Hallucination

The printing press changed the world. Invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid 1400’s, it made it possible for books and other written works to be reproduced with ease, putting information and knowledge in the hands of many who had never seen it before. Before that, if you wanted to reproduce a piece of writing it needed to be done by hand. But once invented, it flooded the world and people received fresh insight as the knowledge market shifted, changing the power dynamic across society. Not everyone was educated and able to read but it may have been one the most influential inventions ever.

The internet can be traced back to it, being like an electronic printing press, making information accessible to anyone who has the internet and a device to consume it. Not everyone can do that yet, but it is more than ever before.

Putting the unhelpful parts of the internet aside, now we have access to the greatest wisdom, insight and knowledge of everything that the human race has ever learned within moments of beginning a search for it. People living in the 1400’s could not have imagined having access to even a tiny portion of the information we do.

So, access to knowledge is not an issue then. Why aren’t we all geniuses, living the 4 hour work week, mastering all our habits and living as highly effective people?

It comes down to this: Implementation trumps information. You can have all the information in the world (and we do), but if you don’t do anything with it then it’s a complete waste of time.

Or as Walter Isaacson said, “Vision without execution is hallucination”.

We might have plans or ideas about what we want to do with life or about who we want to become and the difference we want to make, but it’s the actions that we put into place that take those hallucinations and make them into something real.

It Looks Beautiful, But It’s Dead

You probably know it as the place where the human body floats, but nothing can survive in it, which is why they call it what they do. Yep, the Dead Sea has neither fish nor vegetation. It is a ‘wasteland’ of water because it has too much salt, meaning that people float in it.

Compare it to the Sea of Galilee, just to the north, which is full of abundance. It is teeming with fish and rich, colourful plant life, which is weird because both bodies of water come from the same source, the River Jordan.

So, why the difference between the two?

It turns out that the Dead Sea is dead because it is stingy, and the Sea of Galilee is full of life because it is generous.

Generous because the Sea of Galilee takes in water from the River Jordan, and then it flows out. The constant movement of receiving and then giving brings abundant life to it and everything thrives.

The Dead Sea does not do that. It has no outlet for water to be distributed. It just takes in water, and the only way water disappears is through evaporation leaving the salt behind, which is toxic to fish and plants, making it a people-floating place of non-life. Mind you, it looks beautiful but it’s dead.

We are like bodies of water (heck, aren’t we made up mostly of water?). If we continue to take in more and more in life without a way to pass it on and be generous, we become toxic, and life disappears. (It may look beautiful but it’s dead.)

To bring life and colour and fullness, when we receive what is available to us (be that money, love, respect or knowledge) we must find as many outlets as possible to give it away again.

Life is about giving. The more you give, the more life it brings, to you and the people you give to.

Generosity Porn

“Who is filming that?”

It’s a question I often ask myself as I’m watching videos online. You know the ones, filmed so that you feel like a bystander watching as if this is normal life, and then something funny or embarrassing or heartfelt or outrageous happens. But I find myself thinking, why was someone filming at that exact moment? Did they just happen to be recording a video and accidentally catch something that turned out to be internet-worthy?

The number of times I have tried and failed to video my kids doing something funny/adorable in everyday life, tells me people must be either recording every moment of their life to accidentally catch something amazing…or, it is set up. Which, of course, most video content on the internet is.

You may be familiar with recent story about the women receiving flowers as a random act of kindness, which was filmed without her consent and became a viral TikTok video. Or the guy who was just trying to go to Coles for some food and became famous because someone sneakily paid for his groceries.

It’s been a trend for a while now, where a benevolent individual is generous to the unknowing and ‘sad’ public, so they can experience a glimpse of hope in their otherwise ‘depressing’ lives, all whilst being secretly filmed. The ‘joy’ that it brings is multiplied by the millions of views the video gets and we can all feel a little bit better about the good in the world, as the creator earns something from their kind act, be that money, followers, fame etc.

It begs the question, if an act of generosity isn’t filmed and posted, did it even happen?

But generosity is generosity, right? What does it matter that millions of people have consumed it?

Yeah, I’m not sure where I land on this. Is it okay or not?

Here’s why it could be okay:

  • It’s just a video of a young guy giving someone flowers, or a dude paying for someone’s food
  • It promotes generosity
  • Random acts of kindness are awesome
  • We should make generous people famous for what they do. Bad news travels fast, good news usually doesn’t – lets celebrate it when it does.

Here is why it is not okay:

  • Clearly, these videos are not about the recipient of the gift at all. Part of generosity is giving something that is helpful to the recipient, not an act that dehumanises them in the process as the video becomes viral distorts the real story of the individual
  • It reduces the recipient to a product that is consumed. That is not dignifying. Generosity builds people up, empowers them and provides dignity.
  • Like actual pornography, it’s a cheap knock off of the real thing, created only for the end viewer/customer at the cost of those involved.

