As we approach Christmas I get a sense that the dial on the world marked 'fear' has somehow got turned up a notch or two this last year or so. This post is my small way of adding a little counterbalance, a message of hope, to all that dour noise out there.
Harry Potter is one boy in a long line of mythical heroes who have reminded the human race that we are so much more than we think we are, so much more powerful than we seem to know. Jesus said that we would someday do even greater works than He; should we not take Him at His word? And should not 'someday' be today?".... Marianne Williamson
The line drawn between which heroes are mythical and which are real can get a little blurry, but debate this and we miss the whole point. Whether it's Yoda teaching Luke, Donald Shimoda's encounter with a disillusioned writer, or a chance conversation with a wise friend, the message from their stories is always the same: It is you we are talking to -- there is nothing special about these powers, they are yours.
But where do you go with this if you have no reference point, no burning-bush experience in your life to guide you? Imagination is useless here, because the thinking mind cannot go beyond itself. Tatiana (in a comment to this post) expresses this question so well:
Many people reach the point of internalising some lessons that are extremely beneficial -- a healthy dissociation from the ego, so that you stop taking traffic jams personally or lose the zeal to fight with your spouse; a few minutes of meditation per day; a habit of reaching out to be fully present in the here and now several times a day. Some deep breaths when you remember, a bit of mindfulness when walking or doing chores.
All of these things are wonderful at anchoring you here and diminishing the incessant thinking, churning, neurosis that is such a part of our daily life. However, reading the same books, listening to the same teachers also points to an experience that started it all -- a flash of understanding, a moment when it all made sense or felt okay to make no sense. For some it was transcendent and full of joy, for others quiet and deep. Some kept the joy forever, others had to find their way back to it. Some reach it in prison or in desperation, others driving a car or sitting on a hill.
But what if you're one of those people that has never had a moment like that?"
The thing about experiences is this: They all change, even the most beautiful and profound ones. So even if it was possible to find an experience that truly satisfied, we'd still be anxious the day that it was gone.
For most of us, experience is God -- we spend our days moving away from those we dislike, and towards those we do. But when we move away from or towards anything, we completely miss what's already here -- we trample on this flower of Beingness that is always present -- we are no longer Self aware. So freedom from anxiety lies in the opposite direction -- turning away from experience as a source of satisfaction, to discover what doesn't change -- this Presence of awareness in which all experiences appear and disappear in -- our Self.
So maybe past experience doesn't matter at all. What if we were already capable of choosing Peace in any situation or circumstance?
The only time that any change takes place is in this moment, and what we are talking about here is simply the recognition of what is really here, right now -- the pure joy, peace and love that emanates quite naturally from our Self. So what has this got to do with anything in our past? There are no dragons to slay, no ego to kill, no practice needed of any kind. It is simply a choice of what we give our attention to. Choosing Peace is both the antithesis and antidote to the ego's debilitating belief that 'enlightenment' is a journey.
But what makes something so simple and natural appear to be obscure and remote, is that we don't believe we can do that. And we don't believe it's possible because we look to our past experience as evidence for it working.
But of course there is little or no evidence of it working there... because it is the choice to be free of our experiences and discover what is fresh, alive and radiant in this moment... untouched by anything in our past.
It is the choice to engage with the world from the opposite orientation to the one we are used to. It's an orientation of openness (from Love) instead of control (from fear). And although it requires us to do nothing, 'do nothing' means letting go of our old fear-based tools of control -- judgment, planning and defence. Love has it's own agenda, which means I must let go of mine. And let's face it, for most of us, letting go of the moment-to-moment control of our life is something we've never seriously considered before.
So lets review this new orientation:
We think of Love (I'm talking about the real deal here, not that that changes) as an emotion. But actually it's an awareness, a way of seeing without the layer of preconception that the mind imposes. And when you change the way you look at things like this, the things you look at change. But this shouldn't be a mystery to us -- it is simply the power of our choice.
We already have this ability to choose peace and allow it be so... in any situation. We can refuse to be dismayed by effects and choose a different cause instead. We can receive instead of plan so that we can give instead of control. And in choosing this we discover that the law of Love negates all the laws we've come to believe in this world.
This is how we change the world -- not by attempting to carve out a haven of safety or by riling against perceived injustices, but by bringing Love to it instead of fear. We are healed as we let our Self teach us how to heal... and the world, as a part of us, is healed as we are.
