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Thoughtful Thursday: Personal Growth

“To be even inadequately prepared for battle, you have to fight a few first.”

— Zumwalt

   “Personal growth does not start with the act of seeking improvement, but with improving the act of seeking. ” 

— Zumwalt

Is forcing yourself to do things that are uncomfortable the only way to achieve personal growth?  Not at all! You can stay within your comfort area and certainly achieve more skill, greater awareness, better health, or anything else you might consider growth.

If you are comfortable reading fiction, you can achieve quite a bit of development in your understanding of others, the world, human conflict, and in understanding more about yourself.  You can even just limit your reading to the works of Dickens or Dostoyevsky and achieve growth.  Maybe reading Philip K. Dick novels would be enough. I know I achieved some personal growth as a child reading Dr. Seuss books, and probably would get something out of them today, just re-reading them.

Spending time with a friend or your child, a stranger, or a dog or raccoon (watch out for rabies), is enough to develop personal growth — if you are there, in the moment, and not on automatic pilot like the cars Google and Tesla are developing.

Not so sure eating at an all-you-can eat pizza place would be effective, but don’t rule it out if you are do so with the intent of getting something out of it more than indigestion.

That said, the biggest bang for the buck often occurs when comparing what actions we had taken when staying in our comfort zone and reflecting what actions were available if we had gone outside that comfort zone — and then modifying our actions in the future, even though that is uncomfortable.

You and I do need to consider stepping outside our comfort zone, at least occasionally.  It gets us off automatic.

There is another aspect to consider when pushing ourselves to do something uncomfortable.  There is the aspect of right and wrong.  Avoid doing it if it honestly feels to be the wrong action.  If you know it is the right thing to do, use that as a motivator.

Ask a stranger if you can help them carry groceries, as awkward as that may seem. (Don’t just grab the groceries and start walking — that may get you in trouble.)  When someone says something that’s not particularly interesting to you, but is to them, pursue their statement with a follow-up question — get to know their point of view better.  Getting a better understanding of others may be uncomfortable in some situations, but it will sometimes result in an new or extended understanding.

Don’t shut others off when their political or religious views are different. As crazy as their viewpoint may seem at that time, have them elaborate and see what you can learn from better understanding their point of view.

Whether staying within your comfort zone or extending its boundaries, the main thing is to widen your perspective, knowledge and understanding.

Another way of looking at this is the DIKW pyramid.  As an information professional this is something I am well aware of.  There are variants on this pyramid, but one I like a lot is the diagram below at conceptdraw.com.

 

The DIKW is of course, Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom.  Another cool  diagram (below) is from kvaes.files.wordpress.com:

My own take on this is that we don’t have pyramid at all but a recursive cycle of action:  Observe, recognize, filter, connect, compare, evaluate, realize, know, understand, act.  (Slightly different to some of the DIKW pyramids, I see true understanding as wisdom)

Act

One way to apply this is to think of us being in a synthetic, artificial, simulated, or virtual universe, like in the movie “The Matrix” or as many scientists are now proposing.

We observe (collect data), connect and compare (information), determine/conclude (knowledge), achieve wisdom though understanding brought about by reflection and focusing our knowledge to the reality we believe is there and then take an appropriate action.  After the action, we then start the process over again by observing, recognizing, filtering, connecting. comparing, evaluating, realizing, knowing and understanding — understanding more than before, and then taking action.  This occurs with a boxer in the boxing ring or a driver in a race car on the racing track — and occurs over, over, and over again. This occurs whether we are playing an old-fashioned mechanical pinball machine in a bar (drinks are on you) or playing a virtual pinball machine on the internet.

So personal growth will happen as long as there is observation and ultimately action to be in a position to observe more. We can speed up the process by observing more and taking action when appropriate and as appropriate. If the action is inappropriate, the universe, synthetic or real, will let us know — maybe not immediately, but at some point.  And generally that will not be personal growth, but personal decay — that is, unless we get up, brush ourselves off and start the cycle of “observation through action” all over again.

 

untitled (Sept. 7, 2011)

thick trees engulf the hidden spell;
soft streams collide on risen ground;
so much, so fast, so far we go —
then leave the remnants of the trampled dust.

–Zumwalt (2011)

formaldehydration

formaldehydration

flickering, fluttering inauspicious celestial butterfly
recklessly spatters dribbling drips of darkened burgundy
over overtaken over-conscientious Cal Poly Pomona Green.

diamanté dimensions collide with an autumn-autumn whisper
merging the flap-flap-flap fanlight florescence with a soft gentle tap
shamefully simmering shimmy-round-sizzling shake-down capabilities.

it seems that this high-speed, high-tech, high-result diet
has made me high-strung;

it streams images in passing of over-charged electrons and fairy-tale fancies
faster than the past registers future impressions of near-miss impacts.

