Tag Archives: Thinking

Defeat

A wise man once said sometimes you win, sometimes you LEARN

So my scars are not defeat, they represent my Experience

My tear stains are not defeat, they represent my Understanding

My mistakes are not defeat, they represent my Education

My humility is not defeat, it represents my Wisdom

J.M. Cortés

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés 

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Rise and shine

“The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink.”

The door opened and the curtains were drawn back as the king awoke to the admonition of a very concerned mother. Choosing her words cunningly, she spoke to him with regard to his standing in the eyes of the nation he led. Actions unbecoming a king would undermine his authority. If a king could not rule his own nature, how could he rule a kingdom positioned for world dominion? Jewish Rabbis recount a tale regarding an event with this king. On the day of his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter, the king assembled musicians from far and wide. As the festivities unfolded, a day of celebration progressed into a night of excessive drinking and revelry. By the forth hour of the following day (10am) the king was found passed out with the keys to the Temple under his pillow. It was then his mother went looking for him and the words at the beginning of this post were the start of what she had to say. Sometime later when King Solomon would narrate this proverb, it was said that scribes used a pseudonym to protect his character of wisdom.

While resolve declines in some quarters, there is a movement of those who desire to advance beyond the vices and shortcomings. Not everyone is born into greatness but everyone can position themselves for it. Though our feet are on the earth, our spirit is not subject to it. The confines of the natural can take precedence to the supernatural. There is a limitation placed by some on whatever is not quantifiable or qualifiable by scientific measures. I believe in systems of reason and logic, I believe in the sciences. But I also acknowledge that humanity is a work in progress and we do not know 100% of what there is to know about anything. Thus we should be growing and like King Solomon sometimes we need a voice of reason in our life to facilitate that growth.

Many choose to remain within the boundaries of their predisposition and knowledge base thus they never grow. These boundaries must be expanded and the territory must be extended otherwise progression becomes impossible. Ordinary sliced bread remained virtually unknown to the world for 15 years after the inventor first came up with how to do it. Otto Rohwedder limited his energies on the processes of mass produced sliced bread. It was Wonder Bread that took the concept to the next level through mass marketing the concept, thus generating the infrastructure for mass production.

Is there anything in your life that could undermine your position? Is there anything that stands in the way of your progression?

Whatever you wish to achieve in the future must be actively worked toward in the present. I was told that the farmers of the distant past set their eyes to a fixed object as they plowed their field. This would keep them plowing in a straight course. Sometimes we get off course by choices that evolve into things unplanned. When it happens, we need someone or something that can wake us and realign us with our purpose.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés 

Hidden among the stuff

We are now on the other side of Black Friday which was preceded this year by the newly christened Black Thursday (formerly Thanksgiving). The big players in major retail hatched up another way to confiscate even more money from the masses; stores traditionally closed for the holiday once known as Thanksgiving would now be open. While I did not hear of anyone being trampled to death, some frenzied consumers did act out. Reports appeared of stabbings, assaults, shootings, and police dragged by cars driven by shop-lifters. Obviously the stores are not solely blamed but we can thank them for creating the environment. Oh well, there is a price to be paid for capitalism and some consumers are willing to do whatever it takes to save a buck.

I know it is cliché and all, every Thanksgiving the posts appear in the varied social media forums appealing to all to keep the thanks in Thanksgiving. It is ironic that an effort to preserve the traditional essence of the holiday is even necessary. A time for family and a time of expressing gratitude should come without effort. But the cultural climate has changed and traditional values in society have shifted. Dissatisfaction rules the day; people are unhappy with the jobs, unhappy in their relationships, and just unhappy in general.

Zig Ziglar has been heard to say “the healthiest of all human emotion is gratitude”. Gratitude is born of an understanding; understanding that where we are and what we have in life is the result of choices we’ve made. It is born of an understanding that things could be worse. It is the understanding that life is fragile and the future is uncertain. It’s understanding what the loss of everything and the work of rebuilding is like. The yoke of labor and sacrifice weighs heavy upon those who bear it. Yet from that heaviness strength arises. The earlier you learn to work hard for what you want and then appreciate it once it’s yours the sooner you will learn gratitude. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth, he sitteth alone and keepeth silence because he hath bourne it upon him”.

