Category Archives: Leadership

How Do You Learn Best?

The Secrets Behind Asian Cooking

Once I took this class in cooking. Actually it was two classes, and it was a specific kind of cooking. Kind of a vague kind of specific cooking. The class was Asian cooking, which sounds specific, until you realize there’s just as many different Asian styles of cooking as there are Asian countries, which at last count was plenty.

The reason I took two classes was I took the first class on a whim. I got this catalogue in the mail for a local adult education center in my city. It had a list of all kinds of classes that working people might enjoy taking at night. Cooking, yoga, meditation, all kinds of hobby type classes like photography. Since I like to eat, and where I was living at the time had plenty of Asian communities, and consequently many different Asian restaurants available, I figured I’d give Asia cooking a go. It was only about twenty bucks, and met once a week for six weeks, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose.

We learned to make a lot of stuff, but for some reason the only thing I can remember is how to make kung pau chicken from scratch. They have those kung pau chicken flavored sauces you can buy at the supermarket, but we made it completely from scratch. And it came out pretty good.

Because I thoroughly enjoyed the class, when the new schedule came out, I took the class again.

But the instructor was different. Completely different, with a completely different outlook on looking. The first instructor was very, very strict. We had to prepare the ingredients in a specific way, in a specific order. And we had to wash all the utensils in between steps to ensure there was no cross contamination. I got the impression that this lady was the kind of person who’d complain if they got a plate of cake and ice cream with the ice cream touching the cake.

Never the less, the stuff she taught us was fantastic. When the class was over, we had learned six different dishes, and I wanted to learn more. Hence the second class.

The second instructor was completely different. Same as before, middle aged Asian female. But she was completely different than the other instructor. She would give us the basic instructions, but completely vague. Instead of saying something like:

“Add one quarter cup of soy sauce, stir for thirty seconds, then slowly add 1/8 teaspoon of sugar over the course of one minute, while stirring at a constant rate,” like the first instructor would say, she said something like:

“Ok, put in some soy sauce, about this much (holding the thumb and forefinger in the international sign of a “a little bit”) and stir it for a bit, and then put in some sugar, about this much (smaller measuring unit of thumb and forefinger), but don’t dump it all in at once.”

Now both of those instructors were fine instructors, and taught us some good recipes. But they both had completely different teaching styles, and I suppose there are students out there that have two completely different learning styles, at least on the continuum of the specificity of instruction.

For example, whenever I cook from a recipe, and almost never measure the ingredients exactly. I just read it over to get a general idea about the general proportion. Then if it comes out lacking a certain taste, I’ll try and remember it and adjust for next time.

And even thought the first instructor was completely specific, and made sure we followed her instructions to the “T” during the class, when I reproduced them at home, I reverted to my non-specific eyeball measuring technique.

Others that I know are completely and strictly by the book cooks. They need to follow everything to the exactly specifications to the recipe, or it just won’t work.

Which is better? Of course neither is better neither is worse. Two completely different strategies to get to the same outcome. A good bowl of kung pau chicken, or whatever you have simmering on your stove.

The take away from all this is to simply realize that everybody has different ways of doing things. If you are teaching somebody, either by being a formal teacher, or explaining something to someone, realize they will figure it out according to their own style They may follow your instructions to the letter, or not. The goal is to focus on the outcome, and think of your method that you are teaching them only one of many ways to get there. They may follow your example exactly, or they may choose their own path. The important part is that they get there, however way they choose.

Similarly, if you are learning something from somebody, don’t think you need to do it exactly the same way. Just think of it as them giving you one of many examples on how to get from point A to point B.

To make things even more confusing, I’ll throw together three different metaphors that may not even go together, just like when I add peanut butter to my nikku jaga.

1) There are many ways to skin a cat.
2) All roads lead to Rome.
3) The road is better than the Inn.

Now get out there and cook some kung pau spaghetti or something.

How To Use Life’s Problems To Your Advantage

How To Powerfully Blast Through Any Obstacle With Ease

The other day a friend of mine and me were talking about how different people deal with adversary. His girlfriend is currently going through a crisis at her work, and the people that are employed there are having some difficulties.

Because of the economy, it is quite obvious to everyone that business is slowing down, and although the owner hasn’t come out and said anything, changes are coming, and they aren’t likely going to be pleasant. It is a small operation, and they don’t have a lot of reserves to fall back on. Lately it has become evident, at least through the company grapevine, that making payroll every month is getting more and more difficult for the owner.

