I love this quote from humorist commentator Will Rogers: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there“.
This recommendation for always continuing to move along in the right direction is compelling. Remaining static actually creates the possibility of becoming obsolete with regard to the rest of the world; it also creates the possibility of self regression by lack of evolution. If we stop, it is a kind of small death.
I believe what is meant here is not necessarily to always try to move forward at great strides; sometimes, we need to resupply and move slower, but what is important is to move forward at all times.
Data is at the core of the business model of the internet. Our private, personal data actually. And, as Cory Doctorow writes in one of his usual well-researched rants, ‘The Privacy Wars Are About to Get a Whole Lot Worse‘. The reason is the emergence of the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things (IoT) started already with the smartphones. Because we will progressively be surrounded with sensors that will measure many things and even listen to what is being said or done, our privacy will be even more exposed than now.
“The returns from data-acquisition have been declining for years. […] Diminishing returns can be masked by more aggressive collection. If Facebook can’t figure out how to justify its ad ratecard based on the data it knows about you, it can just plot ways to find out a lot more about you and buoy up that price.”
We probably underestimate already the license we give to our smartphone and its apps to use various channels of data recovery. As Cory Doctorow underlines, no-one really bothers to read the long license agreements, and anyway what can you do if you disagree? We can’t go negotiate one particular section with Google or Facebook, can we?
Cory Doctorow’s point is that one day, on some particular issue, a judge may grant significant compensation because of the indirect usage of personal data. However this day is far away. AT the same time this privacy issue is currently slowing down the spread of IoT and its convenience. A solution must be found.
One thing that goes in the way of creating new different habits is certainly the way we look upon ourselves. If we want to change a habit that is aligned with our sense of identity, or the identity we want to project outside, we will fail.
“The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously). To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.” writes James Clear in his post ‘Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year’.
I would add, not only starting to believe new things about oneself, but projecting them and publishing them too, which will make the case much stronger for change.
Reflect on your identity and check whether there is not something there that impedes changing some habits?
Pema Chodron writes: “This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted and shaky – that’s called liberation.” Is that really true?
This idea that to be free we must move away from our comfort zone is quite strong and scary at the same time. It would mean that we can’t find freedom within the comfort of our lives.
The challenge is of course that those religious people who seek liberation tend to enclose themselves in a physical comfort zone made of habits and rituals. Is that possibly to be in a better situation to escape their mental comfort zone? This would seem to be a contradiction.
At the same time it is in times of unknown possibilities that we can find the best opportunities to reveal ourselves. That is often not possible in our comfort zone, unless some events happen that shake it.
It would seem to me that Pema Chodron’s words mean that we need to seek situations that are unknown and unpredictable to reach freedom. Let’s look for them – wherever they are, close or far from our comfort zone!
“If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise.” says Shawn Achor in a lively TED talk.
The traditional success formula is broken. “Most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting and managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior. The problem is it’s scientifically broken and backwards”.
In particular, it does not work because “Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like.” And thus we never reach that success we are striving for.
How much better do we get if we have the happiness advantage? “In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed“.
Let’s strive to get the happiness advantage and produce success rather than the other way around!
“Your external world can only predict 10% of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.” says Shawn Achor in a lively TED talk.
External-generated happiness is only temporary and limited. Hardwiring ourselves to be happy relatively irrespective of the circumstances is what creates long term happiness.
It is a long way from the usual understanding of happiness associating happiness with wealth, idleness and the ownership of worldly things.
Let’s train and hardwire our brains to see the world in a more happy manner, and live happier lives!
“Even the most career driven and ambitious among us eventually come to a decision point, do we follow the norm and risk living lives filled with decisions made by others, or do we take responsibility for ourselves, to become fully engaged with the process of defining what matters and focusing on what’s in our control?” writes Valeria Maltoni in her blog.
This powerful question is at the core of our lives. Some of us take this decision early, some late, but we always take it. Most of us star their adult life on the path more or less chosen for them by their family, and then by the organization that has welcomed us, but at some stage we all ask ourselves the question and resolve it. It might be at retirement only, but the question is always there lurking in the dark.
This is life’s key decision point and it is a critical question to consider (and not to escape from). The way to deal with it is to face this question, because escaping from it may lead to depression, sadness and fear. This crisis will happen sooner or later so better anticipate it as much as possible.
Look at the question in the eye: “Do I want to keep following the norm and a life filled with decisions from others, or do I want to choose my own and take responsibility for myself?”. Scary, and necessary.
Benevolence means being well meaning and showing kindness. It is an older word that became a bit disused. The concept however, I believe, is becoming very important in today’s world.
We are always wondering what are the motives behind the actions of people. In particular in the daily office world, this question is always lurking behind in our minds. And this is becoming increasingly so.
However we know that some people, and some actions, are only motivated by goodwill and kindness that does not seek anything specific in return. We struggle sometimes to recognize this fact in particular in today’s fast paced environment full of unknown motives.
Showing and recognizing benevolence is an essential element of goodwill and credibility. It is important sometimes to do some actions without seeking any advantage, just for the pleasure of helping, supporting, creating stuff.
How much benevolence do you demonstrate on a day-to-day basis?
While the development of drones and robots that could take themselves the decision to engage targets becomes closer, the issue of whether to develop such system becomes a conundrum. It is important to be able to face such a possible threat, at the same time usage of this type of weapon will need to remain very much controlled. Mechanisms similar to control of nuclear proliferation or chemical weapons might need to be put in place – with the particular challenge that no huge and noticeable industrial complex will be needed to produce such weapons.
The Open Letter by concerned scientists on autonomous weapons is interesting to read. It states “If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”
At the same time, military might contend with enhancing human capabilities by teaming humans with robots, in particular to be able to take decisions in uncertain situations. But the issue needs to be tackled quickly because the consequences of robots engaging without control could become a proliferation issue.
Our society seeks the Flawless Record. Our resumes have to be flawless and have no holes, and in general we are suspicious of people with any hint of controversy. However as Seth Godin reminds us, this is a paradox. Success only comes from creating things that are criticized.
Being criticized means that we try to move things forward. It means we have tried something new, something disruptive. As Seth Godin reminds us “If your goal is to be universally liked and respected and understood, then, it must mean your goal is to not do something that matters.”
I would like to add that it is great to be criticized and controversial as long as there is no integrity issue related to the matter (although sometimes adversaries might appeal to put our integrity, so that it is sometimes difficult to discern).
Flawless is not an objective. Consistent and courageous is. We need to choose – and maybe not make it through the usual filtering criteria of the Industrial Age!