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Exploring Inner Values: A Personal Reflection and a Work in Progress.
I'm collecting articles and quotes that resonate with me as my values in life. I find myself reflecting on this more as I get older and move through different situations in life. I observe myself behaving differently in different contexts and wonder what my values really are and when am I living them and when am I compromising them on purpose or due to an external factor, desire or influence. Things seemed easier when I was younger and a lack of experience helped me have strong convictions of the certainty of my actions. Recalling memories, I’m more aware of past actions I took which seem out of alignment with my professed values. Yet, I clearly recall being convinced of their value at that time.
This is where I'm at so far. I would love to hear your comments and thoughts. I’ve used midjourney to generate the images.
"Even when you are certain that you know, you don’t know."
Cultivate a healthy scepticism about my knowledge of any topic - especially topics that I think I'm knowledgable about and that I'm certain I have 'figured out'. Take care when feelings of certainty or judgement bubble up especially when it has to do with 3rd party statements about people or indirect messages or mediums like emails or documents. Things are rarely what they seem.
"Make the decision you are least likely to regret and move forward."
If you do start to regret a decision, turn the regret into a lesson. Learn and move on. You may make the same mistake again. That is another opportunity to learn. The focus is on moving forward, on making decisions and learning from experiences. There is always a considerable, uncertain risk of failure and regret for any choice. So the best we can do is select the option that is least likely to product regret while also allowing us to move forward/decide. All the while, accepting the reality that any option can and in the spectrum of time so many decisions ensure that we will make decisions which fail
"Write about everything. It helps you remember."
Time swallows everything and each experience is unique and an opportunity to learn so much. Writing helps remember those experiences in the future, process what happened and the context around the experience and acts as a way to slow down; a barrier to the incentive to move faster and do more. We know that ever more urgency results in ever worse results, so building a writing habit also helps to put positive friction into the system.
"You must make lots of small, low impact mistakes, quickly to be able to minimise the risk of making big mistakes slowly."
Mistakes often frighten and that leads to many low impact avoidance decisions which defer or delay decisions to resolve these issues. Over time these small deferments build up into large mistakes. This is hard to 'feel' and its easy to fall into the trap of feeling that big mistakes won't happen any more. Since we have made so much progress (deferment) and things look great. Yet that should scare you even more. Progress is defined by incremental failures as the system is complex and ever changing. If you aren't seeing those small failures and making constant tweaks, you have a much larger failure brewing underneath it all.
"If you try to do something different or differently, people will see you as difficult. Be difficult."
Anyone involved in a change process is often frustrated by how much pushback they face. We use all kinds of justifications and excuses. Yet we don't recognise the reality enough. Any time we try to do something different, a majority of people will see you as difficult. You are arguing for something different. Even if it is a much better option, people will oppose it on principle because it has not been done already 'if it was so great, we should have done it by now' and any number of other reasons. This is a feature of a stable, performing society. If people constantly changed based on any small suggestion, we would get nothing done. Which means, it is a feature (not a bug) of society to oppose all change even positive change. So, when we want to change, we must be difficult. And we must expect and desire considerable friction and pushback as that is the only sign that you are really making progress.
"Your children are your only real chance at immortality. The chance to leave something of yourself behind that lives on, learns and grows."
Tech billionares have their priorities all wrong. They work non-stop in the hope to create an elixer of youth or a way to transfer their mind to a computer. They will fail, not because the technology won't work (I'm certain at some point it will). They will fail because the objective is wrong. Living forever will simply make every day of life meaningless. All experience lacks any joy or value when you have an unlimited number. Just try giving a child an unlimited supply of any sweet they desire. Quickly it becomes their least favourite snack, or it becomes a life destroying addiction. Immortality has existed for as long as humanity and you could even argue that humanity is immortality. We found a way to pass our knowledge, beliefs, language and systems from one generation to the next. We clone ourselves in our children
We don't have many things we can fully control within our lives and this world. Many things are done to us or are context that we cannot modify. We cannot choose where we are born, which privledges we benefit from our fail to receive and we often simply don't get many choices. But we can always choose to be kind to those people around us. In every stituation we are part of, we can always choose to be kind. It isn't always easy but I find it a vital mantra to remind myself. Even when we get caught in a gossip negative spiral, we should pull ourselves back and say "this may be true, but is it the right way to say things. can I do this in a kind manner?" Radical Candor is often wrong not because you should lie to people but there is a way to tell people the truth and still be kind. It isn't easy. Being mean and direct is so much simpler.
"Cry when you want to."
There is so much cultural baggage wrapped up in bits of water coming out of our eyes. Some countries see it as a sign of strength others as weakness. Look wide enough in the world and crying can be the best or the worst emotion you can express in any situation. I would argue that crying is an important part of being human. We have this feature and we can maximise our life experience by using it to the fullest. You shouldn't feel that you should stop yourself from crying when that is the emotion boiling up inside. There is an amazing strength and joy to letting tears run down your face and an intense comfort from those who see you when it happens in a time of hurt and need. Don't let the tears scare you. It's a part of us all. Cry when you want to.
"Sometimes you need help to get out of your context or your perceptions."
Society is structured around laws and expectations that imply and make explicit that you are fully aware and responsible at all times. Yet humanity isn't that perfect. We are messy and confusing. We get stuck in thoughts and beliefs - some are healthy and others are damaging. It can often be impossible to get out of your situation, context or perceptions by yourself. Humans are experts at justifying ourselves off a cliff. So cultivate situations, partners, friends and family members who can help you see yourself more truly and help pull us out of context that is problematic. Expect this, seek this discomfort. If you think you are certain, you are probably wrong.
"Our feelings are often wrong, so we have to talk to them and share them."
What are feelings? They are 'stuff' we feel based on everything other than facts and figures. This means that sometimes feels are right by luck not by formula. We all recognise this and often spend a lot of our working and professional and adult lives in something of a constant battle with our emotions. Yet we also easily fall into the trap of believing our emotions are justified and true when it serves a purpose for us.
"Each person lived experience is different to our own. Be slow to judge and provide advice."
We struggle with our similarities. Because we are all humans and besides minor cosmetic differences, we are all the same and talk / communicate in standard languages, it is easy to look at someone else and assume they will "get" what you are talking about. And it can be horribly frustrating to realise that "no they don't" and almost always the reason is because of a different lived experience and understanding. Which also feeds a lack of trust. We and work against this by always reminding ourselves that no matter how strange someone's actions are, they are logical and justified to that person, in the moment that they take those actions. Their mentality, lived experience, biases and opinions shape the choices that they make and justify their actions.
"It's normal to fail and not learn anything."
It is rare to fail in such a way that it makes a good, learning experience and story that imparts important lessons or learnings. I think this is a big fear that drives a lot of failure avoidance in companies. Failure is often touted at the top as an important part of the company culture, but the typical employee faces failure as a risk to their day to day job. Even at the mid or senior level failure is only an opportunity if you are well liked, networked and articulate enough in the organisation to spin the failure as a learning experience. The challenge is that most failure is just failure and often it cannot be possible to gather much from it other than 'try again, differently'. Especially in complex, large companies, amazing, impactful, important ideas can fail terribly because of one missed out stakeholder, an uninformed approver or any number of other minor issues that appear when you try to effect or impact change in a very large organisation.
This means that when we want to try and change things, we need to be willing to fail and keep trying even when we aren't learning anything from the failure. We are only learning that we need to try again and the way we did things didn't work. Looked at another way, too much focus on learning from failure can distract us from the exhausting process of trying again and again.
"Anyone in a bad place, won't listen"
Negotiation and influence are common parts of our working life. We need to work with others, discuss trade offs and seek decisions. Yet it is often very difficult to discuss and hear each-other in any conversation. I think a big part of that is most people, most of the time are not in a very good place. They are tired, hungry, stressed, worried about family or kids. Something else is going on that distracts them. We have to filter anything that we want to accomplish through that barrier and find ways to work with it as a reality of the world. If we constantly hope to convince people who are "okay" we will find few opportunities. If we can ensure that people are "okay" first. Then we may have a chance of accomplishing things later. Another related comment is: "You can't reach the brain through the ears."
“Facing the way things truly are”
The biggest challenge in life is our attempt to see the world more truly for what it is rather than what we think it should be or wish it was. Many people look to find a way to manipulate the way things are to get more money, status or power. Sometimes this means people can see a reality of the world and distort their own role in that world to justify their actions. I see it differently. That seeing the world for what it is also means seeing our individual role(s) in that world as well. This is by definition humbling as we will be forced to recognise the realities of our existence. That is our biggest challenge and quest for our lives.
"No matter how right you are, all that matters is what you can do together"
In any group situation, it is often easy to see the most obvious/logical 'solution'. We can often assume that many of the people involved will see similar solutions, but may describe them differently making it seem on the surface like everyone has a different solution. This can quickly lead to someone thinking that they have it "all figured out" and if only everyone else would listen to them, we could get this done and move onto the next challenge. Yet, none of that matters. No matter how obvious the solution is to you; no matter how right you are; the only thing that really matters is what you can do together. What does the average of the group actually understand and have the skill/capability to do. If you ignore the dependency on other people to get even the most basic tasks completed, you will live a very frustrated life.
"Ideas are free. Celebrate the people who make them a reality"
This one I still struggle with. Some ideas really do seem so insightful and special. Ideas that seem unique to only my experience and which wouldn't have been possible for anyone else. This leads to a lot of frustration when my ideas aren't recognised or get pushed aside. Yet, an idea is actually nothing at all. No matter how special our ideas may seem, there are good odds that many other people in the company including history have thought of and even tried all of our special ideas. Instead of focusing on recognition for the ideas, we should focus on how to implement those ideas in an impactful way. Then we recognise and celebrate that - the impact, the learnings, the accomplishments are what results from the ideas. The ideas themselves are free and likely duplicated hundreds of times over.