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patience and intuition

Patience is a virtue- how many times have you heard that and dismissed it? Old school, not relevant in this fast paced world. Things DEMAND to be done NOW don' t they?

Maybe not.

A virtue is a self-training tool that has been observed and eventually shorn of its connection to higher understanding. It has some 'worldly' value- patient people are generally happier and more contented than those in a constant and demanding hurry- but not always. Patience, like any other virtue, has been 'seen through' in these challenging times. The problem with this cleverness is that masks the bridge that patience provides.

Patience is how you learn to be intuitive about timing, about the right time to act. 

You can hone your intuition about WHAT to do as much as you like, but if you miss out WHEN, then you are like someone running past bus stops and hoping a bus will just turn up as you approach (which does sometimes happen of course- just not very often).

By practising patience you learn the texture of time, you get a feel for the moment to act by learning how to bide your time. To learn this you need to allow a patient approach into every area of your life. Look at how you do things and ask- am I simply being a bit impatient here?




Don't drop the Clangers

Clanger creator Oliver Postgate's wonderful autobiography 'Seeing Things' contains many interesting insights. One that struck me forcibly was what he said after talking to animation students at the Royal College of Art, 'They taught me more than I realy wanted to know about how our simple direct craft had been inflated into a manic pretentious pseudo-art....They wanted me to see how visually stunning their work was and how well it fitted into the current state-of-the-art fashion, in fact how 'good' it was....[But] you can't really ask how 'good' a piece of work is by itself. You can only ask how well it does what it is setting out to do.'

I meet people all the time obsessed with whether their work is 'good' enough. Instead they would be far more productive by asking the simple question: does it achieve what it sets out to do? And, therefore, what is it setting out to achieve?


the problematique

In some languages things are better expressed; thinking about a network of problems, an inter-related set of problems- the problematique- one is mentally better prepared for positive action- if this is indicated. In English we think too much on 'a problem'- a unitary thing, whereas it is almost always linked to other things, inextricably often. Identifying the linkages and emphases of a series of problems, exploring their context (even if such descriptions irritate you) is a form of reconnaisance- and it is time seldom wasted.

Thinking about unitary problems encourages the opposite too: panacea thinking about solutions. 



"Even scientists are asking whether an undifferentiated curiosity is really man’s highest and most hallowed attribute." 

Peter Brent, author of biographies of Darwin and Scott and also of the book Godmen of India.

Curiousity without context, without judgement is the curiousity of the child poking his fingers into the electric socket- might get lucky, might not.

Curiousity, when completely absent in children, is a horrible thing to behold- looks like death. However adult curiousity is a tool and not a master. Both right and left brain are involved. When the left brain is in control it is simply saying 'all curiousity is good'. The right brain, being able to a greater or lesser extent to be able to transcend time- gets an overview and sees that this path might not be fruitful. The right brain supplies FORESIGHT, the higher form of intelligence.

Naturally all those in the grip of left brain dominance will disagree with this...


Give yourself a task ladder

Following on from the suggestion that you find what level of task you can assign yourself I suggest putting the final job you'd like to give yourself- say CEO of your own company or feature film director or round the world yachtsman- at the top of 'a ladder' of jobs which reaches from the humble level of the kind of job you absolutely KNOW you can assign yourself and carry out successfully. In between fill in the 'rungs' with intermediate jobs that overlap and seem possible once the one below has been completed. Use the task ladder to work up to giving yourself truly huge jobs you can successfully carry out....


What level of job can you assign yourself?

One of the most useful concepts originated in the self-help sphere by Sci-fi writer A.E.Van Vogt was to ask of yourself: 'what level of task can I assign myself and carry out successfully?'

Lots of top executives on big wages can only take orders or follow pre-set routines. They cannot give themselves a higher level task than painting a fence or doing the laundry. It was a sobering realisation that the highest level task I could give myself was organising an expedition....starting a business, say, was beyond the task level I could set myself and carry out.

Until I met someone else who I could team up with. Together we set up a business that I could never, would never, have done on my own.

The modern era has seen jobs become even less attractive....and the chance to do your own thing even easier. There is money out there to be found. The only barrier is being able to assign yourself that task. But this is not a barrier if you have a group (which can be two of you, that's enough). You can assign yourselves tasks that alone would have seemed impossible.


Trimtabs, Great Men and the Collapse of Society as we know it....

Buckminster Fuller was fond of an arresting analogy. He likened himself to a trimtab- a micro rudder on the side of the huge rudder found on a tanker or other large ship.The trimtab alters the pressure on one side of the rudder allowing the giant forces of the boat moving forward to be utilised in turning such a heavy craft. If you tried to move the whole rudder from its 'ahead' position without first having a little help it would be impossibly hard.

