Posts Tagged 'systems thinking'

Does Anyone Have a ROM?

https://i2.wp.com/sswhsle.com/ROM/002_Front.jpgNo, not ROM Spaceknight, you comics aficionado sillies; ROM as in the über-high-end 4-minute workout machine that just screams Range of Motion (hence the acronym). I found out about it one night whilst venturing into the back pages of my Atlantic Monthly, something I rarely do for fear of being pelted by the conclusions of articles that have already taxed my ADD-addled attention span to the limits, arranged between ads for the Belgian Waffle Pro and custom-crafted leather bookbinding. I know, it’s what I get for subscribing to The Atlantic (and Harpers, and Mother Jones, and other magazines that make me what my friend Gareth calls ‘a certified member of the liberal white guilt intelligentsia’).

So anyway. I was flipping through the mag when I came across this ad, headlined in all caps EXERCISE IN EXACTLY 4 MINUTES PER DAY. I used to be a copywriter for a living (I still maintain some clients, but I mostly do my publishing consulting stuff nowadays), so I’m always a tough critic for ads like this. The sheer audacity of what comes next drew me in:

The typical ROM purchaser goes through several stages:

1.     Total disbelief that the ROM can do all this in only 4 minutes.
2.     Rhetorical (and sometimes hostile) questioning and ridicule.
3.     Reading the ROM literature and reluctantly understanding it.
4.     Taking a leap of faith and renting a ROM for 30 days.
5.     Being highly impressed by the results and purchasing a ROM.
6.     Becoming a ROM enthusiast and trying to persuade friends.
7.     Being ignored and ridiculed by the friends who think you’ve lost your mind.
8.     After a year of using the ROM your friends admiring your good shape.
9.     You telling them (again) that you only exercise those 4 minutes per day.
10.     Those friends reluctantly renting the ROM for a 30 day trial.Then the above cycle repeats from point 5 on down.

Take a look at this thing:

ROM machine

It’s, like, totally Zen. And it carries a $14,615.00 price tag. Holy Guacamole, Batman! And yet they have these 15-year warranties, and I’m adding up gym costs plus gas costs in my head, plus (of course) time costs – which are the biggest one for a certified-ADD father/husband/student/small business owner/author. Their ad concludes:

From 4 minutes on the ROM you get the same results as from 20 to 45 minutes aerobic exercise (jogging, running, etc.) for cardio and respiratory benefits, plus 45 minutes weight training for muscle tone and strength, plus 20 minutes stretching exercise for limberness/flexibility.

O. Really?

Well, I’ve poked around the internets, running keyword searches like “ROM scam” and “ROM ripoff” – nada. Instead, I see testimonials from people who really seem to be losing weight, building muscle, feeling better, and having more time on their hands. For someone who’s never been into sports (or athletics of any kind for that matter), I’ve gotta admit: four minutes a day is appealing.

So here’s what I’m thinking.

I just turned 29 last month. Less than one year from 30, I’ve been taking a lot of inventory of my life. In my Foresight@Regent courses, we learn a mode of personal and organizational learning called Systems Thinking – popularized by Peter Senge of The Fifth Discipline fame. The gist is we’re always creating the life we live; we’re always designing it. The problem is, most of us design it by default, unconsciously, and often in self-sabotaging ways. Bringing life-design to a conscious level is a skill set we humans are just developing. (Hence the rationale for Strategic Foresight, btw) This ‘intelligent design’ happens on societal levels of course, but also personal. These past couple of years I’ve been privileged to have some wonderful people in my life – mentors, life coaches, and even (gasp!) therapists and counselors who are helping me work through my ‘shadow’ sides and interact with reality in a more healthy and whole manner. I guess what I’m seeking is integration, a whole life well-lived for myself and others. Isn’t that what we all want? https://i2.wp.com/www.christianitysite.com/IMG_0292%20fence%20flower%20edit%20a.jpg

So: A friend of mine, Drew, was recently reading Integral Life Practice, edited by Ken Wilber and published out of the Integral Institute. The Integral folks are always fascinating, what with their map-making theories of everything and all. It turns out they have a great programme for ‘whole-life cross-training’ involving our physical, mental, and spiritual selves. Taking a cue from ILP (I’m still reading my own copy of the book), I’ve decided: I want to develop a doable life-rhthym, one that incorporates Centering Prayer, maybe some Yoga or DoxaSoma, and – of course – physical training. True, the apostle Paul said (in perfect Elizabethan English) “bodily exercise profiteth little,” but hey: that guy built low-cost dwelling for a living. I’d like to see him sit behind a computer all day and tell me that! (Plus at four minutes a day, I’d like to think even Paul would approve.)

