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The conflict between long-term desires and short-term gratification

by Rick Baker
On Jan 23, 2017

We use a long list of words including ‘wants’, ‘needs’, ‘desires’, ‘goals’, ‘objectives’, ‘purpose’ and ‘vision’ to describe our thoughts and feelings about the future. It's about our future. It's about the future possibilities and our desires and preferences around those possibilities.

I have posted several articles about these topics, for example, one article about Desires is copied below.

We all have desires: some desires are modest in scope, as in kicking an annoying little habit; other desires are most grandiose, as in making a dent in the universe. 

Our desires are both inwardly-focused and outwardly-focused, although most of us exhibit blind spots in both the internal/intrinsic and external/extrinsic directions. As a general observation, most people fail to place enough onus on internal focus. Their words and their actions illustrate their expectation that external changes will bring the desired outcomes and internal ‘self-changes’ are not necessary. 

For most people, the equation can be as simple as this: 

My Personal Changes + Other People’s Personal Changes = My Desired Outcomes.

Now, I am not saying most people will agree with that equation. In fact, many if not most people will present the opinion that they should, must, and will make personal changes to accomplish their desires. For example, over-drinkers, over-eaters and under-exercisers will acknowledge they could improve their odds of achieving their desires if they could reduce their bad habits and increase their good habits. And, most will say they are prepared to work at these changes. Regardless, study after study confirms people do a very poor job of correcting their behavioural shortcomings by reducing bad habits and expanding good habits. [for example, read the book 'Change Or Die']

Why do people have such trouble giving up bad habits and sustaining good habits?

The simple answer is: for most people the emotional attraction of near-term 'rewards' out-muscles the future 'rewards' tied to long-term desires.

Most people grab gratification when it is available.

Before any of us judges others, we should consider the extent of our own willpower.

Each of us should ask questions like:

  • Are my long-term goals clear?
  • Do I adjust my actions so they align with my long-term goals?
  • Do I have plans to help me reduce bad habits and develop good habits?

 

The following was first published on Oct 22, 2013


Desires

I have noticed in people 4 dominant desires. These desires apply to people in business and to people in general:

1.The desire to vent one’s strength.

2.The desire to feel important.

3.The desire to control.

4.The desire to create things of value.

 

The Desire to Vent One’s Strength

At the philosophical level - Nietzsche considered this to be the #1 human desire, greater than the drive to procreate.

At the day-to-day business level – People who are enthusiastic about their work are working at things that align with their personal talents & strengths; people who are worn down by their work are working at things that do not align with their talents & strengths. Both consciously and subconsciously, people know when their actions are not aligned with their strengths…it tends to bother them and it tends to eat away at their spirit. Their ambition shrinks. Their performance dulls. Their minds wander and their energies shrink.

 

The Desire to Feel Important

At the philosophical level – Dale Carnegie, the self-help pioneer, viewed this as the leading desire. In his lessons and his classic ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ he taught how to influence people by (1) appealing to this basic human desire and (2) not conflicting with this basic human desire…in summary: be hearty in approbation, be lavish with praise, and do not criticize.

At the day-to-day business level – “Constructive Criticism is an Oxymoron”. Criticism can cause behavioural changes; however, those changes are achieved at a cost. “Criticism finds few friends”. Criticism finds people who already recognize their errors. Some of these people have already given themselves a dose of self-criticism…so they don’t benefit and may hold a grudge against the extra dose of outside criticism. Others do not care about their errors and are predisposed to resist external criticism. Criticism finds people who do not recognize they have made an error. There are kinder ways than the use of criticism to educate them about their shortfalls.

 

The Desire to Control

At the psychological level – much has been written about locus of control. Some people believe they have within them an internal ability to control their lives while other people believe their lives are controlled by external factors.

At the day-to-day business level – People with an internal locus of control can be driven and extremely self-motivated. Or they can be more passive. They can appear strong-willed and opinionated…even maverick or renegade. Some react very poorly to authority and rules. They are self-energized. For some reason these people have withstood the criticisms of others and their spirits have survived. People with an external locus of control may be content or they may be discontented...living the life of a victim. Some will be comfortable with authority and rules; some will be subversive. Few, if any, successful business leaders have an external locus of control. Unhappy followers may be displaying the impact of throttled internal locus of control or external locus of control discontent.

 

The Desire to Create Things of Value

I think people are born with natural desire and drive to innovate and create. Psychological studies confirm this and the fact that over time most people become less creative and less willing to try new things.

That’s why entrepreneurs stand out in business. Entrepreneurs have an internal drive to create things of value and that drive survives the beatings placed on it by other people, the bureaucracies, the cruelty of the markets, etc. This desire to create things of value is not isolated to business. We see it in art, we see it in music, and we see it in philanthropy and charitable endeavours.

