Thursday, November 23, 2017

Cognitive bias and misunderstandings

Cognitive bias and misunderstandings

The missional world can be a really strange one. All of my business clients think so poorly of missions and missionaries that it is embarrassing. Most of the national pastors and national Christians I know and work with, also think so poorly of missionaries and have so many scratch-their-head moments about missional personal, that it makes me want to crawl under a rock many days. While I consistently and creatively paint other possible narratives about these people, the sad truth is that often their low opinions are warranted.

It seems that the missional world is especially afflicted with the Dunning-Kruger effect. I find myself flabbergasted and appalled at how little these recruits and soon to be "missionaries" and new arrivals are rock solid convinced that they can jump on an airplane, and take their American selves to any other place in the world and reproduce whatever in that new context. Immediately. With no actual competence. With no real honest skills. With no language learning. With no training. They are just so effing wonderful, all the world will bow to their mere presence or some other cat flossing fantasy that these people have in their very wrong and terribly screwed up heads.

They over-estimate their intelligence, their ability, their competence, their insight, their wisdom, their ideas, their importance, even their likability to the point where I want to throw up. They underestimate the need to retool, learn, study, underestimate the need for humility and gentleness, underestimate their cultural arrogance, and their ability to be fluid and flexible, their empathy and social graces. I could go on for hours. And hours.


Needless to say, few of them make it beyond their first term thank goodness. That at least puts some boundaries on the damage they can do forever on the ground. The rest of them often end up being what is currently known as "North American based missionaries" which means they live in America for the most part, travel regularly, and create havoc under the guise of do-good-ism. They never hesitate to tell me what I am doing wrong, even though I have lived here for 18 plus years and speak the language and have relational equity that they can not even see nor imagine. You just can't tell these folks anything, because they already know it all.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

One year ago today

One year ago today

You left this world. Our new normal without you is really hard sometimes. More shallow and less significant, full of more meaninglessness. Less beautiful and less vibrant, more volatile and more colorless. The pleasures are smaller and have more space between them. The day to day seems more grinding and more pointless. While I would never wish you back here the way you were at the end, I mourn all that we lost that day and since. Grief is not what I expected both more and different and it feels like it will never end. My hope is that you are experiencing the grandest of moments in eternity, no one deserves such a future and present more than you. I wish I had been a better son, a better man, and honestly I am trying to be both now. On this hill in this cemetery on this one year anniversary of your departure, your resting place seems cold and lonely, but that is probably just me missing you. It is so hard to have clarity about how to finish well, and I wish you were here, all of you like you were 10 years ago so I could gain your wisdom once again. This first year without you has been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I think much about all that you gave me along the way, and pray that I can pay it forward nearly as well to my kids, your grandkids and greatgrandkids.

Last year we all gathered at this place to honor you. We sang songs you loved and said words to express how humbled we were to have you in our lives. It was a beautiful November day just like today, and just as empty in other ways. Half of our nucleus of four passed last year, but it seems like 4/5's gone.  I am trying to make a good go of it without you here, what choice do I have? But it takes too much energy. Other grievers just walked over your spot in this hill, unaware of what an amazing person they just passed as they brought a new bouquet for someone just down the hill from you. I hope they find more comfort than I have. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Digital Nomading

Digital Nomading

I am returning from one of the digital nomad centers of the world, Chiang Mai, Thailand. In fact the AirB&B I was staying at is one of the hotspots and favorite hangouts of such folks. I saw some of them eating breakfast lunch and dinner there. Mind you the food is really good at Food4Thought and if I did not prefer to eat the local fare more, I could easily see myself doing the same. Many people I meet in the world want to do just this type of locationless remote work, but lack the hard skills to pull it off, or perhaps the cajoles. 

First of all "digital" which can mean a number of things. Telecommunications is what this currently means for me, not coding or software creation or blogging or whatever because I don't really understand how to monetize those things, although I certainly could learn. And for the record, I am not sure that sure that telecommunications alone would even qualify me for "digital" as every single person I have met to-date abroad hopscotching from one location to another has/is producing a "digital" product. Whereas I am in the people development business and that is not a digital product. Yet I depend on the internet to fully extend my reach and maximize my engagement with every client regardless of my immediate location on the planet surface. And admittedly I often fantasize about just sitting at this keyboard and producing something tangible that would pay the bills, and then what . . . I already get the best possible interactions with the best possible people in the world, how am I gonna improve on that?? I guess the growing ever stronger introvert in me wants more days of no interactions with anyone?? Not sure that is healthy.

