KEW Episode 52: ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ Realities

As we pursue the “Are vs. Should Problem” and examine our personal inventory, I want to describe two main ways we can understand our selves and the realities we live in.

First, there is the measurable world. The ‘Hard’ world where science reigns supreme. Things are measurable, quantifiable, and therefore fit into the well oiled scientific machinery. Problems stemming from economics, medicine, and food supply are easily boiled down into testable hypotheses and theories used to derive definitive results. Other minds have described hard problems as being those containing subjects comprised of matter (as opposed to ideas, for example).

Is the economy going to tank? Well, the data on this and that support a trajectory that suggests no.

Will this medicine prevent a global pandemic? It is 98% effective at preventing disease and 90% of the population is vaccinated so yes!

Is this years corn crop enough to supply North America for the winter? Yes, ten billion metric tonnes of corn will feed 200 million people (I completely made up those numbers, but you get the point)

So science is pretty darned good at answering certain questions. About things that we can OBSERVE and MEASURE.

EVERYTHING ELSE is a ‘SOFT’ problem defined by a soft reality. EVERYTHING ELSE.

My point in this episode is that VERY FEW items in our personal inventory are going to fit into the HARD reality. And, unfortunately, scientists (and other professionals who get paid to think) spend most of their time on HARD problems because, well, because they have to. The hard tools don’t work as well on the soft realities. BUT THEY CAN WORK!

And so, as part of our assessment of our personal inventory, as part of the process of weeding out the needs, the wants, and the don’t-really-need-so-muches, we have to develop a new skill set.

One way to understand the soft problems, is simply to borrow the scientific tools used for hard problems. Einstein, and others, called these ‘thought experiments’. There’s no reason we can’t follow the scientific approach to ask questions about soft realities, we just can’t draw the same conclusions because not everything can be boiled down to numbers.

And that may be another way to understand the difference. Hard reality problems can be boiled down to a set of numbers that represent the reality: The average person has 10,000 thoughts a day. Whereas the soft reality problem can’t be measured like that: The average person worries about death and being unloved as they age. Worry, fear, sadness. How do you measure those things? And, if you could, why would you? What we want and need with soft problems is simply a better understanding of the realities across people. Science isn’t a good tool to go about understanding this. Our minds, however, are excellent tools to solve these problems – we just have to normalize this however we can once we find a system that works.

And, really, we probably have lots of Unscientific approaches that work – we just treat them differently from science because, well, they aren’t science. Next week I’ll go in to a bit more detail with examples.

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KEW Episode 51: Personal Inventory

On our journey to define the ARE vs SHOULD problem (Episode 50), we must first define the ‘existing conditions’. Like many scientific endeavors (and I’m NOT saying this is a scientific endeavor, rather, that I will take a scientific APPROACH), the Are vs Should investigation needs to know where it’s coming from to understand where it’s going.

And, really, the personal inventory is just that – it defines where we are at the beginning of our adventure. Doesn’t every good movie do the same thing? Isn’t this really just a classic ‘set the scene’ device we use to tell stories and keep them interesting?

And so on the path to personal growth and figuring out the Are vs. Should problem, we will first lay everything out on the table and start from there. Carlos Castaneda, in the books he wrote about Don Juan Matus, talked a lot about the table, and the tonal, as being the field of the ‘known’ or the ‘earthly’ possessions humans carry around with them.

But the personal inventory is about much more than just physical objects. It’s the feelings we have, the people we know, the relationships we build, the cars we drive, the foods we eat, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum.

Truly, the personal inventory is the story of everything that has happened to us in our lives up to the point at which we build the personal inventory. And, yes, it’s a huge job and no, I don’t expect you to nail every last thing.

The idea is that, if someone asked you about the ‘basics’ of the inventory: your likes, dislikes, wants, needs, desires, values, etc. you’d probably be able to come up with a handful of things quickly. And you might even think that those things ‘pretty much’ described who you are. And that’s the problem. We don’t see ourselves as being all that complex. Or maybe not AS complex as we truly are.

We are ourselves and our experiences. So TIME is a huge factor here. Our personal inventory is also our personal HISTORY. Much of the personal inventory is things we haven’t done, or thought about, in a long time. It’s our past and our present. It’s who we ARE and who we WERE. It’s physical and it’s metaphysical.

