Enlightened Conflict

discussing capitalism and habits

April 16th, 2014


 capitalism anarchism





Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief … which will you be today?”


I am going to attempt to discuss capitalism objectively.

I will admit … I am getting better at doing so mostly because so many young people question me on the benefits <as well as the seemingly endless array of drawbacks>


Communists view capitalism the most cynically.



“Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps.”

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin



Schumpeter viewed capitalism with a practical and realistic eye.



“There exists a parallel between education and the scale of moral values in the intellectual sectors and the administrative or bureaucratic sectors against the values and technical criteria of the economic system as it operates.”

Joseph Schumpeter






I am not sure there is a more polarizing or oft-discussed issue in today’s world than Capitalism … its merits and its flaws and its effect on society & culture.


Capitalism seems to get wrapped up in right versus wrong and morals and greed and a bunch of other things.

I have said it before … and will say it until the day I die … capitalism is simply a system in which people work and think and behave.

It may encourage some things … and discourage some others … but in the end … it is a system in which people make choices.


That said.


Stephen Covey’s <author of ‘7 habits of highly effective people’> relatively recent death made me think about business and capitalism.


I admit I originally wasn’t a big fan of Covey and thought “7 habits of highly effective People” not only a vapid read but the kind of tripe that encouraged non-effective people to think they were effective simply because they ‘implemented’ what effective people seemed to do <rather than make their behavior extensions of their general being>.


capitalism personal gain integrityBut I also admit that i believe almost any business book with regard to ‘what makes people successful’ tripe and relatively useless in the scheme of things <in that people tend to use them as a ‘how to be successful’ rather than thought pieces>.

So … this was nothing against Covey in particular.





In hindsight I think I missed the real point of the book (and Covey).


I read the book as “a things to do” primer.


By the way … my fear is the bulk of readers did as I did.


My point?


I should have taken note that he really was arguing less about discipline but more about characteristics of personal character and purpose <beyond dollars and cents>.


He was adamant that employees were not merely pistons in a machine … powered and oiled to efficiency through rewards and punishments but rather employees were people. And even better … individual people <not flocks of sheep>.


I should have taken note that he drew inspiration from researching the past. He read almost 200 years of “success literature “.  He discovered that for almost 150 years the most common theme in American business leadership literature was character.

And that it was only after the Second World War it switched to touting superficial qualities such as appearance and style.


I should have taken note when he added an 8th habit … “find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.”


I believe in hindsight I should have taken note of much he discussed … that I didn’t.


I believe in hindsight I should have taken note of his steadfast belief in character above all else.



The Economist wrote this about him: “… he tried to rescue the notion of character from both the simple minded purveyors of self-help (who imply that you can change your character as easily as your underpants) and the social service establishment (which ignore questions of character by blaming everything on the system).”capitalism kills culture



And maybe what I wish the Economist writer had noted … is that it seems like we have become a working society of “how to” lists.


How to get things done.


How to be a better person.


How to be happy.


How to be a good leader.


Even … how to be effective.



And I wish Covey were still alive because once he saw how we have become a ‘how to’ society <rather than one which learns how to on their own> I tend to believe he may have just gone back and written a new book called “oops, 7 equals zero if you don’t understand the notion of character.”


In my pea like brain I see the issue as this.


Today’s business world has become a person silo business issue.





Silo one- I am a person of character.


Silo two – I am a person who can drive profit.



And both silos are in one business person.


And what this means is exactly how we get these crazy cause related business issues.


What I mean is that the profit person is in one room and then goes to another room and says “well, let’s do something good.” And good is just something else you check off your list so that your character person can pat itself on the back and say “yup, I do have character.”


Do I know how to solve it?



I know I do not believe Lenin ‘Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps’ because while I do agree that no one can lift themselves up by their own bootstraps I don’t agree that capitalists are not capable of self-sacrifice.


I also know that I wish I could send an email to Stephen Covey or even Peter Drucker.

They would know what to do and what to say.


Maybe they could address the natural challenges capitalism offers to businesses and business people … that, in general, it is system that is not needs based but rather profit based.


capitalism self sacrificeAnd that translate into despite the fact we have huge needs that don’t get filled our business world seems to remain mostly all about the profit.


Capitalism … at its worst … focuses money, profit and success on the already successful.

It doesn’t oppress the poor … it simply ignores the poor as the rich get richer.


Historically speaking this bears out.


Corporations used to be ‘collective’ enterprises … for the people and the people’s people <society>.


Well into the 1970’s companies still defined themselves in terms of products/services offered and overall contribution to society. It was beginning in the 1980’s when finance capitalism drove vision and shareholders profits to become the ultimate objective <trumping even quality of offerings>.


Raakesh khurana <Harvard> stated at a business roundtable in 1990:


“Corporations are chartered to serve both their shareholders and society as a whole.”



But then in 1997 he denied responsibility beyond that of the shareholders.


“The notion that the board must balance the responsibility to stakeholders other than shareholders fundamentally misconstrues the role of directors… “



I am not picking on him … he was simply reflecting upon the current status of the business world.


What this really means is that companies … and people in companies … focused on the mere aggregation of financial assets.



This also means business simply stressed every man for himself.


And CEOs have certainly thought of themselves.

Between 1965 and 2000 the ratio of CEO pay to the typical worker expanded from 24:1 to 300:1.

Maybe more concerning is the spread increased significantly between the CEO and the 3rd in command.


CEO’s, due to income alone, became isolated from the real worker as well as the real world.

They started living in their own bubble <or some version of a business hell>.


By the way … this aggregation of financial assets also means management became inherently more short term focused … and ended up rejecting slow thoughtful methods of decision making and became enamored with gut & instinct.


An outcome of this trend?


Leaders became charismatic … not thought leaders.

They became more inspirational … and less rational.



capitalism cynicismIn the end I will state the obvious … the pursuit of wealth … or profit … for its own sake suggests a lack of morality.


And I will also state the obvious … pursuit of wealth and profit is a complex formula.


It is very <too easily I may add> to make it an “I” issue.


As in ‘person decision’ which inevitably leads to some random ‘psychopathic’ type discussions … but it really isn’t.


It is a societal and cultural multi-dimensional issue … as in … ‘I do some things because external factors either encourage or demand it <in business and every day Life>’.


My last comment on this part about capitalism is that any crisis we may believe we have with regard to capitalism is first and foremost a crisis <or some derivative of crisis> of character.


And that is why I thought of Covey.


Effectiveness and ‘greatness’ in leadership begins … and ends … with character.


Despite what some boardrooms suggest … and some ‘results based’ ideology … profits do not measure true effectiveness.





I will close with something David Simon <producer of The Wire> said very well about capitalism:


Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.


The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as capitalism and poor but moneyour racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile.”




…. the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile.



Rationalizing what is happening in today’s society is a natural tendency.

And it is much much easier to focus on ‘capitalism’ rather than suggesting any dysfunction as effects of modern society: over-stimulation, consumerism, something in the water, the kids today, or too much television <despite the fact we often do>.


But …. I find it difficult to believe there was ever a time … within any economic system … when people weren’t constantly running afoul of their own basic human traits.


What do I mean?


We tend to rationalize the pursuit of our own drives. We always have and always will.


We tend to … well … denounce, condemn, criticize, censure, attack, rail against, lambast, vilify, revile <pick whatever word you would like> other people for pursuing theirs if theirs happens to oppose ours.


All this natural conflict of … well … our ‘humanness’ leads to general unhappiness with ‘the system.’


But before we start wagging our finger at capitalism as if it has been a naughty little boy … we should be looking in the mirror.

We should be examining our character.




So I close this brief discussion on capitalism with words from a USA State of the Union address:



“… wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy.”



Sometimes we take things for granted.

character stood up best

We certainly take capitalism for granted … and when things don’t go well we lash out in a seemingly indiscriminate fashion.


We look at big things as little things we deserve.


We see what others have and expect that we should have it also.


That isn’t capitalism’s fault … that is our <people’s> fault.


Honest work.



That takes character.


There is something to consider.

Clay Triple Crown

April 15th, 2014


westside clay courtsWell.


Welcome to the clay court tennis season.


What made me think of it?


I happened to notice that Roger Federer accepted a wild card entry into the Monte Carlo tennis open tournament.


It is played on clay.


Same as the French Open.




Well … not quite … not all clay is created equal … nothing matches the French Open terre battue of Roland Garros grounds.

Monte Carlo is the first of three Masters tournaments played on clay and is followed by Madrid and Rome in May, leading up to the French Open, which starts May 25.




Federer, who lost three straight finals to Nadal from 2006-08, has 78 career titles … but has never won at Monte Carlo.

Federer returns to the Monte Carlo Country Club for the first time since 2011 when he lost in the quarterfinals.


In fact.


It is quite possible Federer could retire as the best clay court player … to not win titles at Monte Carlo and Rome.


Does it really matter?


Federer is already in the ranks of immortality with regard to tennis itself … but clay … oh that clay.

He is so close to clay court immortality … but so far away.


If he could win one Monte Carlo crown and one Rome title … and, of course, one more French Open title he would gain a complimentary room at the Chateau de Clay.


Until then?


He will still be on the outside looking in with the other merely ‘very good’ clay-court champions.


And why may he never win one of these?


Because there is no debate … clay rafeal nadal-french-open-2012Rafael Nadal is the greatest clay-court player of all time.


His European clay-court accomplishments include eight titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona, six titles at Rome, two at Madrid, one at Hamburg and the seven titles at the French Open.


That’s 32 clay-court titles, not including a handful of clay titles at other venues, and still more tennis years ahead.


And he is playing at Monte Carlo again this year.


The only question left is whether there will ever be another clay-court player who can surpass Nadal’s legacy.


Probably not.


We may never see anybody approach this again.




On the way to the French Open Monte Carlo is the first big stop.


FRANCE TENNIS FRENCH OPENIt’s a perpetual reminder that the grueling road to Paris is long rallies and clay stained socks.


It is the first of the Clay Triple Crown which typically bring the history’s best clay court players together time and time again.


The Clay Court Triple Crown is typically discussed is way:



-          Rome is personified as Power.

-          Paris is Prestige.

-          Monte Carlo is Beauty. The courts … well … courting the elegant and royalty on courts nestled high above the picturesque sea and crashing waves.


And because I did the research and someone wrote it all up I will share some interesting details as to the upcoming  Clay court tournaments <I lost the source>:



Monte Carlo: The Double Champions


Since the Open era of tennis began in 1968, there have been 10 players who have won the Monte Carlo Masters at least twice in their careers. All of them proved to be clay-court legends:


    Ilie Nastase                           3 titles         (1971-73)

    Bjorn Borg                           3 titles         (1977, 79-80)

    Guillermo Vilas                      3 titles         (1976, 81-82)

    Mats Wilander                       2 titles         (1983, 87)

    Ivan Lendl                            2 titles         (1985, 88)

    Sergi Bruguera                     2 titles         (1991, 93)

    Thomas Muster                    3 titles         (1992, 95-96)

    Gustavo Kuerten                  2 titles         (1999, 01)

    Juan Carlos Ferrero               2 titles         (2002-03)

    Rafael Nadal                         8 titles         (2005-12)



Other Notes:


 Vilas shared his 1981 title with Jimmy Connors when rain halted the match at 5-5. No American has won an outright title at Monte Carlo.


 Ferrero was never the same after injuries in 2004. How much more could he have added in the age of Nadal?


All of the double Monte Carlo champions won at least one French Open title. They combined for 29 of the 46 French Open titles in the Open era.


Tennis legends Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer never won a title at Monte Carlo.

Other one-time French Open champions also failed to win Monte Carlo.



Rome: The Double Championsclay court-tennis-ball


Since the Open era of tennis, there have been only nine players who have won Rome’s Italian Open at least twice in their careers. Again the list:


    Ilie Nastase                          2 titles        (1970, 73)

    Bjorn Borg                          2 titles        (1974, 78)

    Vitas Gerulaitis                     2 titles        (1977, 79)

    Andres Gomez                     2 titles        (1982, 84)

    Ivan Lendl                           2 titles        (1986, 88)

    Jim Courier                          2 titles         (1992-93)

    Thomas Muster                    3 titles         (1990, 95-96)

    Rafael Nadal                         7 titles        (2005-07, 09-10, 12-13)   

    Novak Djokovic                    2 titles         (2008, 11)



Other Notes:


Only Gerulaitis and Djokovic do not have a French Open title.


Jan Kodes and Sergi Bruguera are the only two-time French Open champions to never win Rome. Kodes also did not win Monte Carlo.


Courier was the first player to defend his title at Rome. Only Muster and Nadal have replicated this. Nadal did this on three separate occasions, including the only three-peat. Muster is the only other player to win Rome as many as three total times.


From 1996-2005, there were 10 different winners in 10 years.


Since 2005, Nadal and Djokovic have won all the titles. If either wins in 2014, it will be 10 years with only two winners.


Players who won Rome and the French Open in the same year: Nastase (73), Borg (74, 78), Adriano Panatta (76), Lendl (86), Courier (92), Muster (95) and Nadal (05-07, 10, 12-13). Put another way, it has only been done 13 times in 46 years, and six of those doubles have come from Nadal.


Rod Laver and Pete Sampras each won one Rome title in the Open era, but Sampras failed to win the French Open. Agassi and Kuerten had only one Rome title.


Federer has zero titles at Monte Carlo or Rome in his six combined finals appearances. Nadal created five of those Federer defeats and Felix Mantilla (2003) won in Federer’s first Rome final.



The Clay Triple Crown


Which players won Monte Carlo, Rome and the French Open at least one time each in their careers?


    Ilie Nastase

    Guillermo Vilas

    Bjorn Borg

    Mats Wilander

    Ivan Lendl

    Thomas Muster

    Carlos Moya

    Gustavo Kuerten

    Juan Carlos Ferrero

    Rafael Nadal


Other Notes:


 Players to win Monte Carlo, Rome and the French Open in the same year: Nastase (73), Muster (95) and Nadal (05-07, 10, 12-13). Not even Borg, Wilander or Lendl could accomplish this.


Only five players won two career championships at both Monte Carlo and Rome: Nastase, Borg, Lendl, Muster and Nadal.


Only Borg, Lendl and Nadal won the Clay Triple Crown at least twice in their career.


Nadal’s Triple: 8-7-8 titles. That’s just plain ridiculous and likely impossible to top anytime the rest of the century, if ever. If so, tennis will probably have radically different conditions.



Anyway.clay roger_federer_1648411c

Winning what clay court enthusiasts call the Beauty, Power and Prestige tournaments is certainly not easy.

I would like to hope Roger can pull off at least one before he is done.


Welcome to the clay court season.

wilde thoughts

April 11th, 2014

wilde life seriously

Oh … Oscar.


As in Wilde.

Oscar Wilde turns 160 this year.

But his quotes live on.



Not just his quotes … his thoughts.


His quotes tend to be simply delightfully cynical sharp insightful truths into Life.



As for what he actually wrote.

I have tried reading Wilde until my eyes fell out in pain … but the man knew how to take an individual thought and put it into succinct, witty, paradoxical sayings maybe better than anyone else who has ever lived.




In honor of his birthday I will use some of his quotes and share some thoughts on several things.



-          Life


In general Oscar was brilliant … if not simply a genius with words when driven by his disdain for society in general … but especially those obsessed by appearance … and appearances.  And he absolutely abhorred those indifferent to imagination.



Where I have found his genius is in how he so simply suggests that the difference between the haves & the have nots, the difference between the optimists & the pessimists, the difference between the hopeful & the hopeless … is a very very fine line.used stars hope and dreams



“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”



“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all of the sins you have never had the courage to commit.” – Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Grey.



“Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.” – Phrases and Philosophies For The Use Of The Young



“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” - Lady Windermere’s Fan



We draw some fine and beautiful distinctions between people as we talk about each other.


And it is bothersome.


We talk about people as being lazy or entitled or abusers of the system.

We talk about people as being greedy or ambitious <to a fault> or vain.

We talk about sinners and saints.





If only it were that simple.


Is it possible that all of us simply reside in the gutter … and some of us simply look at the stars?


That’s the thought of the day.


If more of us just assumed we lived in the gutter of Life maybe more of us would see how important the stars were to everyone.




-          Business



“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”



“My own business always bores me to death, I prefer other people’s.”



“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”

wilde everything-popular-is-wrong





This seems topical for the days we seem to be in.


It appears to me that our answer to everything associated with ‘not going right’ <and there are degrees spanning from cataclysmic to simply aggravating> in today’s business world is to fire someone.



It’s as if we have never made a mistake ourselves. We say and think things like:


               “My own mistakes bore me … I prefer to skewer other’s.”


I have gobs of business experience.

And gobs of mistakes.


But that’s not the point.

Most of my experience and success, quite frankly, was built not off my mistakes but rather other’s mistakes and my successes … or let’s say my ‘ability to fix things’ <history is written by the victor I imagine are the words I am seeking>.

My mistakes certainly didn’t bore me <although they were aggravating> … they taught me personal responsibility.

Therefore while other’s invested energy skewering other’s mistakes … I went ahead and fixed them.

Mine and theirs.




Firing people because they make a mistake drives me nuts. I assume it would drive Oscar nuts <oops … he did go nuts …>.


We make things complex in business.




Business is often complex.


And yet whenever we face a problem or an issue or a mistake … we treat it as if it were simple.


What’s up with that?

Let’s face it.


Experience in business is relative. Just because you have done something doesn’t mean you are good at it. in fact … the best experience isn’t successes but what we have earned from mistakes.



How the fuck do you put THAT on a resume and get a job? <you cannot>


All I know for sure is that I have a well loved list of mistakes I have made in business.


All I know for sure is the best people I have managed have a well loved list of mistakes they have made in business.


Are we successful? Yes.

Figure that Life equation out.




-          Imagination



Wilde bookended his life and career with some fantastically profound and meaningful  thoughts with regard to imagination.

And as you ponder these thoughts you should remember that Wilde was a relatively cynical man.


As it happens with many people … the birth of his children affected him. In his case it seems to have regenerated Wilde as a writer.



At least it seemed to make him understand that imagination is ageless.


Wilde’s children’s stories are spectacular.imagination pet



Remember that fairytales always involve reversals of fortune <sorry to uncover a fairytale secret>.


It can work in both directions … beggars become kings … and palaces are replaced by  pauper-like abodes.


I imagine Wilde’s own reversal of fortune from fame and money to destitution and exile almost mirrors a fairytale.


Fairytales are also and always about transformation of various kinds – frogs into princes, coal into gold – and while typically either moralistic or embedded with a moral … there is typically a happy ending.


Ah. But Oscar had to do his fairy tales differently.


Wilde’s fairytale transformations typically turn on loss.


The true twist?

But loss was most typically tied to a lack of imagination.


Is this a lesson too adult for children?

Shit. I don’t know.


I often believe fairy tales are as much for the teller as the reader.




In the end.


Oscar had a gift for words.

And while I am sure he knew what he was doing … sometimes those who are so gifted in this way don’t really know what they are doing.


wilde be yourself“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.” (The Remarkable Rocket)



I tend to believe those of us who use words … well … we worry a lot … we worry we are too clever that no one understands a word we say.




We embrace the beauty of wordsmanship so much we cannot envision communicating a thought in some bland black & white prose.


I end there … simply to suggest that when you are writing, and a writer, and you get it right.

When someone is inspired to think.

Well … there is nothing better in the world.


Unfortunately. It doesn’t happen often.


More often than not no one knows what the heel you are saying … but that one moment?


That’s it.

That’s when you are not too clever but have made some impact.



And that is what Oscar Wilde was so good at.

Using words to make people think.


stamping out hunger … or incentive to work (and the middle class)

April 10th, 2014


 food stamps wtf

“When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character. This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor. But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatise those who let people die, not those who struggle to live.” —Sarah Kendzior





When you begin discussing food stamps or unemployment benefits or even minimum wage it seems to me that you begin wandering into the poverty discussion.

And then it suddenly becomes this slightly odd, and slightly disturbing, discussion swinging back & forth between basic sustenance to survive versus the ability to prosper type stuff … as well as … incentive to work or ‘do better’ in life stuff.


I imagine the issue is that discussing food stamps and any unemployment budget cuts crosses both ideological and the practical.

As well as opinion versus practical.




I keep using practical because while we invest a lot of energy debating theory <desire to work versus ‘sucking the system dry’> … practically … what we are discussing is a proverbial doom loop.


I recently heard someone said something like: “… food stamps <and unemployment benefits> drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives if America didn’t make cuts to food stamps <or slow the support system in some way>.”



The idea that actually having food could possibly drain the will of someone <in any way> is slightly absurd.




How about hunger motivating ambition?

That seems almost as absurd.




I would like to point out that something like 40% of households on food stamps have at least one person working.


I would also like to point out some basic truths about people.


courage doesnt always roarIn general … the majority want to work <or do something worthwhile in terms of productivity>. People like to ‘do.’



In general <if you do not agree with the first statement> I could suggest that America has a ‘shirking segment’ at both the top and bottom …. shirking work <yet … we seem to focus on the bottom>.


In general … an even larger majority are willing to do what it takes to not have to worry about how they can afford next week … let alone next day .


In general it is only a sliver of the population who takes advantage of the system <which implies they don’t want to really work>. It is foolish to believe one person <or a smaller minority> which may actually feel this way … or behave this way … defines the behavior of the entire group.



I admit I find it slightly shocking that this level of ignorance <or cynicism> is so common in America.


I would also like to point out that the highest food stamp amount a single person receives is something like $200 a month <you try living on that>.




Take a minute.


Divide 200 by 30. This is $6.66 a day.


Yet if I receive one more email touting that the poor were dining on prime filet steaks and lobster … or that all the unemployed were lazy unincentived-to-work couch potatoes … my head will explode.




I think I am surprised at how simplistically we address this issue <among others>.


We can take food stamps away … but in the end … someone has to pay for the food.


Me <being me> I will use children as an example.


According to census and government data from 2012, 22% of American children live in poverty and 16 million live in households that are food insecure food stamps food insecurewhich means one in five children do not have regular access to enough food.


In 2012, the No Kid Hungry Campaign surveyed more than 1000 K-8 public school teachers across the country with results that should give everyone pause.


-          Three out of five teachers reported regularly seeing children in their classrooms who come to school hungry because they are not getting enough to eat at home.

-          56% of teachers said that “a lot” or “most” of their students rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition.

-          More than half of the teachers surveyed said they frequently purchase food out of their own money for hungry kids, spending on average $26 a month.


Around 30.6m lunches and 13.15 million breakfasts are served to kids on a daily basis.



And think about this.

Although the meals are heavily subsidized, with some kids qualifying for free meals and a smaller proportion for reduced price meals <40cents for lunch and 30cents for breakfast>, parents are still struggling to pay and defaults are on the rise.


A February 2012 survey carried out by the School Nutrition Association (SNA) found that among their members 53% of school districts were experiencing an increase in unpaid meals.


According to Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokesperson for the SNA “it seems to be a lot of the families that are hovering around the threshold of poverty <that is families not poor enough to qualify for free meals but still too poor to pay the reduced rate> are the ones who can’t pay.”


Suffice it to say that a food stamp program isn’t a crutch but rather plays an integral role in basic sustenance for a shitload of people.


But … you know what?


We have a bigger issue.


We have an attitude issue.


Now, don’t get me wrong, poverty is a real issue.


But the perception of poverty <to middle class> has become a reality in many people’s minds. This is an attitudinal issue. By the way … this is as ‘real’ to people as the actual thing <scary but true>.


So this perception, while only a perception, makes it a real issue.


Government figures show one in seven Americans is food insecure.

According to Gallup, in August, one in five said they have, at times during the last year, lacked money <i.e., did not have> to buy food that they or their families needed. I do not need a Gallup poll to know that an even larger percentage feel they lack the money <i.e., believed they did not have> to meet the needs of their family <that is the attitudinal part>


By the way … just to get some politics out of the way … both figures are roughly the same as when Obama was elected.



This is not an administrative issue but a cultural issue.


However you want to discuss the topic of cuts or benefits … the question is not whether the vulnerable will be hammered … but rather by how much.


And poverty reaches into the heads of everyone at all income levels as a perception issue.


Middle class people feel like they could become poverty stricken at any moment.

Therefore. They are feeling like they are getting hammered too.


<so how sympathetic can you actually be to someone else getting hammered if your own head is getting bashed in>


In the past five years or so the middle class and the poor people have been getting slammed.


Slammed in terms of having less.

Less , in the case of middle class, may not be actual poverty but it FEELS like poverty to them because it is ‘less than I had.’


Overall the problem is the gnawing away of average living standards and coping head thoughtsspecifically how the effects hammer you even moreso the lower your income.


So maybe while real poverty is important to discuss and think about … in order to get everyone aligned attitudinally we should be thinking about a poverty attitude at all income levels <albeit the highest income ‘less than’ is ludicrous to anyone in another income class>.

What we seem to be ignoring is that this group … a large group … has simply fallen into a coping strategy.


In fact … I could argue that all of America has simply fallen into a coping strategy.


And as noted in a variety of business opinion papers I have written … coping is stagnant seeking and not growth seeking.


To make my point that coping is not effective attitudinally.


-          in Michigan black male life expectancy is lower than male life expectancy in Uzbekistan;

-          in Detroit black infant mortality is on a par with Syria (before the war).

-          over a period of 18 years, America’s white working class – particularly women – have started dying younger.



I shared that to suggest there are tangible outcomes to simply coping and we need to address the coping strategy as the issue.


Is this about equality or inequality? Or even the ‘haves versus the have nots’?


Not really.


This is attitudinal.

Attitudinal with real world behavioral repercussions.


It makes it simpler to focus it on poverty … and that is okay … as long as we recognize that poverty is a combination of reality <people focused on surviving life> and perception <people worried about surviving lifestyle>.


I also imagine it all harkens back to President Lyndon Johnson in a way.


He used lots of great words to express some insightful thoughts on this issue.


In attempting to help people out of poverty, Johnson realized that he was making American society more egalitarian by lessening the gap between rich and poor, but he did not see the action he was taking as detrimental to the wealthy.


His thoughts on solving the poverty issue were not a zero sum game … in which one group’s gains promised another group’s losses.


“Our history has proved that each time we broaden the base of abundance we create new industry, higher production, increased earnings, and better income for all.” – L.  Johnson


We should all have this attitude.


But it is difficult to do so in the USA because we have a slightly warped view on poverty.

<and I do not share this to not suggest poverty is real … just that we have a skewed perspective in the USofA>.


Poverty for a United States household of 4 is defined as annual income of $23,492.coping want life back

This is $2,000 MORE THAN the median household income for a family of 4 in … well <insert a big ‘gulp’ sound here> … uhm … Great Britain.



It is  fact that the amount of true poverty in the US is considerably less than in the EU. US is a prosperous nation.


However … the definition of poverty in the USA is far more generous than in the EU and grows annually.


I imagine I am asking that we should not confuse the definition of poverty with its reality.


Timbro <a Swedish economics research institution> published “eu vs us” showing how the various EU countries would rank in terms of prosperity if they were US states.

Pretty nearly the entire EU would rank about 45th to beyond 51st in terms of prosperity.

UK would rank 48th <along with Arkansas and Mississippi> and 55% of the British would be defined as living in poverty.


The analysis includes measures of material prosperity for “Americans living in poverty” and for ALL Europeans.

By most measures the average poor American has a higher standard of living than the average non poor European.


The US poor are more likely to own their own homes, have more rooms and living space, have more property, are more likely to own 2 or more cars, have an attached garage and have more household appliances, TV’s, computers, cell phones, etc. than the average “non poor” European.




That doesn’t necessarily refer to ‘poverty’ but I am attempting to give some perspective on what ‘poor’ is in reality.



I don’t believe it is important that we argue whether we feel impoverished or not but instead we discuss increasing abundance for all.



Things like food stamps … fighting poverty … using LBJ words … come down to a moral basis:


    “Because it is right, because it is wise.”


To me, attitudinally, we need to create a mindset of an America ‘in which every citizen shares all the opportunities of his society.’



I use these words in comparison to ‘citizens simply coping.’




There is a term called ‘soulless wealth.’


‘Soulless wealth’ is abundant wealth that remains inaccessible to all but a relative few.


Soulless wealth typifies a society divided between haves and have-nots.




I would suggest that soulless wealth is not just a tangible economic concept but one that resides in the minds of people … at all class levels and income levels.


Whoa … how can that be?


-          Those at the lower incomes who use <or abuse> the system to attain whatever wealth level they achieve is soulless.


-          Those at the higher levels who abuse the system to create abundant wealth is soulless.


-          Those in the middle class who, out of fear of poverty, use the system by whatever means to avoid the fear is soulless.


Soulless wealth, the issue, is attitudinal. And attitudinal at all income levels.


I say that because we talk about welfare and food stamps and unemployment benefits as if they are dollars and cents like decisions … and as we say those things we are avoiding the overall attitude of America.


The few talking heads who blather away on TV have lost touch.

They use soaring words of hope … and bow their heads when speaking of the despair of poverty … and then move into working hard and earning … and … well … they have lost touch.


The truth?


People are simply coping.


And coping means that all this other talk is irrelevant.



Here is the real deal.



For all the talk about ‘getting a free pass in life’ through handouts … most people know that Life is hard.


And they are okay with that.


It reminds me of a great scene in West Wing:

I never imagined at $55,000 a year, I’d have trouble making ends meet. And my wife brings in another 25. My son’s in public school. It’s no good. I mean, there’s 37 kids in the class, uh, no art and music, no advanced placement classes. Other kids, their mother has to make them practice the piano. You can’t pull my son away from the piano. He needs teachers. I spend half the day thinking about what happens if I slip and fall down on my own front porch, you know? It should be hard. I like that it’s hard. Putting your daughter through college, that’s-that’s a man’s job. A man’s accomplishment. But it should be a little easier. Just a little easier. ‘Cause in that difference is… everything.



People are willing to work hard.


coping and hoping They just ask for two things:


-          I don’t want to cope … I want hope.


-          I am willing to work hard … but could you just make it a little easier.



Unfortunately … there are some dollars and cents attached to this.


People are willing to work hard if they think they are getting a fair deal in return.

People are willing to work hard if they get a little help now and then to give them a breather.


By the way.


This isn’t about ‘getting something for free’ … this is about fairness and being the best you can be.




Coping sucks.

Coping isn’t fair.

Coping isn’t being your best.

Coping doesn’t lead to greatness.


But we have a coping economy and population.


That’s the issue.


That’s why people are so angry about perceived handouts and the so called ‘welfare state’ and things like that.


We all need to remember … poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. We should be less angry … be interested in refinding our soul <as we continue to seek some wealth – which is a good thing by the way> … and our leaders need to figure out how to get people to stop coping and start thinking bigger.



Before you get angry <on this topic>.


I do not begrudge anyone who is feeling like they are coping … but it would be nice if most of us kept coping in perspective.  Using myself to begin the perspective … I discuss poverty … and I certainly understand financial stress … but I doubt I, and many others,  do not truly grasp poverty.


I have never been in a situation where I was afraid I would starve to death while I worked to death.


Just think about that before you get too angry.

my story my house my fire

April 8th, 2014


story house hustle

“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.” —Alice Munro




My house is my story.

What a great thought.





And it is always on fire.


“We all live in a house on fire – no fire department to call, no way out. Just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the fire better personhouse down with us trapped in it.” – Tennessee Williams




If my story is my house … well … I tend to believe we all live in a house on fire.

And for years I have debated what the Williams quote really meant … at least to me … and then I found the ‘house is my story’ quote and I had my answer.


Now … I am no literary expert nor am I particularly insightful with regard to inner meanings … therefore my thoughts are tainted <or skewed> by my attitude toward Life and living.


That said.

Me? We don’t need no water … let the motherfucker burn.



My attitude … my thoughts.


Well … I actually think a couple thoughts.  Inner fire. Outer fire. Our story is surrounded by fire.

Within and without.



The inner fire.


The fire is inner curiosity.  A passion for something. A spirit and capacity for something. It is always burning … and it can burn you up if you don’t set it free.

It is a restless fire.


I will make a generalization here … but … suffice it to say that we all know bitter people. People who have strong opinions but are fairly close minded.


They are burning up from the inside out.

In the close mindedness they have squeezed the fire of life so tightly it fries them. The rooms in the house are burning and they have no place to go.



That’s why I rarely get angry with close minded people or bitter people … I know that most of them are simply burning up from an inner fire that curiosity just hasn’t set free.


By the way … this also means that I don’t really believe the inner spark goes out in most people.




The people that have lost that inner fire have simply lost hope … and maybe I am naïve but I hope that they are few and far between.


Do not let your fire go out, sparked by irreplaceable spark. And the hopeless swamps of the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all. Do fire hands flamesnot let the hero in your soul perish. And lonely frustration for the life you deserved but never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists. It is real. It is possible. And it is yours.”

Lucas Scott on One Tree Hill


I think the inner spark always burns.

That there is a fire within everyone.







That inner fire is burning all the time … some people get burned up … others spread the fire … but that fire is there … awaiting to be rekindled if it is diminished.



“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” - Albert Schweitzer





Then there is the outer fire.


This would be the house we live in … burning down around us.


I believe the house we live in, Life, burns all the time.

Because our story lives within a forest always burning.



Life isn’t easy.

People live.

People die.


And in-between the fire always burns.



Here is the challenge with your story being your house and the thought it is always burning.


Sometimes in the comfort, the safety, of our home … our story feels safe …  and we don’t even feel we are getting burned.


fire walk thruThis is dangerous … because in the end we kind of helplessly watch the fire slowly consume us.

I use safe and comfort and suggest stagnancy … or standing still within the walls of what you know as an example of how you can be consumed by the fire.




Because comfortable complacency does not mean you are not safe.



Well. The house is burning for gods sake.


The fact is that this fire never goes out.


We can never stamp out this fire.


It rages off and on but is always burning.


Safety within the home of what you know is temporary.


Inevitably the fire will consume you by squeezing out what make life interesting and worthwhile. As a counterpoint to inner fire … it suffocates the fire within with the fire coming from without.


Your story burns.


Your story ends up being a burned out shell with everything within extinguished. Just ashes where a raging story once stood.




I admit.

I like the thought of my story being my house … and that it is always on fire.


And while I am not a woman … the point of this quote resonates with me:


She lives her life like a flame; a dance of purposeful chaos… Her enchanting light can guide you and quell your fears… She’s hot; fire sparkleswarming those who respect her and burning those who don’t… She is a flame with an unforgettable glow… A weak man will try to dim her luminance… but her soul mate will take pleasure in fanning the blaze.“ – Steve Maraboli



A flame with an unforgettable glow.


Whew. What a story that would be.



Let it rage <I say>.







It is a life truth that we make choices that resonate throughout our lives … but how your story is told … and maybe how it dies … may be the biggest truth.




That’s too deep for today.


Geez … all I am fairly sure of is that the Life is burning around us.


Your house?

It may not be burning.



And me?


I think of words from Julianna Hatfield:


“I wrote and wrote like the house was on fire, like words and chords and melodies were going to burn up and disintegrate into the air if didn’t capture them fast enough.” – Juliana Hatfield


I love that thought.


I will write my story like the house was on fire.


I will think thoughts before they disintegrate into ash.


I will live life like the house is burning around me.


fire the world is yoursAnd hope I have a fire never quenched.


“Some men, like a tiled house, are long before they take fire, but once on flame there is no coming near to quench them.” — Thomas Fuller


Because if our Life is constantly on fire … whew … what a view we have from that upstairs window as it all burns.


My story.

My house.

My fire.


“The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. We don’t need no water, let the motherf–ker burn.”

<”Tear the Roof off the Sucker” – chant often blended with ‘The Roof Is on Fire’ by Rockmaster Scott & The Dynamic Three>story on hand


My story. My house.


Let the motherfucker burn.

Now there’s an attitude to live by.


What’s your story?

being worldly (and people are people)

April 7th, 2014

small world

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

Norman Vincent Peale





This is about marketing communications <and good advertising>. And this is also about the globe … or let’s say … the people around the world … and the interesting fact that often … more often then we may think … we are pretty similar with regard to our quirks.



Let me say that any time a marketer can actually do something that may suggest that people are people … wherever they are … people like it.


Uh oh.


That may sound contrary to marketing 101 <and marketing experts> in that most everyone invest a lot of energy  expounding on ‘individualism’ and ‘treating everyone one-by-one’ and … well … you name it when it comes to making people feel distinct and special.


In fact.

It has one to such an extreme that it seems like everyone suggests that ‘mass’ anything is bad.







Not wrong all the time… but in point of fact … we often like to know that our quirks are not just ours. We often like to know that while being ‘individual’ we aren’t so weird that … well … we aren’t weird.


Embarrassing? Sure. Weird? Nope.



It’s nice to smile and say ‘hey, I do that too.’





So I just saw a TV ad where they figured out a way to suggest exactly what I just described.




singingin-the-car dogThis is the one that suggests people in cars all around the world … terrorize their fellow travelers with their singing.



Singing in the car.


I imagine I have never really thought about it … but why wouldn’t everyone anywhere make a fool out of themselves … uhm … have silly fun … singing in the car.


Now I know <and I have Chevy to thank>.


Chevy suggests that the Chevy Cruze is ‘loved in 119 countries’ and have attempted, fairly well, to showcase that it is loved by not focusing on the cars … but on those who are in the cars … and the fact that maybe we’re not so different after all.


Chevrolet Cruze TV Spot, ‘New World’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lWZIO6j-MQ


Is this a spectacular tv execution?

Of course not.


It is excellent not because people will be talking about it or it will become a viral sensation <although you could do a very fun viral campaign similar to what Pharrell did with his Happy song … Happy every hour> but instead because people see themselves in it. It may not make me buy a Cruze <it will not> but that does not make it an ineffective piece of communications.

It is good. And well done.



And I find it funny to know that people in their countries are just as ‘weird’ as I am … as well as pretty much everyone I know.


Sometimes a great insight to develop great communications is NOT about ‘being different’ or ‘unique’ but rather in ‘we are not so different.’


Well.advertising talk to people hugh


That last sentence would drive a shitload of strategy thinkers to some heavy drinking <and lots of angst> … and begin questioning their career. Strategy, or developing a good insight, is not some formula that anyone can pull out of some magical bag … or do … insights are called insights because someone sees something “in” that matters.


And not everyone has good eyesight.



In the end?



Well done Chevy.

quoting others

April 6th, 2014

quotes using wise words

“I quote others only to better express myself.”  - Michel de Montaigne <The Complete Essays>


So <part 1>.


This is about me. And how often I use quotes … as well as my attitude on using quotes. And enlightened conflict. And I imagine me in business <because I like to use quotes in presentations and in teaching>.


So <part 2>.


I imagine this is actually not about me … but quotes.



I use quotes all the time.


I take solace in the fact that Montaigne did also.


I imagine I use quotes all the time because … well … they say it better than anything could ever say.

They do help me express myself.




Let me add something else.


I use quotes because it is the quote that makes me think of what to write.

I would imagine over 95% of what I write begins with, or from, a quote.





Basically that means 95%+ of the time I do not have an original thought. Someone else has the original thought and I simply think about it and share something.




Does that mean I am unoriginal?



I’m not sure I should care.

<by the way … I am not sure anyone should care about being unoriginal>

quoting people quotes


I’m not in the business of original thought.

I am in the business of sharing thinking.




At least that’s the way I look at it.


If I get lucky and am actually original on something … well … that’s simply a bonus.


An unexpected bonus.


But I am fairly realistic in that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer and there have been a shitload of ‘sharp knives’ who have figured out how to say something in a wonderful collection of words and syllables and metaphors which I can only envy … so I use them.

In addition … I imagine this is simply an extension of who I am as a person. A renovator and not a builder. Or what Pareto <an Italian sociologist> called the Speculator and the Rentier.


The Speculator is constantly preoccupied with the possibilities of new combinations.

Rentiers are more conservers of the routine … he also calls them Stockholders.



While I am not sure I agree life is as simple as he suggests, I do agree different people think different ways … and inevitably they have different skill sets <despite the fact many business people would like to think they are good at everything>.


It is absolutely, clearly, in my DNA to be “constantly preoccupied with possibilities of new combinations.”





Maybe that is why I use quotes so often.


And I will continue to use them until I am sure I have something original to say I will use quotes.


“[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.”

A.A. Milne




I will be honest.


I am absolutely positively sure I misuse quotes all the time.


So how do I sleep at night knowing that I do so?




You get to see the quote.

You get to think about the quote.

You get to interpret the quote as you see fit.

You get to see how I interpreted the quote … and agree or disagree.


In the end I imagine that is all I can ask for when I use a quote.





Not ‘enlightened’ thinking <that would be slightly pretentious … don’t you think?>.


Just thinking.

I tend to think when I use a quote <that’s why I saved it to use in the first place> I hope it makes you think.


Thinking is a means to an end. Thinking begets enlightened. I don’t believe anyone ‘enlightens’ but rather inspires being enlightened.


<note: as you can probably tell I often spend a lot of time trying to explain enlighten conflict to people as well as get a lot f shit about ‘so you are enlightened’ … of which I typically sigh … and say ‘I may be one of the most unenlightened people you will ever meet … but I am certainly a work in progress in terms of trying to become enlightened>




And I also imagine that I try and use some more obscure quotes and words so in the ‘unexpected’ or ‘new unseen words’ I hope you think anew.



But quotes themselves.




I admit … I dislike … well … no.


Hate when a quote is used to make a point for which it wasn’t really stated to make a point for.


Many people flippantly use quotes to make a point.

Ignoring the context.

Often slightly changing the quote.

Usually using the part they want and selectively ignoring other parts.


And I bet I do it on occasion.


And I simply take solace in the fact that maybe all that matters is that we think.


Here is what I know for sure.


Professional writers are professional for a reason … they know how to put words together in ways that emote.

And amateur writers, while certainly not as good as professional writers, can stumble upon a wonderful moment of clarity in which they put together words in a way that emote.


I seek those moments of words.

For in those moments … other’s words … you step into a world of unimaginable thought.


That, my friends, is my paradise. A world of thought.


I can only hope that on occasion I show you that world.

That is why I use quotes.


And because I am fairly sure I cannot do it with my own words.

That is why I can live, quite well thank you, being unoriginal.

quotes using navigate

This I am today … I was yesterday … and will most likely be tomorrow.



That was  paraphrase of a Louis L’Amour quote <one of my favorites>:


“Everyone has it within his power to say, ‘This I am today; that I will be tomorrow.”

Louis L’Amour






ottimista pessimista

April 5th, 2014

optimista pessimista 2 glasses

“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true.” – James B. Cabell



When entertaining <as if I actually entertain> my favorite drinking glasses are my ottimista pessimista glasses.


Italian glasses with a line etched in the middle with ottimista above and pessimista above.


Nothing seems to generate a more lively discussion than one on optimism versus pessimism.


Simplistically most people like to bucket other people into one group or another.

I, a self proclaimed “cynical optimist’ tends to believe there are not many true Eeeyores <pessimists> and not many true Tiggers <optimists> in the world.


I tend to believe we have aspects of both <albeit our individual personality will skew us toward one r the other>.

Sometimes one aspect is more dominant than the other … but we have both … which is a good thing per research:


-          according to research from the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania, optimistic managers may do a better job of helping employees reach goals and be more productive. In a cross-sectional study of 86 employees and 17 managers at an Information Technology (IT) organization, researchers Margaret Greenberg and Dana Arakawa found that positive leadership correlated with employee optimism, engagement and project performance.



-          a German study stated that optimistic people actually face a greater risk of disability or death within 10 years than pessimists who underestimate their future life satisfaction. The reasoning behind this is that the pessimists might actually be a bit more careful about their future than the optimists.



So if we have both … and both working together makes us the best we can be … I imagine the solution is to have a mix of both keep your eye on the realistic ball.

optimista pessimista floating


No can do.

We are individuals … and each individual will see reality thru their own optimist or pessimist lens <at each other>. Therefore as we view each other we see that characteristic as ‘bad’ … or maybe just an unrealistic point of view.


Neither optimistic nor pessimistic is bad in and of itself.  An article in Psychology Today said:


“It’s simply not the case that optimism is “good” and pessimism is “bad”—although that’s how we’ve been encouraged to think about them. Rather, both are functional. And both have value.”



Interestingly … I often find that this is a discussion seems to take place between conservatives and liberals. Or risk averse and risk taking <which by the way do align with the labels>.


Ah. The conservative mind.


In a 1956 essay “On Being Conservative”, the philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote that someone with a  ‘conservative temperament’ is:


“not in love with what is dangerous and difficult; he is unadventurous; he has no impulse to sail uncharted seas. What others plausibly identify as timidity, he recognizes in himself as rational prudence. He eyes the situation in terms of its propensity to disrupt the familiarity of the features of his world”.



I am not sure I would go as far as our friend Mr. Oakeshott goes.



It certainly explains the reluctance among many sane people to take the more radical actions necessary to make radical changes <even when they know they should be done>.




If you use only one perception filter, optimism and pessimism both have major flaws.


In problem solving an optimist is at least likely to come up with a number <and variety> of different things to try <maybe one of the will work> … while a pessimist is more likely to noodle over what is wrong, what could go wrong and why in the world we are even facing something wrong … and do nothing <which pretty much almost never works>.


As a generalization this would suggest in survival situations an optimist is more likely to survive.


<please note: I am ALL for survival>


On the other hand.

Optimists can be nerve wracking to be around.


They tend to always talk best case and then buy their own hype.optimist pessimist circles

And when something does go wrong  they inevitably blame the ones who pointed out what could go wrong with their plan <because ‘THEIR stupid, rosy-eyed idea didn’t fucking work’ is how one online writer suggested>.


Unfortunately every positive thought does NOT propel you in the right direction.

Misguided optimism is as bad as overcautious pessimism.




I am hesitant to suggest balance as the key because actually achieving balance is … well … something called “inertia.”




Doing nothing.


At least the optimists move. Because not moving … and just wringing your hands means … well … you will never discover something whether you may have expected to find nothing.



You can discover something in something where you expected

to find nothing. – Regina Derieva <The Last Island>



The pessimist doesn’t even have the opportunity to find something.




A ‘realist.’ <as an option to being optimistic or pessimistic>


This realist label is pretty popular. Most people suggest being a ‘realist’ is all about someone downplaying the good things <minimizing the highs> and recognizing some bad things as inevitable <minimizing the lows>.



Unfortunately … not true.


A true realist is someone who makes completely unbiased judgments and who doesn’t see things through any kind of filter. Neither a positive nor a negative one.


Unfortunately this means that no one can actually be a realist. Sorry about that. Psychology points out that completely an unbiased perspective is neither possible nor actually productive <most of the time>.


In addition … when someone says ‘they only look at the facts … with no emotion’ … well … they <too> are lying.

optimism pessimism paradox


Two people are likely to feel very differently about the same event simply because they highlight different pieces of the available information <some call these pieces ‘facts’>.



Even if truly ‘dispassionate’ … someone with a positive mindset will concentrate on other aspects of a situation than someone with a negative mindset.



Neither of them are necessarily in the wrong.




Here is one thing I do know.

There is something really exhausting about reality.

What do I mean?



Even the most positive optimistic person will inevitably be challenged <if not eventually ground down>.


It is a researched factoid that positive beliefs are derived not from the total number of good experiences but from a low ratio of bad vs good experiences.


Whew. That can be exhausting.



All that said.


What do you do about being optimistic or pessimistic?



In 1949 Harry F Harlow, Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, outlined an alternative  … something he called ‘intrinsic motivation.’

In other words … the joy of the task itself.


Another guy, Daniel Pink,  discusses this idea all the time and suggests that for most complex tasks intrinsic motivation is a much more powerful drive than any external motivator.


And that a key part of this motivator is purpose.


“The most highly motivated people, not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied, hitch their drives to a cause larger than themselves.”



In other words, economic incentives alone do not cause individuals to perform complex tasks better <nor make them more optimistic or pessimistic>.


So maybe it is the journey that matters the most.

Maybe it has nothing to do with being optimistic or pessimistic.

Maybe all that really matters is doing something with purpose – not an ‘end game.’


Therefore … what this means … is you are not optimistic … nor pessimistic … but rather simply a person with a purpose.




Here is what I really know for sure:optimist common sense creeping


“All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.” – Confucius



I always keep that in mind because … well … optimism … and positive outcomes really aren’t easy things to do and attain. And bad things happen. Keeping that in mind not only keeps me from being an Eeyore <or pessimistic with regard to Life and the world> it also probably keep me from slitting my wrists <figuratively>.  As well as keep me from chugging whatever alcohol someone puts in my ottimista and pessimista glasses.

being dauntless

April 2nd, 2014

dauntless stand up

“We’ve all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don’t want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.” – Four <Divergent>




“Virtue refuses facility for her companion … the easy, gentle, and sloping path that guides the footsteps of a good natural disposition is not the path of true virtue. It demands a rough and thorny road.”  - Michel de Montaigne




Being dauntless.


In an otherwise incredibly poorly written great story <the Divergent trilogy> we get to think about the value of … well … virtue.


The book places society into five different factions … each espousing one specific virtue <at the expense of other virtues>.


I imagine one of the points is that making one virtue your Life focus is bad in that we are a complex balance of a number of virtues.




The factions are <virtues>:dauntless divergent 5









It is in the Dauntless idea in which I found something that truly struck a chord.


Something I found valuable to think about.


Not just for me … but society and people in general.

Let me share some words in the Dauntless Manifesto:



“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”





There is a thought.


There is a BIG thought.


Why do I think so?


In a me, me, me world <or at least it sometimes feels that way these days> … in a world where if I see never ending advice like ‘no one will stand up for you but yourself’ … or … ‘the only one you can count on is yourself’ one more time … I will … well … begin to lose a little faith in humanity … this thought is something we should all wrap our heads around.


In ordinary acts of bravery.


Bravery as in everyday actions and not in running into fires to save someone or stepping in front of a bullet.


Bravery as in stepping in front of criticism.


Bravery as in stepping in front of ‘doing nothing.’


Bravery as in stepping in and doing what is right <even if it may not be the easiest thing to do>.




How about these words:


“We believe in shouting for those who can only whisper, in defending those who cannot defend themselves.”



To be clear.

The thought is not that I am not suggesting shouting … but rather speaking out for those who only whisper.

And defending those who cannot defend themselves.



The world is made up of a bunch of different people.

It is crazy … fucking crazy … to criticize and diminish the people who only whisper … or do not always defend themselves. We may not like it … we may wish that they stood up and spoke out … but just because they don’t doesn’t make them ‘lesser than.’ It is simply what it is. Accept it. and if you can make a difference … and you want to make a difference … then make a difference. You are no better than the other person … you are simply doing what you do.

If you are dauntless … then be dauntless.


But I imagine my real point is … well … if you have this dauntless virtue than accept the responsibility.

It is who you are and you should be it.


My next point?


dauntless freedom sacrificeFearless and dauntless are two completely different things.

Dauntless doesn’t mean you do not have fear … it simply means ‘going the way despite maybe having fear.’



Dauntless is a relentless pursuit of what you believe is right.


As Montaigne suggests it is not an easy gentle slope of living life … it is a rough and thorny road.


But Montaigne <and I imagine Divergent suggested> understood that there is a Life worth fighting for.


At least there is a vision of what Life should be.


I found it interesting that the author of the Divergent trilogy suggested the following lyrics to this song captured the essence of what she was writing about <and I thought it also was relevant to being dauntless>:



“Hold on to the world we all remember fighting for

There’s some strength left in you yet

Hold on to the world we all remember dying for

There’s some hope left in it yet

Arise and be

All that you dreamed.

– Flyleaf <Arise>




Arise and be all that you dreamed.


Do we not all dream about standing up for those who cannot stand on their own?

Do we not dream about speaking up for those who can only whisper?

Or defending those who cannot defend themselves?


Maybe that is dauntless.

And if that is being Dauntless … well … sign me up.




We may all dream of being ‘that person.’

But that is not for everyone. And it shouldn’t be. Because sometimes being dauntless means you are simply clearing the way … opening the pathway … so someone can get through and do what they do.dauntless one thing


And what they do is make the world a little more like the world we remember worth dying for.


Roles & responsibilities.


We all have roles & responsibilities in Life. We may seek or desire to be ‘more’ … but reality often suggests we have a specific role … and responsibility.


Embrace your role.

Embrace your responsibility.


And embrace being dauntless in doing so.





The Dauntless Manifesto has some thoughtful thoughts. Things we should all think about. Things that may remind us of the world we remember worth dying for.


And, what the hell, if I can channel Montaigne thru the Divergent trilogy there certainly has to be some meaning worthwhile to ponder.






Parts of the Dauntless Manifesto are silly … but it is a poorly written young adult book so just focus on the sometimes breathtaking choice of words:

dauntless manifesto


Dauntless manifesto:



We believe that cowardice is to blame for the world’s injustices.

We believe that peace is hard-won, that sometimes it is necessary to fight for peace. But more than that: We believe that justice is more important than peace.

We believe in freedom from fear, in denying fear the power to influence our decisions. We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.

We believe in acknowledging fear and the extent to which it rules us. We believe in facing that fear no matter what the cost to our comfort, our happiness, or even our sanity.

We believe in shouting for those who can only whisper, in defending those who cannot defend themselves.

We believe, not just in bold words but in bold deeds to match them. We believe that pain and death are better than cowardice and inaction because we believe in action.

We do not believe in living comfortable lives. We do not believe that silence is useful.

We do not believe in good manners.

We do not believe in empty heads, empty mouths, or empty hands.

We do not believe that learning to master violence encourages unnecessary violence.

We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by. We do not believe that any other virtue is more important than bravery.






Enlightened Conflict