PS: People's actions provide clues to their desires. However, we cannot jump to conclusions. For example, a resistance to authority or a resistance to change will signal certain possibilities. More work is required to uncover which one of the possibilities is most-accurate. People's words provide clues to people's desires...but, watch what they do at least as much as you listen to what they say.

Mistakes are Stepping Stones – the question is, To Where?

by Rick Baker
On Jan 18, 2017

Indiana Jones reminded us that you don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step. A journey of a thousand miles always starts with a single step. And we know a single step can be both one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.

When we take steps, sometimes we miss the desired landing spots. We make missteps and mistakes and, unless we stop moving and doing, chances are very good we will always make missteps and mistakes.

Sometimes missteps signal inattentiveness; sometimes missteps signal inventiveness.

In the first case, our bodies are used to stepping along without help from our conscious thoughts. When the ground in front of us throws us a curve or presents a new wrinkle, our feet are caught off guard. In response to this new information our feet can misstep, stumble and sometimes cause us to fall. In most cases, our missteps are not deemed to be failures. In most cases, they are accepted as little errors, human errors. Now, of course, that does not apply if we are talking about a misstep from a tightrope over Niagara Falls. Regardless, generally speaking missteps happen and we dust ourselves off quickly and move on. We are skilled at this because we have been doing it since we were wee babies…venturing out with our first steps.

‘Venturing out’: Those words bring us to the second case. Sometimes we intentionally venture out into new territory and even into dangerous territory, exploring and inventing. Some people do walk tightropes, sometimes even over Niagara Falls. Other people take steps to climb mountains, even the tallest and most-treacherous mountains. And some people even go as far as the moon to take a small step. These shoes worn for these adventuresome steps are laced with invention. And, regardless of planning and precaution, sometimes missteps happen. Missteps that happen under high-risk can be catastrophic. Regardless, often, missteps under high risk are not catastrophic. They are informative. They clarify the wrong ways to step, move, do things.

Missteps and mistakes are stepping stones. Far more often than not, they take us to better places. We must not lose track of that. We must not lose curiosity or the spirit that drives exploration and invention.

Don’t be Passionate about Shorthand Abstractions…they have no Integrity

by Rick Baker
On Jan 12, 2017

Over the last few years, I have written and talked about the communication problems that happen when business leaders use words like Passion and Integrity to lead/encourage/inspire people to be the best they can be at work. The words Passion and Integrity are laced with double entendre and have been overused and misused to the point of obfuscation. Put another way, these two words have been clichéed to the brink of uselessness. Their use has evolved and become mostly bad habit.

Like many of the words and phrases we exchange with one another, the words Passion and Integrity are shorthand abstractions. You can also think of these two words as troubled memes. The words Passion and Integrity have been passed down the generations and passed around the tables for so long and by so many that intent and meaning have been bastardized as happens in ‘telephone games’. 

Business leaders should exercise care when they communicate, especially when they use shorthand abstractions that are likely to touch sensitive territories including personal values, morals, emotions and powerful feelings. 

Why should leaders take greater care when we use shorthand abstractions?

Here’s some thoughts from Tor Norretranders’ –

“That is also the point with abstractions. We want them to be shorthand for a lot of information that was digested in the process leading to the use of the abstraction but not present when we use it. Such abstractions have depth. We love them. Other abstractions have no depth. They are shallow, just used to impress the other guy. They do not help us. We hate them.”

Article – ‘Depth’ by Tor Norretranders, Science Author. An excerpt from John Brockman’s edge.org inspired book ‘This Will Make You Smarter’, (2012)


PS: Yes - interesting use of the shorthand abstractions ‘love’ and ‘hate’ in the quote above. That goes right to the heart and brain of my message here.

PPS: Yes - much of what we communicate has the forms of both shorthand abstraction and bad habit. That's why we provide definitions of words and explanations: this is one way to help people understand what we are trying to communicate. 

 

There are 2 types of busy in business

by Rick Baker
On Jan 5, 2017

I think there are 2 types of busy in business:

1. There's good-busy

2. There's ?-busy

When business people tell me they are 'too-busy' I am uneasy because I have no place in my brain to file that type of busy. So, I either wonder if they are telling me they are experiencing #1 [good-busy] or I jump to the conclusion it's just another case of #2 [?-busy]. 

I admit I am prone to jump to the #2 [?-busy] conclusion because experiences tell me there's an awful lot of #2 out there.

