Are you really asking a question?

“Would you like to come inside,” she said. It wasn’t a question. For a sentence to be a question, you had to care about the other person’s answer.”

–Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Lots of leadership courses focus on teaching people to ask more and better questions. The challenge with asking questions is that you first must want to listen to the answers, and then you have to have the time and will to use it.

Many people have already decided what to do, but still try to include people by asking for their opinion. Other people don’t want to hear the feedback and will change the questions to make it very clear what they want to hear: Was the presentation good? Do you like it here?

You first have to make it ok to fail and be wrong in your organization, before people will start asking better questions.

Leave if you would rather go all in somewhere else

“I think I was afraid to go all in,” she says. “Because all in is terrifying. With all in, you lose everything.”

– Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

It can be a project, a meeting, a coffee break conversation, playing with your children, or talking to your loved one. You can try to be fully present in that moment or you could check your phone, read your emails, or plan the next day. There is something scary about being fully present in most things, because if you are then you might miss out on something else. You might not respond to that email fast enough, or be the last one to share a funny video on Facebook. What else is scary about being present it that it might require a bit more of yourself to stay present; that you actually speak when you don’t agree, and that you actually take the time to really think about and feel what is happening with the people around you.

And that you leave if you would rather go all in somewhere else…

Overdoing strengths

She has wanted to sleep with other people, of course. One or two in particular. But the truth is she has good impulse control. That is why she isn’t dead. Also why she became a writer instead of a heroin addict. She thinks before she acts. Or more properly, she thinks instead of acts. A character flaw, not a virtue.

– Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

Sometimes I would rather have less impulse control instead of overthinking everything. At other times I’m really happy that I thought a bit longer and not just said whatever was in my head.

All strengths are great until you overdo them and then they become some of your biggest weaknesses:
– Attention to detail vs pedantic
– Funny vs mocking
– Caring vs over-protective
– Good listener vs Silent
– Storyteller vs Talkative
– …

What do you want to master next?

Not for the first time, a cold fist appeared deep within her stomach. Never in her life had she worried about credits or having a place to go home to. But with the last of her savings running thin and her bridges burned behind her, there was no margin for error. The price of a fresh start was having no one to fall back on.

– Becky Chambers; The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

When we start something new we loose a lot of security, but it also means we can start over, learn new things, and meet new people. I read an article a few years back we should change our career every 7 years. This was based on the assumptation that it takes 10000 hours to master something (that may or may not be true). The thought was that if your goal in life is to develop as much as possible you should change your job after you have mastered it. If you stay in the job then you may produce a lot of things but you might also get bored.

I agree with the thought that we should change what we do when we stop learning because if we can find a new place that we learn it will be more fun and I think we will get a bigger sense of accomplishment by learning something new. It will also be really scary as you are forced to continuously learn and develop throughout your life. I remember talking to a 70 year old woman about this and I loved how her response was: “Then I should have time to master at least two more things in my life.”

What do you want to master next?

What do they remind you of?

“There’s the opposite of love at first sight. There are people walking the earth that the moment you meet them, you want to punch them and keep punching them.”

– Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim

Some people we get along with directly and others we just want to punch the moment we meet them. The people you like and the people you don’t like are either really similar to you or your complete opposite.

I think it comes down to that we like people that remind us about our good traits, and we dislike the ones that remind us about our bad traits.

Solving complex problems require a simple organization

A control room was no longer a necessity when even the most complicated of systems could be operated from a simple console, even just a portable one. That Ricard had insisted on a full control room and the executives to staff it demonstrated the usual Inspectorate mindset: that being in charge required inferior ranks to obey you, a precise territory to piss-mark and dominate. And the more important you were, the bigger the office and the larger the staff you had to have, even if neither was strictly necessary.

– Neal Asher, The Departure

Our world becomes more complex and fast all the time, and it forces our organizations to solve complex problems faster. Many organizations try to solve this by implementing more project managers and line managers and have them focus on making things faster. The problem with this approach is that on paper it might become faster but I don’t think you actually solve the real issues. To solve complex problems you need a simple organization where the teams actually working on the problems can make the decisions. To be able to make those decisions and solve the problems the teams need contain all the necessary competencies without becoming too big (3–8 people is optimal).

They also need to be presented with the context of the problem they are working on and the organization’s overall goals in such a way that they understand it. This last part seems to be really difficult for many organizations…

Achievements are all relative

“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

My one year old son took all of my Iain M. Banks books out of the book shelf and spread them out on the floor and it reminded me of all the wonderful books he has written and all the amazing quotes he has there so the next few posts will be filled with them…

When you compare your achievements to the scale of the universe they are all negligible, and if you compare it to the scale of the world most of them are negligible. But small things can make a huge difference, to the people around you and yourself. So instead of aiming to make the most impact as possible for the earth, maybe we should aim to make the most impact to the people around us and ourselves? And then try to be content with that…

The most important thing

“You could find out most things, if you knew the right questions to ask. Even if you didn’t, you could still find out a lot.”

– Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games

The important thing is not that you ask the perfect question that will reveal everything or that the person you asked the question completely changes their view of the world. The important thing is that you ask questions, and listens to the answers. Then based on the answer you could ask another question and slowly get to the heart of the matter. Or you could choose to go and ask someone else questions.

The circle of life?

“it had been briefed that when Culture people didn’t speak Marain for a long time and did speak another language, they were liable to change; they acted differently, they started to think in that other language, they lost the carefully balanced interpretative structure of the Culture language, left its subtle shifts of cadence, tone and rhythm behind for, in virtually every case, something much cruder.”

– Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games

What we say and how we say it shows who we are and also makes us more of that person. Our brain will focus more on the things we talk about and then we will see more of those things and then we will talk more about them. Is this the circle of life? 🙂

What is perfectly obvious might not be the same thing for everyone there

“Sometimes what goes without saying is best said anyway.”

– Iain M. Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata

One of the most common mistakes that I see other people do, and my self quite often as well: It is to end a meeting or a conversation without summing up what was decided upon. It might seem perfectly obvious to you, and it probably is perfectly obvious to all the other people there. The problem is that in many cases what is perfectly obvious might not be the same thing for everyone there.