This, to me, is the greatest joy of all. I hope you too keep choosing peace this New Year, so everyone can witness that it's the only sane choice there is.
I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a New Year full of miracles.
.. There are many moments in a day when our Self peaks through and we see it's joy reflected back to is in the world. In fact, it is constantly knocking on the door of our conscious awareness trying to get our attention. This is just the nature of life -- what our defences hide. These moments are mostly overlooked as we move through our day driven by the idea of something better (for some the ultimate experience of 'enlightenment' ;)). In our search for the extraordinary, we dismiss the ordinary and miss everything.
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
.. because it is the only 'time' that is real. Both the past and future are mental constructs -- we remember and we imagine. The 'future' is simply a projection of our stories from our past (the next chapter, if you like), and so no different from it. A good question to ask ourselves, one that can slow this crazy hamster wheel call time enough for us to step off, is: Who would I be without my beliefs and my stories?
.. of space and time, reciprocity and friendship, economics and scarcity, justice and karma, health and nutrition.... too many to mention.
Related Article: The wisdom to Know Nothing
Reading Stephen Fry's excellent post “Is this the greatest living Englishman?”, I find it incredible that it was as recent as 1990 that Tim Berners-Lee first cooked up the hypertext transfer protocol (http) and the complete architecture for the web. It's probably made the biggest change to our lives since the invention of the printing press... completely transforming commerce and the way we communicate.
To me, his gift was not http (someone, somewhere would surely have invented something similar), but his decision to make his invention free for all. There were no patent dues, no royalties and no restrictions: it was an open book. His dream was a free interchange of information, and he stood by his principles.
It's others -- the Googles and Yahoos of this world, and a million more, that have built their fortunes on the back of his work. Meanwhile Sir Tim still works away today, as modest and as unassuming as ever, heading the WC3 Consortium towards an open, free and wholly public web from his base at MIT. Still driving around in his beat up old VW, I believe.
But lets just consider for a moment the difference he has made. Ten years ago money was synonymous with power. Brands, both political and commercial, got build through mass media advertising campaign -- TV, newspapers, magazines. Not any more. How much have Starbucks or Amazon spend on advertising? Word of mouth now rules. Or, perhaps more accurately, the hyperlinked word.
PageRank (now one of the main leading indicators of influence) is based on the number and quality of inbound links. But how many people do you think link to Proctor and Gamble, BMW, Intel or any mainstream corporate site? Would you, as a blogger, every have reason to link there? Probably not. Corporate sites have a hell of a job attracting links directly, because what attracts interest is rarely the products or the companies themselves, but the experiences and stories that people tell about them.
The upshot of this is that if someone writes an informative or revelationary piece about their experience (good or bad) with a company's products or service, that piece will quite easily hit the front page of search results for that company. Let's not miss the significance of this: An interesting and authentic article written by you can have a bigger impact and more immediate effect than the entire marketing budget and efforts of a global organisation.
Now THAT is influence. And although the potential of weblogs may not be fully appreciated by bloggers themselves, it's certainly not lost on many a head honcho in industry, marketing, PR and big media who are bricking themselves right now.
But, at least to me, it's not the power to disrupt the status quo that's most interesting or significant. It's the ability to allow good ideas to fly. Blogs, being frictionless, can be catalysts for quantum leaps in our understanding. This opens up completely new opportunities... particularly in the way we work together, organise ourselves and create things.
People talk about Enterprise 2.0 being the democratisation of the work place and the replacement for the old hierarchies and control models, but I don't think it's about democracy. It's far better than that. It's a new meritocracy. And not a meritocracy of people but of ideas.
When ideas can come from anywhere we let go of our dependency on leaders and experts. Without the pressure on a few to deliver for the many, everyone benefits. We all become responsible; and people get valued for what they bring to the table now, not their resume or position.
An enterprise is the sum of its people and, like all living systems, it thrives on energy. This energy is the flow of ideas, of inspiration and also of love. This flow is the life blood of any organisation. As we learn at school, energy cannot be created or destroyed, it's always there. We don't do anything to make energy flow - it does that already. What we need 'do' is simply remove the barriers -- the systems, the doors and policies that cause the friction... and then get out of the way. Living systems thrive, adapt and self-heal when they become self aware -- when the connections are open and free.
