Month: October 2015

Lying Under Self-Reflection

When we lie to somebody, for whose sake are we lying? Are we lying for their sake? Or are we lying for our own sake?

More often than not, I’d say we lie to others for our own sake. We lie so that we won’t feel uncomfortable talking about a certain topic. We lie so that we can avoid confronting people. We lie so that we can fit in with a group. We lie so that we can feel better about ourselves.

I think that lying to others for their own sake is really, really, really rare. I can’t say it’s completely impossible. But I think that since it seems more beautiful and justifiable, that people would like to believe that they are lying for the other person’s sake.

We can see examples of the different types of lying in many literary works. For example, a Japanese anime/manga called Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (literally “Your Lie in April”) portrays character relationships which are built upon “white” lies for unselfish reasons. Multiple people are shown as lying for another character’s interest and not (at least not entirely) for their own interest.

Lying to others in this manner feels more wonderful than just lying for selfish reasons. This type of lying speaks of self-sacrifice, of being a hero, of saving another from the burden of that which is lied about. Because of this, it’s easier to see and characterize ourselves as lying for others, rather than for ourselves. It’s easier to digest and easier to explain, both to others if/when they find out, and to ourselves while we continue the lying.

Another way people justify lying is by explaining that they will just delay telling the truth, until it’s easier and more suitable to tell the truth. This stance seems like it could be more defensible in certain conflict situations, but only as long as there is an affirmed decision and execution of telling the truth at a later date. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to state that when people lie for this excuse, they don’t really have any intention of telling the truth later. It just feels better for liars to think this way, to think that we are delaying telling the truth because it would be too hard for others to hear the truth now. “It’s for their sake that we must lie”, we think, and try to convince ourselves.

But what happens when we lie to ourselves? When we lie to ourselves, for whose sake are we lying?

We commonly can apply different perspectives and persona based on the situation. If we lie to ourselves, one of our selves will be committing the lie, and another (or more) of our selves is in ignorance of the lie. Are we aware of which self is which? What is our reasoning for allowing this? And is this type of lying from one self to other selves even feasible with our current wetware (i.e. human brain)? Or are all of our different selves able to see the lie, and we are just refusing to acknowledge the truth?

Is lying to ourselves as beautiful as Miyazono Kaori lying to Arima Kousei? Is lying to ourselves as justifiable as parents lying to their children?

Lying is a zero-sum transaction. When one party retains certain information, the other party operates in absence of that information. When in a state of lying, one party is maintaining information dominance over the other. The lying party takes a superior position over the receiving party, who must act from an inferior position.

When we lie to others, we are exerting dominance over them. Whether we do this for the best intentions or the worst intentions, this is what we are doing. We lie to others because we want to maintain information dominance over them. This can be done assertively through choice and delivery of lying words, or passively through silence and evasiveness. Regardless of the intention, this is what we are doing when we choose lying over telling the truth.

When thinking as a Single Player, we sometimes find ourselves lying to our selves. This situation also represents a state of information dominance, although this can be even more confusing with a lack of self-awareness. Which of our selves is lying? Who is exerting dominance over who? It’s easier to recognize when we are lying to others. It’s harder to recognize when we lie to ourselves.

It’s not impossible, but I would say that recognizing when we are lying to ourselves requires a high level of self-reflection. We have to condition a habit of looking at our own thoughts and beliefs, without flinching, and identifying which ideas fit and which ideas don’t fit.

There are probably also cases where we cannot even recognize when we are lying under self-reflection. In these cases, we probably have lied to ourselves so much that even the lying self has become unaware that it is lying. This type of habit is dangerous, and one that I do not want to find myself falling into

I think that if we recognize that we find ourselves lying to others frequently, then this is an indicator that we are probably also lying to ourselves. Not lying to others does not necessarily mean that we are not lying to ourselves, but I think the habit of lying first starts from within ourselves and then propagates to others.

There is only one rhythm to Truth; Lies are chaotic and can take on any other form. The faster that we learn to find the Truth within ourselves as Single Players, the faster that we will learn to face the Truth together.

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Playing Less and/or Winning More

There was a time when games were fewer and further between. Games were less available and harder to obtain. It was not so long ago where renting games from the local store was a major source of excitement, wanting to see if the game I wanted to play was returned by the other customer renting it. Games of interest would come out once or twice a year. During these times, any individual game felt like they had much more impact and were more enjoyable.

