The Quantum Mousetrap

Mark Eduljee's blog about Social Media Insights Intelligence and his FlightSim Movies

Posts Tagged ‘Reality’

The reality of knowing

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Heard this? If a tree falls in the forest with no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Here’s another one: If I do not follow your twitter account does it exist? How about…If I don’t know your Mom, is she real? Lets get back to that one in a minute.

But first, seriously: Ever heard of Solipsism? Its a branch of thinking which states that the only thing real is your mind. In other words, what you don’t know, or haven’t experienced, is not real. That’s actually quite a powerful philosophy, which, if we can put into some sort of frame of reference to use it in our daily lives, can have a lot of impact and implications. It also explained a lot to me when I heard about it. Take a minute to think about it yourself.

Wait! What the heck has this got to do with Business excellence, interpersonal excellence or Social Media!!?

Patience grasshopper! And shuddap and think for a change!

Getting back to reality…What this really means is that since I haven’t heard about your next business deadline, your product, your blog, your twitter account, or your Mom for that matter, they do not exist.

Now I know what you are thinking: You are probably going “What the #%& are you talking about Mark!? Just because you don’t know my Mom, doesn’t mean she isn’t real and doesn’t exist!!?? SHE DOES, dumbass!

While I can relate to your position and passionate rejection of what I said about your Mom (and I chose such an emotional object intentionally to evoke just such a response to prove a point), I’m not sure you are listening. Are you reacting instead?

I’ll get to serve your words back to you in a minute, but first a little context: My journey to this post started along 2 paths. Yes, in my reality, multiple and concurrent journeys are possible – this BTW obeys the rules of quantum mechanics which states that an object could be in 2 places at the same time, so in my Quantum Mousetrap, 2 paths at once is reality.

Path 1…
I have often been perplexed by people, places, and scenarios in my universe who just don’t seem to “get it” – I’ve often wondered why it was that while certain things seem so crystal clear to me, they remained dark, foggy, unreal, confusing and/or unacceptable for others. It was certainly NOT because they were stupid, or that I know more. Providing additional data and info also wasn’t a sure-shot way to undo the logjam either. So what was the problem?
Path 2…
I had an aah-ha moment when I read a recent post (I tweet, Therefore I am…Empty?) on Justin Kownacki’s blog. (if you love reading thought provoking material as I do, then I recommend you subscribe to it too). In it he talks about how many in social media feed on the concept of Social Media itself, and he asks the interesting question “Does social media exist? Or are we making the whole thing up?” In other words, is social media real only because we all talk about it so much? Hmm…

The two paths merged, when I realized I was a) asking the wrong questions about my problem, and b) that I was looking into my fishbowl universe for answers. I was trying to make things real by looking for answers in me, or from others, when it was neither. Remember our friend Solipsis? If you think about it, reality has nothing to do with people, places, or things. What is real for me is defined by what I know about people, places, things.

Back to your Mom: Truth is, if I don’t know her, she does not exist…In my reality. And honestly that’s all that really matters to me. Just because you can reach out and hug her does not mean she must exist in my world too. She actually does not. Get used to it.

Need more convincing? Consider a newborn baby. They communicate and speak. But not by using English! (Or your native language) For a newborn, English does not exist. It’s not real. It has no context, no use. Babies use their own language. And the really interesting part is that each baby has its own unique, individualized language, complete with vocabulary, emotion, rules etc. And they communicate perfectly! In a baby’s reality (their mind – the only thing which is real to them), their language is perfectly adequate and suited for their purpose of being. Try proving me wrong.

Another one: Goldfish in a bowl. In Goldie’s reality, does anything exist outside her glass walls?

Try another one:  Does Mark Eduljee at Microsoft exist for Sam the Wall Street futures trader?

Feel like another? Does the surprise birthday party you planned for your wife/friend exist before she walks into the door and you yell ‘Surprise!’ ?  It does in your reality. Not in hers. Don’t believe me? Go talk to the many spouses/gals who have ruined surprise parties by going off and doing something else instead of coming home at the anticipated time.

This idea that we need to reset how we think about what’s real to us and others is both scary and exhilarating. Scary because it challenges the notion that just because you get or know or plan or produce something doesn’t automatically make it real for everyone else. And it’s exhilarating because it offers us the opportunity to change our perception of what’s real, in order that we may see beyond our own fishbowl universes.

So how do we not take reality for granted? Here’s what to do:

  • Read the signposts: Frustration, confusion, fear, anxiety, tantrums…are some of the many negative-energy signposts that point towards a disconnect between two or more realities. If you find yourself or others experiencing or exhibiting these signs, realize that you need to pull over to take the time to discover what the disconnect it. It could be knowledge. It could also be assumptions, lack of trust, overlapping or missing responsibility, power…a million reasons. Find the root cause of the disconnect; address it by providing context and information SPECIFIC to the disconnect; open up lines of communication; encourage exchange. Listen.
  • Suspend passing judgment: Hey Dumbass! Just because I said your Mom did was not real, don’t think I’m stupid. If it’s important to you, then own the solution. Try not to be lazy and react emotionally. Find out what caused me to say that instead. It then gives YOU the power of having options: To either help me make the connection to your realty and to “see” what a great Mom you may have; or, to decide that I’m not the type of person who would enrich your reality and walk away (which does not change or make your Mom any less real to you anyway);  or to….you decide. And that’s the point. You are empowered to decide if you think first instead of rushing to judgment.
  • Assume the best, prepare for the worst: Using the surprise birthday example… assume that she will come home as usual, but have a backup plan in case that scenario starts to unravel. It’s not her fault that you want to surprise her, and she (the ungrateful idiot!) does not know about your surprise.
  • Be open to change: We are hardwired to react negatively to changes. It’s uncomfortable, unsettling and scary. Fear of the unknown. Blame our caveman ancestors for this. But think about this: The operative word is changing reality. Every momentous advance in human history has come about because someone or something decided to change. Embrace it.
  • Check-in your assumptions with your hat and coat: Our ability to fill in the blanks, another hardwired survival artifact courtesy of our pre historic ancestors. Hear that loud roar? Assume: big, ferocious, teeth, lunch…run! Uhhhg! Me safe. Fast forward to the industrial age. The world has flipped. Complexity has grown. Assumptions and filling in the blanks now get downright dangerous. Simple example: don’t assume that what you read in online news is fair and balanced just because they say it is. Own knowing.
  • Give reality a break: Practice the fine art of being patient. Account for different styles and motivations. The universe has a vested interest in guiding you towards success. Allow that to happen. Be receptive.
  • Choose to be positive, helpful, and kind. Your reality will be richer for the experience. What goes around comes around.

We can change reality.

It is not about being an expert, being superior, powerful, rich, poor, smart, or dumb – those are labels and value judgments designed to classify, exploit, or manipulate.

It’s about taking the personal responsibility to know the right thing for the right time and purpose to help define or reshape what you need your reality to be. Knowing defines it, plain and simple. The quantity is immaterial.  When it comes down to it, your reality is your own. Not mine. It is neither more or less, bigger or smaller. It is what it is.

How about you? What do you think?