Hammer and Nail

Often, we have a one size fits all orientation to life. 

“To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”


We try to solve fresh daily problems, yet everything we are going through is seen through our preset filters and mindsets. 


In many cases, we are simply and undeniably biased, mistakenly believing that what worked in the past or for particular challenges will always work in the future and for all our problems. 


We stereotype people and races and see them as either “the good guys” or “the bad guys”–but there’s no grey in there to further differentiate.  


Also, we work in a comfortable zone of blind routine thinking that we wish it’s all as simple as wash, rinse, and repeat.


But while some die-hard habits and lessons learned in life are very valuable and should be mentally recorded and referenced, seeing life through a single, or even a few handy-dandy, filters can prove disastrous when things or times change. 


For example, one big criticism of our dealing in Washington is that:

“Politicians, like generals, have a tendency to fight the last war.”


Instead, if we evaluate the nuances of each person and particular situation, we can work to get a more detailed evaluation, and potentially be able to fine-tune approaches for what needs to be done, and how, with each and every one, accordingly. 


Chucking a batman belt approach to just using whatever tools are immediately available, can facilitate a broader and more creative approach to problem-solving. 


Sure, to a certain degree, we are creatures of habit–and we intuitively rely on what’s worked in the past, and reject and shun what hasn’t–but past experiences do not necessarily foretell future successes. 


If we don’t stay agile and resilient, we can easily get blown away by the situation or the competition. 


There is always a new challenge to test us and someone coming up who may be better, faster, or stronger that wants to try and take us on or down. 


A shotgun approach, in lieu of a more precise surgical strike, can result in a lot of collateral damage and maybe even missing the mark altogether. 


Think, think, think. 


Focus on what needs to get done–apply lessons learned as applicable, but also look for new sources and methods to build a bigger and more versatile tool chest.


In the walking dead, a hammer to the head works fairly well on all Zombies, but sometimes there are too many zombies in the hoard or even more dangerous living people and situations to attend to. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to stevepb)

>Faith or Fear?

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I love stories of hope and possibility.

I read in the Washington Post, 1 August 2009, about cars that actually enable blind people to drive. This was one of those stories.

In 2004, a challenge was issued from a blindness advocacy group “to build a vehicle that the blind could drive with the same freedom as the sighted.”

Around the same time, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—the same government agency that brought us the Internet—“ran a series of contests to inspire a driverless car that could navigate complex terrain.”

However, at Virginia Tech’s Robot’s & Mechanism Laboratory the challenge of “an autonomous vehicle wasn’t enough. We want the blind person to be the driver, not to be driven.”

To meet this once unthinkable goal, the design team developed a prototype vehicle that blind students this summer are actually testing.

Here’s how the vehicle works: An all-terrain vehicle with a front-mounted laser sensor sweeps the terrain ahead, and a computer in the back processes the information into a two-dimensional map. A computer voice tells the driver through headphones what number of clicks to turn the wheel to steer around obstacles and a vest vibrates to indicate whether the driver should slow down or stop.

By challenging ourselves, bringing innovation to the table, thinking positively, and working through the challenges, we are able to bring opportunities to people that many thought were impossible.

Yet even today, I heard people reacting to this story and saying “Oh, I wouldn’t want a blind person driving behind me.”

But why not? There are reasons to believe that this can work.

First of all, in the vehicle tests, the blind drivers actually did better than the engineers because they followed the directions coming from the computer more precisely.

Second, when it comes to other modes of transportation such as flying, people no longer seriously question the use of technology to aid our ability to see, navigate and fly through all sorts of weather and turbulent conditions. Now a days, a large commercial airplane flying at hundreds of miles an hour over densely populated cities on autopilot is an accepted fact.

I believe there are really two issues here:

On one hand, is the technology itself. How far can technology take us—are there limits?

And the second issue is can people overcome their mindset of fear, doubt, hesitation, and negativity to really stretch the bounds of the imagination to the what’s truly possible?

I think both the issues of technology and mindset are strongly related.

Obviously there are laws of nature and physics that place real limits on even how far technology can take us. Yet, as we press against the boundaries and test the seemingly impossible, we are able do things that practically defy those very laws. For example, who would’ve thought that man could fly like the birds, walk on the moon, communicate thousands of miles in a split second, or cure the incurable? Perhaps, what we perceive as physical limitations are only there until we can figure out how to overcome them with innovation and technology—and of course, the wisdom bestowed from the almighty.

By realizing that the boundaries are not so hard and fast—that they are elastic—we can have hope in going further and doing the seemingly impossible.

Certainly, I recognize the very real legitimacy of the concerns that people might have over the thought of blind people in the driver’s seat. However we must ask ourselves how much of this concern is based on rational, logical factors and how much on a misperception or mistrust of what technology—and blind people themselves—can actually do. To me, it really comes down to one’s mindset.

Through faith, courage, conviction, we can overcome our doubts and fears. We can and must continue to explore, to test the bounds, and to innovate some more.