Practice makes you… Worse?!

We have all heard it – “practice makes perfect”. But does it?

A few years ago I decided to start playing a wonderful musical instrument called Shakuhachi – often also called Japanese Bamboo or Zen Flute. I found a teacher and started an amazing journey of learning far beyond what I had imagined. Since then I have learned so much more than just playing this beautiful instrument, I have learned about non-western composition, reading music in a completely foreign language and format, improved my pitch recognition, learned more about Zen, and refined my practice skills.

The most important factor enabling me to progress quickly was rigurous practice guided by a master. You are probably thinking that I stood barefoot in the snow for an hour every day for six years practicing just one single note, but I can not claim anything remotely this epic. By rigurous practice I mean that in spite of my clumsiness, my teacher always made sure that I was conscious of practicing the technique correctly. This was, is, and will always be challenging.

For everything we do there is a way of doing it that is easier, or comes more natural. We automatically tend to do this. So if we are not attentive, informed and willing to do it the right instead of the obvious way, we will simply become masters at doing things wrong.

So it is with everything that we do, the way we practice our life and business. We are all blessed with some of the worlds greatest instructors: from spiritual scriptures to more recent books from the likes of Emmerson, Napoleon Hill (one of my personal favourites), Lao-Tsu and Eckhart Tolle. The list is almost endless, but the lessons are remarkably consistent and simple. And it is not surprising that the people who put such advice to practice consistently out-succeed those who don’t.

Unless you can truthfully look yourself in the eyes (tip – use a mirror!) and can claim that without a shadow of doubt you have attained all the success that you have always aspired and imagined, then you must instead ask yourself what are you practicing? Have you become very good at doing the in-effective, the average or the easy? Have you refined skills of techniques that are known to yield poor results? Who is guiding you?

For the majority of the time, our practice makes us worse, and we all have been busy perfecting our mistakes. On top of this, history shows us that without some form of external accountability buddy, mentor or coach, we will continue to do so!.

To prevent this from happening, do these two things right now:

  • Review your practice of all activities that are not yielding the results you expected. Get ruthlessly honest with yourself. You can start this in your head – nobody else needs to know! But I recommend that you write a reminder note somewhere that you will see again.
  • Have the courage to ask for guidance. Find a trustworthy and credible teacher or master. Make a commitment to them so that they can help you.

Only the right practice can ever make you “perfect”.

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Start Pedaling – there is no such thing as balance!

For most of my life I have always sought to attain and live in a state of balance. For all my efforts, it still eludes me, and you may have found it elusive too.

Because there is no such thing as balance in its purest form. There is always change and movement.

The problem is that life is more like riding a bicycle: your level of control increases with your speed – (within reason of course, there is a range of optimal speeds!).
First of all, you need to move, you need to exert effort in order to advance.
And secondly, you need to have some idea where you are heading.
If either one of these is missing you will eventually succumb to gravity. This is not a matter of choice, it is only a matter of time.
In my two decades as a Architect, I have seen how entire associated industries have desperately attempted to stay in control while balancing in the same spot, at a terrible cost. While other industries have undergone profound transformations, we still do business like we did half a century ago. And unless we decide on a course, and begin pushing the pedals soon, there will be none left standing. It is only a matter of time.
And time is what we what we do no longer have much of. We must use our ability to solve complex problems, and solve our own problem quickly. We need to accept that we got it wrong, that we gave up pushing the pedals and are no longer moving forward.  We must now commit to rapid learning, and to a willingness to reinvent the profession completely. By that I do not mean we need to re-learn design, but instead to learn how to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world, to rediscover how our imagination can make a meaningful contribution.
Getting into motion will most likely hurt. There are no roads, not paradigms, no signposts, no case studies, no templates. It is our role to think up what is possible, what is desirable, and to bring that into being, for others to travel along safely. Standing still will almost certainly kill us.
Because when you are not moving, there is no such thing as balance.
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3 Ways Power Suppliers are self-destructing.

You open the familiarly branded envelope and uneasily extract the notice. You already know it will be bad news: It is a power bill.
You look at the amount, and feel a knot in your throat. Immediately you think of some scheduled purchases that you had planned for this month, and that you may now have to tell your partner that perhaps those must wait another month…

For some this may already sound familiar. For some it may become a familiar scene when the predicted 20% increase in electricity prices becomes real in a few months!

Rising electricity prices are a blessing in disguise. They cause three important things to happen, three forces that are fatal for the power retailers.

1. They raise the error margin for disruptive innovators. In simple terms they will not have to try so hard to be competitive. They can afford to be more expensive than even the current alternative, and still be in the race. This exponentially increases the chances of a disruptive innovation (or several) entering the market. Marginal ideas suddenly become commercially viable.

2. They create a massive pool of customers for these innovations and new products. Some people will simply not be able to afford to buy from the conventional suppliers, some will simply look for better options because those have become available.