Today, games are coming out at a much faster pace. Game development and ownership has expounded, especially for PC gamers where new games can be purchased and downloaded so much more easily through online arcades (e.g. Steam, GoG). Even console platforms are transitioning more towards digital purchases and downloads from the comfort of your room. We have so many more games at our fingertips compared to before. But are we appreciating them more? Are we Winning more?

I suspect that this is a matter falling under the umbrella of “ignorance is bliss?” When we know less games, see less games, and are exposed to less games (like in the past), we may think we know more or enjoy more or Win more than we actually could be.

I suspect that if I could play more games with a higher level of appreciation than if I play 1 game repeatedly to its limits, I would rather play and enjoy more games. But it’s hard to just reject that feeling of nostalgia, the urge of wanting to Play Less and Win More.

I kind of want to force myself to play slowly, to read every line of text in an MMORPG, to digest the content as if they would be all that I am seeing until next month or next year. Is this a reasonable request?

Maybe it’s okay to play quickly, as long as the overall content I get to with the extra time I gain is more than if I played slowly. I may be speed-reading or skipping a lot of content, but is this fine as long as I am getting to the same or more overall content over 5 games instead of heavily focusing on 1 game? Or maybe we are rushing things too much?

If I could re-tune myself to be able to still go quickly, to have quicker reading comprehension, to have an adjusted sense and scale of time, and then still appreciate everything more than if I were not enhanced, I suspect I would be getting more value and Winning more. But I don’t have those enhancements. We don’t have that capability, at least not yet.

In the meantime, what do I do? As long as I’m having fun playing video games, whether they be 1 or 100, does it even matter?

I think it would matter, if instead of thinking about video games, we think of similar aspects of life.

Ignorance is bliss. But if I could know more, and be aware of other things to understand and care about, I should want that right?

Unless I think it’s okay to turn a blind eye to those around me that are suffering, that are Losing in life.

We each have our set of problems and obstacles before us. Is it fine to approach these slowly? These problems are few and far between, right?

There may come a time when people as a whole start to notice that there are more problems in this world besides their own, or besides their immediate neighbors own. We are exposed to a lot of news around the world, through broadcast television and social media, at a pace that only seems to continue growing rapidly. We are more connected to those around us.

Are we just focusing on ourselves, or a small proportion of the many, and tuning out the rest? Or are we just glancing across them, speed-reading without full comprehension and rushing to move on to the next?

I think if we had to choose, there would be two optimal approaches depending on the person and situation. We should either focus on less and care more for those few, or if we are capable or can become capable, focus on more and care even more.

Some people might Win more when they play less, and Win less when they play more.

Some people might Win more when they play more, and Win less when the play less.

We should all try to Win, first for ourselves as Single Players. If that means we need to focus on ourselves first, without getting to others, then that’s fine by me. First and foremost, take care of yourself. Don’t stretch yourself too thin and be overwhelmed trying to help others, leading to you unable to help yourself.

But if we can reliably Win for ourselves, I think those interested should then come together to Win even more for those that are losing.

So where am I on the spectrum of Playing Less and/or Winning More? Where are you?

And if we had the option to enhance ourselves or select a preferential mind-state, would it be okay to choose blissful ignorance? If offered a Blue Pill and a Red Pill, would there necessarily be a better choice?

On Giving For Giving

[Yesterday Afternoon]

As I was walking home from work, a random man came up to me.

“Can you spare me some change?” he asks.

I give him one of my blanket responses, “I don’t carry cash on me”. It’s not that I don’t carry cash on me, but I don’t really feel comfortable giving random people cash to spend on whatever they want.

As I start to walk away, he then asks “Can you buy me a sandwich then?”, since we happened to be outside a deli restaurant. I can’t say that I would always agree or disagree in this situation, but I happened to not be in a rush and was amenable to this.

“Can you get me a meatball sub?” he follows. I wasn’t sure that this particular place offered such a thing, so I ask him to just go inside with me so that he could order. As we approach the door, he follows up and asks “Can you get me a salad too?”, where I respond that I would rather just buy him 1 sandwich.

When inside, he proceeds to order, and asks if I could also get him extra avocado on the sandwich. I agree to that. Since I also regularly eat meals around this time, I also order a sandwich for myself.

“So what’s your name?”, I ask. He then introduces himself as Michael, and tells me that he is waiting for the 1st of the month for some money.

