The Vantasner Danger Meridian – Why It Should Exist

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Monday, 7.26pm

Sheffield, U.K.

And this was known as that greatest of treasures, which is Hope. It was a good way of getting poorer really very quickly, and staying poor. It could be you, but it wouldn’t be – Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

It’s that time of year when we’re almost at the end – and we start thinking about how we’re going to do things differently.

After a short period of doing nothing, that is, other than reading and watching TV – which is where you pick up a few interesting insights.

Take Terry Pratchett’s book “Going Postal”, for example.

It’s a story about a con man and his sometimes involuntary journey towards redemption, and along the way we could learn something about human nature and management.

Pratchett clearly has a history there, given his first story published when he was 13 is called “Business Rivals” and he spent time in the Central Electricity Generating Board.

One thing you should really take away from the book is that you need to make it easy for people to give you money.

In the book you have a man who figures that you might as well go for the impossible – because if you do achieve it you’re a hero and if you don’t – well it was impossible anyway.

You don’t get marks for reaching for something safe and not making it – people don’t notice that happening.

So what should you do and when?

That’s where the TV series “Patriot” comes in and especially the episode on the Vantasner Danger Meridian.

The Vantasner Danger Meridian is defined as “the point or line after which danger to your mission and/or sense of self increases exponentially. Often used to demarcate conditions of grave and approaching danger.”

It doesn’t exist in real life – but i should.

Here’s why.

We all know about the Sunk Cost Fallacy – you might have spent lots of time and money into a particular idea or cause but that shouldn’t be taken into consideration when deciding what to do next.

You should make that decision based on the facts you have now – not what you did previously.

Which is where we are all right now.

You have have spent decades building up a career, or failing to build one.

You might have spent lots of money on a project that isn’t working out the way you might like.

So, should you walk away because things don’t look good?

The Sunk Cost Fallacy would have you do just that – and that’s probably a fallacy in itself.

The difficulty is that we don’t know – we can’t know the best thing to do.

Endless possibilities unfold in front of us – it’s only when we make a decision that some disappear and others appear.

So what really matters is not the right decision but the next decision.

And this is where something like the VDM should really exist in real life.

Given where you are now what are the next things you can do?

And which of those do you want to do?

And where is the line – where it the point where danger increases exponentially.

Let’s take an example – it’s the New Year and you think it’s a good idea to start it by chucking in your job.

For many people that creates a number of dangerous scenarios.

Where is your money going to come from, how will you pay the mortgage, where is the next job, do you have clients lined up if you’re going to go independent?

That’s probably well past the VDM

What we need to do is figure out where the line is and how close we can get to it without things going bad.

And that needs us to be conscious of another introduction in the plot – that of jellyfish.

Apparently if you cut a jellyfish in two, the pieces can regenerate and form two new jellyfish.

The analogy here is that if you screw up a situation then that results in more things to deal with – lies beget more lies and so on.

And pretty soon the number of things you have to handle grows more quickly than you can handle them – and things start to go wrong.

When you pull all this together and combine Pratchett’s observations and the Patriot’s script you are left with something like this.

Hope is not a strategy.

Wishes are for wells.

If you want to change things the challenge is figuring out what you can do in the situation you’re in without crossing a line where danger increases exponentially.

When you’re on the right side of that line you can try and experiment and innovate.

On the wrong side of that line lies panic and desperation.

And at the edge – the edge between Newtonian physics and chaos lies complexity.

Which is where change emerges.

And if you’re lucky, it’s the change you want.

Happy New Year.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

An End Of Year Reflection

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Monday, 8.10pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Just as a snake sheds its skin, we must shed our past over and over again. – Gautama Buddha

I started writing this blog in mid-2017 and thought I’d work on writing a post a day – every day including weekends.

I enjoy writing but I felt that if I wanted to get better at it I needed to put in the time to write – and there’s a saying that you should throw away your first million words – and then you’ll be ready to write.

So I got started on that first million – and gave myself ten years of writing to get there.

So far, I’ve written 674 posts and 414,275 words, which is more than I was expecting.

In 2018 I wrote 251 blog posts but I’ve only managed 239 so far in 2019.

However, I’ve also been working on articles – short papers that explore particular areas in a slightly more formal way than a blog post might do – although there are overlaps.

There are 23 of these and so in terms of absolute pieces of writing, I can probably say that I wrote 262 pieces in 2019.

