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IFX Group 2012 Web Log

2012 Blog Entries
  1. The Value of Vision. (January)
  2. Languages From Two Countries. (February)
  3. The Tune Goes Around. (March)
  4. Travel Together. (April)
  5. Procrastination Priorities. (May)
  6. Driving Lesson. (June)
  7. Sparks of Distraction. (July)
  8. Knowledge - Living or Dead. (August)
  9. Added Perspective. (September)
  10. Amid Amish. (October)
  11. Unexpected Rewards. (November)
  12. Louder Holidays. (December)

January, 2012 - The Value of Vision.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage, to move in the opposite direction. - Albert Einstein

When Apple founder Steve Jobs died last year he left a hole in many different industries that is likely to be missed for years. Quite possibly his least understood and most rare ability was vision. He saw beyond the current state of things to that place where they could be. He saw both the big picture and the tiny details. And most importantly he was able to communicate what he saw in a way that inspired and motivated others to turn that vision into reality.

It does not matter if you were a fan or not, he changed the world with his vision.

How did one man have this much influence in the face of huge obstacles and near constant resistance? Different thinking.

The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them. - Albert Einstein

What do you think?


February, 2012 - Languages From Two Countries.

A new relationship is like two people from different countries meeting and realizing they speak different native languages. Before they can communicate anything beyond very basic needs at least one of them must learn the language of the other. But no matter how robust each language may be, there are always some things that require the other language to communicate clearly and fully. This is where both must learn the language of the other to really communicate.

It is well documented that men and women speak different languages. In a general sense men are more likely to speak in terms of problem solving and goals while women are more likely to speak in terms of emotions and relationships. If you tell a woman about a failing marriage, more times than not she will first empathize while a man in the same place will be more likely to first look for something to fix.

What does this mean when a man and a woman get together? It means at least one of them must learn the language of the other for the relationship to survive. The best solution is for both to learn the language of the other so fluently everything that needs to be shared between the two can be said in the best language for each situation. Learning a new language takes time and someone to speak with. It is not surprising these two ingredients are also found in all successful long term relationships.

What language do you speak with your loved one?


March, 2012 - The Tune Goes Around.

They say history repeats itself and those that fail to learn history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past. But maybe history is more like a song with multiple verses where the tune remains and only the words change. If this is true, learning to recognize the tune is worth more than learning the words. Those with ears listening for the echoes of history can recognize the approach of each refrain while everyone else thinks it is a brand new song.

History shows individual lives can join together to make a great things happen. But one great thing is not enough just like a tune with one sustained note all by itself is not a song. Harmony, change and progression are vital. Every song and every life has high points and low points with a variation of complex or simple transitions in between. The beauty is in the change from one note to the next.

Beautiful music happens when instruments work together and follow a common beat. When they don't it sounds awful and the tune gets lost in the noise.

What kind of music are you making?


April, 2012 - Travel Together.

Travel is good for the mind and yet can be even better for the heart. Every person that travels outside their comfort zone returns home changed with a better perspective compared to where they started. There are many quotes from both the famous and anonymous telling of the power travel has to expand the mind, but it is a little more rare to find the same for how travel changes a relationship.

This is magnified when your choice of travel requires close and constant companionship. Almost any two people can stay in a relationship for years if they are never required to spend much time together. But all that changes when they are forced to be around each other non-stop for an extended period of time. Only then is the truth of the relationship revealed.

I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them. - Mark Twain

May, 2012 - Procrastination Priorities.

Every day life gives us an incredibly huge list of choices. The list starts with the fact that it is impossible to do everything every day. There are so many things that we need to do and want to do that some of those things must be put off until tomorrow. Even people that hate procrastination are forced to do it to something every day. That is part of life. So what must be done now and what waits until tomorrow?

Obviously doing things that feed, clothe and provide shelter are hard to procrastinate for any length of time without paying a big price. But where does personal time appear on that list? Is there time to think? Or time to find a quiet place and just relax enough to find our own equilibrium and balance again? How often do we procrastinate things that benefit our health and well-being?

Unfortunately the cost of procrastinating personal time is often only seen in hindsight after the medical or funeral bills arrive. Too many procrastinate expecting every tomorrow in life will be exactly like today only to be painfully surprised when tomorrow suddenly turns out to be different.

Shake up the procrastination priority every now and then and see what happens. Take a serious look at your list and choose to do something different today. It could be something simple like moving one thing from the tomorrow list into the today list. Do something that is important for you and someone you love.


June, 2012 - Driving Lesson.

My mother was instrumental in teaching me to drive and deserves a lot of credit for my surviving the stupid driving actions of my youth. Among all of my driving instructors she was the only one to bring out the concept of paying close attention to the car ahead of the car in front of me. At first hearing this may sound unimportant or trivial. In practice it is very likely the single most important lesson for smart driving.

