Posts Tagged ‘explanation’

Tweaking The Talk

December 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There’s a well-known distinction between those that do and those that talk about doing – walking the walk compared to just talking the talk.

You don’t often hear about tweaking the talk.  But tweaking the talk – modifying the content of your talking over time – is a very common feature of our interaction with others.  ‘Talking the talk’ is tweaked all the time such that your talking becomes more impressive and more remote from any and all instances of actually ‘walking the walk’.  It is likely that when you talk the (particular) talk today, it will deviate substantially from the first time you talked that particular talk.  Embellishment is an inextricable component of expression.

We often create false memories 

Thinking we know, often without either knowing or thinking, can create all sorts of problems.  One example is in the false memories we have of our performance and behaviour.  To fill in the short-term gaps, we ‘remember’ things that never happened, we assume or infer rather than recall.  How often have you heard people explain their mistakes by saying “I thought that ….” when this thinking is at odds with the situation?

And our recollection of past events is not a process of neutral recall:

Using past experiences as building blocks for present performance is not necessarily a neutral process. Injecting the past into the present can and does assist in meeting current task demands but this can and does change your memories of the past. You effect their retrieval and they are affected by this retrieval. The past is fenced off in time but the fence is not impervious to the present. Over time, facts can soften, fiction can harden and the lines between them can become less visible.

Some recent evidence emphasises the social nature of this embellishment process.  We embellish for others and because of others, not just by and for ourselves.   Conformity is a frequent characteristic of group performance – don’t stand up, don’t stand out, just stand in line as that makes it easiest to toe that line.  These studies demonstrated that conformity can affect memories in an enduring way.   Socially-imposed illusion, even ones that are known to be wrong by individuals, can supplant individual memories; these will often remain in place even when the original illusion is shown to be false.  It’s seems true that two (or more) wrongs can make an individual’s right (memory) turn into the same wrong.

Do you often talk to be typical, of your friends, of your generation, of your experiences?  Conversation is often typified by a desire to conform rather than communicate.  Conversation is often the outcome of memory and emotion.  Conversation is not just about facts and passive discourse; it can also be about fictions and ‘theatre’:

Fact may be stranger than fiction but fiction is more frequent than fact.  How do you find your own way through this quagmire?  Do you do it by tweaking your talk?

How Typical

December 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is that heading a statement, probably pejorative in nature, or is it a question without the question mark?  What’s that – you think it’s a statement?  How typical (which ‘tis nobler confirms is not a question).  Sorry, that sounded unintentionally pejorative, which is not typical of ‘tis nobler.

And, with your interest in experiential learning and behavioural change (why else would you be reading this?), it’s not typical of you either.

But what is typical, particularly when most of these judgements concern ‘global’ concepts, concepts that may have concrete definitions that mask their abstract nature?  Are you a typical teenager?  Are you a typical learner?  Are you typical of those trying to change their behaviour?  Are you a typical driver?  Are you typical?

The short answer to these questions is that people regard others who are similar to themselves as typical.  You are typical if you are like me for I like to regard myself as typical – I fit the ‘model’, I am the archetype.  There’s an interesting interplay going on here:

If you are like me, you are typical (for I consider myself the standard), and/or

If I like you (or what you are doing), you are typical (for I consider myself to be or do exactly like that too).

As Jamie Foxx sings in the song ‘Just Like Me’ – You’re just like me and I’m just like you …… How typical. How typical?

Think about and through the possible processes going on.  There may be elements of efficient pattern matching intertwined with perceptions of personal qualities that are influenced by self esteem in this judgement process.  It seems that concluding that someone else is typical is typically complicated.  The implications of this process can be equally complicated when you think about ‘Islands’:

There is evidence that, if I think you are similar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am more likely to behave poorly.  Further, if I think you are dissimilar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am less likely to behave poorly.  In both these cases, I don’t need to know anything about you other than your level of similarity.

Assuming someone is typical because they are like you is typical.  Of course, people are books but you can only see their ‘covers’ in judging whether they are typical or not.

Do you judge a book by its cover?  How typical is this cover of the book?  Does your pattern matching transcend the cover?  Based on the way you answer these questions, should ‘tis nobler apply the statement, the question or both?

How typical.  How typical?

Fooling Permits

November 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Deception, whether you apply it to yourself or you adopt it in your behaviour towards others, washes through and throughout daily life.  It is such a common occurrence that ‘tis nobler wonders whether the deception process requires regulation, perhaps through the issuing of fooling permits.  With such a permit, fooling yourself or others would be permitted under certain conditions.  Would you queue for a licence to fool?

Of course you wouldn’t – it’s a foolish idea.  But there are serious issues involved if you view ‘permits’ in the tile of this post as a verb and not a noun.

