Archive for March, 2008

The Cost of Testosterone

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

According to Susan Pinker1, psychologist & columnist, there are a number of downsides to testosterone. For example males:-

  • Are more vulnerable to disease
  • Develop more slowly
    • 4 times as many boys have language problems
    • 2 times as many have attention problems
    • 10 times more have social disorders
  • Have more variability, so whilst there are more male geniuses there are also more men who are idiots! (I wondered if this linked to some evolutionary value for the species utilising men both as leaders and beasts of burden?)
  • Take more risks, but this also includes a willingness to put others at risk to satisfy their own needs, for example, being prepared to uproot the family to gain a promotion

A study2 carried out by
the psychology research team of Dr. Matt Newman, Dr. Robert Josephs and Jennifer Guinn Sellers at The University of Texas at Austin examined the impact of testosterone on status and attention which showed that individuals (both men and women) with higher testosterone levels, had a problems paying attention in situations where they found their status to be challenged.

According to a survey, 56% of people working in the testosterone laden environs of the Trading Floors had experienced bullying.

Certainly there are many good things about ‘being a Man’, and I am certainly not suggesting that we should all just get in touch with our female side, but the culture of business is predominantly a male one, and everyone, regardless of their sex, has to play by those ‘rules’. This culture tends to promote competition over co-operation, winning at any price (even if you have to edit the results afterwards to prove you did in fact win…), exploiting resources rather than looking after them.

Perhaps there is a case not just for more women in the workplace, but more of a sexual balance in the values and culture of work. When you consider that the average person in the UK spends 45 hrs per week at work, and many spend far more, and the impact our work experience on the rest of our lives, then you will see that an imbalance here tends to unbalance the whole system. So today, perhaps you should have the balls to be a little less of a ‘man’ and show a little more of your caring side.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo F. Buscaglia

“Want of care does us more damage than want of knowledge” Benjamin Franklin


Listen to the little ones

Monday, March 17th, 2008

We had a gathering of the clan this weekend and a good time was had by all (well mostly!) We were driving home with my three children in the back of the car chatting away about what they had seen and heard, and the things they had observed. It was a fascinating lesson. Admittedly, they are pretty grown up but none-the-less, the views and judgements of the junior team on some of the behaviours of the ‘seniors’ were fascinating. Obviously, I’m not going to recount the various details here, they would be meaningless, but for me there were a number of lessons that I thought worth sharing.

  • Just because you are not one of the management team / ‘grown ups’ doesn’t mean that:-
    1. You don’t have important, and possibly unique, insights & information
    2. You don’t have an opinion that should be considered
  • And just because you are of the management team / ‘grown ups’ doesn’t mean that:-
    1. You are (automatically) right
    2. You are being fair
  • Being asked to accept and understand a situation that affects you is one thing; not being considered or communicated with is quite another.
  • Just because you think you understand a situation, and believe that you have acted appropriately, does not mean that you have, especially if you don’t have all the information, and, guess what… we never have all the information!
  • I know there are people running businesses out there today who are making exactly these mistakes, not to mention a parent or too, so today I am sharing the wisdom of these remarkable youngsters to help us all avoid marching straight into a quicksand.

    “The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children.” Clarence Darrow

    “If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example.” George Bernard Shaw

    “Blogito ergo sum”

    Friday, March 14th, 2008

    My title is a play on words of Descartes famous phrase “Cogito ergo sum”1 but I wonder if my version is true for many today? Since becoming a regular blogger I have noticed some changes in myself and how I think and how I observe things.

    I will illustrate this with a story. Many years ago (many, many years ago) I was very keen on photography, carried around huge amounts of equipment, went to clubs, entered competitions etc. and got reasonably proficient. Time wore on and I got feed up with lugging all this gear around and wanted to feel ‘free’ again. So I got a little camera, but that still was too heavy… eventually I stopped taking one with me. Then I noticed a curious thing; I was still mentally taking pictures, composing them, noticing colours and juxtapositions etc. My perception of the world had changed; it had been enhanced.

    I’m noticing something a little similar with the blog. Everything I see, hear and feel is potential grist to the Blog Mill. I am now more aware of links between ideas, events and experiences; I ponder them more; I’m doing more original & creative thinking. So for me, I think old René had it about right.

