the many faces of vision

According to Wikipedia, “analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts to gain a better understanding of it.” Much of math and science is the same – breaking a large problem into smaller components as a solving technique. We can apply that same technique to gain a better understanding of a words, phrases, and concepts, as I exemplified with the earlier digestion of an Emerson quote.

In most dictionaries, in text and online, the word “vision” has several definitions. Most simply, vision is sight. In business, visions are lofty, longer-term goals of a company. For some, vision is perception, intuition, foresight, and perspective. For others, visions are dreams, ideals, hallucinations, and objectives.

For me, vision encompasses the thoughts, feelings, goals, and desires of an individual to reach an optimal state regarding their self, their groups, the world, and beyond. NOTE:”Groups” refers to a circle of friends, local community, company, class, charity, family, neighborhood, geographical region, political party, etc.

To dive deeper, let’s answer three questions about vision with word lists:

1. What makes vision impaired?
Violence, Stress, Selfishness, Ego, Prejudice, Doubt, Ignorance

2. What makes vision repaired?
Silence, Selflessness, Faith, Consciousness, Awareness, Reflection, Solitude

3. What makes vision shared?
Expression, Compassion, Understanding, Appreciation, Gratitude, Respect, Graciousness, Collaboration

By creating word groups for these types of questions, we can better understand the mechanisms by which our visions can be diminished, restored, and maintained. We can see what stops the train, what can get it back on the tracks, and how to get more people aboard.

And even though vision may be defined differently for each individual, I think we can all agree that the definition includes some sort of internalized thought applied to the external world. Bound by this attribute alone, we can gain collective insight as to how we can read the many faces of vision.

Quotes

“Selfishness is vision impaired, consciousness is vision repaired, and graciousness is vision shared.”

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” – Joel Barker

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” – Jonathan Swift

“Vision looks inward and becomes duty. Vision looks outward and becomes aspiration. Vision looks upward and becomes faith.” – Stephen Wise

geek speak

Modern investment in math and science education requires the subjects to evolve. Most of that evolution should be in the language and culture to make it more connected to society.

Historically, math and science have had their own language, so to speak. Geek speak – complex phrases and nerdy nomenclature have made it a world in which one must be “admitted” (no pun intended, although it surely can be crazy).

I’ve spent the past three years in a technical and scientific environment, and the majority of my academic years with strong focus in math and science. It’s clear to me that bubbles form from which the admitted can rarely escape. That’s because there is a standard by which many professors, scientists, mathematicians, and researchers live and it includes living the language of their subject. But for me, the teachers and mentors that have had the greatest impact on me were those that could speak plain English to me while still teaching the concepts and theorems without loss of transmitted information. They successfully connected plain English with geek speak.

Naturally, within any subject, company, or even group of friends, it’s expected for a lexicon to be developed and learned. It’s important for that standard dictionary of terms and phrases to exist as it creates the social networks and communities that fuel collaborative innovation. But again, those bubbles need to have a more permeable film, to allow a constant admission of newbies no longer deterred by a language barrier.

A recent Sept 2009 Wired Magazine article talks about this, particularly for those in middle and high school. Author Daniel Roth states, “If we want to reform education, we have to make it cool to be a geek.” This is exactly the point. Connect the notion of fitting in with the realms of math and science by connecting the languages and the culture at specific educational levels. If nerdiness can become a part of everyday life, the bubble will not only expand but the film will become more permeable. The positive results will be seen in technological advancement, discovery, and common understanding.

To conclude, the ability to communicate complex concepts and theorems in a way that’s easily understood by a new learner is essential. It’s essential for building a more connected society – one with greater educational opportunity and understanding. In other words, the societal congruence at time t will optimize the combinatorial pathways for achievement at time t+1.

measuring the balance of human life

Can we measure the balance of human life? Perhaps not with 100% confidence, but we can certainly think about the factors contributing to the state of the system at any moment in time and see where the scale might be tipped.

