What would I do?

“Wooo!’ he said, slamming his shot glass down and coughing a bit. ‘That’s good stuff.’
I agreed heartily. ‘Shall we do another one?’ I asked.
‘Oh no,’ Jesus said quietly, his eyes growing round. ‘This is one of those situations where I have to stop and ask myself, what would I do?”

          – Kevin Hearne, Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles)

This books series is a lot of fun and in the above scene, Atticus (the Iron Druid) is in a bar drinking with Jesus. The question the quote ends with is a great one: “What would I do?” A common technique in brainstorming is to choose a person and ask yourself – What would X do? You can choose someone famous, someone you know or someone you don’t know. The person can be alive or dead. It can be your best friend or a relative. It is just about putting yourself in some other person’s shoes and try to picture what they would do in the situation you are in. It often gives me great ideas. 

Sometimes, it is an even better idea to ask yourself – What would I do? To really sit down and think about what you want to do. What do I need at the moment? What am I anxious about that might prevent me from doing it? What would be a lot of fun?

By answering the question you will get to know yourself better and what you want out of life. What would I do?

Miraculous seem ordinary

“It’s a popular fact that 90 percent of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong…  It is used. One of its functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary, to turn the unusual into the usual. Otherwise, human beings, faced with the daily wondrousness of everything, would go around wearing a stupid grin, saying “Wow,” a lot. Part of the brain exists to stop this from happening.”

          – Terry Pratchett, Small Gods


To stop us from overloading, the brain needs to reduce the information we see so that we can focus on the essential; what is new and things we have told the brain to regard as important. The problem is that this can cause us to get stuck in our routines and in our way of thinking: We keep doing the same things, reacting in the same way and thinking the same thoughts. To stop this from happening we need to make sure that we experience new things, talk to new people and review what habits we have from time to time. 

We should not overdo this though. For some people this takes energy and if we force ourselves outside of our comfort zone both physically and mentally too much then we will not have much energy over for our every day life. It shouldn’t be a problem though because most people don’t do enough new things. But it is good to remember to think about the balance between doing new things and following our patterns.

Look at their pattern and not yours

“Rhenn…what are you thinking? You have the strangest look on your face.” “I’m trying to make sense of things that may not make any sense at all.” “Things always make sense if you look at their patterns and not yours.” I understood what she meant. Too often, I tried to impose what I thought should be the order or pattern of things, rather than seeing what was. “That’s the engineer’s way of thinking,” Seliora went on. “When you design things, whether it’s a card reader for a loom or a design for fabric, you get in the habit of assuming that everyone designs the way you do, or that there’s just one designer, like the Nameless, that arranges everything.” “But people aren’t like that,” I said with a laugh. “You need to let your mind rest,” she said. “Sometimes that’s more useful than worrying it to death, especially when you’re as tired as you are.”

          – L.E. Modesitt Jr, Imager’s Intrigue

When working in any team the challenge is often to understand one another. We might feel very predictable ourselves but when looking at other people it might be hard sometime to understand why they don’t understand our way of thinking. If you work with engineer’s as above or any other homogeneous group it is very easy to start looking at the problem from only one direction. Explaining something to likeminded people is usually quite easy and it is efficient because you can move to what you feel is the most important part quickly. The challenge though is to manage to explain something to someone who has no knowledge at all of what you are doing. I have received many insights from trying to explain things to people with other ways of thinking, people with other patterns in their minds. It was at times quite frustrating trying to explain something that was obvious to me, and I did not understand many of the questions at first but they somehow got stuck in my mind and after a while opened up some new ways of thinking or new ways to look at the problem.

If you do things right…

“If you do things right people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

          – Terry Pratchett

I just remembered this quote. I think it is from Terry Pratchett’s book Small Gods but I’m not 100% sure. Imagine two people working on two different projects. One of them manages the project without any problems and delivers on deadline. In the other project everything seems to be falling apart but with some extra effort he manages to finish it but a bit after deadline. Who will get the most praise?

We don’t know if the second project was more challenging and we can never find out if the projects would have run differently if we had switched the two people managing them. Today’s society seem to reward people who are problem solvers, not the people who manages to fix the problems before they appear. We can see this in fiction as well; it would be quite a boring book or movie if everything went exactly to plan in them. Organisation’s will be very unbalanced if we only promote and reward people who are problem solvers instead of problem preventers.

