Can we truly renew ourselves?

We live in a very fast paced technological world, running from one place to another and tasking ourselves from one thing after another, it is not surprising that we cannot prioritise exactly what is important in our personal and business lives. Because we get so busy doing all the things we have to do, making them all seem a lot more important than they actually are, we start to panic and live in this constant state of urgency with much anxiety. As a result, we start to accumulate a lot of stress and tension into our bodies and forget what it actually feels like to relax and enjoy life.

Every person I know is looking to redefine their life personally and/or professionally. They want to know themselves better: be happier, more successful, healthier, authentic, integrated and whole Each of us is, to some extent or other, a reflection of the experiences of our lives. However, whether and how we succeed is determined at least in part by how we cope with those experiences and what we learn from them.

When I wrote my first book, ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ I described a very difficult and emotional family life with professional setbacks. My belief through my personal journey developed the strength, determination, and skills to create a successful family, business and happy life.

There is nothing more exciting than living a life of constant self-renewal. Self-renewal is the attention you give towards ensuring that your life is forward-moving, with every step bringing you closer to who you really are. It entails stripping away the old and stale, so that you become increasingly aware of the purity of your true essence.

A wonderful quote by Rabindranath Tagore where he once said: “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

Every time you renew yourself, you relate to your world with a renewed sense of aliveness, seeing beauty and colours through fresh eyes. As you experience this newness, your life-force is activated. Life, inside and outside of you, becomes enriched and inspiring.
Most people have heard the saying ‘The next big thing in your life is right around the corner.’ This is an anticipatory mind-set, one I encourage you to live with each day. Don Meyer, one of the all-time winningest college basketball coaches, once said: “Positioning, anticipation and technique create quickness. Therefore, you can always get quicker.”

It is a quote I think about often. I add to this great man’s words, by saying, when we get quicker, we get better. We become more whole. Thinking quicker, acting more on the behalf of our loved ones and ourselves we take care of family, business and find fulfilment.
Quickness manifests itself in our thoughts, as when we have quicker, sharper intellect, we act and make decisions with greater effect. Anticipation leads to excitement for living. The verve with which we carry ourselves comes from self-satisfaction of living in the moment, and a future-seeking mindset of joy, believing that things will keep getting better.

If you are feeling stuck, dull, bored, or lacking inspiration, it may be time to take steps to renew yourself.

During this period of growth and excitement, take inventory in your life. A period of renewal is a time to examine your emotions.

Here are three ways to begin this process of examination:
– Begin by thinking about all the things in your life that are holding you back. Write these down on a list. This could be things like envy of your friend or thinking negative thoughts about a loved one.
– Once you have your list, identify the key themes. In other words, what are the negative emotions that permeate your thoughts, and thus, the things you’ve written on your list? I’m willing to bet you can identify emotions like envy, anger, laziness and anxiety. These destructive emotions lead to fear. The bad kind of fear, fear of success, will always hold you back from what you want to accomplish
– Come up with a solution for all the things that hold you back. But don’t just write it down. Integrate it into your life. Start living out the solutions to the things that hold you back. A prime example of this is, if you have always doubted your ability to finish a project, like completing your work objectives or KPI’s, figure out exactly how you plan to do this. Once you know the answers, it’s so much easier to achieve the solution.

It is normal to feel stuck and uninspired from time to time. In fact, feeling stuck and uninspired is necessary for you to transition to being bigger and better. When you recognise that you have reached a point where you are stagnant in life and then do something to shake things up, you are taking an empowered step to grow to stretch yourself to actualise your highest potential. Thus, it is an opportunity to experience a new feelings of aliveness and passion… that everything is pulsating with an abundance of possibilities.

The majority of us were created with everything we need to live successfully in this world; millions of emotions, thoughts and possibilities are inside each of us. Over time that changes because we make choices about people and the world; how we’re seen and treated and what we think will truly take care of us and make us happy and successful be it money, job, relationships, owning things.

Sometimes we limit ourselves with our choices, and we go away from our true brilliance, infinite potential and purpose in life.

The good news is this: you can get back to it. Genuine happiness and success will be yours, when you make the choice to find out who you really are to know, respect and honour your rare individuality.

The greatest care and gift you can give yourself is the profound pleasure and knowledge of being able to say: ‘This is who I truly am and this is what I want in life.’

Marcus Aurelius once said:

“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”

Do we have limitless borders in today’s world?

Last week was particularly interesting and one could even go as far as to say disturbing, so much so I decided to write about these observations, which can only be described as ‘no limits’ and ‘no boundaries’ for others.

It is amazing what an influence we have on others, especially children. Yet, I sometimes ponder on the fact that we are reluctant today to say anything is ‘wrong’; that even using the word ‘wrong’ can be branded as being ‘negative’ or too aggressive.

We hear the expressions “no limits” and “no boundaries” presented as a philosophy of life that is positive.

Interesting research showed that nearly a third of people questioned for a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said they had personally been a victim of yobbish behaviour, illicit behaviour or had witnessed an incident in the 12 months.

More than eight out of 10 people say anti-social behaviour has risen in England and Wales over the past 12 months, the Government’s main crime survey has revealed.

It is not uncommon to hear people experience these behaviours – what 20th Century psychiatrist Erik H. Erikson called “the problem of identity”.

Why are so many today troubled with “the problem of identity”?

There may be many reasons, but one is clearly the philosophy of ‘no limits, no boundaries’.

Could you imagine a game of football with no boundaries, no rules, no posts, no clock or no scoreboard?

How do we know ourselves? By our boundaries, our limits, by having some sort of order in our life. There are those who live by no boundaries, but this way of life often ends with a jail sentence.

It is a very good thing to stretch our limits, to raise the bar, but even those dudes on You Tube doing “parkour” don’t jump off cliffs! Well, not many of them. They realise that even parkour has its limits.

Boundaries become most significant when considering children. In a world where children can and are caught up in an emotional, physical and spiritual shipwreck if their boundaries are crumbling, it is important that firm boundaries are set to ensure that the child grows with confidence and knowledge to tackle life’s challenges.

If you’ve ever had a written contract or tenure dishonoured on you, you become a devoted fan of boundaries very quickly. Liars, despots, dictators, cult-leaders, and corruption all show that a world with uncertain boundaries and laws is anything but beautiful.
By contrast, in daily life we hope that people are reasonably faithful to who they really are. With the rapid expansion of social life in cyberspace, judging the authenticity of identity has become complicated.

In 1969, before cell phones, laptops, and smart watches, Americans were willing to believe that men walked on the moon. Now, progress toward eradicating deadly infectious diseases is threatened by a growing number of parents who have misgivings about childhood vaccines and delay or refuse vaccinations for their children (American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2014). In a time of sophisticated video editing, anonymous posting, and computer-generated imagery, we can’t be certain if an online video is a hoax, a secure website is safe, or an email is from whom it purports to be.

We understand who we are partly in terms of our role in relationships and in terms of social comparison. As we spend more and more time in cyber-society, we should be wary of becoming dependent upon it for our sense of identity. For some people, engagement in social media has extended their sense of self to the identity they have in cyberspace. Their smart device can become an extension of their self. If a person has become so attached to their smart device that they are stressed when separated even briefly, he or she might need to re-evaluate the social priorities in their life. We are so much more than the number of likes we score on social media. Being with the ones we love brings satisfaction and fulfilment to our lives. Virtual reality should enrich and extend our relationships, not replace them.

Relationships that evolve around more eclectic interests are more complex. Socially richer, they can meet emotional needs and foster a sense of bonding and belonging. However, the same warp speed that facilitates the birth and growth of these friendships can also torpedo them when online communication reveals an unexpected negative trait, belief, or opinion. Virtual is not identical to face-to-face communication. Unlike face-to-face, online conversation lacks the contextual cues and body language, intonation, and personal feedback that can correct misunderstandings or modulate the severity of reactions or expressions. Online rants can be or appear to be less tolerant, unforgiving personal attacks or hypercritical judgment. The virtual essence of the online world creates psychological distance that diminishes the regular limits on extreme behaviour, such as public accountability, consequences, or even social-emotional feedback of facial expression and body language cues. Such distancing can result in more extreme offensive language, behaviour’s, or threats.

Unlike real life, online relationships can vaporize suddenly with an unfriending or simply an end to responding. In daily life, we can use our next encounter to apologize, explain or correct. The online world might offer no such opportunity. Moving from one such experience to another can ultimately invalidate them all, as they become devoid of substance or meaning. This might explain in part why people feel worse after spending time on social media. Research suggests that some people feel social media time was wasted or meaningless.

If an online experience has become hostile, it isn’t always easy to disconnect. Research has shown that many people become anxious or stressed when not in constant contact with their online social life. hey worry that they might be missing something important or will be left out as the online culture goes on without them. Even terminating a particular relationship online can produce anxiety, as a user cannot know what communications are taking place that they are now blind to. As the two worlds intersect, stress can result from the fear that escalating online hostility will spill over into real life.

While there are several reasons for using social networking, it appears that its main function is for increased contact with friends and family along with increased engagement in social activities. However, research has shown that young adults with a strong Facebook presence were more likely to exhibit narcissistic antisocial behavior; while excessive use of social media was found to be strongly linked to underachievement at school.

So, if you take roughly 1.2 billion Facebook users and 450 million people suffering from mental disorders, what do you get? A global pandemic that’s showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

A matter of contention prevalent within the media, several studies have shown that social networking – Facebook in particular – can have detrimental effects on our well-being. Researchers from the University of Michigan assessed Facebook usage over a fortnight and found that the more people that used it, the more negativity they experienced concerning their day-to-day activities; as well as over time, incurring higher levels of dissatisfaction with their life overall.

We understand who we are partly in terms of our role in relationships and in terms of social comparison. As we spend more and more time in cyber-society, we should be wary of becoming dependent upon it for our sense of identity. For some people, engagement in social media has extended their sense of self to the identity they have in cyberspace. Their smart device can become an extension of their self. If a person has become so attached to their smart device that they are stressed when separated even briefly, he or she might need to re-evaluate the social priorities in their life. We are so much more than the number of likes we score on social media. Being with the ones we love brings satisfaction and fulfilment to our lives. Virtual reality should enrich and extend our relationships, not replace them.

I great quote by B. R. Ambedkar, he once said:

“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.”

“Let’s have some tea and continue to talk about happy things!”

It’s hard to imagine that the humble biscuit could be of been an intrinsic part of our nation’s imperialist past but, in fact, the 19th-century expansion of the British Empire owes much to Huntley & Palmers’ Ginger Nuts and Bath Olivers. Many famous expeditions were fuelled by such delicacies: Henry Stanley set off in search of Dr. Livingstone with supplies of them, and Captain Scott’s hut at Cape Evans on Ross Island still contains tins of Huntley & Palmers biscuits, specially developed for the expedition, that were left there in 1911.

‘Fancy’ biscuits, as opposed to those eaten for health purposes, were first produced commercially in Britain in the early 19th century. Peek Frean, McVitie’s and Jacob’s all became household names but, certainly in terms of collecting, it is Huntley & Palmers that stands out today.

I was an incredible proud grandson, my Grandfather started his working life in industry with Huntley and Palmers. He came to be liked by Lord Palmer and his family, in running the UK operations, before being sent to Paris to set-up and manage the firm’s first French biscuit factory, located near Paris. Grandfather always amused me as a child informing me around the challenges of managing and running a biscuit operation in France that was to educate the French in English biscuits. He always amused me with his stories and wisdom, and this was always shared over tea and of course with a Huntley and Palmer biscuit, Grandfather said ‘there was always a new biscuit for every occasion’, we always shared biscuits which sparked new conversations, incredibly precious moments.

Huntley and Palmer’s had quite a success story in their day, the company was opened by a Quaker, Joseph Huntley, in London Street, Reading, in 1822. As the business expanded, he was joined by his cousin, George Palmer, in 1841. The firm acquired a site on King’s Road in Reading five years later and by 1860 had expanded into the biggest biscuit and cake manufacturer in the world, turning out 3,200 tons of biscuits a year. By 1900, there were so many Macaroons, Pic Nics and Osbornes (named after Queen Victoria’s favourite palace) being made, that there were over 5,000 employees and Reading was known as ‘Biscuit Town’. Thanks to some superb marketing, the export trade was enormous too, with biscuits distributed across the globe. Ten per cent of total production went to India alone, presumably so that the Governor of Bengal and his chums could enjoy a good Thin Abernethy (‘made from the Choicest Materials’) with their tea.

The story of Huntley and Palmers

Huntley & Palmers was very much in Palmer control for the foreseeable future. By their combination of managerial and entrepreneurial talent the company flourished.

The eating habits of the middle classes were changing, and by the late 1860s it was fashionable to take afternoon tea. This provided the perfect market for biscuits, by which time Huntley & Palmers were producing about one hundred varieties, of which the Ginger Nut, Gem and Nic Nac were especially popular.

So, what happened to tea and biscuits, our afternoon tea, and our meaningful conversations with family and friends?

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner.

The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.

This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.
Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served. Tea grown in India or Ceylon is poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.

Nowadays however, in the average suburban home, afternoon tea is rare; likely to be just a biscuit or small cake and a mug of tea, usually produced using a teabag.

Has tea, family and friend’s discussions, meaningful conversations with others, just disappeared in the face of a busy life, technology overload and ‘do we just not have time?’

Once upon a time the biggest technological nuisance for the family was the phone ringing during dinner time. It is now common to see our loved ones hunched over their phones or tablets as they take one distracted bite of their food after another.

Once the plates are cleared the family might move to the living room for some television, but while the family may have once watched the program together, the new normal is to envelop yourself in a technological cocoon for the night.

Each person may catch the occasional glimpse of the show, but their attention is now being split between chatting with friends on the phone, watching YouTube clips and answering work emails.

Our fixation with technology has created new routines that are very different from traditional notions of family time.
The increasing ways we are using technology in isolation from one another is reflected by the latest figures from Britain’s communications regulator, Ofcom. A recent study found that for the first-time children aged between 12 and 15 are spending as much time online as they are watching television, about 17 hours a week for each.

Many of these children are now not even bothering to sit in the lounge room with the family when they are online, with 20 per cent of five-year-olds now more likely to be alone in their bedroom when online.

