Tomato Wisdom and Us

To know a tomato is a fruit is knowledge, to not put a tomato in a fruit salad is wisdom. tomato

I would like to use this a popular meme to highlight a source of mismanagement of our interactions with each other.

We need to distinguish between the three concepts: Information, knowledge and wisdom.

Information is random facts or figures. The world is full of it. We can search anything under the sun and we will find sites full of information.

Knowledge is when we assimilate the information into ourselves and know how it applies to us. We form opinions and assumptions by taking the information through the filtering process of our belief systems, mental models and prior knowledge.

Wisdom is when we use our knowledge appropriately. Our meme is a good example. That a tomato is a fruit is just information, the fact that I know I have tomatoes in the fridge is knowledge. Wisdom is when I put the tomato in a green salad and not a fruit salad.

Let us take this line of thought into our interpersonal interactions. I may know something about myself related to you. For example I tell you: “You look good in that jacket, it complements the color of your eyes”. When I share this with you, it is just information that you receive.

When you take this information and interpret it in the context of what to wear to the next party, it becomes knowledge. It becomes wisdom when you use this knowledge to impress your date at the restaurant.

Most interpersonal communication is just sharing information. “It will be cold today”, “Did you see the game last night?” It is only when we take the information and personalize it that it becomes knowledge. So be careful what information you make knowledge. We do not need to take every opinion of every individual personally. We can keep it in the safe zone of just information they are sharing. It is their opinion.

When we trust the source of the information, then we can personalize it. Personalized information becomes knowledge but also be wise in using it. Even from a trusted source, knowledge must be applied appropriately.

Sometimes you do not want to look lovely for a date, but professional to close a deal. You are in charge of using the knowledge you have. Be wise.

Sharing my info


Never look for a boss, always look for a client

Sean’s dad gave him this advice: “Never look for a boss, always look for a client.”

I try and communicate the same message to my clients and young people who ask for career advice. In today’s economy, for you to be successful, view your career as your own business.

I am not saying everybody has to start their own small business. I am referring to the way we think about work.

Starting your own business is a dream a lot of people have. If the market is open for your idea, go for it! And if I may share from my experience, it is enjoyable en challenging at the same time. So before you take the plunge, make sure you do your homework properly. Ask advice, write a proper business plan yourself (if you ask someone to write it for you, make sure you are involved every step of the way), and get get a business coach. It is worth the investment. Also know that it takes up to 5 years to start up a business, so have patience. It is worth it.

The advice Sean’s dad gave has more to it though. Like I said, it speaks to the way we think about work. It asks us to change our mental maps from seeing work as a necessary evil, something we do to pay our bills, to seeing our abilities, energy and knowledge as a product we sell to our employer. Our boss or the organization we work for becomes our client. And in the competitive world we live in, good client service plays a major role in sustainable success.

It ask that we start thinking like entrepreneurs about our work, creating the habit of asking “Where is the biggest need and how can I address is?” And of course, taking the initiative to act on the answers we get.

With this mentality, we be come a major contributor, adding value to the organization. We move our salary from the expense side of the cash flow statement tot the asset side. We become the dreamed of and elusive engaged employee that all business owners look for.

And when you choose to go on your own, this mentality will help you succeed as a business owner as well.


2 Lies to Loose

Our mental maps are our servants that are supposed to help us deal with life.

They are the filters through which we interpret the world around us. We all have them and thankfully so. If they were not there, this world would have been to chaotic to be in.

A problem arises when these maps lead us astray. When the map in our mind is that of Venice in Italy, but the street in front of us our small hometown. Obviously we will walk into walls and down ditches that is not in Venice but in our real world they are.

Two of these maps that we have to get rid of is:

  1. Life has to be easy
  2. Someone will save me

The only time life is easy is in a mothers womb. The rest of life is either a struggle or an adventure. Depends on what you interpret the map. So through away the map that says life must be easy. It is a very, very immature belief system. Unborn babies are the only ones that may claim it. The rest of us need to face the music.

Once we get rid of the lie, we have to put in place the truth. The truth I suggest is that life is one big adventure. That a kite can only fly against the wind, That every challenge that come my way is a compliment. A compliment of my ability to deal with life. That my talent will only grow when the challenge increase.