Overview

As students, we learn about the critical role of balance in science, economics, politics, art, and every other subject. Think about chemical equilibrium, energy conservation, supply and demand, political checks and balances, atomic neutrality, mathematical parity, and artistic symmetry. As individuals, we constantly stress the need for a balance in our personal lives. Think about work and family, business and pleasure, excitement and relaxation. Physical components such as those in the first list are measurable, giving us the ability to understand, track, and predict the state of the system. On the other hand, the second list is quite abstract and is mostly qualified by our own personal well-being, the well being of those around us, and the influence on our surroundings as a whole.

So how close can we get to measuring the balance of our personal well being? Let’s run with Ockham’s Razor and try and make it as simple as possible. Consider this statement: the optimal balance of life is when what you take from it is equal to what you give to it. What does that look like?


What You Give
Contributing Factors: Advice, Assistance, Business Opportunity, Care, Directions, Donations, Empathy, Feedback, Friendship, Guidance, Hard Work, Philosophical Thought, Prayer, Product Innovation, …

Notes: It’s all good. There is an infinite amount of mechanisms by which you can give to society, environment, others, and life in general.

What You Take
Contributing Factors: Awareness, Consumption, Control, Crime, Emissions, Faith, Goods, Greed, Growth, Land, New Ideas, Pain, Reflection, Self-Satisfaction, Understanding, Vacations, Waste, …

Notes: There are many bad ones here, but some are obviously necessary and should take the majority of the weight, such as awareness, reflection, and understanding.

Analysis

Units of Measurement: There are concrete and abstract units through which we might measure what we give and what we take.
–Money – Something upon which we are all dependent.
–Time – Something by which we are all bound even though it is out of our control.
–Text, Speech, and Emotions – Can we measure the impact of our words by the resulting sentiment of readers and listeners?
–Acquaintances, Friends, Colleagues, Contacts, Followers – For certain personality types, does the size of an audience have any relevance?
–Quality of Life Factors (Ambition, Happiness, Health, Life Expectancy, Strength, Well-Being) – The toughest to measure, but the most important to global well-being.
–Dreams – Can you measure balance in life by analyzing what your dreams are about?

Deviations from Zero & Tipping the Scale: What does imbalance mean?
–Positive Case – If we give more than we take, we are left with an internal hole. Perhaps we are absent of understanding or self-awareness, or of our purpose in the world.
–Negative Case – If we take more than we give, our impact is diminished and it leaves our surroundings with less to gain.

Collective Balance: Perhaps balance is not to be determined at the individual level but at the level of societal groups and organizations.
–Family – Does your family collectively balance the give and take of life? Is your family happy, stable, and sufficiently contributing to the well-being of other families?
–Work – Does your work collectively balance the give and take of life? Does it contribute to the well-being of society as much as it takes for business growth and distributable profits?

Conclusion

Balance is important. We know that. But perhaps because it’s difficult to measure, the real importance falls on understanding the contributing factors to the state of the system. Like a Jenga tower, pulling pieces must still keep the tower standing.

Finally, we must think about at which organizational level we can best understand balance in human life, and where the ideal equilibrium should exist. By breaking it into its simplest components and visualizing harmony, hopefully that’s exactly what will result.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

being multilingual

The art of persuasion requires a balance of individualistic traits and audience-dependent communication tactics. You are who you are. Your listeners (and/or readers) are who they are. The transfer of knowledge and sentiment is optimized only when those characteristics and qualities meet in the middle.

The cultural diversity of our world is amazing. At the simplest level, I’m envious of those fortunate to have been able to grow up learning multiple languages, customs, and behaviors. Being multilingual, in the traditional sense, is an truly desirable quality that could bring a high level of social opportunity to an individual.

But being multilingual does not just mean speaking more than one language. Being multilingual means to be able to dynamically adapt your voice to any audience to optimize understanding, induce thought, and drive action. This quality of being multilingual is just as valuable in today’s society as it is to be multilingual in the traditional sense.

