I had a bit of a reaction to this Amazon ad yesterday when I posted it. The more I thought about it and remembered my canoe trips, the more I felt like Kindles and canoes don't belong together. If you've spent a day or a week canoeing, you know how you feel when you're on the water. Even if
I follow two blogs daily- Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist, and Joanne Wilson, an angel investor. They're both super astute observers of the economy, entrepreneurship, politics and culture. Fred wrote another great post this morning about the conversation around losing jobs to China, that we (but mostly Americans right now) are bemoaning the loss of manufacturing jobs to China, when automation will mean that they will eventually lose their jobs anyway, so why can't politicians help constituents see the bigger picture instead of stoking their fears?
We are now well into a transition from an industrial economy to an information economy. It seems to me that part of that transition was the move of industrial jobs to lower and lower cost regions in an ongoing march to reduce costs. But that march may end with massive automation and very little labor in the manufacturing process. That means that these low cost regions that “stole our jobs” will also lose these jobs eventually.
The US and a number of other countries around the world are building new information based economies. That is the long term winning strategy.
So while we can critique our leaders (business and political) for giving up on the manufacturing sector a bit too early, I think the US has largely played this game correctly and will be much better off than the parts of the world that have taken the low cost manufacturing jobs from us.
The discussion amongst Fred's readersin the comment section is centered on the future of jobs in America, and given my limited knowledge of stats in this area, I'll just stick to what I know. Computers and machines can't create a field of presence between two people, and they can't come to presence like we can. Because they remember the crash of 2008, Millennials are spending more money on experiences than things; they want to be at live events, creating memories and bonding with their friends rather than accumulating things. They remember seeing that houses and things can be re-possessed, and they don't want that happening to them. Their spending patterns will indicate where the jobs will be in the coming years.
Enneagram teacher extraordinaire George Gurdjieff called us machines- and the more we meditate and become self-aware, the more we see how true it is that we operate on automatic. Non-meditators guffaw when you say something like that, but when you start the self-observation practice, you eventually start to see tiny, short glimpses of our automatic nature. So if you haven't done a lot of meditation or self-observation, you can't compete very well against a machine. But... self-observation leads to self-leadership and with leadership skills, you can create a field with others... or without having to go into too much depth about what that means... you can create a meaningful experience for others. An experience of presence.
That said, what kinds of jobs will be left for us? I pay some attention to the modelling world and models have experienced a tremendous shift as well- consumers don't just want to see their beautiful bodies and faces- they want to know about their consumer choices, what they do in their time off, where they vacation, how they make hummus... The modelling industry isn't about just showing up for a photo shoot and posing with a brand's clothing. Increasingly, models' personal lives are more well-known to us, more accessible, and they are sharing more with their followers. They have youtube channels, they share their recipes and pictures of their pets with their Instagram followers, they're going back to school and the fact that we know about that, care about it, and are following in their footsteps means we care about the lifestyle behind their brand. So if we take that same angle to business, going into business means creating a branded experience. Customers don't just want a product thrown at them- they want the look, the attitude, the political statement, the integrated lifestyle of what the brand represents- the meaning behind it is just as important- or more important than its quality. If you're going to create an integrated lifestyle behind a brand, you're going to need a capacity for self-reflection.
Those are just some very scattered thoughts this morning. I do believe that the disembodiment that's been happening since the dawning of computers has led us to find different ways of being around .... more... bodies. The new sharing economy is a manifestation of that- Uber and Airbnb for example. Those who have the self-knowledge and presence of mind to "create a field" for others as we say in meditation circles, or "create an experience", as they say in marketing, will win over robots.
