So am I going to write that paper or shall I bin it?
In a former life, I might have decided whether to write a paper or not on the basis of the objective merits of the paper. I might even had aspirations that someone might read it. Ha! The average formal paper is read by 7 people. Blogs at least get read if ever so cursorily.
Solidarity and invitation
Galeano makes an important point. The only interaction worth having is horizontal – solidarity.
If I write that paper
Who do I hope to benefit?
Who do I hope to invite in?
And most of all, whose reply do I hope to receive?And why do I want their reply? For personal gain or because I am genuinely interested in what they have to say?
Deeply curious about our audience
Writing is not so much knowing our audience. It is being deeply curious about our audience.
My challenge is clear. Who do I want to hear from?
I don’t like anger. I don’t trust it. We just become one track-minded and lose perspective.
Eduardo Galeano expresses the anger many of us feel
But sometimes we do need to sink into an emotion. I re-read Galeano’s words on the hegemony of unfairness and I re-read them aloud. These are hard words to be read aloud to hear their flint-sharp steel-hard tones.
Reading negative poetry aloud at home is safe . . . and cathartic
I felt better. I did.
It doesn’t harm that below those words I had also recorded a positive way forward. But it helped to hear words that confirmed that I am not the only person in the world so heartily tired of having to pretend that the unfairness we see every day is not there.
Maybe one day I will read those words aloud in public
I am just coming to the end of a project and I find myself in a curious position. A week ago, it seemed important to write and publish a paper. A week later, as I entertain the prospect of moving onto other work, I find myself puzzled by why I thought that important.
Simply, my audience is changing and so is my sense of priorities.
Supply networks mean a constantly changing audience
This is not rocket science but it is critically relevant to the working in a world of supply networks. In the ‘olden days’ of supply chains, we maintained a position between some kind of supplier and some kind of customer and our audiences rarely changed. In today’s world, our range of suppliers and customers shifts so fast that we cannot afford to ‘buy in’ to other people’s priorities. Alliances are temporary – very very temporary – and commitments need to be phrased in these terms. Simply, customers have to learn that they don’t have massive influence unless they have massive loyalty.
We only really attend to who and what is in our bubble
Even before the days of supply networks, I had noticed how easy it is to buy into the value systems of people around us. When we are in situation, even for a few weeks, where the views of any class of stakeholder are not represented, we start to forget about them. It is only when we step out of the bubble, that we realise what has happened.
Bubble members need to be respectful to all our stakeholders
My take from this observation is this: we simply have to be very selective about who we work with. Any sign of disrespect early in the negotiations has to be met firmly by withdrawal. If keeping ideas back is a condition of engaging with us, it may be better to find other work partners.
And we need frequent points to check that our attention to other important stakeholders hasn’t drifted
Early negotiation accommodation is so common that we might feel we cannot afford to be this strict. Perhaps not. But then we have to build in checkpoints where we are able to withdraw if we are not being heard or some if-then – I’ll go along with this now but we want a review and if these conditions aren’t being fulfilled, then we want a rethink.
Work negotiation of the future – contingent, temporary where the links are more powerful than the customers and suppliers?
I guess we will see a lot of discussion along these lines in the next few years. In three years, I wonder what I will think of my thought processes.
Never break the chain – write every day – write something – good or bad
Stop – work for half-an-hour to an hour and never more than one-and-a-half hours and stop
7 fold increase in productivity
Boise, who studied academics intensively, was able to show that these three rule accounted for the 7 fold difference in productivity between top flight and ordinary academics.
It’s a massive difference, isn’t it.
Highly productive writers
It seems that highly productive writers sit down and write, every day, usually before the house gets up and before they can be distracted.
The free write, structure, edit or do whatever they are able to do at that point but they write and they never miss a day. That way they maintain a habit, maintain their confidence, develop fluency.
Above all, they don’t lose track. They don’t waste time figuring out where they were.
Amazingly of all, productive writers write for short periods. Apparently the pattern is to work in 15 minute bursts with mini-breaks, quite often for as little as half-an-hour and very rarely for more than an hour. Boise calls periods longer than one-and-a-half hours bingeing.
