Saturday, July 29, 2023

Differences: Subtraction or Addition?

As a child, I was fascinated by math: my parents and teachers used simple methods with fruit, Popsicle sticks and toothpicks -- teaching to add and subtract by moving objects into or out of a circle and then counting the results.  Multiplication and division came later requiring visualization, memorization, and repetition.  Remember flash cards and "Times Tables" (multiplication tables)?!

All of this came to mind recently when our travel agent made changes to a future trip: adding benefits; increasing the overall costs; dividing by the number of days on the trip to determine worth.  To make a decision we needed to compare differences from the original plans and proposed changes.

How quickly do you spot differences in others?
~ ~ Click on image to enlarge ~ ~
(Photo credit:  Spot the Difference, Josh Jagran)

I began to reflect on how often I unconsciously look for differences without thinking:

  • She is taller than me.
  • He is driving a newer car.
  • They have different beliefs, belong to another religion, have a darker skin color, or take a unique political position.

I wonder how often we use mental-subtraction to remove what we don't like or understand?

Do you tend to remove options?
(Photo credit:  All about Addition and Subtraction,
DREME FamilyMath, Stanford University)

What caught my childhood attention wasn't the ability to remove objects from a circle:  after all, eventually you have nothing (until we were introduced to Algebra, that is)!  Rather, I gravitated towards how many objects could be added until the circle was full!  And then, when the circle itself was full, I began stacking the objects to see how many more could fit into the circle.
In a very simple sense I was moving from limited dimensional thinking and towards limitless boundaries and possibilities.  I soon was ready for multiplication!

How often do you include others?
(Photo credit: What is Addition?, SplashLearn)

When I entered the work force, I came against budgets, pie charts, and realizing that some resources are limited.  I can accept that.  But I also want to believe that the human spirit can do so much more.  In fact, many of the world religions have stories of multiplication -- sometimes miraculous! -- of people's generosity and kindness.  Sacred lesson:  we can do so much more when we work together and share our limited resources.
As I look around me today, I hope that I will add to the beauty of our world and accept the multiplication of diverse ideas that include each of us.  After all, what are our only other options -- to subtract from (exclude) and divide others?

May we be blessed this week with opportunities and possibilities to add and multiply our generosity and kindness towards others!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Quick To...

Okay... here's a fast word association game:

What is the one word that comes to mind when you hear this incomplete sentence:

I am quick to...

Do you have a word that completes: "I am quick to [your word]"?  Write your word down, and set it aside.

In what ways are you quick to respond?
(Photo: Comic Con street scene - San Diego, 2019)

To be honest, the word that completes my phrase is Judge... as in "I am quick to judge."  Even now, I am judging why that word came to mind first!  I have this built in -- or learned behavior -- to make a quick assessment or conclusion about a situation; I place a value on what I see or hear; I want -- or need -- clarity and boundaries.  In essence, I want to know if I belong or am safe.

I have noticed another word emerging in our world today:  people seem to be "Quick to Hate."  I wonder what is generating this emergence:  misunderstandings, inaccurate conclusions, fear... or maybe a desire that you BLM ("Be Like Me")?

How would you like to respond?
(Photo: Comic Con street scene - San Diego, 2018)

I wonder how many of us had different "Quick to..." words, like Love, Compassion, Respect, Accept, Bless, or Understand?  Did anyone say, "I am quick to be Curious"?

In past blogs, I have mentioned Chris Argyris' Ladder of Inference. (Click here to read MindTools' description of the Ladder of Inference.)

Can you respond in creative and life-giving ways?
(Photo: Sand Sculpture Contest - San Diego, 2018)

The Ladder is a tool to help us notice and understand many of our autopilot reactions.  A situation occurs -- which is based in reality and facts.  We begin to filter reality by selecting what we understand or can relate to.  As we move up the rungs of the Ladder, we interpret, assume, and make conclusions based on our selected facts.  We reinforce our beliefs and act accordingly.

Moving up the Ladder -- in my case -- uses my "Quick to skill":  I judge others.  To move down the Ladder and back to reality and the facts, I must develop other skills:

  • I must become curious.
  • I must discuss, understand, or accept other people's viewpoints.
  • I must become compassionate or non-violent towards myself and others.

I wonder what your "Quick to" word is -- the word you set aside earlier.  And, what skill could be practiced to come down your Ladder?

Maybe we can set aside our "Quick to" words of judging, hating, and misunderstanding -- and practice new skills together of compassion, respect, and curiosity.

What do you think?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Anticipation or Expectation?

As young children, my older brother and I would climb the fence that surrounded our back yard.  The fence had a flat top that allowed us to walk and balance ourselves around the perimeter of our familial boundary.  Sometimes I would follow him -- seeing who would fall off.  Sometimes we would start on opposite ends of the yard -- racing to see who would get halfway first.  When we were the most daring, we would see if we could pass the other person without falling off.

We were learning the skills of coordination and balance at a young age, and we learned to look beyond our limited yard into the neighbor's yards and the untamed gully that bounded our neighborhood.

How do you balance what you see and hear?
(Photo credit: Balancing Act Trio,
Randolph Rose Collection)

This image surfaced when I was with my brother earlier this week.  We no longer climb physical fences, but there are many situations and issues where we still need to balance our perspectives and coordinate beyond our limited viewpoints.

