Dogma

May 25th, 2016

Dogma

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the result
of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’
opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important,
have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
(Steve Jobs, entrepreneur and inventor)

Steve Jobs had the courage to use his own understanding.

Carl Benz was not a member of the horse breeders association. He received no government support, no tax subsidies and had no access to venture capital. He used his wife’s dowry to develop the first automobile at a time when the necessary infrastructure was not in place yet.

Carl Benz had the courage to use his own understanding.

“It’s always impossible until it’s done.”
(Nelson Mandela, politician)

Nelson Mandela had the courage to use his own understanding.

“If the world were to blow itself up, the last audible voice
would be that of an expert saying it can’t be done.”
(Peter Ustinov, actor and writer)

Have you ever read dogma backwards by the way?

Sapere aude

May 24th, 2016

Sapere aude

Over 230 years ago, in 1784, Immanuel Kant wrote his famous essay “What is Enlightenment”. He defines Enlightenment as the emergence from our often self-imposed immaturity, i.e. the inability to use our own understanding without being led by others. Kant adds that relying on others is often only due to our own indecisiveness and lack of courage. His remedy is ”have the courage to use your own understanding”.

“Sapere aude” is Immanuel Kant’s motto of the Enlightenment.

“Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.”
(Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist)

“Truth acquired by thinking of our own is like a
lateral limb, it alone really belongs to us.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

Today, we need another Enlightenment, but not one led by technology. We need an Enlightenment led by us, the people: Lateral thinkers, responsible citizens, determined rebels and courageous radicals. We could describe it as an intellectual version of BYOB, “Bring Your Own Brain”.

“The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking
time is that we are still not thinking.”
(Martin Heidegger, philosopher)

Are we all manipulated in one way or the other?

How free are we really?

Are we – at least partly – bound by what we are born into?

Will we go off auto-pilot and think for ourselves?

Are we free to use our own understanding to become our true selves?

Will we have the courage and determination to use our own understanding?

What about VB, i.e. Venture Brain, as the new VC, i.e. Venture Capital?

Will we be skeptical and question everything?

Will we think the unthinkable, be radical and disruptive?

Will we develop our own ideas, thoughts, hypotheses?

Will we unlearn, unfollow, forget and delete?

Will we make up our own mind?

Can we start all over?

Can we re-think ourselves sustainably and not so much the world around us?

“He alone is great and happy who fills his own station
of independence and has neither to command nor to obey.”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer and statesman)

“It is society which, fashioning us in its image, fills us
with religious, political and moral beliefs that control our actions.”
(Émile Durkheim, sociologist)

“Reading is thinking with someone else’s head
instead of with one’s own.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

While this is true, I also found that reading stuff written by people, I vehemently disagree with – for now – can be quite enlightening, as it helps to break the armor protecting our beliefs.

“No, no, you are not thinking, you are just being logical.”
(Niels Bohr, physicist)

Last but not least, why do we always want to influence, rather than to enlighten?

“Over-newsed”

May 23rd, 2016

Flood

Today is not only the Age of Consumerism, it’s also the OD-Age. We suffer from overdoses of messages, statements, fairy tales, ads, contacts etc. We’re being bombarded with often useless and even false “news”.

We’re “over-newsed” and “under-informed”.

Due to the overwhelming amount of “news”, we focus on organizing rather than processing what we hear and see. A bad development, aggravated by the fact that our wonderful digital “helpers” are prone to manipulation as well.

Hail Google, those that are about to search salute you.

Really?

By the way, back in grad school, I remember spending a lot of time in the library, especially when writing term papers and preparing for exams. I remember walking down the aisles looking for books, for knowledge, for answers. I also remember that digging through these books looking for enlightenment was at times a pain. But above all, I remember the Eureka effect when I had found what I was looking for.

Research was an integral part of the experience. Using search engines nowadays might speed up the process, but annihilates the Eureka moment.

Remember my comments on instant gratification and the thrill of anticipation in an earlier post?

With all the propaganda out there, taking the time to check the facts is a good investment. Building reliable, trustworthy networks enable us to do so.

Investigative citizens, investigative customers, investigative people.

“I didn’t know” or “nobody told me” are terribly lame excuses nowadays. We cannot rely on receiving relevant and correct information – not news – automatically. We have the responsibility to actively gather and analyze it.