When people fail to have or express gratitude it is because they overlook certain truths. It is the schedule, it is the struggle, it is the hardness that life brings. Yet what are we missing out on?

In 2008 a social experiment was conducted in a subway of Washington, D .C. on a busy workday morning. Award winning, Carnegie Hall playing violinist Joshua Bell situated himself in a high visibility area and for nearly an hour played classical pieces. In a region of the U.S. defined by sophistication and cultured tastes, it was predicted that masses would gather to witness such a performance. Even if skill alone did not arrest attention, surely the renowned musician would be recognized. But the reality was no one even noticed him. No one recognized his talent, no one recognized him, and no one even recognized his costly $3 million dollar violin. Other things had their attention. Schedules, the work place, finances, familial issues, health concerns, relationship matters, etc. Logically these things are not inherently wrong, but where does it end?

At some point, we all reach a place where we decide not to get caught up in the race. Detach from the temporal. Divest yourself of futile efforts. The masses are buying stuff they don’t need, with money they should not waste, to impress people that really don’t care. I shake my head when I think about ways I’ve wasted time, money, and energy in my life. I am now wanting to just be grateful for what I see and hopeful toward what I will soon see.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

Intuition

The bedridden king of Macedonia showed little sign of recovery. Fever attacked his body and many wondered if death was imminent. Philip, the king’s personal physician, ministered to his needs as best as he could. Conquests removed them all from their homeland so Philip worked with what means he had to create medication. The king’s sickness came at a time of military action and his soldiers saw his condition worsening instead of getting better. Though not present yet aware of the situation, the general sent word to the king that he suspected treachery.

Believing a warring nation enlisted the physician to assassinate the king, the general sent a letter of warning. After reading the letter, the king knew the matter had to be addressed and that unquestionably. At a fitting time, specifically as Philip came to administer medicine, the king exchanged the letter with him for the medicine. As the king prepared to drink the medicine he told Philip to read the letter. As Philip looked up from having read the letter, he saw Alexander the Great taking the last sip of the medicine.

In reflection, some believe Alexander studied Philip’s expression as he read the letter. Had the king perceived guilt, shame or fear his actions would have been different. Others believe Alexander wanted to display to everyone his level of confidence in Philip’s fidelity. Either way, Alexander knew…he knew that he knew.

Intuition.

The etymology of this word is found in the Latin ‘intueri’. A translation of this word gives us phrasing such as ‘to look inside’ or ‘to take hold of’. Beyond perception, Intuition is an understanding on an explicit level. In philosophy, it pertains to unlearned (yet known) knowledge that’s of a ‘non-inferential’ origin. I discussed a closely related subject in my post TABULA RASA. Defining intuition is not any easier than understanding how we utilize it. Something just occurs to us and we know it is a sure thing.

“The more we know the more we see”

Trees can be categorized differently but the two main groups are evergreen and deciduous. Someone educated in the differing qualities sees the distinctions in the leaves, branches, and the makeup of the trunk. When some people listen to music, they hear the tempo and may discern individual instruments used. Others may focus on the lyrics and through an understanding of references hear a message foremost.

Within genres of music, artists are easily identified by those who follow them closely whereas others who are unfamiliar would not know where to start. ‘Foodies’ do not simply taste food; they experience it by way of identifying seasoning, temperatures, and individual ingredients.

The chiropractor knows the origin of the referred pain; the massage therapist identifies the twisted muscle. A friend of mine was being seen to by an ophthalmologist who identified a gall bladder issue by looking at his eyes. Recently a professional pool player remarked to me that novices break the billiard balls then look for the easiest or open shots. But he said after the break he sees a ‘road map for where he should go’, not necessarily the easiest shots to make. Of these examples, it stands to reason that experience has developed their understanding. But the role intuition has in polishing an understanding is incalculable – it streamlines it’s application.

