Category Archives: quality

Today's Lessons

Get up and do something first thing in the day.

Be active.

Be motivated by love.

Don’t be silent anymore.

Simplify life — remove whatever and whoever does not inspire, inform, add personal value and friendship, or provide a needed service

Clean it up, and make it easy to keep clean.

There will always be more things to learn and do as the day progresses, but you have to start somewhere.

Why General Electric sucks ass

Waited all afternoon for the repair guy to come repair the microwave, since the Mag is supposed to be under warranty for nine years and we’ve only had it for seven years. G.E. robocalled at 4 and extended the repair window to 5. So the repair guy calls at 5:30 and says he’ll still try to make it tonight! He is filling in last minute for someone who got sick and says he’s not allowed to cancel appts and is still willing to come even though it’s so late. I guess he needs the work…

G.E. is doing all their scheduling through robocalls, and I guess it’s as much a pain for their employees as their customers. Too bad C.E.O. pay has become more important that how employees and customers are treated or providing good customer service! What a shame our once leading companies are now just pathetic money making shells that don’t give a damn.

This is AFTER the G.E. refrigerator we bought at the same time died just last week. It only had a five year warranty.

Did I mention I’m never going to buy another G.E. product, and can no longer recommend them? What a shame American businesses put C.E.O. pay above treating employees well, building great products, and good customer service. Enjoy your yachts, assholes. Let’s hope nothing breaks on them…

Sigh.

Sharing Our Visions

“Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” We can imagine that among those early hunters and warriors single individuals — one in a century? one in a thousand years? — saw what others did not; saw that the deer was beautiful as well as edible, that hunting was fun as well as necessary, dreamed that his gods might be not only powerful but holy. But as long as each of these percipient persons dies without finding a kindred soul, nothing (I suspect) will come of it; art or sport or spiritual religion will not be born. It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision — it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude… In this kind of love, as Emerson said, “Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth?” — Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?” The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.” — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

One of the formative lessons every writer (and editor) learns is that the adjective is the uranium-235 of language. Adjectives are to be treated as highly radioactive material: when used correctly, they can light up a city; used with laze, stupidity, and excess, they can turn you and your work into the artistic equivalent of Chernobyl. — Brian Donohue

It is well established that listening to action words such as lick, pick and kick activates the brain areas that control the tongue, hand and foot. Pulvermuller’s research goes a step farther, suggesting that the brain’s action system does more than respond to meaning — he believes that it contributes to it.

To test this theory, Pulvermuller ran a study in which he stimulated different parts of the action system using TMS while volunteers listened to tongue, hand and foot-related words. The level of TMS was enough to increase the neuronal activity, but not enough to knock out the region. He found that stimulating the hand region made people quicker to comprehend hand-related words, such as stitch and pick. The same was true for foot-related words, such as kick and run, when he stimulated the foot area of the brain. “We found it wasn’t just a one-way flow from the language system to the motor system. People actually use these brain areas to understand the word,” he said.

Showing that we use our “foot area” to know what “kicking” means may sound like a trivial advance. But it demonstrates scientifically what great writers have instinctively known all along: that we don’t just understand words, we feel them.

Words have effects, sometimes very physical effects. In sharing our visions of what we want our world to be like, in developing our friendships and other relationships, we have to consider the words we use with others and make sure they are the ones we intend. We also have to understand how others may be using their words to manipulate us. Remember that action words can strongly affect other people and that they affect you, too. If you want a peaceful, calm, Taoful world, then use peaceful, calm, Taoful words. And be aware when others are using words that create strong reactions in you. Realize you can control those reactions and think about your response before automatically becoming angry or annoyed. And that responding in a calm, peaceful way will change their responses to you in return.

