Connections and systems

One of the main abilities we must develop is being able to connect things together. We must be able to do that to form systems. A system is a set of interacting or independent component parts forming a complex or intricate whole. Everything in existence is made up of parts joining together to form a whole, that whole is then just another part of an even bigger whole. Therefore, in all areas of our life we should make links to interconnect separate parts to form systems.

A causal system is when A→B. If you manipulate A you change B.

Causal systems aren’t good ways of thinking because they are massive simplifications and don’t account for inter-connectedness and feedback loops. Causal systems are created by reductionism which break systems down and simplify then by artificially restricting components to make observable repeatable experiences.

Holistic thinking is the opposite of causal thinking because it concerns itself with concentrating on the wholes rather than just the parts. The problem with holistic thinking is how do you determine the whole. Holistic thinking starts by looking at the behaviour and nature of the whole, and if it doesn’t yield results, starts to look at the bigger whole. This is the opposite of causal thinking. The problem with holistic thinking is that our brains simplify wholes so that we can understand them. The way our brain simplifies these wholes are determined by our perspectives and worldview.

  1. Therefore, we must be clear and explicit about our own point of view.
  2. We must make a serious effort to see systems through other people’s eyes.
  3. We can also look for unintended consequences of systems by looking at everything the system produces and assume an unintended consequence is its purpose.

Our perspective refers to how things look from our current position and our worldview refers to how we see the world, regardless of our current position. Therefore, it is possible to gain additional perspectives, but harder to change our worldview. To simplify a system without reducing the connectedness involves regarding it in a more abstract fashion. We must then bring the system back to reality again, potentially using reductionism. We must first identify the boundary which separates the system from its environment and then seek to understand how individual components look from within the system.

 

 

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Lessons from Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of my biggest inspirations, why? Because he  achieved almost everything he set out to achieve.

  • He was born in a small Austrian town in a year of famine at the end of World War II. He grew up in a small house with no shower, no plumbing, and no flushing toilet, just a chamber pot, with the nearest well a quarter of a mile away.
  • By the age of twenty-one, he was living in Los Angeles and had been crowned Mr. Universe.
  • Within five years, he had learned English and was the greatest bodybuilder in the world.
  • Within ten years, he had earned a college degree and was a millionaire.
  • Within twenty years, he was the world’s biggest movie star and husband of Maria Shriver (member of one of the most prestigious families in America).
  • Within thirty-six years of moving to Los Angeles, he was elected Governor of California.

Clearly Schwarzenegger is someone everyone can learn from. He achieved extremely high levels of success in three different fields: bodybuilding, movies, and politics. Thankfully, over his life, Schwarzenegger has distilled some of the lessons he’s learnt.

  • Turn you liabilities into assets – Arnold had an unusual name, body and accent, for many that would have been a barrier, but in the end, when Arnold broke through, all three made him memorable.
  • When someone says no, you should hear yes – very few things are actually impossible to achieve. You should place trust in yourself, the only way to achieve the impossible is to try the impossible. If you fail, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter.
  • Never follow the crowd, go where it is empty – most people are very unambitious, if you try to reach the top, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to get there because most people only concentrate on low level activities. It’s always easier to stand out when you aim straight for the top.
  • No matter what you do in life, selling is part of it – you have to make people aware of what you are doing.

Like most successful people, Schwarzenegger has met many successful people in his life and he has learnt lessons from them. Below is a list of ten lessons he has distilled from his experiences and that of others.

  1. Never let pride get in your way.
  2. Don’t overthink – it slows you down, trust in yourself.
  3. Forgot plan B – don’t compromise, if you fail it doesn’t matter.
  4. You can use outrageous humour to settle a score – humour is surprisingly effective at resolving situations.
  5. The day has twenty-four hours – don’t waste your time, you have to stay busy to achieve a lot.
  6. Reps, reps, reps – consistent repetition is the only way to get good at anything.
  7. Don’t blame your parents – a harsh upbringing can make you become more ambitious, take responsibility for your life.
  8. Change takes big balls – act in the face of fear, make changes which will achieve long-term results.
  9. Take care of your body and mind – all you have is your body and brain, therefore invest in yourself to strengthen both.
  10. Stay hungry – keep moving forward, when you achieve something, start working towards something else immediately, only look back on your accomplishments with pride when you are nearing death.

Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker was considered an expert on management education and is this book he focused on how individuals should manage themselves, so that they can contribute the most.

Main takeaways

Place yourself in a position where you can make the greatest contribution, learn to develop yourself, learn to stay young and mentally alive during a long working life. Learn how and when to change what you do.

Consider these five areas.

  1. Who am I? What are my strengths? How do I work?
  2. Where do I belong?
  3. What is my contribution?
  4. Am I taking responsibility for my relationships?
  5. What’s the plan for the second half of my life?

1 – What are my strengths?

Most people don’t actually know there own strengths. There is only one way to truly work out your strengths, and that is through feedback analysis. When you make a key decision, and when you do a key action, write down your expectations and then 9 to 12 months later compare the expectations to the results. After 2 or 3 years of repeating this process, you should be able to determine your strengths. From those conclusions:

  • Concentrate on your strengths – put yourself in positions where you can use strengths to produce results.
  • Identify gaps in your skills and knowledge.
  • Work on improving your strengths.
  • Identify your bad habits.
  • Identify what actions produce no results and thus what to avoid doing.

How do you learn?

Do you learn better through reading or by listening? – it will usually be one or the other.

Do you learn better by writing notes, by doing, by hearing yourself, by teaching others, on your own or with others? Do you work well with stress or do you need a structured, organised environment? Do you produce results as a decision maker or adviser?

