Thursday, December 30, 2010

“Real Artists Ship!”

Steve Jobs said that...

He was frustrated with how long it was taking some of his engineers to get a new product out the door. One member of the team complained that if he wanted them to create artistry he had to be patient, Mr. Jobs' retort has become the stuff of legend, not only at Apple computer but has been picked up by business leaders all over the world.

Earlier today another of the men I currently admire, Seth Godin, published on his blog a list of 13 things he had shipped in 2010. Apart from earnestly training for a triathlon, which has been a dream of mine since I was in my early 20s, I’m hard pressed to think of much that I actually shipped this year. 2010 was for me a year of planning.

Godin says that the key to shipping is overcoming fear. The plans are almost in place, I hope that I can avoid the fear and actually ship something exciting in 2011.

Did you ship anything exciting? What was it?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don’t stop running...

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, [Hebrews 12:1]

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I tend not to be an overly emotional person. [See November 26 – Superheroes] That isn’t completely true. If there is one thing that gets me emotional it’s seeing, hearing about and most of all participating in a victory in the face of strong opposition or adversity. I cry tears of joy when the outmanned, underfunded plucky good guys win. My heroes are not the top of the heap, ├╝ber-successful leaders of the world; they are the second place, almost winners who fight for everything until that fateful day when once, and usually just once, they win it all!

That’s one of the reasons I became an entrepreneur. As a child I always had big dreams of getting rich (who doesn’t?) but my dreams where always peppered with a bit of real world understanding. I’ve never been the smartest guy in the room, I’m not the most hansom, or the most charismatic and I am certainly not the strongest. What I am is there, quietly going about my business, putting in the time and working hard. I may never win but I won’t ever quit either.

You see the first step to victory is to show up and play the game. If you want to get better, you show up to practise. Once you reach the top, and you want to stay there, you keep working. There is always a second place contender who is trying to knock the number one guy off. All it takes is one slip and number two becomes number one. The only thing better than seeing an underdog win is then seeing him fail, get back up and win again.

Steve Jobs at Apple Computer is at the top of the computer, internet and smart-phone world. He used to be an also ran in all three categories. That is until he worked harder than IBM, Microsoft and RIM. Is he smarter than Bill Gates? I doubt it. Did he work harder? You better believe it!

The apostle Paul in his letter to the Hebrews called for perseverance. The passage quoted above comes right after the so called “faith hall of fame” [Hebrews 11], which is a list of great men (and a few women) of God who persevered through hardship holding on to nothing more than a promise. Some won great victories but many died before they could see their vision become fully manifest. The end of the chapter sums it up nicely while not shrinking from that fact;

who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— [Hebrews 11:33-37]

2010 has been a rough year for me. We’re in a recession and business is down almost 15%. I nearly lost my house at the end of August, but I persevere. Not because I know for sure things will get any better in 2011 but because perseverance is the only thing I know.

As 2010 comes to a close my prayer for 2011 and each of you is that we may continue to run the race with perseverance, whatever that race may be and where ever it may take us, because we can’t claim a victory if we stop running.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Can This Be?

It’s an age old philosophical debate;

If God is great, he must have the power to remove suffering. If God is good, he must want to remove suffering. Therefore; suffering must not exist. But it does, so rather God must not exist or at least one of the other statements about his greatness or goodness must be false.

This is at the heart of most people’s drift to atheism and agnosticism. When we first start to reason, at about the age of seven, the contradictions in the concept of an all powerful and wholly good entity functioning in this way become glaringly obvious. The church, indeed all churches, temples and mosques across the spectrum of faith traditions have done a poor job of arguing with this point. How can an infinitely powerful and infinitely loving deity allow any kind of suffering to enter the world without proving that he is neither?

Honesty... I don’t know. But what I suspect is that the whole debate is somewhat of a red herring.

