Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Don't Drive ....Motivate

"Driven" ... I hear this more often now than ever ... why is this and what does it mean.

I see this as a symptom of our captivation with technology .. our tech capture and the "technologisation" of people by data ... the need to measure and control ... to drive ourselves and others as if we were machines.

Today leadership and management is about data management and people (if there are people) are driven via data. People are nothing more than resources ... a set of KPIs on dashboard dial and driven as if they were automobiles. There is no soul in a machine ... a dashboard dial doesn't have an inner life, it's simply a dependent variable indicating responses to management stimulation. 

Data has reduced people to laboratory rats - 
soft machines ready for replacement by real machines as soon as possible.

Leadership and management has been replaced by technique and technocrats more comfortable with "well oiled machines" and data than they are with people - algorithms and data are a convenient comfortable way to make decisions without judgement

The problem with being driven by data is that its like doing makeup while driving using a rear view mirror ... it might make you look good and its great at showing you where you have been but its no use for showing you where you are going or where you want to go ... it's dangerous.

Data driven behaviouristic leadership and management is only skin deep - if you treat people like machines then they will behave like machines ... "jobsworths", working to rule only capable of what they have been programmed to do - expect and get nothing more.

The problem with data driven leadership and management is that people aren't machines, they are more than simple dependent variables - they have their own minds and it is their independence, diversity and autonomy that makes valuable.

Treat people as people and they will behave as people ... they will "go the extra mile", they will be flexible, creative, imaginative, excited and inspired. Don't drive people but motivate them .. inspire them with vision, passion, enthusiasm and excitement and they will give this back.

Leaders and managers - if you behave like a soulless machine then you deserve to be replaced by a machine and you will be - for the good of your people and for yourself ... be a person.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

10 years With Social Media

What a year 2007 was ... there was a Cambrian Explosion of technology or better still a sort of Great Ordovician Diversification Event (GOBE) - there were so many different things emerging from the bubbling web primordial soup. Where the Internet had connected computers now the web was connecting people - revolution and change was in the air there was a big explosion of social networks.

"The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people" ~  Tim Berners Lee

After more than a decade of mundane and mediocre Microsoft monopoly there were new kids on the block - there was a lot of experimentation and IT was getting exciting again. I was buzzing with excitement and joined Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Linkedin and Youtube as well as Blogger, Flickr, Delicious, Second Life, Netvibes and Page Flakes and a whole lot of other things like Google Docs, Google Pages and Zoho Docs and somehow managed to do all of these things at the same time.

That anyone could write the web and not just read it was a revolution - I felt empowered and I loved the freedom and openness of it all. 

I published my IT strategy openly on the web as a blog for comment - Miles Metcalf commented from China that I use the word change rather than re-engineer ... using engineer just showed my IT background but I totally "got it" and understood the change. I started a work related IT services Twitter account, Google Page and Facebook Group for IT Services.

I started video blogging on Youtube blog and started re-engineering our network to accommodate guest devices and social media. "The Network is Our Computer" was my philosophy and my mission - the computer network had support computers and people.

I was an evangelist for the new era of web 2, cloud and social - initiating, supporting and participating countless projects with teachers and learners.  I was the head of IT promoting social networks for teaching and learning arguing against the staff trying to block Facebook from classrooms. "Use their weapons against them" was the unfortunate phrase I ended up using with teachers who wanted to block Youtube .. as I could see how effective the "weapons" of social media could be.

I am a psychologist, a teacher and a technologist - all these things came together with social networks and education and I experienced first hand by teaching students how powerful social networks are in engaging students - using blogs, Youtube, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook instead of essays to engage students. Teaching, learning and education became exciting ... when lessons ended students wanted to carry on with what they were doing - making blog pages, Google pages, Facebook posts and Youtube videos. Rather than just "stand and deliver" we could flip learning and develop peer learning - having students research and create content on-line anywhere and use social nets to peer review work. I remember one project where business students were asked to research the impact of the "front of house" on a business and then make Youtube videos for peer discussion in class - students went off in groups and created all sorts of format from Fawlty Towers to Newsnight.