Dr William Bates proposed in 1891 a disputed set of exercises that was purported to resolve vision problems. Known as the Bates Method, it achieved popularity by efforts of author Aldous Huxley in the 40’s. Huxley eventually wrote a book about this entitled “The Art of Seeing”. In it he explained how the Bates Method supposedly helped him regain his sight. Criticizing modern day efforts to correct vision he emphasized a duality in the process of sight; specifically that it is a physical and psychological effort.

Declaring corrective lenses as merely a crutch, Huxley affirmed sight was an issue of memory and one’s “ability to interpret imagery”. He claimed that utilizing the Bates Method corrected his vision problems and he was not short on people who sought to challenge this claim. It was concluded that he (and others in favor of the Bates Method) never corrected their vision but rather retrained their eyes. Essentially they learned to use their mind’s eye to see what their physical eye could not. Obviously, this would not be the kind of folks we would want the DMV to issue driver’s licenses to. The Bates Method doesn’t lend itself to sound medical practice but it does offer an interesting metaphor for intuition. Dr Bates efforts in this area fit better within a philosophical framework rather than a medicinal one.

A consistent training of our mind by study and by life experience is how we sharpen our intuition. Our mind is like a sponge; whatever we immerse it in is what will come out when it is pressed. Those who display skill in their craft have not only seen the outside of it, they have taken hold of it by seeing it from within as well.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

a belief

a belief

The story is told of two men, who desiring to safeguard their riches, decided to conceal them by burial. One of the men selected an area below a tree, the other choose a place within his garden. Having selected places they deemed safest, both men went about burying their gold, silver, and jewels.

Time passed and soon proved both men had failed in the choices they made. The man who buried his treasures in the garden mistakenly assumed someone stole his treasures because he could not find them. However he had simply just forgot the exact spot where he had buried them. The other man who had buried his below a tree was unaware a thief was watching in the near distance. No sooner had he tamped the dirt and departed, the thief came and exhumed the treasures.

Both men continued on living under an illusion, one thinking he had plenty yet had nothing while the other thinking he had nothing but had plenty.

Earlier this year I mentioned in my post Shadow or Substance a term used in the financial industry known as a “market bubble”. Recently I was reminded of that when I read something Al Gore said regarding oil. Calling out fossil fuels he categorized them as a carbon bubble: “Bubbles by definition involve a lot of asset owners and investors who don’t see what in retrospect becomes blindingly obvious. And this carbon bubble is going to burst.”

The blindingly obvious – that statement stands out to me. We’ve both heard it and phrased it in other ways ourselves: “Hindsight is 20/20” or “If I’d only knew then what I know now”.  What is about the obvious that’s so elusive? Like sleight of hand, an act is carried out right before our very eyes yet something else had our attention.

Charles Mackay wrote a book in 1841 titled Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds. In it he describes the events that unfolded in Europe when the country was first introduced to the Tulip flower. Imported by the Turks, the tulip became an item of renown. As their fame spread, tulips became a status symbol and were considered a luxurious item. Some growers aiming to set their tulips apart began transmitting a virus into the bulbs. By creating unique color patterns, their bulbs would stand out from the rest. Everyone else caught on and moved in the same direction.

As time went on, contracts to buy bulbs at the end of their growing season were bought and sold. In his book, Mackay gives an account of people selling off or trading valuable possessions in order to participate in the Tulip market. At the height of Tulip Mania as it would become known, single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the average annual income.

Today you can buy 10 bulbs for less than $6.00.

We shake our heads at the idea of masses being influenced by a flower. We laugh at the idea that an entire country could think something so temporal could possess such value. But how is it any different today? Our culture permits items with basic function and single purpose to net a return which generations before would scoff at. Purses, sunglasses, watches and a host of peripherals exceed the cost of cars, houses, or logical investments. Yet today society permits this and even celebrates it. Some prices are driven by inflation, some are driven by demand, and some are driven by ignorance.

