Do you live in the world’s most advanced nation? Or is it next to yours, or nearby?
Leaders from many nations are apt to declare theirs exceptional – perhaps the most prolific, the most righteous, the best positioned, or indeed the most advanced. Such declarations are often good politics, frequently are viewed internally as self-evident or sacrosanct, and naturally play well to local audiences, especially ones that have not considered these claims too carefully.
But which modern nation really is the best, or most advanced? It’s a question I take up in my book, The Seven Keys of Natural Life, and one I think is quite important and productive.
One answer of course is to hold that the question makes no sense, that it is impossible to answer, notably since nations are all complicated, distinctive, and thus incomparable. Other responses might involve the idea that the question is divisive and unhelpful, that none are foremost and therefore all are similar, or even that all are similarly flawed and unworthy of the label of most advanced. Importantly, each of these answers involves the assumption that such comparisons or rankings – whether involving nations or other complex entities – are inherently unreliable, dubious, or absurd.
By considering the specific question of the world’s most advanced nation, I will demonstrate that this thinking is generally unwise, dismissive, superficial, or naïve. Overall, and building on my recent piece Answering Hard Questions, I believe it overlooks the practical power and enormous natural learning opportunities reliably available to us by considering just these sorts of comparative (and comparatively hard) questions, even if our answers to them are always imperfect, controversial, and debatable – but thereby also improvable.
After all, we routinely compare things, even complex things, and often quite usefully, beneficially, and instructively. Our level of information and rigor in making these comparisons can of course vary widely, influencing the quality of our judgements. But this fact suggests the need and opportunity for care with our comparisons, rather than avoiding or downplaying them altogether, especially in crucial areas – and again especially since incisive comparisons can be quite helpful, even as they are always naturally incomplete or imperfect.
A more constructive, and ultimately more learning-rich, way of answering the question of the most advanced nation on earth today, or the most advanced anything at any point in time, is to begin from the idea that the answer inevitably depends on our criteria, our decision factors, or what is often called the foundational framing of our analysis. Not only does this approach at once aid, and wisely temper, comparisons of all kinds, the process of making our comparison criteria explicit and subject to review can be as instructive and beneficial as the specific conclusions we ultimately draw when employing them.
Are you a creative type, or do you tend to focus your energies on consuming? All of us of course naturally do both, and each form of functioning can be understood as essential to the other.
If we want to live a creative life, we must at least consume enough to meet our basic material needs. At the same time, we cannot consume very much without enabling creativity – on our part and especially that of people generally.
In my book, The Seven Keys of Natural Life, I discuss the importance of creative human life in some depth. And though creativity and consumption are both natural, and naturally circular, we have good reason to believe that creativity-focused life – or high creation/low consumption lifestyles – are superior overall.
All Of Us Live On A ‘Consumption-Creation’ Continuum
This is because creativity-oriented life tends to be more natural, satisfying, beneficial, intelligent, and sustainable than living patterns marked by high consumption levels, even ones with significant amounts of creativity. Put another way, life that is principally creative, especially when aligned with or focused on crucial natural needs, often produces greater personal and social health, or natural adaptivity, than other patterns of modern living.
I would like to acquaint you with these crucial ideas, and the discussion that follows will: 1) define consumption and creativity, 2) discuss their respective natural merits and limitations, and 3) make the case for personal and collective functioning that is highly creative and also attentively limits excessive – distracting, inhibiting, unhelpful, irrational, and unsustainable – consumption.
Consumption Versus Creation
You already may have a good idea what the words consumption and creation mean, and the very different forms of natural functioning they describe. Both involve the use of resources, but in dissimilar and even opposing ways. Consumption, in its essence, is the using of resources – from raw materials to finished goods and services, and even intangibles such as security and time – as they are presented or available to us.
By contrast, creation entails the use of resources in new or inventive ways – or the production of new value with them in the terminology of economists – resulting in the generation of transformed, more efficient, or more effective resources, goods, or conditions compared with earlier ones. (In this definition, resource use that does not increase value is technically not creation, regardless of our aim or intention.) Since both consumption and creation involve the use of resources, we might be tempted to think of them as equivalent in important regards, but this would overlook essential differences in each mode of natural functioning.
We and our groups inevitably face complex, difficult, ambiguous, or plain old hard questions, problems, and challenges. It’s a natural part of life.
Often, we struggle with the decisions, choices, or judgements they involve. And as frequently, we wish in retrospect that we had arrived at alternative solutions or chosen different responses than the ones we did.
In this sense, while complex issues and hard questions are natural, arriving at optimal or enduring answers to them is often less natural or intuitive – as important as this can be to the quality of our lives and collective functioning over time.
To help make hard questions, complex choices, and difficult judgments in life easier for you, I would like to acquaint you with an important and very flexible problem-solving technique from my book, The Seven Keys of Natural Life.
The technique is called Active Framing. As you will see, Active Framing is quickly learned and reliably employed in many settings, and with even some of the most complex or uncertain questions and decisions we face in our lives and endeavors.
Options Can Help To Solve Hard Problems, Or Simply Add To Their Complexity
To introduce Active Framing, I will start by describing how most of us naturally approach questions and arrive at answers, and will summarize this process with a simple and easy-to-remember model. We will then explore how this natural process of judging or deciding can be actively used – and really, turned on itself – to allow us to solve hard problems and questions reliably, beneficially, and often quite rapidly.
