Making an impact

The Obvious?

We celebrate those who change the world rather than those who just talk about it. But isn’t this the western disease? Seeing problems as out there in the world rather than within us, sorting others instead of sorting ourselves? Aren’t most of the world’s biggest problems the result of our previous attempts to make an impact?

Both of the main words in that phrase are problematic. Making something happen implies force or coercion, impact is what happens in collisions.

And isn’t talking, even talking to ourselves in the act of thinking, how the world really changes?

Through having and sharing ideas we perceive the world differently. As a result we act differently. Doing so changes our world and the world of those around us. Perhaps in subtle ways, perhaps over longer timescales than we would like, but no need for “making” and no pain of “impact”.

Don’t just do something, stand there.

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NYT > Public Speaking

Donald Trump’s hovering over Hillary Clinton was seen as an attempt to exert dominance, and the candidates showed that their differences had become personal.

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Quiet Time: Why prep work always wins out in public speaking

  • Monday Oct 10,2016 08:02 PM
  • By External Author
  • In Tips & Tricks

Public Speaking

As you continue to wonder aloud why you’re so afraid of public speaking, some who are novices aren’t asking questions anymore but rather opting for one piece of advice that works so much better than any other to curb those fears.

Say hello to doing your homework, again.

Remember when you were in college or high school, and you hit the books in preparation for that big exam, never thinking for a moment about “winging it” (although some kids were able to do that and still do well, and you were always jealous). That prep work for the majority of students always seemed to be the difference between endlessly watching the clock, having no clue what any answers are versus breezing through a test and feeling confident when you turned it in that you were well on your way to a good grade.

Not sure why, but somewhere along the way we lost our penchant for practice, for making sure there were no surprises when it came to getting a good grade or, in the case of the working world, a passable, pat on the back when it came to how well we performed, public speaking included.

Nothing sends your public speaking woes to the back of the classroom more so than the same element that got you through school: practice, practice, practice.

While some public speaking experts will argue that eye contact, subject matter and how the speech is structured all play huge parts in the success or failure of the speech, none of it is going to mean much if you don’t practice the speech. And when you talk about “practice,” you can define it in more ways then you’d assume.

For instance, it goes beyond staring in a mirror and running your lines as if you’re up for a movie part. Practice as far as public speaking goes means knowing your audience and subject matter, for sure, but also knowing what parts to hit on, when to back off the jokes or the key points that are highlighted and stressed throughout the course of a speech. You have to work on elements of tone, voice inflection and knowing when to pause at appropriate times to really let the information sink in (nothing is worse then a speech racer, someone who reads and blows through all their topic in a few minutes).

Public speaking is always going to be, for the masses, a project that they’d rather not accept. But success and being able to communicate in front of a group are more and more become synonymous with one another, and in this case practice truly does make perfect for your pending speech.

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The Obvious?

Hearing Mollie deal with the challenge of the unstructured nature of University after the imposed order and discipline of school brought back memories. Wandering around wondering what I was meant to be doing, feeling guilty about not doing it, lost in a slippery quagmire of expectations. Looking back I regret not having dealt with the challenge better. I would have done so much better with what I know now.

And what do I know now? After ten years of working for myself, and much of the time alone, I have become so much better at knowing what I need to do, refining my ability to do so effectively, and proactively seeking out the next challenge and opportunity for learning. In fact just in terms of reading I read more, and “better” now than at any time in my life. I am also more disciplined about how I spend my time and building my own structures to do so. Applying and refining David Allen’s principles from Getting Things Done has been instrumental in this and a life saver in so many situations.

But this is not for everyone. I often make the mistake of thinking that everyone can, and should, work like this. I have to remember that some people respond better to an imposed structure, to tasks delegated by a boss, to clear and extrinsic rewards. I forget that for many the daily commute is part of that structure as is sharing space with others in an office.

