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…


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…


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.


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?


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 though 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
– …


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…


Defensive laughter

What Kant said: What causes laughter is the sudden transformation of a tense expectation into nothing.

– Dept. Of Speculation, Jenny Offill

One of the most common defensive mechanisms I see when working with groups is the laughter. When people are presented with something that makes them uncomfortable or unsure of how to handle it is so easy to start laughing at it. To make it into a joke so that if you try and look foolish then you were in on the joke from the start.

Other common defensive mechanisms that you might recognize in yourself or others are:
– Talking faster
– Short of breath
– Suddenly becoming “stupid” and not understandind what is being said
– Getting tired
– Trying to over analyze what is being said so you don’t have to act on it
– Walking away
– Trying to change the subject
– Being overly positive about the situation
– Being overly negative about the situation
– …
– …
– …

One part of the Radical Collaboration course that I facilitate is to try to identify your defensive mechanisms. The reason for this is not to find a new thing to be annoyed with yourself about, but to find a warning signal so that when you notice that you are doing one of your defensive mechanisms you can realize that you are stressed or defensive and then try to do something about it.


Do you need to have a discussion or a dialogue?

“Cormac was completely aware that he was being manipulated, but how he could not see. He reckoned that when he did find out, the surprise would be a nasty one. That was how it usually went.”

– Neal Asher, Gridlinked

I have heard some people bragging that if they have a solution or conclusion then they can get any group they are part of come to that conclusion. That it is so easy to lead the group into their way of thinking. They are probably really good at rhetorics and debating, but I don’t think the solution they push through will be a longterm one. I think that the second they leave the meeting people will have doubts and not really try to implement it, and then you get stuck in a never-ending loop of meetings where people say yes during the meeting and no outside it.

When I facilitate some groups I start the meeting by talking about the difference between debate, discussion, and dialogue.

Debate means to beat down. (As a side note: I think it is very interesting that we have based our democratic system on beating our opponents down)

Discuss means to shake apart. A discussion is where we take a subject and try to look at it from all angles so we can come to a similar conclusion about it.

Dialogue means to speak across. A dialogue is where we need to talk about a subject and understand one another’s point of view and we don’t need to agree about it.

After talking about this I usually say that I don’t want any debates, and then ask them: Do you need to have a discussion or a dialogue?


Learning is more about acceleration than speed

“Satisfaction, for us, is only a brief thing. The man who acquires wealth does not reach a point where he has enough. Success for us is more like acceleration than speed. Interest cannot be maintained at a constant level.”

– Neal Asher, The Skinner

You should always celebrate when you have succeeded in delivering a project, presentation, or when you helped someone in a good way. And then you should ask yourself:

What did I learn from this and what will I do different next time?

It is a fine balance between getting annoyed with yourself for all the errors you did and learning so you can do better next time. But it is a balance you should practice every day so you can keep on accelerating.



I’ve noted that fortune often tends to follow the most observant and best prepared in ways that reward them far more than mere chance,

– Princeps, L.E. Modesitt J.r.

One of the best definitions of luck I have heard is that luck is the intersection between preparation and opportunity. Many opportunities will just pass you by if you don’t notice them or if you don’t have the knowledge or skills to do anything about them (which is where the preparation comes in).

Luck has been researched by Richard Wiseman, and it is apparently possible to increase your luck by following these steps.