Tag Archives: Life

Will You Miss Your Life After You Die?

Steve Jobs in Heaven

No Doubt!

I don’t obsess about death or life after death but I have thought about it a lot over the years. Haven’t you? After all, one of the main consequences our religions offer us for a life well lived is eternal life in heaven once we die. Some offer the eternal antithesis as well and I know that motivates quite a few. An afterlife. Have you ever thought about what that would be like? I’ll bet you have. What really happens after we die? Everyone seems to think about it. With far fewer years ahead of me than are in my rear-view mirror, I have to admit I think of it even more, especially when I try to imagine the consequences of my death if it occurs before my children are adults and well on their way to a truly independent life. It matters because I’ll be 72 when my oldest is 18 . . . and I’ve already outlived my father by nearly six years. Not saying it’s going to happen, but it’s a reasonable alternative and it concerns me at times.

Now to the other side of the void. I’ve often wondered what the allure of life after death is for most people. I have a hard time believing anyone truly understands what eternity or, more accurately, death is . . . or means. Imagining what it’s like to be dead has got to be one of the most difficult intellectual pursuits known. Consider the following. When you wake up after even a very deep sleep, there’s some sense of time having passed, isn’t there? We may not remember precisely what our dreams are – or even that we dreamt at all – but there is some sense that time has passed and all is well. This is not the case if you’re unconscious. When you come out of anesthesia after surgery it’s entirely different. Almost everyone comes out of anesthesia, even after many hours under, with no sense of time having passed. It’s not uncommon for a person to ask when their surgery is going to begin, the sense of the passage of time having been entirely suspended. And they weren’t even dead!

Now try and imagine what it would be like to not wake up, ever. Can you do it? I would argue it can be approached, but I think it takes some time and, most likely, can never be done completely. It’s like imagining being pond scum, only vastly more difficult. The latest evidence and theory seem to point to the universe being around 14 billion (that’s 14,000,000,000) years old. Do you have a sense of loss for not being around most of that time? Yet, I maintain it’s difficult to imagine that same nothingness now that you’ve experienced consciousness. Somehow, we just can’t imagine the absence of everything.

Now, this isn’t a scholarly article. It’s based entirely on my experience, the things I’ve read and observed, and some obvious guessing. I have not been able to interview anyone who’s been dead for, say, 100 years to learn about their experience. Now that would be something! There is ample evidence the only experience they have is that of returning to dust, and only dust. I am, philosophically, a Materialist. I believe the physical world is a necessary prerequisite to the world of ideas, that is thought and consciousness cannot exist without a brain (and it’s attendant system, a body) to “think” it.

I know there are those who believe after (or as) we come into existence we are imbued with an eternal soul, so what happened before we were born (many would say conceived) is of no consequence afterward. I’m not one of them. I think once you’re dead you will not be looking down on your friends and relatives. Maybe there’s a short period of time, while everything is shutting down, you will imagine looking upon your now lifeless body, but I doubt it. I am quite convinced there is no afterlife and we won’t miss our family, friends, or anything else . . . because there won’t be any we to do so.

Much to my consternation, I just can’t imagine how that will feel. :D

Graphic shamelessly stolen from BuzzFeed in case the link to their pic didn’t work

A New Personal Direction – Blogging As Catharsis

Where to go? Where to go?

Why Systems Savvy?

There’s a reason I named this blog Systems Savvy though, to be truthful, I haven’t really done what I intended when I decided on the title. Blogging for me has been somewhat aimless as I’ve attempted to find my voice and considered what I wanted to accomplish. For the last year and a half, starting with my decision to accept the early retirement package offered by my former employer, I’ve considered how to use it to both promote my new business and educate the people I wanted to reach.

The result has been a number of fairly well-directed posts on various issues involving small business and social media marketing. However, I am only beginning to become accomplished at marketing, in general, and frequently feel I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said – and said better – by others.

Lately, especially during a period of time I have been working with an associate on a fairly ambitious proposal (which, last week, was declined), I haven’t had much to say at all. I have, however, been giving a lot of thought to the direction I would like this blog to go in, and I think I’ve come to a decision on what I want to do. Let me explain.

My original intent was to look at various world views, philosophies if you will, that attempt to provide a systemic approach to understanding nature, society, economy, etc. The thinkers I have come to respect and, I think, understand include people like W. Edwards Deming, Russell Ackoff, and Peter Drucker (among others) from the business world, and Karl Marx (an eyebrow raiser, I know, but more about that in later posts) and Friedrich Engels, especially with respect to the philosophy of Dialectical Materialism. This effort began on January 7, 2008 where, in my first post, I explained what I hoped to accomplish. Unfortunately, the distractions and obligations I referenced back then kept me from accomplishing what I then thought would be useful . . . and possible.

