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What would Plato make of Boris Johnson?
June 22nd 2019 | the Economist | by Bagehot.

Classics (Literae Humaniores) is a wide-ranging degree devoted to the study of the literature, history, philosophy, languages and archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is one of the most interdisciplinary of all degrees, and offers the opportunity to study these two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times. The degree also permits students to take extensive options in modern philosophy......

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Mr Johnson’s failure to get a first continues to annoy him intensely—and to delight many of his rivals. But in truth it doesn’t matter a jot: the world is full of failures who got firsts, and successes who missed out. The really interesting question is not whether Mr Johnson’s results reveal some great intellectual weakness. It is what light the subject of his studies can throw on his qualifications to be prime minister. The classics corpus is full of meditations on the qualities that make for a good leader. And no classical author thought more profoundly about the subject than Plato, the philosopher who was put at the heart of Oxford’s classics syllabus by Balliol’s greatest master, Benjamin Jowett. What would Plato have made of the classicist who appears destined to be Balliol’s fourth prime minister since 1900?.....In “The Republic”, Plato argued that the most important qualities in a statesman were truthfulness and expertise. A good statesman will “never willingly tolerate an untruth”. (“Is it possible to combine in the same character a love of wisdom and a love of falsehood?” one of Plato’s characters asks. “Quite impossible,” comes the reply.) He will spend his life studying everything that he needs to make him a good captain of the ship of state—“the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds and other professional subjects”. .......By contrast, Plato argued, the surest signs of a bad leader are narcissism and self-indulgence. The poor statesman is an eloquent flatterer, who relies on his ability to entertain the masses with speeches and comic turns, but doesn’t bother to develop a coherent view of the world. Plato was particularly vitriolic about the scions of the upper classes who are offered the opportunity to study philosophy while young but don’t apply themselves, because they think they are so talented that they needn’t earn their place at the top table.......“The Republic” is haunted by the fear that democracies eventually degenerate into tyrannies. Democracy is the most alluring form of government: “the diversity of its characters, like the different colours in a patterned dress, make it look very attractive.” But it is inherently unstable. Citizens are so consumed by pleasure-seeking that they beggar the economy; so hostile to authority that they ignore the advice of experts; and so committed to liberty that they lose any common purpose......As democracies collapse under the pressure of their contradictions, panicked citizens look for salvation in a demagogue. These are men who love power, but cannot control their own desires for “holidays and dinners and parties and girlfriends and so on”. Plato calls them the “most wretched of men because of the disorder raging within them”. Citizens are so consumed by fear that they think these wretches have magical abilities to solve the country’s problems and restore proper order. Demagogues get their start by “taking over a particularly obedient mob”, before seizing control of the country. But the more power they acquire the worse things become, “for the doctor removes the poison and leaves the healthy elements in the body, while the tyrant does the opposite.”

The shadow on the wall
Democracies have proved more durable than Plato imagined. And his cure for the problems of democracy—the rule of philosopher-kings, who are expected to hold their wives and children in common—is eccentric to put it mildly. But he is right that character matters. Politicians can change their advisers or their policies, but character is sticky. He is also right that democracies can suddenly give way to populist authoritarianism...... The best way to prepare for a Johnson premiership is to re-read “The Republic”, hoping Plato is wrong but preparing for the fact that he may be right
Boris_Johnson  character_traits  contradictions  demagoguery  democracies  Greek  humanities  leaders  leadership  liberal_arts  opposing_actions  Oxford  pairs  philosophers  Plato  politicians  Romans  statesmen  truth-telling  United_Kingdom 
july 2019 by jerryking
Turn! Turn! Turn! — The Byrds’ 1965 hit used lyrics that dated back more than 2,000 years — FT.com
Nick Keppler OCTOBER 30, 2018

The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” has been used in films and TV shows to evoke collective memories of the 1960s — starting in 1970, when Homer, one of the first coming-of-age films about a Vietnam war soldier, featured the song on its soundtrack. Since then, the unmistakable chord progression and chorus have ceaselessly popped up in 1960s period pieces: More American Graffiti, Heart Like a Wheel, Forrest Gump, TV’s The Wonder Years (in three episodes) and Ken Burns’s documentary series The Vietnam War.

