Am I As Good As I Used To Be?

 Comparison is the death of joy.  Mark Twain.

History always wants to compare. This is also true of sports and personal legacy. Why?I ran across the Mark Twain quote by sports writer Daniel Brown while getting annoyed reading about the Golden State Warriors legacy after winning the NBA basketball championship again June 8th. That is what caused this blog.

The Warriors are well known for their joy. They are a team with a caring culture of comradery, having fun together. That is what I like about them; it became myjoy. All of the current comparisons about which team is the best team of all time, which player is the best player of all time, who is better than whom?, etc. doesn’t make sense. These comparisons are killing this joy. Why is it so important to rank, rate, compare what is happening now compared to what happened years ago? As with most comparisons in history, sports and personal legacy, this is like comparing apples and oranges. Today is like apples, 20 years ago is like oranges. Why can’t we just enjoy?

This experience with the concept of comparison has caused me to think about my tendency to compare my current life with my past life. I often think about my life today by comparing it to what I can no longer do. I can no longer go backpacking, play tennis, climb up ladders, dig in the garden, etc. This comparing could be killing my joy.

In 2011 I wrote a series of essays: “Composing My Further Life.” I borrowed the title from Mary Catherine Bateson’s 2010 book with the same title.  And I asked myself her initial question: Am I still the person I spent a lifetime becoming? And do I still want to be that person?

Now, instead of comparing me now, to what I used to be, I am thinking more about what I want my present life to be, rather than comparing it to my past or future life. I don’t want to kill my current joy. This doesn’t mean I don’t think about my past and future; I choose my thoughts carefully. I remember and imagine the positives and negatives; comparing isn’t necessary. I am the one who creates my joy and pleasures, regardless of how it compares to my past joys or other’s joy. The current experience of reading about the Warriors’ joy and Mark Twain’s quote, has caused me some enlightenment.

Am I as good today as I used to be? I admit I asked myself this question when writing my Composing My Further Life essays. There I was comparing again, spoiling my joy. Thank you Mark Twain and Warriors. Apparently my sport’s addiction has been beneficial. The quote and the sports world comparing the Warriors’ victory and players with others was a valuable lesson. This has caused me to realize that comparison wasn’t beneficial. Comparing what I can’t do now, to what I can do now, is a way of killing my joy of what I am doing.

Now I will try to remember my past with pleasure and enjoy the memories, and have joy in my present — without comparison. Wish me luck.

Be yourself; everyone else is taken. Oscar Wilde



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Decision Rules And Custom

 Have a place for everything and put the thing someplace else.                                              That’s not advice, It’s merely custom. Mark Twain

Advice about how to decide is not hard to find. People love rules that tell them what to do — and they hate them. It is another paradox. We want to be captain of our ship, but we also want a pilot’s manual. Rational procedures for deciding what to do were once  the pilot’s manual. Mark Twain makes the point that conventional rules and customary practices often are not the same thing. People make rules and then don’t follow them. But most people don’t practice conventional wisdom — they practice being caption of their ship. That is merely custom.

Today, what is practiced is now what is also preached. Decision making by the rational book is not the current rule. Conventional wisdom and decision rules  now treat intuition as intelligence. Intelligence and intuition are now considered equally important mental capacities. It is not either/or; it is both/and more. Having a place for everything may be intelligent strategy, but putting some things someplace else may be intuitive practice.

This reminds me of James March’s “Technology of Foolishness” (see my blog of 1-24-16).  March describes how playfulness is part of playing with the rules. Playfulness is the deliberate, temporary relaxation of rules in order to explore the possibilities of alternative rules. Playfulness allows experimentation. At the same time it acknowledges reason. The suspension of the rules is temporary. My present intent is to propose play as an instrument of intelligence, not a substitute.

 “Playfulness”, as a decision strategy, could become conventional wisdom AND custom.Be practical and playful, intelligent and intuitive, focused and flexible about what you do. Treating intuition as intelligence is treating intuition as real. Intuition is defined as: the faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition.Intuition allows us to see and use possible creative strategies, playfulness. Creative strategies are not always conventional wisdom.

Rigid decision rules are not good decision strategy. Decision making rules are to guide you, not control you. Let playfulness also guide you. Today we live in a world of rapid change, and change itself is changing. Therefore, shouldn’t we be changinghowwe decide whatwe decide to do? Custom becomes real.

Fuzzy thinking, a branch of mathematics, is defined                                                                                          as “rational thought tempered by intuition”.





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Today Matters

 The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating, John Schaar.

Once upon a time there was yesterday, today and tomorrow. Yesterday was well known, today was as usual, and tomorrow was somewhat foreseeable. Today we have a whole new world. There are many different versions of yesterday, some of it is ignored. Today there is nothing usual. And tomorrow is unpredictable. Yet, what we do today determines what happens next. Therefore, today really matters.

