Glossary: Consolidation

I woke up this morning with an idea totally clear in my mind. It was a problem I had been wrestling with for a couple of days and overnight my subconscious (likely in REM), connected the dots and I woke up with the answer. I call this a consolidation. Synthesizing data and wisdom from different experiences and fields into an “ah ha” moment. Many of the great inventions of the world were consolidations. Built on long slogs through the wilderness, treks to dead ends, learnings that seemed unrelated, until one day, it all fit.

Webster says “the process by which a new memory is converted into a form that is stable and long-lasting”. Consolidations can be a moment to note your own personal wisdom. I pay special attention to consolidations by writing them in my Morning Pages journal. And by paying special attention in the morning, before the details of the day demand attention. I even write the best down as “Seed Crystals” because consolidations can often serve to help with whole categories of problems across disciplines. How to create more consolidations for yourself?

  1. read, learn, explore broadly, in seemingly disparate fields.
  2. Be aware consolidations can and do happen
  3. Have a practice of noting and recording them.

Send me your problem worksheets

I have thought through over 1,000 problems for CEOs, investors, friends and myself using the Next Right Action Worksheet. One of the mantra’s that drive me is “have hard problems to solve every day”, so, yea, I love thinking through problems. I also love helping people. So once you have filled out your own Worksheet, send it to me in WORD format and I will add my comments to it. No, this won’t cost you anything, in fact you will be helping my research, and helping make me smarter by thinking through more problems. Remember, only YOU can decide the Next Right Action, I can only help explore and hypothesize about the problem as a guide. Go ahead.

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Glossary: Philosophy

Growing up I had a bad taste in my mouth for “philosophy”, especially in college. Especially “comparative philosophy” with the focus on memorizing minute details of differences between schools. Lots of details without much context or understanding of why those old guys were arguing about that stuff. In college, I was a business and computer science major, a “hard” major. Philosophy was part of liberal arts, the “soft” stuff. The soft stuff was never going to get me a job so why bother? Oh, the hubris and certitude of youth. You were useful then and I don’t miss you.

Recently, by way of Ryan Holiday, I learned the greek roots of the word:

philo (“love”) and sophia (“wisdom”)

While the education system today has turned philosophy into a historical, academic exercise, it did not start out that way. It started out as the search for a “way of life”, the journey with love toward the wisdom of how to live life. I also stumbled on this deeper context.

“The rather vague definition ‘love of wisdom’ comes from the origin and etymology of the Greek word ‘philosophy’: philo (“love”) and sophia (“wisdom”). According to an ancient tradition Pythagoras of Croton (born on the Greek island of Samos, c. 580 B.C.) coined the Greek word ‘philosopher’ meaning ‘lover of wisdom’ to contrast with ‘wise man’ (sophist), saying of himself that he was only a man who loved wisdom (a wisdom-loving man), not a wise man. And the example of Socrates — whose only wisdom was that he did not think he knew what he did not know, that he did not think himself wise when he was not (Plato, Apology 23b) — further suggests that it was modesty that invented the word ‘philosopher’ (“lover of wisdom”), a word from whence the word ‘philosophy’ (“the pursuit of wisdom [by the lover of wisdom]”) came.”

So a philosopher is a “lover of wisdom”. Not a bespectacled, tweeded college professor. Every school of philosophy (and every religion) endeavors in their own way to deliver their “wisdom” to answer the “how should I live my life” question. The VIA Character Institute spent years looking across all cultures, religions, schools of philosophy, and more to figure out what are the common character strengths which are valued (and tend to lead to a “well-lived life”). These are incredibly consistent. The exact techniques and practices and belief systems vary widely, but the values and goals are all the same. Everyone wants to live the “good life.”

Philosophy, rather than being a fixed set of principals to be memorized and categorized by academia, is rather a way of approaching the world. As a lover of wisdom. As a traveler on a journey, picking up useful bits and pieces along the way to make the way forward easier and more meaningful. This only came to me later. I wish I had rocked this in my 20s. You don’t have to read ancient philosophy or religious texts to be a philosopher. You just have to be a seeker, lover of wisdom.

So philosopher = lover of wisdom.

Aren’t we all philosophers?

Think.👍 <> Worry.👎

The Thinker by Rodin

I have often wrestled with the advice to “Stay present” and ignore the past (you can’t change it) as well as the future (it isn’t here yet). My monkey mind cries out “How am I going to learn anything if I ignore the past?” followed by “How can I make a better future without worrying about it ?” Rock, meet hard place.