What does fooling permit?  The short answer is that fooling permits foolishness.  A display of ‘fooling’ produces (negative) consequences beyond the display itself – a ‘fooling’ incident’ can degenerate into a foolish game:

Let’s use the evidence from a recent study to illustrate how ‘fooling’ can lead to foolishness.  For once, ‘tis nobler doesn’t need to go beyond the report’s heading to make the point (emphasis added):

Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation

Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-Risk Behaviors

People who took what they thought were dietary supplements expressed an intention to do less exercise, a greater intention to pursue pleasurable activities and made poorer food choices than control subjects.  The explanatory mechanism was the perceived (but illusory) invulnerability bestowed by the supplements.

Relative to the benefits of a balanced diet, there is always the chance of some ‘fooling’ to support supplements.  But the most worrying aspect of this study is that this ‘fooling’ behaviour promoted foolish behaviour; it’s as though supplements can be seen as validating an unbalanced diet and an unbalanced lifestyle.

Within the borders of the ‘fooling’, (self-) deception can be unhelpful through to upsetting and destructive.  However, ‘fooling’ need not stay within its borders and this is how the original (self-) deception creates more problems.

The question remains – who are you fooling?  Following on from this question, ‘tis nobler can now add – are you being foolish?  ‘Fooling’ does not always produce ‘foolish’ but it may be that ‘foolish’ is always preceded by fooling.  It would be foolish to ignore the effects of ‘fooling’ and it would be foolish to ignore that ‘fooling’ is a cause of foolishness.

Do foolish games come from ‘fooling’ games?

Who Are You Fooling?

November 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s not so much a foolish week at ‘tis nobler this week as a fooling week.  Think of this week’s theme then as ‘tisfoolery’.  The first post raises an interesting ‘chicken and egg’ question; sometimes, cause and effect does not always operate in the direction it appears to.  Untangling cause from effect, effect from cause and effect as cause of a subsequent effect is a constant challenge, especially when these causal relationships are accompanied by a host of correlates that muddy the water. Correlates rarely clarify, and never cause.

And carousels only circle, but whether they circle as a cause, effect or correlate is a matter of some conjecture for your experience of them can be ‘deceptive’:

The real point for presenting this video was to illustrate the circular nature of deception and the many other elements that swirl around this process.  An effect can be described but this description is usually limited to the effect, a linear process that begins with ‘this happened’ and ends with ‘this is what happened’.  And the line continues.

An effect can be explained and this explanation transcends the effect, a non-linear process that begins with ‘this happened’ and ends with ‘this is what happened, this is why it happened and this is what it means’.  And the behavioural ‘space’ is unpacked and re-packed.

But much of what we do falls between description and explanation for the former is too glib and the latter requires too much effort.  Welcome to the land of the pretend explanation, a land overrun by justifications, rationalisations, opinions, bias, strategies and stratagems.  In this land, the aim is to prevail rather than understand.

And it is here where deceit and deception can run rampant.

At some times, we deceive others and then believe our deceit to be true.  At other times, we deceive ourselves in order to better deceive others.  And then we deceive ourselves yet ignore the consequences of our self-deception, or we ‘pretend explain’ these consequences by compounding self-deception.  There is compelling evidence that (self-) deception can be a powerful influence on our own behaviour and the ways in which we interact with others.

But it’s not really a question of causes and effects, of lines and directions. It’s a question of circles.

It’s worth remembering that there’s a lot of (self-) deception going around.  Who are you fooling?

Just Must

November 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the relationship between ‘just’ and ‘must’?  It sounds initially like an imperative relationship – You JUST MUST do this, go there or see that.  But there’s a deeper connection – there’s always a deeper connection.

The deeper connection is similar to the connection between fairness and fault.  If you view the world as just, often a series of ‘must’ statements follow to reinforce this view.  For the world to be just, the bad things that happen to people just must be their fault.  When you have a choice between the world and a ‘victim’, it’s easier to blame the ‘victim’ than modify your world-view.

Do you remember when ‘tis nobler wrote:

As a strategy, blaming others is much, much more common than it is effective.  Why is it that being seen to be doing ‘something that is really nothing’ is more favoured than just getting on with the job of doing ‘something that is something’?  Pretending that the problems are ‘elsewhere’ because that is where you prefer to look is never a solution.

Think of the choice that is available to all of us all of the time – we can examine and explain or we can believe and blame.  The former takes a lot of effort and may not always be possible or successful but the alternative, while simple and tempting, will invariably be counterproductive.  This is not an argument against beliefs; it is a suggestion to review the connection between belief and blame.  Does it make sense for specific blame (it must have been your fault and you got what you deserved) to flow from a general belief (the world is a decent place)?

‘tis nobler has examined this music video.  ‘tis nobler cannot explain it.  Nor can ‘tis nobler believe it.  However, ‘tis nobler is not about to blame The Who for their ‘failure’:

Blame is an attractive proposition for it protects your belief that bad things happen to people who deserve these things.  Which path will you take – the ‘examine and explain’ journey or the ‘believe and blame’ shortcut?

You have to choose either the ‘Es’ or the ‘Bs’ as this fundamental choice determines the direction and distance of your learning.  You can move forward and keep moving or you can stay where you are and just go through the motions without much progress.