In the latest issue of Wired magazine, Clive Thompson writes about “The New Literacy”. He talks about how many people think kids can no longer write. But in his mind (and my mind as well) other factors have changed what it means to listen, comprehend, and be persuaded.

“The reality is just that the paradigm has shifted” he says. “What today’s young people know is that knowing who you’re writing for and why you’re writing might be the most crucial factor of all.”

It’s called Kairos – “assessing audience and adapting tone and technique to best get a point across”. It’s not a new concept, but certainly continuing to be a most desirable trait in our accelerating world. Much of that acceleration can be attributed to the development of our handy communication devices and, more specifically, social media technologies. Our personal ratio of consumed information bits per unit of time has exploded because of the new mechanisms by which all that information can get to us. In a sense, modern technology has enabled a new understanding of speaker-audience relationships. It has driven a new balance of the effectiveness of a particular message and the efficiency with which that message can be delivered.

“Technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it – and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.”


So what are some takeaways? Again, it’s important to be who you are in any speaking/writing environment. You are who you are and that’s important to maintain. However, you must also adapt your communicative approach based on your readers and/or listeners. Use the right tone, tactics, and now, technologies to convey your point (3-T Kairos). Learn to balance effectiveness with the efficiency of delivery.

In the end, we all have goals of a message: Do-outs, takeaways, new thoughts, new understanding, business decisions, relationship formation, topic persuasion, product promotion, ideal alignment, etc. We have many tools at our disposal: our posture, hands, facial expressions, sounds, volume, speed, pauses, colors, punctuation, vocabulary, the internet, social media apps, visualization technologies, our experiences, our ambitions, our uniqueness, etc. Find the best combination of tools to fit the goals and you’re in a good place to succeed.

one minute for happiness

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. All it takes to make a difference is just one of those. One minute. That’s all it takes to make someone change their state of mind. One minute. That’s all it takes to make happiness contagious…

One minute. That’s all it takes.

One minute represents approximately 0.07% or about a fourteenth of a percent of the entire day. What else does it represent?

  • The time it takes to brush your teeth.
  • The time it takes to sing a national anthem.
  • The time it takes to check the weather.
  • The time it takes to heat up leftovers.
  • The time it takes to download and install Firefox.
  • The time it takes to write the Schrödinger equation, twice.
  • The time it takes to build a Jenga tower.
  • The time it takes to take out cash at the ATM.
  • The time it takes to pump gas.
  • The time it takes to derive any non-relativistic, Newtonian equation of motion.
  • The time it takes to chug 2 sodas.
  • The time it takes a space shuttle to go about 300 miles when in orbit.
  • The time it takes to make a sandwich.
  • The time it takes to take your temperature.
  • The time it takes to stretch your hamstrings.
  • The time it takes to watch two commercials.

Okay so I got a little carried away with that one. But that’s a good creativity exercise! Anyways, it really does put into perspective what you can do with a minute of time. So if you could take one minute each day and devote it to making someone else happy, could you do it?

Happiness is truly contagious. You see a man smiling on the bus and it makes you happy. An elderly woman making a wise crack about the speed of her shopping cart in the condiments section and you’re chuckled (that happened yesterday). Two people hugging on the street and you feel a rush of comfort. And that’s the funny thing: happiness comes in such simple forms. It doesn’t take money or success or fame or victory but just a simple act of kindness, show of emotion, compliment, or generally positive vibe.

With that I do want to be clear of one thing. Happiness is not always something gained or transmitted through external means, but on some days that minute is surely well spent through internal reflection and thought. That’s not selfish – that’s normal. But in a balanced world what you take is what you should give – double the amount you give back the next day.

So obviously transmissible happiness can be for yourself or for someone else, for a group of people, for a company, for a stranger, for an imaginative thought, for a spiritual state, etc. So what are some examples of transmission routes?

