Finding my Theme, again. Part 4 – Upsetting tradition

Finding my Theme, again. Part 4 – Upsetting tradition

Reading Time: 3 minutes
  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt that something is exciting at the intersection of _______ and _______
  2. I sincerely believe that the world needs _______
  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______
  4. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and _______

So I did this once before, it’s an exercise from the book “Entrepreneur Revolution” by Daniel Priestley. The idea is that you can use the four questions to try and find what your theme or passion is in your life.

Last year my business was crushed under by the global pandemic of COVID, leaving me with nothing but debts and angry creditors who once were friends. In contrast, I am lucky enough to have some work. I am taking this time to find out where I want to be before starting again.

So here is the final part, trying to answer the questions above and maybe from there, I’ll move onto a plan and finally a business venture.

My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix a traditional domain with something unexpected

The status quo, the traditional, the institutionalized, the norm. These things are often there not because they are good, efficient, or effective but because they are familiar, tried, and tested. Some of the institutions we work with and struggle with are dinosaurs, and their traditions are now holding back entire industries. Some of these are more obvious to see, school curriculums based on old textbooks training students for work that may not even exist when they enter the market. Language teachers training language teachers about intelligence types, when even the person who coined the term later said it wasn’t accurate.

Fair to say I’m not a big fan of things that have calcified and now hold us back. This isn’t usually any particular person’s fault; it’s the nature of the beast; the larger the institution, the more calcified and rigid it becomes. Governments and the systems of administration are obvious culprits. They tend to be huge established institutions where the people in charge have spent 40 years in that institution mastering its various systems. Why would they want to change or disrupt it? Those who arrive fresh-faced with ideas tend to be ignored, and so the cycle continues.

Also, the larger the beast, the slower and more difficult it is to make any changes. To change you need key players to get on board, you need to produce documents and arguments as to why the idea will help the institution. These organizations suffer not from a lack of intelligence or willingness from participants. Usually, it’s the massive gears of bureaucracy that grind the change-makers under. That’s also why you tend to find huge changes in an industry coming from the outside. Not necessarily someone ignorant of the domain but someone who independently pushes a solution. Something that would have been impossible from within.

woman in red long sleeve writing on chalk board

“The entire education system is a beast of tradition

Take Khan Academy 1, creating a whole new MOOC approach for people to learn at home. It wasn’t that training videos like this hadn’t been suggested before YouTube had existed for ages. Teachers suggested it as a means to teach maths over traditional drilling. But the entire education system is a beast of tradition. Trying to suggest this to the government would warrant meetings and hearings, budget reviews, and of course, the training required. Technology is a key part of this disruption. Of course, tech is getting cheaper and cheaper, smarter and smarter, and it’s going to appear in some unexpected places in the upcoming years.

But it’s not just in the world of politics and institutions that I find this interesting. I love it when people take a well-known concept or industry and turn it on its head by doing something unexpected. The traditional fantasy genre tropes that were with us since Lord Of The Rings got torn up with the movie Bright on Netflix. Of course, people hated or loved it. It took what they were familiar with and upended it. In my youth, the tales of Drizzt, a noble Dark Elf who was the antithesis of his race. Essentially, and I think this is something I need to write more about, any institution or domain that has remained entrenched in its ways for more than 50 years is probably an area that should be looked at from an entrepreneurial standpoint.

  1. https://khanacademy.org[]
Finding my Theme, again. Part 3 – find your tribe

Finding my Theme, again. Part 3 – find your tribe

Reading Time: 4 minutes
  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt that something is exciting at the intersection of _______ and _______
  2. I sincerely believe that the world needs _______
  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______
  4. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and _______

So I did this once before, it’s an exercise from the book “Entrepreneur Revolution” by Daniel Priestley. The idea is that you can use the four questions to try and find what your theme or passion is in your life.

Last year my business was crushed under by the global pandemic of COVID, leaving me with nothing but debts and angry creditors who once were friends. In contrast, I am lucky enough to have some work. I am taking this time to find out where I want to be before starting again.

So here is part 3 of 4, trying to answer the questions above and maybe from there, I’ll move onto a plan and finally a business venture.

Never in history has there been a better time for finding or creating your tribe. 

The first time I heard about the context of modern tribes was back in 2009 (holy crap where did 12 years go) when Seth Godin gave his TED talk on the subject. It’s such a great talk I’ll link it here so you can watch it now.

It’s a remarkably uplifting talk showing how many businesses are interested in tackling problems that will raise the standard of living, education, and the human condition to greater heights. Also, as it clearly says in yellow, it’s about Tribes. We all have, or at least want to have a tribe. A place where we belong and those around us support and reaffirm our place in the world. As he states in the talk above:

The Internet was supposed to homogenize everyone by connecting us all. Instead what it’s allowed is silos of interest. So you’ve got the red-hat ladies over here. You’ve got the red-hat triathletes over there. You’ve got the organized armies over here. You’ve got the disorganized rebels over here. You’ve got people in white hats making food. And people in white hats sailing boats. The point is that you can find Ukrainian folk dancers and connect with them because you want to be connected. That people on the fringes can find each other, connect and go somewhere.

Seth Godin: The tribes we lead TED

Of course, this has a dark side, a glance at the Qanon community, anti-vaccine sentiment, and far right groups also can find each other and feed each other to fuel their hate. The exact force for good envisioned by Godin here is equally good at creating silos of extremism. With humans at the whim of such effects as cognitive-dissonance 1, Dunning-Kreuger 2 and confirmation bias 3 the Internet is a place where our inner prejudices can be refined and sharpened as easily as our values and humanity.

However, despite the risks, finding your tribe has a lot of benefits, if you’re surrounded by optimistic, forward-thinking people, you tend to take on that mindset. If you have regular discussions with others about ways to improve the world around you and how things have improved that can be a real boost. If you cannot find people already in groups that share your ideas and goals, then the internet has made it an incredibly simple task to reach out to them. If your Tribe has a bonding goal whether it is running a better company or building mars colonies there is no harm in seeking out that group and leaving if it’s not for you.

Side note: Not all your Tribe will agree

Crowd of protestors

While it would be great if you could find a group of ideal people to talk with you need to be prepared to understand that not everyone will share your point of view. In any group, you’ll have conspiracy theorists, crackpots, and trolls, who won’t follow your line. As Seth says about the schism in the Balloon Animal community. Don’t expect any group over the size of 1 to agree on all points. Even if everyone in a group is in agreement that GMOs are good, or that God doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean you won’t have racists, homophobes, and bigots as well.

People are more nuanced than their tribe and even if everyone agrees on a broad topic “let’s save the planet” you’ll have a million different ideas on how to do that. So in light of all that, what do we do with the tribes we are building?

Making tribes, not tribalism

One of the greatest threats to the progress of humanity is one of its greatest strengths. We seek out a tribe but then we get caught in an “Us vs Them” mindset. We see it clearest in politics these days, where we vilify and demonize our “enemy” or hero-worship our “spokesperson” to the point where the group cannot accept anything said by the other as true or right. We dig deeper and trenches and then refuse to notice or consider them. These chasms of understanding are not always rational, many are based on prior convictions or worse outright manipulations by fundamentalists in any given tribe. If you feel that you don’t have any preconvictions or prejudices, I have some bad news for you, it’s almost impossible as a human being to not have them. It takes considerable effort to take a step back from something and really consider it, particularly if you have a long-standing belief to the contrary.

So while I deeply believe that we can all find our tribe out there I worry that without an accompanying caution of our nature and a study of critical personal reflection we may cause as many problems as we solve.

  1. https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html[]
  2. https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/dunning-kruger-effect/[]
  3. https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/confirmation-bias[]
Finding my Theme, again. Part 2

Finding my Theme, again. Part 2

Reading Time: 3 minutes
  1. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt that something is exciting at the intersection of _______ and _______
  2. I sincerely believe that the world needs _______
  3. Never in history has there been a better time for _______
  4. My whole life I’ve been fascinated by what happens when you mix _______ and _______

So I did this once before, it’s an exercise from the book “Entrepreneur Revolution” by Daniel Priestley. The idea is that you can use the four questions to try and find what your theme or passion is in your life.

Last year my business was crushed under by the global pandemic of COVID, leaving me with nothing but debts and angry creditors who once were friends. In contrast, I am lucky enough to have some work. I am taking this time to find out where I want to be before starting again.

So here is part 2 of 4, trying to answer the questions above and maybe from there, I’ll move onto a plan and finally a business venture.

I deeply believe that the world needs to invest heavily in transformative technologies such as AI, robotics and Space exploration. 