Changing Direction

Now, after being somewhat forced to accept what for me was a way too early retirement package, and having embarked on my journey back into the world of small business, I’m finding I need to rethink the direction this blog should take. I want to bring it somewhat back to my original intent – with one small wrinkle. I need to write more about the lessons I’ve learned; not merely with respect to the things I experienced and accomplished in my over two decades at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, but also with respect to those things I learned in the preceding two decades in small business, as well as the many experiences I’ve had outside of the business world. One more thing. I’m not dead yet and I am far from inactive in my community.

To do this, it seems I will have to buck one of the “rules” of blogging, i.e. “it’s not about me“. This concept has made it exceedingly difficult to share some of the things I wish to write about for two main reasons. One I wrote about earlier, and that’s this feeling I’ve had all my life that everyone knows what I know. After all, it’s obvious! Right? The second is I’ve been repeatedly asked to write about many of my life experiences, which are not quite “mainstream” and from which I have gleaned some lessons that have been important . . . at least for me, but I’ve been constrained by that admonition against making it about oneself, as well as my inborn desire to please, not offend, others.

I’m constantly working on the first of these issues and here’s what I’ve come to think about the second. I am NOT in the middle of my career. After all, I’m now collecting Social Security and a pension from my previous employer. Less than a year from now I will be eligible for Medicare and, increasingly, I will need it to deal with the medical problems that come from aging. Most bloggers I know (not all) are between 20 and 30 years younger than I am. They have decades to go in their worklife. I may have a decade or two left, but the prospect is far less certain and, truth to tell, I really want to slow down a bit.

I think a change is in order. I think I need to write about all the things I care about. I have also previously written about the dilemma I faced when I realized the disparate “friends” I had on Facebook and how it momentarily took me aback and caused me to reconsider what I was willing to share – with everybody! As then, I have come to the conclusion I can, and should, write about the things that interest me, no matter how they might seem disconnected . . . because they aren’t! They’re taken from my life, my experiences, and the conclusions I’ve drawn or the questions I still have regarding them. If some are offended by this, oops! Too bad.

Me and You as Systems

I am interested in systems theory; systems thinking. Part of my understanding about it is we are all part of various systems. As living organisms we are ourselves systems. For over 60 years I’ve felt, as most of us do, forced at times to separate my life into its constituent parts: Personal; professional; political; religious; philosophical; etc. Yet they are all – for me – intimately related and inextricably intertwined. They are what has made up my life.

Perhaps I’m getting a bit melancholy as I realize my time is surely winding down. I hope to have at least a couple more decades left in me, but there are physical changes making it clear that it won’t be the same. I am showing signs of essential tremors, which my mother had and which sometimes make it hard for me to eat with a fork or grab a small bottle out of the medicine cabinet. Just this past Monday I had a suspicious mole removed from the scar on my back that is the result of surgery to remove a melanoma a couple of years ago. My hair is mostly gray. I have chicken skin, moderate hypertension, and type II diabetes! There are other signs. Perhaps I’ll write about them too.

So here’s the deal. Although I will continue to build my business, which includes a large dose of pro bono and civic-minded activities as well as remunerative ones, I intend to increasingly share my thoughts about the rest of my life as well. I know I have written some posts that were personal, political, and even relating to religion (thought certainly not promoting it), but I have lately been going in the direction of making this a business blog. I will no longer do that. I’m not sure this is the right thing to do. Were I younger, perhaps it would definitely not be the right thing to do. However, I’m not really worried about looking for a job or offending my parents. They both shed their mortal coils years ago.

Frankly, I don’t know if anything I have to say is all that important, but I have the opportunity to write about it and, if nothing else, it will be available for my children, who are now only 7 and 10 years old. I want to leave something so they will be able to better understand who I was and, especially, just how much I love them and want the very best for them. That’s important to me!

Photo Credit: Directions by mistermoss – via Flickr


New Book (Posthumously Published) by Russ Ackoff

Russ was such a good storyteller, this book has got to be a great read.`

Amplify’d from www.triarchypress.com

a triarchy press publication

Cover of 'Memories' by Russell L. Ackoff

Memories
by Russell L. Ackoff

Foreword by Peter Senge
Publication Date: 21 October 2010
No of pages: 120

Book type: Paperback
Print ISBN: 978-0-9565379-7-3
List Price: £16 (approx. $20)

Russ was an incisive, lifelong critic of the modern organizational form. He saw its limitations and argued for radical redesign. He was an advocate for major re-visioning and processes of change that started with helping people see what they truly valued and where they truly wanted to get – and then working backwards to see what it would take to get there.

