Posts Tagged ‘buddha’

Flexible Focus #58: The Principle of Objectivity

by William Reed on June 23, 2011

A Lens on Life

The Mandala Chart is a multi-faceted lens through which we can observe ourselves and all phenomena. We explored this theme earlier in Flexible Focus #27: In Search of Solutions, in which we saw that flexible focus is fast moving, physical, and multi-dimensional, like a mental Rubik’s Cube. The Principle of Objectivity, the 7th of 8 principles for the Mandala Chart, takes this process into a deeper, more reflective mode, in which you gain crystal clarity of perception and insight by examining things from multiple perspectives.

Like the crystal cube shown in the illustration, which could also be called a Mandala cube, when the laser beam passes through, it refracts and reveals new surfaces both inside and outside the box. When the light of insight passes through our mind, the Mandala Chart acts in like a lens to reveal new facets and perspectives. This becomes a driving force for creativity and innovation.

Objective thinking is usually associated with science, observation, and experimentation. The effort to measure and get repeatable results works well under controlled laboratory circumstances, but is far less predictable in real life. Complex systems are impossible to describe in terms of linear cause and effect. Hence the quote attributed to MIT Meteorologist Edward Lorenz, “When a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world.”

Instead of the phrase, cause a hurricane, it might be easier to understand if we say it is connected to a hurricane in another part of the world.Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus recognized this in saying that, “A hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one.”

In Search of Wisdom

The Mandala Chart also takes an objective approach, but starts with a different set of assumptions, and leads to a different kind of objectivity (冷静 reisei, calm cool; or 霊静 reisei, calm spirit).

Starting with the recognition that nothing is fixed, we realize that our perceptions and observations depend very much on our perspective. Another perspective is not wrong, just different. Seeing a second point of view is only the first step in flexible focus. Having a third perspective is the beginning of wisdom, because 3-dimensions are more flexible than 2-dimensions. In Japanese this is expressed in the proverb, Three heads give you the wisdom of Monju, the Buddhist Deity of Wisdom (San nin yoreba Monju no Chie).

The Mandala Chart gives us 8 perspectives in the A-Chart (3×3 Matrix), and 64 perspectives in the B-Chart (8×8), beyond which it becomes difficult to consciously comprehend. Only God can comprehend the universe from all perspectives. However for us it is enough to recognize that we need to overcome the single-minded stubbornness of thinking that our point of view is the only point of view. If two heads are better than one, and three heads give you wisdom, then why not practice cultivating a more flexible mind?

In Zen Buddhism and in the Martial Arts, this is known as the Beginner’s Mind (初心 shoshin). Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki’s famous statement, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

What are some of the qualities that can help you develop a Beginner’s Mind?

  • Curiosity. A beginner is brimming with questions. Make a practice to write down your questions on a daily basis, and to ask them! You can seek answers from other people, or research for yourself, but the driving force is the quest to know.
  • Enthusiasm. A beginner embarks on a path filled with surprise and discovery, which generates a childlike eagerness to know more. A lack of enthusiasm is a sure sign that a person has lost the Beginner’s Mind.
  • Calmness. A beginner whose curiosity and enthusiasm does not decline enters a new state of mind, that of tranquil awareness, a state of meditation. A rapidly spinning top is calm and poised, while a top that has lost it’s energy wobbles and comes to a dead rest.

As we learn more about the brain, the science of neurology is beginning to catch up with ancient Asian wisdom. If you can change your brain, you can change your life. A book which explores this is in depth is, Buddha’s Brain: the Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, PH.D, with Richard Mendius, MD.

As you practice thinking with the Mandala Chart, using it as lens to explore your universe, The Principle of Objectivity will help you realize a state of mind which is calm and cool, a state of awareness like that realized in Zen Meditation.

Leadership Cancers #2: The insanity of multitasking

by Gary Monti on March 23, 2010

Doing more with less is a message that bombards us every day. Pushing that approach beyond reasonable limits creates a false reality that can be summed in one word – multitasking.

The belief in multitasking is so rampant we see it in commercials supposedly showing busy mothers optimizing their time. Is this really possible? Is there more to be squeezed out from a given situation? Let’s examine the reality of multitasking by first defining it, looking at the consequences of trying to achieve it, the reality of what it takes to complete tasks, and then conclude by examining a possible option for increasing effectiveness.

What Is Multitasking?

Multitasking is giving someone less time than is needed to complete a task. An example of multitasking is giving a person 8 hours to get two 8-hour tasks completed. Can you see the craziness?

To try and make this situation work one or both of the following assumptions must be embraced:

  1. Whoever did the estimating is incompetent, or;
  2. Whoever is doing the work has been sandbagging and holding back capabilities.

Neither of these options bodes well for the individual or the organization. Let’s go a little deeper and look at the consequences.

The Consequences

The malignancy of multitasking can be summed in one word – shame. For multitasking to work someone must be viewed as not being good enough. Either the estimator has lost touch with reality or the person doing the task has been lazy. So, for multitasking to work someone has to be put down. A good reference for the organizational damage caused by this and other insane behaviors is New Times Best Seller by Robert Sutton, The No Asshole Rule. It gives good examples of the consequences of shame-based management styles.

The Reality of Completing Tasks

Many of us can and do multitask. It is an interesting neurological phenomenon you can experience every day. It occurs because the brain off-loads repetitive tasks to the spinal cord. What’s an example? The ability to walk and chew gum at the same time!

There is a trade-off here. Notice that the multitasking is with highly repetitive tasks. What about problems professionals get paid to solve? Problem solving require thinking – use of the frontal lobes. The span of thought reduces to one task at a time and one task alone.

Some readers are saying, ”Wait a minute! I have simultaneous tasks open all the time.” If you look closer what you will see is something called micro-bookmarking, i.e., shifting from task to task to task. I know. It is how I work at times. While stimulating, it still is doing one thing at a time just in a task-rich environment.

A Healthier Option

So, what works? The answer is simple and difficult. It is contained in one word, “Schedule.” Good scheduling requires accepting the reality of the situation and whether or not a limit has been reached. If it has, the difficulty kicks in.

Letting go of multitasking requires letting go of the expectation there somehow are enough resources to get what we want. This just isn’t always true. It is a reality that, as humans, we just don’t want to accept. This desire to hold on makes it easy to blame ourselves or someone else and feel if they would just work harder everything would be okay. But, as Buddha said, “Attachment is the source of suffering” which brings us back to the harm Sutton talks about.

This all points in one direction – take the risk of letting go. The irony is that there actually isn’t any risk because the belief that multitasking works is an illusion. There isn’t any real gain to be had by trying to multitask, just loss.

If you would like to delve deeper into scheduling and its use in leadership send me an e-mail at or visit