Sunday, 29 June 2008

Meaning in reading

A fascinating article in today's Times about a man who left a highly paid position at Microsoft after he went on holiday.

On the way he lost his girlfriend and all his savings...but found his meaning in life.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Meaning in friendship

I have a friend from school called Gareth Marlow. I always think I'm bright, but I'm aware of the existence of people who are way brighter than me, in another division altogether. Gareth Marlow is one of these. I went to school with Gareth Marlow and he could do everything - including play music just by hearing it. We both love The Beatles and he used to belt out Let it be whilst I shrieked along strumming a tennis racquet.

I didn't hear from Gareth Marlow for many years after school, but we made contact a while ago through Friends Reunited. We still don't speak often, but I was reminded about real friendship when a couple of days ago he sent me the link to the brilliant animation, below.

It combines my search for meaning at work with my love of Radiohead. This to me is so revealing about the nature of friendship. If you have really good friends, they unearth these sorts of things for you. They can literally help you construct your new life. And this doesn't seem to depend on time or reciprocity - they know so much about you that they make brilliant connections to you on your behalf without thinking what they will get out of it.

'Think you'll like this' is what his e-mail said. Always one for understatement was Gareth Marlow...

Meaning at work

I'm not the only one to feel like my work lacked meaning, of course.

And given that Radiohead played in my local park the past two nights, to roughly 40,000 people, I'm not the only one to love them either.

I remember I used to trudge to work in my first consulting assignment (for British American Tobacco in Woking) litening to No Surprises and it was about the only thing that kept me going. I can barely listen to that, even now.

Meet a symbiosis of these two groups here:

Friday, 13 June 2008

Career change

When you make a career change some days are easier than others. A lot of people doubt you and a lot of people just don't really care that much. That's not surprising - no one cares about you as much as you do.

So you need to keep your energy up, you need to surround yourself with people who understand and you need to read books that extend you knowledge in the direction you're going. You need to extend your meaning in life, and this is done by improving comprehension of your new life.

The best time is when you look back and think about your old life and realise you had no choice but to change. If you'd have stayed in the old job (or house, or relationship) you'd have lived without ever really living.

The greatest quote I've read on this subject was by the great psychologist Abraham Maslow. Note the use of the imperative:

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be, he must be."

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Studying infinity

I was shattered last night and watched The Apprentice (see below) and a programme about infinity, called Dangerous Knowledge. Fascinating it was too.

Apparently, infinity comes in different sizes. If you imagine a circle, it is possible to draw an infinite number of lines from the centre to its edge. However, if you then draw another, bigger circle round that circle and extend the lines then you will have gaps beteen the (extended) lines.

But more interesting was listening to how great minds like Cantor, Turing and Godel found that there are limits to maths and science. That the ultimate conclusion of logic, was illogical. Turing died trying to prove unprovability.

This surely cuts to the heart of many academic issues, not least the realisation that maths and science are both an art is surely one. But second, it shows how all the academic disciplines from philosophy to maths are grounded in humanity. They are all flawed, all illogical. And our attempt to understand the world and impose order on it is ultimately doomed.

This gave me hope for psychology, as by studying the human directly in 'real life' circumstances, one imposes order through science and yet acknowledges the limits of doing this. This is the scientist practitioner approach, which is at the heart of Bloom Psychology.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The winner is...

So, 12 hugely entertaining if frustrating weeks (please, editors, we don't always need black and white) and we finally have a winner.

Some truly disgraceful antics (Jenny), backstabbing (Alex), outright lying (Michael and, er, pretty much everyone) and many hilarious moments and we learned who was to be Sirallan's apprentice.

4 made it to the final, then 2, and I feared the moment that Claire would be handed the role for her 'transformation'. But you'd need a very large transformation to come back from stabbing a good man in the back, as she did to the thoroughly decent Simon.

And after it all, when all the shenanigans are over...

the best human being won.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Why articulate your values?