Now my friend’s girlfriend has a side business that she has been secretly cultivating for a few months, and she is almost at the point where the income from her side business is the same as her salary. So she has the luxury of being an observer without running around trying to protect her livelihood in any way possible. And she has noticed some startling, or perhaps not so startling things about her coworkers.

She said they basically fall into two different categories. The first category are the people that have faith in their abilities and skills to find employment elsewhere if need be. Then there are those that seem to be getting more and more terrified as the days go by. These people have been working for this small company for a long time, and don’t know how they will survive if the company has to start letting people go, and they are one of the people.

An interesting paradox is that the people that seem to be most relaxed and confident in their skills seem to be doing the most to try and help the company stay afloat. They are the ones putting in extra hours, trying to come up with creative solutions to generate more business and income. The ones that seem to have the least amount to lose if the company goes under seem to be the ones that are trying their best to keep it going.

The second group, on the other hand, is doing the opposite. They seem to have the most to lose if the company goes down. And paradoxically, their behavior more on pure self-preservation rather than trying to help out the company. They seem to be more worried about positioning themselves so they aren’t the ones that get laid off. And she says they are doing so in really underhanded, and less than professional ways. Backstabbing, gossiping, spreading rumors that are not true, banding together to smear the reputation of others. Their behavior seems to be making the problem worse.

I remember reading a book about human behavior many years ago. There are things called paradoxical problems that pop up frequently in the human experience. As we move through life, we encounter all kinds of problems, in various forms and levels of severity. How we deal with the problems that come up can define our lives and how much pleasure we can experience. Usually we come up with familiar problems that we’ve overcome before, so they can be a valuable learning opportunity to foster growth and the development of useful skills.

Other times, however, we encounter problems, and for whatever reason, our best response to the problem, one that we think we help, actually makes the problem worse. And the more we try and solve the problem, the worse it gets directly as a result of our actions. And of course we respond with more of the same, which makes the problem even bigger.

Of course, we rarely realize the problem is getting bigger because of our actions. We usually blame some other, seemingly external cause. Our situation, the behavior of other people, some general state of society, likes the economy or whatever. These paradoxical problems will persist until we “step out” of ourselves and view our behavior and the problem as if we are completely on the outside looking in.

The method described in this book explained how to do this. You need to figure out your objective, take some action, then step back and judge your actions from a third party perspective and see if they effected the situation in the direction that you wanted. Then adjust accordingly, until the problem is overcome.

The reason this can seem difficult is many times our response to situations are unconscious, and we really aren’t aware of what we are doing. For example, if you wanted to lose weight, and you decided to try a new diet. Through sheer will power you kept on the diet for a couple weeks, but then gave up.

After giving up, you felt dejected and depressed, and you turned to the one thing that usually gives you comfort. Food. This of course makes the problem worse. You’d likely keep it up until you decided to diet again, and of course the same thing happens.

The solution is to decide upon a clear objective. Losing weight is kind of vague; it will help to be more specific. How about losing while enjoying the benefits of good food? That might be easier. So next time you try a diet, you’d step back periodically and ask yourself if you are meeting all the criteria of your objective. Are you losing weight? Are you enjoying the food you eat? If both answers are yes, then you’d likely continue your diet, and you wouldn’t fall of the wagon, and get dejected.

If you were losing weight, but weren’t enjoying the food, then you’d simply adjust to a different diet plan, until you found one that satisfied both requirements.

By doing this, you’ll learn a valuable lesson about yourself. You are much more resourceful than you think, and you can overcome any obstacle you come up against, providing you look at it with the right mindset.

Are You A Leader Of Your Life? Or A Passive Follower?

How To Become a Relentless Heat Seeking Missile

One of the best ways to improve your communication skills with other people is to create a solid set of underlying objectives. Most people float through life with only a vague desire to avoid as much pain and discomfort as possible, and this comes across in their communication. They come across protective of their egos and hesitant to speak their true feelings for fear of rejection and ridicule.

Of course this can be a hard thing to overcome. We have been trained since we were children that it is dangerous to speak our minds. At first, everybody loved us. Every single thing we did was cute and adorable. But then once we hit two or three, we became sometimes cute, and sometimes a nuisance. And the times we were a nuisance, we were told through several different and subconscious channels of communication.

It’s not wonder then that public speaking is the biggest fear in America today. We have been so programmed to be uncertain of any response to our expression that we more often than not live under the illusion that it is safer to just be quiet and as expressionless as possible.

However, the great paradox of communication is that while we crave somebody that will give us inspiration and direction, the best solution is to simply be that person to others. Most people are sitting around waiting for somebody else to go first and lead the way. Most people don’t consider the idea that it is just as easy and natural to lead, as it is to follow.

