Those Pesky Rabbit Holes! #39 #cong23 #reality


Reality sometimes isn’t reality because we’ve altered in some way in the language we use. It is a useful exercise to sometimes become aware of the thoughts and images in our head, and in our conversations with others and try to be clearer, to avoid the use of rhetorical devices.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Language is useful, but treat it wisely.
  2. 50,000 thoughts a day – we don’t need all of them.
  3. Like electronic devices, it is important also to turn off our rhetorical devices.
  4. A disaster might not be a disaster, and if it is, it is nothing to worry about

About Bernard Joyce:

A human first and foremost, living in rural Mayo with a vision for a better place for everyone. Company is called New Paradigms. Doing rural-type things like chairing the local GAA club, playing a few tunes in the local, amateur drama and kayaking

Contacting Bernard Joyce:

You can connect with Bernard on LinkedIn, follow him on X or send him an email.

By Bernard Joyce

Reality! What a great topic for Cong 2023. I mean there are all sorts of ‘rabbit holes’ one could down on this subject. But hold on a second! Rabbit holes are real, but humans can’t really fit down rabbit holes, and besides, there are possibly some animal welfare issues at play here also. Furthermore, if we did manage to fit down, how would we get back out? So, oops, I think I may have opened a can of worms just now. Well, firstly, I’m not sure if worms are kept in cans, and then why would one need to open them if now going fishing? Perhaps it might be safer just opening a “Pandora’s Box” but then we might have to address the ‘elephant in the room’.

Language is wonderful. We used words to share information, to convey meaning, and to elicit an emotional response. Words can inspire, persuade, and convince but they can also destroy and even kill.

We can paint pictures with our words, in our imaginations, and in the imaginations of others. For millennia, we have told stories and employed rhetorical devices often borrowed from literature to communicate to the world.

But sometimes the images we create can have an adverse effect. We allow ourselves to become crippled by debt, crucified by taxes and might even end up dying from a cold. Many might identify with the feeling of being immobilised or tortured by their circumstances. Both these images, however, convey a sense of powerlessness, of helplessness, of not being able to do anything to extricate oneself from one’s circumstances.

What can be worse is that we often use language when speaking to ourselves. We risk continuing to be immobilised long after the debt is paid and tortured by our circumstances and life events.

Rhetorical devices can be powerful in literature, in business and even in our day-to-day living but like all ‘devices’, we are advised to turn them off occasionally. Sometimes, we need a language detox! Advocates of meditation often speak about becoming the observer of our thoughts, of becoming conscious; of developing our awareness; and of experiencing nothingness.

Awareness is key, and the key to awareness is clarity, of being able to see something clearly. We might say seeing something as ‘black and white’ but even that expression lacks clarity,

If we take debt, for example, it might be as simple as taking a pen and paper, writing down the amount owed and then writing a list of expenses and seeing what actions can be taken to improve the situation. In the process, recognise and acknowledge any thoughts or images that emerge as just thoughts and images, some useful, others not! Great innovations and solutions very often emerge from a much deeper place within us. To access that deeper place, we sometimes need to quieten the noises in our head, to tone down the language, to “call a spade, a spade’ Aagh!! There I go again, but you know what I mean – call a bill, a bill, a cold a cold and that elephant in the room, a topic that needs to be discussed.

The late author Richard Carlson in his book “Stop Thinking, Start Living” (Carlson, 2012) recommends that to avoid confusion, anxiety and overstimulation, we need to develop the ability to dismiss thoughts when they enter our mind. The average person will have 50,000 thoughts in an average day, and not all are useful to us.

Reality is closer than we think and it is important in our week, and in our day to factor in a few ‘reality checks’, just stop for a second, take a few deep breaths and notice how we are feeling, notice what our mood is like after spending time on social media, or watching the news, or coming in from an autumnal walk in the forest.

Nothing is real, only that present moment for us, and our experience of it.

It is really useful also to become aware of the language we use in our head, is it possible to tone down the rhetoric? Perhaps try “I feel hungry” rather than “I’m starved” or, “I feel tired, rather than “I’m exhausted”.

In our dealings with other people, our family, and our work colleagues, it is also useful to be aware of the language we are using. I was on a flight recently which announced that it had to make an emergency landing. After the cabin crew advised passengers to wear warm clothing and gave a quick demonstration on what to do on landing, there was a surreal calm silence as the plane circulated the countryside to burn off fuel for the following 30 minutes. An opportunity in the face of disaster for some perspective, clarity, and no need for hyperbole or superlatives. So, in a work conversation a few days later, when a minor difficulty was described as a ‘disaster’, there was an opportunity to reappraise the situation.

Of course, it is important to occasionally tone down the language that we use, and there are other occasions to ramp up the rhetoric “….when the multitudes they flock in throngs to the true capital of Ireland where the world’s finest minds will congregate….”

Is it time for New Paradigm for Community? #24 #cong19


Perhaps we should have started to think about ‘community’ ten or fifteen years ago but it’s not too late. If we made mistakes in the past, the biggest was not having a clear vision for our community, and this inhibited the decisions we needed to make.
The good news is that we get to choose the story of our community, but we must, as the late Dr. Stephen Covey suggested, start with the end in mind and write a fairy tale ending. We get to choose the characters; we might even get to choose the Hero.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. The best time to build a community was 10-15 years ago, the next best time is Now.
  2. We need to start the story of community with the end in mind
  3. We do need to get serious about slewing carbon-breathing dragons
  4. We get to write a narrative with ourselves as the Hero.

About Bernard Joyce:

Bernard Joyce is from rural Mayo doing many of the things that people in rural Mayo do, like coaching GAA and soccer. He likes to run, sing, play a bit of trad music and has recently taken up Yin Yoga. Never really took to farming though so ended up planting 36,000 trees and now classes himself as a carbon farmer, though was spotted recently in Athenry Mart, eyeing a few Galway Sheep! Recently completed a MSc in Management for Sustainable Development with a dissertation on Climate Change Adaptation and Local Economic Community Planning. Volunteers as a Cool Planet Champion for Mayo and is actively involved with Grow Remote in promoting Remote Work in Mayo as a way of revitalising rural areas and getting cars off the road. Working at the moment on a project about Community Investment Models for Renewable Energy and building an app called Villigr to help get more people engaging in decision-making with support from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. (Villigr.Eu)

Contacting Bernard Joyce:

You can contact Bernard by email, follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or see his work on Villigr.

By Bernard Joyce

There is a saying that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is Now.

The same could apply to building a community, the best time was possibly 10 to 15 years ago. We had been on a bit of a binge of building houses and apartments up until then but when it came to communities, it was more of a demolition job. In fact, when the old brown stuff hit the fan, we ended up demolishing the houses and apartments we had just built.

The economically illiterate among us were offered the ladybird book on the miracle of unbounded economic growth as, “well, imagine a tiger, and now imagine a tiger that is Celtic, there you go, just enjoy it”…and then, “well it wasn’t a tiger anymore but, well, here is the thing, imagine a bubble, and what happens a bubble…? There you go again, but never mind, oh look! New BMW!”

The economists turned authors now cast the tiger as a wolf, in well, tigers clothing in the revised fairy tale. We were all scolded for straying off the path and not having noticed Granny’s excessive incisors!
But the Magic ReadyMix Porridge Pot stopped pouring its’ cheap credit and even cheaper concrete. Goldilocks, the Three Bears along with the Three Pigs were bundled into cheap hotel rooms until someone could write the Happy Ever After ending.

Dr. Stephen Covey, in his “Eight Habits of Highly Effective People” suggests that we should. “Start with the End in Mind” and that is not something we have been good at doing in Ireland. Too many stories have ended in tears, real tears.

We can’t, of course go back and rebuild community as it should have been. We only have, as the philosopher advises, the present. We must do it now, but we must start with the end in mind.

The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg fears that there might not be a fairy tale ending, certainly not for the children who are hoping to see out the end of the century.

We should have acted earlier, we should have kept people at work during the downturn by retrofitting our building stock, rolling out renewable energy, developing innovative solutions…but we didn’t…we have only now and lots of hindsight.

But now, we get to write a new story, we get to choose new characters, we get to set the scene but most importantly, we get to write the ending.

It is time for a New Paradigm for Community, one where we get to start with the end in mind. That end can be one of catastrophe, or can be a fairy tale ending, driven by our imaginations, where we get to slew the carbon breathing dragon for once and for all.