My worry is that these structures look likely to become less common in the future. As our large corporations crumble under their own inefficiency more people will work for themselves or in small groups. Fewer people will commute to offices. As artificial intelligence nibbles away at work tasks the nature of the “knowledge work” that is left will become less routine and call for more individual input.

The comforts of our structures will become liabilities rather than benefits.

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Growing up

The Obvious?

While proud and delighted at Mollie leaving for university at the weekend, we have also all been dealing with the emotional wrench of such a dislocation. It got me thinking what a particularly middle class right of passage this mostly is. Talking to a builder and his wife who we met on a walk yesterday reinforced this thought. Their kids hadn’t gone to college and so the transition out of the family home was much gentler and more gradual. The need for toughening up and coping with the emotional upheaval had been avoided.

I’ve also been thinking about the many ex boarding school students I encountered in my own university experience at St. Andrews. How much more grown up and intimidating they seemed to those of us who had stayed at home and gone to comprehensive school. In the hey day of public schools, the days of the empire, the emotional wrenches started earlier, the toughening up of the managerial class was more systematic.

I remember my own transition into management and the stress of feeling that I was expected to be “in charge of” other people. The pressure to don the armour of the suit and tie was enormous. I was expected to join the grown ups.

I thought of friends who change as they climb the managerial ladder and of middle managers I meet who talk managerial bollocks and cultivate aloof distance from others. This urge to differentiate themselves as different, as more responsible, as more grown up, is endemic.

You will have seen me dismissively using the phrase “the grown-ups” to describe those in business who over enthusiastically assume this fictitious mantle of responsibility. Who throw their weight around at work, assuming that the “children” they are “responsible for” need controlling. Being hard nosed. Making tough decisions.

But do they really grow up? Is all of this toughening up a good thing? Does it result in well balanced human beings, happy in themselves, capable of inspiring and supporting others? Is it all necessary?

I wonder…

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Every time

The Obvious?

Every time I define myself by difference
Every time I indulge in righteous indignation
Every time I assert myself over a fictitious other
Every time I play “the hard man” to hide my fears

I make it easier for Trump to exist.

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The Obvious?

This struck me as describing what bogging can be at its best.

Hope – by Victoria Safford.

“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower;
nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through);
nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition,
the place of resistance and defiance,
the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be;
the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.”

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Finding life amazing

The Obvious?

We think that we know all about life and have made it ordinary.

We label things and think that means that we understand them.

We focus so much on getting what we don’t have that we miss what we do.

We get upset when life isn’t as it should be without realising that it is perfect as it is.

We want the ups without the downs and fail to see that one can’t exist without the other.

While doing all this we forget the power of just being.

We forget how amazing life is and how lucky we are that, despite incredible odds against it happening, we are here at all.

We might as well relax more and enjoy it while we are.

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Drawing lines

The Obvious?

Last night I read some of the anti-semitism being shared on Twitter. In one tweet the poster asked Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, whether his company was unable to police anti-semitism or just unwilling to. I then thought of Facebook’s decision to delete the iconic image of the child running along a road in Vietnam because it had crossed some line of decency (they later reversed this decision).

Both of these examples reminded me of the early days of the internet when too incautious an exploration of Usenet would invariably expose you to really disturbing images or ideas. We learned to look away, but we also learned what fellow humans are capable of.

It takes a lot of work by dedicated teams to filter extremes of human nature from any of the public facing platforms. Given my view that the greatest opportunity afforded by the internet is that it is a mirror, part of me thinks that this is important work – part of me worries that it is protecting us from ourselves.

Where do we draw our lines? Do we draw our own or do we rely on others to draw them for us? Is it better to be made aware of the darker side of our nature and forced to face up to it – or do we need protected from it?

Maybe there is no easy answer…

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Mirror, mirror

The Obvious?

Mirror, mirror

“The internet is full of idiots.”
“The internet is dumbing us down.”
“The internet is spoiling our kids.”
“The internet is destroying society.”

The internet is wires and code.

The problem is you.
The problem is me.
I can’t change you.
You can’t change me.

But we can see each other

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