I ask Michael if this was a paycheck, and he hesitatingly responds “Something like that”. I follow up and ask him what he’s doing to get back on his feet. He says that he’s doing odd jobs here and there, but one of the people he works for wasn’t available that day.

Some silence as we wait for our order. “Time seems to flow by quickly, it’s already October” he mentions. While time seems to flow by pretty slowly at this moment.

Throughout this time, I try to think of how else I can ask or assure that he is trying to get back his feet. I don’t come up with anything special, so I just exchange small talk with him.

Our sandwiches are ready, I pay at the counter with a credit card, and as we walk out the door he asks for my name and shakes my hand.

“Take care of yourself”, I say.

“God bless you”, he says.

And we walk separate ways.

When I got home yesterday and revisited this encounter, I was tempted to think about what I gained from it. Maybe I could blog about it, I thought. I also didn’t really feel anything special, and considered that maybe I wasted my time time and money.

I decided to let the moment pass a little longer, and wait to collect my thoughts the next day.


[Earlier Today]

Revisiting the events of yesterday, thinking. “Take care of yourself”, I told Michael as I parted ways with him. Was this just a habitual goodbye statement, or more intentional?

In this moment of giving, why was I thinking about what I received?

I wanted to make sure that he was getting back on his feet. Was this for my benefit, or for his?

Why was I somewhat disappointed when I didn’t feel anything special after giving?

Why did I think I should blog about this?


[Later Today]

“God bless you” he told me. If a god is going to bless some somebody, let it be you.

What would people do without a camera recording their good deeds?

What would people do without a social media outlet to highlight their goodness?

What would people do without anyone seeing what they are doing?

Why do people need incentives for giving? I know why, but still, why?


[Now]

I’ve written on why we must first learn to Win as a Single Player so that we Don’t Starve Together. I’ve mentioned that I don’t think I will drop everything I am doing and help everyone who comes asking for my help. I can’t save everybody, but that doesn’t mean I should save nobody. There are times where I can give some of myself, to help others do better.

Why do we have to hear frequently about how giving will make us feel good? I think it would be better, and more sustainable, to tell people that giving shouldn’t be about the givers, but about the receivers. Let’s not focus on the feel-good aspect, for this won’t always be the individual response. I may not feel good about giving, but when I am in a position to give, there are other reasons I still want to give and give again.

Giving is not about us; it’s about who is receiving. It may be common human nature to first think about what we receive when we give, what we gain from the transaction. I think this urge may be a part of our current culture, but that does not mean we can’t improve and condition a different culture. There may be others who also feel the same way. But if I want others to change, I should start this change from myself.

There are others ways to give of yourself, which are more subtle than of giving food or money. When we decide to do more than we are told to do at work, for the sake of improvement, and not just doing the minimum for a paycheck, we are giving something. When we try to teach others so that they can do better, we are giving something. What else do we give ourselves to? Why do we give? Even without receiving, why will we still give?

I think it is important to first give to ourselves, before we can be in a position to give to others. “Take care of yourself” I told Michael. I really, truly mean that. To each of our selves, we must first take care of. I may give to you, so that you can give to you now, so that you don’t need me to give to you later, and maybe eventually you can give to another.

Let’s not rely on what others will give to us. We should each be self-sustainable as Single Players. It’s only once we’ve first learned to Win our own, that we can then Win more together, so that we can Win more for those that have lost.

Innovation Should Not be an End Goal

When someone asks you to be Innovative, what is it they are asking you to do?

In my workplace, Innovation has become quite a buzzword lately. There have even been rumors about a new Department of Innovation in the works, which is supposed to gather like-minded Innovators together so they can be even more Innovative.

But why Innovation? And why should we focus on being Innovative? What will happen to me if I say I don’t want to be Innovative?

I think we should be careful about using terms which are considered “holy”, where the opposite/lack of that term is considered “evil”. For example, how could I even dare to say we should think twice before we consider Collaboration? These types of one-way terms are more often used as a cue for applause rather than for their discussion points.

So if we Taboo the word Innovation, what is it that people actually mean when they want it?

When I hear people commonly using the term Innovation, it often involves developing solutions to a problem which are considered “out of the box”. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad concept, but does that mean that all solutions to problems have to be “out of the box”? At what point should I consider that maybe I need to get rid of my current “box”, or update what my “box” contains? If we always want to be Innovative by this definition, isn’t this also requiring that our current knowledge always be one or more steps behind? Would my efforts be discounted if your concept of what is Innovative is just what I consider to be Mundane?