“Ignorantia legis non excusat.”
(Proverb)

“True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge,
but the refusal to acquire it.”
(Karl Popper, philosopher of science and professor)

With the facts, we can use our own understanding and make up our own minds. We’re well advised to do that, because if we don’t, someone else will. If she hasn’t already, that is.

Passion

May 22nd, 2016

Passion

It is not enough to know what we don’t want. We often choose something only because we don’t want something else. This happens in politics all the time, when people only vote for one party or candidate, because they dislike the alternative. Far from solving any problems, this attitude merely delays the disappointment.

Finding out what we really want is therefore essential.

Are we truly passionate about what we really want and believe?

Are our beliefs really our beliefs?

How important are our beliefs to us?

How vital are our beliefs for us? Would we die for them?

What is a life? What is the value of a life?

What is the difference between merely existing and living?

Is life worth dying for?

Can we change our beliefs? Our life?

Do we have the courage to change our attitude and break with our past?

Do we have the courage to unlearn?

Do we have the will to learn again?

How flexible are we?

Are we passionate about our goals and priorities, our former field of study, our lead models, our hobbies, our environment? Did we choose wisely, were they our decisions?

People are not born with a passion, but many will fail to grow one which is really their own. It’s also worth noting that just because we have been doing something for ages, doesn’t mean that we’re passionate about it. True passion requires that we have found our true selves. Passion leads to active engagement, taking a personal interest and assuming responsibility. Doing is an integral part of the satisfaction.

“The value of the achievement lies in the achieving.”
(Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist)

This requires that society de-stigmatizes certain jobs and certain ways of life.

But we are society, are we not?

For example, as a house owner, I can assure you that I would pick a great plumber over a mediocre lawyer anytime.

Without passion, the only satisfaction comes – if at all – with the remuneration. And I know quite a few people, who deep down feel miserable despite fancy job titles and big paychecks.

What’s the difference between a fancy title and an iron chain anyway, as both are quite effective in ensuring that we don’t “leave” or change? The price?

Always be hungry – for more – was some early professional advice that I got. Well, this might work, but only if we really like what’s on the plate.

Kicking the habit and going new ways is not possible without taking risks and assuming personal responsibility. We must dare to reject compromises and be courageous.

Don’t try to play it safe all the time.

“Talent and genius operate outside the rules.”
(Carl von Clausewitz, general and military theorist)

For example – a small example that is – many years ago, I learned to ride a motorcycle by riding around a ping pong table at 2 o’clock in the morning. This would not have been possible without the support of a very good friend at the time, who was also courageous enough to lend me his bike. By the way, it was a Honda CB 750 Four and I’m proud to say that I only broke one mirror.

It is never too late to be courageous. Have the guts to try something new and forget something old. We can’t buy back time, but we can optimize the time left.

Let’s dare to deviate from the norm, as trying to be everybody’s darling means ending up being nobody’s. Let’s dare to be different, think differently and prioritize individually.

Let’s dare to be passionate and go our own way.

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”
(Frank Zappy, musician)

As I’ve mentioned before, we are definitely not on the safe side sticking to the norm by following trends or other people. For one, it is useful to remember that nothing trends forever. After all, if it did, it wouldn’t be a trend. Not so good for economies of scale, but that is not our problem. And then, don’t forget all those charismatic people, who have led their followers into the abyss. “Actively supporting”, because we are convinced and “passively following”, because we’ve always done that, are definitely not the same thing.

Yes, swarm intelligence does exist and it works, but so does swarm stupidity.

Say no to the yes-men

May 21st, 2016

Yes-man

Many people prefer to talk themselves into believing that for as long as they do as they’re being told and don’t consider alternatives, they won’t have to accept any responsibility for their actions and non-actions.

Have you ever noticed how people try to put all the blame on one person, i.e. their chosen “leader”, but only once that person has been brought down?

Playing it safe is no guarantee for not getting into trouble. Just ask any athlete or entrepreneur.

“Everywhere man blames nature and fate, yet his fate is mostly the echo
of his character and passions, his mistakes and his weaknesses.”
(Democritus, philosopher)

“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
(Aristotle, philosopher)

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
(Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, poet and aphorist)

“Unless one has considered alternatives,
one has a closed mind.”
(Peter Drucker, management consultant and educator)

A CEO once told me that if he wanted to surround himself with yes-men, i.e. people who accepted everything put on the plate in front of them, he might as well do everything himself.

