The Illusion of “OR”

Life is not a conflict between opposite but a polarity.

Things may be poked apart but they all go together.

However, that’s now how most of our culture views the world. Instead of “and”, it’s “or”

We live in a Culture of Duality.

We believe that people are good or evil

Rich or poor

Have hate or compassion

Black or white

Alive or dead

Yet, this is an illusion.

All things go together – the world is in fact one.

You can’t have a north pole without a south pole.

There isn’t good in this world without evil.

No one would be considered rich without society labeling the status of others as poor.

There is no way to be educated without the uneducated.

No such thing as hate without compassion.

There are no people that we consider black without those that we deem white.

No such thing as living, without the occurrence of death.

No trap without someone to be caught.

No compulsion unless there is also freedom of choice.

And of course, without others, there is no self.

Recognizing this illusion gives you the opportunity to change your posture.

The opportunity to realize that differentiation is not separation.

Living under this illusion is like viewing the world through the narrow gap in a fence, for when we attend to something, or take one side of the dualistic view, we ignore everything else – it is viewing the world with narrowed perception.

The head and the feet are different, but not separate, and though we are not connected to the universe by exactly the same physical relation as branch to tree or feet to head, he is nonetheless connected.- Alan Watts

Being First Isn’t Important

Being first is not the objective.

Nor has it been for some time now.

Sure, back when we were hunter-gathers and scarcity ruled the world being first could be the difference between whether you and your family ate that day.  Being first was often a life or death outcome.

In the world of scarcity being first matters.

However, today being first is largely irrelevant.

Friendster, Myspace, Classmates.com, and Sixdegrees.com were the first social networking sites. Each had millions of users. Then came Facebook.

Yahoo, Excite, Magellan,  and Infoseek were the first information portals that focused on search. Then came Google.

In the 90’s china.com was the future of e-commerce and the internet in China. It was one of the first companies to IPO, tripling on its first day of trading. Then came Alibaba.

In a rush to get a return on our investment, being first for the sake of being first has become a cornerstone of what it means to be part of our culture.

However, our culture has shifted and the conditions in which we live are vastly different from our days as hunter-gathers.

Instead, we live in a world of abundance.

No longer is there a premium on being first.

Today, the winner is the company or individual that makes a connection.

The person who gains our trust.

The company that show’s empathy for the nuance of being human.

The person that is patient.

The company that is generous.

None of which has to do with speed or being first.

Today, the premium is placed on engaging with others, over and over again.

The people and the companies that are generous and care are the winners.

Not the one’s that are first.

The pioneers take the arrows. The settlers take the land.

 

Network Effects: They Apply to More Than Facebook

We are all familiar with networks effects. The business principle whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it. The most basic example is the platform that allows me to connect with you – the internet. Initially, there were few users of the internet. It was of relatively little value to anyone outside of the military and a few research scientists. However, as more users gained access to the internet there were more and more websites to visit and more people to communicate with. Therefore, the internet became extremely valuable to its users.

One of the fundamental principles of the concept of network effects is Metcalfe’s Law. The law asserts that a company’s value quadruples when the number of users doubles. Or if the number of users quadrupled, the value grew 16-fold. The rate at which the network grows in value has since been contested, however,  Metcalfe was correct that the value of a network grows faster than its size in linear terms.

Metcalfe and network effects in the traditional sense seek to describe and measure “tangible” actions. Tangible in the sense that we can see the speed at which a platform or network grows through the rate at which its number of average daily users increases.

However, network effects apply to “intangible” things as well. It applies to ideas, generosity, kindness, respect, love, empathy, etc..

We take for granted the size of our social networks. We think that our actions, words, and posture only impact those that we can see: our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. However, the networks that surround each of us are actually very widely interconnected.

Our actions actually ripple through our networks like a pebble in water. An act of generosity has an impact on our friends, our friends’ friends, and even our friends’ friends’ friends, better known as the three degrees of influence rule.

Further, if we are each connected to everyone else by six degrees and we can influence them up to three degrees, then one way to think about ourselves is that each of us can reach about halfway to everyone else on the planet!

Why is this important?