Since tomorrow hasn’t happened yet; it needs to be created. Our image of tomorrow may be the most important factor in determining what it will be. Herein lies the problem. We have dramatically different beliefs in our collective minds about what we want tomorrow to be. Yes, it is our future; but it is a different future, because it is our immediate future. It will happen soon and we can see the results right away.

Creating an immediate future, like creating a more distant future, requires three beliefs: the future is not predetermined; it is not predictable and it is persuadable. Believing that tomorrow is persuadable is necessary in order to do something about it today. It is a necessary strategy for creating our desired future one tomorrow at a time.

Today we live in a world of chaos with widespread cultural and belief diversity. The cultural evolution of our collective minds recently has been mind boggling. It seems that we are going backward, not forward. Certainly not better. My recommendation for tomorrow’s cultural evolution, of course, is a collective open and inclusive worldview. Open-mindedness makes us receptive to new ideas and inclusiveness makes us consider the common good. I have written many blogs about these concepts.

The battle cry today is: “In order to have a better tomorrow, we need a better leader.” Not just a better leader, but a visionary leader — to point the way. I suggest that our future doesn’t depend on a visionary leader. It depends on everyone becoming a leader. Tomorrow’s future depends on everyone doing it together. Tomorrow is everyone’s responsibility today. You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today, Abraham Lincoln.

 Because it is easier to be the result of the past than to be the cause of the future, to create a better tomorrow may require us to learn from yesterday and to invent tomorrow. Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. It is waiting to be created — right behind our eyes and with our behavior.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi






























The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt
You must be the change you wish to se in the world. Mahatma Gandhi






We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims. R. Buckminster Fuller



The future starts today, not tomorrow. Pope John Paul II


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 The Consequence Of Political Polarization*

 Bandwagon Bias Is The Culprit

Polarization: Division into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.

Bandwagon Bias: Our tendency to go along with belief systems of groups we are involved with. Also known as: Bandwagon Effect and Bandwagon Fallacy.

Group Think: The practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.

The belief systems of today’s republican and democratic political parties are a good example of polarization, the bandwagon bias and group think. This, of course, has always been true of American political parties. But recently it seems to have gone to an extreme. The worldwide consequence of this phenomenon today is staggering.

The problem with polarization, bandwagon bias, and group think is that they inhibit good decision making. Possible Political Polarization Damage:

  • Lacks personal responsibility
  • Discourages creativity
  • Ignores the common good
  • Precludes compromise and negotiation
  • Eliminates critical evaluation
  • Results in irrational or dysfunctional decision making
  • Sees no need to examine the possible alternatives or the potential consequences — just go along with my side (“my side bias”)

Going along  with the belief system of one’s group, causes these consequences that are harmful, and even dangerous, for a democracy. Notice: this collateral damage to a democracy is also true when the electorate is also polarized. When both the congress and the voters are polarized, the damage is doubled. And in both politicians and the voters there is often more than two sides. Is there a solution?

The solution is a revival of a sense of national identity that is both inclusive and meaningful, Francis  Fukuyama.

 We can only hope that citizens dissatisfaction fosters political engagement through activities such as protests, mobilization and pressure on public officials. Democratic activities are the best, and only, way to resolve crises in democracy, Didi Kuo.

I, of course, have been promoting a collective worldview that is open and inclusive. Can politicians and voters become open and inclusive? What do you think?

*This blog is the result of my reading the article, “A Deafening Divide” about political polarization, in the Stanford Magazine, May 2018. Nine Stanford scholars comment.

Posted in Democracy in Danger | 2 Comments


 Happiness Is In The Seeking

 What we are seeking so frantically elsewhere may turn out to be the horse we have been riding all along.  Harvey Cox

What we are seeking so frantically seems to be happiness. The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness, The Dalai Lama. Happiness has been studied and written about forever. Lately it seems to be reaching a peak. What Is happiness? Which country is the happiest? What makes us happy? Is a meaningful life happiness? And many strategies are proposed for reaching happiness. If reading about happiness is helpful, we should all be happy by now.

Life is a journey, not a destination, we have often been told. A journey is a process likened to traveling; a passage.So I think we can say that life is a process (a series of actions, changes or functions bringing about a result). This blog is suggesting that we move from seeking happiness to finding happiness in the seeking, finding pleasure in the process. Evaluating a good life is like evaluating a good decision: based on the process, not the outcome. A good life is the result of a life well lived. A good decision is the result of a decision well made, not on a good outcome. Happiness is what happens while living a life well lived.

“Be focused and flexible about what you want” was one of my four paradoxica principles of decision making in 1991. Being focused on your objective (goals, destination, what you want) keeps you from getting sidetracked easily. But it also prevents you from getting sidetracked to other potentially desirable goals/destinations. So, know what you want, but don’t be sure. Be open to outcome, not attached, Angeles Arrien. Use your goals to guide you, not govern you,

Frantically seeking happiness in our destination or seeking happiness in our journey, is our choice. Instead of seeking happiness, finding happiness in the seeking may make life’s journey more enjoyable. Enjoy the ride. It is well-known that money doesn’t seem to buy happiness. In fact, you don’t buy happiness, you live for it. And the pleasure of getting what you want doesn’t always satisfy. “Be careful what you wish for.”

