how to use conscious purpose without wrecking everything

is the title of the truly fantastic talk John Gall gave at Tom Gilb's annual Gilbfest a few weeks ago. You can read the whole thing here. Here's a small selection of the many snippets that spoke to me:
Maximizing efficiency is the error of having a single goal, what William Blake once called “Newton’s sleep.”
Always the more beautiful answer who asks the more difficult question [e.e.cummings]
Evolution always means Co-evolution. The horse eats the grass, the grass grows stronger roots, the horse grows stronger jaws.
What is involved is not simply survival of the fittest, but survival of the fitting-in-est.
The amount of feedback that is built into living organisms differs by many orders of magnitude from the amount that we build into manmade systems.
Flexibility means the willingness to act in response to the feedback message by actually changing how the system works.
There are many Potemkin Villages in operation today, hiding and distracting us from awareness of what’s really going on.
Ignoring feedback merely means that the system will eventually experience a massive unpleasant surprise rather than a small unpleasant surprise.
As Bradford Keeney pointed out, stability is not homeostasis, it’s homeodynamics.
Once you get above that first level, the level of material things and forces, you are dealing with abstractions. In place of physical forces, you have communication—messages, signals. And in place of material things, you have relationships—which are abstractions.
Once we get above the level of physical objects and forces, we are dealing with patterns of interaction, that is, with abstractions.
Abstractions — that is, ideas — don’t die. They can’t be killed. They can’t be exterminated. They just keep coming back, over and over and over. This problem can never be solved if one continues to believe that the so-called "real" world of physical objects and forces is all there is. The Chinese have a word for this. They call it "being stuck in the ten thousand things."
If I design a system with no regard for the universe that surrounds it, I will have scanty knowledge of what can impact it.

barbel fishing


My latest Barbel fishing trip was to the River Wye on the Middle Hill Court beat. I caught this 10lb 1oz beauty (that's 4.5kg in old money). My first double!

Winnie-the-Pooh

is an excellent book by A.A.Milne (isbn 978-1405223980). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.
He was getting rather tired by this time, so that is why he sang a Complaining Song.
"What do you want a balloon for?" you said.
Winnie-the-Pooh looked round to see that nobody was listening, put his paw to his mouth, and said in a deep whisper: "Honey!"
"But you don't get honey with balloons!"
"I do," said Pooh.
"I have just been thinking, and I have come to a very important decision. These are the wrong sort of bees."
"I mean," said Rabbit, "that having got so far, it seems a pity to waste it."
Christopher Robin nodded
"Then there's only one thing to be done," he said. "We shall have to wait for you to get thin again."
"How long does getting thin take?" asked Pooh anxiously.
"About a week, I should think."
He sat down and thought, in the most thoughtful way he could think. Then he fitted his paw into one of the Tracks … and then he scratched his nose twice, and stood up.
"Yes," said Winnie-the-Pooh.
"I see now," said Winnie-the-Pooh.
"I have been Foolish and Deluded," said he, "and I am a Bear of No Brain at All."
"You're the Best Bear in All the World," said Christopher Robin soothingly.
"Am I?" said Pooh hopefully. And then he brightened up suddenly.
"Anyhow," he said, "it is nearly Luncheon Time."
So he went home for it.
Pooh felt that he ought to say something helpful about it, but didn't quite know what. So he decided to do something helpful instead.
But Owl went on and on, using longer and longer words, until at last he came back to where he started...
"You don't often see them," said Christopher Robin.
"Not now," said Piglet.
"Not at this time of year," said Pooh.
Owl was explaining that in a case of Sudden and Temporary Immersion the Important Thing was to keep the Head Above Water.
Owl hasn't exactly got Brain, but he Knows Things.
It wasn't what Christopher Robin expected, and the more he looked at it, the more he thought what a Brave and Clever Bear Pooh was.

Tragically I was an only twin

subtitled The Complete Peter Cook is an excellent book by (isbn 0-09-944325-2). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:

Builders of Xanadu (Saturday Live, Channel 4, 1986)
...
John Bird: Got the job then?
Peter Cook: Yes, got the job.
John Bird: Big one?
Peter Cook: Well, fairly big. He's got very grandiose in his old age, Kubla has.
John Bird: Well what does he want? An extension?
Peter Cook: No, no. More than that. He wants a pleasure dome.
John Bird: Nice. What sort of pleasure dome did he have in mind?
Peter Cook: Well, he was a bit vague about it. He rambled on a bit. The only adjective I got from him was 'stately'. In fact, that's what he decreed.
John Bird: Oh, he's decreeing things now then, is he?
Peter Cook: Certainly. No pissing about with planning permission for Kubla. If he wants a stately pleasure dome, wallop! He decrees it.
John Bird: Yes, well why not?
Peter Cook: Why not, at his age?
John Bird: Did you bung him an estimate, then?
Peter Cook: No, it's a bit tricky, you see.
John Bird: What's the problem? A pleasure dome's straightforward enough. I don't know about this 'stately' though. What's this 'stately'? That's new to me. What's that? Plants? Hammocks? Not structural, is it?
Peter Cook: No, it's not structural, 'stately'. It's more of an ambience sort of area.
John Bird: Well then, we'll just budget for a regular pleasure dome, and see if we can pick up some stately trimmings down the market.
...
Peter Cook: ... Part of his decree, vis-à-vis the stately pleasure dome, is he has this bloody sacred river Alph running through the structure.
John Bird: A sacred river?
Peter Cook: Running right through the structure. He specified that.
John Bird: We'll need a plumber then. I can have Ronnie bodge up a river for you and we can bung up a sign saying 'Sacred River of Alph'. Something along those lines.
Peter Cook: Yes, but we've still got a problem with his specifications.
John Bird: What's that, then?
Peter Cook: These caverns he wants.
...
Peter Cook: ... with these caverns, you see, he's specified, here, on the docket there, 'measureless to man'.
John Bird: Measureless? He wants caverns you can't measure?
Peter Cook: Yes.
...

