Natural vs Alien

I grew up immersed within nature. It was an incredible feeling because I felt like I knew who I was and how I fit into the greater scheme of things on this planet.

As I got older though and started joining the work force of society, that naturalness quickly evaporated to be replaced by a feeling of totally unnaturalness and alienation. For a short time, I was perplexed as to why business worked so unnaturally, yet eventually I just accepted it as “the way things were and had always been”. Today, however, I realize that this isn’t the case. We as a society have created this unnaturalness and alienation around us. And so too can we as a collective create a better and more natural future for ourselves once again, if we so choose to do so.

And you realize that during a moment
where they experienced a grievance
that anyone in this audience could imagine possibly
encountering or feeling themselves,
they felt alienated.

Jared Cohen, Thinking and Doing Around Radicalization

Isn’t alienation at the root of so many of our problems? Alienated individuals make an alienated society. And we are that — alienated from nature, from the Great Spirit of life, from our own souls and their gifts, and from each other. Isn’t there at the base of apathy, at the root of every mean and violent act, an alienated individual who feels powerless and adrift? Isn’t so much of the hostility we see reflected in our youth today simply a cry, a scream that says, “I can’t do it. I can’t express. I can’t make a constructive difference”? Perhaps as a society, we are better to encourage and develop the good within young people than to concentrate on answering their cries with greater punishment. People are good and will do good if they think they can. Youth look to their elders for the way, but they will not be deceived. There is no substitute for authentic examples.

Laurence G. Boldt, Zen and the Art of Making a Living

Lao Tzu believed that when people do not have a sense of power they become resentful and uncooperative. Individuals who do not feel personal power feel fear. They fear the unknown because they do not identify with the world outside of themselves; thus their psychic integration is severely damaged and they are a danger to their society. Tyrants do not feel power, they feel frustration and impotency. They wield force, but it is a form of aggression, not authority. On closer inspection, it becomes apparent that individuals who dominate others are, in fact, enslaved by insecurity and are slowly and mysteriously hurt by their own actions. Lao Tzu attributed most of the world’s ills to the fact that people do not feel powerful and independent.

R.L.Wing, The Tao of Power

Win Win

Mommy, where’s daddy?
He’s running.
From what?

What’s it like to be as good as you are?
It feels like I’m in control of everything, you know.
It must be nice.

This is your place.
This is your place.
You control it, remember?
You control it.

Balancing My Strengths & Weaknesses

For me, figuring out my weaknesses is just as important as figuring out my strengths because I believe that our strengths come from our weaknesses and our weaknesses come from our strengths. In effect, you can’t have one without the other because they work off of each other. So instead of trying to hide from or ignore your weaknesses, so as to avoid believing you’re weak or imperfect, you should strive to be aware of them and understand how they relate to your strengths. In doing so, it gives you the awareness and understanding of how to keep yourself balanced, no matter what life might throw at you.

Without a doubt though, it is a constant and difficult challenge to maintain this balance. Some days you’ll feel so strong that your weaknesses won’t be anywhere in sight. Other days, you’ll feel completely overwhelmed by your weaknesses with your strengths nowhere in sight. This is the natural cyclic nature of life though, this ebb and flow or ups and downs. Again don’t try to be surprised or upset by it, expect that it will happen from time to time (which in itself is hard to do) and strive to do your best work on your strong days, letting your weak days be a time for rest and reflection (i.e. a time to get away from it all).

Now for myself, I want to cover my weaknesses in two ways: intensity and lacking. Think of a weakness of intensity as something like Superman slapping a friend on the back because he told a great joke and sending that friend flying 100 yards across a field in the process because he forgot his own strength. Now a weakness of lacking is kind of the opposite of this in the sense that a man may have barely any strength at all, so he’s weak in being able to do things like carrying heavy objects or even defending himself.

Weaknesses of Intensity

  • Desire for creative self expression which can become scattered and lack direction because I often have so many creative ideas I’d like to work upon, I’m not sure where to start.
  • Desire for the simple luxuries of life because my family wasn’t well off growing up as a kid.
  • Desire for recognition and authority of achievements because I often find it so difficult to communicate my strengths which is crucial if you want to get hired or employed.
  • Desire for personal freedom and change in my work because it lets me fully utilize all of my talents in my work and lets me take risks experimenting with new ideas.

Now to balance out these intensities, I need to do the following. I need to have a creative outlet that let’s me express myself authentically. Right now, this website and journal are letting me do this to a degree but I’d like to elevate this further in the future. With regards to luxuries, I need to be spartan and frugal, realizing that some of my best ideas and most memorably experiences have often come from limited interactions (i.e. limit yourself to expand your possibilities). As for recognition, I need to be self-confident in my talents, even if others can’t fully see them yet, but still work on constructive ways of communicating them better. Finally, with regards to freedom, I need to be more flexible in accepting “conventional” work at times because it may propagate an unconventional idea or interaction that could lead to a new experience or opportunity in life.