About three years ago, I read The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope, a read so savory you tend to inhale it in one gulp, but a few words of wisdom have stayed with me, among them, to copy other writers. Basically, Cope says, if you're wanting to find your own voice, copy someone else's for a while. Pick a writer you admire and write out their speeches and poems over and over again. Commit their works to memory. Eventually, their understanding of the universe, their way of working with language and sentence construction, the rhythm of their prose will inform your own mental patterns down to the cellular level, practically, and you'll be able to build off that foundation with your own style. I've done that once before- I was so intimidated when I heard a recording of Don Riso and Russ Hudson giving an introductory talk on the Enneagram that I wrote the entire hour-long talk out by hand to get the clarity of their thought process embedded into my brain. I'm pretty sure modern-day composers would corroborate the idea that playing the works of the great composers like Mozart and Beethoven calibrates an orientation to different styles and structures, helping them write their own unique pieces.
This morning I decided to finally act on this injunction and memorize actual poetry. The poem I chose isn't a poem at all, but I have a bit of an aversion to the genre, so I just lump all thughtfully-worded literature into one big category. It's actually an essay by Aldous Huxley that I came across in the dear Maria Popova's popular weekly digest of beautiful images, literature and philosophy, Brain Pickings. Upon opening it, I fell upon the most irrisistable piece of writing and said to myself, "This is it. It starts today."
For a couple years now, I've been noticing that my mind doesn't have the same clarity and focus as it did in my twenties. The combination of stress over the last five years and the fact that I now own a laptop, an ipad, and a cell phone has contributed to a new scattered way of thinking that has me hopping from one task to the next, and clicking from one window to the next without completing anything in one sitting. My job also has me interrupted every three minutes to the point that lately, I can't sit down and read one full page of a book, let alone an entire paragraph without checking my phone or making muffins because the clanging in my head is so much louder and busier than it used to be. That quality of concentration I had before internet 2.0 (2007-ish) is just gone. I read differently now; I scan instead of letting myself sink into the experience. I've had enough, but what can you do? Do you get rid of your technology? I've started meditating, I've resisted having my banking apps "remember" my account numbers so I have to practice retrieving them from my memory bank, and the other day, I bought a combination lock for the gym instead of one with a key specifically so I'd have another set of numbers to remember. My next step is to bring back my old alarm clock instead of using the alarm on my phone. When I wake up to my cell phone, I inevitably get stuck in reactions of all kinds to my e-mails, the news, and texts that I got (or didn't get) during the night that I lose that precious, ethereal opportunity at the beginning of the day to take the reins in hand and rationally plan my day.
I imagine that not only does the process of memorization improve focus, but I'm sure it also strengthens the hippcampus, the long-term memory processing centre of the brain. When you create a new neuron connection, you have to maintain it in order to keep it, and the constant repetition of what you've memorized would help the neuron stick around and create connections with other neurons. When I was at a brain workshop recently, the facilitator asked us to turn to our neighbor and tell them what our most valuable possession was. Of course a lot of us said our house, our car, or whatever, and he interrupted with, "WRONG!! It's your BRAIN!" I was reflecting on that last week as I was driving down Albert Street and I realized it was really true. Some of us have been blessed with parents who not only activated our brains, but showed us how to do it for ourselves, and we have a certain set of chances at success in life. Others of us have had to do the activation ourselves because our parents weren't in a position to do so. The almost incomprehensible mystery of being human is having the capacity to reflect our thoughts back on our own minds and improve how our very brain thinks, all for the cost of the occasional late fee at the library, to quote Will from Good Will Hunting.
Not only would it be good for your brain, but from the few times it's happened to me, it's nice being able to impress people at a dinner party by quoting a famous line or two that contributes in some way to the conversation. I used to read the Aubrey-Maturin series (off which Russell Crowe's Master and Commander 2003 movie is based), and one observation from pre-modern life struck me: conversation skills are truly an art. The series is about people riding ships between the old world and the new, and when you're on a ship, you're stuck with the same people every single day, and you have to eat in the same dining room with them three times a day, sometimes for months, and you want to be on a ship with interesting people who can carry a conversation. The more well-read you are and the better your memory, the more weight you can carry in a conversation to take it on new and interesting turns, acting as a connector between ideas and leveraging them to lead the conversation into stimulating thought-territory. Having the confidence to guide a conversation is pretty empowering- not to mention pretty important for your career.
So here we go with the first few lines to Huxley's Music at Night, the title essay in a collection of essays published in 1931, a pristine treatise on the transcendental nature of music to connect people to emotional states in a way that words cannot.
Music at Night
Moonless, this June night is all the more alive with stars. Its darkness is perfumed with faint gusts from the blossoming lime trees, with the smell of wetted earth and the invisible greenness of the vines. There is silence, but a silence that breathes with the soft breathing of the sea, and, in the thin shrill noise of a cricket, insistently, incessantly, harps on the fact of its own deep perfection. Far away, the passage of a train is like a long caress, moving gently, with an inexorable gentleness, across the warm living body of the night. Music, you say, it would be a good night for music. [...]"
I know someone who grew up in Africa, and he checks his phone so infrequently, and when he does, it's very thoughtfully done. When I observe him working on a task, I notice a deep quality of concentration and a clarity of focus that I've lost over the last decade- probably most of us Westerners have as technology insinuates its way into our lives. Here's hoping we can work our way back to that level with a little intention and a little practice.
I was watching some Bill Nye videos online today, and there was a dismissive comment made about astrology being a pseudo-science. I guess I'm really late to the astrology table and I haven't learnt to cower in fear before the scientific community, I suppose, so I was really surprised. Everyone I've introduced astrology to has had their jaws drop to the floor with how accurate it is. So I decided to google, "Astrology pseudo-science", and it turns out I'm on the wrong side of current thinking on astrology among scientists. Well, I aim to change that.
Tonight I wrote a letter to the National Science Foundation, who, every second year, survey Americans on, among other things their views and opinions on scientific matters. One question asks respondents, "Do you think astrology is scientific?" And to the horror of the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, in 2014, 45% of Americans thought astrology was somewhat or very scientific. I admire these guys a lot, but I disagree with them on 1) the validity of the question's wording, and 2) their interpretation of the statistic.
What does it really mean to "believe in" astrology, and how can the NSF encourage a little more sanity and groundedness around Americans' spirituality?
Hi there, my name is Erin Mulligan and I'm the owner of Rhode and Company in Canada where we (I for the moment) advocate for better spiritual literacy. We also advocate for scientific literacy, just so you know; we just believe one is no greater than the other.
I have a suggestion for changes to the wording in your question on your Science and Engineering Indicators poll about opinions on astrology.
You ask if Americans think astrology is scientific, but my guess is you're actually trying to gauge if people think it's accurate, or useful, or if they make decisions based on what they learn from their chart. Am I right? Of course it's not scientific. You'd have to change the definition of science in order for a wisdom tradition to squeeze into the Aristotilean delineation around logic and reasoning. Asking if astrology is scientific is like asking if women are men. Clearly they fall into very distinct categories; one is for knowing the outer world, and the other is for knowing the inner world and they use different skill sets entirely. You certainly wouldn't use science to measure someone's emotional intelligence, so why is astrology- a beautiful, robust, and incredibly useful system being measured against its "male" counterpart?
Carl Jung would have called these two categories I'm referring to as the masculine and feminine principle, or the animus and the anima; Asians would call it the yin and the yang. My guess is it's probably a little out of science's grasp to try and measure a mystic tradition, so why go there? As far as I know, astrology isn't trying to impress science, just like women aren't asking men, "Am I a legitimate human being?" and Italians aren't asking the French, "Are we French enough for you?" Astrology is a language unto itself that takes many years to learn, and decades to master.
By selecting, "yes, I believe it's scientific" pollsters are opened up to guffaws by actual scientists like Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, who know that you need to meet a certain set of standards to say something is scientifically valid- a legitimate pursuit, but not astrology's aim. Asking people to judge if astrology is a science necessarily makes them look foolish because astrology is in an entirely different epistemology, just like the Buddhist practice of mindfulness is a third and equally powerful epistemology.
Self-knowledge correlates with higher emotional intelligence, which in turn correlates with better leadership skills and reported life happiness-- all skills neceessary for getting the world's population out of some of the toughest dillemmas it's ever faced. And yet the inner world is a very vague and mysterious place sometimes. Ask any wife if their husband can clearly articulate why they always [fill in the blank with something that annoys the hell out of them], or ask any man if their wife can do the same. Just like women's medicine has always baffled male doctors, so we don't expect male scientists to automatically "get" a feminine spirituality*. It takes a motivation to start with usually, like a divorce or a death in the family, or a serious illness, and then a journey begins.