Many people have come to think of science and technology negatively while ignoring the massive benefits it has brought about globally. Yes, globally that’s a whole other topic, but you can read more about it the incredible progress humanity has seen in the last 50 years in almost every conceivable metric. But as stated in the link “That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.”

The objective facts show that the world has gone through a massive shift in the standard of living, reduced violence, and currently, more people die of obesity than famine. While it does seem difficult to believe considering the constant pain and suffering, we see every day on the news. Humanity is on the cusp of making the world a healthier and happier place for all its inhabitants. Not universally and not uniformly, that is sadly true. But technologies are emerging that will soon help reach millions of lives and enrich health, longevity, and the environment in ways that are hard to imagine. 

The three main areas that interest me are AI, robotics and Space exploration partly due to my interests in these domains and partly because of the growth and potential in those domains to revolutionalise what humanity can do and become. AI is already making inroads into providing new insights into medicine 1 and even identifying disease in scans 2. This is only the beginning, as the technology has only really come into its own in the last ten years (after decades of research), the actual impacts of AI are only just beginning to emerge. They will impact every area of society over the next 15 years: better medical treatments, batteries, material designs, processes, and energy savings are all within our reach. Imagine a system that can find us better and faster ways to solve every problem from waste to power production. 

Of course, such systems will be used for purposes both benign and nefarious. For every use of deep learning to produce a cure for something another group will use the same technology to patent a treatment, image processing Deepfakes, hacking into accounts or scamming people in more subtle ways without ever requiring a human in the loop. But that should not stop us from pushing hard and fast to get these technologies operating at maximum speed and efficiency, the economics of the world are going to undergo a radical shift if we can have near-infinite cheap energy, a global high-speed internet and the vast resources available in the asteroid belt around the solar system.

  1. https://deepmind.com/blog/article/AlphaFold-Using-AI-for-scientific-discovery[]
  2. https://deepmind.com/blog/announcements/announcing-deepmind-health-research-partnership-moorfields-eye-hospital[]
How to find your purpose (attempt 3)

How to find your purpose (attempt 3)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

15 Questions

Duncan Hull - Flickr

Duncan Hull – Flickr

This list was borrowed from Tina Su’s blogpost https://thinksimplenow.com/happiness/life-on-purpose-15-questions-to-discover-your-personal-mission/ which focuses on a purpose rather than passion seeking. I am merely using her method, if you want more methods like this I strongly suggest going to her blog.

  1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects, etc.)

Films, good conversations over wine with friends, old stories, helping someone “get it” when they didn’t before, compliments, new experiences, getting to the summit of a mountain or hill and then enjoying the mad descent. Finding out how something works for the first time, having a moment of realization about the world we live in.

  1. What are your favourite things to do in the past? What about now?

In the past it was painting, role play games, Judo, guitar, travel, meeting strangers and talking. Now I am working so much at the school I have little time for hobbies, I guess I like to meet with friends, walk around town, meditation… I need to do more stuff now apparently.

  1. What activities make you lose track of time?

Debating people about subjects I feel are important, researching something, walking in the countryside, reading (or listening) to a good book.

  1. What makes you feel great about yourself?

Getting people to understand something they didn’t before, receiving praise from people about my work.

  1. Who inspires you most? (Anyone you know or do not know. Family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, etc.) Which qualities inspire you, in each person?

In my personal life I would say Kevin Carr; for his determination and perseverance to follow his dreams despite their enormity. Andrew Medlin; Who dedicated his life to his martial art and who constantly works to improve himself in whatever it he’s doing whether it be bartending or Computer Science. My brother, for his dedication to his writing and his lens like focus on his career.

In public life, Martin Luther King and  Mahatma Gandhi; both inspired entire movements that created great change and who did so with a completely non-violent approach. To peacefully inspire such a profound changes to the world they lived in constantly blows my mind.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Malcom Gladwell et al. Those writers who try and understand the human condition and try to see ways to improve it.

Neil Degrass Tyson, Steve Nye, David Attenborough et al; All the passionate scientists and researches who through their works have helped me learn a great deal about the world we live on and the universe we are just beginning to discover.

  1. What are you naturally good at? (Skills, abilities, gifts etc.)

I would say I’m fairly good at explaining concepts using allegories, similes and metaphors; taking something complex and reframing it so it is more accessible. I am good at thinking up concepts and novel solutions to problems but I do need to work on actually seeing them through.  I also am a moderately good programmer, although I’m out of practice on that front. Oh and I’m very good at finding stuff quickly on the internet either to defend a position or find a solution I can find it if given a few minutes!