One of the ways to do this is to simply choose a few things that you’d like to create in life. The more you focus on these, the more they will start to present themselves through your various interactions with people.

The sad fact is that most people don’t have any goals in life to speak of, other than the ones that were given to them by society. Get a decent job, get a family, put in an honest days work every day. Be a good model citizen and don’t cause any problems.

If that is what you truly want, then I’m all for it. Those that are the happiest in their jobs and relationships have actually taken the time to ensure it really is their choice to live that particular life. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that more and more people seem to be drifting along through life half asleep, hoping the general expectations laid down by the collective society will be enough to give them happiness. Often times it is not.

One way to get started is to sit down and think about the things in your life that really like, and the things you don’t like. Make a plan to increase the amount of things you like, and decrease the things you don’t like. Most people, obviously, have a pretty good idea of what they like and what they don’t like. Very few have taken the time to formulate a plan to get more of the good stuff, and less of the bad stuff.

Most people drift through life hoping that more good stuff will magically appear, and the bad stuff will be taken away by some benevolent god or government.

When you develop a solid plan, and start to focus on achieving it, your daily interactions with people will magically transform. You will be seen as somebody who has a clear objective in life. Somebody that knows what they want. Somebody to be respected.

This has a strange, perhaps metaphysical way of coming through in your daily conversations. Perhaps due to the large amount of communication that takes place below conscious awareness, people can pick up on the fact that you are on a mission of your own choosing rather than shuffling to the collective beat of society.

How do you get there? Pick a few major goals you’d like to achieve in a years time. Get really specific. Every day, focus on one of your goals. Spend a few minutes imagining it and making it truly compelling. Focus on each day with something, anything you can do to get you closer. Spend a few minutes every night mentally reviewing your day and highlighting any efforts you made in the direction of your goal.

Man is a nomadic creature, designed through evolution, or God, or Mother Nature, to be a seeker, not a follower. Man was designed to find a point far, far off in the distance, and to relentlessly pursue it. We were not designed, nor do we come close to our potential, by keeping our head down and obediently shuffling along.

Find that point off in the distance, whatever it is. Make it real. Visualize it. Pursue it. Achieve it.

And let nothing, no man, no woman, no institution of society stop you.

Who is Chasing Whom?

The other day I was sitting in the lobby of a movie theater. I had messed up when I checked the times on the Internet, so when I got there I had about an hour to kill before the movie started. Because I had expected to get there just before the movie was about to start, and I had planned to come home directly afterwards, I didn’t bring a book or anything else to work on in the meantime.

Usually when I see movie, I usually plan it so that I miss the opening trailers. Depending on how many there are, they can take up to ten minutes. And I don’t know about you, but I love popcorn. Especially movie popcorn. And it if I go into the theater before the trailers even start, it takes an extraordinary amount of willpower to NOT eat the popcorn during the trailers.

This time however, I was very early. The theater had several tables set up in the lobby, supposedly for idiots like me who can’t read an Internet movie timetable correctly. So I decided to watch people, which is something I sometimes like to do. People are interesting because they can be like a moving, walking breathing mirror into your soul. Like those ink blot tests, where you look at a smudge of ink and say whether it looks like a butterfly or a blender full of screaming babies, based your level of psychological depravity.

People can work the same way. If you are having a bad day, and you got into a big fight with your girlfriend or boyfriend on the way to the “insufficient funds” flashing ATM, you’d likely not see too many happy, smiling carefree people. You’d likely only spot the people that match your mood. And if you did see happy people that seemed to be enjoying life, you’d like wonder what was wrong with them.

On the flip side, if you just finished an hour-long sexual marathon filled with several orgasms, and forgot about that ten thousand dollar bonus that was direct deposited into your account, you’d likely see a world filled with happiness and pleasure. Any smiling people you saw would likely make you even happier, as they were validating your current viewpoint. Those sourpusses you ran into would likely receive your sympathy and compassion.

So there I was, sitting there, watching people. I was in a fairly neutral mood, not extraordinary happy, nor manic-depressive, so I was able to watch people with kind of an objective curiosity.

One thing that struck me was how obvious it appeared to see how some couples were happy together, and some seemed to be going through the motions. Even watching how some people were holding hands was interesting. There was usually one partner that was more invested in the holding of the hands than the other partner. One partner was doing most of the holding, and the other partner was simply offering their hand to be held.

