Investment and Vectoring

I had a dream… no, not the Martin Luther King Jr. kind, though I do share his desire that people are judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

No, my dream was that I was stuck in an Airport with my family and an unhelpful airline agent was not issuing us our boarding pass. It was not clear to me when our flight actually left, what the issue with our tickets was, or even what time it was currently,  but my family was slowly spreading out through gift shops and restaurants, there was but one agent, and a long line behind me getting more and more impatient while security personnel, oddly European looking, hovered nearby in case I dare raise my voice too loud. It was a frustrating dream.

However, it was occurring while I was in a lucid state. I consciously knew it was a dream, I knew it was actually 3 AM, that I was uncomfortably laying in my bed and that there was no flight to catch. But I wanted to show that travel agent that I could get on that plane… yes, the imaginary one from my dream… I was invested.

It is odd what we often become invested in. Sometimes it is simply from habits. Once we invest enough time in something we want to ‘see it through’. We maintain an idea of how it will be. We project into the future a completion and vision of what that future will look like. Whether your a meth head stealing a TV with an idea of being high soon, or a CEO trying to save a company from a disastrous quarter, the base motivations are the same. Life is like X, and you want it like Y.

Investment is a two-edged sword. It is both a powerful tool to help accomplish things and a basis for a lot of unhappiness.

As we project out an idea of how our life will be we create essentially an imaginary idea. This is based on the past, but typically includes presumptions of how we want current things to change. This often results in two separate views of the future. One is actual reality. That is the way things actually are. The other is your expected reality. The way you wanted things to be when you reached this point in time and space.

Visualize this as a vector. From one point you have a line heading straight up. This is Actual Reality. A few degrees off to the side lets say at about 1 o’clock on a clock face, you have an equal distance line. This is your Expected Reality.

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As these lines continue to diverge the gap between them gets larger and larger. It is this gap that we fill with disappointment, spite, disillusionment, and regret. The further these lines diverge, the greater the space to fill.

If we maintain an investment in our expected reality the gap widens. We must, therefore, maintain an integrity of mind and choose to invest in actual reality in progressing towards our imaginary future while ensuring we do confuse what actually IS with what we imagined.

We can aspire towards a future happily if we continuously reset our current view to be in line with actual reality. We must be invested in the change we wish to see, but not in the imaginary future we associate with it.

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They certainly are different!

While comfortably musing as an older member of society and contemplating the age old question of the aged, “What is wrong with this new generation?” a thought occurred to me.

In my opinion, there is nothing “wrong” with this next generation. They are just different, just as we were different from our parents and they were different from theirs. The drastic shift in the environment which each generation is reared in is enough to create divide between each successive group of young people.

My grandparents were born in the early 1900s. As children they saw the first world war. As young adults they saw the Second World War , The rise of commercial air travel, the delivery of basic services to each household, electric, water, sewer. They watched the expansion of residential phone service. With each step the world seemed smaller and smaller.

My parents generation were born into a period of isolationism. As young adults they saw the Second World War. They watched on TV the news of Kennedy’s assassination and the start of the Cold War. They also saw the world grow smaller as air travel became cheaper and the government installed the Eisenhower interstate system. It is interesting to note though that post World War II up through the 70s toys and products were still primarily made of wood and metal.

My generation, those well on their way to being grandfathers and grandmothers now, saw an explosion of plastics in every part of life. A move towards rabid consumerism and a shift to a disposable society. The post 60s era disposed of the sanctity of many belief structures. And the expansion of large government programs struck at the foundation of American families.

At each transition from generation to generation there was likely many people asking the same question:

“What is wrong with this new generation?”

Well, they certainly are different!

​In hindsight

In hindsight it seems that in my youth I was much more motivated by where I wanted to be and how to get there. I thought about success, or at least believed it, though I don’t really recall ever defining what success looked like. Other than the idea that success was somewhere different than where I was.
As I grow older it seems that I have shifted my my motivation at some point. I am now much more motivated by figuring out where I don’t want to be and how not to be there.

In hindsight it seems that in my youth I was much more motivated by how to attain things, or at least believed that in attaining things I would find more happiness.

As I grow older it seems that I have shifted away from that desire. I am now much more motivated to shed and discard things from my life. Both material in the sense of things, and in responsibilities and desires. 