Choose? You just must.

Skilful Or Superstitious?

November 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Birds of a feather flock together, for they say like attracts like, whether they like it or not.  If you combine sufficient and sufficiently robust ‘likes’ together, a pattern is produced.  But what does ‘of a feather’ actually mean in practice?

More importantly, when any two or more things flock together, does this mean they are ‘of a feather’?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that subjective assessments determine the presence or absence of beauty.  What about patterns – are they also in the eye of the beholder?  Are one person’s patterns another person’s coincidences?

The development, refinement and ongoing validation of patterns underpin skilled performance.  The generation of such patterns could be considered the primary objective of experiential learning.  As you now know, patterns afford greater effectiveness and much greater efficiency of performance.

You take a big chunk out of the required effort to do something because you’ve put in the required effort to establish chunks!

Nevertheless, each and every pattern is affected by transient outliers; such novelties could the unusual forms of the usual or usual forms of the unusual.  In contrast, patterns are usual forms of the usual, which usually apply most (but not all) of the time.  Sorting out the unusual ‘usual’ (unexpected variations), the usual ‘unusual’ (unexpected novelties) and the usual ‘usual’ (expected routines) is the essence of validation – what do these things mean and how do they link together?  This is another area in which distortions can appear.

Validation is a product of continuing experience.  ‘Flocking together’ does not, by itself, make a valid pattern, even if you initially assign meaning to these apparent links.  Coincidental connections occur all the time and mean little or nothing.  Experience will diminish and delete these connections but only if you stop clinging to them, defying the evidence of experiences to protect personal superstitions. And ‘when you believe in things that you don’t understand ….. superstition ain’t the way’:

The distinctions between cause, correlate and coincidence can be difficult to learn for experience and personal meaning are common to all three dimensions.  Patterns can contain real and illusory elements – making sense of the former and seeing sense on the latter is all part of your learning journey.  Will you be skilful or superstitious?


Wide Shut

November 7th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you look up, what do you see?  If you’re indoors and taking this question literally, you might answer ‘the ceiling’.  If you’re outdoors and thinking atmospherically, you could answer ‘the sky’.  There is one answer that is independent of location and almost certainly correct regardless of where you are, who you are or what you are doing.

Any ideas on what this could be?  It’s not really a trick question although the answer does involve trickery.  This ‘thing’ must always be above you for you are always under it.

What are you always under?  An illusion!  Being under an illusion – that you are as clear to others as you are to yourself – is a constant companion in your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts, simply because you are you and you are therefore not somebody else.  Of course, they (being all the others) are under the same illusion that you are; this turns the shared illusion into the reality with which we all must cope.  It’s crowded under there!

We all think that others will understand us as we understand ourselves.  We believe this should be straightforward as we consider our feelings and actions to be an ‘open book’, unambiguously there for all to see and comprehend.  Further, as our ‘book’ is open, we should all be on the same page all the time.  But even ‘open books’ present many challenges:

Can you imagine the ways in which misunderstandings flow from our mistaken belief that we are transparent to others?  Can you imagine the ways in which this illusion is compounded because we also assume that the actions of others are as transparent to us as our own actions are?

As a learner and changer, it’s never easy being ‘you’ for you are continually monitoring, identifying, analysing and resolving challenges.  During this process, you will be selective, sometimes to your advantage and sometimes not, you will be suspicious without necessarily knowing the cause and you will be caught short-handed for demands may exceed your capacity to cope.

It’s hard enough being you.  With the ‘book’ metaphor, it is challenging enough to establish where you are, what is happening and what it all means, even when you know the page, paragraph and preceding chapters.  Can you really expect others to ‘read what you are reading’ and therefore understand what you understand?

Try to be transparent, for valid connections with others can only help your journey.  Never just assume that you are transparent, for even though you consider yourself to be an ‘open book’, you will still often appear as an enigma machine to others.

Beneath And Beyond Feeling

November 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting.  More accurately, ‘tis nobler wants to show you a painting of a painting.  To be fully truthful, it’s a painting of a painting of a painting.  No, that’s not quite right; it’s a painting of a painting of a painting of a painting.  Still not there, but it’s time to change direction otherwise we’d continue to follow the paintings of paintings deeper and deeper.

And, as you explore ever deeper, you realise that this is just like experiential learning and behavioural change; whatever way you look at it, you should always try to look beneath and beyond the immediate.  The ‘painting’ may be nice but what can be found beneath and beyond the immediate ‘painting’ represents true value and perhaps your true values.

Beneath and beyond don’t just shape what you do, they can also shape how you feel about it.  According to some recent research, beneath and beyond feelings can reach the surface without you being aware of what lies beneath and beyond.  When ‘tis nobler stresses the core principle:

What you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are,

it is important to remember that there are situations beneath and beyond the immediate situation being observed.  Why are you doing that?  Why are you feeling like that?  Answers to these questions may be partly anchored in the immediate but they are also always likely to reflect goals, attitudes and values beneath and beyond the immediate.