Given there are 365 days it makes me wonder what I did on those other 103 days.

Adding up the words in the papers as well gets me to 458,453, which is not that far short of halfway to my target.

What’s interesting about this, I suppose, is that the numbers do build if you put in a small amount of effort every day.

This is a young blog and the material is not easy – and I am surprised and gratified at the number of people who take the time to read it.

The numbers are small but they have risen year on year, with a 91% increase in views, 63% increase in visitors and a 119% increase in likes.

I was talking to someone today about the purpose of this blog – and mainly what it’s not.

It’s not really a vehicle to promote myself or a way to market the things I do.

Instead, it’s turning into a Zettelkasten, a Commonplace Book – a place where I collect things I find interesting and the thoughts I have about those things in case they might be useful later.

Last year at around the same time I wrote about how I started writing mainly for myself – because writing was the way I started to understand what I was looking at.

That has continued this year – and will probably stay that way for a while because there is so much to learn and the more you study the more you realise how little you know – but it’s exciting trying to find out more.

This blog turning into a research partner and I find that when I come across a business question there is often a piece I’ve written in these posts that has a model that might be useful – and if there isn’t it’s an opportunity to write one.

As a result I promote it less and less – not even on social media and the only way people find it is through searches and somehow through WordPress itself.

I hope those of you that take the time to read these posts find them useful.

And to those of you that take the time to like and comment on posts – thank you very much.

That feedback is actually immensely valuable as it gives me a feel for what works and what doesn’t – what resonates with you and I would be grateful if you would continue to take the time to help me out in that way.

There will be a few sporadic posts in the run up to the end of the year and then I will start again – hoping to learn new things and share them with you.

All that remains to say then is that I hope you have a very happy and festive holiday season and a great start to the New Year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

What Might Being Open And Transparent Do For Your Business?

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Sunday, 6.52pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The poet strips naked. The philosopher takes notes. – Marty Rubin

How open and transparent should you be is a contingent question – it depends on where you are right now.

If you are a large corporate then having friends in the right places and laws that protect your business are perhaps more important.

If you are new and fresh then showing everyone why you are different might be what matters.

What’s interesting is the range of views you get from different people – a range you can see in a sampling of quotes.

Many politicians say they believe in being transparent – which might get a laugh or two from the masses.

A lot of people say transparency is absolutely good – perhaps they are the poets Rubin talks about in the quote above.

But then you have a rejoinder like this one from J. Richard Singleton, “The truth is like sunlight: It causes cancer.”

Harsh.

Plausible?

How open should you be, for example, when it comes to negotiating a pay rise?

Should you be open about how much you need the money? About how much of a struggle it is to meet your bills?

Or should you be open about the work you put in – or don’t put in because of the obstacles in your way?

What if you make a mistake on a client’s account – how do you handle that?

Do you tell the client everything that’s happened or do you try and manage the impact it has on them?

The thing that led me to think about this question has to do with free software.

There are a number of tasks that are better done with such tools – tasks that matter – because they can help with things like climate change.

Should this be done with proprietary, secret tools or should we be trying to use tools that protect our freedom?

When I re-read Richard Stallman’s essays I’m reminded of the huge effort that went into creating the free software ecosystem that many of us use now – the ecosystem that allows me to type this words and share them with you.

But what is it that protects us?

Is it humanity and good feelings – sharing and brotherhood?

Or is it the copyleft – that legal instrument that means work you do for free on free software cannot simply be taken and owned by your employer?

I started this post with the vague thought that openness and transparency are good things.

I may have changed my mind half-way through.

Being completely open and transparent is like standing naked on a beach.

It is unlikely to attract people to you.

The most famous example of such an exercise is perhaps the story of Lady Godiva – but no one seems to be quite sure what the point of it all was.

Or perhaps it’s the story of the Emperor’s new clothes – but that is a story of self-delusion.

You see, the whole point of being open and transparent is not about what it does for your business.

It’s about what it does for your users, your customers.

Free software protects the rights of its users, their freedom to run, study, copy and improve a program.

And it does that by using the law – by using the conventions that society has come up with.

If you help your customers to do the same thing – you might create something unexpected.

You might create trust.

And that’s priceless.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

What Do You Do When You See Things Differently From Those Around You?