Remember the story about Camus?

Have you ever noticed that yes-men are often yes…terday-men, claiming that it’s always been this way?

Camus would agree, yes to more no-men and no-women of course.

“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change
and who nods when I nod; my shadow
does that much better.”
(Plutarch, historian and essayist)

The power of childhood

May 20th, 2016

Childhood

It took me a while to break free, trust myself, use my own understanding and to accept personal responsibility. It was a wise investment. Once I had “un-conditioned” myself, I realized that the comfort zones of the past weren’t so comfortable at all. They were a mere illusion.

Heteronomy is nothing to look forward to.

“Become such as you are, having learned what that is.”
(Pindar, poet)

I found the return to my childhood to be very positive and exciting, as I discovered that childlike curiosity would be a very useful asset for grown-ups as well.

No wonder Joseph Heller wanted to be a little boy once he grew up.

“It takes a long time to grow young.”
(Pablo Picasso, painter)

“There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected
questions of a child than the discourses of men.”
(John Locke, philosopher and physician)

As children we tend to be more radical and unbiased than grown-ups, because we have fewer or no habits to break. We have not been conditioned yet. Since there is nothing to change, we simply try something different and new. In retrospect, some of the supposedly dumb things we did as children, weren’t dumb at all. We were keen to experiment, to create. We tried to find stuff that worked and stuff that didn’t.

“Every child is in a way a genius; and
every genius is in a way a child.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

When does life stop being fun and start being scary?

In growing up, we develop these sticky habits that often make us complacent and unwilling to change. We become predictable and organized, making it easy for bureaucracies to categorize and control us.

“A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has
the right not only to be right but also to be wrong.”
(Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist)

Do we insist upon the latter?

Really?

Camus

May 19th, 2016

Camus

When I was young, we had a dog, a boxer. His name was Camus, named after the Cognac, not the author, but that is a different story.

Camus was a smart dog and he was very discerning as well. For example, he absolutely hated peas. From time to time, we’d put a few in his food, just to see what would happen.

Guess what?

Camus would find each and every pea, but he didn’t just leave them in his feeding bowl. No, he spat out each and every single one. All over the place.

A sign of contempt, I guess.

They say that boxers are strong-willed dogs. Well, Camus certainly did have a mind of his own.

Just like Camus, we shouldn’t accept everything put in front of us either.

Challenge yourself

May 18th, 2016

Challenge

An important first step is to open our minds and hearts to honestly question the wisdom of our past decisions, our resulting daily routines as well as our alleged like and dislikes. In the process we will discover that there are many dumb things that we have done in our lives, lying to ourselves being one of the dumbest. Well, I did.

“If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for,
and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see,
whatever might be dangerous for our pet theories.”
(Karl Popper, philosopher of science and philosopher)

Will we admit to having made mistakes?

Will we admit to having lied to ourselves?

Will we stop lying to ourselves?

Do we want to grow (up) in more ways than one?

“”Trust and belief are two prime considerations. You must not
allow yourself to be opinionated. You must say “Wait, Let me see”.
And above all, you must be honest with yourself.””
(James Dean, actor)

“Question everything generally thought to be obvious.”
(Dieter Rams, designer)

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
(Socrates, philosopher)

We will often find the answers to many of our personal problems – our often undefinable unease and discomfort – in the past, which, incidentally, is a major reason, why we often lie to ourselves.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for
most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”
(Theodore Roosevelt, politician)

Honestly investigating our own past can be quite difficult, especially if one has been brought up in an authoritarian manner. I was, by the way, so I know what I’m talking about.

“Investigate what is, not what pleases.”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer and statesman)

Authoritarian people usually don’t give advice, they issue instructions, which are not to be questioned. Not only that, but since they consider themselves to be successful, they are convinced that they are doing others a favor by turning them into copies of themselves. A typical command and control structure is the result. Authoritarian people condition others, they don’t educate them.

“Control your own destiny or someone else will.”
(Jack Welch, business executive)

“In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten.
In the human kingdom, define or be defined.”
(Thomas Szasz, psychiatrist)

Who wants to be someone else’s copy?

Why should we bury our wishes under a pile of garbage of external expectations?

Wouldn’t it be great to be an original?

Are we subconsciously being managed?

If we are not our true selves, chance are that we’re not only dissatisfied and unhappy, but also falling short of our potentials. Selling ourselves short is a terrible waste. For everybody.