All of our individual clients will work with values at some point or another. Why?

We believe that central to the human condition is the ability to decide what to do and how to do it. Indeed, it could be argued that our lives are defined by a series of decisions. So how do we make decisions?

It's easy to think short term. What will keep me safe? What has worked before? Often, we are influenced by our mind's first concern (safety) so we are highly influenced by what others or whatever pays the best.

These ways of making a decision are fine. Indeed, they have evolutionary approval. They kept your ancestors alive and well.

However, most people want more than to survive, they want meaning and fulfilment. Think of your most fulfilling times. Usually, it's a time when safety first did not rule and instead you tried something, committed to something and took a risk. Deep down, we instinctively know this but it's easy to forget.

If when making a decision all we do is listen to our minds' initial reaction then we risk, over time, falling short of what we could do if we live more consciously.

If we ask ourselves what's really important to us in life, we usually find values like courage, honesty, learning, making a difference, meaning, love and justice.

If we do not take conscious action to define what's important to us, we risk making a series of semi-conscious safety-first decisions that, when put together, result in a life only half lived.

What a cricket report tells us about the meaning of life

I love cricket, for cricket is a complex metaphor about life. I often read the cricket reports in the paper or online. A cricket report consists of two things. First is the scoreboard - the facts of who scored what. Second is the report, the narrative account of what happened.

Unfortunately, both paper and online versions of cricket reports now separate the scoreboard from the narrative report. This is a grave error, which tells us much about meaning. For meaning is fundamentally about comprehension.

A cricket scoreboard tells the story of the day in numbers. It gives us an understanding of what happened in terms of a context: it tells us which side batted first. Who got a century, who got a duck. It tells us which bowler bowled the most overs, and which got the most wickets. In other words, it frames the narrative for the reader. But it is only half the story.

The (written) narrative of the match tells a story. It tells you why the captain put the opposition into bat on winning the toss. It tells you that the reason bowler A only bowled 5 overs is because he limped off injured. It explains that although batsman A scored only 38, he laid the foundation for batsman D who punished a tired attack in the evening sssion when the conditions were easier to score an aggressive century. It might tell you the tale of a dropped catch early in the day, without which the story of the day may have been different. It might tell you about the look of shame on the face of the first slip when he made that error, or that one bowler refused to yield and bowled into the wind for 20 overs taking no wickets, but limiting the scoring to only 3 runs per over.

The scorecard sets the context, and the narrative provides the understanding and the story. Together, and only together, do they provide a meaningful report. To separate them, as both the Guardian and Times do, is to misunderstand cricket, and more gravely, to misunderstand how things are understood.

New Zealand 2nd Innings - All out
How c Cook b Sidebottom 19
Redmond c Ambrose b Broad 2
McCullum b Anderson 71
Taylor lbw b Broad 14
Flynn c Ambrose b Sidebottom 49
Hopkins c Ambrose b Sidebottom 12
Oram not out 50
Vettori c Psen b Sidebottom 1
Mills c Strauss b Sidebottom 2
O'Brien c Cwood b Sidebottom 4
Martin c Collingwood b Anderson 0
Extras 1w 3b 4lb 8
Total all out 232 (72.3 ovs)

Sidebottom 24.0 7 67 6
Anderson 14.3 3 55 2
Broad 21.0 4 77 2
Panesar 11.0 4 21 0
Collingwood 2.0 1 5 0

Monday, 2 June 2008

How much to leave your job?

In Saturday's Guardian there was a story which asked how much it would take you to leave your job.

Zappos, a shoe maker, offers its new employees $1,000 to leave the firm after completing their training.

This is to weed out the uncommitted or those unwilling to join their distinct culture and live the values. (Hate the phrase, agree with the sentiment).

The question is, what would it take for you to leave your job? Or how about not just your job, but your career? As the article points out, there's no right answer, but the amount you stipulate may be revealing.