The song reached number one in the US in December 1965. That year, American ground troops arrived in Vietnam, men on campuses burned their draft cards, black civil rights activists withstood fire hoses and police dogs, and President Lyndon Johnson promoted his “great society” reforms. A chorus of shaggy-haired young men pressed the nation to “turn, turn, turn” and accept that change is inevitable, history is a cycle, strife is temporary, and to everything there is a season.

The song also carries the sonic imprints of the era: Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn once called the chord structure “Beatley” and said they borrowed the drum beat from Phil Spector. But the song itself was concocted by the leader of American folk music’s old guard using lyrics that dated back more than 2,000 years.

Pete Seeger composed “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in 1959 in response to a letter from his publisher. “Pete,” it read, “can’t you write another song like ‘Goodnight, Irene'? I can’t sell or promote these protest songs.” ("Goodnight, Irene” was actually written/adapted by Lead Belly, but Seeger had popularised it with The Weavers.) The response from the rabble-rousing troubadour was predictably defiant. “You better find another songwriter,” Seeger wrote. “This is the only kind of song I know how to write.”

He turned to his pocket notebook, where he jotted down pieces of text for recycling. He found parts of the Bible he had copied, “verses by a bearded fellow with sandals, a tough-minded fellow called Ecclesiastes”, Seeger recalled.

Specifically, it was Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, from one of the “wisdom books” of the Old Testament, collections of truths and sayings. The words attributed “a season” to a series of opposing actions: “A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap; a time to kill, a time to heal,” etc. Seeger took the text almost verbatim. He added the “turn, turn, turn” to build a chorus and tacked on his own hopeful concluding line for cold war audiences: “A time of peace; I swear it’s not too late.”
'60s  Beatles  biblical  folk  hits  music  opposing_actions  pairs  protest_movements  scriptures  songs  songwriters  sonic  soundtracks 
november 2018 by jerryking
Tom Peters summarizes 17 books in six words -
May 31, 2018 | The Globe and Mail | HARVEY SCHACHTER.

“Hard is soft. Soft is hard.”
“Hard” stands for plans, data, a company’s organizational chart and other analytical tools. And while such rigorous quantitative work usually seems solid, Tom Peters warns on the Change This Manifesto site that they aren’t. “Plans are more often than not fantasies, numbers are readily manipulated,” he writes. “And org charts: In practice, they have little to do with how things actually get done.”

In the second sentence, he is referring to “the soft stuff” – people, relationships and organizational culture. It’s important. And it’s hard to get right.

So soft is hard – very hard.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Here are the speed traps to be aware of:

* Relationships take time.
* Recruiting allies to your cause takes time.
* Reading and studying to improve takes time.
* Waiting takes time – and yes, you should wait, since delay and pondering are essential elements of being human.
* Aggressive listening takes time.
* Practice and prep for anything takes time.
* Management-by-walking-around takes time.
* The slack you need in your schedule that comes from thinking about what not to do so you’re not overscheduled takes time.
* Thoughtful small gestures take time.
* The last one per cent of any task or project – the often critical part, the polishing part – takes time.
* Game-changing design takes time. Laurene Powell Jobs noted that her husband, Steve Jobs, and his chief designer, Jony Ive, “would discuss corners for hours.”
* Excellence takes time.
* “It is a hyper-fast-paced world. And the speed therein is madly increasing. Excellence, however, takes time; and some, or most, measures cannot be rushed,” he says.
* So remember hard is soft. Soft is hard. And don’t automatically get caught in the speed trap.

[jk....from Tony Schwartz...... Judgment is grounded in discernment, subtlety and nuance.... Good judgment grows out of reflection, and reflection requires the sort of quiet time that gets crowded out by the next demand].