Beneath and beyond are measures of depth and distance that indicate where valid and enduring answers may be found.  Where will you find your whys?  Will you always find it in the obvious and immediate or will you explore beneath and beyond?

You Are Free To Stop

October 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s an open secret that an open secret is an oxymoron.  ‘tis nobler is unsure whether this old news came from military intelligence or the Italian government for there has been a deafening silence.  There are contradictory views on the involvement of paradoxes and contradictions in oxymorons; actually paradoxes lead to contradictions so it might be a case that everything ‘tis nobler writes is false.  ‘tis nobler wonders whether you are able to exclude that last assertion from your conclusion; if you cannot do this, it’s rather paradoxical.

Perhaps it’s like concluding that you are not free to do but (and say this in your best Yoda voice) you are free to do not.  It would be more realistic if you said ‘free you are to do not’.

Are you free to do not?  So it would seem from the evidence (although it is restricted to very simple experimental tasks).  This is a very big topic – one that will generate much discussion between neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers for it is fraught with methodological  and conceptual issues – but let’s pick out the very essence of it as it reinforces the fundamental importance of self management.

One fundamental advantage of experiential learning is the shift from conscious or intentional processing of information to subconscious and unintentional (but NOT unintended) operation.  There are many, many examples that you could draw on from personal experience in which you are doing things in a sensible, co-ordinated, effective and efficient manner without being fully aware of them – the most ubiquitous example could be driving a car, much of which takes place ‘in the background’ and occasionally from the backseat!  Are you exercising free will in these instances?

This may or may not be different from the chain of events that underpin specific and isolated choices, for what affects these discrete choices may still be as complex as any skilled behaviour.  Being unaware of ‘what and why’ prior to the conscious act may have little to do with free will and more to do with learned, validated and elegant patterns.  Who knows?

But, regardless of the precise mechanism(s), it appears possible to stop this automatic process before the (non-conscious) action is implemented.  While the status of a ‘go motion’ remains debatable, a ‘stop motion’ exists.  Stop motion is a paradox and yet it is exceedingly clever.  It relies on compressing a large number of very subtle changes to produce a fluid pattern, which is not that far away from the goals of experiential learning:

Even on autopilot and not consciously aware of what you are doing, you retain the capacity to stop and change.  You should be aware that you have choices, even when you are unaware of their existence.

You have the power to choose to stop.  You have the power to choose to change.  What will you choose to do?

Around Is Not Forward

October 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Movement does not necessarily signify progress; neither does change necessarily signify improvement.  Deckchairs on the Titanic or chickens parted from their heads represent evidence that around is not forward.  Around poses problems for individuals but it is an almost irresistible temptation for groups.

Around does have particular appeal for it alludes to effort – satisfying a pre-requisite that people must be seen to be doing something – while progress eludes those making such ‘effort’.  The latter satisfies a second pre-requisite for many such activities – retention of the status quo.

Not only is around not forward, around prevents forward.  In a standard twist, forward must not only be prevented, it must NOT be seen to be prevented.  Prevention is better when unclear!

There is significant evidence indicating how this happens within groups but no clear explanations for why this happens.  Possible explanations will be left for another time – perhaps things will move forward if ‘tis nobler hangs around – so let’s just set out the basic problem.

And the basic problem is ‘around’.  Groups are not the sum of the individuals that comprise them; rather, groups are often the parts of each individual that are shared with all other group members.  Instead of bringing all of themselves to the group, each person brings only those things shared with others.  In this sense, while groups comprise more people, group performance can reflect the limited performance of less than one individual.

If you can’t or don’t use all of your abilities to help the group move forward, look what happens:

Expanding numbers can produce shrinking performance, for all reduce to the shared rather than share the unique.  It’s the opposite of synergy – the whole is less rather than greater than the sum of its parts.

There’s a lot of ‘going around’ going around.  Go forward, not around.

Appearing Positive

October 21st, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Apparently, this week has been about appearances.  At least, that is how it has seemed.  Making an appearance, as appearance has done this week, suggests that there are periods of absence.  Appearing then departing, appearing (in the sense of seeming) then becoming clear(er) or absent and then appearing, the change in ‘state’ may be the most noticeable feature.  Of course, the regular appearance of change blindness suggests that we can be blind to a change in appearance.

Who would have thought that appearance was such an awkward concept?

Still, In the face of continuing uncertainty and constant change, we are often told to stay positive, suggesting we were positive in the first place.  But ‘appearing positive’ – the title of today’s post – is not about affect; rather, it’s about grammar.  And it’s about the relevance of the relative and the abandonment of the absolute.

The positive is the base form of an adjective – easy, safe, hard or dangerous – and it is in this form that many people view experiential learning and behavioural change.  They view it in absolute terms.  Things might appear positive – they might appear safe or easy – but the ways things appear can be deceiving.