On the other hand, I do not always jump to conclusions so I regularly find myself wondering, "Is this too-busy good-busy or ?-busy?" When I am wondering in the direction one thought always finds its way into my mind, "Is your too-busy coupled with increased gross margin?" Sometimes that internal thought finds its way to my external voice and I blurt out, "Is your too-busy coupled with increased gross margin?" That's always followed by my observation of a puzzled if not surprised or maybe annoyed face peering right at me. The conversation either goes uphill or downhill from there. While the downhill conversations are not particularly enjoyable the uphill ones more than offset their downhill counterparts...resulting in an overall net gain...call it 'productive and constructive conversation'.

Needless to say, when I slip up and almost start thinking I am too-busy the little voice in my head keeps asking me, "Is this almost-too-busy coupled with an increase in gross margin?" When the answer is "Yes", I know I am dealing with some good-busy work...so I don't even feel tempted to get stressed out about it let alone complain about it.

 

PS: There are competing thought-cycles at play with one another here. When almost-too-busy is tested and found to be good-busy the opportunity for too-busy disappears. When almost-too-busy is found to be ?-busy further thought is required: one good example of further thought is 80/20 Rule thinking. Further thought about ?-busy results in paring of some underlying work, which again reduces the possibility of too-busy thinking. Either way, there is little temptation to be thinking, "I'm too busy". And, that's a real good way not to be thinking. 

Successful people have more time...

...because they do not fall into the trap of thinking they are too busy.

And...we want to be successful...right!

 

PPS: good-busy --- Good Habits --- Acting in the direction of Goals

 

Original posted October 3, 2013

‘Real trust’ requires no thought; ‘Synthetic trust’ requires much careful thought.

by Rick Baker
On Dec 27, 2016
Simon Sinek wrote, “Trust is like love. Both parties have to feel it before it really exists.”
 
I read Simon’s ‘daily inspiration messages’ and from time to time his thoughts cause me to stop and think. For example – the above message immediately struck me as worthy of thought…because I immediately disagreed with it and felt a need to think through my views and why they contrast Simon’s.
 
I do not believe trust has to walk on a two-way street. 

Certainly, trust often does. And – no question or argument - trust is a wonderful and powerful thing when it is reciprocated. However, I don’t think it has to be reciprocated to ‘really exist’. 

It seems to me states of mind including belieffaith and trust are very close relatives and:
  • we can believe in something or someone without them necessarily reciprocating; we believe in our heroes while the most of them do not even know of us let alone believe in us
  • we place faith in people and God/gods while not necessarily expecting he/she/they has/have faith in us; perhaps or likely we think expectations are placed on us, but we do not go as far as thinking our extension of faith is reciprocated
  • we – some of us – are trusting by nature and we trust people until they prove themselves not worthy of our trust; regardless - our extension of trust seems real to us
Now – about comparing trust and love
 
Here’s one thought: Many great poets, storytellers and songwriters have banked on the reality of unrequited love. 
 
Now – about reality and what really exists…
 
Here are a few thoughts: ‘perception is reality’ and ‘perception is not reality’…obviously this is confusing territory...if we want to draw reality into our discussions we must be prepared to enter the realm of philosophers, brain scientists and physicists. 
 
The moral of this Thought Post… 
 
‘Real trust' requires no thought; ‘Synthetic trust' requires much careful thought. 'Real trust' is much better than 'Synthetic trust'. In reality, neither 'real trust' nor 'synthetic trust' are real: rather, they are perceptions...perceptions in singular brain-minds. 

15 Ways to Influence Thinking & Inspire Action

by Rick Baker
On Dec 22, 2016

Vision inspires

Leadership has a few essential ingredients. For example, the leader must possess a level of intelligence and the leader must possess a character that appeals to followers. Another essential ingredient is Vision. Good-to-great leaders hold a long-lasting, vivid image of what they want in their minds and they communicate that message to their followers. Some good-to-great leaders have an innate gift of communication. Other good-to-great leaders learn the art of communication.

Values fuel the right actions

Everyone lives by a set of personal Values, whether or not they are expressed verbally. The greatest of leaders naturally live by their Values in a most consistent manner. And they have a habit of painting verbal pictures around their Values. Good-to-great leaders' thoughts and actions and communications are consistent. This clarity around Values sends a consistent message to followers. The message energizes followers. In this way, the leaders' Values fuel everything.

Goals provide direction

Good-to-great leaders set long-term goals and they set short-term goals...they know the importance of little milestone steps that guide positive actions toward the long-term goal. Good-to-great leaders know the linkage between good habits and long-term goals. Good habits help people achieve their long-term goals whereas bad habits do not. Short-term goals provide the opportunity for testing, doing, failing, learning, and adjusting the next sets of short-term goals and actions. 