Weaknesses of Lacking

  • Lack the ability to be balanced, cooperative, and diplomatic because I see issues that are so common sense to me that I often blurt them out without much consideration for others.
  • Lack the ability to be silent because I feel I can help, so I’m very vocal in trying to problem solve issues.

Now to balance out these lackings, I need to do the following. I need to be more cooperative and diplomatic in my interactions, using empathy to put myself in the shoes of others which will help me soften my blunt words, so they become more tactful. I also need to learn to keep my mouth shut and instead just to listen, observe, and understand. This is critical in understanding the whole of a system. In effect, while I can learn a lot by interacting with others, I learn a lot more by just sitting in the background listening and observing.

My Past Self

What I find really intriguing about this weakness analysis on myself is that I actually used to be much better at overcoming my weaknesses in my past because I was much more of an introvert then. In effect, my shyness forced me to keep silent and it also forced me to go along with the rest of the crowd, thus being much more cooperative and diplomatic.

Ever since around 2001 though, when I started realizing my true talents and potential, everything started getting out of balance. In effect, the more successful I became, the worse I got out of balance. What’s hilarious about this though is that the company I was within experienced this exact same thing as well. The more successful they became, the more they got out of balance and spiralled downhill as a company, until they eventually imploded in 2002.

Creating My Future Self Presently

What I also find really intriguing about this though is that my ideal future self is something very similar to what I’d like do within a company right now. In effect, my optimal role seems to be one in which I’m an advisor, consultant, coach, or mentor within a company whereby I’m not controlling people or telling them what to do, so much as I’m helping to teach them how to achieve things on their own. I do this by helping them to see things around them and in themselves that they may not have seen before (i.e. making the intangible tangible), thus making them more aware and responsible for themselves and others around them.

Seeing Things Differently

There’s a few quotes within John Thackara’s In The Bubble book that gave me another important realization with regards to my purpose and how I seem to help people the most (yet have such a hard time describing it on a resume or bio).

We’re so flooded by noise that it’s hard to understand what’s going on. True, we have learned to filter out noise and distraction, but in so doing we have also constrained our capacity to reflect on and make sense of the bigger picture.

In order to do things differently, to reassert some kind of control over the evolution of events, we need to design ways to see things differently. Tomorrow’s literacies therefore need to be process and systems literacies.

Our world is filled with representations of invisible or complex phenomena. But most of them have been made and used by specialists as objects of research. So the design challenge described in this chapter has a second aspect: how to deploy new representations in such a way that they influence wider groups of people.

Although information overload is frequently discussed in the media — which helped cause it — our delimma is not that we receive too much information. We don’t receive anywhere near the quantity of data it takes to overload our neurons; our minds are capable of processing and analyzing many gigabits of data per second — a lot more data than any of today’s supercomputers can process and act on in real time. We feel flooded because we’re getting information unfiltered, unsorted, and unframed. We lack ways to select what’s important. The design task is to make information digestible, not to keep it out.

Simply put, I seem to have this knack for seeing the intangible and helping to make it tangible. For example, I have this ability to see the ebb and flow of a business, both internally and externally, as a whole system (or ecosystem). It’s why I seem to be so effective at defining processes and standards within a business, as well as defining the identity and culture of it as well. It’s also why I’m so fascinated with figuring out new ways of socially collaborating and interacting together, both offline and online (i.e. business organization, MMOs, CMSs, etc).

This is also why I’m so frustrated at trying to find work that can make use of this talent. For example, in a recent interview, someone told me that I might be better suited working in Human Resources. That to me would be like chopping off one of my arms because it only lets me utilize half of my talent. Why? Because when your talent is working in systems or more appropriately ecosystems, it involves working with both living and nonliving elements. Thus only working in Human Resources would “cage” me within human (living) interactions. Yet for me to work effectively from a whole systems approach, I need to work and immerse myself in all elements of it, no matter if it’s people, hardware, or software, because they are all connected.

Hilariously enough, this same interviewer proved this point to me. He indicated that the job position required work that related to “marketing”. When he described the details though, it sounded like user interface design and development.  When I indicated this, he agreed somewhat but elaborated that the purpose of the “interface” was to communicate and be a method of “interaction” between their customers and the company which is what marketing does. A radical thought to me at the moment but now it makes perfect sense.

All said and done now, my current challenge is how to effectively communicate this talent of mine easily, preferably within a visual way. I’ve got some ideas, based upon some previous research I’ve done in the past but I’ll have to play around with them before I can add them to my portfolio.