Peter Senge, from his Foreword to Memories

Russel L. AckoffWhen he died late in 2009, Russ Ackoff left two unpublished manuscripts. Memories is the first of these – a collection of stories drawn from his life experience, selected by Russ because they stood out in his memory as instances where he learned something. As he says in his Preface, “Life is a series of relationships formed and dissolved”. For Russ, the important principles and qualities around which his work was centred – clear-sightedness, looking at the bigger picture, working backwards towards solutions, radicalism – crossed over into most, if not all, other aspects of his extraordinary life. The stories in Memories focus on the human side of life and, in so doing, they demonstrate how many of the skills and attributes that are fundamental to professional success are found in personal experience.

In this book, Russ draws from his experiences of serving in the US army during World War II; of bringing up a young family; of encountering different cultures whilst working abroad. From analyzing birth rates in India, to a fireside chat with the Queen of Iran, to introducing theme parks to the US, the stories collected in Memories lay bare the workings of a number of well-known businesses and other organizations – and the people who run them. They describe common attitudes, behaviours and assumptions, which, if left unchallenged, can destabilize or even destroy an organization.

The book shows how thinking systemically leads to real organizational improvements in a variety of academic and workplace settings and – just as important – how failure to do so can be both personally embarrassing and damaging to the organization. Each story is used to illustrate a belief, principle or conclusion central to Russ’s theories of Systems Thinking and Design Thinking. And each of them is told with his customary generosity, wit and wisdom.

Memories is available in paperback or in a hardcover Collector’s Edition.

Read more at www.triarchypress.com

 


Enterprise 2.0 Conference Still Percolating in my Head

Almost three weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend my first Enterprise 2.0 Conference, in Boston, MA. My attendance, though highly sought after (by me) for over a year (as a representative of the company I just “retired” from), was still somewhat serendipitous, and relied heavily on the generosity of Susan Scrupski, the Executive Director (or, as she is wont to describe herself, the Concierge) of the 2.0 Adoption Council.

This was a new experience for me and I had no knowledge of what, exactly, had taken place in previous conferences – other than what generally takes place at most conferences. There was one major difference this event was going to mean for me. For well over a year I had been accumulating “friends” through my use of social media, especially Twitter. I had never met any of these people face-to-face, yet many of them I felt I knew reasonably well and, in fact, quite a few of them I believed I could trust – at least as much as I would trust any colleague I had ever worked with. Now I was going to have the opportunity to spend some face-time with them, rubbing (and bending . . . over numerous beers) elbows for over three days.

A little over a month ago I posted about the possibilities of building relationships virtually and argued that face-to-face meetings, though valuable, were not necessarily the sine qua non of meaningful, trusting, and useful relationships. I was primarily addressing business relationships and, especially, the necessary interplay of colleagues – peripherally touching on sales and arms-length transactions as well.

I haven’t changed my thoughts on the value of virtual contact and the ability to have meaningful relationships without meeting face-to-face . . . but I surely had to think deeply about it after Boston. Here’s why. My first full day there I made it to the all-day Black-Belt practitioner’s session a couple hours late, due to several snafus I experienced with Boston’s public transportation. I entered a room with no less than 60 or 70 people seated at round tables facing the front of the room as a presentation was being given. I managed to find an empty space, sat down, and immediately started searching the room for “familiar” faces. I soon spotted two people I had become “friends” with via their blogs and, especially, through numerous conversations we’d had on Twitter – Luis Suarez and Mary Abraham (@elsau and @VMaryAbraham, respectively).

I was able to recognize both of them despite the fact I had never seen them in person and only knew what they looked like based on their avatars. This in and of itself should be a good indication of authenticity, now that I think about it. At any rate, as soon as there was a break I moved over to their table and was greeted with the warmth and enthusiasm reserved for old friends. I’m not sure I can adequately express the feelings I had right then and, frankly, it’s taken me this long to sort out my feelings and what I think I learned from the entire experience. I’m not quite certain I’ve processed it all yet, but I’m finally able to complete enough of my thoughts to get a blog out.

Later that evening, after the day’s conference activities were completed, Luis, Mary, and I sat in M. J. O’Connor’s (in the hotel where the conference was taking place) drinking Blue Moons, getting to know each other a bit better, and sorting through the day’s experience. I know that Luis has been to many of these conferences and, as one of the most vocal and prolific proponents I know of in favor of social media, he’s no doubt met many people over the years he had previously only know through virtual media. I don’t think it was the same for Mary and I know it wasn’t the same for me. This was the first time I had come face-to-face with people I had grown to know through Twitter, blogging, Facebook, etc. It was truly a wondrous experience.

Seriously, I’m still not entirely over the whole thing. Consider this. It was the first time in my life I attended a conference for my own benefit. Previously, I attended numerous conferences, but always as an employee of Rocketdyne (in all its incarnations during my career there). Before that, I was in small businesses and I don’t recall ever attending any conferences, so no experience on that level. Now let me bring this back to what I think I learned from this particular level of the experience.