In simple terms this lesson directs your attention at the cause more than the effect. In sports like soccer or football the players are taught to look at the hips of the opposing player to better predict movements more than looking at feet or shoulders. This small shift in focus makes it possible to react in ways that sometimes can appear lightning fast to others.

The same lesson applies to a lot of other areas in life. Look at what people do more than what they say. There is more truth to be seen in actions. Looking for and focusing on causes more than effects can give more time to react if nothing more than to step out of the way of something that would otherwise hit right where you live.

What are you watching?


July, 2012 - Sparks of Distraction.

It is inevitable when people are put in close proximity for any length of time that some kind of conflict results. This is why otherwise loving and caring couples disagree, argue or even fight. How quickly they notice and how they handle the conflict tells a lot about how long that relationship is likely to last.

Conflict is like fire. It ranges from the smallest candle sized flame easy to extinguish with a single breath to mountain sized blazes impossible to contain without outside help. Quickly spotting and stopping small fires from growing into larger blazes can mean the difference between something trivially easy to resolve in one breath and something life threatening.

In very simple terms there are two parts to every fire; the smoky, sparky, bright-hot part demanding immediate attention and the environment or fuel keeping it going. Every firefighter knows the smoke, sparks and flames are just distractions or barriers from getting to the true heart of the fire. Focusing on the distractions alone is costly and very often futile.

Consider the conflicts in your relationships. Are small issues noticed quickly and addressed directly before they grow too big to calm in one breath? More importantly is there effort being invested to deal with the environment and source of conflict rather than being distracted by the sparks and smoke?


August, 2012 - Knowledge - Living or Dead.

There are modern artists wanting to create new works in the style of past generations that have to completely reinvent the wheel all because that knowledge was lost. At the small end of the scale are tiny details like the source and preparation of natural pigments used in ancient colors that outlast modern pigments by centuries. Ask anyone with a faded red car barely a decade old about how long the color red lasts in direct sunlight then consider the red pigment art surviving hundreds or thousands of years after the native artist died. What did they know that we don't?

Lost knowledge is also at the other end of the scale and much more recent. Not that long ago NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) workers were forced to comb through junk yards for Apollo era scraps to reverse engineer into documentation for modern engineers. Why? Because a large part of the knowledge that took us to the moon with 1960's technology was locked in the minds of dead people. To be fair some of that knowledge was written down, but sadly the pace of progress did not allow much room to fully document everything.

This brings us to the modern information age where an alarming amount of vital or at least useful information is being locked up in physical, logical or legal boxes without any keys for future generations. What do you think future generations are going to make of our purposefully restricted or hidden knowledge? Are we going to appear foolish to future eyes the same way that we now consider major blunders of past generations to be foolish?

Knowledge unshared goes to the grave. What do you know?


September, 2012 - Added Perspective.

Ask any one-eyed person about perspective and you will find something interesting. They see a 2 dimensional world. Things like depth, distance and rate of change for things going towards or away from them are really hard to perceive with only one eye.

In painting the illusion of distance or depth from one perspective is used in Trompe l'Oeil, which means to fool the eye in French. These creative and often beautiful paintings are designed to trick the eye into seeing distance or depth when there is none. Some are amazingly effective illusions of 3 dimensions but stepping a little too far to the side shows how flat the image is in reality.

The same is true in life for a person stuck in one spot. No matter how powerful or exceptionally clear their vision may be they only have a single perspective which makes them like a one-eyed person unable to tell the difference between reality and Trompe l'Oeil.

This is used in science. The world's largest radio telescope is not a single huge parabolic dish, but a collection of relatively small dishes spread out over a very large area. This works on the concept that adding lots of smaller points of view each with different perspectives together allows a much larger, clearer and more detailed 3 dimensional picture than is possible with one single perspective no matter how large.

In a social context the events surrounding September 11, 2001 are an example of what can happen when people have a limited perspective. Most people in the USA are still unclear why anyone would hate this country so much they would willingly die to attack it. This is just one example of how people (on both sides) with a single perspective can be blind to different points of view which unfortunately leads to confusion and harm.

The solution is simple; add perspective. When was the last time you visited another country, culture or neighbor for the specific purpose of seeing things from their perspective?

While the solution may be simple, it is not always easy. It requires listening to someone with a different point of view just because they see things differently even if they don't want to hear your point of view. What do they see and how is it different from what you see? And more importantly how does their perspective combine with yours to make a larger, clearer picture?

It takes effort to seek out and really hear people from other countries and cultures, but the reward can be immeasurable.


October, 2012 - Amid Amish.

Travel broadens the mind mostly because it makes it easier to see sights and ideas from a different point of view. In a recent trip to the Ohio Amish country several interesting details were brought out about their lifestyle. The first is the amazing amount of forethought and preparation it takes to live with a horse as primary transportation. The second was an unexpected bonus lesson.

An Amish man described what he did just to make it a dozen miles down the road to his Sunday morning meeting on time. His trip starts sometime Saturday after noon when he brings the horse into the barn from the field because he can't be running all over the field on Sunday morning chasing a horse. Then he has to get up extra early to feed and water his horse before getting breakfast for himself. Then comes the juggling act of getting cleaned, dressed, putting a horse into the harness and hitched to the carriage without getting dirty again. Now comes a whole different way of travel. People with cars that are running late tend to make up the lost time by driving a little faster. Horses don't work that way. If the horse is well rested it may be able to keep up a brisk pace for a while, but a horse running too hard too long is likely to end up walking or standing still when it gets too tired. The last part after arriving is to unhook the horse from the cart so it can rest up for the trip back home.

While this is a whole lot more involved than any car driving person may ever fully appreciate, there is a subtle and interesting thing going on just below the surface. No matter how often you talk to your car it is never going to have feelings about you like a living thing. On the other hand daily life with a horse always builds some kind of relationship. Every horse has a personality that must be taken into account when asking that horse to do a task like pulling you from one place to another without resistance, complaint or frustration. Treating a horse like a cold machine, not thinking about how the horse feels, pushing it too hard or generally being cruel all result in a horse that is unwilling to do what you want. Amish children learn this lesson very early. It is natural for them to consider the feelings of others, including animals.

This is not just an Amish thing. They just give us a glimpse into our own past. It used to be a normal part of everyday life before the horse was removed from our transportation. There are plenty of stories of milk deliveries being made well into the 1940's and 1950's with horse drawn carts where the horse not only knew the route but automatically, without a single word being spoken or gesture made, stopped at each house on that route so the milk could be delivered. This kind of working relationship is more akin to a partnership than transportation.

Maybe the old way of teaching this unspoken lesson about working together and considering the feelings of others was lost when our society moved completely away from animal based transportation. Maybe this loss partly explains the growing trend of cruelty in our society. But there is still hope. The Amish consider every living thing in this way. Why can't we? There are plenty of chances all around us every day to teach and learn this lesson if we only look.

Are you looking?


November, 2012 - Unexpected Rewards.

Conveniences like electricity can be amazingly easy to take for granted when they are so reliable we don't even give them a second thought. Modern life seems to be so tightly built around electricity that when something electric fails it leaves an empty or lost feeling. Living in a completely wired society offers wonderful things but what happens when something stops working?

Hurricane Sandy made a big impact along the East coast of the United States late last month. The wind, rain and flood damage was only the start. Normally reliable and constant utilities like electricity and connectivity suddenly were gone for a large number of people. Past outages of this kind brought a surge in births about nine months after the event so at least a few people found something to occupy their time. But is that the extent of available choices?

This question was made very personal several years ago before getting solar power installed on the recreational vehicle. The old battery failed and that left us sitting in the dark each evening. Life gets amazingly quiet without electricity. Quiet enough that a conversation could start. Each evening sitting in the dark the conversation continued without distraction or interruption. That unhurried conversation proved to be a very sweet and unexpected reward.

Every healthy relationship requires some kind of conversation. Unfortunately modern life often demands so much attention that we are robbed of precious time with the ones we love.

Don't wait for a big storm to unplug your life for a while. Take time for personal face to face conversation even if you have electricity enough to do something else.


December, 2012 - Louder Holidays.

Every December the holiday season turns up the volume on almost everything around us. Suddenly the whole world seems filled with a little more music, a little more twinkle and we are invited to be a little more social. The push is a little stronger to go gift shopping, go to parties and connect with friends and family one more time before the end of the year. This is the time of year when everyone is allowed to show affection and yet so many people feel isolated and alone. Why are these blue feelings so noticeable this time of year?

The volume boosting effect of the holiday season not only turns up the shiny happy things, but also the sad and lonely things. The feelings of being alone get louder when there is nobody around to share the season. The constant affront of advertising showing happy people with happy families and happy friends only brings more contrast for those that feel alone. Putting up decorations, playing holiday music and wrapping gifts does very little to cure loneliness.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to fight off the holiday blues even if they are not in your own living room. They all start with looking outside, maybe even right next door. Give a little attention, kindness and compassion to someone else. No matter how far down you may feel, there is always someone that could really use a friendly smile and an understanding ear just to know that someone cares enough to listen. This gift is never sold in stores, needs no wrapping and yet can make a big difference in the life of someone in need. Priceless indeed.

This year give good gifts and you may be surprised what you receive in return.