And the partner doing most of the holding seemed to be a bit apprehensive and uncertain, while the partner merely offering their hand looked a bit bored.

It reminded me of a scene in the latest M. Night Shyamalan move “Happening,” where a couple was sitting at a dinner table with a strange old lady. After a few moments of observation, she asked the couple who was chasing whom. When they looked at her questioningly, she explained that in all relationships, one person is always doing the chasing, and one person is doing the attracting.

It seemed clear from just watching how couples were holding hands who was chasing whom, and who was being chased. Sometimes people like to be chased, and do specific things to entice the chaser. Other times the person being chased gets bored, and wishes the chaser would go and chase somebody else.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in both situations. I’ve chased, and I’ve been chased. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Chasing is fantastic if you feel you have a good chance of catching your prey. Being chased is wonderful if you really want to be caught.

But chasing something or someone you know on some level that you can never catch is really depressing. And being chased relentlessly by someone you wish would go away is sometimes even worse.

Sometimes there is much fun to be had in just the chase, because once you catch your prey, you realize that chasing was more fun.

I did see a few couples that seemed to be equally into each other. I suppose they were chasing each other, and caught each other, and then decided to chase something together.

Embedded Commands for Powerful Persuasion

One powerful tool that you can use in your toolkit of persuasion and influence is the embedded command. An embedded command is likely the most popular, easiest to learn, hardest to detect (and therefore one of the most powerful) ways to influence others.

They do take some time to learn, but once you have them down, you’ll notice that you are using them in your everyday speech. When you combine an unconscious skill of embedded commands with a strong win/win intention or outcome, you can be a powerfully unstoppable and charismatic force.

It’s no secret that most people would rather rally around a strong, charismatic leader than step up the plate themselves. Humans are designed to follow one leader in every group of people. Many studies of psychology and sociology have been done that illustrate this simple point. If you’ve every been in a business meeting, you know that most people would happily submit to a powerful, authoritative leader than take responsibility for themselves.

When you develop the use of embedded commands, you will be tapping into peoples deep evolutionarily based need to follow directions, and become incredibly influential. And the great thing is that they are very simple to use and apply.

First, take a short sentence, which is in the imperative form. A short command. Some examples.

Eat sushi.
Drink CC Lemon.
Watch Television
Add water.
Buy my product.
The structure is the first word is a verb in its basic present tense form. Then you have two or three words after it, that go along with the verb.

Next, you need to say them with the right tonality. Pretend you have your own personal robot. They will do everything you ask, and their feelings won’t get hurt. Say each of the above sentences with a slight downward tonality.

Ok? Ok. Next, take the above small snippets of speech, and put them into a larger sentence. This is where it gets tricky. You’ll need to say the command part a little bit different from the rest of the sentence. But make sure not to linger too long when you say the command, otherwise the people you are talking to will know that something is up. Pause just a little bit before the command, and a little bit afterwards, and then continue on with your sentence as if nothing happened.

This way, even if the person you are speaking with suspects something is up, by continuing on as if nothing happened, they’ll quickly forget their suspicions. Even if they notice something is up, they likely won’t know exactly what it is (other than maybe, you are talking funny, but this rarely happens.)

For example, let say you want to convince your girlfriend to eat sushi. You could try looking at her like Rasputin, and say EAT SUSHI! But she’ll likely think you are a nutcase. Or you could say something like this:

The other day, I was listening to this doctor on a radio talk show. He was discussing a study about people who eat sushi, and how they are healthier. He says that when you eat sushi, you get lots of good monounsaturated fats, and people that eat sushi on a regular basis tend to live longer. Hey, I’m getting kind of hungry by the way; do you want to get something to eat?

I remember when I was a kid; I went to some amusement park. In the amusement park they had this animal show, where they had a dog and a cat do a bunch of tricks. They had a sort of joke trick, where they would pull a kid out of the audience, and the trainer would tell him to whisper an article of clothing in the dog’s ear, and then he would go and get it.

Every time they kid would whisper women’s underwear, and the dog would come back with a bra, and you could hear a woman scream from backstage. They called me up on stage, and sure enough, I chose to whisper in the dog’s ear a woman’s bra. I thought it was my own choice to choose a woman’s bra, but my brother later explained what was up.

He would describe all the things I could choose, but he always used embedded commands (although at the time I had no idea what they were) when he mentioned to “choose a woman’s bra,” so inevitable, all the kids that went up on stage would choose that. And that was the only thing the dog was trained to go and get from back stage. It was a pretty good way to set up an easy trick.