Even special family occasions are now infiltrated by mobile technologies.

The home is where children learn their values, specifically what is important in family life. Building a warm and cohesive connections are crucial not only for our own family, but for society as a whole.

The internet has irrevocably blurred the boundaries between work and home, meaning many parents are still working in one form or another when they are at home with their family. What message does a child receive when he or she is telling a story about something important that happened at school and mum stops listening to reply to an urgent message from the office?

Technology is now an integral part of our lives, the impact of culture in technology on children relationships is more noticeable than in families. This divide has grown due to the increased use of technology among children in several ways. First, children’s absorption in technology, from texting to playing video games, does by their very nature limit their availability to communicate with their parents.

Times have changed. New technology offers children independence from their parents’ involvement in their social lives, with the use of mobile phones, instant messaging, and social networking sites. Of course, children see this technological divide between themselves and their parents as freedom from over-involvement and intrusion on the part of their parents in their lives. Parents, in turn, see it as a loss of connection to their children and an inability to maintain reasonable oversight, for the sake of safety and over-all health, of their children’s lives. At the same time, perhaps a bit cynically, children’s time-consuming immersion in technology may also mean that parents don’t have to bother with entertaining their children, leaving them more time to themselves.

There is little doubt that technology is affecting family relationships on a day-to-day level. Children are instant messaging constantly, checking their social media, listening to music, surfing their favorite web sites, and watching television or movies. Because of the emergence of mobile technology, these practices are no longer limited to the home, but rather can occur in cars, at restaurants, in fact, anywhere there’s a mobile phone signal.

The fact is that family life has changed in the last generation quite apart from the rise of technology. Add technology to the mix and it only gets worse. It’s gotten to the point where it seems like parents and children are emailing and texting each other more than they’re talking even when they’re at home together!

The ramifications of this distancing are profound. Less connection — the real kind — means that families aren’t able to build relationships as strong as they could be nor are they able to maintain them as well. As a result, children will feel less familiarity, comfort, trust, security, and, most importantly, love from their parents.

So, what is the answer? Change and transformation is always challenging in any environment and sometimes faced with strong reluctance, some of the best moments of my life have been spent with my grandparents in cheer and of course with tea and Huntley and Palmer biscuits.

Pope Francis recently addressed some participants, reminding them of the pre-eminence of love. “The life of a family is filled with beautiful moments: rest, meals together, walks in the park or the countryside, visits to grandparents or to a sick person… But if love is missing, joy is missing, nothing is fun. Jesus always gives us that love: he is its endless source.” He also exhorted people to learn from the wisdom of grandparents: “[A person or] people that does not listen to grandparents is one that dies! Listen to your grandparents.”

While your children and parenting will have many influences on their moral development, you always play the biggest role. You are their first teacher and role model. They look to you to learn how to act in the world.

While your words are important, it will be your actions that will teach them the most. How are your actions guiding your children in living up to your highest values?

There is a big difference between knowing about values and actually trying to adopt the traits. Often standing up for your values takes courage and strength, grandparents can be a huge help and influence on your children’s life in this chaotic, overcrowded, technological world that we all live in.

As my grandparents would always say to me and as this quote states from Chaim Potok:

“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.”

Can you really fall in love with a Robot?

Our company has just started to work with a new client who has developed a humanised robot, which they describe as a ‘social robot’. It is clear by my work to date with this company that advances in robotics and AI are starting to gain some real momentum. In the coming decades, scientists predict robots will take over more and more jobs including white collar ones, and gain ubiquity in the home, school, and work spheres.

Due to this, roboticists and AI experts, social scientists, psychologists, and others are speculating what impact it will have on us and our world. Google and Oxford have teamed up to make a kill switch should AI initiate a robot apocalypse.

One way to overcome this is to imbue AI with emotions and empathy, to make them as human-like as possible, so much so that it may become difficult to tell robots and real people apart. In this vein, scientists have wondered if it might be possible for a human to fall in love with a robot, considering we are moving toward fashioning them after our own image. Spike Jonze’s Her and the movie Ex Machina touch on this.

Can you fall in love with a robot?
http://edition.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2017/04/10/can-you-all-in-love-with-a-robot.cnn

Interesting enough both the film ‘Ex Machina’, in which a computer programmer falls in love with a droid, may not be as far-fetched as you think.

A new study has found that humans have the potential to emphasise with robots, even while knowing they do not have feelings.
It follows previous warnings from experts that humans could develop unhealthy relationships with robots, and even fall in love with them.

The discovery was made after researchers asked people to view images of human and humanoid robotic hands in painful situations, such as being cut by a knife. After studying their electrical brain signals, they found humans responded with similar immediate levels of empathy to both humans and robots.

After studying their electrical brain signals, they found humans responded with similar immediate levels of empathy to both humans and robots.

But the beginning phase of the so-called ‘top-down’ process of empathy was weaker toward robots.

The study was carried out by researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology and Kyoto University in Japan, and provides the first neurophysiological evidence of humans’ ability to empathise with robots.

These results suggest that we empathise with humanoid robots in a similar way to how we empathise with other humans.
Last month, a robot ethicist warned that AI sex dolls could ‘contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men and women and women’

Scientists suggest that we’re unable to fully take the perspective of robots because their body and mind – if it exists – are very different from ours.

‘I think a future society including humans and robots should be good if humans and robots are prosocial,’ study co-author Michiteru Kitazaki told Inverse.

‘Empathy with robots as well as other humans may facilitate prosocial behaviors. Robots that help us or interact with us should be empathised by humans.’

Experts are already worried about the implication of humans developing feelings for robots.

The question we all need to ask is ‘do we fear a future of love with a real human to be a happy to substitute to a robot’ the idea that a real, living, breathing human could be replaced by something that is almost, but not exactly, the same thing, well, actually a robot.

By now you’ve probably heard the story of Tay, Microsoft’s social AI experiment that went from “friendly millennial girl” to genocidal misogynist in less than a day. At first, Tay’s story seems like a fun one for anyone who’s interested in cautionary sci-fi. What does it mean for the future of artificial intelligence if a bot can embody the worst aspects of digital culture after just 16 hours online?

If any AI is given the vastness of human creation to study at lightning speed, will it inevitably turn evil?

Will the future be a content creation battle for their souls?

Society is now driven by the social connections you hold, the likes and your preferences of relevancy, the movie Her is described with a complex nature, a man who is inconsolable since he and his wife separated. Theodore is a lonely man in the final stages of his divorce. When he’s not working as a letter writer, his down time is spent playing video games and occasionally hanging out with friends. He decides to purchase the new OS1, which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness,” the ad states. Theodore quickly finds himself drawn in with Samantha, the voice behind his OS1. As they start spending time together they grow closer and closer and eventually find themselves in love. Having fallen in love with his OS, Theodore finds himself dealing with feelings of both great joy and doubt. As an OS, Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t, but how does she help him deal with his inner conflict of being in love with an OS?

Though technically unfeasible by today’s AI standards, the broad premise of the movie is more realistic than most people may think. Indeed, in the past 10 years our lives have been transformed by technology and love is no exception. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s no better time to examine some of the recent developments in this area.