  • Make a phone call or send an email.
  • Give feedback on a paper, post, product, service.
  • Offer directions to someone lost.
  • Read an article and write your thoughts.
  • Carry something.
  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Give up your seat.
  • Laugh at yourself.
  • Double your tip.
  • Doodle.

The constant transmission and contagiousness of happiness. Mathematically, that makes me think of epidemic models. Well, that’s not far off. I’d propose that happiness could easily follow a modified epidemic model:

S = Susceptible = those who aren’t aware of how contagious it is
E = Exposed = those infected but keeping it internal
I = Infected = those hit by the smiling bug and actively passing it along
Standard Contact Rate (Susceptible –> Infected/Exposed) = 1 per day

Everyone starts as Susceptible, and the Exposed and Infected can toggle as they generate happiness internally some days and expose others the next day. You could take into account the doubling of internal happiness to double the Contact Rate on a subsequent day for the Exposed group. A new Susceptible population would emerge each day through birth, and most everyone would die happy. A pretty fun, dynamic model of happiness transmission.

Note: If happiness started with one person and simply doubled each day, it would only take a little over a month to infect or expose happiness to the entire global population (obviously ignoring geographic and other constraints).

In the end, my main point is that you can do something every single day to create happiness, and the mechanisms by which you can create happiness are very simple ones. It only takes one minute each day to give that purest gift of all. Because with a heart and a smile, the world’s happiness is truly in the palm of your hands.


Quotes/Links

  • “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” – Aristotle
  • “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
  • “Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.” – Maxim Gorky
  • The Happiness Epidemic – by David Hernandez
  • Bhutan and the measuring of quality of life through Gross National Happiness

thick skin

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve all heard that one before and it’s just not true. We are humans – words can hurt us and will hurt us at times. But in order to learn as an individual, to grow as an organization, and to advance as a society, it’s imperative that we know how to properly deal with criticism.

Criticism will come at us from every dimension of life, for the rest of our lives. Sports, school, work, writing, speaking, conversing, cooking, dreaming, loving, running, designing, singing, drawing… well, you get the point. Recognizing the many faces of criticism is the first step in developing thick skin.

Once you’ve recognized it, how can you analyze it? Well to start, there are some simple questions to ask:

  • Who is giving the criticism?
  • What is the nature of and motivation behind the criticism?
  • It the criticism valid?
  • How can I benefit from the criticism?
  • What is the optimal response to the criticism?

The goal is to maintain composure and to address criticism properly. Thick skin still let’s you sweat. Always keep your cool and address criticism with your mind, not with your emotions. Creating anger from internalization of critiques will never be beneficial.

A technique I use for many problems I face is a mathematical construct that involves breaking the problem into its simplest components and then strategically attacking each one. The same construct applies to any type of critique whether personal or professional. Break it down to its underlying motives, objectives, validity, and logic, and derive the proper response and lessons learned.

Lastly, learn to think about others. Don’t be quick to blame someone or to simply deflect criticism because that’s the easy thing to do. Don’t be quick to retaliate with criticism of your own. Think about who is giving the criticism, who the other players are, and how you can optimize your own self without being selfish.

So to summarize, what does having thick skin entail?

  • You need to be able to take shots.
  • Stay on your feet and stay balanced.
  • Do not internalize rejection.
  • Understand the genetic makeup of criticism.
  • Think about others.

Grow thick skin. It will make you a great leader, a great colleague, and a great friend.