    How does this phenomenon affect you?

    “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” Rene Descartes


    Me first..!

    Friday, March 14th, 2008

    I don’t want to a appear to be an old cynic, but when someone suggests something to us, or when Change is in the air, (for most mortal people) the very first thought is “How will this affect me? Will it bring me good things? Will it amuse me? Will make me feel good about myself? Will I be more secure as a result of this?” Obviously, there are many more permutations, and the questions can be phrased negatively as well as positively depending on our mindset. Within the Change business, this is referred to as the W.I.F.M factor (What Is in it For Me?)

    Once we have addressed our immediate concerns, we then consider how it may affect us indirectly. How will it impact those people I care for? How will it affect people like me generally (this grouping maybe by class, geographic location, race, religion, age, sex or any number of factors depending on the context)? Finally we may pause to wonder how it affects people in general, but we tend to spend little thought or concern for strangers as we don’t know or understand them. Often they are distant and therefore relatively invisible to us.

    This may all seem very selfish, and I suppose it is, by definition, self-centred. However, before we hasten to condemn it or deny that this describes us, we should recognise that this is fundamentally another survival tool that Evolution has bestowed on the successful survivors of the evolutionary race. I think it is to humanity’s great credit that there are so many people who, despite this programming, work so tirelessly for others.

    I bring this to your attention for two reasons:-

    1. So that you can better understand others responses, and having understood them, work with them is a positive spirit
    2. So that you can understand yourself a little better too, and perhaps challenge that first, instinctive reaction, and enable you to consider the bigger picture before saying “No!

    “You must love yourself before you love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.”

    “Enjoying the joys of others and suffering with them – these are the best guides for man” Albert Einstein

    I Know!

    Thursday, March 13th, 2008

    I was working with a client yesterday and we were having a good session, but he was frustrated at his inability to enact on his previous decisions. I asked him a question, and he responded with feeling “I know the answer!” So rather that say anything more, I showed him a simple technique based on Gestalt, and invited him to tell himself the answer. I removed myself from the space and watched for 5 minutes whilst he had a dialogue with himself, with one part of him explaining what he needed to do, and the other part of him stating his reasons for avoiding doing so. When he reached the end of this ‘conversation’, he pronounced himself ready to move forwards.

    I was fascinated, not so much by the fact he could do this, but with the how much tougher with himself he was that I’d have been. I have talked here before about our ability to access deeper wisdom and knowing. The fact is, if we stop long enough to listen, we often know what to do. Unfortunately, often we fail to listen, or fail to have the courage to act on this knowledge. I believe that this knowing comes from a deep source of wisdom and is probably our best guide of how to act.

    So today, take a moment to quieten down, and ask yourself the question that has you worried or puzzled and then LISTEN!

    “Wisdom is what’s left after we’ve run out of personal opinions.” Cullen Hightower

    “Like an ability or a muscle, hearing your inner wisdom is strengthened by doing it.” Robbie Gass

    Stuck in the Mud?

    Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

    Pete Marsh, better known as Lindow man, was perfectly preserved in a peat bog that he got stuck in about 2,200 years ago, and even today, ‘Pete’ has a lesson to teach us all.  He is a perfect example of what can happen to you when you get stuck in a situation.  Preserved for eternity, never changing, no movement forward. 

    Sometimes we have to just ‘let it go’ and move on.  As I mentioned here, sometimes you have to go back to move forwards, and the longer we take to do so, the tougher it is to do.

    So if it feels like the view is always the same, and you don’t like it, perhaps today is the day to retreat and retrench….  Good luck!

    “A good retreat is better than a bad stand”  Irish saying

    “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  Franklin D Roosevelt


    1. Bog Mummies
    2. Tollund man

    Dealing with Uncertainty

    Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

    Because control comes from knowing, not knowing means no control.  Being out of control means being the victim of uncertainty, which is a scary place to be!  

    So to avoid going there mankind rationalises and theorises, rather than admit the truth… we just don’t know!

    So, down through the ages, we think if we do this ritual, then the heavens won’t fall, and whether it is a blood sacrifice, OCD or rebooting our PC for the umpteenth time, it all comes from the same place, the desire to gain some measure of control.