But things are rarely absolute and so we need to think of ‘appearing positive’ in degrees – safer, easier or less dangerous.  This is the comparative form, the form that is more appropriate for learners and changers.  You are never safe but you can always be safer, things are never easy but effort can make them easier.  If you think ‘positive’, you see things in black and white.  To appreciate the many subtleties that influence learning and behaviour, you need to see both others and situations (and yourself) in true colours:

As soon as you slip back to accepting that things appear positive, and therefore they are absolute, the potential for error increases.  We can be lulled into this type of thinking for the real world often conspires against us:

  • We operate in forgiving environments and so we are often unaware of being forgiven.
  • We operate in familiar environments and so we are often unaware of the subtle variations.
  • We operate in self-paced environments and so we are often unaware of our efforts to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

Forgiving, familiar and self-paced are ‘positive’.  But we need more, or less, to guide our journey – more forgiving, less familiar, and more self-paced.  Is more or less more or less appropriate than the positive? Can you be absolutely positive or is it better to be surely relative?

Things might appear positive but they aren’t.  Be positive, think comparative.

Appearing Random

October 19th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

This is the fifth (of six) ‘strategic’ post in a row, which hardly seems random (for the sole reason that it isn’t).  Yet the appearance of randomness influences learning and behavioural change in a host of ways.  Let’s start with a few questions.

Would your friends describe you as fantastic or bombastic?  Would your friends describe you as gymnastic or inelastic?  Would your friends describe you as enthusiastic or plastic?  Would your friends describe you as ecclesiastic or scholastic?

Would your friends think these rating are drastic or exaggerated?  Exaggerated?  EXAGGERATED??  That doesn’t fit the pattern!

The use of ‘exaggerated’ isn’t sarcastic – it’s stochastic.  Actually, it’s not stochastic, but ‘tis nobler is trying to make a point.  And the point has to do with how you go about explaining things, for your explanations can affect everything you do.

Stochastic means random, a messy word that might be best defined as unpredictable, although this might just mean things are happening according to a pattern of which we are unaware.  Just because things look random doesn’t mean that they are – even many sets of ‘random’ numbers are, in technical terms, pseudo-random rather than truly random.

The difference between things appearing mostly random or mostly predictable is you!

Everybody knows the saying, ‘S#@t happens’.  Is this just ‘bad luck’?  Was it unavoidable?  Was it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Was there anything you could have done differently?  In order, ‘tis nobler suggests that the answers to these questions are improbable, probably not, possibly and absolutely.

How would you answer these same questions?

Stochastic systems aren’t entirely chaotic; they have both predictable and unpredictable elements – just knowing how they start out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll know how they finish (if it did, the system would be deterministic, not stochastic).  Traffic is stochastic – you can predict reliably, but not perfectly, what most other drivers will do because most behave in accordance with rules and social norms most of the time.  You can predict that almost every driver will stay on their side of the road almost all of the time but you can’t be completely sure that, as you round the next corner, you won’t be faced with another car coming straight towards you on your side of the road.  Welcome to the stochastic world!

Unpredictability is always from a particular viewpoint – an event may appear unpredictable to you but not to others.  An event may appear unpredictable to you simply because you didn’t notice the things that led up to it.  It may have been surprising (to you) but it wasn’t unpredictable.  If you don’t see something, does this make it inherently unpredictable?

Being ‘unpredictable’ doesn’t mean being unavoidable; the key dimension is time.  You can ‘predict’ something just as it is about to happen but that’s not much of a prediction.  The challenge is to operate ahead of time, to anticipate so that you have the time to work out what to do and then do it.  Anticipation is a hallmark of experience.

Until now, we’ve talked about stochastic things as things you have to anticipate, avoid or cope with.  But there’s another side that is exciting:

“What’s the point of living it without a tiny little bit of ….” 

Don’t be determined by others or by events that you think are beyond your control.  Be determined to find your own way, even when the process appears stochastic. Appearing random can be transformed into being in control through that essential element – effort.

It will remain a partially stochastic behavioural world.  Stochasticity is part of the challenge but it’s also part of the fun.


Zero Tolerance

October 12th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Zero tolerance is a well-known approach to law and order that dismisses discretion and imposes automatic punishments.  If you do something, then this will happen.  No ifs, no buts, no nonsense, no escape.  There’s an iron-clad guarantee of a specific response.  These are the rules, and the rules must be obeyed.

There is debate within criminology and the justice system about the efficacy of zero tolerance.  There should be no debate within experiential learning and behavioural change circles about the intrusive influence of (arbitrary) rules.  They shouldn’t be tolerated.

And yet learning and change are often reduced to simple rules, but that’s another story for another time.

The previous post pointed powerfully to the pursuit of alliterative prose.  No, it didn’t but the previous sentence did have a point (and it had to do with tolerance!). The previous post talked about the relative ease of separating the possible from the ‘impossible’, which just left the ongoing challenge of sorting out the probable from the less probable.  Zero separation is straightforward; beyond zero lies everything with which you must cope.  And that, as every learner and changer knows, is not easy!