In short, by the time I’m 30 I’d like to:

  • Engage in centering prayer daily – ’cause we can all use more of the conscious fellowship of the Godhead in our lives.
  • Practice Yoga – seeing as I have the grace and flexibility and in-touch-with-my-body-ness of a dried-up turnip
  • Exercise my body – because I need cardiovascular health; I want to keep up with my little girl; I like natural endorphin highs; I like to concentrate on my work; I need to lose 50 pounds this year

…and I want to do all this in about an hour a day. Because I want to delve more deeply into my studies, love my family more, spend more time with my neighbors, and hang out more with my friend Hugh Hollowell and his homeless friends downtown. Stuff I think I could do with some whole-life cross-training.

What If…

What if I could somehow procure a ROM? (I have my ways) Would any of you, dear readers, be interested in charting my progress with me? I’m thinking I’d blog about what it’s like for a time-management-challenged guy like me to engage in some ‘intelligent life design,’ how it feels to make positive, healthy, & consistent changes, and if this ROM thing really does what it says. Since workouts are ostensibly only four minutes long, I’m thinking that once a week I’d actually record my entire workout and put it on YouTube or Vimeo or something. It might not be as funny as Will It Blend?, but I’m thinking a pasty white guy like me working out could provide some of you with catharsis or comic relief.

Please comment if…

  • You have experience with the ROM or some kinda similar exercise equipment
  • You’d get a laugh out of seeing some ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics and workout vids along The Countdown to 30
  • You have stories of your own whole-life rhythms and lifestyle design you’d like to share
  • You want to make fun of me.

Update 12/10: I’m getting a ROM!

Skill Sets for Futurists?

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I want to blog a bit about Transmillennial 2008, but until then I want to share something I’ve been working on concerning the skills that those engaged in Strategic Foresight should tend and cultivate.

Breadth

A Futurist needs a broad-base of interests, including science & technology, history, anthropology, art & literature, pop culture, faith & religion, sociology, ecology, and more…the sky’s the limit! Without the seedbed of breadth, many things will pass us by in our data-collection phase.

Creativity

Though much of Futurist work is, indeed, quantitative research, creativity must be exercised in interpreting the results and indeed in what to even include in our environmental scanning. An eye for the odd and intuition can pay significant dividends.

Flexibility

Futurists in forecasting need to be flexible, in order to try out many scenarios and be willing to admit to mistakes in methodology. We’re all wrong, and the sooner we can bend to this, the sooner we can spring back again.

Integral/Systems Thinking

The ability to consider the Whole when examining any facet is crucial for Futures work. Non-linear, integral thinking is key. One of the chief insights that Futurists can practice in everything from scanning to forecasting to personal life is that reality is rarely simple cause-and-effect; we each contain systems, are systems, and are parts of systems—or, to put it another way, everything is comprised of holons. Making connections beyond the obvious is crucial for holistic scenarios development; we must transcend personal and/or external blame-games.

A Love for People

Futures work is not done in isolation. Working with teams, conducting original research, and relaying findings and suggestions to clients and/or the public is necessary for successful Futures work. While some of each of these processes are carried out alone (and indeed, not all forms or genres of Foresight work involves human beings), the human component is a lynchpin.

Strong Work Ethic

Futures work is interdisciplinary work, and at the heart of this is discipline. Because we’re always on the Bleeding Edge of the Possible (sorry to capitalize like a German, it just seemed Important), a strong work ethic is needed to help hold everything together. Practically speaking, this involves having good time management and research skills, as well as proficiency with various software programs. These fluencies provide the ‘invisible architecture’ of our work as Futurists.

Spiritual Center

Working with the dazzling and terrifying possibilities of the future is nerve-wracking work; a spiritual center is crucial. It is important to balance hindsight and foresight with the insights that we “are hidden with Christ in God” (Paul), “the Center does not move” (Buddha), and “take no heed for tomorrow” (Jesus). These are paradoxical realities for future-oriented professionals, but I believe they are needed for our balance and sanity. Of course, potential ontological realities need to be grounded, experienced and enjoyed in consistent spiritual practice or they are of little practical benefit.

How Does Social Change Occur?

