Wishful thinking

Wishful thinking is the process of wanting something to be true that isn’t. It’s the opposite of prashna or seeing the world as it really is.

It’s easy to dismiss the complicated systems of the world and the complicated people occupying it. After all, cognitive load is real–who has time for such stress? That is someone else’s job, right?

Two things:

When we refuse to take the time to understand, we turn over the decisions to someone else.

And when we try to simplify the world, we fall prey to pseudoscience and fantasies to make sense of things happening. Hence starting the cycle of wishing things to be different because “I don’t understand what is going on.”

Haber–Bosch process

The Harbor-Bosch process is the process used to convert nitrogen into ammonia through the reaction of hydrogen using metals under high temperatures. The reason for its significance is that ammonia is the key ingredient to make artificial fertilizer.

It is estimated today that three billion people benefit from this discovery. Three billion bellies filled because of artificial fertilizer. Think about that for a minute. With the Earth’s atmosphere made of 78% nitrogen, we literally have “turned air into bread“. Remarkable.

Of course, no invention goes without its problems. For instance, all that run-off goes somewhere contributing to the denigration of habitats and soils, you have leaching into groundwater, the energy required to produce 230 million tonnes of anhydrous ammonia per year (using 3-5% of the world’s natural gas). It is also contributing to higher levels of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Most importantly, the Harbor-Bosch process has been attributed to igniting the population bomb. From 1900, we went from 1.6 billion people to 7.7 billion today.

Indeed, “no good deed goes unpunished.” You may very be alive because of this process. What then do we do next to sustain 10 billion lives soon to inhabit Earth? What will you contribute? We can’t take for granted what has got us here AND we have to turn and face the music to solve these complicated problems on our doorstep.

Tipping points

It’s crazy to think that at the beginning of the 20th century no one is driving a car and then 13 years later everyone was.

That’s a massive shift in how we move people. To think all of the gas stations, all the auto shops, all the cars that had to be built to support that many people in New York.

Indeed, when humankind decides to assemble, we can organize and produce. Hard to imagine what life can even resemble in the decades ahead. What does it look like in 50 years from now? What parts are better and which are worst?

A note about success

As a culture, we often turn to the wrong role models for answers to difficult, complex questions.

Success in your field can often lead you to believe that you are doing something right.

Money is just one unit of measure. It is insufficient to tell a complete story about one’s choices.

There is no playbook of chess moves that can be shown that will lead to a life of joy and meaning and happiness.


David Bradley, the developer who worked on the first IBM PC, wanted a quick command for programmers to use to save time while booting without having to wait for the shutdown. He never thought in a million years that it would become so widely used by everyone who uses a computer.

Bill Gates later explained, “We could have had a single button. But the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t want to give us our single button.”

A single button might have been more efficient but the point is:

Bugs can turn into features.

The undo button on your Gmail originated because it takes Gmail five seconds to send your email into the ether. By adding the “undo” button, we now have a feature that has saved countless conflicts and disasters.

Design thinking makes lemonade if you are looking for opportunities.

Heaven knows we all need it

Princess Diana shaking hands with a resident at an AIDS hospice.

In a time when AIDS was widely still misunderstood, Princess Diana removes her glove to shake the hands of a resident at an AIDS hospice.

“HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it”.

It was a simple act of kindness and bravery. We all need connection, to feel the touch of another human being. That is why a hug is so powerful when we are down.

Little acts of bravery. Every day there is another opportunity to reach out and connect with someone. Perhaps, it is putting away an old rival and picking up the phone. Perhaps, it is visiting someone who has no one to talk to.

Ten seconds of courage. That is all you need to change the course.

Community rules

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the first national hand hygiene guidelines were published. 130 years after Semmelweiss discovered that washing your hands saved lives. It doesn’t cost anything and it is something that the entire community benefits from. We become so used to these rules like having speed limits or a 40-hour workweek, that we forget it didn’t always used to be this way. It’s only when the system fails that we ask, “Who is in charge here?”

It has always been on the community to decide what it is we are willing to tolerate. And it will continue to be the community that decides what we are willing to allow going forward.

Connecting to the world

We worked so hard to create the postal system, the telegraph, radios, TV, phones, fax machines, the internet, email, text, social media…because human beings so desperately want to connect.

Now that we have broken the barrier to connect, we are exhausted from reading how the world needs to be fixed. It continues to be the source of so much of our sadness when we spend too much time “connected.”

We don’t want a connection with everybody. We are looking to connect with somebody. Something authentic and real not manufactured with an algorithm. No one seems to get tired when someone writes a letter or stops by our house to see how we are doing. What’s the problem then?

Interviews don’t work

Interviews are a terrible way to hire someone for a job. Because someone who is really good at interviews may be bad at their job. And the reverse is true too.

It’s an audition.

Which tells me, people are lousy at judging someone else’s character. What makes it worst is that first impression fuels so much of our narrative in what we choose to see in that person going forward.

Bad first impressions create a hole for someone to get out of.

Write it down or forget it

Often times the best ideas for a blog (or anything really) come when I am in the shower or laying awake at night.

The reason, I think, is that being still gives space for ideas to flow. The constant bambarbemt of the incoming is too much for creativity to thrive.

The second challenge is then to write it down. If I don’t, I won’t remember to put together for someone else to read it.

(This blog today is here because I forgot to write another idea.)