Not only do we call on society to honor the male and female principle, but as Jung also said, we have both the feminine and masculine within each of us, meaning all of us have the impulse to explore and learn about our outer worlds, as much as to explore and learn about our interior world. In men, the latter impulse is discouraged, as you are probably well aware, and as the numbers of STEM graduates reflect. Making "believing in astrology" a lightning rod for scientists by getting pollsters to conflate it with science does nothing to encourage the self-knowledge journey (which, by the way, happens in men later in their careers, often as they're retiring and can't have the same impact as if their aha! moment happened in their 30's).
On the other hand! We agree that making decisions based on horoscopes in the newspaper or online is quite a bad idea. General horoscopes like that are written in very, very broad brushstrokes based on the 12 ancient archetypes. Not always, but sometimes they can be quite accurate-- I got into astrology because I read a horoscope that said I was going to double-book myself that week, and that Wednesday, I actually triple-booked myself. It made me do a double-take. However, I have also then gone on to make the mistake of basing decisions on what I read on a horoscope from the internet, and now that I've learned my lesson, I just get readings done by a professional astrologer which are more accurate because they have my specific birth data. So I no more advocate for sloppy spiritual practices than you do for sloppy scientific ones. My astrologer, by the way, studied with Carl Jung's daughter and is one of the most highly sought-after astrologers in the United States. She was recommended to me by a male 50-something American angel investor, a former Fortune 50 executive who has his own spiritual practice now.
The mission of my company is to raise the profile of ancient self-knowledge traditions that grew out of Socrates' admonition to know yourself before pursuing any other kind of knowledge. Science, math, and engineering are wonderful and meaningful pursuits, but in order for their practitioners to be fully "in touch" with reality, they need to be counterbalanced by the feminine principle of the dark, mysterious, inner, and the spiritual. These characterisitics are notions that balance out the brazen, often unfounded over-the-top self-confidence and old-boys' club mentality that has gotten our environment into some pretty deep trouble.
In order to encourage thoughtfulness, groundedness, and sanity around spirituality, I ask you to please re-think how your astrology question is worded. I believe you can make a difference in western mentality by changing it so people aren't forced to choose between astrology and science.
All my best,
Rhode and Company
*By calling astrology feminine, I don't mean to exclude men from the practice or benefits of astrology. I just mean it calls for a kind of intuition that Jung associated with the anima. Any man can develop it, just as any woman can develop characteristics associated with the animus.
I wrote this manifesto last night. It started off that I was just going to write "I fucking love immigrants" somewhere on my site- I couldn't figure out where, so I was like, "I'm just going to write a manifesto, and I'll include that in there. (I don't know why but I just love immigrants sooo much. They've added so much to Regina over the last 30 years.) So but the rest is good too- that's my call-to-action for the Western world.
1. We call for equal status for science, math, logic, and capitalism on the one hand; and mysticism, the void, spirituality and myth on the other. In Jungianism, these two elements are the animus and the anima; the male and female principles; in the Asian tradition, the yin and yang. They both originate in similar times and cultural contexts, and they should be rejoined together after millenia of separation. Neither is superior to the other, nor can they operate fully without the other. Both are needed for balance in all areas of life.
2. We champion A) self-knowledge (inner) education for the corporate and scientific (yang) communities; and B) business and tech (outer) training for communities of a yin inclination. Both sides need the other to be fully in touch with reality, because in both camps, our egos viciously lead us away in search of false realities, cementing our antimony. The future of the planet depends on learning about the interior world as much as the exterior world, and vice versa.
3. We believe that when more people practice mindfulness, and learn to apply the Enneagram, and other self-observation and self-knowledge tools, the world will be a better, healthier, and safer place. Self-knowledge engenders leadership; emotional intelligence brings about more "presence", as opposed to reactivity and craving, which the Buddha warned against.
