What is the difference between a plan and a dream?

““Enough of your grand dreams, dearest.”

“Plans, not dreams.”

“Don’t plan too elaborately. Things never work out as planned.”

“That’s why I just keep the goal in mind. I can always change the plans.””

L. E. Modesitt Jr., Antiagon Fire

I think the difference between a plan and a dream is that with a plan you know what your first steps are to reach your dream. The dream is where you want to be and the plan is how to get there. Remember this when you realise you are off course, so that you change your plans and not your dreams.

Logical arguments are never enough

“I strongly suspect the things people believe in are usually just what they instinctively feel is right; the excuses, the justifications, the things you’re supposed to argue about, come later. They’re the least important part of the belief. That’s why you can destroy them, win an argument, prove the other person wrong, and still they believe what they did in the first place.” He looked at Erens. “You’ve attacked the wrong thing.”

Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons

Very few people get happy when they are proved to be wrong, especially if it is in a public setting. If we want to create lasting change in the people around us, we need to take this into account. It is not possible to get someone to change through rational arguments or logical reasons. People have to want to change to actually change. Otherwise they will just find the reasons to keep doing whatever they want. The reason why most organizational changes fail is that they didn’t start with the people who actually need to change. We need to create a dialogue about what is working and what isn’t. We need to invest the time and cost and involve everyone who is affected by the changes. I can’t remember who wrote it but I like this version of the saying much better:

“If you’re not part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution.”

If you don’t admit that you have done anything wrong, if you don’t admit that you have to change as well. Then you are part of the problem.

What is your impact on yourself and others?

“I could try composing wonderful musical works, or day-long entertainment epics, but what would that do? Give people pleasure? My wiping this table gives me pleasure. And people come to a clean table, which gives them pleasure. And anyway“ – the man laughed – ”people die; stars die; universes die. What is any achievement, however great it was, once time itself is dead? Of course, if all I did was wipe tables, then of course it would seem a mean and despicable waste of my huge intellectual potential. But because I choose to do it, it gives me pleasure. And,“ the man said with a smile, ”it’s a good way of meeting people. So where are you from, anyway?”

Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons

It’s not what we do that matters. What matters is how it makes us feel and how we make other people feel.

What is your impact on yourself and others?

What did this text remind you of?

“During the week, Master Wu composes calligraphy and reads a great many books, so that he knows a great many higgledy-piggledy things about a great many subjects, and some of these things are useless and some are not, but almost all of them find their way into the lessons.”

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

A really old saying is “repetition is the mother of all learning”. It is true but it is not the whole truth. I think association is even more important than repetition. To connect new knowledge with old knowledge, to put it into context so that it is easier to remember. I think all teachers (trainers, facilitators, parents… you name it) need to use a huge amount of stories, anecdotes, and examples to help their students learn.

It does not have to be spot on. It does not have to be useful. Your task is just to help your students connect the new knowledge with as many thoughts as possible that already exist in their minds. Mix up the content you’re delivering with personal stories, with fun anecdotes, with other facts relating to the subject. And give your students the time to reflect and discuss in order to connect the new input to their own lives.

What did this text remind you of?

How can we make better decisions?

“Even from what he’d seen, that appeared to be the strongest possibility … but it was only a half-informed guess on his part. But aren’t too many conclusions you’re making just that these days?”

L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Imager’s Battalion

No decision can ever be made with all the information available. We can never know everything because before making the decision and see what happens we don’t know what was actually important in making the decisions. We can make a guess on who the key stakeholders are and what their needs are. We could talk to them, but we can never be sure that we asked the right questions or that they told us everything that was relevant. We can hope we have found all the relevant information, and then we have to guess again on how to weigh the different data we have found.

It’s about accepting that we can never know everything and then make a decision that is as good as possible with the information we can get in a reasonable time. The important part is then to get feedback to make sure our decision was good, and to dare changing the decision to make it as good as possible. We also need to use the feedback to evaluate what we did right and what we did wrong when we made the decision.

How can we check if the decision have the desired effect?

When will we sit down and evaluate our decision process?

What is a good challenge for you?

“…not everything which is not simple is actually hard; even hard things can be done fast; even things which seem impossible turn out to be doable.”