3. The power retailers will be unable to respond fast enough. The higher prices will invariably be linked with quarterly and annual profitability obligations. Those figures will be eroded simultaneously by both the loss of market-share and by the probable need to lower prices.

What will these disruptive ideas look like? What happens to the grid? The imagination is the limit, and over the next few blogs I will explore some of these ideas.

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Who are you influencing?

What are you doing?

I mean that seriously, what are you doing? What is your influence, your cause?

So what is my point?  – First, some context:

The “forces” that are the most powerful influences on the future of our planetary ecological integrity are driven not by corporations, but by people. People who have forged a capacity to make and influence such decisions. They may deliver those decisions through corporate or political channels. But ultimately a person or group of people, driven by a conviction, and agenda and a value system, make a decision.

This authority to influence was established in the course of their lives.

The point is, we all have this capacity. We can move the same magnitude of ideas and of values in the direction of our conviction, of our agenda. And we have been given the same uncertain lifespan to do so. We influence daily. The  question is, are we nurturing the influences that we desire, or are we allowing ourselves to be swept along to another current, unwittingly donating our small part towards its strength and power? We find ourselves contemplating a very real possibility of a horrific future for us, but even more so for our children, heralded by the announcement of 400ppm of atmospheric CO2 this week.  The number may be academic, but its meaning is far from it.  The plain truth is that we have chosen to support the influence of people whose views we may never have agreed with in the first place.  We do so when we purchase products that come branded with an indelible stamp of collateral damage, in a faraway country.  We do so when we fail to build the visions that are in line with what we believe in in quiet moments alone. We do so when we consent to propositions because challenging them may cause us inconvenience, or cost us a friendship, or possibly a job.

We have the permission, in fact we have an obligation, to excercise this influence.
Now that you know, it is in your awareness, you can not afford to ignore your capacity, nor give it away with a clean conscience. The price is too high. This is your problem too.
Align yourself with people who believe what you believe.
Buy from them, work for them or with them, make them your clients, your customers, your allies.
Your voice, your influence will be multiplied.And one day, ten or so years from now, when your children ask what you did, you can proudly tell them that you did everything you could. 

And it made all the difference.

Why you should not care about the climate change debate.

As we pass the very unsettling milestone 400ppm of atmospheric CO2, more than ever the climate denialists are turning up the heat of their campaign. A completely irrelevant campaign. After all, that is not really the issue.

Sure, to argue that CO2 is not a problem is in essence saying that it is acceptable, necessary – and in fact unavoidable – to pollute, to squander non-renewable resources for short term gains, and deplete all our planetary ecosystems for our economy and business to prosper. An we don’t need to be scientists to understand how unethical and morally corrupt this point of view is.

The real issue is not climate change.

Climate change – whether it is happening or not, and whether you believe it is man made or not, – is simply a symptom. And it is only one of many.

The real issue is that we can not continue doing business as usual: we need a healthy ecosystem for our economy to exist, and for us as a species to exist. So besides the obvious ethical and moral hypocrisy embedded in pro-pollution arguments, we know that fossil fuels are a temporary source of energy and will – by choice or by force of nature – be phased out within our lifetimes. We know that waste and consumerism are phenomena with a limited lifespan, and will also change.

So ultimately, 400ppm or not, our current business and industry models are wrong, and by choice or by force they will undergo profound change within our lifetimes. To argue against this is as clever as the guy in that famous cartoon sawing the branch off on which he is sitting…

And the Enemy is…

A headline on a news site this morning declared that the Australian military is not doing enough to prevent climate change. Wow!

Sure, it became clear from the article itself that that was not what the journalist meant, but it also highlights their limited understanding.  And that highlights the point how poorly as a culture and community we are understanding the problem.

Let us hope for the sake of all 7.1 billion people that industry leaders and legislators don’t miss the rapidly closing opportunity for effective mitigation (it is too late for prevention) of the plethora of social, economic and ecosystemic problems that are looking increasingly likely. If we allow the situation to deteriorate to the point at which martial law becomes a necessity, or armed conflict over food, water or habitable locations is allowed to take place, then I seriously doubt that any long-term human evolutionary success story is likely.

We can not “fight” climate change, and if we have to fight each other over the left-overs then we have missed the point, and lost it all. The “enemy” is within us, embedded within our culture and practices. Lets instead work together in a rapid and wellness-driven push for replacing harmful business with good business.

Respect, unity and cooperation is the only way we can “do battle”, and win.

If you agree with this view, share it, make a comment. I’d live to hear your opinions on this.

How to change the future in 15 seconds.

Yes, you read right. 15 seconds and a few mouse clicks. Here is how:

Last week one of the most respected advocates for change in human activity posted a wonderfully optimistic article. You can read it here So my suggestion is  you can share it!

That is it!

There are a few other goodies that I believe are must-reads – like Bill Mckibbens Rolling Stone article from last year

I think it is slowly beginning to sink in across all industries that nobody can afford the damage-bill of continuing the proliferation and use of fossil fuels. Even the ones that we call “clean” – but that is stuff for another blog.