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Saturday, 7.25pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The limits of my language means the limits of my world. – Ludwig Wittgenstein

There are a lot of things worth learning out there.

That’s the purpose of this blog – to wander around a garden of ideas, looking, sniffing and picking ones that seem interesting or different.

And along the way, the way I look at things has shifted.

For example, I no longer think much of targets and tracking and effort.

The way most people are taught the way the world works is that they should set goals, decide what their targets are going to be and then go ahead and make it happen.

If you are working with other people who aren’t achieving what you think they should achieve – you should set them targets and monitor their progress to see how they are performing – and take corrective action when they fall short.

This kind of thinking is seen as normal, reasonable – of course you should do something like that.

But, if you are interested in Systems Thinking and the work of W. Edwards Deming, then you will counter that what happens is because of the system.

The system you have in place is perfectly designed to deliver the results you are getting.

If you want to get different results then you don’t start by setting goals and targets – you start by understanding the system and then you might see what you need to change to get different results.

Yeah so what, you say, that’s the same thing.

Start with targets and change how you act is the same as changing how you act and getting different results.

At this point, you are in a conversation that has no resolution.

Let me explain why.

Many years ago I used to go to University sessions where someone would talk to you about their religion and why you should consider making it yours as well.

I went to my first session by mistake – I was told there would be cake there.

I kept going because there was free food – but there was an obligation to talk to someone about What You Believed.

And it was fun, for a while – but eventually, after a number of discussions, I had a pretty good feel for how the argument would go.

They would say this and I would counter with that and then there would be something else with another response – and eventually we would come to certain points that had no way of being proved and we would have to just agree to disagree – because we believed different things.

It is difficult to resolve differing beliefs – it’s probably best not to try in the first place.

But that leaves us with a problem – what do we do when we see things differently?

Well, to boil a lot of theory into one simple, obvious approach – we have to take the time to listen.

We try and understand the other person’s point of view – their perspective – the way they see the world.

We don’t have to agree with it but we do have to take the time to try and see it for what it is.

And then, if we want to work together or live together we need to figure out an accommodation – a compromise – that will work for us in the situation we face.

A compromise that will, hopefully, make things better.

But don’t be lulled into thinking this is easy.

As we see from the world around us and the politics that happens the easy route is to hate and fight.

It takes effort to build a society that can live under common laws – especially if individual perspectives are very different or are subject to different laws.

It’s not really a cold end state that we get to – but rather one where we simmer instead of boiling.

Because in the end we share the same world.

Even if one of us happens to be looking at it upside down.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

What Is The Key Thing To Look For In Any Situation?

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Thursday, 9.05pm

Sheffield, U.K.

This is a world of action, and not for moping and droning in. – Charles Dickens

I mentioned yesterday that I had come across James Thurber again.

Over the last few days I’ve been copying his drawings in my sketchbook – trying to get a feel for how they work and I noticed something.

In every drawing there is something happening.

You don’t see it at first – it doesn’t grab your attention because it just seems like his style.

But as you look more closely, draw the pictures, you see action, movement, tension in the lines.

Many of my drawings so far, for example, have a person standing there looking at something – passive, uninvolved, disinterested.

The fencers in Thurber’s depiction are anything but disinterested.

And it comes out using the spare economy of a few lines – two people walking past each other holding umbrellas in the rain, his animals creeping and peering, and my current favourite – a man hiding under a fortress made from his chairs and tables.

And that got me thinking about real life and work and trying to sell stuff.

All too often we look at things from a static point of view.

We see things as set in stone, as rules, as dogma – and we think that if we follow a formula then things will happen.

Think good thoughts every morning and the universe will move things around to give you what you want.

Things like that.

But really, what we need to be doing is looking for where the action is.

For example, you could commission any number of studies telling you what people should pay attention to.

But, you’ll do better focusing on what people are actually doing.

It reminds me of that story by Gary Halbert where he says that he’ll bet you that he can sell more burgers than you can.

You can pick any type of burger you want – the quality, the advertising, the colours.

You have the ability to do whatever you like to make your burgers the best in the world.

But he will still sell more – because all he wants is one thing.

A hungry crowd.

And that’s the action bit – that’s where the real thing is happening.

It’s what the Japanese call Gemba – where the work is done.

You can spend a lot of time thinking and agonizing and wondering.

And I think that is a good use of time – I’m not averse to thinking and I think theory is useful.

