Sunday, December 31, 2017

What I've learnt in 2017

Finally, it's December 31, 2017. 
Probably the best day to look back at a year that's coming to an end in a matter of hours.
And look back I shall.

The Social Contract
In Kenya, 2017 is the year we got an excessive dose of politics. For the record, I am apolitical and with all things considered, I'd be remiss in failing to state the following:

All the shenanigans Kenyans experienced, and worse, got caught up in, were only for the benefit of the politicians themselves their family and friends.
The ordinary Kenyan was just a pawn, a dispensable means to an end.
Come January 2018, politicians will retreat to their mansions, high office and businesses.

The ordinary Kenyan will have to navigate a high cost of living. I can say with certainty that the price of maize flour, which has for months been subsidized at Ksh 90 for a 2kg packet, will revert to (obviously higher) market rates.

In essence, the ruling class has now got what they wanted and it's time for the taxpayers to doing what we do best - work.

Blame it on the Weatherman
Political hooey aside, 2017 was a year marked with really challenging weather conditions. The rains were below average and came in late. Crops failed. Animals died. Some areas in Kenya had it so bad they had to be given relief food.

Know Thyself
A fundamental aspect of The Walkabout is self discovery, the other two being insight and inspiration.
The very first thing I've learnt about myself is that I am deeply flawed. Thankfully, mine are not fundamental flaws.

And I must point out that this is not a lame attempt at self-deprecating humor.
My frailties notwithstanding, I continue to ameliorate. Admittedly, I am in repair. Not together, but invariably getting there.

Listening to Daniel Kahneman's Desert Island Discs, the following gem stood out from the many others he shared with Kirsty Young:
"People see others much more clearly than they see themselves."

For this reason, I've opted to focus more on gaining a better understanding of myself.
For a long time, I've willfully succumbed to a confirmation bias that has often clouded my rational judgment and ended up making choices I don't understand well.

I purpose to make significant improvements in my thought process and increase the efficiency of my rational decision maker.
Reading the following three books will be of much help:
  1. Critical Thinking: Tools for taking charge of your professional and personal life by Richard Paul and Linda Elder.
  2. The Person and the Situation by Lee Ross and Richard Nisbett.
  3. Good to Great by Jim Collins.
Having recently read the first and third books above, they are worthy reads. I've already started reading the second one and it is a very good book.

Finally, I look back at how little I blogged here. Not that I was so busy or lacked content and ideas in my overactive mind or my eventful life. The reason is that I happened to one day do a fearless and searching moral inventory of my life and realized I was almost living the life of a sign-post.
It became evident I wasn't living up to the very things I spoke and wrote about, and decided to take a break until such a time that there would be more order and congruent purpose in my life.

By the look of things, we're now good to go as we say goodbye to 2017.
In view of the foregoing, all is well that ends well and we can face the future with confidence.

* * *

In just a few hours, a new year will be upon us.
As 2017 becomes an indelible part of our shadow days, what plans do you have for 2018, starting today?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Learning to Blog Again

Oh boy! It's been many months since I last posted on The Walkabout. In fact, only two months shy of a complete year of absence.

But not to worry. A lot has happened while I've been away (the above photo points - if you excuse the pun - to one such thing). Much that is beyond the scope of this site.
What is important, however, is my return to blogging on The Walkabout.

You see, I have in recent times focused all my attention on the small farm that I reside on. I also have been writing some books and on occasion, doing some design work. And lots of research writing. And endless reading.
It is mainly due to time constraints that I opted to go on indefinite hiatus on all my blogs, even the newest and most exciting Lasting Impressions marketing blog.
But more on this one later.

So why have I decided to blog again, given that I still have serious time constraints? Why keep on writing posts on a blog I have several times in the past considered deleting and moving on?

The simple answer is that this blog is not my own. In other words, doing away with The Walkabout would be like giving up something that does not belong to me alone. To better understand the thinking behind this, take a look at Wilglory Tanjong's response [PDF] to Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History episode 9 (Generous Orthodoxy).
Much as I do not agree with her entirely, I do concur on the parallel that The Walkabout is very much a joint effort, because this journey of insight, inspiration and self discovery cannot be possible without interacting with other people, and reading, listening or watching stuff written by others.

Speaking of interacting with others, I have recently been on chat with and even met on March 18, a person who got to read a good number of the posts on here. The question I always get to answer is "Why aren't you writing anymore?"
There are many answers to this, one of which is many a time getting discouraged by the fact that I often fall short of living a life consistent with many of the things I write on the blog. Not that this blog is a the-way-to-live-right-manual, but this is something I call living the life of a signpost and will address that in a post later this week or some time else soon.

