April Fools Day is the chance to embrace the fool in all of us. I always loved the irony of the Shakespearian fool character who always spoke the most honest and insightful words. Another fan of the “Fool” is Seth Godin who often writes about the power of foolishness…
- “It’s ever more tempting to put on the (metaphorical) clown suit. It allows you to provoke with impunity. Clowns enjoy a different relationship with the laws of physics. You can spray someone in the face with a seltzer bottle, hit them with a pie or tweak them, and then laugh about it. No one is allowed to comment on the size of your shoes or how many people you’re packing in that car or the weak link between you and reality. Crowds gather and no one takes the implications of what you say seriously, but they cheer. Tricksters change our culture. Noisy voices get more followers in social media…The challenge, as PT Barnum, Don Rickles and the National Enquirer have found, is that while the suit is easy to put on, it’s almost impossible to take it off. After a while, people start to notice that you’re not actually keeping your promises.” – The clown suit
- “Actually, it’s far more likely that you made a human of yourself. When you drop your guard, opt for transparency and make an honest connection with someone, you’re right on the edge of foolishness, which is another word for not-corporate, not-aloof, not-safe. Another word for human. Most of the time, we persuade ourselves not to make a fool and so instead, we shut down a connection that could have become precious for us and for them.” – "I just made a fool of myself"
- “If you do something remarkable, something new and something important, not everyone will understand it (at first). Your work is for someone, not everyone. Unless you’re surrounded only by someones, you will almost certainly encounter everyone. And when you do, they will jeer. That’s how you’ll know you might be onto something.” – “When you do work that matters, the crowd will call you a fool”
“Pain is weakness leaving the body” – Marine motto
Sometimes toppling over can be a bit more painful. But no less useful – or “awesome” – as New Zealand BMX rider Sarah Walker describes…
- “Failing is awesome. If you don’t fail, you’re not really pushing it. You’re not really pushing the boundaries to see what is possible. I crashed in practice at the world championships and that was the last chance to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games and in the moment, every single day that I am riding my bike. It was proof that I was giving 100% and there was nothing more I could do. It’s part of the story and it’s part of what makes me who I am.”
Her outlook reminded me of Minda Zetlin’s article “Want a Lifetime of Better Brain Function? Science Says Change This 1 Habit (It’s Not What You Think)”:
- “It comes down to this: Stop only doing what’s easy and pleasant. If you’re in a great routine at work, break out of it by adding new responsibilities. If you’ve got an effective workout that you can do without even giving it much thought, add some new elements or up the ante by making it longer and more intense. In short, do stuff that’s difficult. Challenge yourself, and keep challenging yourself until you encounter enormous frustration. And then push on through that frustration and try some more. Whether you actually achieve your objective isn’t the point–the point is to push yourself just a little beyond your limits. In other words, get outside your comfort zone. Strangely, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the limits you push are mental or physical. Both strenuous physical effort, such as a challenging hike, or strenuous mental effort, such as mastering a difficult math equation, will do the trick. Barrett points to the Marine motto, ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body’.”
Embrace the discomfort zone.
A year ago, the Tulln Domino Team team set the record for the “Longest Domino Wall”. The whole point of this mesmerizing exercise is falling down dramatically. Bravo.
The International Day of Happiness today. Maybe the best way to celebrate is to embrace failure. That’s the bottom line to happiness guru Oliver Burkeman in his book “Happiness for People Who Can’t Standing Positive Thinking” who busts the myths of all the other happiness gurus. Five of his Happiness MYTHS are…
- It’s crucial to maintain a positive mindset
- Ambitious goals, relentlessly pursued, are the key to success
- The best managers are those who make work fun
- Higher self-esteem equals greater happiness
- Avoid pessimists at all costs
Burkeman advocates a following a negative path to a positive outlook…
- “It is our constant quest to eliminate or to ignore the negative – insecurity, uncertainty, failure, sadness – that causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy in the first place. Yet this conclusion does not have to be depressing. Instead, it points to an alternative approach: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.”
And part of that “negative path” to happiness is a form of pessimism…
- “It’s what the psychologist Julie Norem calls ‘defensive pessimism,’ though its origins stretch back to the Stoics of ancient Greece. Thinking carefully about how badly things could go, the Stoics Seneca and Epictetus both recognized, saps the future of its anxiety-producing power; once you’ve figured out how you’d cope if things went wrong, the resulting peace of mind leaves you better primed for success. A similar focus on downsides informs the Principle of Affordable Loss, part of the business philosophy known as ‘effectuation.’ Instead of asking how likely some venture is to succeed, ask whether you could tolerate the consequences if it failed. That way, you’ll take the interestingly risky steps while avoiding the stupidly risky ones.”
Sort of asking yourself “how bad could it be?”
Six years since the worst natural disaster of the decade – Fukushima. The most extreme fears of nuclear meltdown did not materialise. Still, a number of silver linings have emerged from even this tragedy. For starters, it expanded the boundaries of thinking about “black swan” worst case possibilities for designers and regulators. Subsequent reviews of nuclear facilities around the world have uncovered flooding vulnerabilities that escaped previous inspections. While the costs of clean up, recovery and lingering radiation continue to be borne, also consider the potential disasters averted and lives saved from the lessons of this cruel classroom.
There’s seems to be a “day” for everything. One of the more colourfully contrived is today’s “International Panic Day”. With the advent of Brexit and the Trump candidacy, it probably couldn’t come at a better time. Kathryn Flett provides a refreshing perspective on “feeling panicky” on a daily basis in her Sunday Times piece (paywalled) “Restless? Edgy? Tired? Then rejoice, for you are alive”…
- “I read a report in Grazia magazine on ‘generalised anxiety disorder’, or GAD, something to which young professional women are apparently prone. It is, we are told, the latest thing for those with nothing more pressing to worry about to worry about. GAD-triggers apparently include ‘anything that puts us under significant pressure’ and the condition is characterised by ‘feeling panicky, struggling to sleep and having a racing mind’. A diagnosis of GAD can be made confidently when one has had at least three of the following symptoms for longer than six months: restlessness or feeling on edge; problems concentrating; muscle tension; sleep disturbance; feeling tired; or irritability. From my perspective, as a middle-aged professional woman, this sounds suspiciously like ‘being alive syndrome’.”
National Science Day. Curiously an official day in India, but not the USA. I always say that young people starting out in their career need to figure out what they can do better than (a) a computer, and (b) a highly motivated Asian (think booming China, SEA, and India). India’s National Science Day provides a clue as to their priorities. Whereas in America we have a Tartar Sauce Day, a Cold Cut Day and a Dadgum That’s Good Day (and that’s just next month), we don’t have a National Science Day. Go figure.
The celebrate the failure scientists embrace every day in their craft, I have these the inspired interview with Mario Livio above as well as this enjoyable one on The Daily Show (only available in USA).