Recently for my LMSF 602 Survey of Futures Studies course I was asked to reflect on my own ‘theory of social change’–that is, how does change occur? Some base their guiding narratives on power, others on progress, still others on ideas. As a friend and follower of Jesus, as well as a futurist-in-training, I offer some rough thoughts:

 


Being thoroughly postmodern and suspicious of neat meta-narratives, I don’t have much confidence in the Story of Progress as was propounded through the Enlightenment era. On the other hand, looking at the broad sweep of history, I cannot come to the nihilistic conclusions that some of my secular and religious friends have come to, that the universe is essentially meaningless or that we’ve all going to hell in a handbasket. There has been real change over the past several thousand years, and it is generally (sometimes very generally) positive. But there is no invisible hand guiding us to some inexorable destiny. I suppose I believe in a realized eschatological world, where emergent nested creativity (which I see as a Triune God with real personality and kosmic-and-personal dreams) abounds, ready for humanity and creation to tap into. I am a realist. History has, in many cases, been guided by self-interest of a powerful few, hell-bent on maintaining and expanding their privilege. But in the midst of this, we’ve maintained humble, celebratory wisdom traditions that give dignity to individuals and communities—thus the spirit of innovation and adaptability continues.

I think social change happens when individuals and communities generate and tap into powerful new ideas rooted in the old. Taking from our store-houses treasures old and new, we can become truly conservative and progressive, preserving the best of the past while reimagining life together into the future. This will happen through humility, foresight, and imagination. It is a good time to be alive.

Coming Out of the “Pagan Christianity” Closet

pagan1.jpg

Update: Brother Maynard at Subversive Influence has completed a good three-part interview with Frank; check it out here, here and here.

Also: P.C. has been breaking into Amazon best-seller territory.

So: My buddy Frank Viola‘s book Pagan Christianity? has been causing quite the stir. Many responses have been positive, but some clearly have taken issue with matters both of tone or content. I’ve sort of just realized that I’ve largely been sitting on the sidelines of the debate raging through the blogosphere, even though many of the participants are my friends and I care deeply about what’s being discussed. Why?

Because I suck at time management. It’s tough being a new daddy, husband, have 2.5 businesses, and take graduate-level courses. I’m seeing a life coach friend. I’m getting better–slowly but surely. So here’s my belated entry into the fray.

I feel deeply ambivalent about the talk going ’round, like the kid with a lot of friends whose friends are really really different from each other. One day the kid has a birthday party, and the friends are all under the same roof for the first time…and they ain’t getting along so well. My journey of knowing Jesus led me into house church waters in 1998, and into the pre-emergent discussion in 2001 (back when it was just PoMo Christianity, baby! Who remembers Stranger Things?). I have since felt like the bastard child of both, a hopeful amphibian breathing the air and water of two similar yet distinct movements/phenomena. Of course emerging saints are waaaay more media saavy (new media, old media, all of it) and so have made far more headway into the popular religious imagination and discourse. But now that me pal Frank has graduated from guerilla publishing to real, live publishers, our subterranean wares are being offered in the marketplace of ideas for the first time and eeesh! We’re like that odd gypsy family offering homemade trinkets to snobby European connoisseurs. What to do?

Continue reading ‘Coming Out of the “Pagan Christianity” Closet’

Foresight in a Nutshell

Well not everyone thinks I’m a “lazy out-of-work crazy” like my self-loathing alter ego, but I do get a lot of questions from friends and family wondering just what it is I’m studying and planning on doing with (an aspect of) my life. Sometimes even strangers get in on it.

https://i1.wp.com/plus.maths.org/issue18/features/hawking/images/nutshell.jpg

Last week I was reading Foundations of Futures Studies in Chapel Hill’s Café Driade, arguably the highest-quality coffee shop I’ve ever been to. While two of us were waiting for our drinks, another patron asked me: “Futures Studies? What is Futures Studies?” As near as I can reconstruct, here is how I responded (so be ye instructed, dear reader):

“Futures Studies the mirror-side of history. It’s using what we know about our past and present, and extrapolating it into possible, probable, and desirable future scenarios for tomorrow.”

“So it’s like consulting?”

“Yes. Futurists help humanity navigate the waters of change and articulate our best futures out of a range of potential futures. We work with non-profit organizations, businesses, churches, and even governments.”

“Wow. Sounds interesting.”

“It is!”

I don’t know if he was just being kind, but it is terribly interesting. A multidisciplinary range of inquiry involving systems thinking, sociology, anthropology, history and even science fiction! (And I’m only in my second semester) A little later this year my mentor Jay and I should be hosting some videocasts unpacking some of the delights of Foresight@Regent. Stay tuned.


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  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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