“Not all companies deserve to last. Perhaps society is better off getting rid of organizations that have fallen from great to terrible rather than continuing to let them inflict their massive inadequacies on their stakeholders. Institutional self-perpetuation holds no legitimate place in a world of scarce resources; institutional mediocrity should be terminated, or transformed into excellence….The point of the struggle is not just to survive, but to build an enterprise that makes such a distinctive impact on the world it touches, and does so with such superior performance, that it would leave a gaping hole–a hole that could not be easily filled by any other institution–if it ceased to exist.”
–Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall, p. 111-112
“You can be profitable and bankrupt. The idea had never occurred to most students who’d worked in big companies. In the entrepreneurial phase, leader struggle just to get enough cash to become self-sustaining, but as an organization becomes big and successful, cash consciousness atrophies. Leaders in successful companies worry more about earning. But organizations do not die from lack of earnings. They die from lack of cash.”
–Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall, p. 104
Over the years of conducting my research, I’ve been a leadership skeptic, influenced by the evidence that complex organizations achieve greatness through the efforts of more than one exceptional individual. The best leaders we’ve studied had a peculiar genius for seeing themselves as not all that important, recognizing the need to build an executive team and to craft a culture based on core values that do not depend upon a single heroic leader. But in cases of decline, we find a more pronounced role for the powerful individual, and not for the better. So, even though I remain a leadership skeptic, the evidence leads me to this sobering conclusion: while no leader can single-handedly build an enduring great company, the wrong leader vested with power can almost single-handedly bring a company down.
–Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall, p.61-62
From Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro (p. 133):
“I’m starting to wonder if part of the miracle of going to church, even when I’m terribly dissatisfied with most of what goes on in certain churches, even when the church has no walls and meets in a gym, is that God will still show up there because God has promised to do so. The church will always be poked through with human sin, and some churches will do a worse job than others, but that doesn’t change the miracle of Christ choosing to wed himself to the church. She is still the bride of Christ, sullied and all. And I have to believe God takes the ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health’ stuff pretty seriously.”
From Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro (p.18-19):
[I] am just a regular person trying to live my regular life. Except that my regular life largely includes being a Christian who doesn’t really like church or many of the people I find in church. The even tricker part is I’m also a Christian who believes that Christ calls us to live in the community of the church and to love our neighbors. So things have been kind of sticky most of my adult life….
The worst, and possibly scariest, thing about all this is that, like I said earlier, before I had any say in it, I was claimed as a Christian. Whether or not others might call me a Christian is up for grabs, but I belong to a faith tradition formed and steeped in the idea of self-denial for love of the neighbor and rooted in community. Just by the nature of my baptism I am part of a distinct and storied community whether I like it or not, whether I acknowledge it or not. I belong to a tradition that tells me my life is not really my own but rather is caught up in the divine and communal life of something much bigger than myself. I am a character in a story I did not write, and there are many other characters in addition to myself who are equally important. But these are all tenes I find hard to swallow on a daily basis. I prefer the parts of the tradition that talk about grace and God’s forgiveness of us and the fact that none of us can ever really measure up to perfection. These parts offer me the illusion that I am off the hook from striving to be something I obviously was not cut out to be–holy.
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
(This is where I’ve been for the last few weeks. Seems like a good place to be.)
“Where the state considers the life of a deliberate murderer to have greater value than the life of an innocent victim, it demeans the imago Dei in mankind and weakens the supports of social justice.”
–Carl F.H. Henry, “Perspectives on Capital Punishment”
(HT: Chuck Colson)
“Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.” (Augustine of Hippo)
Jesse Schell on playtesting:
I hate playtesting….
Having people hate your work is probably one of the most painful parts of being a game designer. And playtesting is like an engraved invitation that reads:
You are cordially invited
to tell me why I suck
Bring a friend–Refreshments Served
–The Art of Game Design, page 391
Have I mentioned that I’m really enjoying this book? Actually, I don’t think I have. So….
I’m really enjoying this book. While it leans in the direction of videogame design, the book is more about the process of design than anything specifically electronic. If you’re at all interested in game design, I recommend this one highly.
Man, that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?
Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.