NOTE: You may have to click through from some feed readers to see the video
I've recently been playing with social network to learn what all the fuss is about. As yet, they don't really do it for me. Some of them feel like thinly veiled attempts for someone else to establish a power base. I also get the feeling that in the rush to try out the latest shiny new 2.whatever toys we forget the power of leverage that the web bestows on worthy ideas that are reasonably well expressed. But I do think we can improve blogs by making them more social.
Here's a few things that would probably make them more useful:
In short, there's probably just a couple of little evolutionary steps that would give weblogs both the sociality of the likes of FaceBook, and make them a powerful tool for getting things done together. [As an aside, this is something I am working on right now... and ideas are always appreciated. :-)]
Ideas that are shared grow stronger... and now that we have a platform that allows us speak the truth as we find it to the whole world, there's little to hold us back. We also have the ability to scale relationship beyond a close circle of friends and colleagues. -- what better way to heal our prejudices? What an incredibly powerful tool we have in our hands. Stephen King in his book 'On Writing' says this about our approach to the written word:
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair -- the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.
I'm not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I'm not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humour (please God you have one). This isn't a popularity contest, it's not the moral Olympics, and it's not church. But it's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner."
But writing a weblog is writing on steroids. You and I are in the surreal but incredibly fortunate situation that we have already got the green light from the publisher. When we click the save button on our blog editor, our article is going to get published no matter what... no questions asked.
So, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee, all that's left to decide is this: What are we going to do with all that power?
This is not a someday-maybe question, it's a question that's only really relevant now, because permission has already been given. To put off deciding is like saving sex for when we are old. It makes no sense at all. Unless, of course, you end up here.
If you ever get the chance to see Michelangelo's David in Florence it's well worth a visit. In the Accademia, as you stand back from the statue to take it all in (you have it - from the base of it's plinth it stands 24 feet tall) there's a drop-jawed hush amongst the onlookers. Everyone instinctively whispers, even children.. as if no-one wants to disturb this feeling of presence that's here in this moment. Art has never really been my thing, but there's a timeless energy around 'great works' that's quite palpable and I love that. It's almost as though you are stood shoulder to shoulder with Michelangelo himself and feel what he feels. And, if you are willing to pause a while, I've found this presence can inspire you with the insights you need to get clear.
What struck me most was that this David wasn't at all the proud figure standing over the corpse of Goliath that we often see. Michelangelo's David has a serene, almost meditative pose. It reminded me that strength doesn't come from brute force or by clever scheming but from stillness, from innocence... from being defenselessly open to a power that can never be controlled, but can easily be expressed through any one of us when we relax and allow it to happen.
In moments like these, particularly if we really want to know, we can begin to grasp that reality is something far beyond what popular thinking or our intellect would have us believe. Words rarely take us here, but there's something about great art that can often help us make the leap. The problem with words is that when we use them to define truth we also feel a need to protect ourselves from all those words that are not true and, by doing so, we distance ourselves from the experience of Truth -- from the Presence of the one whose words we judge.
An hour or so down the road from 'David', in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo's 'Creation' speaks to me in a similar way about how the creative spark really gets ignited not when we particularly do anything, but when we allow ourselves to drop our persona and defenses so we can feel our connection with all things.. and in so doing we feel the flow and presence of our Whole Mind and the delight of allowing that to be expressed. It's in moments like these that you can get a sense that Reality is Who I am and Who You Are and that encompasses everything.. and that when this is known every 'mystery' suddenly makes perfect sense.
Sounds simple doesn't it? And it is... but the mind will create a million paths and practices rather than accept this. The prospect of realising that everything we previously held as true might be completely wrong strikes terror in the mind that has invested so much effort in controlling perception to maintain an illusion of a separate 'me' encased with a human body. But what easier or happier way to live than this? -- to know and express our whole mind by allowing ourselves to feel the connection between us. It is joy that ultimately overcomes fear, not practice or positive thinking.
A state of oneness and limitlessness are incomprehensible to our analytical mind because it's whole MO is based on believing the opposite - on maintaining a separate sense of self. We judge what is right and wrong, and then 'see' what is wrong as 'outside' - in others. Our being caught up in the world's thinking usually prevents us from seeing this dynamic at play within ourselves, so with this caveat in mind consider these questions carefully:
.. Do things become clearer as we struggle with difficult questions or in moments when we are happy.. perhaps out for a bike ride or playing with our kids?