It’s important to remember the power that we have to influence others by our words and actions.

Social networks magnify whatever they are seeded with.

The ubiquity of human connection means that each of us has a much bigger impact on others than we can see.

What we say matters.

What we read matters.

What we eat matters.

What we share matters.

The social networks that we create become public goods. Everyone chooses with whom and how they want to connect with others. In the process, a complex and endless web of interlocked relationships and resources are created. Resources that no one person controls but that impact us all.

To truly know ourselves, we must first understand how and why we are all connected. As a start, we must remember where it all started.

The Comparison Trap

When we surrender to the accumulation culture and relent to the constant juxtaposition of ourselves and those around us we relinquish our most elemental form of agency. The agency to shape the experiences of our life.

Our experience is what we agree to attend to.

She gets paid more than I do.

He has a more prestigious job than I.

Her career advancement has been faster than mine.

He’s smarter, funnier, and looks better in a suit.

Everything comes so easy to her.

She’s in better shape than me.

How does she have so many more Instagram followers than I do?

His pictures always get so many more likes than mine.

We live in a culture in which we compare ourselves along every imaginable axis of privilege and every dimension of identity – intelligence, beauty, athleticism, charisma…

Our insatiable desire to compare is the product of an accumulation culture. A culture in which the doctrine of everyday life is based on the acquisition or gradual gathering of things.

The accumulation of goods.

The accumulation of leisure.

The accumulation of accolades.

The accumulation of wealth.

The accumulation of education.

The problem with our incessant drive to accumulate is that it comes at the expense of our own being. It inevitably leads to the deprivation of self because there is always more.

There is, and always will be, someone with more money.

Someone smarter.

Someone better looking.

Someone more charismatic.

When we surrender to the accumulation culture and relent to the constant juxtaposition of ourselves and those around us we relinquish our most elemental form of agency. The agency to shape the experiences of our life.

The moment you focus on others you vacate your soul.

You vacate the power to make incremental daily progress towards the life you want to lead.

The only way to resist and make progress towards changing the culture is to realize only those items which we choose to notice shape our mind. Selective interest and attention prevent us from falling into the comparison trap.

We each must develop an inner barometer for our own values.

We must resist pageviews, clicks, likes, follows, and all of the other quantification metrics that our culture has invented.

When we have the courage to intentionally tend to the things that we find important we have the power to shift our posture from merely identifying what is lacking to envisioning ways to create and shape the world we want to live in.

A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms.

Choosing The Right Pair of Glasses

You see what you expect to see.

Nothing is inherent.
Change is always possible.

In 1454 the German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. 1454, a time when most people couldn’t read, yet alone use a printing press to write or type!

In 1901, Wilbur Wright told his brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. Two years later, the brothers built and flew the world’s first plane.

Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, remarked in 1905 that, “sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence than ours.”

In 1909, the Scientific American published, “the fact that the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.”

In 1977, Kenneth Olsen, president and founder of Digitial Equipment Corporation, a major American company in the computer industry at the time, remarked, “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”

Nothing is inherent.
Change is always possible.

Yet, our brains make it difficult for us to embrace this reality. As, for the most part, we do not first see and then define, we define first and then see.

As humans, our tendency to categorize is reflexive, automatic. We need to know what something is before we can figure out how were supposed to relate to it.

Hence, our frame of reference and categorization of people, brands, products, and ideas impact how we view the world.

This frame of reference impacts how we interact with people. Our ability to build relationships.

It impacts our ability to trust. It impacts the way we view business leaders and the businesses that provide the products and services that we depend on.

Just as people aren’t inherently evil. Business and capitalism aren’t inherently bad.

What matters is our frame of reference.

The beauty is that, like when choosing which new pair of glasses to buy, we have the freedom and liberty to choose the lens through which we see the world.

To do this, we must be open to trying on several new pairs of glasses.

We must be open to listening through multiple new pairs of headphones.

Most importantly, this willingness and openness must occur often and with intentionality.

The power of embracing this freedom allows us to adjust the posture of how we view the world. It allows us to cultivate and embrace entirely new ideas, products, people, and opportunities for connection.

Ultimately, you see what you expect to see.