Getting back to writing
I know all this is true.. I’ve been distracted by another project and I’ve woken up each day with a head full of other concerns.
And I’ve lost track of the concerns that led me to blog.
Then it becomes harder to blog.
Then the mechanics, like quickly finding a picture in Flickr take longer.
Yes, professional writing needs to be habitual. It has to be given some kind of priority.
When your life changes, deliberately change the slot of time for writing?
Maybe when our life changes, we have to sit down and ask ourselves quite openly, “Where is the time for writing?”
Because most of us write because we “have to”. Without it, we feel that life loses its meaning. And then it is even harder to get back into.
Timely advice as we advance into the eye of the financial crisis
“Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that, one magical day, good luck will suddenly rain down on them – will rain down in buckets.
But good luck doesn’t rain down, yesterday, today, tomorrow or ever.
Good luck doesn’t even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day on their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms.
The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way. Who are not, but could be.
Who don’t speak languages, but dialects. Who don’t have religions, but superstitions. Who don’t create art, but handicrafts. Who don’t have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper.
The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.”
Eduardo Hughes Galeano, The Nobodies
“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”
“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.”
“What is the smallest thing you can to do improve your life?” asked engineer turned social media technologist cum psychologist, Benjamin Ellis, today on Twitter.
An impossible question!
We can never answer that question and this is why.
When “life is going well”, we don’t ask.
– Not because life is going well, but because we have no issue with getting on with life. The next step emerges, then the next, then the next. We generate ideas as fast as we need them.
When “life is going badly”, we can’t answer.
– Not because life is going badly, but because we can’t imagine the next step. And because we can’t imagine the next step, we feel the way is lost. And when the way is lost, we worry that life is lost. And then we worry about improving our life.
“Life is going badly” means we can’t tell you spontaneously the small thing that we will be doing next!
The positive psychology answer
The positive psychology answer is to restore the feeling of well-being – not by another cup of coffee, though I am guilty of that.
And not by artificial crutches of well-being like positive chanting.
1 Actively savor
But by taking a small step “in the life in which we find ourselves”. Poet David Whyte says that “sometimes truth depends upon a walk around the lake.” Bringing forward one’s daily exercise and getting out into the fresh air and nature might restore our composure.
Rule of thumb: Bring forward a task that is important that we can do with enthusiasm and appreciation.
2 Meaningfully appreciate
Failing that, we simply need to pay attention to the task in front of us and do it mindfully. Feel the keys beneath our fingers. Feel the solid floor beneath our feet.
And if we do make some coffee, do it with care and appreciation.
Rule of thumb: Become engaged again with life through the things immediately to hand.
3 Ask for help
Mentors are important not just for their practical advice and or for the bolstering of our self-esteem. Mentors are useful for the simple questions they ask.
A good mentor takes us out of the mental space of panic and helps us pinpoint what’s next. They find it easy to ask the question that leads us to answer “What is the smallest thing we can do to improve our life?” When they are skillful and not inclined to take over our burdens, they ask the small obvious question that leads to a small obvious answer. @jackiecameron1 in Edinburgh, Scotland played that role for me yesterday quite publicly on Twitter.
She really does have the touch of the simple question that is so hard to ask.
Rule of thumb: Describe our conundrum to someone we trust. They will often ask a simple question that might make us feel foolish but it will point us to what we crave – what to do next.
What do positive psychologists do?
So that’s what positive psychologists do.
They return us to the positive ecology of doing small things that matter quite spontaneously and help us stay there if we are there already.
Not knowing what to do is the bad life, and the bad life is not knowing what to do. One does not lead to the other. They are the same thing. The bad life and being out of actionable ideas are the same thing.
But the first step of getting out of the bad life is very hard to take – by definition. If we knew, we would be doing it and we wouldn’t feel life is bad.
So that is what positive psychologists do. We suggest you just carry on but acting the good life because the good life is the action you crave and action is the good life.
We won’t necessarily like the advice because at the minute we’ve persuaded ourselves that we are not in the good life. But it is here. It is present. It is with us always.
Act out the good life right now in the life that you find yourself and you will forget the question of “What is the smallest thing we can do to improve our life?”
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman