Welcome to my Kill to Get Crimson 2008 tour blog!

My name is Isaac, 30 years old from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up for the purpose of documenting the journey I am taking following Mark Knopfler’s Kill to Get Crimson tour in North America, in the summer of 2008.

The North American leg of the tour, as well as my journey, begins June 24th in Morrison, Colorado and ends on July 31st in Miami Beach, Florida.

Even though I intend to write on a daily basis, publishing the stories onto the server would be tricky. After all, we’re talking about vast distances which will be primarily crossed by driving, and there is no way for me to predict the availability of Internet connection throughout the way.

So… make yourself at home and feel free to drop a comment.

Yours,

Isaac

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thoughts

Please ignore this post unless you’re interested in witnessing what goes through one’s mind while driving 550km of nothingness.

It can be ugly.

You’ve been warned.


Back in Waterloo I have a good friend, his name is Bill. Funny intelligent fellow, happens to work for one of my company’s clients. We had the chance to work together for approximately 4 years now. Bill and I talk a lot about all sorts of things and reach interesting conclusions. One of the conclusions we have recently reached is “you can argue with anybody, but you can’t argue with stupid people”.

(I am not going to discuss why we started talking about it in the first place)

Driving through hundreds of kilometers in the wonderful nothingness of the prairies, I thought about that statement and decided that perhaps it needs a closer look, as “stupid” is kind of a childish term, let alone immeasurable.

I figured that what I’m looking for are conditions which are necessary and enough for the existence of a productive argument. A productive argument in that context is an argument from which a fair, mutually‐satisfying conclusion can be drawn. Obviously the argument must be about a topic that is not quantitatively “provable”—for in that case there’s no need in an argument—it must be about something of speculative, subjective nature.

Since we’re dealing with topics of speculative nature, it follows that, when arguing, one must be prepared for the possibility that one’s expectations are not met in full. It then follows that, for an argument to be productive, it must not be approached to as a competition in which one side attempts to force his opinion on the other and prove that it is right.

To put it in simple terms: an argument about speculative or subjective matters is, essentially, a negotiation process. The key here is that whether you’re right or wrong has nothing to do with the result of the argument as the definitions of “right” and “wrong” are subjective.

I believe it was Donald Trump who said “it’s not what you deserve, it’s what you negotiate that matters”. Think about it for a second, regardless of whether you like Donald Trump or not. It is a very fine distinction, but such an important one. Most fights between people, and even nations, are due to either side’s failure to recognize that there is no “absolute truth” for speculative and subjective matters. It appears that, in most cases, the two sides are approaching arguments armed with proof that they are “right”, failing to understand that “right” and “wrong” are very subjective.

So much has been written and discussed about the topic of negotiation, my favourite being the wonderful work of Robert Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton of the Harvard Negotiation Project, in their book “Getting to Yes” (I prefer reading books that are written as a result of some research, rather than useless “self‐help” books written by pedlars). Of all business skills, the skill of negotiation is considered by many, including myself, the single most important one.

In order to be a good negotiator, one has to, first, know how to listen. Listen, not hear. Now when most people listen, they hear words and provide meanings to these words based on their own experience and values. Wrong! Listening must also involve the willingness and courage to see things from the other side of the table.

When you approach an argument, you’re usually very sure that you are right. Of course, nobody likes approaching an argument knowing that they’re wrong. However most of us are over‐confident in our abilities and that our values and perceptions are the “right ones” (some study conducted in the USA a few years ago has shown that about %80 of the drivers are very confident that they’re better drivers than average).

Trust me: the other side thinks exactly the same—about themselves.

So we have “listening”, and we have “ability to see things from the other side”.

The third one is knowing how to talk to people. This one is very, very hard to do and requires skills that take years to develop. As we grow up, we look at the world through filters that we have created throughout our years, many of these filters being created during childhood and are so embedded into our personality that it’s impossible to pinpoint why these filters exist and what for. That’s where hypnosis and other techniques fit in, but lets move on.

Knowing how to talk to people means that we have to adjust our words, tone and phrases to match the other side’s values and belief systems. This is very hard to do because often we have to speak and express ourselves in manners contradictory to our own values and beliefs. There is a very, very fine line between that and what is called “manipulation”, where the we’re talking about the same skill, only wrapped in a few “white lies” with the goal in mind being selfish benefit rather than mutual one.

The fourth one, and the last, is the willingness to accept compromise.

Everybody wants to think that they’re perfect; however, “perfect” is an absolute term (meaning “I’m the best in everything”) and we just don’t live in an absolute world. For an argument to yield fair, mutually‐beneficial results, each player has to—not has; must—know how to accept different opinions and accept the fact that a mutually‐beneficial conclusion depends on compromise.

And why am I writing all of this? Sure, I thought about it almost all the way from Regina to Winnipeg. But there’s another reason it’s worth writing.

Unlike most of you guys / gals, I wasn’t born in North America; I have no idea what North Americans are taught in school. I just know that in my time, when education in Israel was really something to be proud of, they didn’t teach us any of that in school. Discussions I had about the topic with some people has showed that this, and similar subjects, are not taught here either.

I think that schools should, instead of populating children and teenager’s minds with facts that everybody can look‐up in Google at will, should put more effort into teaching those youngsters how to be civil to each other, how to talk, how to argue and how to negotiate. For some reason, it appears to me that, that way, we would end up in a better, more stable, society.

There’s another topic that’s not taught in schools in North America, or anywhere else in the matter, and I think must be taught as well—the topic of finances and money management. I will write about this at some other time.

You see? I warned you…

3 comments:

Roderick said...

Hi Isaac,

You know, I'm really starting to enjoy this. The MK connection is great and what brought me here, but the daily musings are what's keeping me coming back. I've had a theory from spending a fair number of years dropping in on the MK forum every once in awhile, that his fans are a unique group of people. Something about his music pulls on our humanity - the glue that binds us together.

Your thoughts today about negotiating, how to talk and listen, etc. made me think of something I heard recently. We often refer to the "Golden Rule" - you know, "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you." You often hear people say that they treat people the way they like to be treated. In fact, true empathy begins with the recognition of "other." Acknowledging their right to breathe the same air, to take their place on the planet. If you really want to reach for enlightenment, then you will treat people the way THEY want to be treated. And if you're not sure, you can ask them.

And I completely agree schools should teach this stuff, and simple personal financial management.

Hope you can stay away on that long drive.

Rod.

Roderick said...

P.S. I meant stay "awake" not stay away. :)

Isaac said...

Hey Rod my friend,

You hit the problem right on its head with a huge 10 lbs hammer. The "Golden Rule" is indeed the key, however most of us - including myself up until a few years ago - tend to misunderstand the meaning of "other". We have a general idea, but we are way too concerned with ourselves, our views and our values that we don't realize how different other people can be.

Staying awake on this long drive is a challenge... North Dakota is very peaceful and quiet, but not much to see on the road. Plus I woke up today at 6:00am after 4 hours of sleep...

Thanks again for reading and commenting on my blog!


Isaac