.. Have you experienced the joy of perfect flow and creation as you attempt to organise your day productively and avoid procrastination.. or has it happened when you gave yourself permission to just play around with the things you enjoy?
.. Do you see more clearly as you debate the lack of truth you hear another speak or as you acknowledge the Love you find in their eyes?
Truth cannot be defined in terms of what is right and what is wrong because right and wrong are man made concepts. It's in allowing ourselves to open up to our whole mind that we get to see the whole picture. We start to see it in the pure thought and feeling we have when we reach out to each other, and in the presence of joy that releases us from a fearful concept of a separate, vulnerable self.
To know reality and know it from it's Source, we can take the hand of the one who is next to us, hold it firm and feel the flow of Love between us. We can choose to see beyond the blindness of their eyes to recognise the truth of this Presence of Love. And when we do we know there is no place where their Presence ends and ours starts and no point in time when this began or where it could end -- it just Is.. so ordinary and close it's almost universally overlooked. But it's the very same intelligent dynamic of Love that looks out through our eyes now and inspired Michelangelo to release David from that block of marble.
.. We venerate the likes of da Vinci, Mozart and Galileo and modern day 'stars' too who's work shows a flash of genius, like Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs. And yet each one of us has the exact same capacity to open ourselves to this presence.. and not just in our work. It really has no regard for circumstances or background or experience. It just delights in being expressed in whatever form we choose.
.. It doesn't have to be art, of course. The same thing could be said of a letter from a friend, or a software program that delights us or piece of engineering that make us pause. The defining principle seem to be an openness to this universal presence in the process of creation... and it is never lost or bounded by our concepts of time and space. I can often feel this when I read a blog post that has been written some time ago on the other side of the world. I'll read it then go brew a pot of tea and then have to come back and read it again to savour what it has say to me.
.. You may think there are those into whose eyes you would look and see fear. But fear is only ever a reflection of we think we are and therefore has no basis in truth. If you are willing to look past appearances to the reality beyond and, just for a moment, trust that you will experience what you choose to look upon, then I guarantee that thought would never trouble you again. And when truth is acknowledged as the presence of who we Are, then truth is seen everywhere.
Strange isn't it, that the one thing that by definition must be the most obvious to us - the true nature of who we are and this life that we are all apart of... is also the very thing that eludes being described, deduced, taught or attained.
Words, at best, are pointers... as they say in Zen, 'like the finger pointing to the moon'. And when we look for truth in words, in our beliefs, a philosophy or religion, or some God or power outside ourselves.. then we look away from the very thing we seek. We become like the eyeball that looks for itself.
Reality can never really be spoken, only experienced... and it is experienced when we quit looking and rest in openness to what is already here. But we have to something, don't we?
...replaces all objects of belief with one single thing: reality itself. We believe only in this universe. We don't believe in the afterlife. We don't believe in the sovereignty of nations. We don't believe in money or power or fame. We don't believe in our idols. We don't believe in our positions or our possessions. We don't believe we can be insulted, or that our honor or the honor of our family, our nation or our faith can be offended...
We just believe in reality. Just this.
...doesn't ask you to believe in anything you cannot confirm for yourself. It does not ask you to memorize any sacred words. It doesn't require you to worship any particular thing or revere any particular person. It doesn't offer any rules to obey. It doesn't give you any hierarchy of learned men whose profound teachings you must follow to the letter. It doesn't ask you to conform to any code of dress. It doesn't ask you to allow anyone else to choose what is right for you and what is wrong.
...is the complete absence of belief. ...is the complete lack of authority. ...tears away every false refuge in which you might hide from the truth and forces you to sit naked before what is real. That's real refuge.
Reality will announce itself to you in utterly unmistakable ways once you learn to listen. Learning to listen to reality, though, ain't so easy. You're so used to shouting reality down, drowning it out completely with your own opinions and views, that you might not even be able to recognize reality's voice anymore. It's a funny thing, though, because reality is the single most glaringly obvious thing there is... Yet we've forgotten how to recognize it. (via Paul Buchheit)
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I've had a passing interest in psychotherapy for a long time, partly as a result of friends and family having suffered from mental illness and also because I've come to realise that there's a more positive and generative way of helping. Psychotherapy is commonly thought of as a healing process for those that are mentally ill. It's this perspective of 'fixing the broken' that often perpetuates the feeling of 'brokenness' of those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of therapy.
