt, we emulate our parents behavior – even if we don’t get along with them or feel they were good decision-makers.  Even when they told us they made a wrong decision about something AND we quietly said to ourselves “Well, I’ll never make that mistake!”

We often do it without realizing that we’re doing it.  Like an unconscious inner guide, Dad and Mom are still making many of our decisions for us, not all of them of course but many more than we’d like to admit.  Hopefully they made good choices, and their parents did as well, because most of them are, and will, be ours too.

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