Let the new map dictate that for me to be in Flow (optimal human performance) life’s challenges need to compliment my strengths.

The second lie we need to loose, is the expectation that someone will come and save me. This also comes from childhood were mom or dad will pick me up, or do my chores for me. This lie cripples us.

The truth is, we need to take responsibility of our own life. You are the one that is going to give your life an make-over. Not Oprah or some rich uncle. You.

You have the ability. You have the dream. You have the brain to find a way. You have in you everything you need. Start using it.

So grow up and create that life you always dream of.

Still growing


Power Struggle (Part 2)

Knowing that we are responsible for giving power to someone or something to be exercised over us, allows us to have a look at how we do it.

If we look under the surface we find a very interesting dynamic playing out. Power closely links to our perception of status. This is the brain’s default mechanism to place us in a pecking order once we engage in a social relationship.

If the brain perceives that our status is protected or enhanced it moves towards the person or situation that enhances our situation. Linking back to the relativeness of power that depends on the recognition of a quality, it is understandably that we give power to those who enhance our status.

When we perceive that our status is threatened or broken down, we immediately activate our defence mechanism. One of which is to engage in a power struggle.

The moment we engage in a struggle, the need to be in control moves to the foreground. This is a reactive or secondary need. The primary need is for certainty. Our brain does not like uncertainty and moves away from it.

As these two principles are major drivers in our interactions, we need to be aware of our belief systems, mind maps or mental maps regarding status and certainty.

Evaluating our mental map of status is an observation of our comparison ability. We inadvertently compare ourselves to others. It is normal. My question is “What are your measuring criteria?”

Do you compare using material possession or external physical looks? This is the same as trying to measure the ocean with a yardstick. Not very smart.

My suggestion is to measure yourself with yourself. When you are your own criteria, the criteria are: Do you live out your potential? Are you true to yourself? Have you lived today in such a way that you may die tonight and smile, knowing you gave it your all?

How will this measuring criteria influence the power you allocate to other people?

Our mental maps around certainty hinges around our perception of change. Change for most people implies uncertainty. We tend to feel comfortable if we know what is going to happen next and uncomfortable when we don’t.

Again this is normal. The problem comes when we get stuck in the need for certainty. For change is the only true certainty.

Sounds paradoxical? Well it is, and that is the beauty of it. It is in the tension between two seemingly total opposites that life happens. Life is never one dimensional. Change is constant. And we need to acknowledge this.

When we embrace change we also activate one of the brain’s pleasure centers. You know – that good feeling when you buy a new pair of shoes or when you smell that new car smell. Well that same center activates when we embrace change.

In our allocation of power, it would be to our advantage if we keep this tension between change and constant in mind. Is this person or thing I am giving power to, going to enhance certainty or change? Which is best for me now, change or more of the same?

I assume that when we become more aware of our own thinking in a power struggle, the struggle part dissolves and only the conscious exchange of power happens.



Use it, dont waste it

My friend Louis shared a profound experience from his childhood. His mother bought him the most beautiful Adidas tennis shoes. They had the Adidas logo on each little nobble on the soles and the blue stripes against the white shoe was exquisite.

For him these shoes were so beautiful, he only walked on grass with them to save the nobbles. Once he got out of the car and stepped into a puddle of mud. He immediately took them of and cleaned those blue stripes till they shone again. Because he wanted to preserve the beauty of these shoes he seldom wore them. Then one day – they were to small.

I find this story full of the liberating truth of abundance.

When we are still enslaved in a mental map of scarcity, we tend to buy things that we like but, like Louis, we hoard them. Be honest – how many things are stuffed in boxes and closets that we never use? We have these beautiful set of plates, but only use them on high days to impress people. Or that expensive coat hanging in the back of the closet that we do not wear because there is no appropriate function on the calendar.

We should use them. That is what they are made for. We have to give our possessions the opportunity to be of value to us. If it breaks or is worn through, then they have served their purpose in life and we were blessed by that purpose.

Yet, we should also not waste our possessions. Waste shows a mental map of selfish consumption and disrespect. Showing respect towards your possessions exhibits an attitude of gratitude. By taking care of them, putting them away when they are not in use, we acknowledge the service they render to us. When we take care of our stuff, they take care of us.