If I proposed that instead of a Department of Innovation, instead we should have a Department of the Mundane, would I be considered instantly “evil” and booed off the stage?

Innovation is just a means to an end. Not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is necessarily a change. Innovation can bring about big changes, but we must remember that these should always be aimed towards improvement.

If we really had to create a new department, it should be the Department of Improvement. If improvement requires changes which are considered Innovative, so be it. Likewise, if improvement requires changes which are considered Mundane, so be it. (But really, why would we need a separate department for something that everyone should aspire for?) If what we really want is improvement, then we should aim for improvement regardless if it involves innovative or mundane changes.

When people ask for Innovation, maybe what they really want is the applause that goes along with Innovation, a talking point to impress the audience, or a wow-factor to attract investors. These could also be desirable, but these goals should be specified at the onset and not disguised as seeking improvement.

If our actual goal is to improve, then Innovation for the sake of Innovation is just a Lost Purpose. We should optimize for and implement changes best suited for improvement, be they innovative or mundane.

If we want to Win, then we shouldn’t care if our optimal strategies are innovative or mundane. If we want to Win, then we shouldn’t care if we were right or if we were wrong in our thinking a year ago. If we want to win, then we shouldn’t care if we are recognized by others. If we want to Win, then we should focus on Winning.

Culture Change Starts from a Single Player

Culture change can occur when a majority of people decide to do things differently. I won’t focus on discussing this reason for change, since these will tend to occur frequently without much of our directed effort.

Changing culture can also occur when a minority of people decide to do things differently. This minority must be more vocal and forceful than if a majority were to attempt to enact the same change. It is this type of culture change that I will focus on, for this is where a lot more of our effort is required.

First, something needs to be identified with opportunities for improvement. Not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is necessarily a change. Trying to improve some aspect of a culture will necessarily call for change from those within that culture. Proposed change is almost always met with resistance.

So who is going to identify something that can be improved? This proposed change from within a culture must start from the finest minority of that culture: an individual, a Single Player.

It is up to a Single Player to be able to identify and decide that a culture change is required to improve. This is done in spite of what the majority is used to, regardless of what everyone else is saying and doing. A Single Player does not know yet of others who think similarly, who together would be a minority. But if a Single Player chooses not to attempt the improvement themselves, then similarly other like-minded Single Players might choose not to attempt the same improvement.

It is the responsibility of a Single Player to be more vocal and forceful than other players who have no preference, and even more so than other players who prefer to not change. As Single Players, we will find ourselves in this position frequently.

Being able to maintain a minority position on subjects where the majority is either apathetic or negative towards our proposals; this is the strength that is needed.

This is a matter of force of will, of endurance against fatigue, of burdening, of shouldering weight and blame, and of vigilance against our own urge to give up.

This is a matter of being labelled a “Lone Wolf”, of being isolated, and of being ridiculed.

This is a matter of being criticized by many more eyes than our own, where one misstep can send our credibility into the dumpster.

This is a matter where we think we’re improving things for the betterment of all, but others think we just want to change things for our own personal benefit.

How do we combat this in one instance? Can we combat this over multiple instances? How long will it take for us to break? When will we succumb to the inertia of the mass majority?

I think that most easy improvements can be covered by the majority. People will get it right, eventually, hopefully, if they are actually collaborating. But besides the lower-hanging fruit, do we see other ripe opportunities for improvement? These kinds of higher-level improvements would address things closer to the root cause rather than just surface level symptoms. These kinds of improvements often solve or make unnecessary a lot of the lower hanging problems, freeing up more resources for working on other problems. It’s these kinds of improvements that are needed so that we can do better, so that we can Win more, because we need to Win more.

There may be a time when it becomes normal that the majority will drive for improvement with the same emphasis as a focused Single Player. Until that time comes, there will be many losses. As a Single Player, do we stand by and just watch these losses as they occur? Or can we do more? And what can we do more of?

Irony of “The Age Discrimination in Employment Act”

I noticed there was an “Age Discrimination in Employment Act“. I was impressed.

I then read through the document and noticed this only covers age 40 or older (and other exceptions). I was no longer impressed.

Is there something special about this number 40? What if I am 39, or younger?