2010 ... student using his iPhone and mini PC in class

We engaged everyone and all subjects, it was inclusive - higher education, special needs, foundation and pre-entry, ESL - social networks were especially useful for students outside the college such as those on work placement. An especially effective technique was the student eAmbassador and what I call "true flip learning" ... social networks were a thing for young people and it was empowering for them to teach staff how to use it - students felt important, it boosted their self esteem but it took open and confident teachers to do this.

Student eAmbassadors working with  staff on better ways to communicate with learners
Web, social and mobile were coming together at speed in a combinatorial explosion of possibilities. In 2004 Tim O’Reilly described the changes taking places on-line as Web 2.0, and in 2009 there were a new set of changes taking place but the term Web 3.0 just didn't capture it so Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle coined the term Web Squared for the exponential change "when web meets world". This was the future, it was changing fast and it was exciting. Oh how we marvelled at the exponential growth in Facebook users and Youtube hours uploaded every minute - Facebook was the size of nation states and it would eventually eat the world.
These were the innocent and happy childhood days of social networks and while we would love to stay childish forever it is the nature of things to change. Rather than the web meeting the world the world met the web. Social networks "crossed the chasm", went mainstream and social networks became social media platforms - stages for all human life both good and bad to play out along with big business, politics and power.

There was a revolution and by 2012 the wheel had turned full circle - we were back where we started.

In 2008 Jonathan Zittrain saw the writing on the web walls and wrote about "The Future of the Internet" and by 2012 Anil Dash talked about "The Web We Lost" and Bruce Sterling said It Stopped Making Sense to Talk About 'The Internet'.

The land of milk and honey had started turning sour - the network was being monetised to sell people and weaponised by those in power.

The crunch time came in 2013, Edward Snowden showed us "the dark side of the moon" and the extent of "big brother" surveillance and in 2014 Tim Berners-Lee warned "How the web lost its way – and its founding principles"

A new generation of the web and social networks went underground into the dark and new diverse explosion of personal, ephemeral and encrypted communications tech became "the new thing" - Gimpse, Blink, Wickr, Signal, Telegram and Snapchat for example. The open web was disappearing behind walls. At the same time established social networks became . well established ... colleges and employers were using them and using them to "spy" on students ... why would students want to use Facebook now anyway.
Clay Shirky was a long time advocate for students to bring laptops, tablets and phones into class and use them, the web and social media at will but in 2014 he told students to put them away

"Allowing laptop use in class is like allowing boombox use in class — it lets each person choose whether to degrade the experience of those around them."

This was a real wake up call for me and I had to re-examine my whole philosophy in light of how the web and social networks had changed.

I was on the rebound from technology - from being one of the "hyper-connected" I appreciated, enjoyed and advocated being off-line and off-grid - it was refreshing. Leading by example gave lessons, presentations and lectures without tech at all - I used to quote John Hagel "I must apologies for not having any Powerpoint slides" :)  By putting away my own tech I found a new engagement with students - there was more interaction, discussion and questioning ... it was like rediscovering teaching all over again.

Disconnecting from the virtual world let me connect with the real world ... we get so busy having to take a share a photo or video for on-line presence we lose presence in the real world. I often went out deliberately "naked" without tech  ... just old fashioned cash, no smartphone or even a watch - I was on the rebound, like a an alcoholic not wanting to touch a drop. 
Don't throw the baby out with the bath water 

There is a need for balance, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water" there is a lot of good in social media but  given the way it has changed Howard Rheingold's Crap Detection 101 is more useful now than ever.

Technology today is different from that of 2007 ... smartphones are not as intrusive as PCs and laptops and used in the right way they are super effective in education.  Stepping away from the education tech capture of "stand and deliver" "death by powerpoint" or the back to teacher face to the machine of the standard IT suite and into a less tech intrusive environment with mobiles is quite exposing but super refreshing and helps facilitate multiple forms of pedagogy and a more Socratic method if you like that type of thing. 
Here I am in a mobile only tutorial
So, here I am in 2017 .. 10 years on from the last major tech revolution and waiting for the wheel to turn again and history to repeat ... will there be a "next big thing" and what will it be? Old technologies never die ... they just fade away ... all the old technologies are still part of my life - mixed up together. I have seen the early users of social networks jump ship looking for "the way we were" ... many going to Medium and the blogger community there, many others going to Mastadon (Like Twitter, Except Way More Civil). The openness of Twitter causes problems but I still like it.