“It’s better to be hated for what you are, than
to be loved for what you are not.”
(André Gide, author)

“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”
(George Elliott, writer)

“You must be free in order to create. But first
you must recognize that you’re a prisoner.”
(Luc de Brabandère/Alan Iny, authors)

“If we didn’t do this already, would we
get into it the way we are now?”
(Peter Drucker, management consultant and educator)

“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he
did at 20, has wasted 30 years of his life.”
(Muhammad Ali, boxer)

“We forfeit three-fourths of our lives
in order to be like other people.”
(Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher)

“The story of the human race is the story of
men and women selling themselves short.”
(Abraham Maslow, psychologist)

“If you don’t have a strategy, you’rw
part of someone’s strategy.”
(Alvin Toffler, futurist)

“It’s better to fail with your own vision, than
following another man’s vision.”
(Johann Cruyff, footballer)

Whose life is it anyway?

We only have one life and our time is limited. Time is a valuable, non-renewable resource, but time is no dictator.

Why not use our time to lead our own life and leave this world with a smile on our face?

Why not blaze our own trail?

Don’t we want to live our own life and accept the responsibility for it?

Do we want to hand our life over to others and let them script it?

Who wants to be a copy?

May 17th, 2016

Copy

“A person is strong only when he stands upon his own truth,
when he speaks and acts from his deepest convictions.”
(Mikhail Bakunin, revolutionary anarchist)

Personal decisions – if we can call them that – are often based upon our misconceived need for social acceptance. Humans are social animals, we aim to please, wish to belong, want to fit in.

“I’ve been imitated so well, I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.”
(Jimi Hendrix, musician)

We wind up listening to music we don’t really like, studying stuff we don’t really like, taking on jobs we don’t really like and so on.

We follow other people’s passions instead of our own!

Our taste isn’t really ours. No wonder it’s often so bad: No identification, no engagement and low on positive emotions. And since it’s not our taste, we won’t develop any expertise either and are forced to follow forever, thereby turning into disgruntled, unmotivated beings.

“Only dead fish swim with the stream.”
(Proverb)

Except for the rebels of course, who aim to stand out. Rebels are also convinced that one person can make a difference and they have the guts to try it. Deep down, we know that they are right, as movements generally start with one person and a vision. Just look at the big religions. Believers and majorities are not mass-produced in a laboratory, at least not yet.

Is our desire to follow trends or other people, in order to belong to the in-crowd and to be on the safe side, so strong that it overrides all other considerations?

Or are we just too lazy to invest the necessary time and effort to figure out what our very own likes and dislikes are?

Or are we afraid of what we might discover?

“Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized
codes of expression and conduct have the socially
recognized function of protecting us against reality.”
(Hannah Arendt, political theorist)

Are we worried that our likes might not be popular?

“To be independent of public opinion is the first formal
condition of achieving anything great.”
(Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, philosopher)

I can think of no good reason to try to be like other people.

How aspirational is it to be a herd animal?

This may be the age of the herd, but the desires of the herd are not necessarily the desires of the individual. We are born as individuals and shouldn’t live and die as copies.

“Wanting to be somebody else is a waste of the person you are.”
(Kurt Cobain, musician)

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma,
we become automatons. We cease to grow.”
(Anais Nin, author)

Change is possible, we can all be rebels.

The perils of listening

May 16th, 2016

Megafon

When we are young, we start learning not only by watching, but also by listening. We listen to our mother, our father, our older sister or our older brother.

After all, what do we know?

And as we grow older, there always seems to be someone to listen to: Our preacher, our teacher, our doctor, our lawyer, our representative, our older colleague, our boss and so on. Nowadays we’re even advised to listen to someone else’s algorithm.

Don’t get me wrong, the ability to listen is an important one, but the danger is that having to listen all the time becomes imprinted in our minds as having to obey. We become conditioned.

Even though there is a big difference between “listen and learn” and “do as you’re told”, many listeners eventually turn into – often unhappy – followers.

Later on in life, well meant advice is often refused, because it is equated with yesterday’s unpopular rules.

To make things worse, unhappy followers want nothing more than – you probably guessed it – followers. They hate being subordinates, while at the same time wanting some for themselves. This is how command and control structures stay intact. Control freaks rely on organizational tools to preserve the status and by preserving the status, they safeguard their own standing.