My Story: Robert Joseph Harris, PhD
(HERE IS THE VERY SHORT VERSION.)
I am the luckiest man in the world. I discovered my passion as a teenager, got to develop it in my first and only job ever (Beyster, SAIC) in sunny southern California after earning a PhD in physics, made a bunch of money from stock options in that job, and have worked for myself the rest of my life (the past 30 years) pursuing my passion of big-picture research and consulting. Now, I want to share what I have learned broadly via social media to stimulate discussion on where the big picture is heading and how to deal with it.
(READ ON FOR THE SHORT VERSION)
A Blog Experiment
I started to blog on May 25, 2013 as an experiment to write about everyday slices of life that caught my eye and provided interesting insights that I thought worth sharing. I called my blog “Life as I Found it,” and coined the term, Insights cut from everyday life™ as the theme of these essays. An eclectic group of readers seemed to like them.
This made me stop to think: “I have other deeper insights to share about how work and business is changing, and about the search for meaning and values in life, especially during this time of hyper change in society.
I did not know it at the time but this blog turned out to be the next step in a personal transformation that had begun two years earlier as I occupied my time while recovering from two successive total knee replacement operations, one year after another. There is nothing like coming to a complete stop in life to make you rethink where you are and where you want to go next.
After 35 years as a successful technology researcher, entrepreneur, and big-picture strategist I decided in 2014 to create two more companion blogs to go with the first and put them on this one website, Viewshift.net, for easy access to everything I have to say. Here are the three separate blog addresses, which may be accessed separately, as personal interests dictate:
- Life as I Find it: http://www.slicesoflifeblog.com
- Work as I Find it: http://www.viewshiftblog.com
- Meaning as I Find it: http://www.metaslog.com
Rediscovering the Joy of Writing
During the early part of my knee surgery recoveries I began to write. I always had to write a lot in my work as a researcher and management consultant during the past 30 years, but this was different; I had no one else to satisfy but myself and 24/7 to do it. A new world opened up to me. I drafted a book on Wild Bill Donovan as the world’s first Big Data Analyst (the founder of OSS, forerunner to the CIA), wrote a couple of kid’s stories, had lengthy philosophical correspondence on the teetering world economy with a couple of world-class intellects, and wrote an unpublished blog called PhastPhilosophy.
(WANT MORE SUBSTANCE? READ ON FOR MEDIUM VERSION OF MY STORY)
Accelerating Paradigm Shift Cycles
During my physical recovery I discovered how good it felt to calm the “ADD” Ping-Pong balls in my brain by allowing them to leak out flowing into a still and coherent form through writing. More importantly, in my quiet solitude, the beginning of a profound shift to a new era of existence began to dawn on me starting from the very beginning of everything: Life, Upright Walking, Fire, Wheel, Language, Religion, Round Earth, Printing Press, Science, Industrial Revolution, Mass Production, Internet, Mobile Communication, Mass Customization, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality…to Virtual Humans?
Most of the eras caused by these shifts lasted a long time and seemed stable compared to a human life time. But the shifts have sped up with each passing era: from billions to millions to thousands to hundreds and to tens of years between shifts today. The current pace of change is intra-generational, changing within a single lifetime!
We are approaching continuous change and being forced to adapt ever more rapidly to new world view that is radically altering all aspects of life as never before. Einstein experienced a shift in his scientific world view of similar proportion when he asked a child-like question at the turn of the 20th century: What would the world look like if I could ride on a beam of light? His answer was a wholly new conception of space and time, and the Theory of Relatively, whose validity is confirmed every time a GPS connection is made to a Direct TV or a smart phone.
Apple introduced the first smart phone in 2007, the iPhone. Seven years later there are 500 million iPhones somewhere on earth and a total of 1.75 billion total smart phones on earth for 7.2 billion people, 2.5 billion of which live on less than $2 per day. We are finally feeling the full force of Future Shock first forecast by Alvin Toffler in his book of the same name in the 1970s. We need to shift our world view fast about life, work and meaning.
We need to ask Einstein’s question for life:
- What would our world look like if we could ride on the wave of societal change?
Many Shift Issues are Happening at Once
Many questions that are cousins to the one above have been percolating “in-site” my brain for many years:
- The shift from tangibles to intangibles as a new world view
- The shift from group survival to a “winner takes all” society.
- The shift from simple to complex smart systems we may not be able to control
- The shift from Jobs to Self-Employed work
- The shift from fuzzy human language to precise computer language.
- The shift from natural evolution to artificial evolution.
- The shift from an energy-based society to an information-based society
- The shift from ancient to modern covenants with the sacred
- The shift of innovation from “the special few” to “everyone is an innovator.”
The time seems right to dig these thoughts out, develop them and let them loose.
The word “site’” is, of course, short for “website” these days as the place where digital stuff lives and works. Before the digital era, “site” was commonly used for the place where people lived and worked. My three blog sites represent both kinds of “site” for me, i.e., the many places I have lived and many kinds of work I have done.
My blogs (and my brain), are an ongoing work in progress, like life itself; I will use them to represent my authentic self (as much as I can know it) to share what I think is of value and to learn from others what they think is of value on the topics I write about. These blogs are interactive works-progress open to comment and collaboration, so I am not sure exactly where they will lead but I know this is the path I must follow.
I have also included the static web site for Paradigm Research in the top-level navigation banner above, which is a company I founded and in 1990. I will include my interactive Viewshift.net blog links on PRI’s home page for reference. The paradigm research work I did during the 30 years before knee surgery provides a context for the rapid change I see today; I will harvest insights from it, as well as explore new developments in my blogs.
(IF YOU ARE STILL READING, HERE IS SOME MORE PERSONAL BACKGROUND.)
My Third Re-Invention
My intention is to split my time evenly between writing in my three blogs and providing advisory services for clients. It all comes from the same place. This new writing/advising life is my third reinvention since I started working for myself.
During my first re-invention from 1980 to 1990 as young man with my own ideas, I founded and ran three idea-based companies (Strategic Visions Research, Theme Lines Communications, and Management Learning Center) under one roof. I experimented with three different business models based on ideas and knowledge I had acquired: high billing rates per hour, high media dollars per idea, and high profit margin per knowledge chunk delivered.
During my second re-invention from 1991 to 2011 lessons-learned from my previous three companies were incorporated into Paradigm Research International and I focused on big-picture change issues for clients. I drafted a book titled, The New Realities, based on the emerging new knowledge economy only to find a book by Peter Drucker with the same title shortly after I finished my draft.
My third re-invention began in earnest in 2013 after my knee replacement surgeries when I created a social media presence to communicate insights from everyday life. This blog was expanded in 2014 to three blogs to focus on how the current rapid pace of change is impacting all aspects of life.
This brings my story up to the present, but there is a little more, if you are still reading. I have been told by clients, friends and professional philosophers alike that most people are uncomfortable, at best, talking about meaning of life issues (especially if not in the form of a story) and, at worst, have no interest in hearing about such nebulous issues in any form.
For better and worse, I have found it impossible NOT to think about unanswerable “why questions” as a foundation for everything else I do and think about. For those brave souls who want the whole enchilada about me, read this last paragraph and look for excursions into the “meaning’ realm posted under my “Meaning as I Find it” blog.
My Living Philosophy
My philosophy of life evolved early on from an old adage taken from the professional practice of giving advice: Bring more than is there and take away more than you brought.
“More,” of course, refers to more than just money as a measure of value in a given exchange. Other measures of value (not on a financial statement) that people exchange includes: knowledge, new ideas, friendships, relationships, good will, caring, joy, shared meals, new experiences, golfing together, etc. The short version of my living philosophy is, at the end of my life, to have been a net positive force during my time on earth by having Put More in Than I Took Out.
Robert Joseph Harris June 15, 2014