Quotes

  • “Taking shots builds stronger armor.” – Me
  • “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” – Harry S. Truman
  • “Living well is the best revenge.” – George Herbert
  • “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “Inner strength shows itself not when the world is praising you but when others are critical.” – Gabriela Cora

Links

Learning to Develop a Thick Skin: Don’t take things personally, don’t let others get to you, remember that everyone gets rejected sometimes, learn to counterpropose when things don’t go your way, learn to meet in the middle, don’t hesitate to unstick sticky situations, don’t be self focused, stop the self-talk, don’t worry about looking stupid, learn to be patient, don’t be quick to blame, think about others

Developing a Thick Skin (from a writer)

Developing a Thick Skin (in IT)

How to Develop a Thick Skin (eHow): Face your fears, never let them see you sweat, continue to improve, stay busy, stay positive and surround yourself with positive people

on creativity

Overview


It’s imperative that curriculums (especially for early education) are built on more than just core subject matter. They also need to be strongly founded upon core ideals, values, and principles. The teaching of such values (although much harder to guide, manage, and track) is absolutely essential to the intellectual growth and prosperity of emerging generations.
What values are most important to push early in a child’s development? Honesty & trust. Altruism & empathy. Individuality & originality. Happiness & humor. Confidence & faith. Creativity & innovation. Innovation & creativity. Creativity!

I’ve posted about holistic education before and creativity is one of the three main pillars of such education – It’s seen in the SunWALK model of holistic education as “one of the three intrapersonal ‘primary colours’ or modes of engagement, of the human spirit, that are utilized in facing, individually and interpersonally, progressively more challenging tasks to nurture the development of abilities.”

Creativity is essential to the development of other abilities and the fundamental ability to engage/interact with people, nature, and the world in which we live. It’s from creativity that the purest dreams and ideas are born.

Definitions


So how is creativity defined? Let’s look…

Wikipedia: “Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.”

Children’s Health Encyclopedia: “Creativity is the ability to think up and design new inventions, produce works of art, solve problems in new ways, or develop an idea based on an original, novel, or unconventional approach.”

Some more definitions can be found at a great post by Dr. Leslie Owen Wilson of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point “On Defining Creativity”.

It’s important to note that creativity and intelligence are not synonymous. There are plenty of studies addressing possible correlation between IQ and creativity, but the main point is that with a positive surrounding environment and culture, we must believe creativity can exist in any individual of any level of intelligence.

Qualities

  • Impulsivity and spontaneity – Just do it! / Just think it!
  • Nonconformity (not going with the majority) – Stray from the beaten path.
  • Courage – Naturally be unafraid of trying new things.
  • Self-Confidence – Have no susceptibility to peer pressure.
  • Persistence – Learn when to maintain thoughts or set thoughts aside.
  • Balance – Convergent / divergent thinking – Learn to hypothesize, speculate, and evaluate multiple conclusions while reserving the ability to logically find and support a single conclusion.
  • The “One Brain” Concept – Right brain thinking and left brain thinking together are the best engine of creativity.
Some Take-Aways

  • Need to create good inner resources in children. Multi-dimensionality is key.
  • Give children an active role in their own learning.
  • Educators need to be aware of the “blocks to creativity” or things that can interfere with it. SunWALK says there are two types of blocks: Environmental (the lack of a motivating physical surrounding, trustworthy acquaintances, or positive leadership) and Cultural (the fear of making bad choices, lack of an appetite for chaos, and the general lack of enthusiasm). It should be noted that the positive case of “blocks” would be that Environment and Culture become “enablers” of creativity.
  • In order to foster creativity in schools, education should be based on the discovery of knowledge and the development of critical attitudes, rather than on the passive absorption of knowledge.

Simple Creativity Exercises

  1. Spell all the letters of the alphabet using letters other than the one you are spelling. Now try it without using any vowels. CAY-YII-FEE-EYE-EHDT (that ‘N’ was very hard)
  2. Draw an adjective, act a noun, describe a verb.
  3. Create an equation that has never before been created. Describe its elements, fundamentals, and purpose.
  4. Contemplate a newly-shaped earth. What would a cubed earth be like? What if the world really was flat? How would business, transportation, politics, weather, etc change?

Quotes

  • “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” – Erich Fromm
  • “The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “Creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist.” — Thomas Disch
  • “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook
  • “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
  • “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pierce
  • “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” — Goethe
  • “To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” –Osho
  • “We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other’s people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.” — Shakti Gawain
  • “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” – Einstein
  • “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw