Once upon a time, while I was in the midst of discovering myself, what I believed, where my place was in this world, and what impacts I could make, I would get very frustrated to know that many people had already put me in a box based on what they believed.
Frustration is a feeling caused by a blocked goal. My goal was to explore myself and my world and that was often blocked by other people’s quick assumptions.
Today, what used to make me frustrated now fascinates me. I listen with great curiosity what people believe and why. I am drawn to every cognitive study that I can understand. I want to know more about what I consider to be self-made little prisons called belief, perhaps so I can ensure that I don’t accidentally create such a prison for myself. Perhaps so I can help people escape their own prisons. But more importantly, so I know how to interact appropriately with people who have confined themselves in a cell of beliefs.
One of the main cell bars that create this “prison of belief” are labels. We have a need to label everything we come in contact with. This is part of how we begin to understand our world from birth. We come into this world and our friends and family apply a label to everything we experience. “I am your mommy”, “Let’s drive in the car”, “A cow says moo.” All of these labels seem not only harmless but imperative. We have to have labels to have language. We have to have labels to understand relationships between things. The problem is we become addicted to labels. Everything has to have a label and those labels have to have meaning or we get anxious.
Recently a woman who is very religious and chooses to only know about her religion and close her eyes to any other religions labeled me as a Pagan. I have no religion. I have theories, but no beliefs. I have traditions, but no rituals. This was not something she had a label for, so she pulled out the incorrect label of Pagan and assigned it to me. She found this label in the history of her own religion who once taught that those without religion are Pagan. She did not understand that Pagans have beliefs and rituals and believe in spirits. I do not have beliefs and rituals. I am open to the idea of spirits. I am even open to the idea of God. Her label did not match the definition of me, but it was the only label she had that came close, so she applied it to me. Thankfully Pagan witches are no longer burned, drowned, or hung in a cage, so no harm done.
But sometimes our labels do cause harm. I recently was monitoring my young son’s debate on Facebook where he was defending the casting of a homosexual character in the new Star Wars movie. One very passionate person who opposed the idea defined the homosexual label as sexually deviant. He went further to define sexually deviant as a child molester. To him, all homosexuals were child molesters. This is a very harmful belief that distracts from the real dangers of molestation and can cost lives for many various reasons.
We are obsessed with labels and those labels direct our belief system. Labels are what define for us what is right or wrong and what our roles in life are. You are a woman so your role is to be a caregiver. You are a man so your role is to be a provider. These beliefs simplify, but they do not enable growth and exploration. Growth and exploration come when we suspend beliefs and question everything.
Why do we believe in labels? Because they give context to this crazy world. Labeling others helps us believe there is a reason behind the madness. We believe in labels because it gives us a sense that someone, some group, or something is in control.
I listen to a wonderful podcast called Hardcore History by Dan Carlin and he did a show about the start of WW1 where he opened by explaining that people believe in conspiracies because it is more comforting to think there is a secret group somewhere in control than it is to think that everything is random and that the act of one man can change the course of the world.
In the enlighting TED talk called The Power of Self-Deception, Michael Shermer gives the audience a thought-experiment. You are walking through the plains and you hear the grass ruffle. Is it the wind or a predator? If it was the wind, but you believed it was a predator, no harm done. If it was a predator and you believed it was the wind, you are dead. This thought-experiment shows why we need to label everything in our environment and why we are willing to believe the worse case scenario almost everytime.
Not long ago I posted an article on Facebook about how children raised in a secular home turn out as pretty good people. A Facebook friend questioned what would be the motive for a person to behave morally if they do not believe in God. I am fascinated by that question no matter how many times I hear it. Do we not all experience the joys of being good to each other and creating an environment of peace and happiness whether or not God exists? Perhaps, if we focused on just being good to each other more and focused less on labeling and imposing our beliefs on each other, we can find the comfort, control, and understanding that we seek when we choose to believe.
In my last post, I began exploring the concept of developing for the sake of developing. Whether it is art or technology…
If I were to ask the average person on the street if they have enough time in their life I am not sure that I could find a single person to admit that they do. However, over the past century, we have invented innumerable tools and technologies that save us time. Everything from the washing machine to e-Commerce.
So why do we feel like there still is not enough time in the day?
I suspect that it is because we are filling our days and nights moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
I do not have exact numbers, though I know they are only a Google search away, it seems that the vast majority of people in developed countries no longer spend time fretting about having their physiological needs met. And even though we are just coming out of a global recession, in the bigger scheme of things, our recessions tend to be a blink of an eye. At our darkest economic hours, we still have safety nets in place, whether through government help or our various nonprofits. As a culture, we do think about the safety of our body and wealth but more and more we have the ability to either tie our wealth to our creativity or carve out time to explore our passions.
What I am suggesting is that our vast and immediate ways for communications have pushed us up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. People spend hours on Facebook staying connected with family and friends. Strong intimate relationships are being formed through sites such as eHarmony.com, and people are collaborating to create without regard to “revenue models.”
My question is, as we move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, how do the powers that used to control our daily activities shift? For decades employees of corporations have fought for their rights and there is no longer any loyalty to a company like there was just a couple of generations ago. More and more people have the tools at hand to start their own company and support not only their financial needs but their creative needs. How does this change how corporations compete for the best talent and how that talent is treated?
How does leadership change? I have read that we are moving from a male-dominated command and control style of leadership to a feminine style of nurturing feelings and needs. I have also heard people revolt against such an idea claiming that they are at the job to get a job done, not for self-actualization. Is that true anymore or do we need to consider our employee’s self-actualization needs?