These are great to use over the phone if you are in sales, or are talking to your girlfriend or boyfriend. They are particularly powerful if you start with a command that is easy to accept, and slowly lead to a more powerful command that you’d like your listener to perform.

For example

Become interested.
Get curious.
Get excited about this.
Want this.
Make a decision
Get this.
Buy this.
Do this.
Choose now.
Be happy.
Share with your friends.

Whatever it is you are talking about, if you start slow, and work your way up to a big finish, this can be very powerful. At first you’ll have to think these through before you deliver them, but after a while (with practice) you’ll be able to choose a destination and then automatically give people easy steps to get there by following your commands.

Of course, like any other powerful persuasion techniques, these should be used with caution. The quickest way to make a bad name for yourself is to convince somebody to commit money or emotions to something that isn’t in their best interests. The reasons powerful leaders are so powerful, and that people trust them is because they truly have the people’s interest at heart. You don’t have to look back through history to find reviled, hated and despised dictator that took advantage of their leadership.

When you use these ethically, they can be a lot of fun, and make a lot of people (including yourself) very happy.

Social Proof and Authority – Powerfully Persuasive, Or Horribly Evil?

Two of the most powerful and effective means of persuasion are social proof and authority. Social proof and authority are responsible or some of the greatest marketing stories of all time and some of the most horrible acts of cruelty perpetrated by societies led by evil and charismatic leaders.

Due to hundreds of thousand of years of evolution, the human brain has developed several “short cuts” in thinking. If you were a caveman living a hundred thousand years ago, it wouldn’t have served you very well to sit back and contemplate all your options when your whole tribe was on the move. Those that had a compulsion to follow the crowd generally lived long enough to reproduce, and pass on this compulsion to their offspring. Rebels didn’t.

Despite our tendency to fancy ourselves as independent thinkers and individuals, we are very strongly influenced by group thinking. Fashion, movies, bestsellers, product endorsements all make it much easier for us to make decisions. Our modern thinking brains are the same brains that kept us alive and thriving on the plains of Africa for hundreds of thousands of years, and they still operate on the same principles, despite what modern science may try and lead us to believe.

The other factor, authority, is as equally as powerful, for the same reason. Most ancient tribes had a single leader, or small group of leaders. When they made a decision, you followed it, or you were banished or shunned by the tribe. Those that had the compulsion to follow orders from those that had demonstrable authority usually did better than the rebels.

The most famous experiment that demonstrated this was one you’ve likely heard of if you’ve studied psychology. Researchers set up an experiment where they would ask a test subject questions, and then have another test subject give him an electric shock if he got the answer wrong. (This test was performed several years ago. Today if any scientist even proposed such an experiment he would be shunned from the scientific community.) The inside scoop of the experiment was that the leader, dressed in a doctors white coat, and the person receiving the “shocks” were both in on the experiment. No actual shocks were given, and the receiver only pretended to be in pain.

The person giving the shocks, however, didn’t know this. The test was to determine just how far they’d go in listening to an “authority” figure. Much to the horror of the testers, the test subjects (the people giving what they thought were real electric shocks) went much further than anybody expected.

A huge percentage of the test subjects continued to give “shocks” despite the receiver begging them to stop. Only a small percentage refused to do so. At one point, the receiver even pretended to be having heart difficulties. Even so, shocks were still obediently delivered.

If the shocks had actually been real, and not pretend, the voltages would have been enough to kill the test subjects.

Let’s recap, just so you understand the significance. Normal, everyday people, just like you and me, were persuaded to give a potentially lethal electrical shock to a complete stranger, despite his pleadings against it, simply on the word of an authority figure.

The test designers were so horrified by the results, they made sure an experiment of this nature was never performed again.

When you combine social proof, described above, and authority, you get a persuasive message that is virtually impossible to resist. Cult leaders, dictators, and unscrupulous marketers have known this, and have used this.

Jim Jones persuaded people, mothers with their children, to kill themselves. Adolf Hitler persuaded a whole country to willingly murder six million Jews.

These two can be used together to persuade people powerfully. If you are a salesperson, or somebody that persuades others for a living, these two tools can be extremely useful, if used ethically.

When you persuade using these to influence factors in a win-win situation, you will be unstoppable. You can make more money, and attract more lovers than you ever thought possible.

However, be careful. Just the slightest bit of unethical behavior can quickly turn against you. If you use these two techniques to persuade or manipulate people against their best interests, you will soon find yourself as hated as Adolf Hitler.

Be careful.