In the early part of our discussion, I will use a series of simple examples – involving Jack and Jill and their proverbial hill. But I will end with some common real-life examples of complex questions, and highlight how Active Framing can make manageable hills out of many seemingly mountainous questions, issues, and challenges.
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I have a new book, The Seven Keys of Natural Life, that I would like to personally invite you to learn more about. It’s available on Amazon in e-book and print editions, including a free preview. The book summarizes my seven Natural Strategy workshops, which guide the progressive mastery of modern life through conscious and informed natural functioning.
Overall, The Seven Keys spans three crucial areas, each enabling richer and more adaptive modern life today: 1) essential material from my seven personal and collective workshops presented in a self-paced format, 2) a step-by-step guide to creating transformative Natural Strategy plans for both individuals and groups, and 3) exploration of the science and principles behind my workshops and larger Natural Strategy method.
Included in The Seven Keys are over 250 graphical exhibits, tools, and models, helping you to understand and then master the Natural Strategy method and the book’s seven action areas, or keys, for Natural Life.
Importantly, this last term describes our new modern potential to consciously harness and accelerate natural evolutionary processes for our personal and collective benefit. Accelerated natural adaptation and evolution, or health-increasing natural progressivity, is the overarching focus of The Seven Keys, my Natural Strategy method, and my work in total. In its essence, Natural Life is the work of nature made self-aware and powerfully brought to the various tasks and demands of modern life.
If you are interested in our now waiting potential for conscious, vibrant, and intentionally accelerated natural evolution – and thus for renaturalized modern life and greater fulfillment of our natural potential as modern people – The Seven Keys will likely be quite compelling. At its core, The Seven Keys offers a transformative new way of looking at evolving life, understanding its essential lessons for modern people and groups, and guiding our lives and collectives toward ever-increasing natural vitality, adaptiveness, and success.
Thanks to the power of internet-based publishing, The Seven Keys is available in a number of low-cost editions, including availability at local libraries. As the book’s jacket overview states, The Seven Keys is indeed “brimming with ideas for new natural, personal, and collective awareness and vitality in our time,” and I hope you will seek it out.
Health & best wishes,
Tell others about Mark and the transformative Natural Strategy method!
As you may know, I am in the final stages of preparing a book for publication, one that spans my seven Natural Strategy workshops.
An important theme in the book, and in my Natural Strategy method overall, is the idea that new health awareness can greatly and naturally improve our functioning, as individuals and groups of all kinds. Practically, a telling indicator of adequate health awareness is our ability to engage in progressive or increasingly rigorous and useful health measurement.
As is perhaps the case for you right now, both ideas are often unclear or uncertain proposals today, especially when first introduced. I would therefore like to spend a moment helping you to better understand the critical topics of health and its measurement, as an introduction to my Natural Strategy method, my workshops and upcoming book, and an important tool that you can immediately use.
Let’s begin with a fairly simple definition of health. But let me also prepare you in advance for this definition. While simple, the definition may be new and unfamiliar, it is quite sweeping, and it may take time for you to consider.
Most of us of course use the term health all the time. But often we do not think carefully about what this word means. Because of health’s natural importance, and even its central role in natural functioning, I would encourage you to reflect on the idea of health more deeply than you might otherwise. Let me help you in this process with a question: if I characterized you, another person, a plant or animal, an organization, or a whole society as healthy, unhealthy, healthier, or less healthy, what do or might these words communicate?
After almost two years of work, I’ve nearly finished a book spanning my seven Natural Strategy workshops. All that’s left is a last look at the introduction and a final proofread of the book overall (though this may take some time).
This last bit of effort, however, requires some distance from the project and a fresh set of eyes. So I’m spending some of the summer on vacation and away from this work.
As People or Groups, We Can Know, Act, Do Both, or Do Neither full-size
Since it will be several weeks before I will post here again, and several more weeks after that until I can begin to post regularly, let me share an idea from my book before I head out for a summer adventure. Hopefully, this idea will engage you until I am back. And really, it is an idea that we can use over a lifetime and in many domains, if we want.
As summarized in the graphic above, the idea I want to share is that we can – and should, if we seek more optimal life and work – learn to better separate and examine our instances and potential states of knowing and acting. You no doubt understand the concepts of knowledge and action, so I won’t spend time on definitions m here. Instead, I would like to move right to a personal learning challenge to you.
As mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve been at work for about a year on a book spanning my seven Natural Strategy workshops.
I’m happy to advise that the book is now fully drafted and on track to be published by 2015. All that stands between the draft and eventual publication is several months of editing and polishing on my part.
That may sound like a lot of work, but compared with writing, editing is a far more specific assignment – and even a welcome prospect, after a year of waking to blank pages each day.
With this background, I hope you will allow me to characterize writing a book as going long and to point out a few lessons from the experience. There are of course many ways of going long, and I’ll define the phrase here as any personal or group endeavor that lasts several months or more, involves change or creation, requires our full attention and pulls us from other things, and has at least a little uncertainty about how and where it will end.
Writing a book has these qualities, but many other projects do as well – creating a new product or service, cultivating an organization, taking up a social or political cause, raising a child.