The Way of Elegance

“Something is elegant if it is two things at once: unusually simple and surprisingly powerful. One without the other leaves you short of elegant. And sometimes the “unusual simplicity” isn’t about what’s there, it’s about what isn’t. At first glance, elegant things seem to be missing something… Elegant ideas—products, services, performances, strategies, whatever—all have some degree of these four elements: symmetry, seduction, subtraction, and sustainability. ” — Matthew E. May

“For me, elegance is not to pass unnoticed but to get to the very soul of what one is.” — Christian Lacroix

“Be patient, do nothing, cease striving. We find this advice disheartening and therefore unfeasible because we forget it is our own inflexible activity that is structuring the reality. We think that if we do not hustle, nothing will happen and we will pine away. But the reality is probably in motion and after a while we might take part in that motion. But one can’t know.” — Paul Goodman, “Five Years: Thoughts During a Useless Time” via Whiskey River

“Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.” — Coco Chanel

“Desires are many, needs are few. Needs can be fulfilled; desires, never. A desire is a need gone crazy. It is impossible to fulfill it. The more you try to fulfill it, the more it goes on asking, asking, asking….Once you start learning how to choose the peaceful, a small room is enough; a small quantity of food is enough; a few clothes are enough; one lover, a very ordinary man, can be enough of a lover.” — Osho, “Everyday Osho”

“Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one’s self?” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common – this is my symphony.” — William Channing

What if deep poetry flowed through your day-to-day life? What if writing that poetry was a path to enlightenment? Basho, the grandfather of haiku poetry, named this path, “the Way of Elegance” because it connects you to grace and fills your life with subtle beauty….

One of the key concepts on the way of elegance is “furyu.” Basho discovered in his life of reading and thinking and wandering and teaching and writing that all of these things contributed to Furyu which literally means “in the way of the wind and stream”. It is putting yourself in the traffic, launching yourself into the action, not necessarily as a player, but deliberately, as the eyes and ears and taste buds and sense of smell. Furyu is a powerful tool that shows you what you like, and also what you love.

When a person has followed the Way of Elegance for a while she reaches a state where all she wants is to attend to quality moments with focused acceptance. Such a stance is hard to amintain; her family and friends will push her to distraction, pressure her to be normal. If you see her in this situation, enter her sabi, show her your wabi. Encourage her to follow furyu with you.” — Richard R. Powell, “Wabi Sabi for Writers”

“Furyu” is composed of two characters meaning, “wind” and “flowing.” Like the moving wind, it can be sensed but not seen. It is both tangible and intangible in its suggested elegance. And like the wind, furyu points to a wordless ephemeral beauty that can only be experienced in the moment, for in the next instant it will dissolve like the morning mist.

“The simplicity of wabi-sabi is best described as the state of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence. The main strategy of this intelligence is economy of means. Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don’t sterilize. (Things that are wabi-sabi are emotionally warm, never cold.) Usually this implies a limited palette of materials. It also means keeping conspicuous features to a minimum. But it doesn’t mean removing the invisible connective tissue that somehow binds the elements into a meaningful whole.” — Leonard Koren, “Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers”

As a human being, I can only say that the future is yet to be made. Let us go forth and make it, but let us make it as beautifully as we can. The degree of elegance is determined by our will and the perfection of our own personalities. — Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Invocation

Invocation becomes declaration.
Worship becomes recognition.
When blessings mature,
One glimpses the source.

When one is young in Tao, all practices begin as external procedures. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand their significance — we don’t know what to expect. This is proper: Not daring to interfere with growth and discovery, those who follow Tao hesitate to go beyond technical instruction.

Take worship, for example. At first, an invocation is something external. You repeat it, but really, it means very little. You kneel down at the altar because you need something on which to focus. Once you realize that the true Tao is to be found within yourself, you shift your attention. Then worship becomes recognition. Your own spirit arises, and you learn to tap into it on your own. If someone had told you what to look for, you might never be sure of your experiences. What comes from outer suggestion is not the true Tao.

Glimpsing the source leaves no doubts.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I guess what bothers me most about religion is that it fails in its main purpose so much of the time. Religion to me was always about invoking a higher spirit, and retaining that spirit within yourself so that you could get beyond your own petty needs and wants, and really tune in to the world and to other people. It calls out, invokes, the best in us so that we can share it with others.

But this gets distorted and perverted into worshipping some other, giving that other power and then excusing yourself from having to make decisions about life, saying what happens to other people is just “God’s will” or assuming bad things happen to people because they aren’t holy enough. I look at the man just elected Pope, and see someone who is so caught up in the doctrine of the Church that he has forgotten why the Church is even there. He lives to force doctrine on others instead of making their lives better.

So in Tao, what is it we want to invoke, to call upon?

Something I learned in business school and process management was the concept of alignment. What creates friction and frustration in business processes is when the purpose of the business is not aligned with its processes. People become confused over whether to follow the principles they know are correct, or the processes they know are wrong, but are told to follow. I think that is what we want to invoke when we call upon the Tao – to bring ourselves into alignment with the Tao, with the natural forces of the world and the way things work, and in doing so, eliminate friction and frustration from our lives.

Stop working at cross purposes to what your inner spirit tells you is right. Invoke the Tao, recognize it within yourself, tap into the source within yourself. Have a cup of tea and a cookie, go out to the garden and smell the roses and the clean, clear air. Ah. Isn’t that better?

Now, go share that feeling with someone else, and spread it along…

How (Bad) Process Creates Crisis

As someone whose focus in life has continuously moved towards understand process work and process change, this is a very important statement about our political process in California, and in our nation as a whole. I think this is in many ways what happens towards the end of an empire, as the strategies that used to work — namely force and the dominance of the upper class — no longer will continue to work. The progressive movement does not arise out of a vacuum — it arises out of the need for change, away from a very conservative stagnant society that no longer can economically move forward. Our economy is tied up in meaningless bank accounts, too large to be spent appropriately to create growth. As Dolly Levi said, “Money is like manure — it’s no good unless it is spread around encouraging young things to grow.” Our political process has become the same — no good at encouraging growth, it simply stinks.

We need to change it, and soon. Now.

Over the last several months, we have started to see a lot of attention at the national level devoted to this topic of the California budget crisis. And this would be pleasing to me, if it wasn’t for the minor point that all of it has been wrong. One hundred percent, no exceptions, wrong. You can start by the insistence on referring to it as a budget crisis. I’ll give you a related example. Right now we’re seeing this debate over health care, and the intensity of the town hall meetings and misinformation provided by Republicans and their allies in the health care industry. But really, none of that has to happen. With a Democratic President, and large majorities in the House and Senate, there should be no problem finding a majority that supports some form of decent legislation which includes insurance reforms and a public option to provide competition. But you have the hurdle of the filibuster in the Senate. In fact, the very undemocratic nature of the Senate itself, where the state of California and the state of Wyoming have the same representation despite one having over 70 times as many residents as the other, distorts the debate and creates abstractions from the expressed will of the people and the political will in Washington. Now, that ought to be understood as a political crisis, not a crisis over what to do about health care but a crisis about how to leap the institutional hurdles. Well, take that situation, multiply it by 10 orders of magnitude, and you start to understand the nature of the problem in California.

We have a center-left electorate and a center-right political system in which they must operate. And sure, Democrats in the state could do a much better job at negotiation and advocacy. But my contention is that this is not a problem of personality but process, and that process has created the crisis which we now face. We could elect Noam Chomsky Governor next year and still be saddled with the structural hurdles that must be jettisoned before we can even return to a baseline of sane and responsible governance in California.

And while the worst economic hole since the Great Depression certainly accelerated the problem, this is not the result of a perfect storm of factors contributing to the demise. It was a 70-year bout of rain, and at every step of the way, nobody properly challenged this slip into an ungovernable system. So it’s going to take a lot of time to restore democracy to California, just as it took so much time to take it away. But I believe that we can solve this problem in a way that can truly be a harbinger for the country at large, which is the state’s reputation. If we can really work to figure out the proper model for government that allows for the will of the people to be reflected in policy and provides the accountability for the public so they know whether or not they like the policy results, we will not only have saved California, but the whole nation. So that’s what we’ll be talking about today.

via Calitics:: California – How Process Creates Crisis @Netroots Nation Open Thread.

Why "cheap" isn't necessarily a good thing

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

But Shell wonders if our expectations are too low. We no longer expect craftsmanship in everyday objects; maybe we don’t feel we even deserve it. “Objects can be designed to low price,” she writes, “but they cannot be crafted to low price.” But if we stop valuing — and buying — craftsmanship, the very idea of making something with care and expertise is destined to die, and something of us as human beings will die along with it: “A bricklayer or carpenter or teacher, a musician or salesperson, a writer of computer code — any and all can be craftsmen. Craftsmanship cements a relationship between buyer and seller, worker and employer, and expects something of both. It is about caring about the work and its application. It is what distinguishes the work of humans from the work of machines, and it is everything that IKEA and other discounters are not.”

via IKEA is as bad as Wal-Mart | Salon Books.

I try to support local artists and craftsmen as much as possible. Much of my jewelry is hand crafted by a local silversmith friend, and I have hand crafted pottery and mugs and artwork and many other things. The closest store to my house is a WalMart, where I never shop. I haven’t bought anything from Ikea in years, since everything we got there simply fell apart after a very short time. Yes, I get tired of my things, but I try to get myself to look at their wabi sabi nature, and appreciate that the things I own are made well enough to last for a long time.

Casey’s points today are well taken:

The shape of life defines a space (what we call the empty space in Taoism) that defines each person. We feel a need to place within our empty space connection and meaning. If you consume meaning, after the consumption: you are left with nothing and left chasing more consumption.

The answer people seek can be stated simply:

To have a full life is to live it.

We spend a lot of time and effort trying to avoid emptiness, filling our lives with activities and other people and lots of stuff and things. I spent a lot of time in my life being afraid of the void, fearing what would happen if I lost things, if I lost friends, if I lost myself. Well, all those things happened, and the best part was all the other things I found — that the void isn’t really so scary, that “crazy” people are often the sanest people around, with a different perspective on life that can be very enlightening, that real friends don’t walk away from you and those who do aren’t real friends, and that “for everything you have lost, you have found something else.”

We cheapen our own lives, and those of others, when all we look for is the least expensive thing that suits our need or desire of the moment. We add value to our lives by valuing the work of others, valuing their time, and their abilities to craft a fine product that we can enjoy using for many years. When I wear my friend’s jewelry, I smile, and when others admire it, I have a story to share. When I take the time and make the effort to find the best quality for what I want, instead of just the cheapest price, I feel like I am valuing myself, the thing I am buying, and the people who made it. I can’t always afford the very best (and often price is no guarantee of quality, really), but even in making the effort, I have taken that step towards being aware of what went into what I’m buying, who benefits from it, and valuing myself and the other people involved as fully as possible.

Serenity

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The highest motive is to be like water.
Water is essential to all life,
yet it does not demand a fee
or proclaim its importance.
Rather, it flows humbly to the lowest level,
and in so doing it is much like Tao.

In the home the truly wise love the humble earth,
the foundation on which the home is built.
In the heart they love what is genuine.
In friendship they are compassionate.
In words they are sincere.
In government they foster peace and goodwill.
In business they work with quiet efficiency.

Serenity is the goal of Tao.
Through it nothing is lost.

— Tao Te Ching, 8

“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”
— Thomas S. Szasz

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.”
— Lindley Karstens

“Appreciation, gratitude, affection-these are the qualities Parisians bestow on their parks. Beauty, serenity, tranquillity, majesty-these are the rewards they reap in return.” — Landt Dennis

“I had found a kind of serenity, a new maturity… I didn’t feel better or stronger than anyone else but it seemed no longer important whether everyone loved me or not–more important now was for me to love them. Feeling that way turns your whole life around; living becomes the act of giving.”
— Beverly Sills

“And you would accept the seasons of your heart just as you have always accepted that seasons pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”
— Kahlil Gibran

“When we sip tea, we are on our way to serenity.”
— Alexandra Stoddard

“Now you understand the Oriental passion for tea,” said Japhy. “Remember that book I told you about the first sip is joy, the second is gladness, the third is serenity, the fourth is madness, the fifth is ecstasy.”
— Jack Kerouac

“I wouldn’t know how to handle serenity if somebody handed it to me on a plate.”– Dusty Springfield

“Curiosity … endows the people who have it with a generosity in argument and a serenity in their own mode of life which springs from their cheerful willingness to let life take the form it will.”– Alistair Cooke

“Here, with whitened hair, desires failing, strength ebbing out of him, with the sun gone down and with only the serenity and the calm warning of the evening star left to him, he drank to Life, to all it had been, to what it was, to what it would be.” — Sean O’Casey

“Whenever conscience speaks with a divided, uncertain, and disputed voice, it is not the voice of God. Descend still deeper into yourself, until you hear nothing but a clear, undivided voice, a voice which does away with doubt and brings with it persuasion, light, and serenity.”
— Henri Frederic Amiel

“The sole art that suits me is that which, rising from unrest, tends toward serenity.” — Andre Gide

Complicated vs. Complex

babel
babel, via “Cabinet of Wonders” delightfully complex post on Borges

I can’t count how many times I’ve walked into an organization to work on a quality management system, and there are either no written procedures or the ones they do have are totally inadequate. And yet they believe they understand their business processes and how they work…

Clarity is worth more than you may think

Organizations may need to use complex systems to reflect the nature of the work they do, but there is nothing to prevent such systems being rational and logical, with clear, written procedures which have internal coherence and can be learned by everyone involved. The best organizations are also the most rational. Written procedures that everyone can understand are not only fairer than knowing who has the ear of the boss, they are also more effective. When the whiz-kid head of marketing leaves unexpectedly, it’s no comfort to learn that he or she had some complicated system in their head and never wrote it down.

Complication in organizations is almost always a sign that something is going wrong. Complicated organizations tend to fall apart sooner or later. Indeed, whether complications are designed deliberately to deceive, or are the products of incompetence and stupidity, they are are still no basis on which to run a successful organization.

via The Difference Between Complicated and Complex | Slow Leadership.

And from Casey at A Personal Tao

People like to make life complicated for many reasons.

Strangely for many it’s about challenge. People strive to make life interesting. Of course then all the layers seem to get added and then it seemingly becomes “too complicated” to have any simple answer. Also it appears that much of this complication is out of our control.

It isn’t.

This is why the Taoist path is so effective, as you release, you discover what matters and in that the answers become simple again. I teach people how to remove layers of fear, delusion and false obligations…

“The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.”
— Gamal Abdel Nasser

I’m complicated, I get frustrated
Right or wrong, love or hate it
I’m complicated, you can’t sedate it
I heard that song but I won’t play it
It’s alright, it’s OK, you wouldn’t want me any other way
Momma, keep on praying cause I ain’t changin’
I’m complicated, yeah
I’m complicated, yeah

I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know
I’m fool enough to stay when I should go
You work, you work, you cry, you cry
You watch your whole life pass you by
Sometimes you’ve got to close your eyes to see

— Complicated, Bon Jovi

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. — Poul Anderson

Le vrai est trop simple, il faut y arriver toujours par le complique¤ . Truth is too simple; it must always be arrived at in a complicated manner. — Sir Sydney Samuelson

Getting It

Nice thoughts on creating life versus getting stuff from Christine Kane.

Creating vs. Getting | Christine Kane

The laws of creativity apply to everything – not just to works of art.

The gift of practicing art is that it teaches the creator how to create, and how to be a creator. Over and over again, the artist learns the process of making things – including the obstacles that arise, the futility of forcing the flow, and the joy of allowing inspiration. This practice has been nothing less than revolutionary in my own life.

That’s because I grew up learning more about Getting than I did about Creating. And I’m not alone in that. Most of the life lessons we’ve all learned are about Getting.

We gotta get rich, get approved, get things from people, get a job, get a life, get laid, get publicity, get someone to do something, get approval, get high, get married, get a loan, get good grades, get a clue, get into college, get up, get down, get out.

Get it?

Getting is an epidemic. It makes us grab at life. It takes us out of the present moment. It makes us powerless. It forces us to manipulate our own spirits so that we can manipulate the situation. Getting requires that we use our precious creative power to get, rather than to use it for its primary purpose, which is to Create. When we misuse this power, we become contorted. We block the flow. The focus is on “out there” rather than “in here.”

When we become Creators, we turn the whole thing around. Everything becomes an inside job. We experience true power. We create our lives.