Instead of a process of 'healing the sick' we can see therapy (and, I suppose, education) as Michelangelo did when carving a marble statue.. of removing the chippings to what is already there and perfectly formed. The chippings being our fears and doubts about who we really are and what we are capable of. From this perspective we see a process of transformation that renders many of the practices of modern day psychotherapy redundant.
But transformation from what to what?
From one who see themselves as constrained by the world and subject to its 'slings and arrows' to one who sees and delights in the world as her playground.. who knows the Universe as effect not cause, and a brilliant canvas to express and share our Self in whatever way we choose.
I've long thought that the perspective and state of mind of those in the healing professions is
the one of the prime movers in the effective recovery of a 'patient'. I get the feeling that Carl Jung instinctively knew this too, although it's largely unrecognised in modern day practice. In going through some old notes I came across these three perspectives from different times and places. I know they sound a bit 'new agey' but I guess it's not easy to talk of such things in terms that are not.
From Carl Jung -
The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life.
Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interests upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.
You have to make the unconscious conscious, until then your life is directed and you will call it fate."
From a lecture by Wolter Keers in Gent (sent to me by Ray Sender) -
I had a meeting yesterday evening with a group of psychiatrists and psychologists. There I defended the proposition that there is only one psychic obstacle and that you can reduce all of psychology and psychotherapy, and all psychiatry to that one obstacle. That one problem is that we have forgotten that we are love.
It was told to us when we were little that we got love from our mother and father and so on. And when it all maybe went wrong later in all sorts of ways, we discovered that we had not received enough love. And so love became for us something like a sack of potatoes that you can give and get in a big sack or a small sack and the like. This has nothing to do with love.
What we actually are is the most humble of all humble things, that in which everything arises. That is the light itself. Nothing is more ordinary, common, everyday than that light; we have known nothing except that. Love is the discovery of myself (the light) in the other; the recognition of the Silence that I am in the other. That is love. Love cannot be given to anyone, you cannot get love; you can't make water wet, because water is wetness. Neither can anyone give you love, no one can receive love from you, you can only recognize love in yourself and you can recognize love in others.
The moment that it happens, there is naturally no other anymore, because you indeed recognize in other, in the most literal sense, notice well, in the most literal sense; yourself. I never speak to anyone except myself, and you never hear anyone except yourself. I cannot underline enough how literally true this is. Love is to recognize yourself in the other, in what you unjustly saw as 'an other' until that moment. But it is yourself that you see there because there is only one Self. There is only one light. There is only one love. The recognition of yourself in the other, of the Silence that you are in the other, of the light that you are in the other, that is what we call love.
It is not a question of giving, it is not a question of receiving, it is a question of recognition.
From A Course in Miracles, Workbook lesson 107  -
What can correct illusions but the truth? And what are errors but illusions that remain unrecognized for what they are? Where truth has entered errors disappear. They merely vanish, leaving not a trace by which to be remembered. They are gone because, without belief, they have no life. And so they disappear to nothingness, returning whence they came. From dust to dust they come and go, for only truth remains.
Can you imagine what a state of mind without illusions is? How it would feel? Try to remember when there was a time,-- perhaps a minute, maybe even less -- when nothing came to interrupt your peace; when you were certain you were loved and safe. Then try to picture what it would be like to have that moment be extended to the end of time and to eternity. Then let the sense of quiet that you felt be multiplied a hundred times, and then be multiplied another hundred more.
And now you have a hint, not more than just the faintest intimation of the state your mind will rest in when the truth has come. Without illusions there could be no fear, no doubt and no attack. When truth has come all pain is over, for there is no room for transitory thoughts and dead ideas to linger in your mind. Truth occupies your mind completely, liberating you from all beliefs in the ephemeral. They have no place because the truth has come, and they are nowhere. They can not be found, for truth is everywhere forever, now.
When truth has come it does not stay a while, to disappear or change to something else. It does not shift and alter in its form, nor come and go and go and come again. It stays exactly as it always was, to be depended on in every need, and trusted with a perfect trust in all the seeming difficulties and the doubts that the appearances the world presents engender. They will merely blow away, when truth corrects the errors in your mind.
