All of my adult life, from the time I got up in the morning (or more likely, got up and ready for a shift at the particular job I had at the time) until the time I got back into bed again, I’ve been consumed by one question.
Why was this true and that false? Why were those things prized and those things stigmatized? Why were things like power and leadership so easy to recognize but so hard to categorize in a way that ‘stayed the same’? Why was saying no so difficult sometimes?
And that was just for starters - before I got out of bed.
This internal dialogue between what I ‘thought I knew’ and what worked as an everyday understanding constantly shifted as new experiences formed new perceptions.
And those new perceptions constantly challenged what I believed I knew before.
In my twenties this was fine with me. I was, after all, young and couldn’t know everything - but I could try. I thought of myself like a computer (something quite sexy in the sixties). I could just acquire more data and create a better solution - until I found the final answer.
By my mid-thirties I had discovered that without software to frame, format, process and interface with users the computer was a pretty useless analogy – but I had lots more data and information to process compared to my twenties. Life was getting more complicated - without getting any nearer to the final answer.
My work and family lives were ever-changing with new jobs, new additions to the family and loss of others within the family - and all this just added to the complexity of knowledge I was acquiring about life; not just about myself but also about others.
Patterns that I hadn’t seen in my younger days now seemed obvious. Stories I had heard and disregarded, or couldn’t hear at all, were becoming more relevant to me. Things that were important to me were becoming less important, or even being discarded, as I grew older. But I wasn’t feeling any wiser.
This probably describes you as well!
This is the journey of life that we all take. Some days we find better solutions to our questions, some days we don’t. Some days we act upon those new solutions, some days we don’t. The only constant is that we grow older each day, always.
By 1984 I had arrived at a point where I was a walking, talking encyclopaedia of marketing theory and case study, but very little practice. I was over-qualified for virtually every employer that would think about using me, and totally unemployable by the companies that I desperately wanted to work for.
What a wonderful and positive place to be in.
I had no baggage to carry from one job to another. I had no expectations to live up to. I had no expectation of the future being a happy one, but then again I had no expectation it would be unhappy either.
Almost everything was possibility. Life was good and I had no expectation that it wouldn’t be – and I had become aware that none of my earlier expectations about what life would be like at that point were in any sense proving to be right.
Why was I (still) happy? Why was I wearing a wearing a three-piece pinstripe suit? Why was my hair short and why had I shaved off my beard? Why was being a dad so different than I thought it would be?
At this time of possibility I serendipitously read a small job ad in the Sunday Times, my life journey took another turn - and I found the path that I’ve been on ever since.
This is a path I can help guide you on; a path that many have trodden before; a path that I have helped describe and illuminate during the last 30 years of my life – in partnership with others who I hope you find as interesting as I find them. This is a path that goes on forever - forever changing in the minds of those on it – yet always remaining the same.
In these forthcoming gobbets of data and information (some more digestible than others), and eventually a more structured book or some form of media usable by you, I will share what I and my close partner Les Higgins have discussed, researched, discovered and measured during this time.
The most important thing we have discovered is that the question ‘Why?’ is much more important than any answer we discover. The process of finding ways of answering ‘Why?’ has expanded and refined our knowledge of the ways humans think and behave individually and in groups - from two-person partnerships to entire populations across continents.
I will attempt to give you an insight into the simplicity and complexity of our minds and the social structures we build and destroy in an attempt to satisfy a set of needs that never change, within relationships and cultures that constantly change. I will use data and personal stories, experiences and case studies, theories and others’ data and stories. Sometimes this leads to new answers, or old answers rediscovered, and sometimes it leads to better questions.
Everything is relevant when the structure and content are understood.
I will use a format that allows understanding and meaning to emerge from the mass of data and insight gained over the decades. This emerging information will be in the form of small fragments of a much larger whole – the Values alphabet from which all our stories are written. The style will be in the form of short data-based notes and comments. Over 100 aspects of the human values and beliefs system will be explored in this manner. The form of organization will be very simple – all aspects, called Attributes, will be presented in alphabetical order. At various and appropriate times the Attributes will be grouped together for a greater depth of understanding.
Journey with us on your own voyage of discovery.