Divide Your Differences to Combine Your Resources

Once upon a time there were two communities of rabbits. They had lived near each other for a few generations, and they had a truce that had not been broken for several years. A truce because they had a long history of fighting behind. They lived on two separate sides of a small river. The river was large enough that it supplied both of them with water that they needed to live, but not big enough to keep them for crossing when the level was low.

On the east side of the river, there was an abundance of blueberries. Both rabbits loved blueberries. One the west side of the river was a huge crop of naturally growing lettuce. Rabbits love lettuce. Before the truce, each side would war agains the other side to try and take all they could before crossing back safely into their own territory. Every time this happened, there were many deaths. Finally they agreed that they would only send a team of six rabbits across, at the same time, but only when the river was low enough to cross, and only for a total of four hours. And most importantly, only at the same time.

Every time the river receded, two teams would gather one each side. One team, containing the six rabbits that would go and collect the food, and another, much larger team that would observe the “visiting” group to ensure they didn’t take more than they were allowed. After the allotted four hours, they would meet and ensure that each team had taken an equal share. They both agreed that this was the best method, but deep down they would love nothing more to destroy the other side’s community completely, and take all the resources for themselves.

Then one day, as they were gathered along the shores of the lowered river, preparing for their respective incursions, there was a huge, and long earthquake. The ground shook for what seemed like hours, and the distant mountains trembled, causing huge boulders to tumble down the mountainside. When the earthquake was over, they were shocked to see the river had completely change course. Not only had it completely changed course, it was nowhere to be seen. Both teams of rabbits immediately squared off, unsure of what to do. They were both terrified and excited at the same time. Each side saw this as a clear opportunity to demolish the other side once and for all, and take all the resources for themselves.

Finally, cooler heads prevailed, as they realized they had a much more pressing and potentially devastating problem. There was no water. Without any water they would surely die. They decided to form a survey team, a team that would go out in search of water. The two teams went back to their respective councils to choose team members. They smartest from each tribe were selected, and they met at the site of the old river. They agreed to share whatever they found, the threat of their mutual extinction overshadowing any hatred that they used to have.

The team set off. They searched for days, until they made a startling discovery. The river had split in two, about four miles upstream. The river had forked, running down the valley, encompassing an area containing both rabbit tribes.
At first the two tribes were perplexed. How would they manage? They survey team continued to search all the area between two rivers, which now contained both rabbit tribes, instead of separating them. They determined that not only was there an abundance of lettuce and blueberries, but there were various patches scattered all through their new mutual home. The two councils decided to merge into one, much larger council, and the rabbits quickly found that by combining their efforts, they could easily build a better community. After a time, they began to celebrate the day of the earthquake, as a time that split not only the river, but also their differences, and joined the two tribes into a powerful and abundant community.

They are Waiting for Your Ideas

I was in this bar the other night, hanging out with some friends. My friends left, but there was an interesting match on TV, so I decided to stay and see how it turned out. I didn’t even know that team was playing but that quickly turned into one of the more important things that night. As I was watching the game, I couldn’t help but notice all the other people that were paying really close attention to this. Most people could find this very fascinating. Of course, the game eventually ended, and everybody’s interest quickly fractionated into various splinters of interests. I started talking to a guy that I happened to be sitting next to at the bar. Funny that I didn’t notice him before.

We started talking about various things, sports, work, etc. He started telling me about his friend whose roommate just got this massive promotion at work. Massive promotions are pretty good when you can come across things like this. What had happened was this guy used to be a production worker in a factory that produced highly technical products that are used in various high-end electronics. Because of the nature of the work, and the small degree of error tolerances allowed in the manufacturing process, the work was sometimes a bit anxiety causing. One the one hand they had extremely tight technical specifications inside which they had to build a certain amount of products. On the other hand they had very important production thresholds they had to achieve on a consistent basis in order for the company to remain profitable. It was a business that had a very slim profit margin. And in today’s economy, I’m sure you can appreciate how important something like this is.

This guy had been working there for a while, and the management was a bit interesting. The production facility itself used to be part of another company, and they produced elements of a similar product. Then they initial company split up into different smaller groups, to try and maintain their profit, and the production factory was sold off completely to yet another company. Because the production process was very similar, the incoming management company didn’t change much.