Finding pleasure in the process is like enjoying the present. It means pleasure is on-going, happening along the way. Happiness is what you do, not what you get. Try it; you might like it.

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise  grows it under his feet. — James Openheim

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. — Thich Nhat Hanh


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Sharing Human Nature’s Trait Of Subjectivity

 The word human is often used as a synonym for mortal, fallible, faulty.

                                                                        Matthew Hutson

When someone is wrong or makes a mistake, others say, “Oh he/she is just being human. To err is human, (preverbal phrase). To be human means to share these common traits.Human nature is defined as: the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.

This blog is about subjectivity, a fallible, faulty tendency of humans. Subjectivity is: the quality of being influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings rather than based on facts, Dictionary.To be human is to have subjective (non rational) beliefs. This is a problem in human decision making that is well known. It is impossible for the behavior of a single, isolated individual to reach a high degree of rationality (“bounded rationality”).  Herbert Simon won the Nobel Prize for this discovery.

To be human means it is almost impossible to always be totally rational or objective. This is because to be human is to be subjective. And subjective beliefs are subject to cognitive biases.  A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive processes, often occurring as a result of holding onto one’s preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information. Biases are a companion of subjectivity.

A Few Of The Most Popular 71 Identified Cognitive Biases

  • Confirmation Bias:To emphasize information that supports our beliefs, ignoring or rejecting information that contradict them.
  • Self-Serving Bias: We tend to maintain beliefs that benefit our interests and goals.
  • Bandwagon Bias: Our tendency to go along with belief systems of groups we are involved with.
  • Uncertainty Bias: Our brain does not like uncertainty and ambiguity; thus we prefer either to believe or disbelieve rather remain uncertain.
  • Blind-Spot Bias; Most people fail to recognize how many cognitive biases they actually have, or how often they fall prey to these biases.

My point is that we know to be human is to be fallible, and that we have subjective, biased beliefs. (Or we should know this). I suggest we each review the 5 above cognitive biases above and ask: Do I sometimes ignore or reject information that contradicts my beliefs?  Do I maintain my beliefs that benefit my interests and goals? Do my beliefs systems tend to be the same as the group I belong to?  Do I prefer either to believe or disbelieve rather than remain uncertain? Am I aware of my personal subjective cognitive biases?  When do you believe you are being objective?

True objectivity would mean standing outside the human body, off the earth even, observing both without bias and without a human brain, Diane Ackerman. To be human is to be subjective, fallible, to err — and it is part of the human learning process.

 To err is human, but it feels divine.Mae West


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                                           That You Fail To Notice

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. R. D. Laing

What we pay attention to is what we notice. We don’t see what we don’t pay attention to, which is what we don’t notice. What we don’t see/notice is significant. It is 90 % of the iceberg. The 10% we see/notice shapes what we think and do. We don’t notice the forest because we are paying attention to the trees. I believe most of you would agree that all of this is true. But have you ever asked yourself: “What am I failing to notice?”

Out of necessity we learn to run on auto pilot, paying attention mechanically and passively most of the time. This underscores the need to pay attention deliberately and voluntarily, thereby liberating our awareness from robotic activity. Daniel Goleman. To me, this tendency to run on auto-pilot, is one of the biggest problems in the world today — a lack of mindfulness; a way of seeing things that lacks awareness, and lacks paying attention to what one is not paying attention to. Maye we all should develop a mind of a sleuth. A story about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on a camping trip demonstrates the importance of deliberately paying attention. As they lay down one night…

Holmes: “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.”                          Watson: “I see millions of stars.”                                                                               Holmes: “And what does that tell you?”                                                                       Watson: “Astronomically it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically it tells me that God is great and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically it tells me that we have a beautiful day tomorrow.             What does it tell you?”                                                                       Holmes: “It tells me that somebody stole our tent.”

We don’t pay attention to something obvious because we are so interested in something else, like Dr. Watson. You might want to try to pay attention like a detective. Here’s why: “The eye sees in things what it looks for and it looks forwhat is already in the mind.”  Scientific School of Police, Paris. If you learned to see like Sherlock Holmes, you would pay attention to what you don’t pay attention to. Of course it is easier to see what someone else is not seeing.

Do you ever ask yourself, “What am I not seeing because I’m not paying attention to?”  “Am I seeing the trees and not the forest?’ Am I paying attention to just the tip of the iceberg?  “Am I on auto pilot?” If this seems like too much paying attention, too much self-awareness, consider the risks of auto pilot: What you actually see is not all there is. You are only seeing part of the whole. The missing parts may be significant. You are looking at the world as a partially blind person. What you are missing is the hidden wholeness. There is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. Maybe what I am promoting is mindfulness, a way of seeing things that involves self- awareness, paying attention to what you notice and don’t notice — on purpose.

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose,in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”  Jon Kabat-Zinn





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