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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bonsai

Just came back from  http://build.org/page.aspx?pid=345  meeting tonight at Oakland. My team continues to do well with career exploration and learning to run a small business. Tonight they spent most of their time at http://californiarealitycheck.com/ shopping a lifestyle and learning what it will cost. The next step they take is looking at what kind of jobs they'll need (in line with their interests) to earn the money supporting the lifestyle. While the kids were working, I talked with Robyn @ Cisco and Pier, a couple other mentors. It's kind of funny that none of us are particularly working in our field of study, although each of us can say there's a connection between the education we received and what we do. I try to relate that concept to the BUILD kids as well as my own- as a boat can only be steered when it's moving, a learner only learns when they make a choice and go in a direction.
Sometimes the 'wrong turns' are more interesting, and still educational. During my dad's visit from Arizona last week, he retold the story of how he was mortified when I chose to attend a vocational school rather that finish my degree (back in 1986). This has turned out to be a good decision, although I'm not still working as a car mechanic. Another way to express the concept: bonsai trees are only interesting if they aren't straight. My path to arrive where I'm at now is unconventional, but it makes a much better story. Dad wanted each of us four kids to be an engineer, and I've come the closest- with a studio arts degree. I train engineers to work on DNA sequencers. That's kind of an unimaginable outcome from my high school years. Along the way, I've learned I really enjoy international travel, and I intend to eventually live overseas for a period of some years.
How will I do this? There's a piece in there about going the right general direction, even if I don't know the complete path yet. I've found success in life is based on acting on current circumstances rather than desired circumstances, and I think I can engineer this change.  'Luck' is where the preparation meets opportunity. I'm going to see what I can do.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

funnel

I've been meaning to do some writing here for far too long, and it's finally time to get on with it. Business travel does make finding the time a little easier. Anyway, if you've known me for some time you might have gotten a little bit of my chautauqua about the funnel. That's the core of this whole thing (and series of blog posts I intend to develop), and has even snuck into classes I teach and my thinking about how to live a life. The diagram above is kind of messy because this conversation touches on so many things. This picture is the final result of a conversation with KS Kang, a colleague of mine from Seoul, over dinner at the food court in Chinatown near Clarke Quay, Singapore. At the core of the diagram is a funnel, and the letters N, M, L, and W.
The N is for the right now. What am I doing right now? What should I be doing? Hopefully we are all living at least partially in the right Now (unless you've got your head stuck too far up your cellphone). The present moment is all we have, and being present in it is important. Kids seem to be especially good at it.
However, most adults need to plan a little farther ahead to function in the world we've created. That brings us to Mid. Mid is for short to mid-term planning. I suspect most adults live at the M. Even a 5-year plan is kind of uncommon among people I talk to. We pay the bills, work the job, keep up the house, and basically do what we need to do to stay functioning and solvent. It's important, but I don't see it as being key to a deep sense of meaning. The M does help dictate what we should be doing at any given moment though, and so it informs the N. Most people will use short and mid-term thinking to avoid future pain and make gains where they can.
Even fewer people live at the level of L, by which I mean thinking about M and N in terms of their whole Life. L is about strategy- lining up Mid-term events and the Now in order to accomplish life goals. The 'bucket list' I hear a lot of people talk about these days (maybe it's my age? The people I hang around?) has something to do with Life goals. Somehow it still strikes me as selfish although more likely to be fulfilling vs. living at M.
At the top of the funnel is W for World. It is a rare few people these days who view their own life contribution in context of a world cause larger than their own Life. These are often the kind of people who make history- Lincoln, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, etc. Sacrifice is involved- and subordinating one's own emotions and day-to-day happiness for something larger. I'm no longer particularly religious but my own link to this World state is an interest (irrational past my own life?) in the future well-being of the human race and our planet . My interest for my children is part of it, but I think the story goes deeper than that (see Charlie Stross' e-book Accelerando for another perspective). We live in an interesting time: On the edge of widespread sequencing of the human genome and possibly human genetic engineering, the impending singularity, and the anthropocene. I don't know how this will play out, but am very interested in exploring the question.