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CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1

Decisions

Priorities

Power of 1

Emotions

Goals

CHAPTER 2

Values

Love


Continually...

A guide on how I aspire to live my life; to remind myself when I stray and as a guide for my children. But I am happy to share with others. It is my legacy in a collection of simple thoughts and essays on life. Take the very best and leave the rest.

Disclaimer: While I aspire to the virtues extolled, I certainly have not lived my life in accordance with these virtues. Indeed, I still fail but each day I get up and do my best. These are my personal aspirations and I do not judge others by them. I have learned from my mistakes and maybe you can too! I am still a flawed character but I believe less flawed than I used to be.

Contents (Click on Topic to index to the content)

Topic Description

CHAPTER 1 - MAKING DECISIONS

Decisions How do we decide (choose)? Our decisions determine our life. As such, developing our decision making skills should be a continually refined process. Important and urgent.
Priorities It is self-evident that setting priorities is the number one priority of life. That aside, how do we decide what our priorities are? How and why do we decide what we should be doing now; perhaps compared to what we are actually doing now?
The Power of 1 In life we are spoilt by choices. When we make decisions with so many choices, we often make a poor choice. The reality is, while there may be several things that are important, so often there is One Thing that is more important than anything else. Excuses; We often make several but the truth is: Excuses, we either have one or none. We often justify our action by producing a lists of pros and cons (for and against) to justify a rational decision but the real (often emotional) reason may not even be on the list. So how do we find what that One Thing is?
Goals So many set goals that are never achieved. So should we set goals? And if so, how.

CHAPTER 2 - VALUES

Values
Love

Decisions - Added 2015-08-22

We live with all the decisions that we make. How do we decide (choose)? Our decisions determine our life. As such, developing our decision-making skills should be a continually refined process. Important and urgent. Our number one priority?

This was a thought that occurred at the relatively late age of 33. I was quite amazed that another person had not made the right (logical) choice. That is, a decision that did not suit me. Since then, it has been my quest to understand why people (including myself) make the decisions that we do.

Stephen Covey said I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.

Michael Josephson took it one important logical iteration further: You are what you are today because of the choices you made yesterday, and the choices you make today will make you what you are tomorrow.
In a (poor) quality graphic...

Priorities (largely based on the writings of Stephen R. Covey) - Added 2015-07-05

It is self-evident that setting priorities is the number one priority of life. That aside, how do we decide what our priorities are? How and why do we decide what we should be doing now; perhaps compared to what we are actually doing now?

Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People proposed the following quadrants based on importance and urgency:

  Urgent Non-Urgent
Important 1st Priority 2nd Priority
Not Important 3rd Priority No Priority

Which quadrant do you operate in? How do you assess importance? How do you assess urgency? I have found this a great tool for deciding priorities. It clears away a lot of the distractions to good decision making.

Importance

Importance is difficult to assess.

From a personal point of view, it is based on Your Purpose in Life Click here for more info.

Without knowing your purpose in life (your 42, your One Thing), you cannot properly set your priorities. Once you have that one big rock in place, the rest falls around it.
Yogi Berra: You have to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.
Maxim: Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Urgency

Urgency relates to work that needs to be done by a deadline. Sometimes we underestimate the amount of work (never forget lead times!) and sometimes the deadlines are not firm or even realistic. Urgency increases as the deadline approaches. After the deadline, urgency does one of two things. It becomes greater or it disappears. We may then suffer the consequences of passing the deadline or if there are no such consequences, we may then question how important it really was. Procrastination (normally a negative attribute) often tests the importance of a task. eg. As the deadline passed, did anyone start jumping up and down?

Setting Priorities

At the beginning of each day we should re-assess our priorities based on importance and urgency for all the tasks that we have in front of us. This may take 5 to 10 minutes but it will save us the cost of working on the wrong priority tasks. Sometimes an event during the day will dramatically change priorities. Tasks that are both important and urgent (1st priority quadrant) are top priority. Many people do not move out of this quadrant. We need to assess the relative levels of importance and urgency to assign a priority to the task. Sometimes we may need to question or re-assess the levels of importance or urgency attached to a task. Unfortunately, if we are only ever in quadrant 1 (urgent and important), we never get quadrant 2 (important but not urgent). Not doing some of these tasks may have a negative long term impact. eg. Planning, your health, training, keeping in contact with people and the like. Doing some of these quadrant 2 tasks will help us to spend more time out of quadrant 1.