Can you identify things for which you do have zero tolerance?  For these things, is it zero tolerance in principle or do you actually practise zero tolerance?  As you know, individuals, corporations and governments do (sometimes or often) condone things for which they have expressed a zero tolerance attitude.

Beyond these things, that is beyond ‘zero’, what are your tolerances?  More importantly, how variable are these tolerances and how do they affect the way you behave?  These sorts of questions reinforce the principle that what you do tells me more about the situation than it does about who you are .

This father finds himself in a peculiar situation, for Buck is different – can you/should you  draw any conclusions that generalise beyond the situation?

Was Hamlet talking about zero tolerance when he stated “…it is a custom more honor’d in the breach than the observance …”?  The real challenge, though, can again be found beyond zero.  What are your tolerances and how flexible are they?

Possible, probable and tolerable all exist beyond zero; there’s nothing more to say but everything for you to do.

Positively Vague

September 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Vapid – offering no stimulation or challenge, insipid, flat, dull or tedious.

Vacuous – lacking in ideas or intelligence, mindless, stupid, inane or empty.

Vague – having uncertain, indefinite or unclear meaning, imprecise, inexact or unfocused.

Be Yourself – a catchcry of the self-help and life coaching industries.

Which ‘v’ word would you apply to the catchcry ‘Be Yourself’?  You might consider ‘Be Yourself’ in more directly positive terms – valid, valuable, venturesome or virtuous.  Actually, ‘tis nobler thinks one of the first three – vapid, vacuous and vague – is positive, fundamentally and inescapably positive.

And that word is vague.  Vague isn’t vaguely positive, it’s very positive.

It can be good sometimes to know exactly how you’re going – whether learning or changing – but do you really need to know exactly?  There is a body of evidence that indicates that precision of feedback can have negative consequences; knowing exactly leaves you little room to ‘be yourself’ as a learner or changer, leading to motivational and/or attitudinal problems.  It’s also another argument against ‘spoon-feeding’ for your (perhaps) messy contribution to your own learning is supplanted by a more defined yet less effective contribution from an outsider.  The traditional teaching and training model sees vagueness as an enemy, replacing it with concise definitions and clear prescriptions.  This model replaces your vagueness with its clarity to the detriment of your learning.

Can you see how vagueness relates to effort?  From the fuzzy logic of the real world, you create and validate patterns through your own efforts and these patterns guide your behaviour.  The fuzziness, though, is never eliminated.  This is where the real value of ‘being yourself’ can be demonstrated, just as Audioslave do in these lyrics;

And even when you’ve paid enough, been pulled apart or been held up, With every single memory of the good or bad faces of luck, Don’t lose any sleep tonight, I’m sure everything will end up alright, You may win or lose, But to be yourself is all that you can do ……

If you think it through, ‘be yourself’ is positively vague and therefore very positive.  If you don’t think it through, then ‘be yourself’ is vaguely positive and therefore very irrelevant (just like most other things are when you’re a passive recipient).

The only way to deal with vagueness is to find your own way, not once, twice or occasionally but each and every time.  There is nothing vague about that.

Faster Than You Know

September 28th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you start at the finish (see previous post), there is no real need to be fast.  You arrive before needing to leave – in fact, arrival at the finish can be almost instantaneous – and the only thing you have to do is construct a ‘credible’ basis for being where you end up.  Only you will know that you didn’t end up there, for ‘there’ is where you started.

But there are many occasions in which you don’t know where and what the finish line is; in these circumstances, relative speed plays an interesting role.  Are you faster at believing or knowing?  Further, when novel information is presented, do your beliefs create your knowledge or are your beliefs derived from your knowledge?

‘tis nobler suspects that most people would think that knowledge is faster than belief, for this is the only way in which belief can have a (partial) foundation.  It reflects, and then may transcend, what you know.  This approach would be defensible, logical and reasonable so you realise by now that it’s wrong.

Evidence indicates that we believe and ‘know’ simultaneously – that is, we believe everything – and knowing (as opposed to ‘knowing’) follows subsequently. ‘Subsequently’ might be measured in milliseconds, seconds or minutes; it is also possible for subsequently to never arrive, which means that the ‘knowing’ beliefs are never challenged and knowing is so far back in second place that it is effectively out of sight (and out of mind).

Think about this as you listen to Black Dub  sing ‘I believe in you’:

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In terms of relative speed, ‘I believe in you’ and, perhaps more importantly, ‘I believe you’ might go without saying – belief is the default position.  The quality of your experiential learning may be defined by how and how often you transcend this default position.

Is there a difference between starting at the finish and getting stuck at the start?  Neither option involves movement, just a steadfast desire to maintain the status quo.

It’s crucial that you remember and activate that which lies between the start and the finish.

And that is the learning journey.  Find your own way.

Starting At The Finish

September 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Where do you begin?

With an experiential learning and behavioural change focus, addressing this question philosophically or biologically doesn’t add much value; in fact, this enquiry has nothing to do with chronology.  It’s an enquiry related to decision making.