Please look at what I am capable of, separate from my age. I could be 2 years older or 20 years older than my current age. Would that age difference affect my ability to do this task? Some tasks may be affected by other things which correlate to age; but is this task one of them? What new information are you taking/giving when you say “well that’s how you young people do it” and clamor against technology and change? Is what I am doing good or bad? Is it better or worse than what we have done? Would I get bonus points if I did what I am doing now, but were twice my age? Or are you discounting points from me because I happen to be in a certain age group?

When you mention age, you are just categorizing / profiling / stereotyping / discriminating. I resent that.

You might not bring up my gender or my race, since these are more discouraged in our current professed culture of non-discrimination (speaking as a citizen of the United States, 2015). But the same consideration should apply to judgments based on age, if we were actually expressing a culture of non-discrimination.

Not every change is an improvement. but every improvement is necessarily a change.

My goal is to improve things. Do not assume that I am just trying to change things for the sake of change, because of a sentiment of “that’s what kids do these days”. Let’s talk and discuss about whether what I am doing is actually improving things or not.

If I were to give the benefit of the doubt, I could say that the crafters of this Act were just trying to be funny and ironic by protecting against age-discrimination only for those of a certain age group. But this is probably not the case.

In defense of what this document is trying to accomplish, I have to mention this paragraph:

SEC. 621 [Section 2], (a), item (3):  The incidence of unemployment, especially long-term unemployment with resultant deterioration of skill, morale, and employer acceptability is, relative to the younger ages, high among older workers; their numbers are great and growing; and their employment problems grave;

This seems like a fair observation. The longer someone is out of practice of a skill, the less capable they might be at that skill. And since this is a time-based measure, people who have had more time pass since they were birthed (i.e. older) will probably have more occurrences of this than those who had less time pass since they were birthed (i.e. younger).

But why do we need to write this Act specifically for people who are 40 years old or older? It would be fine to just say “no” to age-discrimination as a whole, whether people are relatively older or younger. But then I must remember to look at the purpose of this legislative Act. Its purpose is probably not to discourage against age-discrimination as a whole, but trying to help older people obtain and retain employment. This is still a noteworthy cause, but I would characterize this more as teaching how to not lose, rather than teaching how to win, and just losing in a different way. This is an example of a document trying to change the professed culture, not trying to condition an expressed culture.

I have a dream, that one day all people will be judged not based on how many years that have passed since they were birthed, but based on their ability and desire to Win. Winning should favor no age group, skin color, gender, or other similar stereotype. Winning is the final judgement; it is the only judgment that should take place. We should let Winning be more attainable for those that practice winning ways, so that they can be better equipped to win more for those that did not win, those that cannot win, and those that will not win.

“Not Losing” is not the same as “Winning”

I would consider Winning as a state of Not Losing, but I would not consider the opposite as completely true. Being in a state of Not Losing is not the same as Winning, unless you understand every possible way to Not Lose in a given situation (at which point, I would say you just know how to Win). It is more common that we only understand a few instances of how to Not Lose in a given situation; it is when in this state that I claim that knowing how to Not Lose is not the same as knowing how to Win.

Suppose that three students are asked to complete a Math test with 10 problems. These 10 problems vary in difficulty. However, the teacher has created the problems such that the solution is always 42. The teacher also tells them that the correct answers are within the set of counting numbers ranging from 1 to 50.

The first student, who is considered to be a Math Wizard by the other two students, has a firm understanding of all the Math Spells Wizards use to legitimately solve each problem individually, showing the step-by-step process until writing “The answer is 42.” for each of the solutions.

The second student is not as Wizardly as the first. What they lack in Math spells, though, they make up for with clever thinking. They decide to practice their Wisdom, and for each of the 10 problems writes “The answer is not 1”. They know for a fact that this is a true statement about any Math problem whose solution is not equal to 1. They then sit and wait, hoping that the teacher did not provide problems with 1 as their answer.

The third student who sits between the first and second students is also not very Wizardly. But what he lacks in Math Spells he makes up for with Cunning. Utilizing his great skills to the fullest, he shifts his eyes towards both the first and third students’ solutions when the teacher is faced the other way, and writes down “The answer is 42 and the answer is not 1.” for all the problems. They then sit and wait, hoping that the teacher did not notice them looking at the other students’ solutions.

How would these three students be graded? Who can we say is closer to knowing how to Win, and who can we say is closer to only knowing how to Not Lose?