It is true I am a man with many faults and character flaws. We all are. My only redeeming grace would be that I can, like the man in the arena, enjoy the journey as well and not just the destination. And in any case, it is mostly never too late to set things right. After all, we are always in repair. Not together, but getting there.
It is for this reason too, that I felt I need to keep writing. There are stories that need telling, life experiences that need to be shared and insights we need to learn from.

So all in all, I shall try to do at least a post every week.
And to accommodate this, and in line with some recent changes at Complit Communications, it has become necessary to retire the Complit Design site, do regular posting on Lasting Impressions and prepare for a Connect Magazine return to publishing in coming months.

Over at Lasting Impressions, this week's post is: From Remarkably Bland to Remarkable Brand.

* * *

I was watching Kurt Angle's induction to the WWE Hall of Fame just last week. After his speech, begins his celebration by singing his favorite songs. And looking back, I recalled Adam "Edge" Copeland's induction back in 2012. 'Walk' by Foo Fighters was his song. It is one of my top favorites. And today, no song can better describe this return to blogging.

And here is some trivia: On Edge's first ever match, Edge tragically ended the career of Jose Estrada. Edge's debut was Jose's Closing Time. So yes, some beginnings come from other beginning's ends.
It is now time for me to learn to blog again. I have waited long enough... so where else do I begin than right here, and right now?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Understanding the Choices we Make

Apparently, making a choice is only the first (and easy step) when it comes to informed and independent decision making.

Oracle: Candy?
Neo: You already know if I'm going to take it?
Oracle: [I] wouldn't be much of an Oracle if I didn't.
Neo: But if you already know, how can I make a choice?
Oracle: Because you didn't come here to make the choice, you've already made it. You're here to try to understand why you made it.

The Matrix trilogy (The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions) is one of those movies you keep watching every once in a while, and every new time, you better understand or learn something new.
It is for this reason that it permanently resides on my hard drive.

The central theme in The Matrix is human consciousness in the age of Artificial Intelligence.
The scene above is from Matrix Reloaded.

Later on in the dialogue, the Oracle says the following:

We can never see past the choices we don't understand.

I often think above these words, which makes manifest the enduring truth in the above statement - that making a choice is only the first step in decision making.

Informed Choices

Proper decision making is usually associated with free will and knowledge or understanding. Only then can one make informed choices.

As for free will, it is largely an illusion. Concerted psychological and philosophical research has so far showed exactly that. For a better understanding, listen to Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussing Free Will on In Our Time, on BBC Radio 4.

Does Having Many Choices Help?

Many will argue that having more options to choose from makes decision making somewhat easier. Well, that is sadly not the case. Too many choices actually result in something called choice paralysis.

Choice paralysis was well tackled by Barry Schwartz in his TED Talk in 2007.

This paradox of choice, however, has also been disputed.

So how can decision making be made easier?

Well, Sheena Iyengar has addressed this in two TED Talks. One is on how to make choosing easier in 2011, which was a follow up to her 2010 talk on The Art of Choosing.

All in all, how to decide is not exactly an easy task. Making choices can, and does result in decision fatigue. The Umbel blog outlines 7 steps that can help you in deciding how to decide:
  • clearly define measurable goals
  • recognize that your brain has tendencies and biases
  • set a date or time to make your final decision
  • seek expert advice; find out what others are doing to achieve similar goals
  • identify alternative methods of achieving your goal
  • check your gut
  • satisfice yourself.
In case you're wondering, this is what satisfice means:

1. (intransitive) to act in such a way as to satisfy the minimum requirements for achieving a particular result
2. (transitive) ( obsolete) to satisfy
Understanding Our Choices

Having made a (hopefully right) choice, the more important aspect of decision making then comes into play - understanding that choice.

Let's delve into this with an example that will illustrate how making choices without bothering to understand them can be dangerous.

Imagine a young man or woman who upon graduation, gets a well-paying job in a prestigious company. He proceeds to live in a leafy suburb in Nairobi.
He then fully succumbs to the bright lights, big city way of life - drugs, drinking, fast women and fancy cars... all in an effort to live on the fastlane.

Soon enough, this reckless living catches up with our friend - debt, poor health, mental anguish and alienation from his fair-weather friends. He has indeed made all these choices, nothing has been done under duress. But he could never see past the choices he did not understand.

That, in essence, is how we all miss out on the inevitable consequences of our choices and the acts that are predicated on such choices.
It all boils down to making an effort, if only to understand the choices that we routinely make.

* * *

The fact that we may not be in a position to fully exercise independent free will should not be an excuse to making not only the right choices, but choices that we understand.

In lieu of this, we become quick to judge and slow to learn.  We run ahead, but go too slow.
But everything's not lost, and there is hope. If only we take a different road.


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