I have always treated my on-line presence as a singularity - I put everything into Twitter and feed this automatically into  Facebook using the Facebook Twitter app and post the most of the same items into Linkedin. I have been treating each social network the same all these years and don't really want to change but I may get more out of them if I use them differently. I will keep putting everything into Twitter. I have been trimming my network on Facebook to those people I actually know - I'm thinking of breaking the link to twitter and using Facebook as a social network ... there is more conversation on there than Twitter anyway. Linkedin is the most civil and professional but less interesting and rather self aggrandising ... I might start "mis-behaving"  and put more political and controversial posts into it just to see what happens :) G+ is a bit of a ghost town ...  I mostly only post things about Google into it these days and I'm seriously thinking of not bothering but a few people I know use this and not other networks so its useful to keep this going at least a bit. Because no one uses it much G+ is a good social network for education ... there is no worry about it getting mixed up with personal life and it links well with Google's education stuff.

I'm not sure if there will be a social media\network next big thing ... I think all the variations on this have been played out and that we have to use what we have but probably change and adjust how we use them - we have woken up we just need to #staywoke. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

10 Years On Twitter

I Joined Twitter on the 16th of October 2007 .. why Timekord. My first tweet is below ... it sort of sums up the excitement with new tech and the experimentation of the time - the Vye UMPC was a new thing and so was Twitter - lets have a go and see what happens ... ... lets try them together :)
During the mid naughties the Web and PC had spread and combined to enough to provide the oxygen for an explosion of innovation and optimism - it was like a Cambrian Explosion of technology or better still a sort of Great Ordovician Diversification Event (GOBE) - there were so many different things emerging from the primordial soup and Twitter was one of the most exciting.

I remember people describing Twitter as micro-blogging rather than social network and squeezing things into 140 characters including URLs was a new challenge and a challenge many rose to - recipes crunched down to just 140 characters or less for example :) In academia we are used to expanding things ... having to crunch what you want to say into 140 characters including URLs hashtags and any @ references was a new skill I had to learn. 

Back in 2007 I was used to the system providing the features I used ... and the feature creep that caused systems to get fatter and more complicated. One of the wonderful and refreshing things about Twitter back then was that it was so simple and people could DIY their features. It took me quite a lot of head scratching to get used to the idea that hashtags were just something people made up - a recognised and super useful feature that was DIY by the users of the system rather than the producers of the system. The same applied to the way you could reference other people .... using RT (retweet) or HT (hat tip) for example. I really got the hang of Twitter DIY when I wanted to reference a link I came across from another user but wanted to add my own take on the link and didn't want to simply RT what they had written so thought of writing something and using VIA @xxx ... only to find out quite a bit later that this was a recognised DIY method.

The first few years on Twitter were a wonderful time of DIY and relative openness - Twitter accounts had RSS feeds so you could bring Twitter feeds into whatever news reader you were using along with all the other RSS feeds you had from blogs and websites for example. There was a hive of activity using the Twitter API - there was talk of not having to use the Twitter application itself and Twitter becoming a sort of protocol rather than a platform. There were lots of third party applications to access Twitter with, there were many programs accessing the Twitter API to carry out social studies and the first bot type systems that interacted programatically with Twitter and its users via the API. I remember how people hooked up sensors to objects and how they tweeted their condition ... e.g. moisture sensors in plant pots to tweet "I need watering" when the soil was getting dry or using Twitter as a protocol to communicate with an actuator to water the plant when it received tweets from the plant about getting too dry. I remember how objects tweeted their condition ... how Tower Bridge would tweet if it was raised or not. Yes ... it looked like Twitter might become the communication mechanism for an internet of things as well as people ... before the Internet of things became a thing :)

What a moment it was when I got my first re-tweet .. there were other people out there who were listening to what I said and even thought it worth passing on. The world seemed to be getting flatter ... anyone could be heard and amplified by the network - we were all connected and the butterfly effect and seven degrees of separation were real and we felt we could make a difference. 