Dragons of course, only exist in stories, and tend to be a bit of nuisance until the hero finally emerges victorious at the end of the story.

When we talk to communities about what the next steps to make their town, or village, or city or neighbourhood more resilient, we don’t always know where to start. By starting at the end, we get to trace our steps back. There are many stories and narratives going on in our communities at the one time, there may be different visions, there may be complexities.

All that means is that our story becomes more colourful, the ending more powerful. The Hero may not emerge at the very beginning. That Hero might be You.

Take five minutes now to write the fairy tale ending for your community, then share it with 5 other people…and just wait for the magic!

Failing, to Think Straight #33 #cong18


Ideas are neither good nor bad nor even stupid. When we suspend our judgements on the thoughts in our heads that are ideas and afford them the attention they deserve, we can start to capture and process these ideas and convert them into actions. We can further develop our creativity in developing out ideas by giving ourselves the permission to fail intelligently when we try out new ideas.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Ideas are funny old things, they can be wonderful and stupid at the same time so it’s important that we suspend judgement.
  2. Literally everything we know originated as an idea
  3. Capture all ideas as soon as possible after the come to us and review all ideas together at least once a week
  4. Decide on, and carry out at least one action for each of your top 3/5 ideas giving yourself permission to fail

About Bernard Joyce:

Bernard is a founder of New Paradigms Consulting, co-founder of Geodesign Ireland and MSc Student in Management for Sustainable Development

Contacting Bernard Joyce:

You can contact Bernard by email, follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or read his adventures on GeoDesign

By Bernard Joyce.

Did you ever get the most wonderful idea, just out of the blue, and you get so excited that you want to drop everything and work on this idea to fruition. You rush to get home to make that phone call, send that email. You can’t wait to see how excited everybody will be. “Wow! Why has nobody ever thought of this before? This is a gamechanger” but then you start to think about the idea, “Ok, it’s not completely unique, but still”, “Well, I might just hold off on sharing the idea with anyone just yet, it does sound a bit over the top, alright”. By the time the car pulls in to the driveway, I am thinking, “What a stupid idea!”

Ideas are funny old things. They are not stupid. They are neither good and nor bad. They are just ideas, thoughts that come into our heads, often in response to a particular problem that we (or somebody else) is trying to solve but more often they are completely random thoughts that come from nowhere.

Are these ideas worthy of my attention? Yes, certainly. The wheel, the smartphone and the 99’ cone all started of as one of these thoughts.
The trick is really in how we give attention to our ideas. Like a baby crying, our ideas are often trying to tell us something, but we are not quite sure what it is. It takes a little patience and understanding.

An important first step therefore, is to suspend all judgements on ideas. There are no stupid or great or bad ideas.

Freed from the shackle of judgment, it is really important to capture all ideas. The challenge here is that ideas often come when we are least expecting them, often on a run or a walk, maybe while driving. By the time we get to note our ideas, we’ve already passed judgment, or we’ve forgotten them. It is important therefore to make capturing our ideas easy, one way is to carry a small notebook perhaps called ‘My Ideas Book’ and record every single idea that crops into my head. If we are on the move, use or phone to record a voice memo or capture a photograph. Evernote is really useful for this. The benefits of capturing ideas immediately are that we don’t need to think anymore about for the time being, freeing our mind to think of other things or to just be ‘present in the moment.’ Quantity is more important than quality at this stage so try to come up with as many ideas as possible.

The next step is, to set aside a time each week to review all ideas, get them onto paper or mind map or whatever works for us. Is there a pattern? Are my ideas trying to tell me something about myself? Watch out for ideas that keep coming back, nagging us for our attention! Are there ideas that are easy to try out straight away? Are there ideas that will stretch me? Are there ideas that get me excited?

The final crucial step is to TAKE ACTION on your top 3/5 ideas, there and then. Be prepared to fail and do so in a planned way ‘intelligent fast failure’ as opposed to ‘slow stupid failure’ (Matson 1996) or as Samuel Beckett so eloquently puts it “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.  Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”(Beckett 1995)

In actioning our ideas, we nurture our creativity thinking processes so that now we know what the babies in our head are saying.

Beckett, S. 1995. Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho.
Matson, J. V. 1996. Innovate or Die : A Personal Perspective on the Art of Innovation. Paradigm Press.