In any act of generosity, the giver will always get something out of it, that is part of the beauty of it. But when it ends up that the giver gets more out of it than the person on the receiving end, be that likes, follows, views, attention, fame, or money, then it ceases to be a generous act and becomes manipulation for profit.

So, the safest way to be generous is to do in intentionally, thoughtfully and as often as you can, without uploading it to the internet.

Thief

Don’t compare yourself to other people. You never know who is taking steroids. You never know who is drowning in debt. You never know who is a liar.Ryan Holiday

Who are you in competition with? Why? Do they even know?

For me is it other fundraisers, other staff, other parents from my kids’ school, other people on the internet?

I wonder if they walk around thinking, “I am winning!” or are they so focussed on doing the best they can that they don’t even notice or care about me.

In a zero-sum game world, someone else winning would mean that I am losing. But what if we are not in competition with everyone else? What if we are all on the same team and we are only in competition with who we used to be?

If comparison with other people is the thief of joy, then personal progress is the thief of comparison.

This is my journey. This is my race. Success is whatever I want it to be. Survival of the fittest is a sham. We don’t live in a zero-sum game world. When you grow and progress then so do I.

Unintended Consequences

I recently found out something weird about jellyfish.

If you have one jellyfish and cut it in half, instead of having no jellyfish because it is dead, now you have two. Jellyfish regenerate. If it wasn’t so terrifying it would be amazing. Now I have nightmares about jellyfish rising up and taking over the world because they are the undead. Paranoia aside, it does speak to me about unintended consequences.

Life can be like trying to kill a jellyfish (metaphorically). We try to overcome obstacles and, in the process, create other obstacles that wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the action we just took.

For example, we recently had the joy of moving our 2 year old from a cot to a ‘big girl’ bed. She was having trouble going to sleep at night and we thought this move would help. No longer is she trapped when she has a sleep, she can get in and out as she pleases. Like when she drops her stuffed animals on the floor, she can hop out, get them and get back in to bed. She loves it and she was ready for it. Sleep time should become easier.

But instead, not only does she still struggle some nights to go to sleep, now, any time she wants, she can get out of bed and annoy her brother in the next room. The only time she is happy to stay in bed is when she drops her stuffed animals on the floor. Instead of hopping out to get them and jumping back in to bed, she calls out until someone does it for her. Unintended consequences.

In our world, unintended consequences are everywhere. I buy a coffee in Perth, it impacts the local café, their staff and families, the dairy farmers who provide the milk, the truck drivers who ship the milk, the distributors of said milk, as well as the whole coffee bean production line, from grower right through to roasters, wherever they may be in the world. A lot of things need to happen for me to have my morning pick me up.

If things work well, then people are positively impacted. If they don’t, people get pushed aside.

Generosity also has unintended consequences, both bad and good. Sometimes by doing something that you think is the best thing in that moment, may do some good, but also creates another problem/jellyfish. It doesn’t mean that we stop being generous. Instead, we grow in wisdom as we give so we can learn how to create the best possible outcomes with the least jellyfish. It takes time and experience, and humility to acknowledge we don’t know everything yet.

Give, Get More

“Like all the best things in life, the more you give, the more you have. That’s true of trust and friendship and it’s true of peace.” Rutger Bregman

I often talk about the riskiness of generosity. It’s like any other investment, there is never a guarantee that if you put money into something that you will get it back or get it back with interest. It’s the same when you give of yourself, your time, or your trust or your friendship. You never know if it will be received or reciprocated. It’s a risk.

It can be daunting when you hear about the bad things that happen in the world, and the seemingly endless supply of bad people. So, if you don’t trust anyone you can never be taken advantage of or hurt or swindled. You are safe from that.

But, on the flip side, if you have never been taken advantage of or hurt or swindled it means that you are not trusting anyone and missing out on the relationships and benefits that giving trust can bring. There is a cost to not trust people.

When you give trust, or friendship, or peace (non-violence), it is possible that it won’t be received or reciprocated, but the vast majority of time, it will be which creates more of what you have given. Leaving you richer than before.

Just because you may have had a bad experience where someone did the wrong thing to you, don’t write off all people (of that type, race, gender, persuasion). You are hurting yourself by doing that, and robbing the world of what your trust could bring.