First off the statement assumes that God and the forces of good are the lone spiritual agents in the universe. If this (and by this I mean our current, 3 dimensional, finite universe) is not all there is and if the forces of good are in a constant and ongoing battle with equally determined forces of evil then the whole question of what God wants to do get’s turned on its head. Indeed the fact that Jesus taught us to pray “your will be done,” [matthew 6:10] presupposes that it isn’t always that way. When you consider that this world is a battle field of competing wills, the idea of a good God wanting but somehow being prevented from removing suffering takes shape.

With this in mind God’s greatness is then called into question. If God can’t remove suffering then his power is somehow limited right?

Right; but not in the way you might think.

Omniscience is the capacity to know all that can be known. In most faith traditions God is considered omniscient but what most people miss here is the subtle limitation, did you catch it? I’ll show it to you again;

Omniscience is the capacity to know all that can be known.

A few weeks ago I talked about the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism; let’s take that one step further into a school of theology known as Open Theism. Open Theism is the assertion that the future, all of the choices that free will agents will make for the rest of eternity is open and therefore unknowable, even to God. God in his omniscience sees things more clearly because he sees all the individual actors at once but in giving us free will he removed his ability to know for certain the choices we would make.

People make bad choices; they ignore or misinterpret God’s will and are open to suggestion by the forces of evil. As a result bad things tend to happen. Does that make God any less good or any less great? I don’t think so. What it does is puts the responsibility back in us to make better choices, learn from our mistakes, fix our own mess and stay tuned in to Him. He helps us where he can but ultimately we need to take responsibility for the state of the world that our choice has created.

I don’t have children but that sounds like a pretty loving father to me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

When Minority Means You

What do you do, when democracy fails you?
What do you do, when minority means you? - The Proclaimers

Last week I re-tweeted a story from The New Civil Rights Movement which detailed the results of a vote at the UN General Assembly removing the term “sexual orientation” from a resolution designed to protect people from arbitrary executions. You can read the entire article here; The New Civil Rights Movement

On one hand, the resolution which is designed to condemn arbitrary, summary and extra judicial executions, has reaffirmed the idea that it’s wrong to kill people for their ethnic origins or religious beliefs while at the same time, by its omission, has quietly made it harder to condemn countries which persecute people simply for being gay. The committee which wrote the resolution was overwhelmingly stacked with countries in east Africa, the Middle East and Caribbean, all regions with poor Human Rights records when it comes to gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and trans-gender individuals. (LGBT)

While I am not an LGBT advocate, this resolution still raises some concern for me on a more general, human rights front. When I originally tweeted the story I immediately got into an argument with a follower over its legitimacy. I was told that it was all a lie made up by the LGBT community in an attempt to hi-jack a resolution that was never meant to include them in the first place. While I don’t want to rehash that argument here, the fact is that the draft resolution did include “sexual orientation”, but the phrase was removed at the last minute over concerns that many of the previously mentioned countries would vote it down. The argument then moved into a more general discussion over special interest groups and how they take control or damage the impact of some broader organizations.

Some selfishly motivated militant groups notwithstanding; I believe that for the most part special interest groups are an integral part of democracy. Democracy, by its very definition functions as a tool of the majority. But that means that minority groups have a hard time getting their concerns heard. So what do you do, when minority means you? You form a special interest group that’s what…

When done right special interest groups shine a light on minority concerns, giving the majority a chance to look at them honestly, understand them and maybe cast votes that appear contrary to their self-interest but rather in the interest of the minority for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do. In reality a rising tide floats all boats so as we become more inclusive, more open with each other, more honest and less oppressive, everybody wins. Game theorists call this a Non-Zero Sum outcome and it’s the ultimate goal of all human societies.

During my twitter debate I told my adversary that as a member of the majority, I need special interest groups to keep me honest. Otherwise it would be too easy for the majority to oppress minorities without ever hearing what they have to say. The debate ended when she tweeted that special interest groups are all about themselves and I responded; “there is a vast difference between me (or us) too and me first, or just me, I side with the us too camp.”

By looking at the world as “us” we enter into the ultimate Non-Zero equation and move society forward.