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

Just because something doesn’t have an apparent solution when you first look at it, it does not mean that it will be hard. It just means that you will have to think a bit more, talk to some people and maybe sit down and structure the problem in a new way. Most things are possible if we stop trying to solve everything at once and instead focus on one piece of the puzzle at a time. Sometime we have to give up the focus on that one piece and look at another before it is done, but the minute we try to finish the whole puzzle at once then we will fail.

Flow is defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as the balance between skill and challenge. We will get bored if we do something that is too easy, and we will get anxious if we do things that are too challenging. Having fun at work and getting into this flow state is about making sure your tasks are challenging enough that you feel that you grow with them and that they are divided in such a way that you feel that you are moving forward. When you get this balance then you will lose yourself in the moment and you will be truly productive.

How much time do you spend doing things you really like?

“Knight? I told yo mam I am nothing.”

“I would beg to differ little man, You are always something. Even the greatest of heroes must carry a washing pot every now and then.”

Travis Hanson, The Bean

We all want to spend our time following our passions and using our strengths. Sometimes there are tasks that we have to do, tasks we need to get done so that we can do what we love. Some of these tasks can be irritating either because they are boring or because we are not good at them and need to put in a lot of energy into them. One task that have given me a lot of stress is my book-keeping. I know I have to do it to run my company but it has never been something I look forward to. I solved this by hiring an accountant that now does it for me, but there are a lot of other tasks that I have to do and that are much harder to delegate.

As long as most of the things I do are fun, then doing a few things that are not is perfectly fine. What we need to watch out for is when we spend most of our time working on things we don’t like and we aren’t good at. If you spend more than 20% of your time doing tasks that make you stressed or irritate you, then something need to change. Either your job description or where you work.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to find solutions to everyone else’s problems?

“You are always so perceptive about everyone but yourself.”

Thor: The Dark World

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to find solutions to everyone else’s problems? That the solutions to their problems seem so obvious and simple, that you wonder why they haven’t thought about it before. Have you ever tried helping them by telling them your fantastic solution? And have the response been a bit of irritation and a long list of why that will not work in their case?

I have tried helping many people with suggestions, tips and ideas and most of them are rejected directly. Some ideas people have actually accepted but if I have talked to them a few weeks later they never did it. I still give way too many suggestions, but I am trying to change my behavior and stop it. One reason for this is that I have noticed how irritated I get when people give me solutions that will never work for me.

We all want to help the people around us, but people need to find their own solutions. The reason they have not found it yet is that they have not thought about it from all angles, and they just need some good questions to help them think.

What questions will you ask?

How could you find the hidden rules where you work?

“No,” says Freeman ibn Solomon. “Law is error, you see. It’s an attempt to write down a lot of things everyone ought to know anyway. We don’t have that. Every one of us is expected to act within the constraints of right thinking, and to be prepared to stand by the consequences of those actions. That is,” he adds, “not as comfortable a position as you might think.” And he takes another sip of his whisky.“

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

This is how most cultures, groups and organisations work. We have unwritten rules and laws that people automatically should know and follow. We might even punish people for disobeying them. Many we are not even aware of, and we only notice them when someone does something that is not allowed. You have to talk about the hidden rules and norms with new colleagues, or you could just leave this person to try to figure it out through trial and error.

How could you find the hidden rules where you work?

Where do I start?

“Yet I am small, how can I do this? I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Start from the beginning… that is where you are… and go… forward…”

Travis Hanson, The Bean

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the tasks ahead of me. It feels like too much is happening and I’m unsure of where I am going or where I am at. What I usually do then is to sit down and replan the project I work on. I write about the needs behind the project, I decide on a new aim, I define objectives, I brainstorm what to do and decide on a plan. Sometime I realise that I’m almost finished with the project; that the only thing I have left is to package the project before handing it off. If I replan the project and realise that there is a long way to go, I have gotten my bearings back:

  • I know where,
  • I am going,
  • I know where I am at,
  • I know the first step,
  • and I know that there is a way to get from here to there.

What I do then is to throw the plan away and start working. I don’t want the plan to hinder my thoughts and my inspiration. A couple of weeks later I might feel lost again. I could take out my old plan and look at it, but it is usually not valid anymore.

So I just plan the project again…