“A fool and his money are soon parted”

A belief about something does not substantiate a reality…there may just be too many letters present.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

The consequences of Half Measures and Inaction

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” – Winston Churchill

It was a Saturday on the 7th day of March in 1936. The orders were given and they marched into The Rhineland. Violating a Treaty that had been signed into existence nearly 17 years earlier, the act was veiled as reconstruction but was truly an act of aggression. At the close of World War 1, the Treaty of Versailles had imposed geographic restrictions upon Germany. Adolf Hitler exhibiting his ascendency in Germany and ignoring the Treaty sent his soldiers into the demilitarized Rhineland. Ironically (and to his surprise) many Europeans acted as though they barely noticed. France was nearest the encroachment and some concerned by it appealed to Britain for support.

Recognizing the magnitude of Hitler’s violation, Winston Churchill stood before the British House of Commons and called upon them to act. The quote at the beginning of this commentary comes from his appeal to them. But to his dismay, they dismissed Hitler’s move as behavior of a fairly new leader working in favor of his country. Furthermore a common sentiment was that the Treaty had been too restrictive and Germany moving (back) into an area where ‘German speaking people’ already lived was natural. Compounding the uncertainty was the reality that many in France did not want to ‘deal with it’. It was a time of elections and what politician would risk controversy by suggesting a costly military action or even war.

There are differing schools of thought concerning Hitler’s actions; some view it as an indirect catalyst for World War 2 while others say it was simply a choice that lead to many other choices. Hitler essentially called out France by his actions and was even concerned they might react. But his concerns were unnecessary because they did not move. Later he would express his initial hesitancy: “The 48 hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw.”

But “The ox knows where the weak part of the fence is”.

Churchill’s prophetic warning came into focus when the world did enter a period of consequences; we call it World War 2. But whether one sees the violation of the Treaty as a direct or indirect cause of the WW2, it was still an act that could have and should have been addressed. Perhaps Hitler getting parked would have eventually been followed by another act and with the same results.

But that’s not the point. The point is that half measures and inaction will never change your circumstance. Keep playing with your addiction. Keep putting off making an intentional change to your situation. Handle your problem with kid gloves if you like, but soon they will handle you.

Decisive action and follow through makes the change. I will continue in my next post with more regarding half measures and inaction.

To be continued…

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

Direction and Destination

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“For the ship without direction or destination, any wind will do”

The thought of being without direction or a destination is something we must never accept. Maturity acknowledges that life can change fast and unexpected; it will disorient even those who excel in focus. But there is a vast difference between situational disorientation and aimless wandering. We have all met people whose sum of initiative was merely to exist in the moment. The bare minimum was enough to satisfy them and absolutely no effort would be made to travel beyond it. We all have met them: they have worked beside us, lived near us, and may even be related; they live life in a transitory state avoiding commitment and responsibility.

Perhaps it is fear that causes people to live life this way; perhaps its anger. Possibly they became conditioned for it through the environment they were raised in. Today I listened to an educator talk about homes where a child’s academic success was optional. I have personally known individuals who communicated to their children a dismissive attitude regarding education; “a job pays bills, not a school”.  Whatever the cause, without direction or destination, there cannot be expectation either. It could be that expectation itself is the enemy to those without drive. If someone does not have any expectations they are safe from disappointment as well.

The United Nations has declared the ocean floor has evidence of 3 million ship wrecks on it. There are many causes for shipwrecks: storms, navigational error, and a ship being over loaded. However the most common cause is when a ship runs aground. A ship that runs aground typically hits a sandbar or rocks near shore causing the hull to be pierced and the ship becomes entangled. Then the ebb and flow of the tide works to literally pull the ship apart. It seems logical that the most destructive threat against a ship is when it does not serve its purpose.

Our lives are like ships; we cannot prevent the storms of life but we can navigate them. Our navigational skills are honed by learning from our experiences. Sometimes we drop our anchor and weather the storm, sometimes we move forward in spite of it. Sometimes we try to bear more than we should and casting off the excess becomes necessary.  But most importantly, we must have direction and destination otherwise we will become lost at sea. If we are without purpose, we are like a ship that moves toward shallow waters near land and faces the severe risk of running aground.