And, again, the idea is not to be complete nor obsessive. The idea is to think about this as much as we can, to establish a ‘who am I’ table full of things, and then to move forward.

Building your personal inventory can be fun. You will be surprised how interesting you are if you push yourself beyond your comfort zone and tolerate the pain of a thorough investigation of your self.

And, truly, if you don’t put forth an earnest effort (and you must define what that is for yourself), you will not make much progress on the Are vs. Should problem. The more you reveal about yourself, the more material you will have to work with.

While I’m not entirely sure what will come next, it will very likely focus on an ASSESSMENT of the personal inventory to think about where and how these pieces of you came to be. And whether they need to stay. Or go. And whether there are things missing that you wish were there. Please comment below with thoughts you might have about what comes next. More next week in Episode 52.

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Preview KEW Episode 51: Personal Inventory

The concept of a personal inventory is common to many therapy, personal growth, and coaching approaches. Essentially, before you can implement a change, you have to know WHAT you’re changing. So the personal inventory is all your STUFF.





Your VALUES (see Episode 46).


And so on. You get the picture. But what many of us DON’T GET is how complex this can be. We are a LOT more complicated than we think.

And before we can pursue the ARE vs. SHOULD problem (Episode 50), we have to know what (WHO) we’re dealing with (Episode 49: Who Are You?). The process of laying out your personal inventory is the first step.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel or Podcast if you want to follow the development of the ARE vs. SHOULD problem. And more importantly, comment below if you have input, criticism, or insight.

KEW Episode 50: Are vs. Should

This episode is a milestone for several reasons. One, it’s the 50th episode and, for a weekly podcast that means it has been about a year, which is also a not insignificant milestone. For a one-man-band hobby podcaster, that’s a pretty good run. When I started KEW I wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was trying to accomplish over the long term.

And, really, I began asking myself that question around Episode 41 when I announced the ‘state of the podcast’, which was mostly about changing up a few mechanical aspects like social media and shortening the episodes from an hour or more to around 20 minutes.

Prior to that I was on a roll of episodes that reflected my personal growth (Ep. 33: Soul, Ep. 34 Self, Ep. 36: Narcissism and Codependency) and things I have learned in counseling, therapy, and coaching.

The rest of the Episodes tended to address concepts I have thought about for years or longer. I learned a lot by sitting down and talking these concepts through in podcast form.

Then I did an interview series about Curiosity that gave me some experience networking and interviewing but also expounded on a key element of what KEW was all about. And I didn’t realize this when I started.

In fact, I didn’t now much when I started, but I did know I wanted to develop some cohesion across my varied thoughts. I wanted to find a theme in this work that could be organized into some sort of cohesive document, series, or work. I wanted to find the patterns in my ideas and figure out how to put them all together to be presented as an integrated whole.

And Episode 50 seemed like the right time to so.

I have spent the past few weeks figuring out what this integrative device would be and I have found a place to start.

The reason I was compelled to do this podcast/blog/vlog is to address a single theme:

The human condition is a struggle between who we ARE and who we think we SHOULD BE

Though I’m sure this isn’t entirely universal, it’s close enough for me. And it IS me. And I want to share my thoughts about the WHAT, WHY, and HOW of this struggle with the world. Because I bring a unique perspective, and I will argue that UNIQUENESS is supposed to be expressed.

SO, inherent to my argument, basically Episode 50 forward, is me expressing my unique offering to the world about what, why, and how we deal with this struggle. The ‘Are vs. Should’ Problem, if you will.

And I will do this in real time.

I have a rough ‘table of contents’ for two products. One about the What and the Why, and one about the How. Basically, I will develop, in conjunction with weekly podcast topics, this table of contents into two cohesive manuscripts to be released at some later date. The first will explain WHAT *I* think this dilemma IS and WHY *I* think this struggle exists. In the second book I will share HOW *I* think we can deal with or address this struggle.

These works will build upon my SCIENCE knowledge and PERSONAL GROWTH experience. My credentials or credibility, if you will. It’s what I have, after all. And who I am. And that’s all I got.

So Episode 50 explains all that in a bit more detail

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