The “Other”

I have come to the conclusion, via age and experience, that it is more productive to surround myself with like-minded people.  It makes life easier and more enriching, I think.  Social media allow us to do this with the click of a button as we friend, follow and link with people who are like us in some way.  Our conversations are stimulating and energised but are they challenging in terms of seeking to understand the “other”?  Has social media allowed us to avoid other points of view in favour of celebrating our own.  What are the risks with this on a personal level, on a national level and on a global level?

Elizabeth Lesser, in a thought-provoking TED talk called “Take the Other to Lunch” looks at her own life as part mystic (grace), part warrior (grit)  The latter seeks to get on with things and focuses on the now whilst the former asks “what are we missing?”  She wonders if the circle we draw around ourselves (our family, friends, followers) is too small and too similar and may contribute towards the “demonisation” or “otherisation” of those with different viewpoints to our own.

Her talk inspires us to take someone whose point of view makes “smoke come out of our ears” to lunch so we can find out what is really in each others’ hearts.  When Elizabeth Lesser did this herself (she, being left-wing, invited a right-wing supporter) she found out the generic labels that are assigned to others do not represent those people as individuals.  She does argue that the intention of taking the other to lunch is not to change their worldview or to expect differences to melt away just to meet them in a neutral space and explore.

This had made me rethink my own point of view.  I don’t know if I’m ready to take an “other” to lunch (my views are pretty strong) just yet but once I work on my ability to not get defensive and to just listen I might give it a go. 

Who would you take to lunch and why?

Are all your social networks like you in some way?

What would you need to do to prepare for a lunch with the “other”?

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Q: Who am I? A: My friends…

I’ve just read an interesting piece of research (yes, some research is interesting!) called “The Framingham Heart Study”.  I found the study mentioned in the latest blog post by Penelope Trunk

Any study is hard to condense into a few lines so if you like detail, read the study in full here.  Basically the study found that you are likely to behave in a similar manner to your friends.  If your friends are big drinkers, then you are likely to exhibit that behaviour, if your friends are overweight, then so might you be.  On the positive side, you are more likely to be healthy and active if your friends are that way.

This got me thinking about my friends and the behaviours they practice, which, in turn, will affect my behaviours.  I’ve compiled a list of my closest friends and what I have learnt from them.

Here they are, in no particular order

David – everything!

Bella – unconditional love and sass!

Robyn – rational logic can go hand in hand with silliness, money is for spending

Vicki –  inner calm, peacefulness, persistence

Leah – live in the wow! it will all work out in the end

Rachel – mindfulness, thoughtfulness and a balanced approach to life

Lorrae – keep moving, stay young, use products if you need enhancement

Jacqui – let life be messy, indulge in retail therapy

Collin – it’s OK to be crazy, it’s OK to think you are a super hero

Damon – youth is not wasted on the young, live a Rock Star life

Looking at this list, I feel really fortunate to have a group of friends who enrich my life in so many ways and if the study is right and I exhibit these behaviours then I think I’m doing OK!

What behaviours do your friends practice?

If you made a list like I did, what would it look like?

Do you exhibit similar positive (and negative) behaviours as your friends?

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Make Like A Pancake

I can’t make pancakes.  I know how to make them but they never look like they are supposed to.  The perfect pancake is cooked on one side until golden brown and then flipped to repeat the process on the other side.  Two perfect sides that make up the whole.  Thinking is a bit like that  isn’t it?  There are always at least two sides to every argument…

Recently, I read an article about a new book on social networking called “Alone Together” by Sherry Turkle.  The basic premise of the book is that social networking is responsible for the lack of face-t0-face interactions and is basically killing conversation.  I have to admit that I haven’t read the book (it’s on my list) so I’m not going to critique its content.  I’m more interested in taking the basic idea of the book and, like a good pancake, examining the other side of the argument to see what’s cooking there.