4. We call for political leaders with a mindfulness and self-awareness practice instead of those who are identified with a particular party. When self-awareness practices become mainstream, bi-partisanship can be achieved, opening us up to more creative solutions to the world's problems.
5. We fucking love democracy. In the end, though, the capacity for self-awareness is going to be more radical and effective than democracy is currently.
Businesses with snark are fun, but you have to have actual snark. You can't just fake being edgy because people will see right through you.
When Dollar Shave Club came out, I was like, "You can do this?? You can have fun and run a business??" I don't know how many times I've watched their video. It still gets me.
Curbed media is snarky and sarcastic to the point of being rude sometimes. The people in the comments are entitled, whiny and rude to the columnists sometimes, which is why I unsubscribed a while ago (also, too many e-mails) but they're a well-informed community, and I still get a laugh out of the articles.
Here's another shaving business- a men's barber shop that had the right attitude for their clientele. I say "right attitude" with caution because I just mean it fits with their customer's personality. A local barber shop here in Regina was trying to do the same thing, but limit it to men only, and a local woman complained to the Human Rights commission that it was exclusionary. I don't know how it ended up, but let me tell you there was a lot of snark directed at her.
There are so many more good ones out there. As someone whose approach to life has been "how do you want me to be because I'm sure I can be that way", I'm starting to ask myself, what if I was just myself? I know it's cliche to say "be yourself", and I'm in this business of "knowing yourself", but believe it or not, I'm just starting to ask who I really am when I'm not trying to please people. We shall see what emerges from that!
I lost my mind on social media today. It's been a long time since I've been this angry. I got involved in the social media conversation about a 2:30 video that incensed me like few things do. I've never once in my life been called a troll (not that the word troll has been around that long), but today a Disqus commenter named MaryMagdalene told me to
"Blow it out your ear.... If you don't like it, don't read it. At least I am good at reading comprehension, Einstein." (if you click on my disqus profile below, you'll see more of her comments).
So to set the scene, the reason I finally rolled up my sleeves to figure out how to tweet this morning was because of this insanely self-pitying video that got posted on youtube by an organization named CatholicVote a week ago. The premise is that real life Catholics are "coming out" on screen-- in the style of a coming out video-- that they are against gay marriage.
There are a few reasons why this got me trolling- one of them being that they tactlessly used their own victim's meme to make themselves appear like the victim of their former victims. In other words, a mere two weeks ago, a minority group directly and indirectly oppressed by the Catholic church has gained a freedom that in the space of a week, has led the Catholic church to feel victimized enough to take their former victim's place in front of the camera and tell the story of themselves, the oppressors who now feel victimized.
The galling act of hypocrisy and insensitivity made many viewers shake their head and wonder if they were watching a SNL parody; it will probably go down in history as one of the internet's worst PR disasters. (I'm not actually versed in relative magnitudes of internet PR disasters, but within the first seven days online, the video has received 547,514 views, with 1,600 upvotes and almost 15,000 downvotes. You can also see the smoke from the comments section from here.)
You can actually still lose your job in the US for being LGBT in 29 US states; last week's Supreme Court decision hasn't affected that fact at this point, and as one commentor wrote, these Catholics are afraid of people moving away from them at a cocktail party, not of being beat up while walking to their car in broad daylight. Furthermore, the LGBT community can still legally be denied work and housing because of their sexual orientation.
Moreover, the fact that the tag line was "we have something to say and we're no longer afraid to say it" blew my mind, because if we all think about it really hard here, the Catholic church has been saying gays should not be allowed to marry for... a really ....really... REALLY long time. Like an eternal time. They were ... actually... NEVER... afraid to say it. The tagline should have been, "We have something to say... and we're still saying it."
