Obligation That Runs Two Ways

on Jul 12, 2010

At a recent large gathering of his member schools, the head of my martial arts organization discussed the importance of obligation. He gave a very simple example: that if you’re walking down the halls of your organization, what ever it may be, and see a piece of trash on the floor, you’re obligated to pick it up. This served as an analogy to all of us coming to that set of arduous training sessions. On the surface, it seemed like something that was not required – that it was just some extra event. It was in fact the opposite. We were actually obligated to be there. In a way, the head of the organization was preaching to the choir. Many of the martial artists present at this gathering at traveled a long way, some hundreds of miles. Still, it was a message that needed to be passed down to those not present. And the message says much about the very important relationship between an organization and its members.

Obligations run two ways. While a member is must have conscientiousness and take responsibility at any opportunity for their organization, their organizations in turn must provide a nurturing environment. It must treat its members with respect and acknowledge their contributions. The exchange of give and take must run both ways. As the organization takes what its members do for it, it must give back appropriately. Likewise, as members benefit (take) from the organization, they must be ready to give, even when it beyond regular responsibility (think: picking up the trash or traveling a long way for an event).

This applies beyond martial arts organizations, to the organizations where we work as well. Are you willing to put in that “extra” helpfulness when your organization would benefit from the dedication? Conversely, is this obligation really so? Does your organization provide a supporting environment? Does it recognize commitment? Does it reward loyalty in meaningful ways? Or does your organization require you to do more and more work without acknowledging your labors? If your organization is not treating you well, you certainly won’t heed the call to step up. There is no obligation.

So which kind of organization would you rather be a part of? Would you rather not have any obligations and have the organization respond in kind? Or would you prefer to be a part of nurturing environment, and be ready to fulfill the obligations it entails?

Technology for the Masses

on May 18, 2010

There’s much flaming between fans of Apple products and fans of other systems, such as those running Windows or Linux/Android. It’s important to note that each system has its advantages and disadvantages. There are always tradeoffs. But depending on who you are, the tradeoffs tip to one side or another.

The Apple product offers:

  • A beautiful and seamless experience that’s easy to use but you’re locked in to a system that isn’t very customizable
  • Strong support but it comes at a price (see note on the Apple Tax at the bottom)

Other electronics and software offer:

  • A more open and customizable experience but with a greater likelihood that stuff will break or is unintuitive
  • More bang for your buck (in terms of features and power) but you’ll have to support yourself

So basically, if you’re one to really make use of those extra features and customability and able and willing to put up with stuff that’s more complicated to use and to deal with instability, then buying Apple seems absurd. But this kind of technologically savvy user is likely 10% of the population, if not less. Most of the other 90% are just folks that want technology that just works and is easy to use. And if things do break, they need help and are willing to pay for it.

Imagine if a hard drive failed. A tech savvy user would probably just swap it out himself while the general user pays for the repair (including beforehand in something like The Apple Tax). The tech savvy user pays as well, with opportunity cost. At some point, he had to spend time to learn how to do a hard drive. Also imagine some application that has a hundred buttons for all its features. The savvy user works to sort through them to make use of everything available. But the general user is flummoxed at the sight.

There’s another category of users: power users that prefer Apple products. They understand the tradeoff and are willing to sacrifice features and price for just having something that’s easier to use. There’s also folks that go one way with some products and another way with others. I have some good friends that use Linux machines for their home setups, but carry around iPhones.

Still, there’s much polarization on the issue. NYT Tech Writer David Pogue, who falls into the above category, wrote two separate reviews for the iPad. The one targeted to tech savvy folks slammed it for a lack of features and customability. The other, poised for general users, praised the iPad for being an incredibly fun to use device. When it comes down to it, there will be tradeoffs and we should be mindful of what we get and what we lose with each system. And more importantly, we should understand that others may have different needs, especially when it comes to technology (more on that in a future post).

Special thanks to Stephen Komae on helping me see beyond my “narrow tech-savvy perspective” to understand the magic of Apple-like products

A note on the Apple Tax. It’s true, there is a “tax” on Apple products. But as with how taxes are supposed to work, they’re for a service. This means that if something goes wrong, you can bring it to an Apple Store where people (that actually know what they’re doing) will help you out in a considerate manner. That peace of mind is invaluable to a general user, but not worth it to many tech savvy users.