Intent doesn't go without saying

Good-to-great leaders, when compared to average people/leaders, somehow, do a better job of understanding other people. So, somehow, they do a better job of choosing people whose intentions are more aligned to fit on common ground...rallying around a cause. Some good-to-great leaders possess natural gifts of empathy. Other good-to-great leaders figure out how to read other people and they start the process by sharing discussion of Intentions. When in doubt, they ask.

Stories get remembered

Great leaders are great communicators. They are attuned to their life-experiences and how some of those life-experiences serve as excellent examples that can be shared with other people, followers and others who could be followers in the future. Great leaders create powerful, magnetic stories around these pertinent life-experiences. They practice delivering these stories. Then they use every opportunity to present and repeat the stories...to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Take Immediate Steps to Improve Communication

When communication gets off track, straying from the desired direction, good leaders work to improve communication so it returns to the right track. Good leaders do not let interpersonal conflicts fester. They know success relies on a level of harmony between followers. So, when dysfunction is evident they address it. Good leaders communicate to ensure their followers' harmony and focus.

Design Tools to Help People

Tools serve people...making their lives easier, making their lives more productive, adding quality to their lives...assisting them as they build. Good leaders know the power inherent in tools. Good leaders ensure their people have access to good tools. And, to maximize opportunities for performance good leaders ensure their people have customized tools...creative, customized tools.

Focus on Solutions

Leaders see solutions. Solutions and solution-thinking are around the essence of leadership. Good leaders connect with followers who are like minded about solutions. Some followers are naturally solution-oriented, others need to learn that problems are the routes to solutions, growth, and opportunities. Leaders do 2 things to promote solution-orientation: they lead by example...and...they teach.

Seek Simple 

When people go about business things can get complicated and that can happen quickly. Good leaders know the difference between simple, complicated, and complex. Good leaders conserve their energy, saving it for the complicated and complex things. One strategy that ensures energy is conserved so it can be put to best use is Seeking Simple...separating wheat from chaff...helping followers do the same.

Understand Business Contains Only 3 Things: People, Process, & Situations

"People, Processes, & Situations" is an example of seeking simple.  Good leaders know success is all about people...so good leaders invest time connecting with, serving, mentoring, and strengthening good people. Good leaders ensure processes [including tools] serve people, helping people convert actions into results. Good leaders know situations have a most-powerful effect on behaviour, so they plan for and construct situations.

Understand People Do Only 3 Things: Good Habits, Bad Habits, & New Things

Good Habits are things people think and do that help them achieve long-term desires and goals. Bad Habits are things that people think and do that do not help them achieve long-term desires and goals. Good leaders use these simple definitions to inject clarity into their lives. Then good leaders work at reducing their performance of Bad Habits and expanding their performance of Good Habits. And, good leaders test New Things...relentlessly seeking more Good Habits.

Take Talent To Task

Good leaders are fascinated by people's talents. When people's talents show a capability of aligning with the trust of the leader's goals, good leaders ensure the talented person has access to (1) opportunities to put the talent to productive use, (2) specialized knowledge to complement the talent, and (3) time to practice skills to hone the talent into a personal strength. Then good leaders don't leave things to chance - they help people connect personal strengths to important tasks. 

Don’t force change…construct it with comfort

Good leaders know change is constructive only when people are comfortable. And personal and business growth happens when people learn how to expand their comfort zones. Knowing these things, good leaders consider people's comfort/stress levels and design change in increments that help expand comfort zones without triggering the destructive consequences that naturally happen when people are forced into discomfort zones. Good leaders also know this correct approach to change 'dominoes' as confidence escalates.

Repeat clearly, "I do have time!"

Good leaders know the importance of leading by example. So, they know if they say "I don't have time" or "I'm too busy" their followers will pick up on that, think the same way, talk the same way, and act accordingly...spreading the lack-of-abundance mindset to one and all. Knowing this, good leaders remove the "I don't have time" & "I'm too busy" bad habit from their thoughts and words. They replace the bad habit with good habits: as examples, they apply the 80/20 Rule and they practice abundance thought and solution talk.

Change character for the better

All great leaders changed their character. Perhaps Abraham Lincoln performed one of the greatest self-transformations. When he was a young man he had the habit of openly criticizing other people. In 1842 Lincoln publicly criticized Illinois state employee James Shields. Shields took exception to the criticism and challenged Lincoln to a duel. The 2 men faced one another with weapons in hands. Fortunately their seconds intervened. Lincoln used the incident as a life-lesson and he chose to change his character for the better...rarely criticizing others. Lincoln's change of character took him from the dueling field to the White House. 

 

 

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