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
THE VALUE OF PAIRED OPPOSITES
it’s not enough to merely explain what you believe. You also need to explain what you don’t believe. It is not enough to explain what you stand for. You need to explain what you stand against. That is critical with colleagues in the workplace; it helps to clarify. But it also works in Mr. Williams’ field, advertising. “Don’t just tell us what you are. Tell us what you are not,” he says.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
check email at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 4 p.m., and 8 p.m., with some additional time to purge emails each day.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Seth Godin: Add energy to every conversation, ask why, find obsolete items on your task list and eliminate them, treat customers better than they expected, offer to help to co-workers before they ask, leave things more organized than you found them, cut costs, and find other great employees to join the team.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
two words that will build trust with customers, according to consultant Jeff Mowatt: “As promised.” Add them in to conversations after you deliver something on time or in detail, to emphasize it’s “as promised.”
Communicating_&_Connecting  e-mail  Harvey_Schachter  humour  Jonathan_Ive  Seth_Godin  soft_skills  speed  Tom_Peters  trustworthiness  dual-consciousness  pairs  clarity  thinking_deliberatively  on-time  opposing_actions  co-workers 
may 2018 by jerryking
When local news outlets shutter due to cuts, we all lose - The Globe and Mail
ELIZABETH RENZETTI
The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Apr. 01, 2017

Local journalism, whether it’s at a city paper or a weekly, a radio or TV station, keeps its community entertained and informed. The National isn’t going to send a camera crew to cover the profoundly annoying pothole on Main Street, or the feud between the dress-shop owners, or the cozy relationship between the mayor and the developers. The Globe and Mail is not likely to, either: This is where the country’s 1,060 community papers come in – or where they used to. According to a recent report, those papers lost $400-million, or one-third of their revenue, between 2012 and 2015. The Public Policy Forum’s recent report on media in Canada, called The Shattered Mirror, contains an even more alarming statistic: “Since 2010, there have been 225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers lost to closure or merger in more than 200 federal ridings.” Local television coverage has contracted as well.

“Well, so what?” you might ask. Your neighbourhood has a Facebook page. The mayor has a Twitter account. Except that none of your neighbours is going to sit through a long and boring zoning meeting and report back (unless he is particularly weird). And the mayor’s Twitter feed? Undeniably good if you’re looking for sunshine and kittens. Not so good for anything she doesn’t want you to see. When provincial legislatures and city councils are left unwatched, it also means no one is keeping an eye on the sausage-making machine of democracy......The problem of fleeing ad dollars and subscribers won’t be settled so easily, either: The industry has struggled with these pains for years. Not-for-profit foundations that run news outlets might be one idea, or hyper-local websites that are crowdsourced by neighbours.....In his farewell column, Kevin Diakiw wrote, “Moving forward, you will likely receive your information from the Internet, or newsrooms pared to the bone. Be sure to read not only information that fits your own narrative, but opposing views as well.

“The weighty responsibility of hunting for balance and accuracy now lands largely on your shoulders.”
newspapers  rural  community  journalism  opposing_actions  journalists  provincial_legislatures  engaged_citizenry  city_councils  local  print_journalism  subscriptions  dual-consciousness  Postmedia  consolidation  local_journalism 
april 2017 by jerryking
The path to enlightenment and profit starts inside the office
(Feb. 2, 2016): The Financial Times | John Thornhill.

Competition used to be easy. That is in theory, if not always in practice. Until recently, most competent companies had a clear idea of who their rivals were, how to compete and on what field to fight.

One of the starkest - and scariest - declarations of competitive intent came from Komatsu, the Japanese construction equipment manufacturer, in the 1970s. As employees trooped into work they would walk over doormats exhorting: "Kill Caterpillar!". Companies benchmarked their operations and market share against their competitors to see where they stood.

But that strategic clarity has blurred in so many industries today to the point of near-invisibility thanks to the digital revolution and globalisation. Flying blind, companies seem happier to cut costs and buy back their shares than to invest purposefully for the future. Take the European telecommunications sector. Not long ago most telecoms companies were national monopolies with little, or no, competition. Today, it is hard to predict where the next threat is going to erupt.