Dancing with elves

subtitled Parenting as a Perfoming Art, is an excellent book by John Gall (isbn 978-0-9618251-4-0). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
No one can avoid influencing others. The only question is whether we are going to do it knowingly or unknowingly. Our position is that knowledge is better than ignorance.
Command-and-control tries to get 100% compliance - an impossible goal. In the name of discipline, it teaches rigidity.
The mother bird repeats the sequence over and over, with endless patience, until the children learn. You never see a mother bird attack her offspring; you never see her punish her baby for failure to learn the lesson. When the adult animal teaches their offspring, it is done by one method and that is by modelling over and over the desired behaviour.
Talking about your own experiences causes others to access their own similar experiences. I wish I could get across to you how powerful this effect is and how silently it operates.
Words have this incredible power to call up experience.
What a momentous thing you are doing when you speak words to your child or to your spouse or to any other person. You have the power to create their experience, you have the power to shape it, to make it beautiful. You can give them the experience of competence, of comfort, of success.
Somewhere between the first week of life and age forty or fifty, something rather serious happens. We stop using our feedback. We're carefully taught to pay attention to the program inside our head, instead of what's happening in the real world.
When you speak to someone, they split into two pieces. This happens all the time, to everybody. There's a part that wants to go along with what you say, and then there's a part that wants to defend their individuality, they're not going along. There's the part that agrees, and a part that disagrees, simultaneously.
It obviously doesn't make sense to demand impulse control from a little person that doesn't have it.
If you see "stubbornness" then you're naturally going to expect certain things. You're going to act in certain ways, you're going to get an interaction started that assumes this.
What does it mean when you say a person is "just lazy?" or "just stubborn?". It really means that you have tried out some of your repertoire of behavioural interventions in order to elicit a desired piece of behaviour from the other person and you have failed, because your repertoire was too limited.

The Tao of Pooh

is an excellent book by Benjamin Hoff (isbn 1-4052-0426-5). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,
A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly.
Ask me a riddle and I reply:
Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.
It is useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and do not use it in its proper way.
One disease, long life; no disease, short life.
Unlike other forms of life, though, people are easily led away from what's right for them, because people have Brain, and Brain can be fooled. Inner Nature, when relied on, cannot be fooled. But many people do not look at it or listen to it, and consequently do not understand themselves very much. Having little understanding of themselves, they have little respect for themselves, and are therefore easily influenced by others.
For a long time they looked at the river beneath them, saying nothing, and the river said nothing too, for it felt very quiet and peaceful on this summer afternoon. [A.A.Milne]
I think therefore I am Confused.
All work and no play makes Backson a dull boy.
"But you should be something Important," I said.
"I am," said Pooh.
"Oh? Doing what?"
"Listening," he said.
the Bisy Backson Society, which practically worships youthful energy, appearance, and attitudes.
It's really fun to go somewhere where they are no timesaving devices because, when you do, you find that you have lots of time.
We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. [Henry David Thoreau]
From caring comes courage [Tao Te Ching]
...too many who think too much and care too little.


Experiential Learning 2: Invention

is an excellent book by Jerry Weinberg. There's no isbn - you can buy it from Leanpub. As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
At intervals, keep adding members from the observer corps to each team and observe how each team handles the additional members.
They were… concentrating with their eyes closed (that is, sleeping).
Everything that happens in an exercise is an experience; and every experience provides an opportunity for learning.
Let the students design a slide show of their learnings, and present it to you.
If you were to run this exercise again, with observers chosen before the exercise started, what would you instruct the observers to keep track of? How would you process those data once the exercise was finished?
If you can’t find a regular pattern of some time for self-observation, your leadership development program is in serious trouble.
Have each participant make a "sandwich board" on a large sheet of paper saying:
1) what I'm seeking in teammates
2) what I have to offer my teammates
When standing aside at some distance, we can often see what we couldn’t see up close - that the whole structure is about to collapse, and that additional work will just be wasted work.

the book of tea

is an excellent book by Kakuzo Okakura (isbn 0-486-200070-1). As usual I'm going to quote from a few pages:
One of the cardinal concepts of Oriental thought, from even before the time of Confucius, has been the belief that alternating, diametrically opposed forces govern the universe, like day and night.
Those who cannot feel the littleness of great things in themselves are apt to overlook the greatness of little things in others.
The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.
We must know the whole play in order to properly act our parts; the conception of totality must never be lost in that of the individual.
Truth can be reached only through the comprehension of opposites.
It is much to be regretted that so much of the apparent enthusiasm for art in the present day has no foundation in real feeling.
We classify too much and enjoy too little.