  1. What do people typically ask you for help in?

Computer problems, I generally can fix most issues. Many people now are starting to ask for my help in the domain of English and translation (scary stuff).

  1. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

Hah! Trick question :), I already teach English!!

  1. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

Well that’s 3 questions not one so I’ll answer each in turn.

  • Doing – I’d be disappointed if I didn’t visit more of the planet, I’d love to travel more and see the world, from South Africa all the way to Norway and likewise across the America’s, Asia and Australasia. I don’t have to see every mountain and tree but I want to end my days well travelled.
  • Being – A manager of my own company… I mean technically I am right now, but I’d like a permanent staff, a working business and a stable enterprise before I feel like a true manager. In fact more than some manager I’d like to be a leader of something bigger than me, I don’t just want to make a school, I want to make a movement that helps teach people.
  • Having – A family, whether mine or adopted, a nice cabin on a mountainside somewhere, where I can relax meditate read and contemplate.
  1. You are now 90 years old, sitting on a rocking chair outside your porch; you can feel the spring breeze gently brushing against your face. You are blissful and happy, and are pleased with the wonderful life you’ve been blessed with. Looking back at your life and all that you’ve achieved and acquired, all the relationships you’ve developed; what matters to you most? List them out.

That I have left something meaningful that can grow and help future generations become more than they were.  To have touched the lives of others in a meaningful way.

  1. What are your deepest values?

    Select 3 to 6 (See list of words to help you ) and prioritize the words in order of importance to you.

  • Variety
  • Curiosity
  • Respect
  • Inner Peace
  1. What were some challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming? How did you do it?

No easy answers here, I struggled through University, I found my first job as a programmer and struggled to get to be good at that, I cycled around the south of Europe overcoming mountains, extreme heat, cold and wind. At the moment I am struggling to create a school here in France. How did I do these things? Mostly I’d like to say it was through determination, although it’s also because of massively supportive parents helping finance some of the more ludicrous things I’ve done. I’ve also been exceptionally lucky in all my endeavours, leaping into things without a plan has always been an issue and I need to do much better in the future in that regard.

  1. What causes do you strongly believe in? Connect with?

I find very few causes I strongly connect with in the way you’re implying I like Sir Ken Robinson’s cause to change education to be much more centred around the individual learning than the current system allows. I like Ben Goldacre’s campaign to have all medical trials released to improve the medical system. Maybe I should get more involved in some kind of movement, in fact maybe that’s what I’m missing in life.

  1. If you could get a message across to a large group of people. Who would those people be? What would your message be?

We need to do more for the future and not just focus on the immediacy of our lives. To paraphrase JFK

“Ask not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for the world.”

His “Ask not” speech galvanised a nation, it made them put up with adversity, it took a nation and asked them to accept the difficulties and fears of the time and face them. I don’t think we need to completely lose our limited time here by doing everything for those that follow, but I do believe we need to seriously look at creating something that will last into the future with a net positive benefit to humanity.

  1. Given your talents, passions and values. How could you use these resources to serve, to help, to contribute? ( to people, beings, causes, organization, environment, planet, etc.)

I could help program, teach (English or Programming), help organisations notice bottle necks and re-organise or change established routines. I would happily go to impoverished regions and help people with maths, English and basic literacy.

How to find your purpose (attempt 2)

How to find your purpose (attempt 2)

Reading Time: < 1 minuteSo if you read my older post on passion being overrated then you’ll know I have embarked on a journey of self discovery to find my why, my raison d’être and not necessarily a particular activity that I enjoy but the reason behind my motivations. I followed that up with Daniel Priestley’s “themed rant“, now I’m taking some advice from @Miss_Georgette who said mind mapping and brainstorming might help.

Apparently I can't decide between capitals and lowercase

Some things about me

While currently this doesn’t say too much about me it’s a start, the idea is to look for common themes or threads, brainstorming just the basics about me gives me a reference I can work from. I am also presently listening to the book So good they can’t ignore you by Cal Newport. It talks about cultivating career capital and a craftsman mindset. In fact it’s the complete antithesis of the passion mindset that I doubted in my first post.

While I like the alternative look I think it’s a little severe in the opposite direction. Think I’ll continue sketching and mind-mapping new thoughts as time goes on. Either way I am feeling very motivated at the moment!