​Distance between neurons

The distance between two neurons is about 3.5 nm. That is a mere  .0000035 centimeters or 0.000137795  thousandths of an inch.

And the speed of a neural impulse can be as fast as 200 or more miles per hour though other impulses,  such as pain impulses, can travel as slow as 0.61 m/s or 1.365 mph.

Impressive?.. yes, but even the top speed of a nerve impulse through the body is still 3 million times slower than the speed of electricity through a wire.

The closer a neuron is to its neighbor the faster it can transfer the nerve impulse. At each junction, a series of electrochemical reactions occur that enable the nerve impulse to move between neurons and therefore through the nervous system.

Within the nervous system, the repetitive reuse of a nerve path reinforces the path and leads a faster pathway.  Much like the plasticity of the brain in adapting to a person’s repetitive work,  an athlete’s ability improves with practice over time because the entirety of their body adapts to minute changes in behavior and repetitive activity.

Even the skeletal system strengthens, and bones become stronger for people practicing karate due to repetitive impacts.

The muscular system redistributes stored energy into key muscle groups to be more readily available depending on the type of repetitive activity. Even the respiratory system adapts itself to be more efficient for a repetitive anaerobic or aerobic activity such as wind sprints vs long distance running.

This biological fact is the foundation of mastery of in life. The creation of structure, a particular form or technique, and repetition (practice) is essential to improvement.

This is true for all activities that people engage in. Whether the goal is a 5-minute mile (3.1 min kilometer), a wicked backhand in tennis, speed reading 500wpm, dance, prayer, a musical instrument, meditation or even performing a single 800 pound (363 kg) deadlift as your friend records you for a youtube video.

This fact is also true for nonorganic organisms. Companies refine processes over time to add efficiency or remove inefficiencies. People become better at what they do for hobbies, jobs, and even socially with repetition.  How well a companies processes are initially designed to support the organization as a whole,  and the ability to adapt processes over time to the organizational needs as a whole, and not to a specific group or a department’s needs in isolation, is how companies improve.

When a company’s individual groups attempt to develop in isolation or adopt processes that make themselves appear successful at the expense of other parts it creates an imbalance.  This is not a matter of intent, but of objective measurement.  Just as we cannot assume a professional bowler is healthy because they develop a very particular set of bowling skills.

So in our increasingly academic world of knowledge workers, true performance is still a measure stemming from the body as a whole, be it the inescapable biological aspect of life on earth as an individual, or a collective body with shared goals such as a company or sports team, it would do well in all cases to consider our goals and actions in a more holistic manner. Considering not only what needs to be done, but how you will do it and what impact this has on other goals or other people, and whether your assessment or expectations of what success looks like for the particular action is intellectually honest.

The trick it seems is in maintaining some level of objectivity that removes you from the immediate needs of the moment and allows you some space where you can accomplish two things,  1) ‘choose to care’ and 2) ‘determining what to care about’.

Life builds momentum for repeated behavior and companies create policies and procedures to follow.   If you are able to ‘choose to care’ and ‘determine what to care about’ it affords you an ability to think outside of the immediate moment or the process you are following and consider whether your actions are in concert with other goals or how they may impact others.

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Free Beer Tomorrow !!!

What is left of a life lived in the pursuit of concepts?

Success, Progress, Achievement, Productivity, goal?based fulfillment, attainment, what are these to a person that has been dead for a day, an hour, a second?

What are these things to the ones left living?  Do we think back fondly to our Grandfathers, Grandmothers, and ancestors and think… “YES, the sum total of their efforts to external things really worked out well.”  Or do we recall the time they gave us… the quality of our interactions, the relationships.  Do we consider their intent, or judge only on the results of their actions.

Does it matter how much money and wealth a relative has left in their wake if they were unkind to their children, angry, or short tempered with everyone they knew?

Are we defined by firmly held opinions about transient issues?

Do we accept our opinions as facts to quickly?

Do we invest in being Right about something, more than understanding its nature?

A life lived in the pursuit of tomorrow is the equivalent of a bar sign reading “Free Beer Tomorrow”.  It is a belief and an expectation, neither of which having anything to do with the razors sharp edge of existence, the instantaneous, perpetual, finite, infinite now.