But when you come into the real world and try to apply that theory – you need to be able to see where the action is – where things are happening.

Because that’s where life happens to be.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

What Do You See When You Look Around You At The World?

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Wednesday, 10.27pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Unless artists can remember what it was to be a little boy, they are only half complete as artist and as man. – James Thurber

I stumbled over James Thurber again today.

I remember reading him as a child, remember the humour and pictures and laughing.

And then three decades seem to have passed.

So, I went back and looked at some of his work, starting with The beast in me and other animals.

This time, I’ve been looking at the drawings – his way of capturing what is going on around him, and what goes on in between the lines – in between what is obvious.

I gravitated towards the drawings because they seem to capture something that few other things seem to do – an essence that is lost in other forms of media.

For example, all parents take millions of pictures of their children.

But the images I remember are the sketches I dashed off as I watched mine play near a river or draw during a train journey.

They are not good drawings – they lack any pretence at being art.

They are doodles, dashed off in the moment, but they capture a memory differently than a photograph – which retains every detail but that which matters.

So, it’s reassuring to learn that Thurber took a similar approach to his drawings as well – despite being featured on the New Yorker and around the world they were dashed off in minutes and somehow drastically reduce complexity to comedic brilliance.

And observation – of the small things that make up our world today.

I tried to do a Thurberesque sketch of a scene we see all too often these days – a child with a device and other children gravitating towards it.

We see this more and more as children (and adults) consume content – while once we might have had them creating it, sat on the floor drawing and doodling instead.

Which makes me wonder – if children grow up too quickly – too aware of perfect images before they have time to doodle – then what happens to their ability to create?

The thing that Thurber did was observe – look around and see humour and contradiction in everyday life.

It’s not perfect.

But it can be amusing.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

Is The White Collar Professional Job An Endangered Species?

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Tuesday, 9.06pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The American Dream is one of success, home ownership, college education for one’s children, and have a secure job to provide these and other goals. – Leonard Boswell

I’ve been reading Bait and switch: The (futile) pursuit of the American dream by Barbara Ehrenreich and am not sure what to make of it.

It was published in 2005 and is a reporter’s attempt to explore the world of white collar economic hardship.

It’s easy to blame people for getting into difficulties for making bad choices – not finishing school, getting pregnant young, doing petty crime.

In fact, some people really should have chosen their parents more carefully…

But what of the people who did what they should have done – worked hard, paid for University, went out there and got good jobs – and then lost them through downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, restructuring or whatever else is the way you cut costs in an organisation?

And for those who do have jobs – what kind of jobs are they?

Are they any different from sweat shops where you work all the time, at work or at home or on the move – working to please your boss all the time?

If we jump to the end of the book Ehrenreich suggests that there is something weird and wrong about corporate life – about the life of white collar professionals.

First, they aren’t really professionals at all.

They don’t have a requirement to have qualifications – one that’s enforced by law.

They aren’t licensed and there isn’t a body of knowledge they are required to know.

Real professionals figured this out some time back and created these things – these barriers that kept them safe.

Professionals like doctors, lawyers and accountants.

Next, how intelligent do these professionals need to be?

Well, if you look at intelligence as being related to some kind of academic standard – with people encouraged to think independently, look clearly at the facts, where dissent is tolerated, perhaps even encouraged, and there is comfort in engaging with complexity rather than reducing everything to a simple maxim – there isn’t much of that around.

Instead, there is lots of “magical thinking”, views and opinions and general hot air.

Third, how equal are workplaces these days?

No, really, if you’re too old, a woman or non-male gender, if you’re the wrong colour, speak funny, don’t have the right education – how likely is it that you’ll really be treated fairly?

Well, we’ll never really know because this isn’t the kind of thing that can be measured easily.

And finally, when it comes to who does what and who gets ahead – is it fair?

Or does it have to do with who you know, what the politics are and who has the power?

And are you really getting a fair return on your investment of time in the business in terms of what you get paid?

Now, all this is quite depressing although Ehrenreich didn’t actually manage to get a job in the first place.

So she talked to lots of people who had lost their jobs and were trying to find new ones.

She learned about the “transition economy”, the services that have sprung up to help people make the leap from being unemployed to finding another job – and the issues with that.

I think her general argument is that these “professionals” haven’t done what’s needed to rise up and defend their professions – form guilds and societies and other such protective measures.