“A ship in port is safe. But that’s not what ships are built for” – Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

“We have met the enemy…

…and he is us.”

Self Destructive Behaviors…it appears humans are the only mammals bent on messing with them.

The title and opening statement of this post seems to summarize the irony of it all. It is a well-known quote from Walt Kelly’s political comic strip Pogo. Aimed at environmental efforts and the launching of the first Earth Day, the message behind it highlighted a sobering truth about pollution. Technological advancements had come with a serious caveat of pollution and alternatives needed to be considered.

As it was with technological advancements and their expense of increased pollution, so it is with self-destructive behaviors. The driving force behind self-destructive behaviors has been deliberated since way back. What motivates people to engage in them? What is missing from a person’s thought processes that allow them to overrule ‘good common sense”? Studies have offered a number of reasons from self-imposed ‘punishment’ to a darker self-hatred.  Other causes such as mental disorders or environmentally driven cases (i.e. childhood experiences) are pointed to.

In their work, Roy Baumeister and Steven Scher presented 3 common models of Self Destructive Behaviors. One of them immediately comes to mind when discussing these thoughts which they appropriately called ‘Counterproductive Strategies’. Stating that people naturally act in their own interest, this form of Self Destructive Behavior is one that actually surprises the person. Essentially, they embark on an endeavor that they anticipate will have a good outcome. But mistakenly they choose or create a plan that produces the exact opposite of what they hoped for.

Self destructive behaviors can range from poor habits to intentional self-abuse. Take for example the poor habit of smoking; it has absolutely no redeemable value and sustained use yields severe consequences. But through rationalization and a dependence on the ‘feeling’ it offers, some decide it’s worth it. The costs are worth it, the health issues are worth it…a premature death is worth it. These are all considered a trade-off just for “the feeling”. (Incidentally, ‘Trade-Off’ was another model of Self Destructive Behaviors presented by Baumeister and Scher).

At the source of Self Destructive Behaviors can we find a logical reason? There are obvious factors such as immaturity or failure to recognize particular risks. Or it could be environmentally driven like actions connected to peer-pressure. But the most obvious and most ironic reason of all is that the source is found in a simple Latin word – Ego. Many have been ensnared by a word we’ve come to define as “self-esteem” or “personality”. But this Latin word defined in its basic sense speaks of the most dangerous pronoun “I”.  Many people become an enemy unto themselves. Through foolish choices, unheeded counsel, and unprofitable obstinacy they work against the very thing they want. Let it not be repeated: “We have met the enemy…and he is us”

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Lesson learned…

“Me, I want what’s coming to me….”

“Oh? Well, what’s coming to you?”

“The world, chico, and everything in it.”

These notorious lines are repartee of the protagonist and his counterpart in a tale about the rise and fall of a drug cartel leader. While the banter assumes an influx of ill-gotten materialism, the intention and motive is the same – destructive ambition. This tale I’ve referenced is neither unique nor original; as far as humanity goes back there have been people with unbalanced appetite and unwavering drive to attain whatever they want.

When the foundation is wrong, it is to be expected the subsequent phases will be just as wrong. Typically how something is begun is how it will end. The end of the character quoted above found him lying in a pool of his own blood, victim of assassination. While this example is not only extreme and rooted in fiction, there are many with a tale of ruin simply because they were controlled by destructive ambition. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going and no quick routes for gaining that which holds true value. The enjoyment of having what is ill-gotten is short lived compared to that which is gained honorably.

A fresh awareness of this came to me as I arrived at the conclusion of a particular venture in my life. This event started 581 days ago and resulted from an emotionally charged decision. I excused the decision under the pretense of it providing a form of income (which is important) and pride (which can become one’s undoing). I launched out thinking all would be well and something good could come from it.

Needless to say, 581 days later I not only accepted the venture cost me more money than it made me I lost some other things along the way. Starting off I knew what would come from it and its limitations. But hoping for something better to evolve from it and influenced by pride I jumped into it feet first. However if I would have jumped in with my mind first I would have never entered at all.