WhatsApp, the California-based messaging service, was founded in 2009 and only registered in most companies' consciousness when it was acquired by Facebook for more than $19bn in 2014. Yet in its short life WhatsApp has taken huge bites out of the lucrative text messaging markets. Today, WhatsApp has close to 1bn users sending 30bn messages a day. The global SMS text messaging market is just 20bn a day.

Car manufacturers are rapidly wising up to the threat posed by new generation tech firms, such as Tesla, Google and Uber, all intent on developing "apps on wheels". Chinese and Indian companies, little heard of a few years ago, are bouncing out of their own markets to emerge as bold global competitors.

As the driving force of capitalism , competition gives companies a purpose, a mission and a sense of direction. But how can companies compete in such a shape-shifting environment? There are perhaps two (partial) answers.

The first is to do everything to understand the technological changes that are transforming the world, to identify the threats and opportunities early.

Gavin Patterson , chief executive of BT, the British telecoms group, says one of the functions of corporate leaders is to scan the horizon as never before. "As a CEO you have to be on the bridge looking outwards, looking for signs that something is happening, trying to anticipate it before it becomes a danger."

To that end, BT has opened innovation "scouting teams" in Silicon Valley and Israel, and tech partnerships with universities in China, the US, Abu Dhabi, India and the UK.

But even if you foresee the danger, it does not mean you can deal with it. After all, Kodak invented the first digital camera but failed to exploit the technology. The incentive structures of many companies are to minimise risk rather than maximise opportunity. Innovation is often a young company's game.

The second answer is that companies must look as intensively inwards as they do outwards (e.g. opposing actions). Well-managed companies enjoy many advantages: strong brands, masses of consumer data, valuable historic data sets, networks of smart people and easy access to capital. But what is often lacking is the ambition that marks out the new tech companies, their ability to innovate rapidly and their extraordinary connection with consumers. In that sense, the main competition of so many established companies lies within their own organisations.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, constantly urges his employees to keep being radical. In his Founders' Letter of 2013, he warned that companies tend to grow comfortable doing what they have always done and only ever make incremental change. "This . . . leads to irrelevance over time," he wrote.

Google operates a 70/20/10 rule where employees are encouraged to spend 70 per cent of their time on their core business, 20 per cent on working with another team and 10 per cent on moonshots. How many traditional companies focus so much on radical ventures?

Vishal Sikka, chief executive of the Indian IT group Infosys, says that internal constraints can often be far more damaging than external threats. "The traditional definition of competition is irrelevant. We are increasingly competing against ourselves," he says.

Quoting Siddhartha by the German writer Hermann Hesse, Mr Sikka argues that companies remain the masters of their own salvation whatever the market pressures: "Knowledge can be communicated. Wisdom cannot." He adds: "Every company has to find its own unique wisdom." [This wisdom reference is reminiscent of Paul Graham's advice to do things that don't scale].

john.thornhill@ft.com
ambitions  brands  breakthroughs  BT  bureaucracies  competition  complacency  constraints  Fortune_500  incentives  incrementalism  Infosys  innovation  introspection  irrelevance  large_companies  LBMA  messaging  mission-driven  Mondelez  moonshots  opposing_actions  organizational_culture  outward_looking  Paul_Graham  peripheral_vision  radical  risk-avoidance  scouting  smart_people  start_ups  staying_hungry  tacit_knowledge  technological_change  threats  uniqueness  unscalability  weaknesses  WhatsApp  wisdom  digital_cameras  digital_revolution  historical_data 
april 2016 by jerryking
Finding Strength in Humility - NYTimes.com
November 15, 2013 | NYT | By TONY SCHWARTZ

When we identify with a particular strength, the opposite we’re avoiding is almost always negative. For confidence, it’s insecurity or self-doubt. But what happens when we overuse confidence? It turns into arrogance, hubris and even grandiosity. Any strength overused eventually becomes toxic. Excessive honesty becomes cruelty. Tenacity congeals into rigidity. Bias for action can overwhelm thoughtful reflection.

This is where positive opposites serve as a balancing and humanizing role. Humility comes from the Latin word “humilis,” which literally means “low.” It resides just a stone’s throw from “humiliation.” Sure enough, excessive humility eventually softens into obsequiousness and self-subjugation. False humility is even worse: a conscious manipulation covertly aimed at winning praise, often to compensate for unacknowledged feelings of inadequacy.

