Stop impressing your boss (do this instead!)

For the larger part of the adult population, the single biggest share of time is spent almost exclusively in the company of work colleagues, clients, and bosses. And because of this idea that our relationship with them is pivotal to our life, these are the people who we are most likely to make efforts to impress, or at least, not get unnecessarily off-side. The majority of them are people who we have never deliberately sought to share time with, they come into our life as part of a career (and usually leave with it when we change direction). In many cases they may even people who we are in direct competition with, who perhaps may even be a threat, requiring us to be even more impressive.

The relevance or lack of relevance of these relationships has a profound effect on our lives, but even more so on the lives of the next generation. When they look at you do they see substance in your purpose, in your relationships and your actions?

It is easy to jump to answer this and say “Of course!” – but the perspective from which this must be answered is not our own, it is from theirs.

That changes everything.

One very current example is this: As parents we naturally expose kids at an early age to natural icons. Rhinos, Giraffes, Elephants, Gorillas, Polar Bears, Whales. Bees. There are adventures of journeys through untouched wilderness. For most kids in primary school now, these icons are becoming increasingly likely to be extinct when they become adults. And they know that. They also know that we are somehow responsible. Perhaps not directly, but indirectly the finger points squarely at us.

This is why it changes everything:

We have inadvertently sent a very clear warning to the next generation to not follow us, to ignore our advice. We have inadvertently sent a clear message to the next generation that we don’t really care what happens to them. We have created a role-model vacuum. We have created an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, of defeat before they even begin their race. We have created a toxic environment (real and figuratively) into which they have no choice but to walk into.

But we can also change everything.

While the role-model vacuum is being filled by escapes into digital worlds where battles can still be won and where heroes still exist (for better or worse) I believe we have a moral obligation to reclaim this space. It is simpler than you think, although it requires some work – possibly difficult work because it is mostly work within ourselves.

It is simply this: Begin to shift your focus away from trying to impress your colleagues, and towards impressing your kids, whatever their age. It does not mean that you take up extreme downhill cycling, or mask up at night to become a vigilante. Here are some suggestions that won’t put you in hospital or jail.

  • Do stuff that matters. Not just to them but also to you. By spending every “free” hour entranced by a TV with a drink in hand you are declaring that you have given up yourself. Failure and defeat does not inspire, it robs others of hope, it kills possibility.
  • Show the value of life by valuing yours, and everyone else’s that you come in contact with.
  • Show respect for the natural world that they are heirs to by treating it as if it was theirs.
  • Invest ethically, into ventures that are not in conflict with their inheritance.
  • Consider who you work for. Perhaps it is time to work in an industry that is not engaged in socially or ecologically destructive practice.
  • Be kind and compassionate, not just in their presence.

There is no measure to the respect that these simple things will earn you.
There is no measure to the outlook and hope you will give them.
There is no measure to how much greater your life will become as a result.
There is no measure of how great a change is possible when many people do simple little things that matter.

And that will change everything.

The answer is found two deep.

How often do we find ourselves looking at a problem that resembles the iron curtain rather than a garden fence, a confronting and virtually un-surmountable show-stopper that defies all logic?

It could be a product we can’t seem to get to market, a potential client we can’t get in front of, or a family member that we are being challenged with. The point is, it bugs us, and sometimes it can cripple our business, a relationship or our life. 

Invariably the barrier is our way of thinking.

When a farming entrepreneur was looking to establish a farm in an area where the only water was oceanic saltwater, they had to look beyond the logical solutions. What was immediately available was clearly not going to work. What was available however had the potential of becoming a resource for something that would work.

I call this “two deep” interaction: looking not just at what we are directly engaged with, but Instead we look at the relationships of the things that we engage with directly.
Big picture thinking is like climbing a tree to look over the fence, going two deep is jumping over the fence and looking for solutions from the the other side. 

Next time you are confronted with a problem that completely leaves you stuck, take a step back and “zoom out”. The important thing is not to see the bigger picture with your agenda, but with the agenda of each of the second and possibly third level interactions that you are exploring. Most of these are likely to be invisible or not relevant to you directly. You may need to get a second pair of eyes to help you with the process. You may need to look at your problem perhaps from your customer’s point of view. It may be caused by a character trait of your kid’s teacher. It may be legislation that is affecting your supplier. The solutions that will create uniqueness and competitive edge are always found two deep.

The farm gets its fresh water from a solar-powered desalination system, and the result is a farming model of unprecedented energy and water efficiency. Nobody would have looked at the arid paddock and expected a crop to grow. This is a great example how we can solve problems by looking beyond our conventional interactions, by going two deep.

The solution to that irritating, elusive and absurd problem is waiting for you two deep. Now you know where to look.

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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…

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 Way of the Wheelie-Bin

Every week a waste contractor drives by my house and collects the contents of a 240 litre garbage bin. Every other week it also collects the contents of a second 240 litre bin, filled with what we loosely term “recyclables”.  More about that another day.  For now let’s just explore the first 240 litre weekly bin.

To begin with, absolutely everything that I have used to fill that bin is stuff I have paid for. And I am also paying someone to take it “away”.

Ok, it seems obvious, but why is this significant?

Continue reading “The Way of the Wheelie-Bin”