Historically, The main purpose of a company is to make money. As Ambrose Bierce noted: The Company is an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. Within that context, the priorities of a company are often related to money and the operation of the company. Cashflow is the single-most important aspect of running a company. It must flow! From this fundamental understanding we can deduce:

Big Rocks

In life we have so many decisions to make. So which ones should we prioritise? The big ones! eg. We were living in Singapore and our then two kids were 4 and 6 years old. For family reasons, we decided to move back to Perth. What about my the business that I had built up in Singapore / Asia over the past 10 years? Would it survive the move back to Perth? Well, in fact that didn't matter. The family reasons were our Big Rock. The smaller rocks like the business would fall around that. If the business failed, so be it. I would find something else to do.

So what are the Big Rocks in your life? And which are the pebbles? The following video (from Franklin-Covey) beautifully shows this principal.

The Power of One - Added 2015-07-05

In life we are spoilt by choices. When we make decisions with so many choices, we often make a poor choice. The reality is, so often in life there is One Thing that is more important than anything else. We make several excuses for doing something wrong, but only one is true. We justify our action by producing a lists of pros and cons (for and against) to justify a rational decision but the real (often emotional) reason may not even be on the list. So how do we find what that One Thing is?

One Thing

Perhaps the most important One Thing in life is our purpose. For more on this, see 42 - The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything

George Frey asked and answered the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything with an open ending:
What is the meaning of life? Whatever you want it to be.

Or more dramatically, the quintessential scene in the movie City Slickers where Billy Crystal's troubled character, Mitch, is alone with the dying cowboy sage Curly, played by Jack Palance. Curly is giving Mitch some life advice:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Mitch: No, what?
Curly holding up one finger: This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and then everything else don't mean shit.
Mitch: That's Great, but what's the one thing?
Curly: That's what you've gotta to figure out.

What's your One Thing?

Following is a video (sorry for the poor quality) but the words tell the story in this extended scene extracted from the movie. Quite a good movie and I recommend you watch it.
Then maybe you'll understand the message.
It will be worth it,
If not for the sake of the royalties
But for the sake of your own peace of mind
(apologies to 'San Francisco Nights' by Eric Burdon and the Animals)...

Lists

We just love using lists to justify ourselves. It is just not enough to have one reason to do something. It is more powerful to have a list of reasons (features with benefits is great) to strengthen your argument. A full blown cost-benefit analysis can be really impressive. Or so the traditional thought goes...

To the Man: Why did you buy that expensive sports car?

To the Woman: Why did you buy that expensive dress?

Sorry for the stereotyping but I find women are generally more honest with their reasons.

That aside, what is the problem here? The problem with lists is that they are easy to argue against. eg. One day I turned up to work late and my supervisor asked me why I was late. I replied: I got out of bed late and all the traffic lights were against me. His sharp reply was: Bullshit, you just got out of bed late. He was right. In fact, I had no legitimate reason for being late. Even if all the traffic lights had been against me, I should have allowed for that contingency in my travel time. The truth was that I got out of bed late; it was the truth but not really acceptable. I had passed up an opportunity to be truthful (with myself and him) and salvage some integrity out of the situation.

When we use lists to justify ourselves, we leave ourselves more vulnerable. The opposition only needs to sabotage one of the reasons (eg, demonstrate that it is untrue, unworkable, unfair...) and the integrity of the list is broken. It calls into question everything else on that list.

So why do we use lists so frequently? Often when we are promoting something to an audience, we offer a list. That way, you have a better opportunity to strike the right chord with each individual. Since each individual has different needs or wants, this can work well. Even better if there is no interrogation of you (as typical of advertisements). Hence the difficulty of selling something to a committee rather than just the Chairman. Hint, sell to the Chairman (and other committee members) before the meeting to enhance your probability of success. Be Prepared.

Offering only one solid reason leaves us less vulnerable. Pick your reason carefully because if that one reason is not rock solid, then you do not have a backup argument. Often it is difficult for people to resolve their reasons into just one. But the more you practice it, the better you become. It is noted that this approach often does not work well with audiences. But it will work well in the one on one situation. eg. One on one sales. The difficulty here is determining what the target wants (sometimes they do not know themselves). That is why you need to know them before you make a proposal. The search for that One Thing is usually very educational and beneficial.

So at the end of the day, you learn when and when not to use lists.

Jesus - What is the Greatest Commandment?

As a follower of Jesus Christ, the following passages represent to me the central tenet of Christianity: Love (of God and your neighbours)

Matthew 22 (NIV) - The Greatest Commandment
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36 Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
37 Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Was Jesus guilty of disregarding the Power of 1? Could he just have answered Love? No. Love of what?