In terms of letter grades, the first student may receive an A for his Intelligence, the second student may receive an A for his Wisdom, and the third student may receive an A for his Cunning. All three students may end up passing the Math test, but I would say that the first student understands more than the second and third students. The first student is aiming at Winning by getting the correct solution, regardless of the specific problem they are handed. The second student is aiming at Not Losing by providing an examples of incorrect solutions. The third student is aiming at Not Losing by using solutions created by others. All three students may happen to be Not Losing in this certain situation, but I would only rate one student as trying to Win.

If, instead, the second student were to write that “The answer is not 1 or 2… or 41 or 43 or 44…or 50”, leaving out only 42 as the correct solution, then I would have to say that they understood as much about the solution as the first student (but chose to write the solution in a “cute way”). If we have an option of 50 choices at a solution, and we can reliably narrow down and remove 49 of the 50 possible choices, then our entire knowledge of what is not correct, of how to Completely Not Lose, is equivalent to the knowledge of Winning. But this is not the common usage of when I hear of learning how to Not Lose, which often refers to only a few examples out of the entire Lose-space.

If, instead, the third student were to observe the solutions provided by the other two students, but then proceeds with trying to figure out how they would solve for the solution themselves, then I would have to say that the third student is also trying to Win (although cheating on a school Math test is questionable). This student is using others as examples, as referents of how to Not Lose, in their path to Win on their own. Outside of this Math test example, we are commonly surrounded by examples of what other people do in given situations and can observe which outcomes don’t work out. If we use these as examples of how to Not Lose, we can fill out and understand more about the Lose-space and get a better grasp of how to Win. However, sometimes we focus only on those examples of Not Losing that we end up just losing in a different way.

It is okay, and it is sometimes necessary, to first focus on learning how to Not Lose while on our path to learning how to Win. In certain problems and situations outside of this example Math test, it is sometimes easier and more effective to see examples of what not to do before figuring out what it is we need to actually do. But this focus on Not Losing should always be accompanied with an impetus towards Winning. It is not enough that we learn of 4 or 42 ways how to Not Lose, if we then proceed to accept another way which also lands in the Lose-space.

If Winning is our purpose, then we must not lose that.

Professed Culture and Expressed Culture

“Culture” can be a big word, one that is used differently from one person to another. For the purpose of clarification, I will be using “culture” to represent the collective habits of the members in a certain community. These habits can be contrasted between what the organizers of the community document (e.g. operating principles, work instructions, laws) and what the community actually practices (e.g. day-to-day decisions not covered by or not adhering to given instructions). The members of the community can say that they follow the documented habits, but this does not mean what they actually do when there are no instructions available is consistent with those documented habits. In a sense, there is a “professed culture” (representing what they say they do) and an “expressed culture” (representing what they actually do). Different communities will have varying degrees of alignment between these two concepts.

For example let’s say that Dan and Don are employees at a workplace. One of the operating principles at their workplace is safety. The workplace has a safety manual which reminds that they need to wear certain personal protection equipment in certain designated areas. One of the designated areas is a Building #42, which is a manufacturing shop. Dan and Don have both been reminded multiple times about this procedure by their manager Steve, so they both always remember to wear safety glasses when they go through Building #42.

Now let’s suppose they are visiting an external supplier and are about to walk through a Building #24. Building #24 is also a manufacturing shop, but the safety manuals do not have an entry for it available. As they are about to enter the building, Dan reflexively reaches for his safety glasses, while Don just continues walking in.

“Hold on there Don”, says Dan. “You’ve got to wear your safety glasses before we enter here.”

“What do you mean Dan?” responds Don. “I have read all of our safety manuals, and none of them tell us to wear our safety glasses when we enter this Building #24.”

“I guess that’s true”, answers Dan, “but I think we should follow similar safety procedures that we use for Building #42, or in general any manufacturing shop.”

“If we were really supposed to wear safety glasses in this Building #24, don’t you think our manager would have written it in our safety manual?” replies Don, quickly walking inside the building. “Now hurry up before our guide leaves us behind.”

The visit to the supplier goes without any further complication, and both Dan and Don return home safely.

Dan, who is concerned about Don’s response to his safety concern, goes and talks to their manager Steve and mentions their recent visit to Building #24.

“So what do you think Steve?” asks Dan.

“I think you bring up a good point Dan. First thing tomorrow morning I will write a safety manual instruction for Building #24,” replies Steve, and continues working on other paperwork.