I remember the Hudson river plane crash in 2009 and the excitement about how the news broke on Twitter first and how mainstream media used the Twitter feeds of normal people as sources in their reporting - the citizen journalist became real and the implications of this reverberated around the network.

I remember how I picked up several news stories first on Twitter - for example, using Twitter late one evening in 2009 I noticed many people tweeting that Michael Jackson had been found dead ... I checked some trusted mainstream news sites and found some stories about this which confirmed it. And so it went on ... news breaking fast and often first across social media to be confirmed later on mainstream traditional media.

We were so enthusiastic and techo-optimistic .. social networks were a web of people for people ... people were practically streaming their lives openly on-line ... I remember (Howard Rheingold) tweeting about his cancer treatment for example and how people were literally giving birth and dying on twitter - having their monitoring equipment tweet. People were frequently tweeting photos of their food and drink ... I guess it was important to them and did no harm but "Why do I want to see what people have had for their breakfast" was a common reason for people not wanting to use Twitter. People were getting addicted ... we read about couples breaking up because one partner (usually a man) spent so much time tweeting ... social media addiction was emerging but at this time it was an older generation rather than teens. The problem with social media addiction in the naughties may have been with people crossing over with baggage from a previous era of tech ... treating social media like a bucket rather than a stream. With a stream ... if you missed something .. it was "water under the bridge" but if you carried the behavioural baggage of something like email you worried about missing something and needed to keep emptying the bucket.

I remember being an early adopter of using Twitter in education ... to Tweet college news, IT services news and in teaching and learning. I used Twitter with students in peer support experiments - to ask questions and get advice among themselves, from me and from the wider community. The ability to see what famous people were saying and doing in real was something new and you could even get replies from them ... that a college student could get a reply from a famous thinker was mind blowing. I encouraged staff and students alike to take to Twitter to learn, it was a useful tool in research - this was the future!

2009 was I think the sweet spot for Twitter. The number of Twitter users tripled and the first user (Ashton Kutcher @aplusk) got to a million followers. Twitter was really taking off and growing fast - we were all getting excited ... this was the future and we could all be part of it. I remember how social media jobs came into marketing - there was one marketing job I remember advertised on Twitter (naturally) for someone to spend time on a tropical island and just tweet about what they were doing and how wonderful it all was! 

2009 was the time when Twitter crossed the chasm to the mainstream and Twitter itself started to change and become mainstream. 2009 was the year when (just like a mainstream platform) Twitter started to add system features for things people once did for themselves .. it was the year the Re-tweet became a button.

The "platforming" of Twitter has continued as it has diffused through society and it has lost its early charms and around 2012 or 2013 people started saying its looking more like Facebook. Twitter is no longer "an exclusive club" ... the early adopters have to mix it up with everyone - people, trolls, saints, sinners and everyone in between. I've noticed how many Twitter early adopters have left in the last year with an attitude of "good riddance" as they look for something new to find "the way we were" but Twitter is poorer for their absence - I miss their contribution and their conversation.

I have been lucky with Twitter ... I haven't been trolled. Over ten years my Twitter network has been honest and "organic"  - I follow only a small group of people who tweet about things of interest to me or interact with me  - this keeps my Twitter feed manually manageable. I have created a few lists but don't use them - I like my Twitter social network mixed up as it comes in a single stream. I just don't understand how anyone can honestly follow several hundred people let alone several thousand. I'm aware of the dangers of the filter bubble so take care to follow some people who have very different points of view to mine ... this can be uncomfortable but is essential if you want to learn.

Twitter ten years ago  ... we thought it would be the future but not this future. We looked forward to a flat earth and political spring where citizen journalists and the voice of the people would call out the abuses of those in power. We were naive ... the network has been weaponised by those in power against the people .. trolls and bots nudge us with lies and hate ... did anyone foresee the controversy of social media influence on the US election?

