Saturday, March 23, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- 

10 Things I Would Like to Become…

  1. A better teacher
  • My strengths are insight and caring. I need to be better at giving examples. 
  1. A more articulate arguer
  • I like to argue. I’m always surprised that I’m not very good at it. The problem is that I don’t have my arguments worked out. I don’t have a bank of facts to support my positions. And that’s because I am not in the habit of remembering facts. My habit is to remember my conclusions. (Because I think my interest in learning is philosophical, not rhetorical.) I have to identify my key positions and memorize supporting facts. I have to become a quicker learner. 
  1. A subtler writer
  • I’ve always wanted to be both a writer and also a teacher. My teaching desire penetrates my writing style. I tend to over-explain, which is sometime forgivable in essays and non-fiction books but is deadly in fiction. It makes me realize that my desire to be a good teacher – to have my student understand – is actually stronger than my desire to be a good teacher. I treat my readers like students. I’m more concerned that they get the point than that they enjoy the story.
  1. Less sensitive to criticism
  • I’m generally good at criticism because I’m generally comfortable being less than great at almost everything I do. But I could be better when it comes to criticism of my character. I’m sensitive to that – perhaps because I’m not as good a person as I’d like to be.
  1. More accepting of other views on social and political issues
  • Conservatives think leftists have no brains. Leftists think conservatives have no heart. I agree with both of them. And I let this infect my feelings. I actually get angry. Even at friends and family members.
  1. More aware of my surroundings
  • When you are as practiced in the art of self-absorption as I am, you have little attention left to give to your surroundings. I believe that living in the here and nowwill improve my experience of life. But I can’t get out of my head.
  1. Less conscious of my approaching death
  • When you reach a certain age, the mantle of death looms. That’s not a good thing for several reasons, not the least of which it makes you more self-absorbed. (See #6.) I’ve got to get out from underneath it.
  1. Kinder
  • There is a sign at a fork in the road that one comes to later in life. It appears every time you wake up and a dozen times during the day. One arrow points to Good Humor. The other to Grouchiness. I am well aware that I should walk in the direction of Good Humor. But Grouchiness beckons. 
  1. More stoic
  • When someone asks me how I’m doing these days, I answer, “No complaints.” I do that not because I’m feeling good, but because I realize that complaining about whatever ails me will do neither the questioner nor I any good. This is one small area in life where I’ve learned to be more stoic. I’d like to expand the range of my stoicism.
  1. Thinner
  • There’s no point in denying it. I cannot delude myself any longer with clichés like, “I have to love me as I am.” Thinner is better.

Demarcate (verb) – To demarcate (dih-MAR-kate) is to define the boundaries or limits of something. As used by Christopher Morley in Pipefuls: “Out at Hillside the stones that demarcate the territory of an old-fashioned house are new and snowily whitewashed.”

The first interracial kiss on TV took place in a 1968 “Star Trek” episode when Captain Kirk kissed Lt. Uhura.

The creative power of misfits | WorkLife with Adam Grant from TED Talks Daily in Podcasts.- One of the challenges of success is that the habits that got you there are hard to break. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Because nothing stays exactly the same. New rules are created. Old pathways are closed. Environments change. Competition evolves. What worked perfectly 10 or 20 years ago may not work at all today.

In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen explains how this happens in business. Large, “incumbent” businesses are practically programmed to service large existing customer bases with modest innovations to already good products. They don’t have the capacity for substantial change. And that’s why disruptive innovation usually comes from smaller companies.

I’ve made the case that large and successful businesses can also create disruptive innovations. But to do so, they need to create a separate micro-culture of innovators and (as Adam Grant calls them) misfits to do the thinking that the employees of the incumbent company cannot.

This probably won’t change anyone’s mind, but it’s a true explanation of how progressive taxation works in the USA and it illustrates the disturbingly widespread level of ignorance about it.


When Making Tough Business Decisions, You Can’t Depend on the Facts  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Delray Beach, FL.- Years ago, a professor of philosophy introduced me to a concept that has helped me make business decisions time and again.

We were discussing Nietzsche, the German philosopher and poet. I knew a little bit about Nietzsche. I knew that he was anti-religion (as we say today) and believed that man could perfect himself by self-assertion. But it was what he had said about the decision-making process that intrigued me. Specifically, according to the professor, he predicted that assumptions made from secondary knowledge (what we learn from studies, books, newspaper accounts, etc.) as opposed to primary knowledge (what we learn from experience) would one day replace experience as the basis of judgment.

I had never given much thought to the distinction between primary and secondary knowledge. But after our discussion, I realized that many of the opinions that I held were, indeed, based on information that I had read, not on personal experience. And the more I thought about it, the more I have become convinced that Nietzsche was right.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Nietzsche’s prediction has already come true. Because it seems that these days, most people, most of the time, are making important decisions based more on secondary knowledge (Nietzsche called it wissen) than on knowledge from personal experience (erfahrung).

It’s understandable.

There is so just much information out there. Every day, we are bombarded with facts and figures from the media. And it’s incredibly easy to research just about any subject on the internet. Often, what we learn confirms our own experiences. Sometimes, it contradicts them. But here’s the problem. Instead of using our experience to judge the validity of all of that secondary information, we tend to judge the validity of our own experience by what we’re reading and hearing.

 In business, for example, I know from experience that when I invest in something that I know little or nothing about, I lose money. Yet, I can talk myself into making such an investment if I am shown a business plan that is loaded with impressive numbers. (Even though I know, also from experience, that numbers can be rigged to support almost anything.)

In fact, when I think about bad decisions I’ve made in business, it was most often because I allowed myself to favor the wissen (the outside knowledge) over the erfahrung (the knowledge in my bones).

Read MoreWhen Making Tough Business Decisions, You Can’t Depend on the Facts  

Agglomeration (noun) – An agglomeration (uh-glom-uh-RAY-shun) is a group of many (usually disparate) things that have been collected or brought together. As used by Voltaire: “This agglomeration which was called… the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire.”