Once you determine how you learn best, don’t try to change the way you learn, but focus hard on how you can improve your results.

What are your values?

To determine your values use the mirror test. – Ask yourself, what kind of person do you want to see when you shave yourself, or put lipstick on in the morning?

If you are in a job or situation which doesn’t align with your values, you must quit. Values are and should be the ultimate test.

2 – Where do I belong?

Answering the three questions above should tell you where you should belong. Prepare yourself for opportunities by placing yourself in positions which align with your strengths, how you learn, and your values. For knowing where you belong can turn ordinary, hard working people into outstanding performers.

3 – What is your contribution?

You should ask yourself – What should my contribution be? To help answer that question, consider where and how you can have results that make a difference. Results should be hard to achieve, but realistic. Also, the results should be meaningful, they should be visible, and, if possible, measurable.

Only when you have determined what your contribution should be, ask yourself: Does this fit my strengths? Is this what I want to do? Do I find this rewarding and stimulating?

Your contribution balances three elements –

  1. What does the situation require?
  2. How do I make the greatest contribution, with my strengths, my way of performing, my values, to what needs to be done?
  3. What results have to be achieved to make a difference?

This then leads to creating action conclusions: what to do, where to start, how to start, what goals and deadlines to set. Once you have decided what your contribution should be, you have freedom because you now have responsibility.

4 – Relationship responsibility

In life, it is very likely you are going to have to work with others, therefore you have to accept everyone is an individual just like yourself. This means other people have different strengths, ways of doing things, values, and contributions. To be effective, you should learn and cater yourself to other people’s differences.

The second thing you should do, is take responsibility for communications.Determine who needs to know this? How should I tell them? Whom do I depend on? Whom depends on me?

5 – The second part of your life

Over time people get bored, deteriorate, “retire on the job” and become a burden to themselves and to everyone around them. When/if this point is reached, it may be important to consider what you should do.

There are three answers to this dilemma.

  1. Start a second or different career.
  2. Develop a parallel career – help out at a charity or sports club etc.
  3. Become a social entrepreneur – start a non-profit, write books, coach others etc.

There is one requirement for managing the second part of your life – begin creating it before you enter it.

Top 5 regrets of the dying

“There is no excuse for anyone who is not illiterate if he is less than three thousand years old in mind.”

The quote above suggests that there is no excuse not to learn from history, however, history tends to repeat itself, and that is largely due to people not learning from the mistakes of others. Below is a list of the top five regrets of the dying, complied by Australian nurse Bronnie Ware, who spent time caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their life.

If your too ignorant to learn from the mistakes of others, then you will likely  suffer the same fate.

1 – I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me – do the things you want to do, go for your dreams. 

2– I wish I hadn’t worked so hard – spend your time on what really matters, spend time with those you love. 

3 – I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings – don’t let chemicals in your brain prevent you expressing yourself. Suppression will lead to bitterness and resentment – illness then death. 

4 – I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends – dearly treasure those who mean something to you. 

5 – I wish that I had let myself be happier – realise when you get caught up in old routines and patterns, don’t let comfort shackle you, laugh, love, live. 

Just think what a shame it would be if you reach the end of your life and you realise you’ve got the same regrets. You don’t have to make mistakes to learn from them. 

Virtues?

Virtues are the intrinsic characteristics which determine the value one has. They are traits which propel one to excellence, they are the moral skeleton which character is built on. Throughout history, the importance of virtues have been reiterated, from ancient Egypt to Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, today it appears that virtue development has lost it voice in society. Children aren’t taught to show courage, loyalty, develop wisdom, and be frugal. But, as Baltasar Gracián said . . .

“Virtue links all perfections and is the centre of all happiness . . . Whilst someone is alive it makes them worthy of love, when dead, of being remembered.”

Therefore, to become a person worthy of admiration, it may be a good idea to actively try to add traits into your personality.

As everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, it is important to focus on the virtues which will help you the most. Below is a list of virtues which I wish to integrate into my character.

Courage – acting in the face of fear.

Connection – connect with others, connect ideas together, and find the connections in the world to gain a holistic view of reality. 

Curiosity – lifelong approach to learning and developing knowledge, skills, and wisdom. 

Calmness – keeping composure and remaining unreactive. 

Cheerfulness – being happy and making others happy. 

Trust in oneself – trusting myself to take action when I feel confident it’s the right thing to do.

Discipline – beat the resistance.  

Transcendence – recognise the big picture perspective and act in accordance.  

Cultivating Wisdom

In very simple terms, wisdom is applied knowledge. Cultivating wisdom consists of acquiring a broad base of knowledge, understanding how the world works, understanding how you work, knowing how to act, knowing when to act, knowing when not to act, and most importantly taking the right action.

Cultivating wisdom can’t be done overnight, it takes a literal  life time. The cultivation of wisdom is an everlasting process, a never ending feed-back loop of learning, rooting out ignorance, and developing  character.

 

Transcendence/Holism?

Forgive the pretensions of those two words, in regards to this blog, both words refer to the bigger picture perspective. The biggest picture perspective. You will die, life will pass very quickly, and probably the only meaning in life is that of which you attribute to it.

Therefore, instead of psychologically denying those ideas, using avoidance-based coping strategies, or just letting those ideas brush over your head, it’s important to really thoroughly recognise the reality. Meditate on the reality and stain it into your mind, so that you can transcend the insignificant minutiae of everyday life and focus on what’s really important.

Place your focus on what’s important, learn the big ideas, see through the illusions, and get out of your own way.