When truth has come it harbors in its wings the gift of perfect constancy, and love which does not falter in the face of pain, but looks beyond it, steadily and sure. Here is the gift of healing, for the truth needs no defense, and therefore no attack is possible. Illusions can be brought to truth to be corrected. But the truth stands far beyond illusions, and can not be brought to them to turn them into truth.
Three perspectives that come from three very diverse sources. But they are not that different are they?
Stress seems to arise in our lives when what we think we want and what we really want are discordant. Perhaps one way or another we all want to just reconnect to the love we think we've lost. A true therapist can help bring clarity here by being a witness to the alternative.. by helping us see that nothing got lost, we just imagined it did and then started to look in all the wrong places.
.. To quote Michelangelo, "The best artist has that thought alone which is contained within the marble shell; the sculptor's hand can only break the spell to free the figures slumbering in the stone."
.. The dialogue in ACIM invariably provokes strong reactions in people (just scan the Amazon reviews), particularly with regard to the source of the material. But if we can get past any resistance we have to the religious terms used, I think this is probably one the most advanced psychology and most powerful transformation texts ever written.
Long ago, Socrates described some second thoughts he had about the new and questionable technology called a "book". He thought it had several weaknesses. A book could not adjust what it was saying, as a living person would, to what would be appropriate for certain listeners or specific times or places.
In addition, a book could not be interactive, as in a conversation or dialogue between persons. And finally, according to Socrates, in a book the written words "seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever."
It sounds as though he would have preferred a blog doesn't it?
I know these remarks seem funny in hindsight, seeing how books became our primary means of passing on information, but it's a valid point that Socrates was makes: Books are good for transmitting static content but real learning (i.e. the creation of new ideas) takes place in our connections and interactions - in conversation. And to me that's the magic of blogging - it's a completely open, transparent environment that helps us to connect, express and share ideas.
At least that's what I'd like it could be.. but it doesn't (yet) fulfil that promise. In fact weblogs are neither community friendly or conducive to good conversation, and there are others that think so too. Take this weblog for example. The really interesting stuff is not what I write, but the reactions to what I write - i.e. when other people take these ideas and argue for and against them, mash them up with their own ideas, or put them into a different or larger context. This eco-system of linked articles is the crucible from which the best stuff emerges.
And what about comments? At the moment a comment is a cul-de-sac. There's no way to get to know a commenter a little better, to see what other things they've commented on, or find interesting on other sites. It's hard to extend the conversation.
Socrates was right. The valuable stuff is in the connections and conversation - linked articles in our case, and the community of people who link to us and add comments. But when readers come to this or any other website they don't see this, they just see one perspective (mine) and both the community and the wider conversation is pretty much invisible to them.
So, for me at least, the concept of blogging is brilliant but in practice it falls way short - blogs tend to fracture conversations, there's very little transparency and it's difficult to build a real sense of community. This might partly explain the huge rise in popularity of the new social network applications like MySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook - they provide the community and conversation we so enjoy. But I for one, don't want to create content within a 'walled garden'.
But the good news is there's a way of resolving these issues.. a way of making blogging not just a platform for self-publishing but great for hosting open conversations and building a community too. My business partner, Dave McNally, and I are working on it right now. We hope to show you something soon.
Credits: the illustration is called "Socrates and His Students" from an early 13th century Syrian book, Mukhtar al-Hikam wa-Mahasin al-Kalim (translated: 'Choice Maxims and Finest Sayings').
.. Open systems usually have a stability and ease that just feels right. Finding and sharing information is simple, and interacting with each other is natural. Contrast this with how things work in some of the most popular social network applications. Most of the content is invisible to Google or other search engines, and we're forced to play God each time we're asked whether to accept xxxxx as a friend or not! That's just not how it works in the real world is it?
.. It's only when a system is open that we get the benefits of emergence, adaptation and self-organisation - common attributes of complex systems. Something that can't really be said for the 'walled garden' nature of social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook et al. The web itself is just that - an open social network.. and it's only when we introduce proprietary technology, or attempt to ring-fence users, that we cut ourselves off from these three life giving properties found in all living systems.
.. For sure, you could follow trackbacks and pingbacks but there's only a portion of blogger's use these and few readers have the time to follow these links. You could also go to Technorati or Bloglines, but there again, very few seem to have the time or inclination to do this.