You might think this is a bit to preachy. Well, consider this: The way you treat your possessions, reflects the way you treat yourself.

Because you believe in your own value, you take care of yourself and your stuff. Unfortunately, because of the undervaluation of yourself, you under evaluate the contribution you can make and therefore also the contribution of the tools with which to add value, your possessions.

So, please take note of the lesson of the Adidas shoes. Use them, before you outgrow them.


Sitting with yourself

I remember a story about a Khoi San tribe that had to be relocated. They were quite exited because they were going to a place that had more advantages for them. So for a few days they marched with vigor and excitement. Then one morning they just sat around. When the officials asked them why they were not going to march, they replied: “We are waiting for our souls to catch up with us.”

Beautiful is it not? I think a lot of us can associate with this story. Our day to day programs are a rush from one appointment to another, one task to be completed before the other can be started and all of them against a deadline. And someway along the line we lose touch with ourselves.

Yesterday I sat with myself for the most of the day. Giving my soul time to catch up with me.

At times it was difficult.Often  I had to stop my mind from reminding me of all the actions on the to do list. Those mental maps that drive us to be productive are very strong. I think it is because we link them to being valuable and worthy. I realized that it is an unnecessarily link. One that was most propably made for us by society. “If you do not performe, you are not valueable.”

It is a bit of a narcissistic societal norm, don’t you think. Basically it says: “As long as you can do thinks for me, you are valuable.”

The truth is we are valuable – full stop. Our value lies in who we are not in what we can do.

Sitting with ourselves acknowledges this primary law of the universe. Sitting with ourselves allows us to enjoy our own beauty. Yes we are beautiful.With our warts and all. The dark side in us in our life accentuates the light. Enjoy both. They are equals.

Only when we can be with ourselves can we start to add value to the world. Not by what we do, but by who we are when we do it.

So, give yourself permission to be yourself. You may sit and do nothing. Enjoy it.

Switch off the brain that wants to make you feel guilty. In fact be rebellious and do nothing in spite of the guilt and to do reminder that tries to hog your attention.

Just sit and let your soul catch up.



In Judgement of Judgement

Early in my life I made a conscious choice to wait until the next time I meet someone before I form an opinion of them.

My reasoning was that people seldom show their true self in public. Add to this that we all have different social masks we wear, depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Later I learned that we are all multi-dimensional. Assessment tools like the MBTI and Profile Dynamics confirm that we cannot be put in a singular box that says: “This me – I am xyz”. We always have to say: “This me – I am X and I am Y and I am Z”.

This reasoning lead to a habit of just observing people and allowing them to be who they choose to be with me.  Allowing for the fact that some people will present an untrue persona to me. I just gave them the benefit of the doubt. Mostly I found that people would trust me and show me the beauty of their true self and sometimes we went on an exciting journey to uncover and create a beautiful self.

Unfortunately this same habit also leaded me to be to be conned and manipulated to give more than that which was good for me.  This naturally led to a reconsideration of my initial choice. This causes a dilemma.

On the one hand the advantage of the first choice is real and not negotiable. On the other hand I would like to be a bit wiser in dealing with strangers. So – to learn how to judge people without judging them is the objective.

My first hurdle is the concept of judgement. My mental maps around the term tend to be negative.

To judge someone has the connotation of being critical and condescending. Two character traits that do not sit well with me. To be critical is not all bad, but to be condescending is. Being condescending is a negative and ineffective defense mechanism. Ineffective because we usually judge people by the same standard we judge ourselves. We tend to project the negative elements of ourselves onto others. This process mostly happens unconsciously.

To start with the process of solving the dilemma, I thing we need to reappraise judgement.

An alternative is to see it as a simple assessment. (Thanks Louis for this insight).  An assessment is an observation combined with an opinion. Observation is good. It comes from a mental map that states that anything is possible and everything has a right to be as it is. It acknowledges that we are simultaneously apart and part of what we observe. Apart, therefore we can form an opinion. Part of, therefore we know our opinion is limited and must always be open for reconsideration.

Maybe, I have to make a new choice. One in the line of “every time I meet someone, I may assess them, and the next time I meet them, I may assess my assessment.

Still assessing