It is important to realise the context here. Jesus was being challenged by a legalistic Pharisee on his knowledge of the law. Jesus answered unequivocally that the greatest commandment was Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

So does the second commandment weaken the first? No. In fact, you can easily see that it is an extension of the first commandment. It embellishes the theme of Love established by the first commandment.

John Howard - The 1999 Invasion of East Timor by Australia

In the aftermath of this invasion by Australia (under the UN banner), John Howard (the Australian Prime Minister) said: It was the right thing to do; and the right thing for Australia. When he said It was the right thing to do, I strongly agreed with him but after a short pause he continued and said and the right thing for Australia. Wow! To me that just deflated the power of saying One Thing: It was the right thing to do. To add and the right thing for Australia added another less noble reason for the invasion. That is, the vested interests of Australia.

So what was the reason Australia invaded East Timor? My cynical instincts would pick the vested interests of Australia. However, on this occasion, I would like to think it was primarily because Australia did the right thing from a humanitarian point of view. So why would Howard (or most likely his speech writer) have added and the right thing for Australia? It is a common mistake. Howard is a politician and by offering two reasons, he felt he would have more people support it. However, in doing so he undermined the strength of his moral position. It was Howard being the great politician he was, not a statesman.

Finding that One Thing

So often we have a multitude of reasons for doing or not doing something. Our rational thinking tells us to draw up a list of for and against, maybe even a cost benefit analysis. However, many of our decisions are not made like that. We don't have time to make such analysis. As an aside, there is a great XKCD cartoon about this:


eg. If I have a weekly task (Top Horizontal Row) and I can save 1 minute (Left Vertical Column) by improving the efficiency of the take, then I can spent up to 4 hours (Table Lookup) on improving the efficiency of that task (based on a 5-year period).

The reality is that most of our decisions are emotional. We like to dress them up as being rational by considering the pros and cons, even doing that cost benefit analysis. But so often we have already made an emotional decision and are trying to justify it with rational arguments.

Is that really true? Yes, nearly all the important decisions in our life are emotional decisions (see below).

So out of that multitude of reasons we have to do something, how do we find that One Thing (the single-most important, even over-riding reason) on which we make our decision. As Curly said in the movie City Slickers (see above), That's what you've gotta to figure out.

And that is the anti-climatical end to this article. However, it will be very self-educational and you will get better at it. It has been very important in my life and I highly recommend you try it.

Emotional Decision

One of the first things I realised is that people make a lot of emotional decisions. Many times we make an emotional decision and then go about cherry-picking the facts to dress it up as a rational decision.

Making Decisions without All the Facts

Who would be crazy enough to make a decision without all the facts? Well, everyone.

When you choose your spouse, your job, your house, your car. And of course business managers (and I won't even dwell on politicians). You may think business managers, making critical decisions impacting many people, would be fully informed about the decisions they make. But they are amongst the worst.

My definition of a good business manager is someone who can make good decisions without all the facts. If we had all the facts, we do not need a manager, just a computer to make the assessment. Even if we have all the facts, we cannot fully anticipate the future or the reactions of other people. So even the best of CEOs are making gut decisions. That is what they are being paid for, often based on their past performance and bravado (the perceptions of them).

Making Value-Based Decisions

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey proposes that we should make decisions based on a set of values. And I believe this is the correct way to make decisions. But what is that set of values? The predictable answer is, whatever you choose.

So slecting your values is very important in making decisions that you will need to live with.

My Problem with Atheism and Science

Can't we just rationally deduce a set of values as often proposed by the aetheists? eg. Thou shalt not murder is proposed as a logical survival of the species. Hmm. Ghengis Khan was reputed to have killed 10% of the world's population. One estimate says 1 in 12.5 of the whole population of Asia and 1 in 200 of the whole population of the world is directly descended from Genghis Khan. So his murderous ways belie the assertion that murder is against the logical survival of the species (or individual). There have been many murderous people but our population keeps growing.

I must say I just don't understand aetheists (and equally they just don't understand me). The Oxford dictionary defines an aetheist as: A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods. How can an aetheist have morals? They are just a chemical reaction occuring in a skin bag; there is no right or wrong, good or evil with a chemical reaction. There is no choice; the chemical reaction occurs according to the immutable laws of the physical world; a fatalistic world. The fuse has been lit and the reaction will proceed according to those immutable laws. That is, there is fate and no choice.

And that is what I have a fundamental failure to accept. I truly believe I make choices; I do not accept fate; I am making conscious choices that are beyond that of a chemical reaction. I feel the love that is absent from a chemical reaction. I have an intrinsic feeling of right and wrong, of sprituality; "I think, therefore I am" as so well expressed by Rene Descartes.