–Order of Burial, Book of Common Prayer (1928)
Here’s an extended quote from Prisoner’s Dilemma by William Poundstone that discusses what I’m hoping to accomplish with my system for Dirty Cities:
It does not take much to create a prisoner’s dilemma. The main ingredient is a temptation to better one’s own interests in a way that would be ruinous if everyone did it. That ingredient, regrettably, is in ample supply. For this reason some have seen in the prisoner’s dilemma the fundamental problem of society–the problem of “evil”, if you will. The tragedies of history are not the natural disasters but the man-made ones, the consequences of individuals or groups taking actions contrary to the common good.
The most common type of prisoner’s dilemma in everyday life is the “free rider dilemma”. This is a prisoner’s dilemma with many, rather than just two, players.
The name refers to the dilemma confronting public transit riders. It’s late at night, and there’s no one in the subway station. Why not just hop over the turnstiles and save yourself the fare? But remember, if everyone hopped the turnstiles, the subway system would go broke, and no one would be able to get anywhere.
It is the easiest thing in the world to rationalize hopping the turnstiles. What’s the chance that your lost fare will bankrupt the subway system? Virtually zero. The trains run whether the cars are empty or full. In no way does an extra passenger increase the system’s operating expenses. Etc., etc. etc.–but if everybody thinks this way….
(p.125-126; emphasis in original)
Honestly, from a design perspective, my only concern is that people won’t grok the connection between the small choices that their characters make and the larger social shifts that will be the result. Even if I explain that this is happening, I still wonder if people will drive their first cities into the ground, simply because the feedback loop is too long.
But, maybe this isn’t a bad thing?
â€œDonâ€™t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, youâ€™ll have to ram them down peopleâ€™s throats.â€â€”Howard Aiken
It seems like detective novels have very little connection between the title and the actual events of the book. At least the ones that I read seem this way. Ross MacDonald is probably the classic example of this. Consider the title The Zebra-Striped Hearse. The actual car makes a brief appearance in the book, and it’s not actually a major plot point. But, at the same time, the car seems to have some symbolic weight beyond its minor appearance. The same goes for The Goodbye Look or most of the rest of his books, for that matter.
I’m finding that something that I enjoy about reading these books is finding the point in the narrative when the title is explained. So this quote from Prayers for Rain by Dennis Lehane stood out. The two characters are discussing a woman who killed herself:
“Then,” she said flatly, her eyes on a gaggle of mallards as they waddled down the slope on the far side of the river. “Then she was a tocuh insane, I’d think. Ah, she wanted to die. Mr. Kenzie. So, so much.”
“Wanted to die or wanted to be saved?”
She turned her head toward me. “Aren’t they the same thing? Wishing to be saved? In this world, yeah? It’s…” Her small face grew bitter and gray and she shook her head several times.
“It’s what?” I said.
She looked at me like I was a child who’d asked why fire burns or seasons change.
“Well, it’s like praying for rain, isn’t it, Mr. Kenzie?” She raised her hands to the clear, white sky. “Praying for rain in the middle of a desert.”
Prayers for rain.
Suddenly the book title becomes terribly profound and almost poetic. Makes me think about all the people around me, offering their own prayers for rain.
But who sends the rain?
“L.A. burns, and so many other cities smolder, waiting for the hose that will flood gasoline over the coals, and we listen to politicians who fuel our hate and our narrow views and tell us it’s simply a matter of getting back to basics while they sit in their beachfront properties and listen to the surf so they won’t have to hear the screams of the drowning.
They tell us it’s about race, and we believe them. And they call it a ‘democracy’, and we nod our heads, so pleased with ourselves. We blame the [criminals]…,but we always vote for the [politicians]. And in occasional moments of quasi-lucidity, we wonder why the [politicians] of this world don’t respect us.
They don’t respect us because we are their molested children. They f*** us morning, noon, and night, but as long as they tuck us in with a kiss, as long as they whisper into our ears, ‘Daddy loves you, Daddy will take care of you,’ we close our eyes and go to sleep, trading our bodies, our souls, for the comforting veneers of ‘civilization’ and ‘security’, the false idols of our twentieth-century [...] dream.”
–Dennis Lehane, A Drink Before The War
(Yeah, some edits for language. After all this is a family blog, he said tongue-in-cheek. Mostly the “criminals” and “politician” replacements were character names from the book that I didn’t think would communicate if you haven’t read it.)
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”–George Orwell