Bucky saw himself as a trimtab.

A tiny change in pressure allowing for the utlisation of massive societal forces.

One might argue that so called 'great men and women' are also trim tabs. They intuit the currents, interests and concerns of the populace and focus them, use them, ride them to prominence.

In return they have little control over what they do. If you've ever seen a popstar start singing stuff other than their famous hits you'll know how fickle 'diehard fans' are. A leader is controlled by his followers just as much as he controls them. Hitler- the archetypal authoritarian- was actually afraid to commit the German economy to a total war footing until A YEAR AFTER Churchill did- because he thought it could be too unpopular....

Success - if this means prominence, weath and status- comes from identifying trends, organisations, jobs, movements, social currents that are on the rise. You then learn to surf them...

Going against the crowd may guarantee a certain amount of attention, but history will forget you. In the grand scheme of things- human things- you are an irrelevance...

Harsh? Maybe. And of course in the really grand scheme, of which we know very little, something of only slight interest.

But render unto Caesar what is Caesar's....we all need to live in the world even if we aspire to not being USED and ABUSED by it...

As a writer on self-help type issues, I am often asked about how to solve the eternal modern conundrum between 'doing what you like', 'making a difference' and 'making a living'. By younger people mostly, or those who haven't found a cosy niche in the developed world.

It's a peculiarly modern problem because many institutions- education, the law, government, the military are no longer perceived as sane, fair and just places of employment. In the past all of these could have offered a career with far fewer moral compromises.

The social currents are different now. It may well be that we are on a major downward trend in terms of societal cohesion. The growth in polarised politics, soft authoritarianism and corporate sociopathy is perhaps an indication that we are in a cycle leading to eventual collapse.

Idries Shah once made a gnomic comment that such concepts as 'the 11th hour' were tame...more truthfully we were now living in 'the 8th day of the week'. In other words, we can STILL use our old concepts but they simply don't make sense, exscept to point out how far out on a limb we are.

It is quite possible that society has already collapsed much further than we imagine. One obvious benchmark is mental illness- rising in an epidemic fashion, maybe, but just as interestingly (being objective here) with nothing indicating that it will get any better. One can only foresee greater stress, greater mental health problems in the future.

Grim news maybe...

So the question becomes: after you have analysed the social currents in your current era, what do you do if the direction is DOWN. 

Imagine you are in Nazi Germany in 1944 or Soviet Russia in 1980....your best option is surely to flee. But what if you can't? Do you just keep your head down as people have since the beginning of time and make the very best of close friends and family and useful but not earth shattering work?

Well, that's one option which works. It's certainly better than getting incinerated by the implacable forces ranged against you.

However we have other options. Travel is one. By travelling a lot we gain a unique and valuable perspective on the world. Things may not be as bad as we imagine.

We can also start our own steerage committees. By this I mean a group, which ranges from two to several people, maybe more, who can all take the wheel at the same time. In the days before super tankers and trimtabs, the giant rudders of the old sailing ships sometimes needed two or three hands to turn them. The ships were smaller and the limiting idea that a helmsman should be a lone individual not widespread.

Being an outsider figure, a lone voice in the wilderness is not conducive to mental stability. On the other hand, a support group that is just a random collection of nice people doesn't function any better than friends and family. To 'make a difference' you need to get a group going who are in tune with each other and the currents of society.

If that current is one of societal disintegration the group should work on building self-reliance, teamwork in everyday situations, the ability to spot those who have enough perspective to realise the state the world is in, clever ways to make money without losing too much soul or energy, the ability to 'pose as normal' without being part of the meat grinding system...keep a suit and tie ready to deflect attention away from the fact that you don't obsess over your next work promotion. The origin of secret societies in former times was a way to maintain value in cultures where the main currents were toxic. Oddly enough, we live in such noisy times, no secrecy at all is now required....being ignored is the default setting.

But beyond pointing this out, what then? What do these little groups of know-betters do? What everyone else does but with a lighter touch, a different spin maybe...but mainly to learn and instruct and inform others of how to live in a completely non-institutional, informal way. Oh sure, institutions can be used- to get money or training on a short term basis, but they will exact their pound of flesh eventually. It's a fantasy to imagine you can change the world in any direction except the one it is already going- but you can learn to observe that direction, and like the voyager space craft use the pull of other planets to speed you on your way without being trapped in any one orbit...But you won't be alone, assemble your team, your gang, your non-negative pals, plot that course, build that ship...

As a former school teacher I know that the character of a class of 30 children is dictated by three or four kids. Of course you can over-ride them with authority, but if you leave that class to it's own devices then a small number will set the tone.

Set the tone.


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