The thing is, a lot of us were probably bigots in the 80's and 90's, just because we didn't know much about homosexuality, I know I didn't. I was still going to church and my youth pastor would tell us all the "disgusting" things gays did to each other, and we would watch his hand movements with big, wide eyes, because I mean, probably most of us didn't even have any sexual experience at that time, so we would've bought anything at that point. But things have just changed, and when new information comes to light (being gay is biologically determined, actually quite normal and gay people have sex because they love each other), you shed old beliefs like old clothing that's worn out or doesn't fit anymore. It's ok to do that. It's ok to get on the party wagon. It's ok to update your beliefs based on new realities.
As commentors said over and over again today, pay attention, do your research and educate yourselves, because you don't want to end up on the wrong side of history.
P.S. The parody version has already been made and it's funny.
Last night I watched a great talk on what's coming down the pipes in terms of big future trends- it was such an important talk, I felt like I should be taking notes, but I was so tired, I was just trying to see if my business fit into the ten trends she listed. Here's the talk- it starts at 16:20 if you want to skip through the introductions by Joanne Wilson and Nancy Hachinger- cofounders of the Women's Entrepreneur Festival, where this woman, Erica Orange is the guest speaker. She's vice-president of futurist firm Weiner, Edrich, Brown. I promise this is the best use of your time if you're a business owner, or just don't want to be taken by surprise by the future which is frankly galloping toward us an an unprecedented rate.
I couldn't get over what a lucid, confident, and sharp speaker she was. There were so many good insights in here, it's definitely worth watching twice. It's good to get a sense of which of her ten big trends you might fit into if you're a business owner.
I think I might fit into the trend about dealing with shrinking time. Mindfulness can help people make the best use of their time. I've really learned how to pay attention to the minutes ticking along in my life since I started with mindful awareness. You get "zoned out" less doing brainless stuff like spend time on Facebook, and you can become aware of your body more, saying, "ok, I'm avoiding something important, and I know that because I just got butterflies in my stomach when I scrolled past an ad for income tax, which I'm putting off. Let's just breathe into that..." Mindfulness is powerful stuff. If you really want time to slow down, be present and aware every single minute. That's why mindfulness practice is such a pain in the butt to beginning meditators!
It's unbelievable all the components that have to come together to get a business off the ground. I've been working on Rhode and Company under various forms and names for about 3 years now, maybe not as intensely as I have been lately, but the learning curve is still so steep. Yesterday it took me EIGHT hours to figure out how to add the side bar you see at right and the "Subscribe to Blog Post" form. Something you think is only going to take an hour or two, takes 4X's that amount of time, it's unbeliveable. I used to have my website hosted by Weebly, and they were a little easier to figure out, but I'm still glad I'm at Squarespace even though there's more to learn- the aesthetics are way better with this site.
I don't know if I've learned much in the process except don't be surprised, and also know when to clamp down and persevere, and when to set something aside to sort itself out later.
Readers who subscribe will get their posts in their inboxes at 8 AM now- I have it on a timer. YAY for getting systems in place!!
If you google me, there's a big mess of garbage sites with my name and a former business I thought I might start that come up. It's been a big weight around my neck for the past 3 years and I'm finally starting to clean it up.
In 2011, I had just left my job, and got into an entrepreneur class. Because I had a certificate for decorating peoples' homes, I decided to do that, but it was a stressful time in my life, and a lot of decisions were forced because we had to make quick decisions to keep up with the class. As you can see, I didn't end up a decorator.
One day, one of my fellow students offered to create a website for me and another student, and enthusiastically told us how he would get us all these hits, because he would make it so it was the first thing that came up in google. I imagine it has something to do with something called SEO, but in any case, he sold us on his idea. In exchange, he would get our recommendations because we presumably would like the websites.
I didn't know anything about building a website, or even what I liked at the time, but I didn't like the end result, and we went our separate ways.
What he did in the back end to get me showing up with so many ad-filled sites when I get googled, I still don't understand, but last night I started writing to each site and asking how to take my listing down. I've been uncomfortable about my name being out there on so many trashy sites for the last three years, and now I'm finally cleaning it all up. I can't wait until I get something more substantial come up when I get googled, something I'm proud to stand behind. I want a pristine web presence. I guess this is like getting my virginity back after my first make-out session that ended really bad, and I'm very excited.