Dan is a little unsatisfied by this response, and presses further, “What about if we go to another building, let’s say Building #6. Shouldn’t we also wear safety glasses there?”

Steve looks up from his papers and replies, “Now don’t be silly Dan, Building #6 is our cafeteria. Why would we wear safety glasses there?”

“I mean hypothetically, Steve” answers Dan. “How can we encourage Don and other employees like him to wear safety glasses where he needs them for protection in a building that isn’t Building #42 or Building #24?”

“Now I’ve had enough of your backtalk for one day Dan”, exclaims Steve. “Do you expect me to write a section in our safety manual for every building before we even see them? How do you expect me to know whether a Building #702 is going to be one where we should wear safety glasses or not? You did good by telling me about Building #24, and next time you see a building we need safety glasses for, just tell me and I’ll include it in our safety manual. Now get out of my office, I have other paperwork to handle.”

In this example, both Dan and Don are professing their safety culture when they follow the safety manual instructions for Building #42. Dan goes beyond mere profession when he continues to express a safety culture which applies also to a Building #24, one that is not explicitly written in the safety manuals. As their manager (i.e. organizer of this workplace community), I would say Steve is focusing on changing the professed culture rather than conditioning the expressed culture. Steve is focusing on changing behavior by writing down exactly what to do in a given situation, rather than by teaching general procedures which can be applied to generic situations.

It’s when we focus on changing professed culture rather than conditioning expressed culture, that we lose our purpose of improvement, our purpose of increasing our chances of winning. Not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is necessarily a change. More often than not, changing professed culture is just focusing on change (which may or may not lead to improvement), while conditioning for expressed culture is focusing on improvement (which will require a change).

I’ve written before on pitfalls of process planning. When planning on how to change a culture, first we need to focus on the desired expressed culture (Output), then we focus on the current state (Input), and then we enact the changes required to transform the current state to one which has people expressing the culture (Process). Focusing on just changing the professed culture is like first planning the Process before identifying the desired Output and available Input, which can lead to situations of Lost Purposes.

When we are talking about changing the culture of a certain community, are our proposals just focusing on changing the professed culture? Or are they focusing on conditioning the expressed culture? Are they focused on change? Or are they focused on improvement?

A Pitfall of Process Planning

In my workplace, the word “Process” seems like a holy word, one that everyone should bow towards whenever it is seen, read, heard, or spoken. Attaching it to other words makes it even more spectacular: saying someone is process-driven or process-oriented makes them a saint and thus more promotable.

I don’t mind “Process”, but let’s make sure we are using it with the same meaning and understanding. “Process” is good for consistently and repeatedly being able produce an “Output” from a given “Input”. Before we focus on the “Process”, we need to thoroughly research and understand the “Output” and “Input”.

Let’s say that I am a basketball player trying to improve my free-throw shooting. I’ve read and heard a lot of things about free-throw shooting, so I decide to incorporate them into my form: I adjust my posture, bend my knees, think about how I will release the ball from my hand, practice a pre-shot dribble routine, buy a sweatband for my forehead and wrist, and rehearse my breathing and facial expressions so I will look calm and confident as I am shooting. I don’t really understand what each of these adjustments do, but I heard they are good so I follow them. I actually don’t have access to a basketball court, or a basketball, but I continually practice and practice alone in my room these things until I developed a consistent form I can use every time.

Game-day comes and I am fouled and have to shoot a couple of free-throws. My team is down by 1 point, but luckily I have poured sweat and tears into my free-throw shooting over the last 5 months. I assure my team that we will win because I have perfected my form. I then shoot, and the ball then goes over the backboard. Confused, I just figure that some fluke must have happened to that first shot. I use the same form again, and another ball goes over the backboard, hitting an observer in the crowd. We lose.

The observer comes up to me after the game. “How did you miss those free-throws so badly?”, they ask.

I have to defend myself. “I have been perfecting that same form for 5 months!”, I say, pointing to the buckets of sweat and tears that I kept to record just how hard I worked.

“How did you practice and develop that form?”, the observer responds.

“I studied how other expert free-throw shooters do it. I followed their styles and practiced in my room every morning after I woke up and every night before I went to sleep!” I exclaim. I start walking away in disgust at this observer’s lack of knowledge until the observer stops me for one last question.

“How many free-throws did you make when you were practicing?”, they ask.

I start to feel confused, never having considered that question before. “How many did I make? Why would that matter? What matters is that I had perfected my form!”, I answer, and run away.