We shouldn't be surprised how Twitter has turned out ... all human life is on the platform .. the good, the bad and the ugly and like any technology it amplifies ... it amplifies the good, the bad and the ugly.

2017 has been a wake up call for Twitter ...  concerned people have for a long time been calling for it to be treated as a media outlet and be responsible as such. Twitter must open its eyes to see itself as a social media rather than a social network. Twitter will have to change and adapt to the new reality .. 2018 is going to be a crunch time for Twitter - it needs put reputation on the line and be bolder in how it manages its network ... it needs to think of itself, and its users, as a community...  It’s Time to End Your Anything-Goes Paradise.

There is a lot of good on Twitter and I won't be abandoning it and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next 10 years.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

No News Is Good News?

I'm watching too much news these days and its depressing.

Mainstream news that is ... I'm not talking about sports, music, science and even technology news and things like that but news programs like News at Ten or Newsnight.

In the last few days I've been not bothered to watch or listen to mainstream news and even avoided it and I feel a lot better for it.

The problem with mainstream news is that its dominated by politics and those interested in power - its no wonder that its these very people who are so obsessed with news itself and the more extreme they are the more obsessed they are with the news and controlling it. Mainstream news is dominated by actions of the borderline or full on sociopaths in positions of authority ... the scheming manipulations of power and greed. Listening to so much if this on the mainstream news just leaves a bad impression of humanity and our future.

The other problem with mainstream news is that it seeks out the negative and so often exaggerates it ... I guess news editors know what we like as good news doesn't "sell" nearly as well as bad news. Watching the mainstream news leaves me feeling pessimistic about the future ... a future of just one bad thing after another.

When I was young I paid no attention to politics and mainstream news - I was full of hope and optimistic about the future .... to my older self my younger self was naive ... but he was very happy.

I'm thinking of getting back to the mindset of my younger self by avoiding politics and the mainstream news ... it might make me happier but is this responsible ... shouldn't we pay attention to the conniving of the rich and powerful ... wealth and power usually go together. The news has changed since I was young ... in free countries the news is no longer the platform and cheerleader of the rich and powerful ... its highly critical - they don't like this but we do.

I think the way mainstream news has become more critical over the years exposes the rich and powerful for what they are ... news isn't naive anymore and it's this that is behind what I see as depressing and negative.

"I haven't changed but I know I'm not the same" 

You open Pandora's box and take the red pill and there's no no going back.

We need mainstream news the way it is ... it holds those in power to account and there are those equipped to do something about it but for most of us mainstream news increases our awareness but as an act of voyeurism ... we can only watch but can we do anything? 

Mainstream news ... I'll take a more balanced diet spending more time doing other things and I'll see how this goes.

"You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old." ~ George Burns

Monday, 29 May 2017

Memories Of My Mum

Mum's wedding photo with dad March 1952

A little while ago mum died. She had vascular dementia and had been exponentially declining over the last few years and especially the last months, weeks and days. We had been prepared for a long time but its different afterwards. I can never ask her about anything anymore - tell me about you and dad after the war? What did you dance to at your wedding? What was that place we went to on holiday in 1976? She can't answer these things anymore - she is gone forever. It sounds odd but memories help you remember and memories that are shared or made together in a sense help someone live on.

Even though my mum was very unwell and could remember little towards the end she could still make and share memories but now she's gone it's different ... she can't make or share memories anymore - I can only play back the memories she made and shared ... I can only remember, 

Here is how I remember my mum in the words of my dad "like a whippet" .. she couldn't settle and would always be doing something - cleaning, washing, gardening, walking and walking the dog. In her last weeks the nurses in the ward she was in recognised her as the "the lady who was always out with her dog and would stop and talk to everyone". She used to say that at school she liked sports and often told me the story of how she rode all the way from Dartford to Southend and back with a group of friends on her racing bike just managing to get back to Tilbury in time to get the last ferry across the Thames. I remember that racing bike laying next to dad's charismatic town bike in the shed ... mum's story gave that racer a sort of talismanic presence to me. It's only much later in life when she would have to sit down and even then she would be quite active listening the radio - up to date with the news and with a point of view.