But genuine humility is a reflection of neither weakness nor insecurity. Instead, it implies a respectful appreciation of the strengths of others, a lack of personal pretension and a more relaxed sense of confidence that doesn’t require external recognition.

In a complex world that so plainly and painfully defies easy answers, humility is also an antidote to overconfidence. It gives leaders permission to accept and acknowledge their limitations, to learn from them and continue to grow and evolve.....I don’t need to say out loud that I value confidence and strength. I do need to demonstrate that I also value humility and vulnerability – to embrace these opposites. In the end, the less time we spend protecting our own value, the more time we can spend creating value in the world.
Managing_Your_Career  humility  opposing_actions  personality_types/traits  character_traits  strengths  contemplation  reflections  pairs  overconfidence  dual-consciousness  self-doubt  arrogance  hubris  grandiosity  confidence  insecurity  honesty  cruelty  tenacity  rigidity  toxic_behaviors 
november 2013 by jerryking
Jacqueline Novogratz of Acumen Fund, on Pairs of Values - NYTimes.com
By ADAM BRYANT
Published: September 29, 2012

Q. Tell me about your approach to leadership.

A. I think we so often equate leadership with being experts — the leader is supposed to come in and fix things. But in this interconnected world we live in now, it’s almost impossible for just one person to do that.

So if we could only have more leaders who would start by just listening, just trying to understand what’s going wrong from the perspective of the people you’re supposed to serve — whether it’s your customers or people for whom you want the world to change.

Leaders can get stuck in groupthink because they’re really not listening, or they’re listening only to what they want to listen to, or they actually think they’re so right that they’re not interested in listening. And that leads to a lot of suboptimal solutions in the world.

The kind of leaders we need — and certainly that I aspire to be — reject ideology, reject trite assumptions, reject the status quo, and are really open to listening to solutions from people who are most impacted by the problems. ...We think about our values in pairs, and there is a tension or a balance between them. We talk about listening and leadership; accountability and generosity; humility and audacity. You’ve got to have the humility to see the world as it is — and in our world, working with poor communities, that’s not easy to do — but have the audacity to know why you are trying to make it be different, to imagine the way it could be. And then the immutable values are respect and integrity.
leadership  Acumen  opposing_actions  organizational_culture  values  social_capital  venture_capital  vc  accountability  generosity  humility  audacity  groupthink  listening  respect  integrity  pairs  tradeoffs  tension  dual-consciousness 
october 2012 by jerryking
Unlearning 101: Study Carneades
July 09, 2008 | unlearning 101 | by Jack Uldrich. " I say that
I’m not entitled to have an opinion on this subject unless I can state
the argument against my position better than the people who support it. I
think only when I’ve reached that state am I qualified to speak.” "
F. Scott Fitzgerald who once said: “The test of a first rate mind is the
ability to hold two diametrically opposed ideas at the same time and
still function.”"
critical_thinking  history  philosophy  skepticism  strategic_thinking  Nassim_Taleb  opposing_actions  books  incompatibilities  Greek  Stoics  dual-consciousness  disagreements  F._Scott_Fitzgerald 
february 2010 by jerryking
Insuring the Future
March 21 2008 | Memebox | By Jack Uldrich. The future will
largely be determined by the insurance industry’s ability to understand –
and thus underwrite – the future of various technologies. "For example,
in spite of genomics incredible potential to violently disrupt the
insurance industry’s business model of pooling risk, it is possible the
insurance industry will facilitate the adoption of genetic testing by
mandating that patients for certain diseases be genetically tested prior
to the administration of any new drug in order to make sure that that
drug will work effectively on the patient." "As F. Scott Fitzgerald
once said, “The test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two
diametrically opposed ideas in your head at the same time.”"
insurance  opposing_actions  Peter_Bernstein  future  innovation  risk-management  disruption  genetics  genomics  dual-consciousness  F._Scott_Fitzgerald 
february 2010 by jerryking

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