No country is wealthy enough, no economy is powerful enough to challenge the laws of physics. And slowly but surely large investors, governments and insurers are backing away from anything to do with the now termed “unburnable” carbon. Lets encourage them further, and in doing so you will be helping the emerging industries and truly sustainable efforts to accelerate in their innovation, implementation and deployment. This will inevitably create an industry greater – and very different – to the one it replaces. And that is good for us all.

So go ahead, help your economy prosper, change the game, read and share.

What was Your Doha Climate-Talk Wish?

So another round of Climate Change Talks is over, and its back to business as usual.

In fact, so usual that the appalling failure to come up with anything at Doha ended up being barely commented on by the news media, more a footnote than a headline. No bigger headline than Durban, Cancun or Copenhagen.

There is a frightening side plot possibility to this, and it is not the melting permafrost.

It is the melting confidence in global governance, be it through its political title or corporate position. History informs us that this invariably leads to mutiny, and that is not a desirable outcome.  At a time when we are about to face our most serious global challenges in history, we can not afford weak leadership.

So what is required?  What is possible? What could have been the outcome instead?

The action list is too long to discuss here, but a few things are so obvious they need no further explanation. One of these is the use of fossil resources as fuels.

Doha could have delivered a framework to phase these out with simple strategies.

Here is my suggestion: Start with the subsidies.

In 2012 the total (global) subsidies supporting fossil fuels were over 5 times those allocated for clean energy. Now imagine a simple rollback over 5 years that could reverse this ratio. Not only would it remove a grossly distorted financial model that makes fossil fuels falsely affordable, it also removes the crippling market disadvantage faced by clean energy right now.

Then next year another problem could be addressed. Over 5 years we could set up a series of tipping points that instead of leaving us rolling backwards (Think about this: fossil fuels is legacy technology from the late 1800’s! ), build upon one-another and steer us forward towards ecological balance, and away from our current trajectory towards ecological collapse.

I’d like to invite you to leave a comment, sharing your future-building thoughts and ideas. What would you have liked to see as an outcome from the Doha Climate Talks?

We need a Hero!

As the 2012 Doha Climate Change Conference nears its end (and it looks like it will boast the same results that have plagued every previous climate summit), one thing is becoming increasingly evident:

The people and organisations who have the resources to drive the necessary changes are not going to do it. Not this time, and probably not the next time either. Most likely not any time until they are under severe duress, or simply when their authority and influence ceases to be relevant.

As a parent I am worried where things are heading. How will my kids will live when they reach my age?.

The outlook is not good.

Lets face it, the same process of analysis, comparison and probability that we generally refer to as science has provided a reliable foundation of knowledge that makes it possible for you to read this post.
It enabled us to build Lamborghini’s, space shuttles and hearing aids.
It enabled us to create iphones, implant artificial hearts, and extract drinking water from the air. There are a thousand and one things within your arms reach right now that were only possible because someone somewhere observed, tested and proposed a “most likely result”. If science was not reliable none of that would be there.

So when science advises that by pumping pollutants into the atmosphere we will most likely bake ourselves (and everything around us), its worth taking that advice as seriously as someone saying “Stepping over that cliff will cause gravity to continue doing what it normally does”. Unless you happen to be Clark Kent, you cant afford to ignore the advice.

So then, what next?

Continue reading “We need a Hero!”

The Skeptic’s Ethics Dilemma

Assume for a moment that global warming was not a problem, and that atmospheric CO2, methane and ocean acidification were not man-made problems. There would still be a gigantic elephant in the climate-denialist’s room. So large in fact, it is all-encompassing.

No, it is not about the nature of the evidence supporting these claims. Neither is it about the methods and arguments used to discredit science. Nor is it about the means by which these views have been promoted to the world. In fact, not even the conflicts of interest by the promoters are the part of the elephant.

It is this: every single argument rejecting climate change effectively proposes that the deliberate and known destruction of our ecosystem is acceptable.

That is a problem about ethics, not about global warming.

So then, could we then still condone industries that are “using up” finite resources such as petroleum for generating energy when it has in fact far more important uses (like polymers and plastics), and there are other energy sources available? Can we justify a farming industry that globally generates a net negative nutrient budget and is empoverishing the soil? Can we continue to manufacture products and distribute them in packaging designed for a dead-end disposal that leeches toxicity into the water table?

I don’t think we can. I certainly can not. And I doubt that you, or any other moderately reasonable and responsible Homo sapiens who cares what their life will be like when they turn 93 can.

Our ecological crisis is not about climate change, that is simply one of many accidental byproducts of our chosen behaviour. There is no need for scientific evidence to refute or support this.

Let us instead argue for a change of behaviour that ensures perpetuity and prosperity for our and future generations. It is our choice, and we already know how to.

And if our ethics are solid, then we also know why.