"A worrier" ... another way I remember my mum in the words of my dad. Restless and not being able to settle mum would always be changing her mind - taking things back to the shops, having to redecorate ... dad having to move the furniture around, changing the wallpaper and carpet. Restless, worrying and not being able to settle but once she found what she liked she would settle and stick with it - she knew what she did and didn't like and liked what she knew. She didn't like me experimenting with new routes when driving her somewhere and wasn't one for trying exotic new food much - she would be quote happy with fish and chips anytime, anyplace. As a kid I always remember she liked a drop of Mackeson and in later life a drop (or more) of Baileys. In her earlier years she liked her holidays at Warners holiday camps, in later years the same resort in Malta year after year and she always loved the little seaside town of Minster. Mum would be thinking about a holiday months in advance ... buying little bits and packing them away throughout the year - mum would pack the suitcases for holidays weeks (if not months) in advance. And so with her final trip ... something she had "packed" for more than 15 years ago - she would often tell me about how dad and herself had paid for and booked their funeral and how I should do the same.

Mum had an impulsive, naughty, even rebellious side - you could see a gleam in her eye when she would say "I'm not supposed to but". She would often tell stories of how as a teenager she rode on the back of brother Roy's motorbike - going really fast and reckless through country lanes and saying how much she liked it.

My mum and dad were from a simpler time - there wasn't much money and life was what you made of it rather than what you bought with it. There were a lot of simple pleasures like sitting in the little"greenhouse" dad made at the bottom of the garden - mum and dad spent so many happy hours down there. When they eventually had a car they used to love driving down to the little seaside town of Minister at the weekend with sandwiches and a flask of tea and looking out over the sea together. I have fond memories of mum and dad and the the little seaside town of Minister, its where we took our first proper family holidays - it isn't far away but back in the early 1960s it was the furthest we had ever been - I had no idea where it was ... it was like another land ... a "holiday land", a holiday camp where everything was new, fresh and different. We stayed in little "chalets", we ate in a communal dinner hall where there were waiters, there was a dance hall and dedicated all day everyday stuff for kids - I felt like Charlie in the chocolate factory. We would go walking outside the camp .. pop into the tiny shop just outside, the cafe at the end of the road just before the beach and along the seafront to Sheerness and the penny arcades.

Dad was always a good swimmer - he would go straight in while mum paddled about with us ... feeling the cold - "its best to get your shoulders under" dad would always say to us. Mum had a big fear of letting go in the water - I never thought she would ever be able to swim but later in life - with dad's help she learned to swim and she loved it - she was so proud when she told me that she could swim a length of the pool. Every friday night mum and dad would walk down to Dartford swimming pool and on their way back have a treat of fish and chips from the chippy on east hill - a simple pleasure and they loved it.

Music evokes memories and reaches the parts that others can't - I saw this with mum towards the end when one of the nurses used a music program in her ward. Mum and dad used to like country music and you really could see mum's lights come on when they played music that was from the soundtrack of her life Elvis Presley, Jonny Cash, Glenn Campbell, Bread, Percy Sledge, Roberta Flack.

Mum and dad liked to dance - every Friday or saturday night they would go over to the tiny "Brent School Old boys social club" where they would dance. Sitting around the tiny round ables full of drinks and eyes stinging from the tobacco smoke I can remember my dad getting up putting out his hand and saying to mum "fancy a foxtrot". It seemed to me as a kid that they used to dance to everything - I'm sure I can remember my dad saying "fancy a jive", "fancy a quickstep" ... I think I can even remember "fancy the cha cha cha" :)

How do you remember someone and their life - it has to be a collage not a single image ... a set of video clips not a single frame. I have the stories of mum from before I was born .. being evacuated to the west country during the war, marrying the boy next door, riding on her brothers motorbike and cycling to Southend and back. I have the memories of mum that are part of my whole life until a little while ago.  

If I had to save just one memory of mum and dad that would be in the dance hall in at the Warner holiday camp in Minster upon sea - it must have been about 1963 when I was 5 and mum would have been about 30. The band started playing "Moon River" ... mum and dad got up and went on the dance floor and for some reason I followed and waltzed around with them. I remember this so fondly and I love this song and its the song my wife and I danced to at our wedding.