Steve Denning, citing John Hagel, provides some interesting insight into the other side with an article on conversation and social media.  He points to the fact that real conversation (conversation that matters, that challenges, that changes) has never really taken place in a face-to-face format.  Social networking has provided a space for this type of conversation, a space where you can choose the conversation to listen to, respond to and engage with.  Conversation that can be heard on a global level.

My own experience has shown this to be true.  I have recently ramped up my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and joined groups that resonate with me.  I am actively involved in some fantastic, radical, thought provoking conversation with people in my industry across the world.  I have been delighted with the mature approach that most people adopt in the online environment.  The temptation to disregard manners can be high when you are not looking at the other person but I have found people to be considerate, willing to listen, responsive and energised by the conversation (even if there are disagreements)  The process, for me, has been extremely rewarding.

So, when you read or hear something that paints a negative, fear based  image of a situation make like a pancake and flip over to see what’s happening on the other side.  Then you can make up your own (informed) mind…

What have you come across recently where you could make like a pancake?

How do make sure that you have considered all points of view in a situation?

What do you do if you disagree with both sides of the pancake?  Make like a brownie?????

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A trained monkey OR an active learner?

I send my daughter to school mostly for what she can learn in the playground.  I stopped believing long ago that school could teach her the really important skills in life so I look after that at home.  Most of what happens in school is “training” – ramming kids heads full of irrelevant content they are expected to be interested in and retain.  It doesn’t get much better at tertiary level either. Remember how you crammed (trained yourself) for exams only to forget everything once the exam was over?

Real learning takes place in the playground as my daughter is exposed to a variety of personalities and behaviour that she needs to manage and moderate, including her own.  She has learnt leadership, problem solving, negotiation, influence, communication and creativity in the playground.  Skills that will take her through life.

You can imagine how excited I was when I came across this article which looks at real learning and how it can be gained more from interactions with others than from formal lessons.  Read it now and see what you think…

This has implications for workplace learning.  I think the nature of learning is changing in workplaces to involve a more collaborative, participative approach and use of social media is leading the charge.  So, let’s stop using the word “training” and move to a culture where learning is championed and occurs right when you need it in a meaningful way.

Do you consider yourself a learner?

Are you training your children or are you letting them learn?

How does your organisation approach learning and how can you influence that?

A few simple thoughts…

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if it didn’t take a national disaster for people to support each other…

Why can’t we remember every day that life is precious and people are always more important than things…

Imagine what the world would be like…

My thoughts are with those people who have no homes and/or businesses and who have lost everything.  My thoughts are also with those people who have dropped everything to help.  My thoughts are with our leaders who have shown mindfulness, common sense and logic in this crisis.

What are you thinking about?

Start with the toes…Photos

Focus on the toes – much easier to
manage!

The large newborn sculpture –
very overwhelming and confronting

Thinking about…thinking

A few days ago I was deep into a mid life crisis wondering what I was going to be when I grew up. I had a plan and was working towards that but then I changed the plan or maybe the plan changed me…

I took some time out of the workforce to pursue some study knowing that the study would lead me into a different career. I am currently working as a casual in the proposed new career. Then everything changed.

I started thinking about…thinking and things started to come undone. A key question that kept coming to mind was “how is what I am currently doing enriching my life?” “Why am I doing this?” “What value am I adding to the world?” In essence, I had lost my way.

So, I spoke to a good friend – actually I vented to a good friend and then turned to one of my favourite authors and thinkers, Seth Godin, for inspiration. I figured out that I had almost become part of the machine, the place where you think about…nothing…you just do. This didn’t sit well with me.

I had a rethink and decided to throw everything out and start again. It always amazes me when I do this because suddenly a lot of cool things start coming my way. I was referred to a book by a friend and then another book popped up in a blog I read and I contacted the author and she actually emailed me back and now I feel as if I have started a new journey.

It might even provide the answer to “what will I be when I grow up?”

What thoughts might you have if your thinking was about…thinking?