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Screw it, let’s do it!’

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

Richard Branson

At the beginning of this week, I felt under a lot of pressure with far more items on my to-do list than could reasonably be accomplished in the time scale.  This induced in me an overwhelming feeling of dread because I didn’t believe I could knock anything off the list, so I was faced with a choice about what was to get my immediate attention.

Two priorities, both or equal importance, were facing off in a mental showdown. The argument which went on in my head went something like… ‘if you don’t do this, you will feel like that’ and ‘ but if you do that you will feel like this’. Back and forth the internal debate ensued, a pointless process that consumed a few hours which, retrospectively, could have been used more productively on either of the matters in hand.

It’s common for people to have such conflicting commitments, desires and goals – like spending time with family versus working or like trying to lose weight and slipping by eating a doughnut.   We can’t do everything, and it’s inevitable there will be clashes which must be met with compromise and acceptance. These are the things which we negotiate consciously and subconsciously every day.

It is also something we forget.  On reflection, in this instance there was precious little acceptance and equally less compromise. Stuck solution-less in the no man’s land of indecision, I recall berating myself mercilessly. It didn’t matter what I sacrificed, compromised or capitulated; I was going to disappoint myself. In fact, ‘disappoint’ is too mild a word as this was much more brutal self-criticism, blame, blame, blame – completely over the top for a simple case of over committing and having too high expectations.

So, here I was, supposedly spectating at a tennis match, wearing a hair shirt, chewing my nails and exhaling all too loud sounds. Of course, I wasn’t really watching the match…I was simply in attendance and my sighs were less about the anticipation of play and more in response to the serious match being played in my head. This is what was consuming me. One thought served up after another only to receive a blistering backhanded return. Endless rallies of the to and fro of personal thoughts. Not in the moment, my love for tennis forgotten, I was fully absorbed in my anguish, getting nowhere near a solution and ruminating in negative emotions which I knew would turn toxic.

Eventually I put on my coaching hat and asked myself if I had a client presenting a scenario like this, what would I do?  Easy. I would go to great pains to try and get them to gain perspective and objectivity by reducing the emotion and mental turmoil.  I would have challenged the abusive and unhelpful thoughts, by asking questions such as ‘What purpose are these thoughts serving?’  ‘How is that thought helpful?’  ‘What other thoughts and actions will be more productive in this situation?’ I would encourage injecting positivity into the situation knowing that the chances of solving problems in a positive state is much easier than  a negative mindset. I would also tell them to watch the bloody tennis match as that’s why they are there!

One thing which I have learned (and subconsciously forget) is that self-criticism, much like regret, is rarely a catalyst for good performance. Sure, it might spur a knee-jerk reaction but for the most part it delivers very few positive results. Whilst the inner self-critic may be a normal part of life, when it is extreme and misplaced it just adds to that dark place of depression and anxiety. I have coaching clients who justly their tough inner critic by saying “I have to be tough on myself, otherwise”…or “this is what drives me and got me to where I am today”. In such instances I challenge them to ask how much further they may have got with positivity and kindness?

It is well documented through research that negative emotions like fear, anxiety, disappointment stress and anger narrow our focus, inhibit our concentration and decrease our cognitive abilities, while positive emotions can do the opposite. When we are upbeat and happy, the chances are more likely of having an inclusive focus  and performing better on demanding tasks than in a pessimistic frame of mind where our  prefrontal cortex, the brain’s ‘executive centre’,  is pushed aside so the emotionally-driven amygdala can take over and ready the body for crisis.

Another simple yet profound lesson I have learned is to say ‘stop it’. Stop the negative thinking, stop the rumination and stop the thinking pattern, yet just as in this instance, I can be slow to respond and press the stop button. Like many, I can continue to make same mistakes time and again, slipping back into a downward spiral or unhelpful cycle which I know is not good for us. I may be a Positive Psychologist, but I am human and self-mastery is a never-ending journey.

The ideal I guess is when we learn to master ourselves by getting out of our own way. We strip away what we are not to realise who and what we really are, actualising ourselves in the process.  Alexander Pope said, “No one should be ashamed to admit they are wrong’, which can be interpreted as saying that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.  Now isn’t that a positive spin on a potential screw up?




















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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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