And in case you are wondering about the purpose and point of this particular blog post, there is only free thinking time here, no real point at all. Wondering and thinking and enjoying the feel of the keyboard at 35k feet and letting my brain wander and create and connect loose points into some categories.

I am not a "dude" like all these digital nomaders are either. They are a hard drinking, fast living crowd of high-living ping pong balls. I understand the weight of my presence in a room and in a conversation, but my metrics are fairly different than this crowd. They have the local babes under their arms, a beer in each hand, paying way way too much for temporary humongous condos, and having a pissing contest with all other nomaders about how much money they can make how easily.

I on the other hand, have been married to the babe for 31 plus years, would love to be able to drink all the beer I want without the consequences, choose my destinations based on the face to face conversations I can generate from that location or the needs pulling me to that particular location, live small on purpose but not counting pennies, and am not impressed with material wealth at all really. Money is simply a tool to make things easier better faster. Relationships are life. Having said/wrote all that, I nomad plenty. To the point where I pretty much despise travel period. But I nomad toward relational connections, not internet speeds and cheap locations, because as I stated, I am in the people development business, not the traveling business.

So am I a digital nomad?? Totally. Am I the stereotypical digital nomad? Not at all. I am the much older, grandfatherly version of what most people think of and mean when they said digital nomad. Now its time to go write the book.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sneezing and coughing on my food

Sneezing and coughing on my food

It's been that kind of week. The guy serving up the food, coughed right on my plate, right onto my food. Now I am not a germaphobe or anything like that, but hell even I can't get past the idea of some bloke coughing on my chow right before I am supposed to sit down and eat it. So that was a wasted $10.  And the same thing happened in Cambodia last month at the breakfast buffet, some dude from India or Bangladesh sneezed right on the buffet, in the fruit section. I don't know about you, but my meal is OVER when this happens and I know it has happened. 

It has been that kind of week, where everyone is metaphorically coughing and sneezing over my food, whether it is the police, the peeps at the ministry of health, or the peeps at the bank, it is like they are all out to get me, which of course I know is ludicrous, but it stills feels that way, when the overall experience with them is so negative. Some days I don't like it here at all. Not to mention that I have no interest whatsoever in chasing down this visa shit at the police, ministry of health and bank to begin with, none at all. Evidently I need to ride my motorcycle or some other mental  health activity!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Today is all you have

Today is all you have

Today was my last day in Asia on this trip. I added two new clients (one on Thailand and one in Myanmar), visited another client in Cambodia, visited some other peeps that don't quite fit into the client category yet I still contribute to their lives in some rich ways, and best of all, hung out and had some great conversations and times with my buddy Jim (who is also my boss in certain contexts :-)!) I am never bored here and I really love the perpetual summer weather, even the rain most days.

But today was the last day and I worked it to the max. I got up at 5:30 even after a late night with my AirB&B host as we were catching and enjoying a fine cigar together, since we had not seen each other in 2 years. Then on the bike and a 3800 foot climb to the peak of the mountain (while listening to an audiobook), then lifted weights, then returned the bike rental (and received another verbal spanking from Mr Tsa), and then grabbed a coffee, and then had my very favorite noodles, and then a quick shower and then a meeting (which resulted in a new client) while packing my bags rapidly and calling a GRAB taxi and headed to the airport for the first of four airports and three flights. 

Today is all you have. I packed just about everything imaginable into this day in the hours available while transitioning to different cities and jumping through all the airport hoops and security and changing airlines and waiting for bags and going through immigration as I am leaving one country and headed to another, and then another. But the place of my body on the planet doesn't determine the quality of the day. It does impact it, but only I have control of how I view what happens throughout the day. This is always a great lesson to remember.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

There is nothing more satisfying

There is nothing more satisfying 

There is nothing more satisfying than when you hear a client say, "I need to form a different narrative about this event." The client had been relating a rather negative story of what had happened to him, (and he is not generally a negative person) and when he completed the tale, he then said the magic words that Made. My. Day. Week. Month! When a client hears what you say, sees the value of that wisdom and then starts using it as their own material - that is pure gold in my world. 

This one with JA was the most direct one of this particular trip, but on three other occasions while in Asia, I heard my words being bandied about. Lets be straight here, this is not about me, this is not about being appreciated, this about helping others succeed! It's all about the client, your partner, the person you are committed to helping move forward and thrive!

So if you completely can resonate with what I am saying here, if you can fully embrace not getting the credit or the star light or the big head, if you can give yourself totally to someone else shining and succeeding - have you considered a career in consulting? It can be the sweetest work you ever imagined.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The longest Halloween

The longest Halloween

When I woke up yesterday it was October 31. When I woke up today it was October 31. Such are the experiences of the International traveling sop who changes time zones far far too often. That would be me in case you are wondering. However I am generally thankful for each moment of my life, because first of all I realize how rare my opportunities are compared to the majority of the world and second, because I am enjoying my work more than ever before while ruthlessly practicing living in the immediate present. For someone like me who was formerly the ultimate version of future thinking, future worrying, future everything, this is a major major change for me. I do better at it some days than on other days. Those days (and especially evenings) where I succeed, I feel more complete and sleep far better.

So the longest Halloween was also a great memory. I don't carry any of the bad memories, obsessive theology, or cultural frustrations/joys about Halloween. For the last almost 40 years, it has simply been John's birthday. John being my roommate from college and one of my longest friendships/relationships in the world. And plus, it makes it super easy to remember, in fact almost impossible to forget. So a good long walk down memory lane about such an astonishing person as John, made the longest Halloween a fine day.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Floods headwinds and waiting

Floods headwinds and waiting

It was a disaster from the beginning, or you would think. When I opened the door in the pre-dawn gloom, there was six inches of water lapping at my feet! You know something is wrong when the water is that deep in the main dining room! Someone left the spigot tuned on! No! When I turn it off, the water keeps pouring. Burst pipe. I am here alone. Not my house. No idea where the water main is, and it takes me 30 minutes to realize that I can't fix this (i.e. stop the flow/flood) and call for help.

By now my morning ride is way behind schedule! And I have a full day beyond that scheduled. All you can do on a day like this is pedal harder and make up for lost time. If only it had ended there. So when I finally get on the road, I have a headwind right in my face, slowing me down, holding me back . . . you just keep on pedaling, and face the fact that while it is mentally twice as hard with a headwind, it is only actually slowing you fractionally.

And then with the breakfast break it continues. After crossing three incredibly steep and long mountain ranges, your body needs food! And so I stop at my usual place. Where I usually get my food in less than 10 minutes. Of course not today. 40 minutes later I am finally rolling out there, way way behind schedule. Pedal harder, focus more, keep pedaling.

And the final stretch finally comes into view, the last eight miles of the 56 total. And I hit every single traffic light as RED. All six of them. And now that I am out of the mountains, headwind again. Pedal harder, focus more, keep pedaling. Resilience and consistency and effort go a long long way. I made up almost a hour of time by pedaling harder, focusing more, keep pedaling. Even all these factors that I could not control, only pushed my schedule back by 20 minutes in the end, because of intensifying what I could control. Me. 

We are stronger than we think.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A babe in comparison

The trafficking and rescue operation was really amazing. Things have changed so much there since I was last cleared to visit the facility. This time I actually got to speak with six of the girls, as they shyly practiced their English on me. And since Asian men generally color their hair until they die, they all thought I was older than dirt with all my gray beard and gray hair. I had a good laugh about that, because I feel about as old a dirt much of the time. But compared to what these girls have gone through in their horrible short lives, I am a babe.

Comparison to those who you think are better off, rich, pretty, younger, more carefree, or whatever, is a great joy stealer. But sometimes, comparison to those who are far worse off, can be an excellent gratefulness, thankfulness, appreciation generator. I practice gratefulness each day on purpose, but this was sobering at the realization of how very little suffering I have ever experienced in my life. As if the Khmer Rouge was not enough to destroy Cambodia, then the traffickers, and the sex tourists, and the sex-pats and those who want to hurt and destroy, generate a system of slavery and abuse that affects every level of society. 

While I am thankful for all the privilege of my life, it is not enough. One has to take actions, give ferociously, work tirelessly, and make change happen for the sake of these individual girls, but also for the sake of the world at large too. This is what we get to do. Don't miss your part.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The contrast

It is a hot sweaty 99% humid Siem Reap Cambodia evening. Sitting by the pool having a fine cigar and a Jamisons. It is quiet and peaceful here where I am sitting, but that was not the experience a few moments ago in the night market. Endless offers, requests, propositions, hopes and wishes. Very dangerous for a man walking alone! 

It is difficult thinking about how close to the edge of survival these people are, and how little money was being asked for these proposals. As a friend of my recently remarked, we have never known what it is like to live like this. So close to disaster all the time. Desperate to eat today. To feed the kids a single meal a day.

Makes one despair unless you dig in and resolve to make a difference in this world. That is why I am here. This is what we were made for. This is what we are called to do.