Friday, August 21, 2015

Pet Peeves and Projects

We can't concentrate on everything. The world is a complicated place. So what we see depends on what we've seen and what we care about. It depends on who we care about, how well we slept, whether we have eaten and how much space we have to listen. 

The easiest way to decide what to do is to fight fires. You look for whatever is screaming the loudest for your attention and you do that. It is the way most office workers start the day. You check your inbox and start working your way through. Between that and meetings, there is normally not much time left to proactively think or plan. There isn't enough time to take everything into account. Unless you make space for time, and time for space.

Some things really irritate us. Our Pet Peeves. My friend Stuart talks of issuing summary executions any time one of his arise. One of our shared peeves is the answer 'I don't have time'. Of course you have time, it is just a case of how you choose to use it. Other Pet Peeves may be spitting gum on the floor, leaving plates in the sink, sidewalk texting, grammar mistakes or someone asking you to 'think like an owner' when they 'pay you like an employee'. We can't issue executions for things that irritate us or there wouldn't be anyone left. The things that irritate us may also be innocent crimes. The criminals genuinely aren't being malicious and may not even be aware that their crime is at all significant. It is our pet, not theirs.

Some things are really important to us. Our Pet Projects. For whatever reason, we have connected emotionally to some particular goal. We know the people involved. Their story resonates with ours. Maybe it is something we have always wanted to do and now is the chance. Perhaps there is a secondary goal that has nothing to do with the stated aim, but would benefit us in a way we don't really need to tell anyone. If the meeting happens to be on Friday in Cape Town, I can go to the wedding in Stellenbosch on Saturday without doing two trips. No one needs to know that. Perhaps it is less strategic than that. A goal just strikes a chord with you. You connect with it beyond the pros and cons of all the alternatives. 

Passion and emotions are wonderful things. They add flavour, music, colour and texture to life. Passion and emotion also create blind spots where we care about things disproportionately, or not at all. 'What we see is all there is' says Daniel Kahneman. Taking a step back, looking for other perspectives, being aware of history and listening can help. I don't think it is a case of stripping all emotion out of decisions. That is impossible. Emotions are at the heart of what incentivises us to carry on. If we don't care, why carry on? We need pets. We just need our pets to play nicely.

Apparently if I was a pet, I'd be a Schnauzer

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