While reading a ‘history of modern Britain 1783 to 1964’, as one does from time to time, the overriding impression is one of chaos.
You have a totally mixed bag of politicians, who all have hugely biased ways of seeing the world and very little manoeuvrability in their thinking, tackling a host of problems which they have little good reliable information about and not much chance of going from idea to delivery in a world which is complex (moreso than now in many ways), catalytic (war, famine and disease combined with introductions of new technologies which changed the world again and again), both competitive (nation to nation and man to man – unless you were A QUEEN you got little say in anything) and collaborative (emergent groups of people forming all kinds of different societies).
While I was chatting about this book an image came to my head, life if more like whitewater rafting than a stroll in the park.
Life begins as a waterfall event, yes, there are a lot more rescue craft around but it is still the most dangerous period of everyone’s life with odds which would be bad enough to put almost everyone off if there was not some crazy kind of thinking going on in ‘about to be parents’ heads. If someone said, how about a holiday in XXXX and then gave you those odds of survival you would not go.
If your lucky, at the bottom of the waterfall you get put into a big boat not a small one, with lots of crew. Canoeing with just 2 is not so safe.
A series of rapids awaits you, it is not just about tackling the rapids it is about which routes you take through them, some of them are deep and therefore slower, some shallower and speedier, which is good and bad.
Calmer waters come from time to time, just long enough to recover a bit if you are lucky. This is where you should be bailing out the boat, taking in the sunshine and doing some good team bonding.
At times you dream of getting off the boat and chilling out for a while, but the way things are only very short stops are allowed. The river rules. For the whole of life there are more waterfalls, more rapids, occasional calm periods, don’t forget to bail out the boat and do the team building.
In the end there is on last waterfall, and the sensible thing is clearly to enjoy that last drop, if you can.
We like to think we are, on becoming of age, mature enough to control our lives, to manage our thinking, to be ale to choose good from bad decisions. Largely that is a myth, like is all about whitewater rafting.
If you should rise to any serious position of decision making in business or public life, then you just get a bigger, faster river to play in. Just as you think you are now in charge of a totally safe Cruise Ship you find yourself heading for the rocks with little ability to steer to safe ground.
So the way to think about thinking is to imagine it as a journey where you switch from one kind of toolkit to another, only intuition works well when going down the rapids, but reasoning might be useful when considering which route to take as you approach them, creative thinking might get you working on how to stay afloat in choppy conditions and finding ways of breathing while under water.
You only get one ride, so best to enjoy it, but don’ work on any illusion you are in control, the river is God, and delivery is not fully in your hands.
Which brings me on to the subject of orange juice and teeth. When I was a child somebody, who I now hate, decided that the children of England should get orange juice, cheap, which clearly seemed a good idea to my mum who constantly encouraged us to drink it.
I don’t think I ever liked it that much but there was not a lot of choice at that price. The problem was, of course, that it was not really orange juice except that it was coloured orange. It might have had some orange bits in it, but they were probably sawdust. Mainly it was sugar and water, which is why I don’t like sugary things I think. And it is why my teeth had lots of fillings which seemed to be accepted as normal, oh how wrong can you be.
It is pretty terrible when some of the things you can control you don’t, because you don’t think about it, or you don’t realise how important it is, or you think you can’t do much about it but you can.
One health message I would love to have got out there is that no-one needs to have bad teeth. Teeth are brilliant unless you attack them with things they were not designed to resist.
I now have a policy of cleaning my teeth properly, not twice a day, which is idiotic if you eat three times a day, and I clean between them and well as all over them, gums included, high tech vibrating toothbrush, and the best selection of toothpaste I can find.
What shocked me when I connected the image of whitewater rafting and cleaning my teeth 3 times a day and properly was how stupid I have been all my life to consider one thing I could have controlled and didn’t while trying to control all other kinds of things and failed.
So, the message is simple. Stop trying to imagine you do any more than rush down the river of life with not much control, but do take charge of the simple things, like cleaning you teeth. Don’t smoke because you smell and don’t put a big noisy exhaust pipe on your car because you look like an idiot.
Do that and life is open to be enjoyed, so enjoy it!