Sunday, September 26, 2010

Changing technology

We all know that technology is always on the move, always changing. And that's hard on us.

People who love books love them because the stories change but the technology has been almost the same for hundreds of years. E readers work, when they work, by acting like nothing has changed. If you don't think of words on a page as technology, revisit the difference between hand-writing and the printed word.

I decided this week to switch from my beloved but very slow iPhone (it was one of the original 2G models) to a Blackberry. Of course I wanted an iPhone 4, but I didn't like the way I was being played by the Apple/Rogers combination and I didn't have time to haunt an Apple Store for the privilege of upgrading. I am in business, and BlackBerry is a solid product that was ready for business.

But. . . it's a big switch. And it's not seamless. I'm pretty good with tech, and I have a good handle on what problems I can solve (resetting my router on its webpage at 1 in the morning after using the 'push button' setting on my Blackberry and locking out all my other computers) and what problems need to be solved by Rogers (so far, my BB is convinced I have an enterprise email account to set up). As I go through the layers of frustration, I realize two things:
1) Apple has done an amazing job of making it easy to move to a new computer and I haven't experienced frustration as I move through their product line
2) This is probably good for me. The struggle with something new keeps my brain awake and strong. It's roughly as much fun as doing crunches, but it's probably every bit as useful.

Changing technology is probably good for me because change is good for me. Most of the time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Running to the goal line

Fall is always too short. Blink and it's gone: one day the sun is blistering hot and the next there are Christmas carols in the mall. Whatever the weather, our autumn frame of mind is less about harvest and rest and more about making everything work before the end of the year.

With the goal in sight, we run with all our might. This has two hazards. The first is that the faster we go, the less precise our control. Some of us end up tumbling head over heels when we run too fast. The other is that sometimes we make it to the goal line, still moving at breakneck speed. Crossing the line is like hitting a wall. We stop abruptly and we hurt.

The goal line is not the right place to make a decision about how fast we should be moving. It's too late. The time to make the decision is when the goal line is in sight and we still have time to change. We can adjust our pace or move our eyes to a different spot on the horizon. The time to make adjustments is now.

You can move through fall so quickly that it vanishes beneath your feet, scarcely perceived. Or you can take your eyes off the goal line and slow your steps just long enough to breathe the smell of leaves and harvest and to prepare, as the plants are preparing, for a rest and a rebirth. We give up knowing that all life is cyclical at our peril. No one trips in a cycle. They fall into winter so they can spring back to full bloom.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quality Rankings

On the one hand, I am just slightly smug: the University of Toronto was ranked in the top 20 universities in the world by a British study. My doctorate is from U of T; my husband, sister and mother all graduated from U of T and my son just started law school there. It feels good to have it recognized as world class (I graduated in English, for which it is especially renowned).

And yet, my experience at the University of Toronto was not better than my experiences at two other universities. What does the ranking mean for all the universities that did not meet the criteria. Were they lesser universities or did they just have different priorities?

We can sometimes judge merit when we agree on criteria. Judging merit without accepting common criteria does not mean much (except that we all like to play by rules that allow us to win).

I ask myself this: if some, mostly objective and well-respected organization existed to rank NLP training institutions, how would I feel? Would I be willing to change what I teach or how I teach it so that I could "win" a competition and be "ranked first"? I think I am just as glad that choice does not exist. The field of NLP is so wide open that the only people judging relative merit do it without the benefit of shared criteria. They invent the rules that will allow them to win, and then judge everyone by those rules.

Instead of asking myself where I rank internationally, I ask myself: What can I do next that will leverage opportunities for the people who train with me and get better results more reliably across more different situations?"

Monday, September 13, 2010

A gathering of friends

There are herds of cows and flocks of sheep and murders of crows. I wonder if maybe a group of friends could be a gathering. I like the way "gather" suggests that we come together, gradually, from many different places, as part of a harvest.

On the weekend, I was part of a gathering of friends. It was a group where enough people were friends of enough other people that the entire group, some new to each other, became just one gathering of friends. There was an easy exchange of good will and interest that relaxed us all while energizing us. We were not all thinking the same things, but somehow we were thinking together.

I work hard at community building. From time to time people have wondered, quietly or pointedly, if it was the best way to spend limited resources. It wasn't always clear that we were moving toward a harvest: sometimes it was more like trying hard to hit a moving target. Patience is not always a virtue and it is always difficult.

But, from time to time, we are a gathering - a group of friends coming together from different lives and paths to share ideas and laughter and chocolate. And it is good.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Today it begins

This is Labour Day, the real end to summer and the beginning of the rush to the New Year. It's a bit of a mystery, this seasonal burst of energy and tension. Nothing will be different tomorrow: everything will be different tomorrow. We will sit on patios and wonder each time if it is the last time for 2010. We will make phone calls expecting that everyone, everywhere is at work.

Think for a moment about what an act of will power or distortion it took for us to get here. Fall is, naturally, an ending to the year, a gentle (then less gentle) winding down. It is a time for exuberant harvest and long evenings munching apples and telling stories. It is the time when we are almost - but not quite - ready to curl up near a fireplace and allow our thoughts to drift inside as the snow drifts outside.

As you look forward today, marvel at the power of the human mind that changes endings into beginnings.