After wiggling there for years, some light started to appear. Maybe there is a difference between “Thought” and “Worry”. There is, and it is all the difference in the world.

What struck me standing next to Rodin’s “Thinker” atop the granite pedestal is that gravel and green garden in Paris was how calm he looked. The visitors picked up on this and a hush fell over the crowds as they approached. There is not a trace of worry in him.

Productive thought is accompanied by calm, intensity, curiosity, open-mindedness, confidence, empathy, presence, passion, humility, gratitude, fascination, focus, and yes even joy. Thought is a precursor to right action.

Worry is accompanied by irritation, hostility, annoyance, frustration, agitation, closed-mindedness, fear of failure, distrust, scepticism, randomness, pride, despair and yes even misery. Worry is aimless recursive wallowing without a plan of action.

Thinking about the past, present and future when directed toward right action is very useful. Worry without direction is a waste of time and effort.

Don’t worry. Think.

TEDFAV: Steve Jobs commencement address

If you, like me, are searching for wisdom in life, and want to hack the process (get more results in less time), one of the most distilled forms is the commencement speech. In less than 20 minutes, someone with a bunch of life wisdom (hopefully) endeavors to pass it on to a primed audience in a way they can understand and use. One of my favorites is David Foster Wallace (ok, he killed himself so maybe he had challenges applying the wisdom in his own life, but stick with me).

Steve Jobs is obviously one of the winners at this game of life. Sure he could be an asshole and that was in service of his mission in life too. Our heroes are never perfect, who can possibly be? The point of seeking wisdom is not to replicate someone else’s life, but to live our own at a higher level. So take what resonates, and integrate that. The trick is how to get the distillations of life lessons as efficiently as possible in a way we can relate to, so we can translate that wisdom into our own lifes. Jobs does this amazingly well by “just telling three stories”. One about a beginning (his birth, adoption, and path to work), One about love, for creating stuff, getting fired, creating again, meeting his wife, finding the path in unexpected ways. And one about Death, using the 100% certainty to live each day with intent. Three key areas of wisdom (valued through the ages by the way) delivered in a personal narrative that makes you sit up and say “Yea, that is how it should be and can be for me.”

I re-watch this almost every year. Small time commitment. Big reward. Enjoy.

Remember this Martin: the conclusion of Walden is Stoic

I ran across this quote from Walden yesterday. It is the last line in the book:

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard times. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is.”

Most people remember Walden for the escape to the woods, throw away busy life theme. But after two years on the pond his conclusion is you are where you are so love it. Don’t escape. Love it as it is. That is very stoic and fits with my experience.

Remember Martin: Ask open-ended questions

Read this in a blog today: “Asking open-ended questions encourages the person you’re conversing with to think critically and therefore to be more engaging because open-ended questions allow the respondent, not the asker, to control the response.” In my experience, I agree.

My favorite Open Ended questions:

“How did you…”

“In what ways…”

“Tell me about…”

“What’s it like…”

I used some of these on my 4 year old during facetime today. Instead of “how was school?” which tends to get a one word “good” or “bad”. I asked “Tell me about school today?” and got a very long story with drawing, lunch, snacks, dancing, etc.

DO THIS: read “A calendar of daily wisdom” from Tolstoy

Ryan Holiday recently mentioned an all but forgotten book from Tolstoy which the author claimed was really his culminating life’s work. A Calendar of Daily Wisdom is Tolstoys attempt to summarize the best advice he had read over his lifetime into a daily inspirational work that could share his version of how to live a good life from authors and thinkers around the world. He quotes from the likes of Kant, Marcus Aurelius, Buddha, the Bible, the Koran, and event the Talmud. It is wide ranging and refreshing in how much similarity there are in the core ideas across cultures and time. While a bit heavy on the religious themes and invocation of faith in a higher power, it is clear that the goal of all philosophy and religion is to give is insight to live a good life NOW. I have added reading the days inspiration. From this to my morning routine and I recommend you do too.

Some selected quotes:

One of the key questions we face is whether our lives end after death. Whether we believe in eternity or not determines our actions. Therefore, it is crucial that we determine what is mortal in us, and what is eternal, and that we cherish those things eternal. Most people do exactly the opposite.—After BLAISE PASCAL

It is not the place we occupy which is important, but the direction in which we move.—OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

The only real science is the knowledge of how a person should live his life. And this knowledge is open to everyone. Leo Tolstoy