For many years I was a project manager.  Balancing and coordinating became important skills for the project teams to learn... along with differentiating between anticipation and expectation.

What do you anticipate will happen in a given situation?
(Photo credit:  How to Watch Super Bowl 54 as a Chiefs Fan,
Sports News)

I don't know about you, but I came to learn that there is a slight difference between anticipating an action or result and expecting it.  Both are future-focused, but one thinks or realizes what might happen ahead of time while the other projects onto a situation or person.

For instance, as project manager, I had to anticipate that Plan A might not work, and I had to be ready to pivot to Plan B immediately.  I also had to manage the expectations that others had of the outcomes of both plans.

Are your expectations getting in the way of relationships?
(Photo credit: Do You Understand Other People's Expectations?,
Praesta Insights)

As we balance plans and priorities with Loved Ones and friends, maybe we could step back and practice the skills learned as children:

  • Identify the boundaries.
  • Balance between what is anticipated and expected.
  • Look beyond our limited views.

 Maybe that's how we navigate these unprecedented times where information and misinformation collide, inclusion and separation divide us, and boundaries of civility are crumbling.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Not Clear on the Details?

The human brain is amazing!  We quickly gather information about our world through our senses, place labels on what we see and experience, and then categorize similar content into buckets or folders.  This helps us easily and readily access our knowledge base when in various situations.

But what happens when:

  • We encounter something new or different?
  • We misfile information or misunderstand words or actions?
  • We go on autopilot and don't pay attention to our "filing system"?

Are there times when you don't understand?
~~ Click on image to enlarge ~~
(Photo credit:  Baby Blues, Ricky Kirkman
and Jerry Scott
, July 6, 2023)

Yes, our brains are wonderful... but what happens when we don't mind the Mind?  That is, when too much information comes in and overloads our awareness and reasoning.  Like any child reminded to clean our bedroom, we put off any discipline to correct our filing system, to pay attention, to become mindful, and to notice more carefully what is happening around us.

Ruth Asawa, a world-renowned San Francisco artist, created the "San Francisco Fountain."  This elaborate fountain portrays city landmarks and historical events.  When I first stood in front of this larger-than-life artwork, I was overwhelmed.

What details can you see clearly?
(Photo: Ruth Asawa's San Francisco
Fountain - Larry Gardepie)

I realized that I needed to step back and slowly walk around this round edifice.  It was important to take in information a little at a time.  Perspective and appreciation came into focus as I checked out sections with my knowledge of San Francisco and its history.  Eventually, curiosity began to rise within:  What was this symbol or landmark?  Why did the artist place these two items together?  Is there a history I am unaware?
It isn't until we engage our curiosity that we actually begin to learn!

Are you quick to put things into place?
(Photo: Restaurant Shelves - Larry Gardepie)

Like Zoe and Hammie in the Baby Blues comic strip at the beginning of this blog, we try to understand through our own experiences.  It isn't until we recognize that we are not clear on the details that we can ask questions.
If you are curious about what happens to Zoe and Hammie at the drive-in theater, click here.  Sometimes clarity and understanding happens when we move away from what we know... and explore the details together.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Indepedence: From Self or Others?

Before I forget:  Happy Independence Day!  I don't know about you, but sometimes it seems strange to say that.  It's not that I am not patriotic -- I am! -- but in the state of our political and civil discourse, I wonder what we are celebrating?

Yes, we have the U.S. origins story of fighting for and proclaiming our independence from England, and we have centuries of people who have protected democracy and our freedoms.

But, I wonder, what else has this day become for people... besides a summer holiday that allows us to gather, share food and games, and watch fireworks displays?

Do you want to win over others?
(Photo:  Sack Race, Independence Day,
Old Town San Diego - Larry Gardepie)

We are living in a very divided country right now where there is a constant tug of war between ideologies and dualistic thinking.  The fireworks go off between us as one side struggles to be right and assume the other side is wrong, where one side must win at the expense of the other.  Is this exercising our freedom?

Healthy discourse -- which centered on progress and civic support for everyone -- has been supplanted by conquest over and ridicule of The Other.  Maybe these struggles have always been there... but it seems to have surfaced in very ugly ways.

What tugs at you?
(Photo: Tug of War, Independence Day, ,
Old Town San Diego - Larry Gardepie)

Depend means to trust, rely on or support another person; In + Depend is not depending on a person; and the definition of Independence describes freedom from control, influence, support or aid of others.

Is that what is happening when misunderstandings and anger are aimed at one another?  When our freedom solely supports our individuality?

What displays of freedom do you show?
(Photo: Big Bay Boom Fireworks,
San Diego - Larry Gardepie)

I would invite us to consider different ways to demonstrate our freedom and independence:  we must develop skills that balance what is important to us by asking and listening to what is important to others.  This form of dialogue allows us to navigate the ideas that crowd the intersections of our lives.  Without honoring and respecting both individuality and community, we overflow and obstruct what any of us desire.

We must work together!

What happens after the celebrations?
(Photo: Crowds leaving Fireworks,
San Diego - Larry Gardepie)

Blessings to you this Independence Day!  May we seek what unifies us so that we can celebrate how we are dependent, independent, and interdependent.  We have a responsibility to one another!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)