From Richard Branson in a interview in the December 2006 issue of Business 2.0 magazine:
I met two big San Francisco entrepreneurs recently, and they said they get e-mail like this too [proposals and requests], but they just dump it all in the dustbin. They don't try to answer at all. I asked them why, and they said, "The time we spend responding could be used to create something of value for our business." That may well be pragmatically right, but I still think it's morally wrong, and I suspect that anything that is morally wrong is ultimately bad for business.
Absolutely... what goes around comes around. It's a worn and tired maxim I know, but definitely not one to bet against.
Unlike many people who proffer management and start-up advice Marc Andreessen has pretty much steered clear of all that and spent his time actually building stuff. He knows all about runaway success but more importantly he knows a about failure and what it's like to struggle like hell against seemingly insurmountable odds... and it's this later stuff that makes you wise.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the advice from the likes of Tom Peters, Peter Drucker and Jim Collins et al, or any of the other 'gurus'. But it's just that until you've actually built something from scratch, risked everything you've got to finance your dream or know what it's like to face imminent disaster and still not back down from what needs to be done... then there will always be something missing.
There's a clarity, a wisdom and a quiet authenticity that is discovered and honed in the fight for survival against all the odds, that can never be had through academic learning. Marc Andreesson has been there and it shows in his writing. Here's a couple of snippets from Marc's brilliant post ' Why there's no such thing as Web 2.0' :
On the future of the web:
What we have seen over the last several years is the Web itself coming into its own.
After an initial phase of the Web as a medium, in which lots of people attempted to make the Web look like a newspaper, or a magazine, or a TV channel, we as an industry have recently been collectively developing a much clearer idea of what the Web is really like as a medium in and of itself.
..and then this great advice for budding technology entrepreneurs :
And, as far as startups are concerned, there is no such thing as Web 2.0.
What happens when startups start getting referred to as "Web 2.0 startups" -- or for that matter, "B2B startups" or "mobile startups" or "pen computing startups" -- or as being in the Web 2.0 / B2B / mobile / pen computing "space" -- is that trends are getting mistaken for markets and products.
You can't build a company based on a trend.
Trends are obvious, and there's no startup opportunity in the obvious.
You have to build a company based on a new kind of product (or service -- I am using the terms interchangeably) and you have to take that product to a market.
It frankly doesn't really matter which trends, or design patterns, you incorporate into your product.
If the product is compelling to the market, it will succeed.
If the product is not compelling to the market, it will fail.
It's not much more complicated than that.
The hard part is creating that new and compelling product.
All good stuff. What's missing from text book solutions and advice from wanabe gurus is the little grit you pick up from overcoming adversity from which the pearls of real wisdom form. And that's something that no-one can give us but ourselves. But if it's advice we are after it's probably as well to listen to those who have been-there-and-done-that the hard way.
So at the end of the day I think it boils down to this:
Trees don't grow strong without a little wind. Standing on the shoulders of giants can get us started but there really is no substitute for the learning that comes from these twin activities:
When we start to approach life with this mindset then the lines we draw between success and failure begin to blur and we start to see everything as a learning opportunity. Here's Joseph Campbell talking about the same thing in Reflections on the Art of Living
Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called "the love of your fate." Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, "This is what I need." It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment — not discouragement — you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.
Then when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You'll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes."
Friends have often asked me why I've kept switching and building businesses in completely different industries (construction, fund management, retail, software), and asked more specifically why I have left each one just as it got successful to start something new and very risky in a field I initially know little about. All I can say is that to me it's the learning itself that is the most valuable thing. Maybe I was just born with a wild hair up my ass but I get restless once I become really competent and knowledge about the latest project. And perverse as it seems, I seem to learn far more from 'failure' than 'success'. As Rudyard Kipling once penned, "...If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same".
.. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a startup and have your main product (the Mosaic Browser) being targeted for extinction by the full weight of Microsoft's competitive machine? Once M$ had won the browser wars with a 97% monopoly they walked away from web development, mistakenly thinking that the web Phoenix could no longer rise from the ashes to challenge their desktop cash cows. How wrong they were.
Related Article: Knowledge Sharing
[Update].. I've just came across this brilliant idea of Tara's at HorsePigCow about holding a 'LoserCamp'. I could almost guarantee that folks would come away from this learning far more useful stuff than any parade of the 'rich and successful'. Good on ya Tara.