Taobao, China’s version of Amazon, offers virtual girlfriends and boyfriends for around $2 (£1.20) per day. These are real humans, but they only relate with their paying customers via the phone – calls or text – in order to perform fairly unromantic tasks such as wake up calls, good night calls, and (perhaps the most useful service) “sympathetically listen to clients’ complaints”. If this is all you expect from a relationship, it at least comes at a cheap price.

Similar services already exist in India, where biwihotohaisi.com helps bachelors “practice” for married life with a virtual wife, and Japan, where “romance simulation games” are popular with men and women, even when they feature animated avatars rather than human partners.

In many of today’s most fascinating visions of future love, the body itself seems like a relic of the past. In Her, for example, we encounter a social landscape where love between humans and machines doesn’t require a physical body at all. Instead we watch as Theo shares his most personal moments with an AI who he never actually touches, but who conveys intimacy through talking, sharing messages, drawings, ideas and sexual fantasies. In our current social climate, where dating often means scrolling through photos and written bios rather than interacting with people in person, the idea that you could fall in love with your computer doesn’t seem so far-fetched. After all, we are already used to more disembodied forms of communication, and, as many older generations continue to lament, many young people today are more likely to text or sext than actually establish in-person kinds of intimacy.

AI is the perfect sounding board for these modern anxieties about human connection, and 20th- and 21st-century films are filled with dystopian landscapes that showcase the loneliness of a world where intimacy is something you can buy. In many of these films, from classics such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to more modern movies like Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, the creators and consumers of AI are male, while the AI themselves are female. The patriarchal underpinning of this is vividly explored in sci-fi such as The Stepford Wives and Cherry 2000, where we are ushered into worlds where compliant and submissive female robots are idealized by their male creators as the epitome of perfection, and always exist completely under their thumb. The female robots we meet in these films cook, clean, are unfailingly supportive and are always sexually available, in addition to being exceptionally beautiful. These sex-bots have also become both a mainstay of humor, from the sexy goofiness of 80s films such as Weird Science and Galaxina, to the cheeky and slightly more socially aware comedies in the 90s, with the frilly, busty fembots of Austen Powers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s charmingly dippy “Buffy-bot”

Serge Tisseron, a French Psychiatrist who studies the relationships between youth, the media and images and the effect of information and communication technology on young people, reminds that, despite signs of attachments from the robot, the relation can and will always be one way.

Serge insists on the importance of a reflection around the ethical issues to avoid the destruction of human relations. Because of their interactions with efficient, high-performing and helpful robots, humans could end up being disappointed with other humans altogether, especially on a professional level. Or, we could eventually abandon our responsibilities completely and rely solely on robots to take care of our loved ones. In the end, this could result in a serious withdrawal from the human world and could affect our ability to live in society.

A final thought is that no one knows what the future holds, if robots will manage to develop their conscience and emotions but in any case, there needs to be enough preparations for their development and integration to society.

A great quote by Colin Angle:

“In the smart home of the future, there should be a robot designed to talk to you. With enough display technology, connectivity, and voice recognition, this human-interface robot or head-of-household robot will serve as a portal to the digital domain. It becomes your interface to your robot-enabled home.”

Is the world really out of control?

After the worst shooting atrocity in American history, the question, macabre but inevitable, arises once again: “How do we respond to a world that seems out of control?”

The world and its people are changing and losing knowledge. Females and males are losing virginity as early as 10 years old. The crime rate is increasing daily. Every tenth of a second a crime takes place somewhere in this world. Children are disobeying their parents, teachers have no control over the behaviour of children, mental health is at an all-time high in every society in the world.

Entire countries are poor and their population is literally starving to death while diseases eat away at them. Bad weather is increasing. Meteors hitting earth are increasing, hurricanes and tornadoes are increasing, the summers are hotter than usual and the winters are colder. Earthquakes are being felt in places where they should not be felt, earthquakes are happening in places where there are not even fault lines. Wild fires across the globe are destroying many many acres of land and destroying civilization.

The ozone hole is getting bigger, oil prices are rising and oil reserves are getting lower each day. The prices of goods and services are rising and the value of the world currency is lowering. Many new hurtful laws are going in effect and more and more people are experiencing some type of illness.

What are people to do about these major challenges?

Have these things been happening all throughout history and no one realised it or is things getting worse and making people pay attention to it?

The world seems that way because it is out of control the sun rises whether we want it to or not, the toaster breaks, someone cuts you off on your way to work. We’ve never had control. We have the illusion of control when things go the way we think they should. And when they do not, we say we have lost control, and we long for some sort of enlightened state beyond all this, where we imagine we’ll have control again. But what we really want is peace. We think that by having control or becoming “enlightened” (and no one knows what that means) we’ll find peace.

All around us things are changing. People are talking about disruption: personal lives being disrupted, businesses being disrupted, society being disrupted. This disruption, this change, is coming from lots of directions: technology, things that are happening in the world, the connected globalisation, urbanisation, the changing and ageing demographics, the refugee problems, politics, terrorism, the mobility of people, climate change.

One of the notable issues is that fear tends to dominate. Some people are finding themselves and their organisations in the scared quadrant as they don’t see the opportunities or they focus on the things that go wrong and are risky. How people react in uncertain moments is a good indicator of how they will react in the future.

Digital transformation is one of the largest of our time, translated in business model disruption, new services, cybercrime and new devices in an app- or bot- centric world, and disruption in our ability to cultivate new multi-generational talent and respond to a rapidly changing marketplace. We create more data than people can consume. We used to talk about innovation trends as if they were in silos. The trends are still important and have impact by themselves, but their combined impact will be much greater. We need to change how we think about business to remain successful and productive as individuals and as organisations.

We can see it happening all around us with accessible, affordable, adaptable technologies that are changing the way we live and work, becoming so fundamental to our lives that they are even shifting our understanding of what it means to be human. The adoption of new technologies is accelerating and technological breakthroughs are speeding up. It took radio thirty-eight years to reach 50 million users, TV thirteen years, iPod four years, internet three years, Facebook one year and Twitter just three quarters of a year.
While the digital economy holds great opportunity, it also brings new risks and challenges. So, what’s at stake?

To understand the future, we need to look at the past. Half a century ago, the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 was around seventy-five years. Now it’s less than fifteen years and declining even further. If we look at the Fortune 500 companies in 1955, 88% of them have disappeared since the year 2000. That means that only sixty are left. They went broke, they were taken over, they merged or they were split into pieces. In five to ten years from now a large portion of today’s companies will probably have an offering that doesn’t exist yet. Companies are going to change massively, and the rate of change is just accelerating.

Maybe, Charles Dickens, had a point when he quoted in ‘A Tale of Two Cities (1859), set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution’, when he said:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, …”

Do we really have first world challenges?

I was recent in a trivia debate with a good friend discussing who invented the pie chart, honestly I looked completed at the ceiling when he said Florence Nightingale, I challenged him to the real answer which was William Playfair (22 September 1759 – 11 February 1823) – he was a Scottish engineer and political economist, the founder of graphical methods of statistics. He invented several types of diagrams: in 1786 the line, area and bar chart of economic data, and in 1801 the pie chart and circle graph, used to show part-whole relations.

We both discussed the challenges of that era, 1759 in Scotland was described as a period called the Enlightenment, a Golden Age in the arts, sciences, industry and commerce, so what was so different to the present day?

In 1759 we had the battle of Quebec, Guinness was first formed and James Watt invented the steam engine, today we have unsettlement and war in the middle east and an app and robot for practically any function and desire in life, were people so unhappy in the 1759 era believing they have 1st World Challenges and change?

According to urbandictionary.com, “first world problems” are defined as “[p]roblems from living in a wealthy, industrialised nation that third world persons would probably roll their eyes at.” There is even an entire website dedicated to highlighting the petty complaints and struggles faced by people in the first world.

This video named First World Challenge, gives some insight to the pettiness and struggles faced by people in the first world:

The people I hear using this phrase are usually relatively socially conscious. I think the intentions behind this term are probably genuine and rooted in the desire to check their privilege. Still, this term is half-baked in its intentions, and I think we can do better in this realm of social consciousness.

We need to examine the rhetoric involved in conversations surrounding privilege, the distribution of wealth, industrialised societies, and the global South. Specifically, I want to take this opportunity to consider the sorts of things that the phrase “first world problems” implies. As feminist and writer Laurie Penny recently wrote in her article, “Gender Neutral Language is Coming Here’s Why It Matters,” the terminology we use has a lot of power over the way we perceive the world around us.

It is a known fact that the way of life in our developed regions is having negative impacts on the environment. Although we are witnessing increasing levels of consciousness regarding consumption, we are still far off a sustainable mode of conduct. One person consuming on our current level might not have a wide impact on our nature. But billions of people make negative impacts of scale. You shopping a chocolate latte in a disposable cup might not be bad, but millions of cups make up for a complete landfill. Seemingly harmless choices multiplied by sheer quantity and automation potentially leads to tremendous negative results. Or to put it into another great German saying: ‘Small animals, too, create manure.’

But, changes are on the way, right? We are shopping the highest number of sustainable products than ever before and the invention of new efficient technologies is seemingly rising. Unfortunately, our efforts for more resource-efficiency don’t always work out. Fuel-savings in home heating technologies, for instance, has increased the size of homes people have built for themselves. This in turn has lowered the effect of fuel-savings, as less energy usage on more volume today equals more energy usage on less volume from before. In the end, we are still consuming the same amount of fuel. This principle is called the “rebound effect” and has had tremendous negative effects on our environment. It leaves us with a bitter truth: we might think that we are changing to a more sustainable lifestyle, while in fact we are consuming and thus wasting more than before.

To make matters worse, we are exporting our societal and ecological issues elsewhere. As most products are not made in Europe, North America or Australia, problems are accumulating in countries of the global south, where most production takes place. For us, this turned out to be the perfect mix. We crave cheap consumer products, but we are also asking for clean air, well-paying jobs and good regulation. By exporting most of the negative effects, we can easily live under the impression that we are consuming more sustainably, while others bear the burden. This leaves the global north with a huge challenge: we are unable to see our negative effects because we are very effective at hiding the real price of our actions, either through seemingly sustainable practices or through exporting our external costs.

There is one area, however, where we are able to see that our levels of consumption have backlashes: a rising number of diseases of affluence. Although it is quite clear, that a person living in poverty is more prone to diseases – especially to infectious diseases – our abundant lifestyle has had negative effects on our own health, too. In the global north non-communicable diseases, like obesity, asthma or cancer are on the rise. But it is the less obvious and less visible diseases that are most detrimental. Take mental illnesses as an example. In Germany, there is estimated to be between half a million to 1 million people with severe mental illnesses. Mental illness is a collective term for many different forms of mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression or drug addiction.

These illnesses are called severe if they are persistent and constrain a person in their everyday-life. The cause of the constant rise of mental diseases since the 1950s in the global north is not totally clear, but it seems to be connected to isolation and personal overload. Our liberation from conservative systems, our ability to choose for ourselves who we want to be, puts us into a dangerous situation. We are constantly confronted with too many choices and inflated demands. Suddenly, seven different types of chocolate ice cream might be six too many. What is clear, though, is that people with mental illnesses have more troubles finding a job, often leaving them without an income and even more isolated. They are amongst others more prone to poverty and for failed marriages. With too few people talking about this huge societal issue – but with rising numbers of people with mental illnesses, the problem will become more pressing and there will be a search for more and better integration.

Income per household in the global north is rising constantly. This in turn improves our material quality of life. But this improvement is by far not accessible to everyone. The most marginalized (and seldom addressed) groups in Germany are still lacking access to some of the most basic societal services: hundreds of thousands of women over the age of 65 for instance live on less than 400 Euro a month – and the number is growing. These women are being punished today for having raised children in the past and putting family before their career. This problem will grow even further in the upcoming years and extend to all new retirees – female and male. By 2030, it is estimated that every second retiree will be living in poverty. On the other side of the trench, the German super-rich elite is on the rise – slowly but steadily. Looking at the rising Gini coefficient for wealth in Germany, it becomes apparent that less and less people own more and more of German assets.

Our society is growing more an more unequal. If this trend of inequality continues, we might get into serious trouble. Our society is built on a fragile equilibrium. Imagine the overall energy (time, effort, resources, etc) that is needed in order for our societal system to work. We are constantly busy maintaining the current state of our infrastructure and the social order we rely upon. All the gardeners, janitors, repairmen, doctors, lawyers, politicians and chocolate ice-cream makers spend most of their time just keeping the system running. Day in and day out they go to work to pull all the little levers so that you can drink your chocolate chai latte with soy milk “to go” every morning. This balance is, as improbable as it sometimes may seem, quite frail. We have to constantly fix and improve the status quo so that our society can prosper. The higher the developmental status of our societal systems, the higher its fragility becomes. Inequality might pose the biggest challenge for this societal equilibrium.

Using the third world as a means of noticing how lucky we are implies that value is in material things. It shifts focus from the fact that our own culture of consumption makes us not as good at counting our blessings as we should be. We are often so preoccupied with wanting more stuff and stressing over petty material things because our culture and our economy are so deeply intertwined with consumption. For a healthy economy, it is critical that we go on feeling this way. In citing “first world problems,” we focus instead on our relative luck over those living in some arbitrary “third world,” as defined in material terms. We are reinforcing the idea that there is inherent value in material stuff. To me, it sounds like we are suffering a case of idolatry

This video, I think puts life into prospective:

To be a White Whiner your complaint must convey, simultaneously, that you are both fortunate and irritated. Nothing gets people whining more than flying to an exotic location so they do not lose their holiday time at the end of the year. A study was carried out among 2,000 adults aged between the ages of 18 and 65, with alleged 1st World Challenges and the results are listed below:
• Earphones becoming tangled in your bag, Weetabix not fitting into a round breakfast bowl and weak tea have been named on the list of common British first world problems.
• Problems range from the trivial – the shop running out of semi-skimmed milk or remote control batteries running out – to the downright ridiculous.
• Some of the more absurd worries include: “Heel getting stuck in the decking of a boat or yacht” or “a neighbour using the same Laura Ashley wallpaper”.
• A spokesman for survey website, OnePoll, which carried out the study, said: “Sometimes we forget just how good we’ve got it.
• “While we enjoy a lifestyle much more fortunate than some parts of the world, we still find time to moan about those more trivial problems during everyday life.
• “Of course it’s frustrating that our earphones get tangled, or that some shops only sell cheap wine when you want to splash out a bit.
• “But when these moments occur, we should take a second and reflect on what aspects of our life aren’t so problematic”.