I know that time is slow.
It starts off when I do
but finishes long after I am done.

I know truth is slippery.
It hides in the shadows of possibilities
and then comes out for a quick encore before the opening curtain.

imagination weds speed-dating
timed-release capsules
to produce a solid business case
for planetary intimidation
but
when references are required
habitually-blinking, surreptitiously-slinking imagination sneaks away
like
an overwhelmed waiter serving final meals
to a condemned food-critiquing population
devouring
the last bounty of resources one deja-vu moment
before
the impending
never-ever-ever-ending
bright-light-headlight-headache supernova drought.

-zumwalt 2011

The habit of indirection

The habit of indirection

crouched like an audio-animatronic lion
on the destination end of a high hurdle
we find civilius misdirectus
the final evolution of a long chain of
isolated inattentivenesses

it feeds on marathon runners, steeple chasers
and pole vaulters
to fill the intervals
between its favorite meal

off the blocks
directed between lines that narrow into the distance
starts the one
that has carefully measured every step beforehand

no decisions to make on direction, distance or depth
no choices to meet, no chance;
no sudden unexpected moments of chasing the effervescent sparkle
with the distant dream so clearly in the sights

it doesn’t seem like a menace
chips and high tech paper-mâché
waiting patiently at the last of so many carefully counted hurdles
and it doesn’t much move

but civilius midirectus
was designed with one purpose
not to entertain
or even to be the king
but simply
and efficiently
with no remorse
(except where indicated by legal counsel)
to open its volumnous jaws
and direct a glimmer of personal existence
into a very dark stomach of
impersonal
but carefully audited
profit and loss statements

— Zumwalt (04/1998)

nevermore (original version)

nevermore

Missing the dead, more than, I suspect, they miss me, I somberly reflect:
the most recent, smell terribly,
                and the long departed are more like fallow soil than fellow souls;
I don’t want them to stagger and stumble like the living dead
or communicate to me while their face parts fall off;
I want to be around them like when they were at their best.

And so I go to memory,
that slippery, somewhat unscrupulous, disobedient vagabond
that tells the same stories and strays from the truth far too often —
each torturous tangle with memory takes something away
and provides nothing new —
this is no consolation for so many losses,
just needless punishment for keeping company with the only companion that cannot die
but only deteriorate.

— Zumwalt (2016)

(This is the original version, now verified as final version.)

she sells sultry sunrises soulfully soaking in seaside’s sensuous sandy satin sheets

down
by the seaside
our love mimics the tide
skipping out on the evening board
you teach me how to body ride

sound
of life’s breath
as a secret’s expressed
the moon strokes
and swells the surfing waves
and seeks salted seas to direct
a final ascent
to their rock, rock, rock bottom depth

I don’t need you
I just need your love
I don’t need to have you love me
I just need you to have me love

the sand is soft
but I see the vicious stony peaks
jagged and lying in the dark

the wind is sweet
but I feel the heat of a scorching sun that has yet to rise

I just want to look in your eyes
But I can’t if they’re closed
I just want to talk on the phone
So don’t change your number

Yesterday I was wearing my Acapulco hat
and some girl who I didn’t have the nerve to talk to told me I was cute
Tonight I own the coast
and you own me

I was down
by the seaside
my love mimicked your pride
skipping out so you wouldn’t be bored
you took me for a body ride

— Zumwalt (1990)

 

 

my dog got published

my dog got published

after many rejections,
Fido made the big time
with thoughts bound in leather
and royalties galore

food once from cans
now Fido dines in Cannes
jettsetting with Riveria rovers
and roveresses

Our cat hacks away
writing a blog that no one reads
adding a new entry every time
she gets tired of tangling yarn

The unexamined bone is not worth burying
Discover more by playing than behaving
Chase only the car that cannot be caught

Write about what you know, we tell our cat,
but cats are stubborn
and don’t take to guidance or suggestions

Fido made the big time
and the big time made Fido
to the point that Fido
is at the whistle and call
of his reputation

Fido eats well, but now waddles as he walks the walk
that all celebrated dogs must be led down

Spare the rug, spoil the carpet
You miss one hundred percent of the hydrants you never stop at
Some slippers are to be tasted and a few chewed and digested

He who barks last barks loudest
He who bites first bites longest
He who backs away, fights off fleas another day

This is our cat on the keys
typing into the electronic void
and on top of it all
living the life.

— Zumwalt (2011)

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