Why are we doing this? (Part 1)

If you ever hope to understand yourself you need to have a “what the heck am I doing?” experience. You need to genuinely take a look at what you’re doing and question yourself on it. This is the start of knowing…

“What am I doing?” is a good start, but you need to follow it up with other questions. Specifically it’s good to spend some time on ‘how’ and ‘why’. You actually need to ask both.

‘How’ questions are management questions. What techniques are you using? How effective are they? How could you improve? These are mid-stream progress questions. They help you evaluate what you’re doing. They are very valuable, but they still need something to complete the whole picture.

The big one, the real can of worms, is ‘why’.

‘Why’ can be a management question, if you focus really tight and stay close to the ground. Those whys aren’t too scary…

The scary part comes when we ask ‘why’ as a leadership question.

‘Why’ as a leadership question gets to our motives and purposes. An honest answer to why we are doing this might lead to how do we improve questions, but it could also lead to having to say “We need to scrap this and try something else.”

‘Why’ as a leadership question forces us to face our mistakes. ‘Why’ as a leadership question forces us to turn and take a look at ourselves, and what is going on in our minds and souls. If you are asking ‘why’ it becomes very hard to keep your nose to the grindstone and keep doing those “supposed to do’s” that seem to cost us more than they’re worth.

But, a funny thing happens when we ask ‘why’. The onerous “supposed to do’s” can now be transformed into want to do’s, or they could be replaced with more effective things. Understanding can lead to power and responsibility.

Since we are intelligent beings endowed by our creator with the ability to act for ourselves, ‘why’ is perhaps the most important question. It is the question that leads to greater understanding.

‘Why’ leads to understanding of purposes and causation. ‘How’ leads to solutions.  They are powerful questions dear reader. They are powerful tools. Don’t be afraid to use them!

For why I personally am doing this check out this post at Forever Mountain Publishing.

Growing the family!!!

Before the rumors get really out of hand let me reassure my father, no we’re not having a baby at this point in time…

One of the greatest struggles I deal with as a writer/artist is that I really like to work alone. But, you can’t work alone all the time, and some tasks require skills that you might not have. So, at some point you have to grow up a little and build a team (something I’ll probably be talking about here (a lot…)).

Of course if you’re building a team the team needs a place…

Even if you’re team meets on line you need somewhere that represents you as a group. You need somewhere that is a point of shared presence.

For about a year I’ve held title to a fun little publishing label Forever Mountain Publishing. It started as something I put together for a book I wanted to publish. But, (as much as I struggle with it) it’s time for Forever Mountain to grow. It’s time for me to build a team. So, today I’m announcing the creation of the Forever Mountain Publishing website. Follow the link to see what’s there and what we’re about.

The website is still growing (as am I and as is my team…), but it is here and it is growing.

I don’t know all that the future holds dear reader, but I know that as long as we are willing to learn, put forth our efforts to do that which is good, and take the opportunities we are blessed with we will make it through.

Negative Synergy!?!?

Yes I’m actually on schedule two weeks in a row (I know… it’s scaring me too!) Things are once again moving in a forward direction and the family is more or less healthy.

Due to an upcoming book project and some behind the scenes projects I have been reading Stephen R Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. There is a lot of good information in there (that actually works if you apply it correctly). In particular I ran across an idea that is (I think) actually underplayed in the 6th habit: Negative Synergy.

A lot of us have heard of the idea of synergy, the idea that in the correct situation 1+1 can equal more than two. Some of us have even had the blessing of actually experiencing synergy. Others (who are usually the ones who are dismissive of the idea) think they’ve done something synergistic, but didn’t quite get there. In spite of the skeptics synergy (when it works) is good, mostly…

In reading seven habits I hit a term that was a bit of an eye opening revelation for me, negative synergy. If synergy means one 1+1 can equal more than two, then isn’t is possible that this applies to negative things as well? It explains so much, like how you or I and a child/partner/loved one that we really value can start off in a simple disagreement and end up in a truly nasty and hurtful fight.

As I think about the behavior I’ve seen (and lived) I can see this happening. The simple disagreement moves away from the initial conflict point and shifts into “I need to win” territory and “winning” becomes the focus; even though it may mean losing in the long run.

The thing that makes negative synergy difficult to deal with is that it is really (at least a little bit) inherent and naturally occurring. Synergy (positive synergy) takes effort to create, both in the moment and in the setup. Sure, it takes off and can run really well, but you have to do the work and setup to get there. Negative Synergy can easily feed of naturally occurring parts of who we are.

When I say negative synergy feeds off part of who we are I am not calling us bad people. In the deep core of our minds, back in the ‘lizard section’ of the brain, is a set of self-monitors that tell us things like “I’m hungry”, “I’m scared”, or “that hurts”. It’s pretty easy to tell people that don’t have that part of the brain (they’re the dead ones…). The rest of us need to learn about and control that part of us. We need to be aware of our needs, but if we want to be successful above the two year old level we need to learn to control those needs and we need to learn how to take other perspectives.

I’m not saying we have to give away the store (that’s lose/win not win/win), but we have to rise above being fixated on what we want right now. ‘Target fixation’ on our own desires is the easiest way to create negative synergy and make 1+1 equal more than two in a bad way.

Creating actual (positive) synergy is a fairly high level skill. You have to do the work to get there. One of the steps in getting there is learning to control the selfish aspects of ourselves that lead to negative synergy.

I’m not entirely sure of the whole road dear reader, but I know as I seek the good and reject the bad I grow stronger. And so, dear reader, can you…

Starting anew…

So far 2017 has been a challenge (and we’re not even going into politics with this…).

In the first six weeks of the year we (my wife and I) have dealt with unusually high snow levels, flooding, three antibiotics prescriptions, a doctoral dissertation (still in progress), a book launch (still in progress), and another book project that’s going from a simple straight forward idea to a larger straight forward idea (which means going back to the drawing board on the book).

Yeah, there have been challenges…

But, the secret is to keep going. You keep working toward your goals (your real goals) and find your way through. We (all of us) also need to be continually learning. When you close your mind you are closing off your ability to succeed.

When I say that we need to continue learning and not be closed minded, I don’t mean that we should surrender to whatever “the latest thing” is or whatever Mr/Mrs latest trendy pop sensation said on twitter. We need to be actively engaged in learning. We need new information and we need to incorporate it into our understanding of how the world works. We need to examine how new knowledge meshes with what we already understand.

There may be changed or bad data in what we understood before, and it’s a good idea to change out that data for new, better data. But, make sure the new data really is better; not just newer or better feeling, but actually better. This means we need to put time and effort into evaluating; not just accepting or ignoring, but evaluating. We need to evaluate what is presented to us, choose the best/most valid of it, and incorporate it into what we already know.

It doesn’t matter if the source is left, right, gay, straight, transgender, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, black, white, brown, red, blue, green, or purple. The idea is to take what’s good and true in what comes to you; filter out the bad; and grow your understanding and yourself.

In school we have teachers to hold us accountable for learning. In real life we have ourselves. One of the best ways we can hold ourselves accountable is to share what we have learned. This is scary. Sharing opens you up to other people’s opinions, but if you know you’re right you don’t need to fear opinion (you are right).

Sharing what we learn helps us be accountable to ourselves in that we have to keep learning to do it. And, we have to do that second part, the evaluating and filtering (I’m betting you don’t want to pass on bad or incorrect information any more than I do (and if you do… well that’s an issue for another time)).

When you learn and pass on that learning you improve yourself as a person and grow your influence on the world around you.

That’s it for today dear reader. Go, learn and share…

And so will I…