The possibilities that exist in a word

“When I was eighteen, clubbing literally meant hitting someone with a very large club.”

Steve McHugh, With Silent Screams

I love reading about words, how they change meaning and where they come from. One of my favorite sites to browse through is EtymOnline. I can spend hours just reading about the meaning of words and their (often latin) roots. It gives me new perspective on what we actually may be saying, feeling and thinking. I don’t care much for the exact definition of words; I like that they develop over time and that we find new ways of using them all the time.

I like the possibilities that exist in a word.

What path are you following at the moment?

“…water or rivers always seek the easiest path downhill, and that was why the waters often dropped great distances over falls.”

L. E. Modesitt Jr., Antiagon Fire

It is so easy to take the path of least resistance, to just follow the path followed by others or the path where we see the least amount of conflict. Life would probably be easier for us if we handled some of the conflicts in our life instead of just avoiding them. And life might be more fun and rewarding if we travelled away from the common path and found our own.

What path are you following at the moment?

How do we choose who to trust?

“I don’t like flying. I’ve been told it’s perfectly safe, that it’s the future of travel and about a hundred other things which I’m sure the sane part of my brain agrees with. The other part of my brain doesn’t like the idea of being tens of thousands of feet in the air, in a small metal tube, with large quantities of jet fuel. I don’t like the fact that my life is in the hands of people I’ve never met – from the pilots to the repait crew.”

Steve McHugh, With Silent Screams

It is very interesting that we will trust our lives to people we have never met when we are flying, but we might have trouble trusting people who works for us. Every day we might check on how far along they are with their project, or demand to read a person’s report before they send it. And then we will just walk into an airplane and calmly sit down and read a book. For some it is the other way around, they are deadly afraid of flying but are very trusting to their colleagues. There are all combinations of this in people, some trust everyone and some trust very few people.

I wonder if the trust of flying would increase or decrease if we would actually know the pilot or the repair crews.

I wonder if it is about statistics – Statistically speaking it is very safe to fly, and your colleague might have missed the last couple of deadlines.

I wonder if we are taught it when we are young.

I wonder if some are born with more trust and some with less.

I wonder how our trust changes during life and through experiences.

I wonder how we choose who to trust.

What language are you speaking?

Oh yeah I might be crazy – but that’s not the same as insane
And I’m scared – but that’s not the same as being afraid

Sister Hazel, Swan Dive

What does a word mean to you? What is the difference between being scared and afraid? For some people they would mean exactly the same thing and to others they will have different meanings. A huge part of creating a team is actually to come up with a common language, to both consciously and unconsciously decide on how we will communicate and what a word will mean in this group. Some parts of the language will grow while a group are working together but some can be supplied directly. The most important language to give a group early is how they will talk about conflicts; how they will disagree and give feedback in a constructive way.

Tools like FIRO-B, Red&Green zone, and MBTI are not the final truth about how humans behave or think, but they are a way for us to communicate about differences and to talk about how to work together better. And to reflect about earlier experiences of working in groups; successes and failures. By doing this the other parts will fall in place faster, because they will be less scared/afraid of talking about things that bother them, and to talk about the problems long before they become gigantic.

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.