It is possible to conduct business and to build a solid, trusting relationship with people you have never met. It is, however, far preferable to have some kind of face-to-face meeting at some point in time in order to solidify the relationship. Of course, now that I’ve written these words I realize I haven’t communicated with either Luis or Mary since returning to Southern California from Boston. Then again, it’s only been three weeks (almost) since the conference began and, given the intensity of the experience, I don’t suppose that’s so out of the ordinary. I took a week out of my life to attend and had a lot of catching up to do once I returned. Couple that with the death of my last (and favorite) uncle a week ago, I suppose it makes sense.

Oops! I’ve managed to digress, so let me return to my last thought. I believe people who wish to work together virtually can enhance the quality of their relationships by having at least occasional in-person meetings with their colleagues. However, I don’t think it’s a matter of the ability to experience body language, eye contact, etc. so many people assert as the most important aspects of human connection, as much as it’s just the informal, off-hand, and emergent conversations and interactions that can only happen during the course of an afternoon or evening spent together. This should include, if possible, sharing a meal or sitting in a pub and bending elbows over a pint or three of some good beer, ale, etc.

As I said, I haven’t entirely processed how I feel about this or what I think I’ve learned, but I’ve waited long enough to write something down about the experience. I plan on posting at least twice more on what I got out of the conference. My next post will be more of a compilation of the many posts others far more knowledgeable than me have written since the conference was over. Following that, I intend on discussing an issue of Enterprise 2.0 I think is missing from the equation; namely some of the design principles of Web 2.0 I think E2.0 should be emulating and that I don’t see at present. Stay tuned.


Now I Remember!

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about Facebook, not including the brouhaha over privacy we’re all acutely aware of – at least most of us are – is how it’s slowly changing my relationship to things I didn’t really used to have a relationship with. I am talking about the manly art of remembering birthdays.

Yesterday, I found myself on Facebook and noticed it was a friend’s birthday. Normally, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to birthdays. Like most men (I think) they come and go and we don’t spend a great deal of time at a Hallmark store poring over dozens of cards, looking for the perfect one to give our friends, etc. As far as I can tell, based on the yearly stories surrounding no less a card-remembering day than Valentines, men are notorious for waiting until the last minute to get something for their girlfriend, wife, etc. – if they get anything at all.

I’m not here to argue whether or not this is a good thing. I suspect my wife will be happier if I remember special occasions each year, though this year we both spaced our anniversary : ). I question whether or not it means anything to my male friends, though I suspect it does to some extent. I think everyone likes to be remembered or to know they’ve been thought of by loved ones and even acquaintances.

So, social media continues to fascinate me. Today I’m off to Boston to attend my first ever Enterprise 2.0 Conference. My goal is to learn what I can but, more importantly, it’s to cement some relationships I’ve been conducting virtually for – in some cases – several years. This is also the first conference I will ever have attended that wasn’t under the auspices of the company I worked for during the last two decades. It’s kind of nice to be doing it on my own dime. Somehow, it seems even more valuable.


Saying “I Don’t Know” Will Set You Free

If you’ve ever been in sales, I’m willing to bet you know it’s never a good thing to pretend you know something you don’t. Unless you’re making an opportunistic, one-off sale and you don’t really care about any relationship with your customer, it’s far better to admit ignorance and pledge to get an answer ASAP. Frankly, I think it’s always the best tactic regardless of your relationship; it’s just plain ethical and, a bit ironically, smart.

Most people know when they’re being fed a load of crap and pretending to know something of which you are ignorant can open up so many cans of worms it’s hard to define all the consequences. One of the major ones, however, is never being believed no matter what you say. Not a good thing, whether in sales or elsewhere.

Anyway, this came up again for me today because of a tweet by @wallybock, who pointed me to an article in the New York Times’ Corner Office section. The post is entitled “What’s Wrong With Saying ‘I Don’t Know‘?” It’s a good interview of Rachel Ashwell, founder of Shabby Chic and, besides her admonition to not be afraid of admitting ignorance, there’s a wealth of good business (and life) advice in her words.


Once more unto the breach, dear friends

I’ve probably used this title a bit too often over time, but . . . what the hell, eh? Not sure I’ve publicized it, but I have decided to accept the early retirement package offered by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to all employees who have celebrated their 60th birthday. I will, therefore, at the tender age of 63 (well, a couple weeks prior to achieving that particular milestone) be a retiree. I’m not, however, actually retiring, as I can’t truly afford to. So . . . I’ll be looking for interesting things to do that will also bring in a little bit of income to supplement my modest pension and the reduced Social Security I will be “forced” to apply for a bit early. So watch for me to get increasingly “vocal” as I feel the need to make a little rain for myself. I’m hopeful I can do that without being obnoxious, but one never knows. Others will have to be the judge of that.

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