And they suffer more because in America there is less of a safety net – with healthcare and living expenses a major issue for those without jobs.

Growth areas for jobs are, unfortunately, in areas that require manual dexterity – healthcare, cleaning, fruit picking, plumbing.

But you don’t need a degree for that – what was the point of all that learning?

It’s a while since the book was written and there seems to actually be a lot of demand for employees.

The Internet has taken off in the meantime, ecommerce is a thing, lots of people are trying to figure out how to make a living as the world changes.

Taking the long view, we moved from a world of sole traders – butchers, bakers, candlestick makers – to factory workers, doing jobs in big industrial complexes.

And now, are we in a phase of connected, Internet workers – where value emerges from how teams work together rather than what jobs they do?

Have we moved from asking “What job do you do?” to “What value do you add?”

In fact, are jobs themselves, and the professionals who used to do them, a thing of the past?

And if so, what do you do now?

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

How To Design A Lean DevOps Service That Actually Works

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Monday, 8.52pm

Sheffield, U.K.

It’s important not to divorce developers from the consequences of their work since the fires are frequently set by their code. – Mike Loukides, What is DevOps?

This is not going to be a very informative post about DevOps – although I’m not sure how informative the other stuff out there on the Internet is either.

But some of the ideas that I’m trying to pull together here may be useful.

Let me explain.

Imagine we go to see a customer.

We have a brilliant conversation, work out what they need and come away with a plan and a budget.

We resource our project – getting people in place – developers, analysts, project managers, admin staff.

We divide up the work and get going.

People do their bits, pass things around and some time later we start to see finished stuff emerging – perhaps we get a service running.

The developers and project managers are now done – the analysts and admin teams get on with using the system and sort out the queries that result.

And there are always queries – so we need a query management system and there are a few hundred on the go at any given time.

And that’s a good operation, right?

Everyone’s working hard, no?

Well, no. Not really.

Here’s the thing.

Lots of demands that look like work aren’t actually work that should be done.

There are two types of demand: failure demand and value demand.

Value demand is stuff that customers need doing.

Failure demand is what you have to do when things don’t work as expected – and queries are a prime example of failure demand.

What we need to do is squish failure demand rates – and I think the DevOps approach is one way to do that.

Think of an alternative approach to what happens.

A developer works directly with a customer to design and develop services to meet the needs of stakeholders.

When the services are deployed, the developer operates and maintains those services as well.

But, you say, a developer is an experienced and valuable resource – you don’t want such a person doing operations and maintenance.

To which I say they shouldn’t be.

If they’ve driven failure demand out of the system, that is.

Let’s say you’re collecting data on behalf of a customer and the report you get in from a source is always a little bit different each time.

That breaks your data collection process so you need to go and fix it each time.

That’s failure demand.

Now, if this task is handed to an “admin” person then you might tell them to make those changes as part of their job.

You are now paying someone to handle defective materials – driving up your costs.

Instead, why not go to the source and help them generate clean data in the first place?

Maybe have a conversation, talk through what is going on and figure out a way to improve things.

If you fix the cause of failure demand then your system should operate reliably and automatically without your intervention.

Developers want to create things but are less keen to live with the consequences of their creations – that’s for users (lusers?) and less technical folk to struggle with.

And that’s not really that useful.

Instead, hire or train smart people with the skills to both program a computer and talk to people and fix problems.

It’s not that hard – but you have to get better at selecting and training people with the right attitude.

Because you’re asking them to do more than just a job.

You’re asking them to delight customers.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

The One Skill Every One Of Us Has To Develop To Do Good Work

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Sunday, 7.02pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis – William Osler

I was talking about the state of medicine today with someone who should know – and learned that there is a serious problem with training new doctors in the developing world.

Privatisation of teaching inevitably results in the standard of teaching going down – as the superstars migrate to the highest paid and most prestigious roles and the rest staff the other places.

Doctors don’t know the basics – how to take a patient history, how to present their findings and how to do the things that doctors should learn to do.

The fact is that there are things that can be trained easily and there are things that can’t – like a good bedside manner.

And all this has been known for a long time.

William Osler came up with the idea of a medical residency – and the idea that students should see and talk to patients.

An essay of his titled Books and Men has this line:

“To study the phenomena of disease without books is to sail an uncharted sea, while to study books without patients is not to go to sea at all.”