Meanwhile, we are also failing to acknowledge that it is the same system that brings us an unbalanced level of material wealth, which creates much of the poverty and exploitation for those living in poor countries. This is where we ought to put our focus. Having too much stuff to consume in our commercial culture is not psychologically healthy for anyone.

When we complain about how putting frozen water into our water makes it too cold, we should check ourselves. It’s important to feel gratitude and to not sweat the small stuff in our lives, to be happy with what we have and to appreciate when our basic needs are consistently met. Yet we should not do so at the expense of other people.

What we are actually doing when we exclaim ‘first world problems’ is projecting our white guilt onto people in the third world. Even defining first world problems as things “third worlders would probably roll their eyes at” is a projection. We are assuming this based on our own sense of guilt and Western ways of thinking. This is rather presumptuous because in actuality we have no idea how people residing in the third world would react to hearing our first world problems.

Finally, I feel we need to question the very ways we define what is poor and what is third world. We need to stop equating “first” with industrial output and consumption. We must realise that these labels don’t fit. There are many poor people in the industrialised, first world and there are wealthy, intelligent, wise, talented, and complex individuals living the third world.

A great quote by Lee Kuan Yew which rings reality to some of the alleged 1st World Challenges, he once said:

“What I fear is complacency. When things always become better, people tend to want more for less work.”

If you can tweet you can become president…

I was recently having a fascinating discussion with a CEO of a technology company around leadership, the weaknesses and social media as the communication link to their image, when the recently elected president of the United States of America came to mind.
It’s bizarre really, but the facts are: Donald Trump is the first Twitter president of the United States of America.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News recently, Trump put into words what many people have long been suspecting, that were it not for his mastery of hyperbole in 140 characters, he would not now be occupying the most powerful office on Earth. “Let me tell you about Twitter,” the president began. “I think that maybe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter.”
Combine together his followers on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram, @Potus and “lots of other things”, Trump said, and he has the combined ability to publish directly to as many as 100 million people.

All jokes aside, whilst the truth maybe the fact that Twitter, Facebook, Instragram @Potus and other platforms may attract his following of interested fans, the question you need to ask yourself is exactly what cost is his presidency costing the United States just as you could question a CEO of a FTSE 100 company that used Social Media to obtain his or her position in the same?

My company is often being approached by executive boards of companies that question their existing leadership decisions in people, it is clear that people love the title of CEO, but do they have or are able to execute the skills to the business that will make the change necessary to drive the company to profitability and growth?

If we take a look at some basic facts:
• We are in the worst economic circumstances we have faced in almost 100 years
• It is forecasted to get worse before we hit bottom
• There are many organizations who have already executed large scale reductions in force and they will be followed by others
• Layoffs, reductions in force, or whatever you want to call them cause anxiety, trauma and lost productivity

Here are some of the facts about poor leadership costing a loss in productivity to American businesses that I found out in an article published at Harvard Business Review

According to one of the workplace reports by Gallup, 50% of the working professionals in US merely put their time in at office, 20% often represent their discontent via missings their days on job, driving customers away or influencing the co-workers in a negative way. Only the remaining 30% are committed towards their work. What’s the reason behind it? ‘poor leadership’.

In fact, while researching for their book ‘Leading People’, the authors Rosen and Brown came up with the findings that the current state of poor leadership is costing more than half of their human potential to the American companies.

The numbers are self-explanatory as to how much does poor leadership cost a business in terms of productivity.

Loss of human resources
Loss of human resources does not only mean the employees leaving the organisation. Well, that’s the ultimate loss, but a big loss is when the employees are not being used as per their full potential.

Poor resource management is one of the key tell tales of weak leadership, that can bring a downfall for the company. No matter how experienced and expert your resources are, if they are not utilised rightfully they are not going to benefit the business. This will ultimately lead to loss of resources, more so it will bring the loss of your company.

Successful leadership is all about having the right people, with the right abilities, in the right place, at the right time!

Loss of revenues
According to the same report by Gallup that was mentioned in the second point it has been found that poor leadership alone costs American companies a loss of more than half a trillion dollar each year.

According to the Cost of Poor Leadership Calculator created by DDI, a leading firm that conducts corporate researches, it was found out that one poor leader costs leadership around $126,000 over just one year owing to loss of productivity, and employee turnover issues.

Corporations are victims of the great training robbery. American companies spend enormous amounts of money on employee training and education $160 billion in the United States and close to $356 billion globally in 2015 alone, but they are not getting a good return on their investment. For the most part, the learning doesn’t lead to better organisational performance, because people soon revert to their old ways of doing things.

In another survey The Conference Board CEO Challenge®, more than 1,000 respondents indicated that human capital remains their top challenge, with customer relationships rising in importance in the past two years. Also, operational excellence and innovation remain vitally important for driving business growth and ensuring a sustainable future. These challenges, albeit in varying order, were the top challenges in all four regions included in the survey: the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

When asked about the strategies to address the human capital challenge, 4 of the top 10 strategies CEOs selected are focused on leadership: improve leadership development programs, enhance the effectiveness of senior management teams, improve the effectiveness of frontline supervisors and managers, and improve succession planning. CEOs know their organisations cannot retain highly engaged, high-performing employees without effective leaders who can manage, coach, develop, and inspire their multigenerational, globally dispersed, and tech-savvy teams.

CEOs also were asked to identify the leadership attributes and behaviors most critical to success as a leader. The top five prominent in every region globally were:
• Retaining and developing talent.
• Managing complexity.
• Leading change.
• Leading with integrity.
• Having an entrepreneurial mind-set.

So how can leadership improve?
First, leadership capability efforts are not necessarily hardwired to business strategy. This will always lead to initiatives that are disconnected and inconsistent across the organisation, diluting the overall focus on the core leadership behaviors to cultural and business change.

Without properly aligning current leadership capability against business goals, you miss the opportunity to identify key gaps, running the risk of focusing on the wrong things.

Second, almost all of the focus is on quality of content; how well we execute takes a back seat. This becomes even more difficult when you are trying to scale efforts across the enterprise or across different countries and cultures. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, one-third of a leadership program’s success is related to content and two-thirds are determined by the quality of the implementation.

Finally, despite the best of intentions, many efforts produce no lasting change in terms of behavior and results. Don’t be drawn in by the hype of five-minute videos and digitized options. This type of learning can be engaging, but like a quick-fix diet, they don’t work.
Failure to examine the big data and analytics to help understand (and react to) the gap between existing leadership practices and proven value to the business is a detriment to leadership development efforts. Too often we are still content with the smile sheets and anecdotal data. To be effective, we all need data-driven analyses to execute informed decision-making processes and in real time.