Always review

“The plane had a cabin crew, which ran them all through the plane’s safety procedures like on a regular plane. Lancaster followed along with the instructions and looked at Brian hard, until he did too.

"Always review when you can, Brian. No matter what you’re doing, or how often you’ve done it before, something fresh in your mind will save your ass about twenty percent more often than if you just go on old knowledge. It works… so do it.”“

          – P.S. Power, Proxy

After reading this I started to follow along during the flight safety procedures again, which I have not done for many many years. And it got me thinking about all the things I think I know just because I have read it a few years back, or if I have done something a few times. Rereading old books I have on communication, personality types and conflict management made me realise how much I had forgotten from them. I remember the overall ideas and many of the take aways, but details I have forgotten or didn’t see the first time I read them came back to me. There are two great ways to remember things, one is repetition and the other is to associate the new knowledge to old knowledge. By creating multiple connections to the new knowledge it makes it easier and faster for our minds to find it again. That’s one of the reasons I love to read all of these books, find quotes and connect them to other things I have learnt.

“I’m unpredictable?”

“I’m unpredictable?” I found that hard to believe. She shook her head. “I’m certain that you believe that everything you do is perfectly predictable. It probably is, to you, or to someone who thinks like you do. But for the rest of the Collegium…”

          – L.E. Modesitt J.R., Imager’s Challenge

This is why it is important to talk about how we think and feel. Why tools like MBTI and FIRO-B are needed to give explanations for how we are different. They are models of the human mind and human behaviour and can not explain everything, but they are a good way to start talking about our differences and similarities. It helps make us more predictable to one another and to make cooperating easier. 

Meetings have a beginning, a middle and an end

“One never has a meeting without knowing exactly how it will go and how to assure that it does.” He smiled warmly. “Otherwise what is the point?”

          – L.E. Modesitt J.R., Imager

The two most important things for a meeting is to have a purpose and a plan to reach that purpose. Most meetings I have been to usually have the purpose more or less defined, but I have been to quite a few meetings which seemed to lack that as well.

What many people forget is to think about how to reach that goal. A meeting needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is to make sure everyone feels comfortable talking and that we have a common understanding of the purpose of the meeting. The middle of the meeting is about discussing the problem and look for solutions. The end of the meeting is about deciding on what to do and make sure everyone knows their tasks. A meeting needs a lot more things to be truly good, but this is a good base.

Words cannot describe the most magnificent of sunrises or sunsets, or even the greatest painting of the greatest representationalist or the most beautiful of statues, or the most stirring and harmonious of melodies. Words are all that we have to convey to each other what we see and what we feel, but never should we accept a belief that words truly or fully describe the world

– L.E Modesitt J.R., Imager

The hard part in communicating is that the words we use have different meaning for different people. We might have read the same dictionary but we have different experiences of the words themselves. A word that you read in a beautiful poem will have a new meaning to you and a meaning that I will never completely understand. I think that is both the fun and the hard part when we try to share our thoughts and feelings. This is also why we have to start listening to the intent behind the words, instead of the exact words people say.

The Last Mistake was a sort of monument to the failure of human artifice at critical moments; its walls were covered in a bewildering variety of souvenirs, each one telling a visual tale that ended with the verdict ‘Not quite good enough.’ Above the bar was a full suit of armour, a square hole punched through at the left breast by a crossbow quarrel. Broken swords and split helmets covered the walls, along with fragments of oars, masts, spars, and tatters of sails. One of the bar’s proudest claims was that it had secured a memento of every ship that had foundered within sight of Cammorr in the past seventy years.

– Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora

A few years back I was in Vermont for a conference and I took the chance to visit Ben&Jerry’s Ice cream factory there. Outside they have a Flavor Graveyard with a tombstone for every flavor that did not sell very well. What I really like about this is that they dare to show people all their failures and in some way celebrate them. I wonder how we can change our thinking around all our failures and be proud of them instead? Failing means that we dared to try something that we were not quite capable of yet. That we pushed our boundaries and hopefully learned something new from the experience.

You see, there’s a fundamental connection between seeming and being. Every Fae child knows this, but you mortals never seem to see. We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.

– Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of The Wind

There needs to be a balance in life between adapting to the people around us and getting our voices heard. To create a community we need to adapt, but the community will not have any strength if people can not express their creativity and individuality.

How can I be myself and still adapt to the people around me when needed?