Moon River 

Mum and Dad together dancing later in life

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Running Lessons: Now Is The Time

If you are thinking about running or if you feel like running then now is the time ... don't put it off to another day ... "just do it".

"Strike while the iron is hot"

Sometimes it can be your body that feels like it ... if so "just do it" ... let your mind follow ... this is always the best way as at least your body seems OK and you can't do the run without your body:) Sometimes it can be your mind that feels like it .... if so "just do it" ... mind over matter ... let your body follow - it will catch up but be sure to listen to your body and take care. If both your mind and body feel like it then you are lucky - this is the best way to run .. mind and body in harmony and if you don't run too far or too hard then they will still be in harmony at the end of the run :)

"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”  Allen Saunders

If you have a pair of trainers and a pair of shorts and your feel like it then you have no excuse .. just put on an old T-shirt and you are ready. Make sure you have a pair of running trainers though - other sports trainers will be a a problem but cheap running trainers are just fine - mine cost £15 from Decathlon a few years ago and I've done nearly 1,000 miles in them!

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."
 - Lao Tzu

You know yourself best so start with a short run you are comfortable with - round the block, to the park and back .. .it doesn't matter how far or how long it takes or if you walk or even stop for some of it - the most important thing is to make it enjoyable .. this isn't meant to be work or hard labour.

Start small and easy - its good if you have a circular route so that if you need to you have a plan B .. a short cut back to the start. When the time feels right go a bit further.

My first run was a sort of oval route out towards a local park - this meant I could cut off and run a shorter oval if I needed to.
This run was the slowest and most exhausting I had done ... believe me - it gets easier each time you run. I repeated this run each weekend a few times - then added a little bit more each week - adding laps round the park and then going through the park and beyond adding a bit more each time until I was running half marathon distances every weekend and with serious hills as well!

Running lessons ...  the things you learn in life can be applied to running and the things you learn from running can be applied to life .. maybe I should have called this series of blog posts on running "zen and the art of running" :)

Its important to make a start ... you can try to plan everything to the last detail and try to get everything right and go for a "big bang" but things change and you may end up in a sort of planning procrastination and never actually get started. Get started early with small steps and build up. Be flexible, experiment and learn and adapt over time rather than start late with a big bang. 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Reflection Is For Life Not Just For Christmas

Christmas and the end of year is like an alternative reality - we put trees in our homes, eat parsnips and think about, talk about and do things we don't normally do.

Christmas and the end of year is full of reviews of the year and predictions for the year ahead it's fun and also a sort of annual catharsis - its just a pity we don't do this more often.

"How are you" ... busy is the socially acceptable response but what does this mean. Busy these days is all about objective personal productivity and behaviour - its as if we have internalised the workplace in our everyday life.

Thinking, let alone reflecting, isn't seen as being busy - we can't see it and we can't measure it - its not seen as productive behaviour, completed tasks are what count. In everyday life we are too "busy" to think .... personal productivity and busy behaviour is what matters - its like a cognitive heat sink "dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat."

Thinking and reflection are crucial in learning but I'm not talking any form of SMART planning and analysis and ticking off goals and achievements in the way many institutions corrupted and appropriated reflective practice in appraisals as another means to control and oppress employees. I'm not talking about reflection for intelligence through objective behaviourist analysis of data to turn ourselves into robots - that's artificial and machines are better at this anyway. I'm not talking about reflection as a technical report technologised by devices and data to objectify, quantify and consume ourselves.

I am talking about reflection for sentience "the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively" through self-reflection "the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about their fundamental nature, purpose and essence." I'm talking about reflection in the mind's eye "to see things with the mind", to let the mind wander and listen to your internal dialogue, emotional and mental life. I'm talking about reflection to enrich our lives through subjective self awareness by looking inside to find ourselves.

The information age is only just beginning - developments in artificial intelligence will raise great philosophical and even existential questions about what it means to be human. We share intelligence with machines but sentience makes us human and we should be human every day .... reflection is for life not just for christmas.