This video on Leadership in the 21st Century and Global Forces by Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner of McKinsey & Company, will give you another prospective to global and growing trends in ‘Global Leadership’ – The Darden Leadership Speaker Series kicks-off its 2016-17 season with Dominic Barton.

Talking with my business partner in the US, Mark Herbert, we created a check list of priorities that should be considered when making change, which include:
• Leadership development has long been viewed as a cost. It is an investment in your leaders and your business.
• The program is not adopted across the enterprise. If you do not predict and act on issues across geographies and cultures, there will be no consistency and implementation will not succeed.
• Development is seen as an isolated training event or the “initiative of the month.” That’s ineffective if you’re trying to achieve lasting behavior and change. Reinforce learning and sustain the momentum by investing energy and resources to diagnose your leaders and guide them through a targeted journey of experiences.

Marcus Buckingham, author of ‘First Break All the Rules’ and other management “bibles” stated:

“Today’s most respected and successful leaders are able to transform fear of the unknown into clear visions of whom to serve, core strengths to leverage and actions to take. They enable us to pierce the veil of complexity and identify the single best vantage point from which to examine our complex roles. Only then can we take clear, decisive action.”

Do we really use our Senses, Imagination and Knowledge?

After reading an incredibly interesting research paper recently, named: “Berkeley’s Two Mental Events: Ideas of Senses and Ideas of Imagination and Memory”, authored by Tzofit Ofengenden, Tübingen University, the paper triggered some interesting observations and questions… ‘There’s no question that our ability to remember informs our sense of self and knowledge, however, the relationship may also work the other way around: so can our sense of self influence what we are able to remember through imagination and knowledge?

If you close your eyes and imagine an apple, an apple exists, but only in one place in your brain. That is the difference between perception and imagination. … comes from recordings from single neurons in animals and humans. … close your eyes and consider these questions: What shape is a Scottish Terrier’s ears? Which is a darker green: grass or a green tree python? If you rotate the letter “N” 45 degrees to the right, is a new letter formed?

In seeking answers to such questions, scientists say, most people will conjure up an image in their mind’s eye, mentally “look” at it, add details one at a time and describe what they see. They seem to have a definite image in their heads.

But where in the brain are these images formed? And how are they generated? Without hands in the brain, how do people “move things around” in their imaginations?

Using clues from brain-damaged patients and advanced brain imaging techniques, neuroscientists have now found that the brain uses virtually identical pathways for seeing objects and for imagining them – only it uses these pathways in reverse.

In the process of human vision, a stimulus in the outside world is passed from the retina to the primary visual cortex and then to higher centres until an object or event is recognised. In mental imaging, a stimulus originates in higher centres and is passed down to the primary visual cortex, where it is recognised.

The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans; good activity, ‘too little activity or too much activity by our brain’ by Daniel Amen

Dr. Martha Farah, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, recently said: “People have always wondered if there are pictures in the brain,” More recently, she said, the debate centred on a specific query: as a form of thought, is mental imagery rooted in the abstract symbols of language or in the biology of the visual system.

Vision is not a single process but rather a linking together of subsystems that process specific aspects of vision. To understand how this works, Dr. Kosslyn said, consider looking at an apple on a picnic table 10 feet away. Light reflects off the apple, hits the retina and is sent through nerve fibers to an early visual way station that Dr. Kosslyn calls the visual buffer. Here the apple image is literally mapped onto the surface of brain tissue as it appears in space, with high resolution.

Imagination…..the creative power of the mind

Knowledge versus imagination. Einstein’s aphorism reflects a recurrent theme in human thought. The ancient dichotomy between what we know and what we dream, intuit or sense by instinct is found, in some form, in every field of human intellectual endeavour. It is seen in the contrast between rationalist and mystic interpretations of the world’s great religions, between realism and surrealism in the visual arts and between the brutal number-crunching of much experimental physics and the feathery abstractions of superstring and membrane theory.

Knowledge concerns itself with what is present to the senses, but is also a stored and shared repository of publicly acceptable thoughts, many frozen into physical symbols (written or spoken), transmitted through time and space. Knowledge coded, stored and expressed using symbols can, because of the entrancing flexibility of symbol systems, be broken up and reassembled in a multitude of novel combinations. It is this act of recombination which underlies the power to imagine. Our imagination is and must be grounded in our knowledge. The more memories we accumulate, the more material we have to work with, the richer and stranger are the fruits of our imagination.

Imagination, however, is not just the recombination of stored experiences. Such recombination happens every night even in organisms blessed with much less cortex than human beings. What distinguishes us is our capacity for controlled and wakeful dreaming. This is a useful survival aid, helping us to solve problems, anticipate challenges and conceive alternatives. But we have turned imagination into much more a good in itself. Like money, sex or drugs, we use it to satisfy our needs, flaunt our wealth and status, tighten our social bonds, or distract us from realities we would rather avoid.

Knowledge binds us to a sometimes-oppressive existence; imagination helps us escape it. However, imagination evolved as a tool for facilitating survival. Imagining, we take a step beyond what we know into the future or into another world. We see alternatives and possibilities; we work out what we need to reach our goals. Unhooked from reality, imagination no longer serves these life-enhancing purposes. Without new knowledge to feed it and keep it in check, it can become sterile and even dangerous: “nothing but sophistry and illusional”.

Another measurable way of thinking about the balance between imagination and knowledge is to consider each as private or public, individual or group. Ludwig Wittgenstein famously argued that language is essentially public, requiring consensus about the use of its symbols in order to maintain consistency in meaning over time. One might say the same about knowledge: it must derive from experience in a way which can in principle be reproduced by others. Imagination is a private thing, the leap of a single brain from established fact to exciting novelty.

Was Einstein right?

Is imagination more important than knowledge?

As our realities become more complex we seem increasingly to prefer imagination, but that preference is culture-dependent. Imagination flourishes when its products are highly valued. Leisure, wealth and a degree of political stability are prerequisites for the freedom essential to creativity and for the use of artistic products as indicators of social status.

So, is imagination more important than knowledge? It depends on whom you ask, what you ask about, and when.

Limiting our imagination, is limiting our knowledge and importantly our ability to communicate, as Ludwig Wittgenstein once said:

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”

Do we live as One, Whole and in Truth….?

I was recently having some very deep conversations with friends around life, the subject matter was ‘Do we live a life of One, Whole and in Truth?’, the general concensus of this conversation was that ‘life’ is incredibly complex, there are lots of things going on in our environments and in our lives and at all times, and in order to hold onto our experience, we need to make meaning out of it.

There is only one person to research depth on the subject and I found a quote from the great Albert Einstein that states: ‘A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security’
Like everything in life, it is entirely possible to be happy with just one person for your whole life, my belief is that this is based on two factors;
1. How much your motivations and purpose is for that person?
2. Is it a union of one, whole and are you being truthful to that person and yourself?

As humans, we are conscious of our own sensations, thoughts and feelings. We each have the sense of being a self-contained individual. What makes each of us unique? Our name? Our genes? Our environment? Or the person we have become as we inwardly determine every moment of our lives?

All people whatever their race, education and background are united because there is an infinite creative force for all that is humane in the world. This is the underlying divinity of love which integrates together all who receive this inspiration.

Do we live in truth?