As a fundamental form of thinking, analogous reasoning suggests starting at the start, building up relationships and ending at the finish.  It’s one-way traffic, reasoning from start to finish. It’s reasonable to see your involvement as reason-able and reasoned.

But it need not, and often isn’t, this way – We are not rational information processors, neither are we consistent and predictable logicians; further, we should remember that ….. Life and learning are not exercises in arithmetic in which we operate as disinterested calculators, adding and subtracting neutrally to conclude the best course of action at any point in time.  Foibles, failings, priorities and preferences ensure that reasoning is a two-way street, one in which you can still find yourself going the ‘wrong’ way.

Without being unreason-able, for you are still reasoning, albeit in a motivated rather than objective manner, you can start at the finish and work your way around until you arrive – at the finish (which is where you started!).  After all, starting at the finish and then working backwards to reach the same finish line does ensure that you end up where you wanted to be.  When you start at the finish, it is virtually guaranteed that you finish where you started.

You can take reasoned, reason-able actions that derive the finish from these actions or you can take actions that ensure that you achieve what you wanted.  Think about it – affect aligns with one or more biases and affects thinking effects. In one sense, starting at the finish is like living life backwards:

Where do you begin? It’s a simple question that has dramatic ramifications for the quality and validity of your reasoning.  You can always think of ‘reasons’ to support starting at the finish but they tend to be rationalisations rather than rationales.  And these ‘reasons’ are difficult to detect for people are effective at masking the affective with the apparently objective.

Where do you begin? It’s a reasonable question – is your answer reasoned or known in advance (for you started at the finish)?

Is, Like And As

September 23rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What is the meaning of life?  Now, that’s a big question, perhaps the biggest question of them all.  ‘tis nobler wants to address another question, one that is equally perplexing:

Is there an analogy for analogous reasoning?

In one sense, analogous reasoning – thinking about the things you know less well in terms of the things that you know more fully – is a cornerstone of thinking and an excellent exemplar for experiential learning.  After all, experiential learning can be thought of as building a bridge from the things you’ve done in order to ‘reach’ the new things you’re about to do.

Can you see more similarities in the learning and change process beginning to emerge?  Perhaps we can use some of these as analogies to increase our understanding. Perhaps there are analogies for analogous reasoning!

First, let’s think about patterns, a recurring and fundamental theme in experiential learning.  Patterns are built through experience; they are created as you make the move from all the little bits to just the bigger picture.  These patterns or mental models support more effective and much more efficient performance.  Both within and between models, progress involves the extension of the known or experienced to include the less known and/or just experienced.  Incorporation requires the relationships to be understood so that the models grow validly rather than just grow.  Bigger is not always better but, in learning terms, better is always bigger!

You start with ‘this’, incorporate ‘that’ and then deal with the ‘other’.  As all learners realise, without effortful experience, ‘this, that and the other’ can be quite confusing:

Secondly, there is the issue of depth.  ‘tis nobler has previously talked about the effect, both positive and negative, of metaphors but metaphors and similes are generally shallow.  Thinking something IS something else uses metaphors (he is as fast as a cheetah); thinking something is LIKE something else uses similes (he has the courage of a lion).  Both can be useful descriptive aids but analogies must go deeper.

When you use analogies, you think of something AS something else; for it to be really helpful, though, you need to go beyond the obvious surface features and discover the deeper connections.  It’s easy to use ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’; it’s far harder to unpack all of the ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’ descriptions to construct a valid ‘AS’ understanding.  ‘AS’ helps reduce errors, ‘AS’ inspires creativity and ‘AS’ strengthens understanding.

Analogous reasoning focuses on ‘AS’ relationships, the deep patterns rather than the shallow descriptions.  Isn’t that a sufficient reason to embrace ‘AS’ over ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’?


September 16th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

No, ‘tis nobler is not using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being marooned or left behind.  As you realise, things aren’t always as they seem – you can trust your eyes but not your brain, your memories are revised rather than just retrieved and your beliefs can overpower your knowledge (and new information is often powerless to overcome this).  Things seem to be different; things are different from what they seem.

‘tis nobler is using ‘stranded’ in the sense of being composed of strands – threads that are woven to form something bigger and stronger.  In the context of experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, the relevance is apparent.  Stranded – things are as they are.

In recent posts, ‘tis nobler has unpacked (slightly) the concept of resilience, revealing that there is more to it than people might imagine from simply tossing the word around.  And not all of the resilience ‘below the surface’ is necessarily valuable or desirable.  What seems to be a single strand is itself composed of smaller strands.  How do you make sense of anything if you remain oblivious to the elements that make it what it is?

What might seem to be trite slogans are progressively revealed as fundamental principles.  ‘Effort is essential’ was revealed as much more than a catchcry when you burrow down beneath the semantic surface:

This is another example of why effort is essential. Experiential learning and behavioural change can and do present ongoing challenges; both are made more difficult by the subordination of knowledge to belief. The ongoing resistance to new knowledge that is inconsistent with our beliefs may be the single greatest reason why we stand still or go backwards.

