Hi Brian. Thank you for writing and starting our open letters experiment. (Brian and Pamela open letters – 1 “Are We Together?”)
I loved your anecdote about Slovenia, and the thoughts it raises of what can happen to ideas or suggestions after they’ve been left behind. What a great outcome. Interesting that you might never have known about it. How lovely that you do know and can carry the knowledge of that beneficial impact with you.
It’s a bit of a scary thought, that we have no idea which things we say or do might be making a difference (negative as well as positive). The thought of unexpected results reminded me of something I recently experienced. It’s on a rather different level to your experience of changing government policy, but you might enjoy it, especially if you met Andy of Focallocal when you were in London, which I think you may well have done.
Anyhow, Andy put a post on Facebook referring to a conversion we’d had which I’d forgotten. To my surprise he’d followed up on something I’d said and it had been helpful, so he was encouraging others to copy him. (Thinking about it – I should try it too.)
This is how it came about. We were chatting one evening and I shared an anecdote about me being handed something across a counter, and dropping it. It was careless of me (but no harm done). However in my surprise and embarrassment, instead of silently reprimanding myself in my own head, I accidentally blurted it out.
“Idiot!” I said vehemently (referring to myself of course). I didn’t even realise I was saying it out loud until I saw the look on the face of the man who’d handed it to me.
“Not you” I said “Me!”
I’m not good at reading meaningful expressions, but even I could see he obviously didn’t believe me, and I was making things worse.
Andy and I explored the fact that we were both experts at telling ourselves off silently in our heads (well, usually it was silently) and we wouldn’t want anyone else listening in to what we were saying to ourselves (because it wasn’t always as mild as “Idiot!”).
I jokingly berated Andy. I expressed my mock horror at his shockingly bad behaviour in being so offensively critical and horrible to anyone. I was naturally especially incensed that he was critical of my friend Andy who, I pointed out, I hold in high regard – so I said he should stop. It seems he did, and it was for the better. Hence his post, months later, on Facebook.
Continuing on known and unknown outcomes, in Focallocal Andy sees obvious, immediate results of his actions by people unexpectedly coming across a Focallocal happening, joining in for free hugs, or a pillow fight or whatever, then carrying on with smiles on their faces. That’s impressive in its own right, but I’m starting to think about possible knock-on effects as people go more happily on their way. I wonder if we’ll ever hear any stories about that.
Andy and Focallocal bring me back to another of your open letter themes. It’s the one about doing things that we’re passionate about, and we persist in doing, even though it doesn’t make financial sense (at least not yet, and maybe it never will) and we do it because it makes sense to us. The whole thing about work, and reward, and meaning, and motivation, and enough money to pay the bills is something I’d like to explore more with you.
What we do and why we do it overlaps some ideas that were in my mind (though not expressed in those terms) back in February 2013 when I wrote Celebrating my crazy-sane friends and contacts. Revisiting that post I can see how it in turn overlaps some of the ideas of systems building.
I was interested, and pleased, that you took the systems building theme as the jumping off point for our open letters. I was part way through writing another post on that theme when your open letter arrived. I decided to finished the systems building post ( Building what? You and whose army? ) before replying to you. Hmm – maybe you’d also like to do a mix of open letters and other posts. We can try all kinds of formats as we explore ways of bouncing thoughts off each other. I hope it will develop into a format you like and will want to pursue. I’m intrigued and hopeful about where it could lead us once we get the feeling for it.
There’s lots more in your open letter that I’d like to respond to, but I’ve decided this is probably a good place to stop. I don’t think the other themes will slip away. I expect we’ll find ourselves revisiting them.
I look forward to your reply.