force fields of attraction

How do you introduce yourself? by Pam Slim is all about walking the talk – modifying our language to reflect our ambitions instead of our fears. I suppose this is related to NLP, and I can vouch for the fact that it does make a difference when I can present myself in terms of where I want to be, rather than where I fear I’ll end up.

That said, the reason I’m writing this is because of an almost throw-away line towards the end of Pam’s piece:

“A Buddhist friend once told me that the words that you say form a force field of attraction around you.”

ghandi This strikes me as true in so many ways. The actual choice of words we use matters so much, and reveals so much about our preferences, beliefs, prejudices, fears and so on. And the congruence – or lack of it – between those words and our actions is often a great barometer of our authenticity.

A few times in my career I’ve been asked by colleagues how it is that organisations have tended to adopt values or approaches I hold dear. I answered that I just talk about stuff sufficiently often that it becomes part of the meme soup of my working locality. That’s the attraction field, and I think it only forms when the congruence is there too. There have also been a few occasions when the force field hasn’t materialised, and in each case I was trying to force something without being it. As Ghandi said:

“Be the change you wish to see”

(Thanks to Nynke Fokma for reminding me of that quotation, and to the force field that brought both of these statements into my browser today.)

not a problem

If there’s one verbal tic that’s guaranteed to raise my hackles, its “not a problem”. Yesterday, outside of the family, I spoke to only two people: both of them used the phrase – and one of them used it six times in five minutes.

What’s wrong with being positive? Where did “yes, I can do that” disappear to? Why must we have this meaningless double negative instead?

language matters in UI design

I’m easily confused, and all too often I construe the wrong meaning from something completely innocuous. The UI for Google’s new online aggregator (thanks Clarke for the link) is a case in point. I was trying out this new (to me) service today and I kept getting lost. Because there’s a menu-link labelled read items. It took the “read” part to mean “peruse”, and to be an imperative participle of the verb “to read”. Later I realised it could mean “consumed” – it could be the past participle of the same verb, being used as an adjective to identify those items I’ve already …er… read. The link might take me to a reader, or to an archive. I’m still not sure which it does. Ho hum.

bird irony

The collective noun for starlings is murmuration. I know this because about a week ago several hundred began feeding, nesting and courting in the bushes and trees adjoining our house. And murmuring is definitely not what they’re doing.

‘development’, not ‘engineering’

I hear managers talk about “software engineers”, meaning people who do “engineering” on software. And I don’t like it. In my mind the analogy between software creation and hard engineering is completely broken.

In the agile world, software develops. defines the intransitive verb to develop as “to grow by degrees into a more advanced or mature state.” And the transitive verb to develop, which is what developers do, means “to bring into being gradually.” Just so.

silk and spinach

I have no idea why I put the words silk and spinach together. But now I see that according to the website of the Siwa oasis community in Egypt:

“Silk is similar to spinach and cooked in the same way as makhmakh”

Silk is also the brand-name for a variety of soya milk, which is often used in recipes with spinach. So now we know.

are you winning?

During the summer before I started at University I worked a stint in my Dad’s factory. I worked in the stores, alongside a chap who was a year older than me, and who I knew from school. Every day we were given bills of materials, and our task was to check that the stores had everything on the list. We worked in a large open storage space with a thoroughfare down the middle. Factory workers and office workers used the area as a short-cut across the site.

At one point, sometime in my first few days, a chap came wandering throught our area en route to the factory. He cheerily acknowledged us with “Are you winning?” We took this to be a reference to our in-hand work list and replied in vague, but positive, terms. He paid no attention to the reply, but simply continued cheerily on his way. The next day a different chap said exactly the same, and again ignored our reply. And during the ensuing week we gradually noticed that almost everyone did the same.
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