Nothing Ever Happens on a Global Scale

Life is often a matter of scale. The overwhelming weight of 35,000 years of human history finds us toiling away on this earth amongst nearly 8,000,000,000 of our brethren and yet Friday can seem a long way off.  Statistics identify that at every second of every day lightning is striking the earth somewhere and yet there is a quiet repose when watching an approaching storm. An individual driving off for holiday on Memorial Day weekend is stuck in traffic pondering the philosophical question of “where in the world are all these people going, and why do they have to be in front of me?”

The trick it seems is in understanding your applied scale and then being able to choose it.  The golden age of communication that we now live in provides a constant stream of information from around the globe. Of which most is inane, negative, and fleeting in any importance. The conscious mind must be a gate keeper as the unconscious mind is a purveyor of all thoughts that are entertained. Horror movies do cause bad dreams, bad news from 1000 miles away can make you sad and for the soldier fighting in a far off land, the idea of death is not just a mental concept.

The mantra of “think global, act locally” as often cited, is at odds with itself as much as it is seemingly foolish.  The idea that an individual in America can help Africans facing a drought by taking two-minute showers is vanity at best and egocentric narcissism at worst.   However, if taken in a different way it accurately defines the role of the missionary who is willing to change their locality, but that idea is one of selflessness and not self-fullness.  The non-communicated requirement for this statement to be anything but folly is that you must be local to global issue you are to take action for. So there off you would be better saying “be local, act locally”, which is more a statement of what is real than some ideological expression as you are bound to your present location as inseparable as you are bound to your arms and legs.

Being a body that sits always in a single place within time and space we are only able to view the world from a perspective of “Self” and all of human history is more a summary of results from individual actions than of a collective. We do not express the purpose of a vehicle by detailing the individual functions of its many parts any more than an obituary list the historical changes in the world during one’s period of life.

From birth to death the constant element is ‘Self’.  Without this, there is no conscious, no responsibility, no action, and no progress. It is all the individual parts, fulfilling their individual purposes that make the vehicle go.  It is local, insulated action or inaction that makes the world what it is.  From sacrifice to murder, from salvation to suffering, from pleasure to pain, it all begins and ends with “Self”, and at the same time that by itself is not very impressive.

The Supremacy of Self

There are few Choices in life which do not carry some level of consequence. Most choices are fundamentally a weighing of the negative aspects of two options. While we may wish to make the “best” choice, we most often do so by determining what the worst choice is, and going the other way. This requires we weigh all facts, good and bad. This is true in our personal lives and should be true in how we make choices as a society.

Liberty is defined by wikipedia.com as follows:

Liberty is the ability of individuals to have agency (control over their own actions). Different conceptions of liberty articulate the relationship of individuals to society in different ways—including some that relate to life under a social contract or to existence in a state of nature, and some that see the active exercise of freedom and rights as essential to liberty. Understanding liberty involves how we imagine the individual’s roles and responsibilities in society in relation to concepts of free will and determinism, which involves the larger domain of metaphysics.

Much of the discussions related to how we shape our society hinge on what tradeoffs we are willing to make between liberty and safety.  On one extreme we could have full liberty with no societal limitations to personal behavior.  On the other extreme, we have a controlling state which continuously removes liberty to ensure the greatest safety.  Neither of which is desirable.

The danger is an inattentive society where short sighted decisions are made to ensure safety and longer-term considerations regarding freedom of choice and individual autonomy are not considered.  In all of these decisions, I would suggest we begin with the concept of “Supremacy of Self” as the basis for change.  We are all at our root individuals. We have differing opinions, desires, wants, needs, and aspirations.  It is not the role of a body politic to make decisions for individuals.  The role of the body politic is to create an environment where individuals are free to determine their own destinies and work towards their own goals.  Laws define commonly accepted limitations on individual liberty only in that one person’s freedom does not infringe on another’s ability to exercise their own.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes stated:

“The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

A similar statement could easily be made regarding the rights of the state.  In a free state, the laws should not govern either of the individuals in the analogy above.  It governs the space in between and puts limitations on their exchange to ensure both parties are treated properly. Laws that encroach on liberty are laws that extend past the responsibility of society to create the environment and begin to limit or decrease the ability of an individual to make their own choices.   It is at this point that Liberty is impacted.

As defined in science, nature abhors a vacuum.  When one thing is drawn away another will fill the space, and in the eroding of liberty, only tyranny can fill the void… albeit a slow, encroaching cancer of tyranny.