One of the greatest Leader-Managers of our time. A Leader of a vision for a new South Africa built on justice and unity. A Manager of one of the most dramatic political transitions of modern times predicated on averting the downsides of bloodshed and turmoil. Just a few of his quotes below underscore both his leader-manager wisdom as well as his courageous embrace of failure…
- "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."
- "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
- "I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."
- "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
So much is written on living the good life, but a few wise perspectives are also needed on dying the good death. Facing up to an especially imminent demise with poise and consideration takes as much courage as any war hero or first responder.
Seth Godin addresses this subject in his post “How Do You Want to Die?” saying “Some things are more likely to happen if you plan for them. In this case, the end comes whether you plan for it or not. Planning merely makes it better.”
Judy MacDonald Johnston offers a thorough game plan for embracing death in her TED lecture “Prepare for a good end of life” outlining 5 practices…
- Make a plan
- Recruit advocates
- Be hospital ready
- Choose care givers
- Discuss last words
In this past week, Scott Adams has taken a rather militant tone on the particular topic of ongoing life support starting with his post “I Hope My Father Dies Soon”. Traumatized by watching his own father suffer through the end of his life and feeling bitter frustration over the constraints on the family to alleviate the suffering, he has penned a number of posts igniting the debate about the latitude families should have on determining when the end is the end.
We lost an exceptional person yesterday. Our brother-in-law, Ronald Copland embraced his failure to beat cancer with dignity and courage. Despite putting it in its place ten years ago, it came back with a ferocious vengeance this summer. You could hardly notice any change in Ronald’s demeanour as he walked the golf course with us in September. The only clue to his pain and literally inner battle was his abstaining from any golf swings. In the very end, he left us peacefully in his sleep as his systems slowly shut themselves off like someone turning out the lights one by one at the end of a lively and memorable evening.
- “Death is the great black bear that looms in everyone’s path. In my experience, believers and unbelievers face death with about equal equanimity or disquiet. I would guess it has more to do with temperament than belief…A self is dynamic, always changing, seeking, striving. And death? Personal mortality is the price we pay to exist at all as unique, complex, multicelled, sexually active, thoughtful individuals. Death is life’s necessary partner; together they are endlessly creative. A self is like a fruit on the tree of life. Without fruit the tree must die. Each of our selves leaves the world different than we found it. It is a unique characteristic of a human self to decide what makes the world a better place. The nudge we give to the good is our truest immortality.” – Chet Raymo, “That Cottage of Darkness”
Ronald faced the failure of life with the same grace and poise that he faced thriving life every day. He gave so many a ‘nudge to the good’ to so many people. Including my own knee-boarding, boating, golf driving, fairway shooting, grilling, wine bargain-hunting, scotch appreciating self. Thanks Ronald.
The simple corner shop has literally become a labyrinth of manipulative options designed to baffle to the customer until maximum wallet extraction can be achieved. And today’s Black Friday is not just the celebration of that merchandising, but also the pinnacle of retailer manipulation to confused and befuddle shoppers out of their money.
The Cassandra of complexity, Scott Adams, illustrated this marketplace mayhem in his post “I Want My Cheese” (it also puts into context one of the most misguided ecological initiatives of banning plastic shopping bags)…
- “Then I start looking for cheese, only to discover that some genius in Safeway’s marketing department thinks that cheese should be spread out over about seven different locations throughout the store. You have your cottage cheese here, your artisanal cheeses there, your shredded cheeses somewhere else, and so on. There is no logical order to any of it. Five minutes into my shopping, I am filled with rage and I feel manipulated. I assume someone at Safeway decided that inconveniencing me would somehow make me buy more shit because I end up walking down every frickin’ aisle in the store looking for my cheese. It’s not the inconvenience that bugs me so much as the feeling of manipulation… By the time I reach my car I feel frustrated, angry, guilty, stupid, incompetent, belittled, weak, humiliated, ripped off, and inconvenienced. The feeling lasts until I get home and my wife says, ‘That’s the wrong cheese.’ That feeling pretty much replaces all the other ones.”
