sun peeking over an earthlike planet

Fifty Suns

People like to think in terms of “years-old”, and other folks contend we should be thinking in “years-young.” I have discarded years altogether. It’s just journeys around the sun on the best spaceship we have ever known: our own blue miracle, Planet Earth. I’ve recently completed my 50th trek.

I’ve had a few people innocently ask, now that I have been around “so long”, what wisdom do I have to share with my fellow eight billion besties? Wisdom, like so many other things in life is a matter of perspective. One person’s wisdom is another person’s skullduggery. One person’s trash, another’s treasure. One person’s art, another’s insult. There are as many ways to perceive this world as their are sensory systems afoot. The fact that this world has life and that life has sensory systems at all is enough to blow my mind, I don’t know about you.

But, after fifty suns, I have reached a point where I am up to sharing some perspective. Let the games begin.

Real leaders are chosen

I have a colleague who shared a quote with me: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Maybe it sounds rude, but it certainly seems to be applicable. We come to a dark cave with a torch out front. Someone is going to pick up the torch, some folks are going to choose to follow the person with said torch. Finally, some folks are going to say, “I am not going in there. Knock yourselves out!”

But along with this cute story, notice how HR didn’t decide who picked up the torch. The org chart didn’t decide who agreed to follow. And for all we know, the people who decided not to enter the cave might have been making the best choice for the team, anyway!

We all might have moments where there is a torch we feel needs to be picked up, or a person holding a torch we want to follow, and there are groups of us who don’t see the value in that torch and opt out. This pattern gets applied over and over again. We all, regardless of our position in an organization, spend time in all three roles.

When we pick up a torch, all that matters, for starters, is we believe in something and we decide to take it on regardless if anyone wants to help or not. We are going to take those first few steps and maybe we opt to go it alone, maybe some folks join us, maybe we see a thousand red glowing eyes up ahead and decide not to go there after all. Regardless, at the time that torch gets picked up, the only follower is the person holding the torch. If other folks choose to follow, then, for the duration and scope of that effort, they have chosen a leader.

No org charts or job titles need apply. Real leaders are chosen by the people who believe in the goal and agree to follow.

The leopard can change its spots

There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

I believe that is true of knowledge, experience, wisdom, each other, and life in general. Maybe with enough experience and enough practice we can state with some authority a factoid here and there, but to stay young at heart is to embrace change, stay open to learning something new, lean forward into the experience of life and remain eager to explore.

People around me, and even younger than me, are chanting, “I’m getting old. Ohhhhh *snap* *crackle* *pop* so ooolllllldddddd!!!” Shut-up! I got some of those whiny cats by 2 decades. Two things are true:

  • Use it or lose it: We must be always pushing our minds, our bodies and our spirit. We must endeavor to utilize all of the skills and abilities we intend to keep as we progress in our journey
  • Everything is perception and choice: Almost every aspect of our cognizance can be reprogrammed and we can insert an element of choice into almost everything (if not everything) we do

Ergo, the leopard can change its spots. Neuroplasticity is a thing. We burn and build capability in our brains every day, and as long as we practice being open to learning we retain our ability to be open, to learn, to make healthier choices, to become improved versions of ourselves.

Horror vs peace

Raise your hand if you have heard of the “triangle of disempowerment.” This thing is cray cray. It drives a huge percentage of all entertainment in the media (including what we call “the news”). It’s the triangle caused by an oppressor, a victim and a hero. Every flavor of drama, fiction, whatever, has this cast of primal archetypes. The exceptions for this are sporting events, and some forms of documentaries/learning programs.

When I was young, I used to be focused on a genre within this triangle: horror movies. Because in addition to the hero fixation, I also had a strong affinity for the macabre. I remember my mother cautioning me. “Your brain is a sponge, and you choose what to have it absorb.” But, Mom, it’s “Nightmare on Elm Street vs Pet Cemetery 37: The Wrath of Freddy’s Cat.” She just didn’t get it. Silly parents.

Roll the earth forward a few decades, and I have boycotted not just horror, but most cinema and television, including the “news.” It’s all just a steaming pile of triangle that wastes my time, fills my brain with disgusting imagery/content that I wish I could erase now, and it’s not stuff that I can use or that filled me with happiness – it didn’t GIVE me anything I want to keep. It gave me things I am now actively, slowly, purging from my life.

These days, what I want more of in my life is happiness and peace. I want content that improves my life, that inspires me, that brings people together, that gives us something worth building upon or worth reflecting on. I know what you are thinking. . . “But Ted, you can’t forget the quote ‘I drink and I know things’ from GoT!! Brilliance!!” True. In the steaming pile of dragon turds that was GoT are buried many such treasures, but were they worth the nearly insurmountable wall of bloody crap we needed to tunnel through in order to reach them? I’ve landed on the “not so much” side of that decision.

Many folks have been preaching happiness and peace for thousands of years, I don’t think my 50 trips around the sun is adding anything new to that message. But I look around and I see perhaps some of my 8 billion besties might also want more peace and happiness in their lives. I’ve changed my spots from horror to peace, and. . . I see a torch I like. It’s actually probably several torches, but these days, places have these to-go boxes now that hold, like, a six-pack of torches. I can hold a six-pack with one hand while fishing for my car keys with the other. We’re good.

The futurist

In the same way I believe the Zodiac is interesting more than it is prescriptive; In the same way I believe in choice over predestination, I believe personality profiles are enlightening but as we say, the leopard can change its spots. In that vein, let me disclose my two favorite profiles. One is StrengthsFinder 2.0, and the other is Belbin Team Roles. I have nothing empirical to give you here, it’s just anecdotal.

I took Belbin back in the early 2000s, and pegged the needle on “creativity” so hard they had to disallow several of my answers to bring me back to Earth. I took StrengthsFinder 2.0 in 2012, so I could end the Mayan calendar with some quality soul searching before the whole zombie-apocalypse-end-of-days thing. My top strength was “futuristic.”

There was more to these assessments that resonated with me, but basically it doesn’t matter if the results painted a picture of who I was, or if they painted a picture of something random and I just liked it. Either way, it resonated with how I choose to identify myself. Creativity is one my top values in life, “balance” is another, and I was designing space shuttles and robots in 4th grade. No lie.

It’s no surprise I have spent a career in the technology sector. But, after fifty suns, as much fun as I have had, it’s time to crank the volume dial and have a party, right?

Space hippy

When a person starts dropping phrases like “peace and happiness” they immediately get labeled a hippy. I think of myself as a zen-spired futurist, but ego needs to be kept in check and humor is a good way to accomplish that goal.

When people think of the future of humanity, we eventually turn to the stars. Absolutely true. We think of colonizing other worlds, smoking hookah with the space aliens, and fighting galactic wars (triangle of disempowerment, I say!!). Note: we aren’t fighting any galactic wars. If aliens do roll up on Earth, they will be from parts of the universe much older than our galaxy and will probably have the ability to fold our atoms in half at will. Ergo, there will be no war, but there is still the whole colonize space thing.

Now, one element does ring true in our wonderful “triangle” entertainment: People who are enemies in daily life can band together when faced with a large enough challenge. OK then, one way for a quality space hippy to help humanity find a deeper connection with peace and happiness is to present said planet-friends with a quest of epic proportion.

Maybe there’s an expectation, after suffering through all this fifty-sun pseudo-wisdom that I was going to lay it all out on the table right here, right now. I am thinking there is one more round of origin story, and then maybe a bitcoin-like white-paper. My white paper will not contain any cool math, though. It will be a series of knock-knock jokes and then, bam, epic quest for humanity. It will soon be clear why I subscribe to topics like #neom, #seasteading, #crypto, #open-data, #governance-systems, #sustainability, #evaluation, etc.

BTW, props, Satoshi. BTC is amazing, and without you we wouldn’t be here deciding how to do crypto better. Like BTC, the quest I am going to throw down might have an unintended “proof-of-work destroys our carbon footprint” issue or two that needs attention, but we’ll see, right?

sun peeking over an earthlike planet
Originally published on my personal website at https://htd.cloud/2021/05/18/fifty-suns/

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