The first point we should take from this is that it’s not enough to read about things – we must practice as well in real life situations.

If you’re a writer, an artist, a salesperson, a consultant, a photographer – you will learn much by reading about it and you will learn much by doing it.

Doing both will make you brilliant at what you do.

Doing either one on its own will not.

Good, perhaps, but not exceptional.

Of course, you have to learn how to learn – and Osler has something to say on that, quoting an old writer who says there are four sorts of readers.

Sponges who soak up everything without asking or checking; Hour glasses that get knowledge and pour it out just as quickly; bags, that retain the dregs and let the wine escape and sieves that keep only the best.

Strive to be a sieve – it takes longer than you think.

And then there is the quote that starts this blog – which tells you all you need to know about the skill you need to have.

Too many people, many doctors don’t listen.

They look at the symptoms and make a diagnosis.

They sweep in, look at the person, the situation – and say what they think.

It’s something you see all the time – with managers, executives, partners – anyone in a position of authority.

What they want to do is get to the solution – and of course it’s the solution they have in mind.

People like that are very confident – they’ve been successful – that’s why they’re in charge.

Successful anyway in the sense that what they did or didn’t do can’t be measured and the people judging them had no idea what was really going on.

And the thing about people like that is they don’t want to listen – they might politely give you the impression they are but really they’re thinking about something else and will, as soon as they can, squish you and anyone else that’s in their way.

What such people don’t do is listen.

They don’t take a patient history – a situation history.

They don’t ask what has been going on, what’s the background, what’s the context – what led up to the events that are being considered.

And this is what you find when you listen.

The answer is in front of you every time – one answer anyway that fits the facts that you’ve now taken the time to gather.

It’s just sitting there hidden in plain view – and what you needed to make it visible is get people talking – and just listen.

And then, when you’ve listened, you can add your professional opinion.

You will now know what to name the problem, the disease, the condition.

You will know how to test for it, how to measure it, how to detect it.

And you will know what to prescribe, how to fix it, how to solve it.

It doesn’t matter what you do or how you help other people.

But you will do it better if you first learn to listen.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

p.s. If you want to learn more about how I do this professionally, here is a paper I wrote today that sets it out in more detail.

What Would You Do If You Didn’t Know What You Now Know?

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Saturday, 9.31pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. – Søren Kierkegaard

One of my favourite books is Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.

His other book Lila has never grabbed me in the same way but there is a section in there that I keep going back to again and again.

Pirsig describes the way in which he collects and organises research – using small sheets of paper to record notes and thoughts.

These notes build up over time – he has around eleven thousand of these – and he observes that some interesting things happen.

This piece by piece collection starts to grow, become larger.

Over time, as Pirsig interacts with it, he moves notes around, groups related things and collections start to emerge.

Connections between notes and connections between collections start to build.

The difference between this collection of notes and a diary or journal is the ability for random access – to get to a particular note without having to go through all the other ones first.

This way of collecting information is also called a Zettelkasten or a commonplace book.

The point is that there are many days when what you do is collect information.

But you can’t keep it all in your head – it has to go somewhere else or after a while you’ll be too full to take anything else in.

And some days nothing comes in – which is when you might look at organising the notes you have – seeing if they build up to anything bigger.

This is, I suppose, an act of reflection.

These days the Internet is really a global commonplace book – one that we could read if we wanted to.

And I, like most people, now turn to it first when I have a question.

But it’s possible that we ask the same things in the same way and don’t really end up asking the right things.

For example, if you were an alien just landed on Earth what would your impressions be?

You’d see people rushing about in planes and cars.

You’d see several ways in which societies organise themselves – from schools to armies.

And you’d see humanity go through a range of emotions every day as they coped with whatever happened.

The alien might wonder why we rush about so much, why we spend so much time being unhappy – and really we’d be hard pressed to answer why too – other than it’s always been this way.

But it’s really too hard to predict the future.

All we can do is make decisions about right here and now – decisions that will need to be judged by our future selves.

Brian Tracy has a line that goes something like “What would you do now, knowing what you know.”

Maybe it’s worth trying every once in a while to imagine what you would do if you didn’t know what you now know.

If you had just arrived at Earth from a very long way away would you take an office job and race around the world trying to make people like you and buy from you?

Or would you try and leave the world in a better place for those that come after you?

Or something else?

What would you do?

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh