Tentative Book Club Reading List

Science Fiction has played a powerful role in human culture’s relationship to new technological developments. It has not only foreshadowed the possibilities involved by applied scientific research but also delineated the potentials for conflict as a result of it. Issac Assimov’s works have inspired generations of scientists and politicians to unabashedly embrace the automation and artificial intelligence while as early as the 1920’s Karel Capek depicted the anxiety of such developments in Rossum’s Universal Robots that has since become one of Hollywood’s most recurring tropes. It is not just, however, in the inspiration of a select few that helped science fiction become a potent voice for expressing the varieties and anxieties of the human condition. Books such as Looking Backward played a large historical role in helping American’s to understand the possibilities involved in increasingly technological world and how best they could benefit from it.

The books I’ve chosen thus far for the SubCulture book club all represent modern iterations of Science Fiction/Science Fantasy that have each been heavily awarded for their aesthetic and intellectual content. Over the next 6 months we’ll look at new worlds, future Earths that’ve taken on an entirely new form due to technological changes, as well as a historical attempt to apply Science to all aspects of human relations. We’ll discuss what it means to the characters involved and what it means to us now in an age where each of is, to an extent, a cyborg.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Windup Girl by Pablo Bacigalupi
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
Red Plenty By Francis Spufford
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Notes from the Global Leadership Summit

So this weekend I attended the Global Leadership Summit at Palm Beach Community Church. This event brings together a wide range of noted business, church, government and social leaders at the Willow Creek theatre and is then broadcast simultaneously throughout the globe to different viewing locations.

On Friday Susan Cain and Patrick Lencioni spoke and both of them presented what I would consider to be variations of the speeches that gave at the World Leadership Conference. Bryan Loritts, however, was new to me and I found his speech on instigating change through personal sacrifice to be a highly thoughtful meditation on the manner in which the minor alteration of certain habits and beliefs can bring about large changes in our lives. He gave examples of how it is that our being accustomed to be in a decision making position can sometimes lead us to overestimate our perspective at the expense of others. Loritts framed this within an explicitly Christian context. He said that our attachments to aspects of our perspective must be abandoned to better exemplify our beliefs in the eternal oneness of humanity. A series of general prohibitions, which reminded me of the better aspects of Catholicism, followed with illustrations how such attachments can bring about poor dynamics in an organization. The examples that he gave were all related to the modern workplace and made me think about a conversation I recently had with Steve DeMoss, founder of Word in Deed ministries.

Over dinner he’d described the need for the values educations found in missionary work as often times in the places of dire poverty that he did mission work in Africa the moral reasoning which was prevalent was so short-term that workers would, for example, sooner steal goods to pawn for an equivalent of a months pay made in a day rather than work daily for weekly wages. Getting back on track, this long time, eternal orientation was one not devoid of attachments but aware of their operation on the spirit – a compelling imperative for the self to live by indeed! Carly Fiorina’s perspective on the manner in which it is important to use multiple markers for assessing performance and its relationship to continuous, successful innovation were some of the primary characteristics of a successful leader. Her role as the president of HP certainly gives her message an import based not solely on research but also on practical application.

On Saturday I especially liked the first featured presenter, Joseph Grenney, author of the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. Crucial conversations are those defined by their having high stakes, opposing opinions and strong emotions. Indeed the health of an organization is the degree to which certain subjects are wholly taboo or limited in such a scope that it prevents real positive adaptation. Grenney pointed out how often when people are forced to engage in such crucial conversations they often fare poorly. This type of aversion should be avoided, however, as people that are unable to talk it out will often act it out and because it can generally negatively affect the behavior at the workplace. Crucial conversation need not to be see too much as a contest amongst conflicting positions, but a trust-building accelerant to intimacy and better organizational efficiency. To make sure that the conversations are candid, organizations need to make sure that people are safe. The ingredients of safety are the recognition of mutual purpose, mutual respect and mutual movement forward. By recalling this alignment of current intentions, value for each other and agreement on how things will go into the future organizations are able to set up a smooth pattern for how interactions will be in the future.

I was less impressed with Erica Ariel Fox, author of Winning from Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change. The speech seemed to drag with unfunny jokes and anecdotes that were too long for the point that they were trying to convey. She did, however, speak of two things that I found rewarding. The first of these are performance gaps, or the space between people’s potential and their actual behavior and how it was the quality of a great leader to be able to identify them and work with people to close them. What precisely this form of measurement is she didn’t go into great detail about, but as someone that’s been lately learning about life coaching and psychoanalysis for personal and professional growth and development it didn’t bother me that much. The second point that she made is how biochemically our brains are more like an orchestra than a soloist. According to her we have four major internal forces/spirits; The Dreamer, The Thinker, The Lover and The Warrior. We also have a number of minor roles, but she didn’t delve into this instead talking about the four major roles. The Dreamer is the creator of possibilities that sets strategic vision, the Thinker analyses data and clarifies perspective, the Lover manages relationships and feels emotions while the Warrior catalyzes performance, takes action, speaks truth and helps reach goals. Worth noting is how I see a certain similarity to the work of Carolynn Myss, and other Eastern inspired psychologists such as C. G. Jung, that also sees a benefit in fixation upon certain recurrent characters found in an archetypal form. This is worth talking about more, but not here and now.

Later came Don Flow, who also kind of ambled his way through his speech. He seemed to me to be exhibiting a loving swagger that was perhaps fitting for those that knew him but didn’t particularly translate well for me. That said, I did really like his thoughts on love and serving. Living love means that we are called to be with people while to serve mean to display Self-Respect, Earn Trust, Reach for Perfection, Value input and Energize others. To me this is a great little acronym and mnemonic device in order to recall those components. All in all I had a great time there, am grateful that I was able to attend and look forward to being in situations where I can put this knowledge to practice.

Review of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Being vulnerable in our personal lives is difficult for many people. Behaving from a place of openness can give us a feeling of emotional exposure, uncertainty and even risk involved in speaking up. As expression of one’s thoughts, fears and desires openly and honestly with a partner, a child or a co-worker can lead to feeling judged many people quell their concerns and simply hope for the best. However unless we have these Crucial Conversations than our romantic lives are not as fulfilling, our familial dynamic can be thrown into imbalances and the business and civic organizations we are a part of can lose their dynamism and decay. In order to illustrate the importance of embracing vulnerability Dr. Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead shows how it is that vulnerability and shame emerges and operates within our current social topography and how to combat it. After all, allowing this influence to continue to operate unopposed means that we live a life with a dearth of mutual connection, trust and engagement with others. Wholeheartedness, the willingness to act from a place that is open, present and vulnerable, gives us the opportunity to genuinely be embedded in our world, for good or bad.

Dr. Brown’s research first distinguishes between shame and guilt and their relation to vulnerability. Shame is connected to being language (I am a screw-up, I am a liar, I am not worthy) while guilt is related to action language (I have made mistakes, I have lied, I made mistakes). While it may seem a trivial manner of categorizing, the adoption of such logics by the psyche has wide-reaching implications that neuro-psychologists give significant credence to. On a more practical level, use of the former prevents personal self-transformation while the latter is the means by which we can gain control over our personal narrative. This is why if one’s self-talk denigrates and self-destructs an effort must be made to acculturate oneself to a different understanding of themselves and thus their value.

Dr. Brown then shows that vulnerability is not weakness, but a form of courage. It indicates a full engagement with the matter at hand rather than ironic, traumatic or ideological detachment. This can be daunting to embody given the shame-prone culture within which many people live, and further requires that one feel genuinely loveable and worthy of good things, however to not do so is to have our happiness forever dampened due to our unwillingness to engage.

Another point that Dr. Brown pulls from her research is how people often feel ashamed due to hypothesized external judgments that can empty otherwise genuine joy. For example, despite the fact that extensive social science research shows that people are most satisfied with purchases of experiences such as vacations or nights out, due to the social nature of reality people can become fooled into the idea that by spending money on status goods they will be happy. Once comparison compulsion rather than personal values or the words of other people rather than your own principles have control over your emotional life you are immediately enfeebled because of it. Ideas that limit our capacity for wholeheartedness include not only comparisons to other people, but also nostalgia for the past and the general feeling of unworthiness caused by essentialism. People in our lives that tell us we are not good enough, perfect enough, smart enough, “anything” enough as well as saying things such as we’re too unmotivated, not worthy of love, crazy, etc. perform the same function. By limiting these thoughts occurrence and our interaction with those people that claim our being as something we don’t want we are able to gain more freedom for ourselves to be vulnerable and thus happy.

One of the research conclusions that Dr. Brown’s makes that I resonated with is how: “When we pretend that we can avoid vulnerability we engage in behaviors that are often inconsistent with who we want to be. Experiencing vulnerability isn’t a choice – the only choice we have is how we’re going to respond when we are confronted with uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” (45). While I think the broad implications are clear, bear with me as I pull them out. People crave the feeling of vulnerability as it allows the armoring that we have produced from numerous interactions to be reduced or even disappear. However it is possible that as a result of a previous painful incident, be it work, familial or romantic relationship, we may seek for the sake of our “future self” to be protected from such violations by repressing that softer side of ourselves. Thus when we act in a manner that seeks to deny our vulnerability, we are actually acting counter to what we really wish for. I’ve seen this most often when people have a romantic relationship has ended and they describe themselves as feeling emotionally dead or drained. Their vulnerability, their hopes, their desires are all seemingly dashed and the idea of starting over again seems like a fool’s errand. If we are to be truly happy, at least according to Dr. Brown’s research, than this is exactly what we must do.

Another point that I really enjoyed about Dr. Brown’s book is the need for discomfort at times. People generally, especially those in leadership positions that want to see their employees apply critical thinking, need to normalize the awkwardness that allows for honest exchange. In the crucial conversations that we have with those around us we must expect and be OK with handling anxiety, fear and shame. Allowing their occasional appearance should become normal and the fewer the “forbidden topics” there are is an indication of organizational/relationship strength. Vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process and it is through this process that growth develops. Lacking it we are armed from the past and stunted, unable to move forward and instead of living life to the lees it’s as if we’re always about to leave. And being caught in such a flight pattern means that we are living with distress and fear.

10 Killer Workout Mixes to Turn Up Your Heartbeat Vol. 1

When lifting heavy, HIITing or even just doing bodyweight exercises, I love to listen to music with fast rhythms to help me keep my flow going. Here’s a couple of hour-long mixes that I like to work out to as it keeps my energy level turned up even when I can start to feel the fatigue kick in.

Diplo & Friends: Clockwork

Major Lazer Workout Mix

Diplo & Friends: RL Grime

RL Grime – Happy Halloween Mixtape

Diplo & Friends: Diplo

DJ Romeo Reyes – TrapStep2.0

Flosstradamus – B⚠nned 2

Bird Peterson – Drankenstein Vol 5

Bird Peterson – Drankenstein Vol 3

David Guetta – DJ Mix #169