Your Money Chooses

“Apart from the ballot box, philanthropy presents the one opportunity the individual has to express their meaningful choice over the direction in which our society will progress” – George K Kirstein

There is nothing I can do about it now. I voted. The election is over and now I sit back and wait to see where the leaders take the country, until the next election in three years when they ask my opinion again. I have this tiny moment in time to add my voice to the millions of others, and if most people agree then we might get somewhere. It’s hard to see what kind of impact I really have though. One vote in millions doesn’t seem to carry any weight at all, so why bother? I am sure that I’m not the only one who has thought that too because in my electorate alone, the informal votes ranked higher than a number of the candidates. That means that more people didn’t fill out their ballot paper correctly than those who voted for some candidates on purpose. The Australian Electoral Commissions suggests that 5% of all votes are informal and can’t be officially counted.

It’s easy to see how people can end up there. And it’s easy to see how people can disengage from community life thinking that they are unable to change anything, so why bother.

But that’s not true. The impact an individual can have on our world is huge, and we don’t have to wait for an election to be called to do it. Every day we have money within our control and what we do with it creates the society we live in. The organisations we give to shift our culture. When we give money to charities it shows politicians what people actually care about, not what they say they care about. Money moves our culture. Money moves our values. Money is a tool we can use to create the society we want. We get to choose what we do with it. So, give generously to organisations as a vote to create the world you want.

Enough is enough…except for when it isn’t

Too much of a good thing can still ruin your day. My wife made the most amazing pasta the other night. It is one of my favourite meals and I ate a significant amount of it. Even as I was still eating I said,

“I have eaten too much”

Then I continued to shovel pasta into my mouth.

It was amazing. Until it wasn’t. And later, it wasn’t amazing at all when I felt ill. I ruined a good thing by overdoing it.

We are lucky with food though, because most of the time we know when we have had enough, and we can stop eating and enjoy what we have consumed.

There are other things in life that don’t give you that signal that you have had enough. Money is the main one. How much is enough? Do you have an answer to that question? Or are you just working for more?

It’s something that most of us just drift into. The process of desiring more and more money so that we will have enough to buy that house, pay off the house, buy that car, go on that holiday, buy that other house. It becomes a never ending cycle. We would be wise to make a conscious decision of when enough will be enough. How much do we actually need, and then what do we do with the excess (giving some of it away is always a good idea). It’s such an important process because if we are unable to figure out what our enough is, then we are at the whim of the mighty dollar, which is a very scary place to be.

You will never be happy when enough isn’t.  – Seneca

Nope.

There is a story, perhaps a myth, about the king of Siam (modern day Thailand) who would give a white elephant to those in his kingdom who displeased him. Not wanting to upset the king, everyone accepted this gift. Plus, it was such an honour to own such a rare animal and it signified that you had made it. It was the Ferrari 250 GTO of its day (look it up, super rare and expensive).

In doing so, it was the king’s hope that the cost of looking after the elephant would financially ruin the person and free the king of their presence. Pretty sneaky.

Then there is the time that the king of Siam offered two elephants to President Abraham Lincoln in the early 1860’s, because America had none, and obviously need some.

The catch was that Siam didn’t have the means to transport them there, so President Lincoln needed to send a ship full of hay and other food that the elephants could eat. Also, fresh water – tanks of it. Plus, special berths so that the elephants could stand up and lie down. Also, they wanted to do it a few times so it would be more than one trip. Once in America, they had to make sure the elephants kept warm and then they should just let them run around the country for a bit to multiply.

President Lincoln said no. Respectfully so. With wisdom. Essentially he said, “Nah, we don’t need ‘em. We have other machinery that we use.”

I don’t know what the political fall out from that was, but that’s probably the reason there are no elephants in North America. Also, it’s way too cold in America for elephants. They would have died pretty quickly. In saying no, it saved America a lot of time, money and hassle.

Sometimes it’s important to say no when someone tries to give you something.

Acceptance

“This is for you dad.”

You probably know the look very well. The large, expectant eyes of a small child, that is handing you, what can only be called a ‘picture’.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been given drawings that were supposedly of me, or pieces of half-eaten food, or bits of paper with precious rubbish wrapped up in them by my kids, or other people’s kids as a precious gift. All of which I gratefully accepted, not because I wanted them, but because accepting the gift was an act of generosity. It gave my kids the chance to experience what is was like to give something away that they worked hard on, or meant a lot to them. They could learn about giving gifts that other people would actually want later, in that moment, it was more important for them to experience being generous.

Most people would agree with that. But it doesn’t just stop with kids learning how to give.

There have been other times in my life when someone has tried to be generous to me and I refused the gift. Not because I didn’t want it, but because it felt like too much. I felt insecure and inadequate, and like I would be a freeloader if I accepted it. So, I said no.

There is nothing wrong with saying no, but there are times when accepting a gift is an act of generosity because of what it gives the person who gives it. We know that there are many benefits when we give and it’s important not to rob people of that experience when they are trying to give to us.

In saying that, there are definite times to say ‘no’…(more to come on this)