And yet all the time we still believe we’re moving forward. Can you believe that?

As you browse the archives, the depth and the detail will coalesce into shapes that suit you (for you know that it is inappropriate and ineffective for any shape to be imposed, however well-intentioned that imposition may be).  These guiding shapes and patterns are produced by your effort:

As your journey unfolds, you will learn that you are stranded but you are never stranded.  Appreciating the distinction and acting on its implications is a sure sign of progress.


I Believe I Know

September 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Believing you know something is different to knowing that you know.  Believing you know something is also different to knowing that you believe.  When knowledge and belief go head to head in a fight for supremacy, which one emerges victorious?  Do you know the winner is belief or do you believe the answer is knowledge? T hen again, you could believe the winner is belief or just know that knowledge prevails.

The winner is belief, which raises another important question.  Why does ‘tis nobler continually emphasise that effort is essential?

As learners or changers, our default position is paradoxically the status quo.  We often go through the motions for this ensures that there is no motion involved.  It’s comfortable enough right here; the best way to stay where we are is to go around in small circles, the appearance of effort sufficient to avoid the presence of progress.  We will go to great lengths to protect our beliefs and the best way to achieve this is to ‘stand still’.

We are not rational information processors, neither are we consistent and predictable logicians.  Most everything is at the mercy of subjectivity and we are naturally at the very heart of the ‘problem’ for we are our own and our only subject.  We go to great lengths to protect our beliefs; however, in the face of direct and contradictory evidence, surely it is reasonable to assume that we incorporate this information, revise and adapt.

But we don’t do this.  In fact, information ‘confrontation’ doesn’t just encourage us to protect our beliefs by refusing to move from where we are for it serves to strengthen our beliefs.  This can see us set off in a direction opposite to where we should be heading.  Information ‘confrontation’, which should be a source of learning and a motivation for change, can often be a hindrance to both.  Being exposed to information that should boost often backfires:

This is another example of why effort is essential.  Experiential learning and behavioural change can and do present ongoing challenges; both are made more difficult by the subordination of knowledge to belief.  The ongoing resistance to new knowledge that is inconsistent with our beliefs may be the single greatest reason why we stand still or go backwards.

And yet all the time we still believe we’re moving forward.  Can you believe that?

All Within, Partly Beyond

August 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has written several posts on the pattern of pattern formation, the gradual progression from coping with lots of little bits to efficiently managing the bigger picture:

Moving from novice to experienced status involves moving from bits to chunks, from pieces to patterns.  It’s incorrect to think that you just get faster at handling the bits and pieces for it is the ways in which you compile larger, more sophisticated patterns from all of the bits that is a true sign of experiential learning.  Whether you think of ‘bigger picture’, ‘mental model’, ‘forest not trees’, ‘holistic assessments’ or ‘internalised representations’, the process is the same.  As a direct consequence of experience, your way of seeing the world around you changes.

Of course, other things change as well for you become more effective and efficient – for example, the ‘bigger picture’ supports multitasking.  If you are no longer ‘drowning in the bits’, you have the resources to handle other demands in parallel.  Patterns that are validated and refined through experience allow you to manage that experience with a minimum of fuss, leaving plenty of time and resources to deal with the exceptions.

Think of some of the things you have learnt through experience, things such as driving a car, doing your job or playing a particular sport.  In a sense, patterns do protect you within your performance of these tasks but they don’t necessarily protect you beyond that performance.  Within that statement hides the logic for the title of this post – ‘All within, partly beyond’.

There are specific performance elements such as (simple) reaction time that can transfer from one activity to another.  It would not be surprising to find (and there is supporting evidence) that those with very extensive experience and considerable expertise on one activity would do well on other activities that do have some common elements.  Whether it is judging whether a pitch is in the strike zone, a cricket ball is going to hit the wicket, a tennis ball is going to (just) go out or an approaching car poses a danger, there are some common elements that allow a top tennis player or cricketer to, for example, make better, yet still simple decisions on baseball pitches or road crossing opportunities.

In part-task demands within ‘unrelated’ activities that have some common elements, some of these overlapping elements that have been highly developed elsewhere can assist.  But there are limits, which is why Michael Jordan didn’t succeed as a baseball player or top cricketers don’t play Major League Baseball.  Elements may help the simple stuff but patterns prevail, for performance on a task never depends on a single element or set of elements.  If it did, young people at the peak of their psychophysical powers would always out-perform older, slower participants.  Anticipation is always better than reaction (regardless of how quick of the mark you are) and anticipation is enabled by patterns.

Regardless of how good you are at something, all good things come to an end when you leave that particular something behind:

A reliance on elements at the expense of patterns is dangerous – it reinforces the (incorrect) view that shortcuts are available and, as a consequence, effort is devalued.  It is important to remember that whatever is developed within can only ever go partly beyond.