While this didn’t present a problem to most of the workers, this guys friend had a bit of a problem. Just before the new management team took over, he had some ideas on how to promote the efficiency and consequently the profitability of the production line. He was just getting enough courage and confidence to suggest these to upper management when they made the change. At first he thought that he was just going to wait until things settled down, and then present these ideas to them. But then something interesting happened. Upper management just kept their hands off approach and was content to let the workers continue to produce, just like they had before. They didn’t have any meetings, or offer any insight or suggestions. It seemed to most of them that they were happy with the way things were. Which of course was fine for most people, because keeping things the way they were is very comforting to most people. Change is very scary to some. But this guys friend had an idea, and now he not only was unsure of whether or not his idea was going to be accepted, he wasn’t sure if his idea was even in line with what the new management team wanted to do. This was all very confusing. He had an idea, but wasn’t quite sure they would be open to hearing it.

For a while, this caused him some anxiety. He had all these ideas on how to make things better, but he didn’t know if he was supposed to voice them, or even if they would be accepted. He wasn’t content though, to keep things the way they were, because there’s no fun in that. He wanted to take things in a new direction, but the wanted to make sure that it was safe to suggest this new direction to management.

So after waiting several weeks, hemming and hawing, he finally thought to himself:
“You know what, what’s the worse that can happen? You have good ideas, you have an idea of what can make things better, if they don’t like your ideas, at least you will let them know that you want to make things better than they are. Because if one thing is certain in all this confusion, you can always improve things. And the more you improve things, the easier they become.”

So he finally strode into the management office, and whey they learned that he had some ideas of how to increase productivity, and therefore profits, they were all ears. What he thought was going to be a brief five or ten minute meeting turned into a three hour brainstorming session, with him at the controls. After the meeting, he got a good idea of where they wanted to take the company, and then gave some very good ideas on how they could easily get there. Soon he was promoted to a manager position, with his salary almost doubled. Now he is the new managing director of manufacturing engineering and design, something pretty good for a guy with only a high school education. And because of his ideas, the company is now extremely profitable, and they seek this guys opinions on all major decisions that upper management makes. Pretty good if you ask me.

How Can You Free Your Mind For Democracy?

The other day I was sitting at a restaurant reading a book. It’s something I do quite often. I usually go around two or so in the afternoon, as I like to avoid the rush. I usually sit at my table for at least an hour, and read whatever it is I brought to read. Sometimes I bring a notebook and a pen and just write whatever comes to mind as I’m sitting there. One of the reasons I usually go in the afternoon is because I feel a little uncomfortable taking up a big table for a long time when the restaurant is really crowded. I can’t really justify the meager profit the shop is making off of my one lunch special for the hour or so I sit there when there are plenty of other people waiting to use the space more profitably.

Some restaurants close around three, which is just perfect. By the time roll in there the restaurant is nearly empty. Which gives me ample time to relax, and sometimes get to know the waitresses. I’ve made several friendships this way.

But the other day was different, as there were two businessmen in the restaurant. I don’t really know if they were businessmen, but they were dressed in really nice suits and it was an off lunch hour, and neither one of them seemed to be in a hurry to leave. I don’t think I saw either of them look at their watch once the whole time I was there. Maybe they were salesmen or politicians. Whoever they were, they started having a fairly heated discussion, one that I couldn’t help but overhear. Much as I tried to read my book on metaphysics, I couldn’t help but to watch as my concentration drifted on its own over to their conversation.

They seemed to be arguing over the merits of the merits of the American political system. One guy seemed to have the idea that it would be better to get rid of congress altogether and install a pure democracy, where everybody voted for every single issue. His main point seemed to be that with the Internet, everybody has access to enough information to make an informed decision. He explained that the system we have now was devised over two hundred years ago when fewer people were educated, and had very little access to information. It made sense to elect representatives to vote for a large number of people on certain issues. But he argued that today, everybody can read about the issues, and read pros and cons for each decision, and then vote accordingly. He argue that of course people would have to pass a tests on a regular basis, even before each vote to demonstrate that they had sufficient knowledge to be able to have their vote counted.

The other guy thought this was absolute nonsense. He was saying that the current American system of government is the best on ever created, and that to change it would lead to certain disaster for the country. He likened government by majority rule to no better than being ruled by an emotional despot. He argued that crowds can be too easily swayed one direction or the other, and that giving people the controls would be tantamount to anarchy.

Then their argument kind of shifted into the old “is man better free or ruled” argument. One side argued that most people are incapable of ruling their own lives, and must have a rigid set of guidelines to govern their thoughts and behaviors. Like humans will turn into “Lord of the Flies” if we are left too long on our own without any form of rules and enforcement of those rules. The other guy seemed to claim that the rules were really only for the small minority of lawbreakers, and not for most law-abiding citizens like you or me. (Even though I’m pretty sure this guy has never met you or me.)