That we undeniably make choices is a deep flaw in the infallability of science that atheists desperately cling to; and even the aetheists understand that. So to get away from being stuck with the immutable laws of the physical world, the aetheists create the Chaos Theory; and more recently the curiously named God Particle.

The choice to believe in God is one of faith (an emotional decision); that is a position that I as a Christian accept. The choice not to believe in God is also one of faith (another emotional decision) but the aetheists do not accept that. They are the self-righteous. They believe in the infallible rationale of science. The truth is, any assumed belief system can be used in a circular fashion to prove itself true. Let's assume God exists and then I can prove God exists; let's assume God does not exist and then I can prove God does not exist.

The Infallibility of Science

So let's talk about how infallible the scientists have been in my life. When my Mum was having trouble coping after the birth of my youngest sister (late 1950s), her science based doctor said to take up smoking; now they tell us smoking is harmful. In 1968 when my Dad had his heart attack, the science based doctors said to rest; nowadays afer my heart attack they tell me to exercise. When in school the science based schools taught me that the earth went through hot and cold cycles due to the heat waves generated by the hot molten interior of our planet; nowadays it is caused by global warming. The science based doctors told us cholesterol is bad for us; now it is not the cholesterol; eggs bad, now good. In the 1950s, lets swipe someone's frontal lobes (lobotomy) and nowadays its drugs.

And let's talk about mathematics. Now that surely must be based on a sound unquestional basis. Not at all. Euclidian geometry is based on a set of assumed truths which are accepted at an proved truth. There are more holes in the scientist's aguments than in the ozone layer (which should not exist now according to the scientist of older days). Science is built on the unsafe foundations of assumed truths.

Goals - Added 2015-08-24

So many set goals that are never achieved. So should we set goals? And if so, how.

There are so many appropropriate quotes here that I am compelled to at least offer these...

Elbert Hubbard (American Philosopher): Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organised their energies around a goal.

Vince Lombardi: Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.

Yogi Berra: You have to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.

For most of my life I have had a distain for goal-setting. Not sure where that came from; perhaps out of a failure to achieve goals I had set. Ironically I remain very achievement orientated. I remember achieving the goal of being awarded my Queen's Scout (it was a lot of good work). I remember the peak I had arrived at and it has been downhill all the way since then! Not really, but there was a period of deflation.

So for most of my life I have drifted aimlessly. I have been floatsam, blown by the fortunate winds of opportunity. I have not been the Master of my Own Destiny. I have lived it very much on the lines sung by John Lennon, Life if what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. Except I didn't make the plans. Life has for the most part, just happened to me. And it has been a fortunate life. But I would not advise you to follow such a path.

While I have not really had many goals in my life, I have had direction. To me, these are like unatainable goals. eg. Developing my character to be Christ-like is unachievable. I fail every day. In this case, the goal is not something that I will achieve, but it is a direction I am heading; a guiding light; my compass.

Very recently I have set achieveable goals for my health. For me, I keep my eye on the goal I want to achieve but I remain focussed on what motivated me to set that goal; my desire for as long, healthy and productive life as I can achieve. In a nutshell, my motivation is my joy of life. It has been working very well for me. This motivation aspect is very important for goals that need to be sustained (like keeping my weight in the 90 to 95 kg range). It is what keeps some studying long hours to achieve their goal of a university degree.

So I am still not a goal-focussed person. I prefer to be headed in a direction and do my best (chasing perfection, hopefully achieving excellence). But many people set goals to provide their direction which is fine. However, setting goals to provide motivation is putting the cart before the horse and inviting failure. Determine your motivation first and then set goals. What works for you?

Values - Added 2017-09-17

The selection of your values is largely an emotional decision. I do not believe it is possible to logically derive a logical set of values. So the values we personally adopt are our choice. The values a society adopt may be the consensus of the society or given by the leaders/rulers.

I believe you need the best value system to make the best decisions.

Love - Added 2017-09-17

Unsurprisingly, my value system is based on Christianity (which has the same roots as Judaism and Islam). Christianity to me is being a follower of Christ; which makes me more of a New Testament Christian. For me, the central tenent of Christianity is when the Pharisees confront Jesus and ask him:

Matthew 22 (NIV) - The Greatest Commandment
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36 Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
37 Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

That is; love God first; then love your neighbour as yourself (which implicitly includes loving yourself). It is about your relationship with God, your neighbours and yourself - The most important aspects of my life.

This quite neatly corresponds to the first 4 of the 10 Commandments being about loving God and the next 6 about loving your neighbour.

So what is Love? The best definition for me is not in the dictionary but in 1 Corinthians (NIV) 13:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails...
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

And if only I could love to that standard...