But as things that are begun wrong can do, it came to an end in an unexpected way. The consolation in all of this is two-fold though. I’d probably have continued to waste my time on a situation that could never yield a return of discernible value. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about decision making during emotionally charged times…don’t do it…for when emotions run high, judgment runs low.

 

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

The Flow…

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First it was a week, then it was two, then it was a month. While I was bothered by the second week, I was upset when a month had passed.

I am referring to the time that passed since I have written anything.

While I accept that writing for me is a diversion, I must admit it also serves as a creative outlet for me. Daily thoughts and ideas are at work in my mind but they cannot always manifest in written form. There is not a single cause for this but rather a combination of reasons. To write without invested thought is the same as firing a gun without aiming, hitting your target becomes nearly impossible.

In the moment of conception, a thought’s lifespan is not instantly known; it might abide awhile or soon dissolve as vapor. Regardless, until it evolves beyond a seed-like stage it cannot be trusted. It’s been said that hardest thing for a writer is writing and then William Goldman’s truth conveys the other side: “The easiest thing on earth to do is not write”. To my fellow bloggers and writers these words, without doubt, resound within your spirit.

We are not alone either; the musician understands, the painter can relate, and the public speaker knows. Regardless the medium, those who quarry within to mine out expression know the aggravation of creative stillness. Suppressed by schedules and censored by a full calendar the creative expression is there but it is captive.  What will set it free? Time? Perhaps…however creative expression will not always embrace opportunity just because it’s there. Creative expression can have all the time it needs to manifest but only inspiration will truly set it free. Inspiration possesses the keys to the lock which holds creative expression prisoner. As the lock disengages and the chains hit the floor; creative expression takes flight with inspiration.

So first there must be inspiration!

When the well spring of inspiration flows unhindered, creative expression simply enjoys the ride. Surely you have heard of the lake called the Salt Sea also known as the Dead Sea. It is found at the lowest geographical point on earth situated between Israel and Jordan. The Dead Sea is a lake in which no fish can live and it’s water cannot sustain plant life. This is the result of having all inlets and no outlets. The Jordan River pours into it and other tributaries stream there; but they flow in and only abide. Thus the lake is known as the Dead Sea.

We can have plenty of things which produce inspiration but if they are going to live, they must have an outlet to flow out of us. We must remain in contact with those things which inspire and avoid the things which stifle inspiration. An open eye, a listening ear, and sensitivity to that which inspires will ensure our creative expression’s freedom. There are things which can damn up the flow of inspiration. Busy schedules have already been mentioned. But being busy and remaining inspired is possible. We just have to ensure the outlet (s) remain unobstructed. The things which contaminate our inspiration are like logs that pile up and impede the flow of a river’s water. The end result of this can be stagnation. Water than cannot flow will stagnate and inspiration that cannot flow will too.

 

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

I can HEAR clearly now…the rain is gone

“Can you hear me now?” “How about now?” “Now you’re cutting out.”

We all have endured the frustration of an unstable cell phone signal and the inevitable dropped call. It is usually preceded by someone engaged in full discourse while we listen to the other person cutting in and out. Hoping against hope the signal will recover, we let them continue on until the infamous 3 beeps tells us they are gone. What follows next is a string of attempts by each person to call the other one back only to hear an immediate voicemail greeting – because both lines are tied up. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

An exchange of ideas with some can be equally as complex.  My last two articles (Perspective and misINTERPRETation) cover why and I will not replicate that material in this one. Simply put, a price tag cannot be placed on effective communication. When someone has it, they just have it! But the onus rests upon the communication’s recipient; that which is done with what is heard matters most. I believe a keen mind possesses the ability to listen to a matter in full before responding to it. Defensive and congested hearing arrives at a conclusion before its presentation is fully accomplished. Responding to (or rejecting) a matter without hearing it fully is nothing more than narrow-mindedness.