All of these questions, this huge power shift, simply because we are now connected.
One of the most significant changes the social software has enabled in the ability for people to find and connect with other people who share their passions. Not only are we able to meet and build relationships across the boundaries of time and space, but we are also able to collaborate on projects and develop new products.
By enabling people to find and connect with others and collaborate in spite of time or geographic boundaries, the social web has, in a way, given us more free time to explore our creativity and our passions. We have seen an explosion of new ideas and new products online, many are simply artistic expressions, others are tools developed because they were the types of tools the developers wanted to use, and few have been developed with the purpose of making money.
The ability for people to develop tools that they want to use or to connect with others to enhance their skills and work on their Art has been drastically shaking up the business world, not just recently, but since the web first connected people of like minds.
Chris Anderson, the author of The Long Tail, also wrote a great book called Free where he shares several case studies about how Free has shaken up traditional revenue models.
I am particularly intrigued by the Ego of Microsoft when it came to them trying to shrug of Linux.
From Free – page 106- 107
Where had Microsoft been for Linux’s first decade? Mostly hoping that the free operating system would go away or remain insignificant, like most other free software had to date. Even if it didn’t disappear completely, Microsoft executives hoped the appeal of Linux would be mostly to people who already used UNIX, rather than Microsoft’s own operating systems. That wasn’t entirely reassuring – those UNIX customers were a market Microsoft wanted, too – but it was better than direct competition. But more than anything else, Microsoft managers were confused by why any customer would want free software and all the headaches that came with products not polished to a professional sheen.
But the customers did, especially as they built larger and larger data centers to run the fast-growing Web. Maintaining one Linux server might be harder than its equivalent Microsoft counterpart, but if you’re going to deploy hundreds or thousands, learning the quirks of Linux once could save a huge amount of money down the road. By 2003, Linux’s share of the Web server market had grown closer to one-third. One way to stem the tide would have been to match the Linux price: zero. But that was simply too scary to contemplate. Instead, Microsoft mostly sniped from the sidelines.
Within the company, some engineers were already warning that Linux represented a ling-term competitive threat to Microsoft’s core business model and arguing that the company had to mount a more credible response. In 1998, one programmer circulated a memo describing open source software as a “direct revenue and platform threat to Microsoft.” The document, which was leaked and circulated as the “Halloween memo”, goes on to warn that the “free idea exchange in OSS has benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and therefore present a long term developer mindshare threat.”
But in public, Microsoft was taking a very different stance. One news report from December 1998 goes like this: “Microsoft executives dismiss open-source as hype: “Complex future projects (will) require big teams and big capital,” said Ed Muth, a Microsoft group marketing manager. “These are things that Robin Hood and his merry band in Sherwood Forest aren’t well attuned to do.”
I, personally believe that Microsoft has and will continue to lose market share because of their arrogance and Ego when it comes to competitive threats. Dysfunctional egos do not allow people to see when they are not as good as the next guy. Dysfunctional egos that come with success give people the illusion of entitlement. Ultimately, dysfunctional ego causes people to get blindsided.
originally posted on Concept Hub
A few years ago I thought of the title of the book I would like to write about social media – Defeating the Ego.
The premise of the book is that Social Media was the catalyst that helped to defeat the egos that were so prevalent in big business, big media, and big government.
Throughout the years, social media tools have enabled anyone with Internet access to express themselves, to find and connect with like-minds, to share ideas, collaborate and create alliances. These people have created products and services that have rivaled established brands. They have also created communities of trust at a time when trust was being depleted by the actions of big business, big media, and big government. These communities of people have oftentimes been the very forces that have exposed the misdealings of the big business, big media and big government.
Three years ago, as I considered writing this book, I thought that the future looked bright for smaller players who were trying to make their mark in this world. From my perspective, I saw siloed walls being knocked down enabling more connections which would lead to more innovations. I saw trust coming from good business practices as opposed to good marketing and packaging. I saw a new world emerging.
Over the past year or so I have seen the very tools that were supposed to enable communities of collaboration, innovation, and overall good business being used by spammers and marketers who simply want to use the tools as a way to broadcast their messages through new channels. However it is not coming from big business, big media and big government, it is coming from the individuals who were supposed to be empowered by these tools – not abuse these tools.
However, recently I realized that Social Media is still the catalyst that will defeat the egos.
As I see people pushing themselves through the social media channels, pounding their chest and screaming “be my friend!, follow me! I am great!” – I think to myself “how’s that working for you?”
Social Media takes time and effort and it is a shame to invest so much into a medium that will capture an inappropriate image and behavior for many years to come.
For the past few years, I have worked with businesses and organizations who knew very well that their actions online needed to be thought through, to represent what they had to offer but to also add value to the communities of people they wanted to engage with.
At the same time, I have seen others jump into the world of social media with only the idea that these new tools were their personal megaphones. Stop it – Please!
Oftentimes I explain to people that what happens online is not much different to what happens offline. The way we interact with people in our real world leads to the kinds of business relationships we have as well as the reputation we have within our community. We typically run away from those who are constantly asking us for something or pushing a product, service or idea onto us.
Perhaps what social media will bring to us is a detailed view of when our tactics do not help us reach our goal as well as insight into what is working for others. Perhaps we will see that successful engagement is not about promoting or stroking our egos, but about serving others. Perhaps we will all begin to see that to be successful we need to focus on helping others succeed more than on promoting our own success.