I run away, not because of my disgust for the observer, but for the disgust at myself, realizing that I forgot that I actually had to put the ball through the hoop when shooting a free-throw. My “perfect form” is only perfect, I finally realized, if it actually puts the ball through the hoop. What I had perfected was a form of free-throw shooting, not a form of free-throw making. I go home and cry another One Liter of Tears.

First comes the goal of making a free-throw by putting a ball through a hoop (Output). Then comes the game of basketball and a person trying to make the free-throw on a particular court with a particular ball (Input). Then comes the free-throw shooting form (Process). A form I practice and develop in my bedroom with no ball may not work when it comes to making critical free-throws on the court at the end of a game. A form optimized for a different person with a different height and hand size may not work for me. A form I practice and develop for an NBA official basketball game may not work as well for a beach court with a bowling ball.

Once we establish a relatively fixed Output with a relatively fixed Input, then (and only then!) should we focus on developing the Process. We can create a lot of value at that point by improving consistency and reproducibility of creating our product, whatever that may be. But remember, if we are changing our product, we need to step back and realign the process. Similarly, if suddenly the resources we use to make our product changes, then we should also realign the process.

Processes can be more definitive for products with well-defined Outputs and Inputs. The more vague our Outputs and Inputs are, then the Process cannot be as well-defined. A well-defined Process for situations where the Outputs and Inputs are unknown is just a homage towards a Process God, a type of Lost Purpose.

Miyamoto Musashi illustrates an example that explains this pitfall of process planning when he says:

“The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him. You must thoroughly research this.”

Let’s make sure that before we plan a detailed step-by-step Process guide, we must first thoroughly research and understand what Output we are trying to accomplish, and with what Input resources.

Inner Critic as Multiple Personae

I talked yesterday about a habit-breaking habit of practicing inner-criticism when no one else is around. Asking yourself questions like “Why do I believe what I believe” can help clarify your thought processes and enable a more tangible visualization. As I use this approach for different situations, I tend to develop different perspectives.

One way I model the different aspects of myself is to establish different characters for different lines of thought. It is not just 1 inner critic entity, but multiple personae with different habits and mindsets. I find this approach useful (and fun) for a variety of purposes.

Consider 3 different mindsets (optimist, apathist, pessimist) over 3 different time-frames (past, present, future), where each mindset is combined with each time-frame. Each combination represents a different persona with a general mindset and expectations as shown in the following table:

(Mindset) \ (Time-frame)

Past

Present

Future

Optimist

“Things were good”

“Things are good”

“Things will be better”

Apathist

“Things were okay”

“Things are okay”

“Things will be okay”

Pessimist

“Things were bad”

“Things are bad”

“Things will be worse”

For example, let’s say that I am thinking about my physical health. I may think that I was pretty healthy when I was younger, being able to pick up any sport and able to run long distances with relative ease. Currently I may think that I am not as healthy as before, but I am not necessarily unhealthy. I may not be doing much physical exercise now, but I feel like I could if I really wanted to or needed to. I may think that things will be better in the future once I put more effort back towards improving my physical health. In this example, I would characterize this thinking as a Past Optimist, Present Apathist, Future Optimist.

Once I have settled on my thoughts, I remind myself that my actions should be aligned with my thoughts. This discussion between multiple personae is witnessed by an outside observer, a Final Actor, who has to pick and decide what action to take. An aligned action for this example would be to start jogging in the morning, or start eating more vegetables and less candy. In order for things to be better (Future Optimist), I can contribute certain things toward that goal (Final Actor).

However, sometimes the Final Actor takes actions which are not aligned with the personae. I may think I will become more physically healthy, but I might end up doing nothing to help accomplish that, or even choosing to be even less physically active or eat more unbalanced meals. What, then, is the reason for my Future Optimist winning out? Is that justified? Maybe I need to reconsider why I am that optimistic? Or maybe, I need to reconsider why my Final Actor is doing what it is doing? Should I change my thoughts? Should I change my actions? Or how can I explain and accept the inconsistency?

As a single player, I rely first on myself to enact the change I want to occur. I focus on what I am doing that is helping me to win the way I expect to win for a given situation. Each situation is different, and at a given time I may see different win conditions. My expectations of the situation may sometimes be misaligned with my actions, and in cases like that, I either should change my action, revisit my expectations, or accept that I will not win the way I expected to win.