For some objectivity is not possible; this is due to faults such as intimidation, arrogance, and ignorance. These character flaws have the same influence on “connectivity” just as poor cell phone signals hinder quality conversation.  Aristotle said “it’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. We do not have to agree with a premise to agree with a conclusion. No two people think exactly alike; and if they do its likely only one of them is doing the thinking.

When we think of what intuition is and what it means, we think of snap judgment and insight. The terminology of “rapid cognition” as made famous by the works of Gerd Gigerenzer or Malcolm Gladwell, taps into that ability “to know something” aside from an evident basis for knowing “why or how you know”. I love their material on this subject but the etymology of the word intuition is what I want to highlight for this article. Intuition is a word originating in Latin (‘intueri’) which translates as ‘to look inside’. This conveys a sense of investigative thought, an analysis of meaning with intent to ascertain more. We may see a window but unless we direct our gaze through it, we will not see what is on the other side.

In closing, consider the wisdom of Bill Cosby: “Every closed eye is not sleeping, and every open eye is not seeing.

 

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Perspective

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Raising the window shade to look again, I still could not see anything. First it was 15 minutes, then 30, and soon an hour had passed. There we sat waiting to begin our flight out of Washington and yet our plane had scarcely moved from the loading bridge. I could not recall a time where I had seen fog so dense, it was as if we were surrounded by billows of smoke. Finally the fog dissipated enough for the Captain to announce we would depart and I was hoping he could see more than I could. Taxiing along the runway then launching forward, we soon took flight. Climbing to 10,000 feet, then 20,000, we finally were cruising at nearly 40,000 feet. The view from that same window now presented a much different perspective; a clear blue sky and hardly any clouds could be seen.

This experience represents how perspective influences response to a situation. Nothing changed concerning the weather, but our perspective changed when we rose above it.  Many times perspective becomes obscured by difficulties, interactions with negative people, or having a pessimistic attitude. While we cannot prevent every difficulty, we can control how we respond to it. We cannot transform the negative outlook others  have but we do not have to be influenced by it. And of all these things, the one we have most power over is our own attitude. Our attitude is formed and shaped by our perspective.  “Two men look out through the same bars, one sees the mud and one the stars” (F. Langbridge)

Perspective and Difficulty

When we are confronted by difficulty, regardless of its degree, the mind immediately formulates a response. The situation may be different but the response is typically consistent with our nature.  As the density of the fog hindered visibility for flight, difficult times can hinder our vision. It’s hard to believe when everything is falling apart that a resolution is possible. Or at the least, it has an end.  The day before posting this article, I was flying in a small non-commercial aircraft. As we began our descent, the pilot told me we would encounter turbulence very soon. Descending into clouds that had been below us, we now flew in a pattern that kept us surrounded by them. Visibility was zero. The pilot responded to my surprise by stating the instrumentation is what we were now relying on. When flying in zero visibility, a pilot cannot follow feelings or perspective. Spatial disorientation might cause them to feel they are going one way when they might be going another.  When difficult times disorient us, our perspective can become our undoing. This is where the importance of positive (and higher) influences becomes most evident.

Perspective and Negative People

“Protect your spirit from contamination; limit your time with negative people.”  – Thelma Davis

Naysayers, whiners, and skeptics are everywhere. These people walk among us criticizing and complaining about everything. Some of them do not even view “the glass as half empty”; they have a readymade presentation about the insufficiencies of the glass itself. They are trained well in the art of minimizing potential and maximizing limitation. These people have rallied associates for their cause as well; an alliance based on their ability to offer fear and anxiety. They see the dark side of things; citing chapter and verse on how pitiful things are. They see the worst in people and the worst in every situation. Avoid their toxicity; they should not be permitted the opportunity to distort your perspective.

Perspective and Attitude

Remember “Tough times don’t last but tough people do”. Once I have reached the other side of a trial, I know it helps to reflect on the perspective I had during it. I try to think about how I felt and how I was thinking when it started, then the same when it was over. This helps me to work toward attaining a proper perspective when the next trial arises. Proper perspective of the past helps to have a proper perspective of the future. On the flip side, I am reminded of material I used to teach anger management that used an allegory of “life views and windows of time”. The material created a metaphor of people standing before “windows of the past, present, and future”.  Viewing life (and thus living it) from a window view of the past is not constructive. You cannot undo what has happened and regret will only create negative feelings for today. Living life from a window view of the future can create anxiety and stress. The material encouraged focus on living life from a window view of the present. We cannot change the past but the future is best prepared for by focusing on the present.

