Posted by: techpoets | December 22, 2011

An Old Dog Reluctantly Speaks

Rex’s strong suit is his ability to tolerate a high degree of ambiguity.

Now 84 in dog years, Rex subtly but insistently plays the patriarch card in the household.

Rex could have gone the way that 99% of the planet’s older beings seem to go: cynical, heard it all, “Don’t try to teach me anything, you young whippersnapper!” Instead, he takes the higher ground, being wise enough to know that nobody really likes the grouchy old man in the room.

Like my amazing but difficult Father-in-Law, now chilling on the Other Side with a glass of wine and a good book, Rex is one of those beings that was simply born on the wrong side of the bed. Pissed off was his his default demeanor.

“When I was younger, I was a real pain in the ass,” Rex candidly admitted over a pint of Mac and Jack and a can of his favorite Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Duck and Venison. “It’s tough when you can picture the gold standard, the ‘Way things ought to be,’ when you’re surrounded by jackasses. I spent the first half of my life wondering why everyone was so frickin’ stupid.”

Posted by: techpoets | November 1, 2011

Chalk Board

It is the practice in many spiritual traditions to spend days without speaking. If this occurs within some sort of monastery or ashram, a common technique is to give devotees a chalk board. For there will be times when one deems it necessary to communicate without breaking the silence. So one uses a chalk board to write things like, “Where the Hell did Bob hide the wine?” or, “Did you see the ass on that girl?”

Posted by: techpoets | August 22, 2011

Ego Wars: How Do You Manage Them?

I’m not terribly good at confrontation. Perhaps I’m overly concerned about offending people. But lately I’m discovering it does me more harm than good to not speak out when something needs to be said. I can generally trace most breakdowns in my relationships, at least in part, to my failure to clearly communicate what I am feeling and needing at crucial times.

I have friends that are given to egregious overestimation of themselves. They overestimate how “interesting” they are. They overestimate their career exploits, their hobbies, their networks, and their “cool” factor. They are enthralled with themselves. In short, these people are given to egotistic excess. When this spills into our one-on-one interaction, I get angry inside, and I really want to say something to defuse it.

However, I rarely say anything when the ego rears its ugly head in others because I know I too have a formidable ego. I’m a musician who has spent over 30 years behind a drum kit. Like most musicians, I get obsessed with appearances, how I look and sound on stage, and how I compare to other players. I know that I’m more egotistical than all my friends combined, but that’s because I’ve developed an awareness of how my mind works. I’ve learned to laugh at my ego, which is a very good way to diminish its power over me.

There are many who’ve not even begun the transforming work of slicing their egos down to manageable size. So my question is, do I say anything when friends are clearly drunk with their own power? Or do I just quietly let them blather on, using the encounter as a way to see my own weakness?

What do you do when afflicted by the egotistical excesses of your friends? I’d love to know.

Posted by: techpoets | April 5, 2011

A Valedictorian Speaks Her Mind

This incredible speech by a graduating high school Valedictorian should resonate with teachers and professional creative folks.

A Valedictorian Speaks Her Mind

When you couple this student’s perspective, at the beginning of her career development, with the video of Srikumar Rao, you have a powerful combination.

Rao gives us tools for undoing faulty thinking, whether self-inflicted or imposed by society at large. This is a breakthrough approach for educators willing to share concepts that are outside of the doggedly materialist institutional party line you see too often in pubic schools. Rao has been teaching this material since the early 1990’s. Students have gained so much from his course that they’ve created an alumni association for just one class.

For years in my educational and professional life, I tried to connect the dots the way I was told, and it simply NEVER worked. Once you discover that our institutions are mostly about creating good, docile widgets who never rock the boat, you have to reject the prevailing wisdom and do what you were made to do.

Posted by: techpoets | April 5, 2011

Neither Created Nor Destroyed

I’m reading Swami Vivikenanda this morning, April 4, 2011. After reading just a few pages, the following reflections have arisen by way of application.

The soul, like the energy in the universe, was not created, and therefore cannot be destroyed. It existed as un-manifested energy in the Godhead. As there has never been a time when God wasn’t, so it is with my soul. The core of me is simply an extension of the Spirit of God into a body the world knows as Hank or Richard.

My body is perhaps a little beyond its midpoint of existence, and like sand dropping from an hour glass, will one day expire. That day is either today or sometime hence, and is mostly out of my control. For even if I absolutely commit to “perfect” physical health, my body is divinely programmed to die, that my soul may transition to whatever God has for me next.

The motivation for purity of body and mind is thus far more than mere longevity. For what good is longevity if you’re not living a good life each day? I’ve been persuaded by many great spiritual masters that to be incarnated in human form is a great and rare gift. Consider how small a percentage of the totality of creation we six billion humans make up. The number of existing insects right now exponentially dwarfs the number of human beings on earth. And if the evolutionary future experts are correct, there will come a day when humans will no longer roam this planet, and the insects shall assert themselves as the rightful rulers.

So human life is indeed precious and unique, and I’m motivated to keep the body I have functioning as well as I can, trusting too that God will sustain me for as many days as are required to fulfill this body’s mission.

Posted by: techpoets | October 20, 2010

I Know My Limits…

…And I regularly exceed them.

Take beer, for instance. I should not drink more than two beers in an hour. I know this, but sometimes I don’t care about my limits. Occasionally, I actually DO want to get a little sloshed. It’s a pleasant experience, and it does help to lighten the cognitive load for a guy who thinks too much. The science tells me I lose brain cells when I drink, so that’s another reason to drink in moderation.

Now I have rules. If I exceed my drinking limit, I DO NOT drive. I have no problem asking, on the spot, for a designated driver. If no designated driver is available, I will give someone my keys to hold until I’m fit to drive. I am exceedingly concerned that I not cause harm to others, and have done my best not to do so.

But this post is not really about my drinking habits. It is, rather, an examination of the nature of limits we perceive to be present, but are actually figments of our imagination.

Most people have pummeled themselves their entire lives with “I can’t” statements. For example, “I can’t draw,” “I can’t sing,” or “I can’t do math.”
And while it may be true that you’re not Rembrandt, Pavarotti, or Grothendieck, you are in fact capable of drawing, singing, and sums.

Of course gifts in these areas vary greatly. But surely you have looked upon at least one drawing and thought briefly, “Hey, I could do that.” Well maybe your self-confidence is so battered that you haven’t allowed yourself the freedom to conceive such a possibility, but that’s just your mind keeping you trapped. It’s been wisely said that your mind is a great servant, but a terrible master. You are actually much bigger than your thoughts, and you have power over them.

Like you, I have my own recurring “can’t” statements. I’ve been saying for a year, “I can’t lose ten pounds.” When I’ve shut off the “can’t” engine and realized that losing weight is possible, I can easily drop two or three pounds in a week. Unfortunately, I usually add them back on. But I’m informed enough about nutrition to know it’s entirely possible to drop ten pounds at a pace of two pounds per week, and keep them off for good. Thousands have done it.

If I could sustain the effort for five weeks, I’m absolutely certain I could reach my weight goal. And I will, once I shut off the “can’t” engine long enough to do it. I may lose more, but dropping ten pounds would be, for me, a very satisfying accomplishment. After I lose the first ten, I may keep going, or I may not. I know what habits I have to break to meet my goal, so I’m going to work on those. One of those habits is being a little too fond of beer.

Like I said, I know my limits.

Posted by: techpoets | October 15, 2010

Just Trying to Find Stuff I Like

A few months ago, I was enjoying breakfast in West Seattle with my old friends Will and Clark. Will and I were getting into one of our frequent musical discussions. Will’s a painter and I’m a drummer. As such, we have all kinds of opinions about art, music, and the culture at large. At some point Will made a dismissive remark about a band we were discussing. Clark sat quietly as our discussion unfolded. When we finally shut up, Clark made a comment that has stuck with me for months:

“You know, as I get older, I’m just trying to find things that I like.”

Boom. That’s one of the most profound things I’ve heard anyone say in a long time. How easy it is to critique, judge, and find something to complain about. We artists are excessively fussy about what we like and don’t like, and we toss our opinions about even when no one really cares. But it takes a discerning mind to consciously decide that it’s better to find things you like than to blather on about what you don’t like.

Do you suffer from the mental disease of excessive complaint and critique? Try thinking about what you like instead, and see if it doesn’t feel better.

Posted by: techpoets | September 14, 2010

Delight in Order, But Don’t Obsess Over It

Order is good. It’s generally, though not always, better than chaos. But there’s always chaos somewhere, and you’ll be like a New Yorker in a 6th floor walk-up swatting cockroaches if you don’t chill out once in a while.

I have no special rules for you as to when you’ve crossed the line into excessive concern about order, but if you’re running around with a knot in your gut, chances are you need to let something go. NOW.

I’m generally concerned about keeping things in order. If Detective Monk and Inspector Poirrot were to conceive a child, I’d be him. I’m a perfectionist, and I’m not proud of it. Perfectionists find it difficult to be happy with things, since we can always conceive of the ideal. When reality crashes in with a less than ideal scenario, we go off and sulk.

So bit by bit, I’m learning to recognize my perfectionist tendencies, and rather than act upon them, I have a good laugh at how obsessive I’m becoming over a particular set of details. Waiting for optimal circumstances is a really boring way to live. Can you say “Paralysis by analysis?”

You can’t possibly have all variables controlled for before you set out and do something. In fact, the best learning doesn’t start until you’re actually working the problem. The fuzzy becomes clear as you move toward your goal. Get going and you’ll see.

Are you waiting for everything to be “perfect” before you start something? What little detail can you just dispense with for now, that you might get something important done?

Posted by: techpoets | July 2, 2010

Presales Education

Businesses who desire to build a following would do well to understand the power customers have to ignore them. You simply cannot force yourself into customers’ lives. Rather, you need to earn the right to be followed. This doesn’t mean you can’t promote your products on Twitter. But if that’s all you’re doing, it’s not likely you’re going to win many customer hearts.

Consider how you might serve your customers. If you’ve been in business awhile, you ought to have a pretty good idea of what their needs are. Is yours a product or service that has a longer sales cycle, requiring multiple exposures before someone buys from you? Then consider a soft education campaign that provides information that your users might need.

What expertise do you have that you could disseminate to potential customers as a way of building credibility and interest? Do you have a white paper with great content but that nobody bothers downloading? We can show you many new ways to package the same content in ways your prospects will find compelling and engaging.

If you’d like help in developing a customer education campaign, feel free to contact us at 425.652.5438

Posted by: techpoets | May 27, 2010

Improving the Customer Conversation

Social media concepts are mainstream now for anyone paying even remote attention to the Internet. For a small business, Social Media pretty much boils down to improving two-way communication with your market. You want to improve and deepen the relationship with your existing customers, and you want to make it easy for prospective customers to enter into the initial conversation.

I partner with a small but high-powered market research and analytics company based in the Bay Area. The CEO’s 25 years of experience, built largely on a Fortune 500 client base, gave him insights into improving the customer conversation years before the Web became mainstream. So it is with great interest that we look to formalize these customer conversations using the techniques available to us on the Web, both for our clients and for ourselves.

At the heart of many of our projects is innovative and exhaustive survey design. For example, we recently helped a global software provider do a survey of several hundred existing power users belonging to the North American user group. These are the folks who have used the product to its fullest extent, and are already formulating great ideas about what should go into the next version. Our client wisely sought our assistance to gather those user ideas through a survey we designed and distributed via email. The email contained a link to our corporate Web server, and over the agreed upon time frame we gathered, quantified, and presented the survey results.

The customer was absolutely delighted, and has already begun thinking of ways to use the same ideas in other areas of the company.

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