    The alternative is accepting that there are things we don’t know and don’t control, and in fact we are just a small cog in the Cosmic machine.  Does one of your spark plugs know where you / it are going, let alone why?!

    Once we let go of having to know and control we can surrender and experience, and perhaps, just perhaps, get exactly where we are meant to be…

    “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.”  Julia Cameron

    “Change is the essence of life.Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”

    As likely as a black swan!

    Monday, March 10th, 2008

    “As likely as a black swan!”  This was an old European proverb, and of course pre-dates the discovery of real life black swans in Australia.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb  is an author who claims that we spend much too much time trying to predict things which are essentially unpredictable,  thus creating a false illusion of control and safety, until something like 9/11 or the 2006 tsunami happens and takes us all unawares.  The key to his thesis is that our false sense of security makes it easier for us to be blind-sided by these ‘black swan’ events.

    Effectively he counsels expect the unexpected (“No one expects the Inquisition!”)  So what he is saying is if you go through life feeling safe because all these newspapers and experts tell you it is “All under control”, you are much more at risk than if you recognise that sh*t happens.  Similarly, the doom and gloom merchants are equally likely to be wrong, so the fearful pictures they offer are equally likely to be wrong.

    He advocates never reading papers or paying attention to the news as these spoil your ‘night sight’ (in the same way sentries should never look into the fire.)  

    He also contends that one reason why American industry is so successful, is that they are far more capable of tolerating errors and bouncing back from them.  Many of the greatest successes of the twentieth century come from errors and accidents, such as post-its notes,and viagra.  If we have to be right, to be expert all the time, then we close ourselves off these possibilities for both good and ill.

    So give up the illusion of being ‘in control’ open yourself up to your ‘black swans’ and see what the Universe delivers to you….

    “The best things in life are unexpected – because there were no expectations.”   Eli Khamarov
    “There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes”   Richard Buckminster Fuller

    The Ever-changing Law

    Monday, March 10th, 2008

    I watched a very interesting film yesterday called “Ten canoes” which is a story about Australian aboriginals; it was certainly worth a watch. It is a story, within a story, and story is their vehicle for educating the young people and transmitting the tribal wisdom from one generation to the next.

    The old man telling the story to his young brother, begins his tale by saying that his story is very old, and predates any living person’s oldest relatives lives, in other words it is ancient. He refers to “The Law” as having been handed down from the earliest times, and having been given to the people by Spirit. This interested me because it was clear that the foundation of this society was The Law, and it was fundamental that it did not change.

    By contrast, during Blair’s premiership we saw the introduction of 2,685 new laws every year! The thing is, under these circumstances, no one can possibly know what is legal or not before the event; and only highly paid professional stand even a chance of guessing! Contrast this with a society where even the youngster child knows what is within the law.

    Change is a two sided coin, on one face are those things we seek to change because they need to be better, and on the other, are those good things we want to preserve. I think in these ever-changing times, we have perhaps become disconnected from the second face of this ‘coin’.

    Aboriginal law is all about relationships and defines the connections between the individual and their family, their tribe and others. It is fundamental to this precept that these relationships were defined in ‘Dreamtime’, before conception. Another fundamental is that “We don’t own the land, the land owns us”.

    So in these ever-changing and challenging times, what are the key things that you wish to see preserved, and more importantly, what are you doing about them?

    “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.” Ronald Reagan

    “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port foreverSt Thomas Aquinas


    High Definition

    Sunday, March 9th, 2008

    The point I omitted to make in yesterday’s post is power and clarity with which I saw the interconnectedness of all these paths of possibility. However, it was like glimpsing a scene from the window of speeding train, no sooner have you recognised it than it is gone again. I don’t doubt that it was a moment of true insight but it was hard to hang on to the power of it. So I had a moment of spiritual High Definition to match the new TV we bought yesterday. It is interesting to note that despite all the clever technology, my TV also seems to have moments of staggering clarity, followed by blurry bits too.

    I wonder if you recognise these moments of clarity and whether you act on them, and how they make you feel. I’d be very interested in hearing your tales.

    “I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream” Vincent van Gogh