We live in a post-truth world. The problem is in the technological world of information and importantly the way we humans communicate via online and collaboration tools and apps, do we communicate the truth?

It takes courage to be the person you really are. There really is no magic pill or solution to make this happen, especially in a world that constantly sends you messages about who you should be. All of this talk takes you away from being true to yourself. It leads you to live the life you think others want you to have.

This way of living takes you away from authenticity and truth. You ignore your desires and retort to what’s not even a best second on what you truly want to do or the person you really want to be.

Thinking you can fulfill your obligations first, then pursue your dreams, is an illusion. It may seem to be the best option sometimes, but this way of viewing the world diminishes your value and power over the long run.

A scary source of factual information now reveals one in seven adults in a long-term relationship, is with someone who isn’t the love of their life:
• 73% ‘make do’ with partner as ‘true love’ slipped through fingers
• A quarter of adults have been in love with two people at the same time
• 17% have met love of life since getting together with long-term partner
• Men are more loyal to partners
• 60% believe it takes 10 weeks to know if someone is right for them

The results showed it can be hard to find “the one” and although the general perception is that women tend to fall in love more often than men, it was intriguing to see that in reality both men and women fall in love on average two times in their life. What is alarming is that so many people claim to be in long term relationships or even married to someone who isn’t the true love of their life.

And if there are people out there who are genuinely in love with two people at the same time, they must face a huge dilemma.

Are you ready to live a life of truth and self-acceptance? Live your truth right here, right now. What does this mean exactly?

It means to live your most truthful self. Inside you are a person waiting to jump out and live in truth and openness. Most of us spend our days living up to expectations and definitions. In this way you, me, all of us are living to be someone different than who we truly are. This is a lie. It is time to live your truth and own it.

Mindfulness is one way of focusing on your inner self, what are my dreams, fears, what will it take for me to have unconditional love and what are my real needs for longstanding fulfillment? It is about taking time out to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement.

In a world where the amount of stress one heaps on oneself can be seen as a badge of honour, we need to recognise the ways of reducing the potential negative impact of exhaustion and mindfulness is a great place to start. It allows us to take a step back and refresh our perspective on the world, to decide on a better response to the challenges we face, and to really focus. Neuroscientists have proven that no matter how good we are, our brains are simply not capable of operating effectively on more than one complex task at a time.

The fact that we are all intrinsically connected is not some fluffy principle someone made up, it is something which you can experience right now in your daily life. But the way we usually live our lives in this heavily technological environment our awareness and individual senses are hovering right below the signs so to speak. So, we rarely, if ever, see it.

Once you begin practicing mindfulness you can begin to see the natural rhythm of life and how we all depend on so many different things just to come to be as we are in the present and to continue on living each day.

And this is not limited to people either. This includes all other living and non-living things- on land, in the ocean, and in the sky. This can be seen in very concrete ways – in the way we depend on the coral reefs or on the delivery of our local food and water supply for instance – but also in a much deeper way. In a very real way, we exist in the clouds, in the rain, and in the mountains. And they are within us.

This single realisation can change the way we live our entire life’s. From the way you treat others, to what you devote your time to, to the products you consume, and the causes you support.

Finally, having understanding and interests, we can join together in a common purpose. This idea is similar to the way different components of the human body fit together to form a whole healthy body. Each part depends on the others as long as they are not diseased, for the whole to function properly.

The million-dollar question is do we want to be One, Whole and live in Truth……

A great quote by Menachem Begin:

“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.”

Can growing a vine teach us about a sustained life?

I recently visited a good friend and international wine expert in his province of Spain, I love spending time with Aitor and his family, there is always an amazing welcoming and its always wine-o-clock.

Recently Aitor has been occupied with Orange wines – this was a real education for me to learn about the uniqueness of this special wine and its verital.

So I asked Aitor, exactly what is an ‘Orange Wine’ he replied, ‘my friend orange wines are the most characterful, thrilling and food-friendly styles available today, with their deep hues, intense aromas and complex flavours. The counter charge is robust: orange is the emperor’s new clothes, beloved only of trendy sommeliers and hipsters who forgive their oxidised, faulty nature. These wines are unpalatable with curiosity’.

So, I responded, ‘what exactly is an orange wine?’ Aitor said ‘The term is increasingly used for white wines where the grapes were left in contact with their skins for days, weeks or even months. Effectively, this is white wine made as if it were a red. The result differs not only in colour, but is also markedly more intense on the nose and palate, sometimes with significant tannins.

Aitor proceeded to his wine cellar and returned with a Ronco Severo Friulano. DOC Colli Orientali Del Friuli. Friulano 100%. This wine is incredibly special and stays on its lees for 11 months in 30-hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels, and undergoes bâtonnage every 3 days. The wine then ages in the same barrels for about another 12 months.

After tasting this incredible wine I started to think about wine any experienced wineologist will tell you that sunshine is essential for the growth of vines. The sunshine warms the earth, so that the vines can be softened by moist soil, and then it germinates. Sunshine plays an important role in the growth cycle of vines. Germination does not take place unless the vine has been transported to a favorable environment where there is adequate water, oxygen, and a suitable temperature.

Differing species of vines germinate best in different temperatures; as a rule extremely cold or extremely warm temperatures do not favor the germination of vines. Some seeds require adequate exposure to light before germinating.

Orange wine organic bio-dynamic farming

From a biblical perspective and in the bible (John 15:5-8) “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and {so} prove to be my disciples.

This made me think about wine and its process for production, one fact is clear, you must have very good soil to grow such grapes that make these famous orange wines. However, I was stood corrected you cannot grow good grapes in good soil.

I thought this was incredibly curious and so when I got back home I looked it up on the internet. Aitor was right of course. I learned that bad soil yields higher quality grapes than good soil because, in poor soil, the vines have to work harder, branching off more roots to gather nutrients. Not only does this increase the amount of nutrients that ultimately get to the grape, but it also regulates how much water the plant gets. If a vine has too much water, the result is a fat, characterless grape.

This is a perfect metaphor for we humans as well. Trials and challenges rise before us like mountains. But mountains can raise us or bury us depending on which side of the mountain we choose to stand.

Vines and humans can create a legacy and can be in the same, certainly, a legacy is a contribution to humanity. A legacy provides value to future generations. However, if you are creating your ideal legacy, it will also make your heart bubble with passion and excitement today in the process.

Living our unique purpose makes us feel alive. It allows us to enrich and enthusiastically dedicate our time to worthwhile missions of our choosing. Living purposefully, we focus on our objectives with the resolve needed to finish our legacy or purpose in life for humanity.

We all have a purpose. However, it is important to recognise it and keep it clearly in mind. Think about the things for which you would like future generations to remember you. Give yourself permission to embrace and achieve them. Become the master architect of your life and those negative experiences you will leave behind.

Ultimately it’s a matter of choice. History and life teach us that more times than not we do not succeed in spite of our challenges and difficulties but, rather, precisely because of them.

Even a grape knows that…..

M.F.K. Fisher once said:

“I can no more think of my own life without thinking of wine and wines and where they grew for me and why I drank them when I did and why I picked the grapes and where I opened the oldest procurable bottles, and all that, than I can remember living before I breathed.”