Personally, I’m not so sure what side I fall on, but I don’t think government rule by a pure majority is a good idea. I just see too many problems with it. I also feel that one person making a decision for a bunch of other people on a regular basis has its drawbacks as well. I suppose the current system that we have is OK, as long as people don’t abuse their power. Which I suppose is the way our system is now. It would be nice, though, to make our representatives more responsible to the people they are supposedly representing. I suppose that falls on the shoulders of the represented. It’s up to us to kick them out of power if they misbehave.

It was an interesting conversation, one of those things that come along when you are least expecting it. It’s amazing what happens when you open up your mind to the opinion of others.

Break with Tradition and Choose Your Own Bliss

Once upon a time there was a young peacock, named Roberto. He was a happy peacock, he got enough food, and he had enough friends to play with. One of his favorite games to play with his friends was go see how close they could get to the alligators before running away. Because peacocks can’t fly, it was extremely fun to have to scurry quickly away before getting eaten by the alligator. They didn’t know anybody that had actually been eaten by the alligators, but they all heard of a friend of a next-door neighbors cousin that had tripped while running away, and had never been seen or heard from again. Perhaps this was just a story, or maybe there is some truth to this. Either way they were able to use this to have fun while playing and running away from the alligators.

Lately, though, the young peacocks were talking about a great big meeting of the adult peacocks. Apparently the men and the women would go and meet in a special place, and they would do some kind of secret adult peacock ritual thing, like church or something. The young peacocks didn’t really know what it was all about. And they were too scared to ask the peahens, because well, everybody knows that peacocks and peahens don’t hang out together. It just isn’t cool.

That’s when the rumors started. They said that when young peacocks turn into adults, their feathers change colors. And depending on how much their feathers change, they will become really popular, or not so popular, depending on the color. This caused a great deal of confusion among the young peacocks. Weren’t they already popular? Why did your feathers have anything to do with whether people liked you or not? Pretty soon the two groups, the young peacocks and the young peahens would gather. The peacocks were certain that the peahens were talking about them. They were always whispering and pointing and giggling.

Then one horrible day, young Roberto learned the terrible truth. His father took him aside, and told him how things really were.

“Son, some day you are going to grow some extra feathers. And if you grow really good feathers, you will be popular.”
Roberto gulped, too afraid to ask what would happen if he didn’t grow “really good feathers,” whatever that meant.
His father seemed to sense his apprehension.
“Don’t worry son, you’ll be fine. My father had good feathers, his father had good feathers, and my feathers aren’t too shabby. You’ll be allright.”
Young Roberto, however, wasn’t convinced.
“But what happens if I don’t?”
His father only stood, and walked away.

Three weeks later, Roberto noticed that his feathers were indeed changing. He rushed to meet his friends, some of them also had changing feathers, and some didn’t. They were all confused, and scared. The peahens continued to gather and giggle and point. With every passing day, Roberto and his friends grew more and more anxious. Then one night, he got up the courage to speak with his father.

“Why do they only care about feathers? Isn’t anything else important?” Roberto asked.
His father scratched his head.
“I don’t know son, that’s the way it’s always been.”
“But does it have to be that way?” Robert asked, sensing that his father didn’t have the answers he was looking for.
“I think it does. That’s the way it has always been.” He answered, sounding unsure of himself.
Roberto wasn’t convinced. At all.

The next day he decided to try something different. He gathered his friends, and his courage. He stood up to speak to them.

“Just because everybody before has only cared about feathers, doesn’t mean it has to be that way. You are more than your feathers. It doesn’t matter if your feathers are blue, or green, or the same stupid color as they are now. Who you are on the inside is more important. Your ideas and dreams and goals are what are important. If somebody thinks you are popular only because of your feathers, that’s their problem.”

The crowd of young peacocks was joined, for the first time, by a few brave peahens.

“You mean we can choose on something besides feathers?” A peahen asked.
“Yes!” Roberto answered, the crowd starting to cheer him.
“You can choose based on whatever you want! You don’t have to choose based only on what people before you chose!” The crowd cheered again, the young peahens now mingling with all the young peacocks. They mingled and talked and explored each other’s personalities. Everybody was happy. Everybody was popular, in their own way.

The adult peacocks watched in interest, as the young peacocks and peahens broke with tradition to their own delight and happiness.

“Can they do that?” One older peacock with large, fading red feathers asked.
“I guess they can.” Said another, with a dull set of yellow and oranges feathers, and a large grin on his face.
“I guess they can do whatever they want.” He added.

And from that day on, peacock feathers became only an interesting footnote in peacock history.