“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.  If you’ve ever heard Zig Ziglar speak, you probably have heard him say this!

What kind of perspective do you have? Where has it taken you? Or by contrast, what has it taken from you?

Seek a higher perspective and once you have attained it, seek a higher one than that.

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Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

misINTERPRETation

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“A good understanding prevents a misunderstanding”

I am not sure who coined that phrase but it is one I personally quote often. Those displaying mastery of communication through oratory, delivery, and word prose still face a formidable challenge: the understanding of their hearers. Despite the message’s content or its medium, its entire essence can be misinterpreted simply passing through the recipient’s filters. Effective communicators attempt to avoid misinterpretation through basic fundamentals of message delivery. They do not simply create a message then suppose it will be understood exactly as intended to be. Nothing can be assumed. Whether the medium is in audible, pictorial/video, or written format some of the basics are: be clear, be concise, and be consistent. When following guidelines such as these, the message can pass through the recipient’s filters with greater ease.

What are these filters I am referring to? They are a construct of personality traits and dispositions that a person develops in life. These are cultivated by influence of culture, upbringing, education, and role models. Once these filters are in place, it becomes nearly impossible for someone to receive and interpret information apart from them. Even the most objective of people will concede they often defer to predisposition. These filters are an advantage to some and a misfortune to others. Those whose upbringing was healthy and functional were afforded an opportunity to view things from that perspective. Those who were subject to pitiful role models or were raised in a dysfunctional culture learned another perspective. Regardless, the manner in which a message is interpreted and thus responded to is still a choice.

We all have experienced hearing a song play in the background somewhere then recognize later it was retained in our memory. While we may have not been listening to the song we still heard it and our subconscious tucked it away. The melody is there, the tempo is there, but what about all of the lyrics? That is one way people misinterpret the information they receive – they heard it but they did not listen to it. The information was incomplete therefore subject to misinterpretation.

There are basically 2 principal methods for translating information, texts, or a particular science. One is metaphrase and the other is paraphrase; the first aims for literal translation while the latter focuses on “an intended sense”. Terminology regarding language translation method of archaic texts has been divided up as “functional equivalency” versus “literal equivalency”. Again, the first seeks to convey what the text means in essence. The second takes the text and drops it into a receptor language with the intent of literal presentation. Of these examples, which do you think is at risk for misinterpretation? The method of metaphrase or paraphrase? A translation that is functional or literal?

It is estimated that people speak at a rate of 125 words per minute. It is also said that we spend 80% of our day communicating and 45% listening.  When you couple these figures with research stating 24 hours after hearing something, we typically remember only 50% a dilemma arises in the work place! If we take these figures and place them in a 3 ½ hour training session metric, this is what we might have:

  • 210 Minute Training Session
  • If one person did all the talking, they could say as many as 26,250 words
  • If the people trained listened at 25% efficiency, they would hear 6,562 words
  • By the next day they might only remember 3,281 words

The training attendees would do well to take notes and the speaker should choose their words carefully! But what about the filters I’ve already written about, how might they factor in? Logically those could be represented in the 25% listening efficiency, but what an exponential increase of chance for misinterpretation. The sum of the matter is that we should listen and not merely hear. That we should insist on the metaphrased and literal rather than things implied. And finally we cannot undo what led to the construction of our own filters. But we can ensure they are working for us and not against us. Prejudices, narrow mindedness, and reductionist thinking are the result of restrictive filters. They keep people from evolving mentally. Our minds have the ability to comprehend an average of 300 words per minute; more than double that which is spoken. I could throw other facts and figures out there but you get the point. We cannot allow a biased approach to information undo it’s essence through misinterpretation.

“What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand.”

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés