Hi Folks,

Due to the overhead and flakiness of trying to keep my own instance of WordPress alive I’m rehosting my blog to It will be a process, but you can see the work here Once it’s stable I’ll point the domain to that site and retire this one.

If you’re registered on this site, you’ll need to re-register on the new new site.

I’m looking forward to posting more regularly on my usual random collection of topics and adventures. Stay tuned.

All the best,


Believing and Acting Beings

I updated the sketch from last week’s post so that it now looks like the sketch on the right (click on it to make it larger).

Decision Cycle, Rev. 2
Decision Cycle, Rev. 2

Here are the changes…

  • I replaced physics with reality in an attempt to be a little less obtuse.
  • I also added “(Expectations)” to Beliefs. They are essentially the same things. This also gives me a place to hang The Stress Equation when combined with Reality/Physics.
  • I changed the line from Facts to “modify”. Facts modify Reality/Physics. This seemed to be a bit richer way of thinking about how facts relate to reality.
  • I added “(Issues)” to Opportunities in order to cover all the circumstantial reasons for decision. the distinction between the two is worth some deeper exploration at some point. In the meantime, read The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday.
  • Finally, I fixed the directions of the feedback loop arrows so they point in the right directions1.

This sketch is only the barest outline of a framework for thinking, but there are some interesting observations that can be made. For example, the Natural Systems Loop is the universe without Thinking and Acting Beings. Note that I changed the title of this post to “Believing and Acting Beings”. Thinking is the process of forming beliefs. Beliefs are exposed by adaptive reactions to facts. All higher animals at least exhibit learning. Learning is an adaptive reaction to facts. This leads to the conclusion that all higher animals have beliefs. From this, I’ve formed the belief that while human belief systems are certainly extremely complex, at our core we’re no different than any other animal that learns.

Your milage may vary. If so, I’d love to hear about it.


Thinking and Acting Beings

I’ve pondering the following sketch today…

The boxes are nouns, the lines are verbs. There are three feedback loops. The “natural systems” loop is the only one that would exist if there were no sentient beings capable of affecting the universe. Decisions anchor the role of rational and sentient beings via the perceptual and behavioral loops. A good way to misread this sketch is to believe that it shows how perception and behaviour are outside of nature when they are actually just more detail. There are a lot of more detailed systems in the natural loop. There’s probably a better way to capture this relationship.

Decisions are what couple perceptions and behavior. Decisions require both an opportunity and a set of beliefs before they can enable an action. Beliefs are formed by exposure to facts. Here you think about facts in a fairly strict sense. It may be a fact that someone told you something that they asserted is a fact. The fact that they asserted may not have actually been a fact, but the person asserting that it is a fact is a fact. (Sigh, language is so hard.) You end up with a notion of directly experienced facts, e.g. what I heard someone say, and reported facts, e.g. what they said. There’s an 80/20 possibility here where 80 percent of your belief system is based on reported facts and 20 percent is based on direct experience. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s an interesting hypothesis.

A future ponder many be to examine the process (verb) of how facts inform beliefs.


Beginning an Exploration of Purpose

“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.”
– Henry Kissinger

An ongoing ponder is the role of leadership and purpose in the human experience. A purpose is a desired future state; also known as an objective. Purpose appears to be a very important element of the constellation of things that enable human happiness. Other than the mechanics of perpetuating the species, for humans, happiness appears to be what life is about.

Purpose does not necessarily mean a desire for change. Many have an objective to avoid and inhibit change. They achieve that objective if today is pretty much like yesterday. For those it can’t get any better than what they have today. Purpose does not necessarily mean unique. Many have the objective to make the future in some way similar to the past. This is based on a belief that we have somehow “lost ground” relative to what’s perceived to have been a better state. For the rest, purpose is a belief that there’s a future state that can be achieved that’s in some way better than any that’s been experienced so far. For me, this is the kind of purpose that contributes the most to my happiness.

I’ve moved from believing that people whose purpose is anchored by the past or the present are idiots to recognizing that I just don’t understand. Given that the past and present were at some point in time “the future” how could the future not hold even more promise? They have a point though. There have been some pretty dismal times in human history. The future may also contain more of those.

I believe that the objectives that you choose are a function of your personal strategy. Two extremes are a “strategy of fear” and a “strategy of hope”, otherwise known as pessimism and optimism. The strategic landscape isn’t single dimensional, of course. An important orthogonal axis is idealism vs. pragmatism, which is a trade-off between what you want to be true and what you may know to be true1. For most people their personal strategies are likely set as they exit adolescence. After that it’s largely a sorting exercise.

Most people don’t create their purpose. For many their purpose is default. It’s all they’ve been exposed to. They may not have even been made aware that they can select a purpose. This is the disruptive power of education. It exposes a person to alternative objectives and empowers them to select. For a few it goes even further. It empowers them to create a purpose that is new. These are innovators.

I’m out of time so I’m going to leave this post dangling for now. Some future topics include…

  • Contrasting innovators with iconoclasts.
  • Why leaders are necessary?
  • What’s the job of a leader?
  • Contrasting leaders and followers.
  • The roles of followers; managers and technicians.
  • A bunch of things I haven’t thought about yet.


If you are a leader, you have one job and only one job and that’s to provide a purpose.

If you are a manager, you have one job and only one job and that’s to remove the barriers that keep the team from achieving the purpose.

If you are a technician, you have one job and only one job and that’s to contribute to the work that realizes the purpose.

If you believe anything else about your job then you should be fired.


Don’t Argue with Physics

Some things just happen. They’re no one’s fault. There are no specific actions that could have been taken to avoid them. Sometimes life just sucks. When I see this I remind myself to not “argue with physics”. Physics isn’t good or bad, it just is. This reminder can help to bring my attention back to things I can influence.

Note that I’m not timid about what I believe I can influence. These things require the focused application of time, energy and insight. If you learn about what people have accomplished and are accomplishing then you know that we have an enormous amount of influence. We should not be timid, but we should insightfully and efficiently choose where we’re going to spend our time and energy. This is wisdom and it’s worth a lifetime of study and practice.


TED Salons

I’ve started a thing I call a “TED Salon”. The basic process is pretty simple.

  1. Invite a small group of people over.
  2. Eat, drink and socialize a bit.
  3. Watch a TED Talk.
  4. Talk until that last person you invited decides they want to leave.

We’ve had a couple of these so far and they seem to have gone well. The conversations have been fascinating. The people I hang with are phenomenally smart and TED Salons so far seem to be a way to share what they’ve learned and what they’re thinking about at the moment. The universe is incredibly complex and each of us sees only our own small wedge of it. Getting together and talking is a way to “triangulate” on different notions so that we can understand them more thoroughly. TED Talks provide a starting point, if not an anchor, for these conversations.

My motivation for TED Salons was triggered by the recent election catastrophe in the U.S. In the end, this may be the best thing that could have happened to us. It’s a kick in the head that should knock us out of the complacency that we slid into. As has been said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”1 Vigilance requires awareness and considered evaluation of the circumstances and the alternatives; skills that seem to be in insufficient supply lately. TED Salons are intended to provide a venue for exercising those skills in a way that that has some advantages over random Facebook posts. Think of it as a dojo for critical thinking2.

The process is still being refined, but I believe that part of what has made it work so far is who participates. For me, the first filter is the obvious one; would they enjoy a gathering like this? It’s not for everyone. If you have strong, rigid beliefs and aren’t inclined to honestly and openingly consider other points-of-view this is probably not the place for you. Notice that it’s not about the beliefs that you have. These are yours and I respect your right to have them. It’s about the beliefs you’re willing to consider and evaluate. From a personal ontology perspective, this isn’t for the timid. Second, I try to encourage participation by a group of people with a range of age and experience. Participants who’ve actively engaged so far range in age from 11 to 70. Everyone has had something to offer and is treated as an equal in the conversation no matter how much life they’ve lived or are about to live. Third, and this was mostly by coincidence, invite people with different backgrounds. This helps keep conversations from lapsing into work topics; at least to a degree.

I’m happy with it so far. It’s addressing my need for these kinds of interactions as well as my need to feel like I’m actually doing something positive for human society. For all I know it may take several generations to have a real impact, but if that’s what’s required then why wait.

If you decide to create a TED Salon, I’d love to hear about it. Tell me what works and what doesn’t. Additionally, since traditions are fun, the first TED Salon was on February 3 so I’m trying to schedule subsequent salons on or near the 3rd of each month. Your traditions are, of course, up to you.