The worst example is our local Nottcutts. They have contrived a quarter mile long one way system to force you to examine 90% of their shelves before you can get your birdseed and check out with it. They force you to walk a 100 yards from the parking lot to the entrance to starts this onslaught odyssey while prohibiting you form entering the shop at the big set of doors right by the lot.
Seth Godin has his own tirade on this commercial contrivances in his post “#BlackFriday = media trap”: “Retailers offer very little in the way of actual discounts, they expose human panic and greed, and it’s all sort of ridiculous if not soul-robbing.”
And for a comprehensive treatise on the Black (Box) Arts of shop front manipulation, check out Paco Underhill’s fine book ”Why We Buy”…
“You almost have to make an effort to avoid shopping today. Stay out of stores and museums and theme restaurants and you are still face-to-face with Internet shopping 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, along with its low-rent cousin, home shopping on TV, Have to steer clear of your own mailbox, too, if you are going to duck all those catalogs. As a result, every expert agrees, we are now dangerously over-retailed – too much is for sale, through to many outlets.”
Un-Happy Shopping everyone!
"Those inevitable failures become unexpected gifts."
Today is a time to celebrate the many gifts in our lives. Often the most appreciated are the unexpected ones. Christopher Heuertz’s book ‘Unexpected Gifts’ explores many dimensions of appreciation (and veers a little into effusive sentimentality), but I did particularly appreciate the quote above which captures the heart of the book.
May we all be thankful for the unexpected gifts life’s failures surprise us with.
My whole life has been spent pseudo-impersonating “Bruce Lee” (who would have been 74 years old today). Whenever I give my name, the most common response is “Like Bruce Lee?” According to Hetain Patel, that’s not the only way nor reason to not imitate Bruce Lee. His TED presentation (more of a performance art piece) titled “Who am I? Think Again” embraces the art of imitation, but more especially the power of failed imitation…
- “So my artwork is about identity and language, challenging common assumptions based on how we look like or where we come from, gender, race, class. What makes us who we are anyway? I used to read Spider-Man comics, watch kung fu movies, take philosophy lessons from Bruce Lee…This year, I am 32 years old, the same age Bruce Lee was when he died. I have been wondering recently, if he were alive today, what advice he would give me about making this TED Talk: ‘Don’t imitate my voice. It offends me.’ Good advice, but I still think that we learn who we are by copying others. Who here hasn’t imitated their childhood hero in the playground, or mum or father? I have…So this imitation business does come with risk. It doesn’t always go as you plan it, even with a talented translator. But I am going to stick with it, because contrary to what we might usually assume, imitating somebody can reveal something unique. So every time I fail to become more like my father, I become more like myself. Every time I fail to become Bruce Lee, I become more authentically me. This is my art. I strive for authenticity, even if it comes in a shape that we might not usually expect.”
- “The more we probe the brain, the less we understand it” – New Scientist
Every science lab should be a failure lab.
Scientific Method’s whole raison d’etre is to find failure in the hypothesis. And when it does, it sparks a new advent of understanding.
Last months’ New Scientist issue explored this dynamic in depth especially in its article “Neuroscience wrongs will make a right”…
- “When fMRI brain scanners were invented in the early 1990s, scientists and the general public were seduced by the idea of watching the brain at work. It seems we got carried away. The field is plagued by false positives and other problems. It is now clear that the majority – perhaps the vast majority – of neuroscience findings are as spurious as brain waves in a dead fish.”
The “dead fish” reference alludes to an experiment where a dead fish was put into an MRI scanner to a faulty reading of neurological activity in a dead fish by an MRI scanner. The interpretation of the data as “brain activity” was cited as an example of “torturing data until it confesses”. That is getting it to say what you want it to say, rather than letting it speak freely for itself. Even if what it has to say fails to support your hypothesis.