Enlightened Conflict

one of those dumb days where

June 13th, 2017

do nothing sloth impossible every day jo

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“We are dying from overthinking.

 

We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything.

Think. Think. Think.

 

You can never trust the human mind anyway.

It’s a death trap.”

 

Anthony Hopkins

 

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“It’s one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray.”

 

Andrea Portes

 

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nothing neon sign

 

“Nothing” days.

 

 

Its hard to believe with all that shit we always seem to have to do and all the shit that seems to be happening around us and all the shit society, people and culture claims we are demanded to pay attention to … there can be nothing days.

The dumb days in which nothing happens <albeit lots of somethings actually happen>.

 

I think this is one of those things I didn’t think about until I actually thought about it — how can a day be nothing when you actually did a shitload?

 

Sure.

 

There are some people who get busy doing nothing <I actually call this ‘the art of looking busy’ and have a piece on his coming up>.

 

But the majority of us do a shitload of something on the days which we tend to i expect nothing still too muchview as having done nothing.

 

And I am not sure that is particularly healthy.

 

You can surely assess what you have done and apply some value less than what you wished you could assess … but even that “lesser value” is not zero, therefore, it is not nothing.

 

Personally I think this happens because the majority of us have a natural resistance to nothing. What I mean by that is being associated with “nothing”, particularly in a country that extols doing, creates some sense of diminishing or diminished.

 

And no one likes to feel either diminished or having whatever we actually did do be diminished to … well … nothing.

 

Anyway.

 

What that means is we will apologize for ‘nothing’ with a variety of reasons – distracted, bored, tired, etc. – because in the end our internal integrity compass wants to point toward something to make us happy.

In fact … someone created something called the Nothing Day which has been commemorated since 1973. The day is literally about doing nothing at all. There is absolutely no purpose or intended structure for this pointless celebration.

 

especially if its nothing days

 

My point isn’t that we should celebrate nothing or doing nothing or even the feeling we actually did nothing but rather that we see “nothing” where there really is something.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

This is even making my head hurt.

 

Let me try this.

 

Far too often we fall into an all or nothing assessment with regard to our day. What that means is we could actually do a shitload but if it doesn’t meet some “something” standard it then falls to a 100% nothing value.

That is nuts.

 

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“Either I reigned supreme or sank into the abyss.”

 

Simone de Beauvoir

 

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And I can honestly say its nuts because I do it. I can reach the end of a day with a long list of shit I have done and sit back and say “shit, I did nothing.”

And I don’t think I am that different than a lot of people.

 

I could speculate why we do it but I will not.

 

Mostly it is because we think, think & think about the shit … and overthink it … and it is a death trap.

 

Mostly I think society & culture seems to put an extraordinary amount of value on tangible recognizable outcomes therefore if you just do shit … but the shit doesn’t offer some trophy outcome you can hold up for everyone to see than … well … we think we have nothing to show for it. That is also a death trap.

 

That’s dumb.something and nothing sign

 

Not only is that dumb it is the foundation for one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray type feeling … which is a pretty dumb feeling to have.

 

All I can say is that the next time you think it is one of those dumb days where you did nothing … maybe stop overthinking and make it a simple thought — I did some shit today. I will do more shit tomorrow. And eventually some good shit will happen.

obliviousness (or blind spots)

June 7th, 2017

reality-slapped-you-really-hard

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“One is often unconsciously surrounded by one’s own personal reality.”

 

Pawan Mishra

 

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“To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.”

 

—–

Amos Bronson Alcott

 

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“People who have had little self-reflection live life in a huge reality blind-spot.”

 

Bryant McGill

 

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Ok.

 

all have a blind spot obliviousWe all have blind spots about our self.

 

And I mean “we” as in everyone — 100% of us.

 

And they are almost painful to watch occurring in anyone – particularly in someone you like. With someone you don’t like? It still makes you sit back and think “what are my blind spots?”

 

Oh.

 

That sitting back thing.

 

Judging the events of the past we have a tendency to fall victim to what behavioral economists call “the hindsight bias.”

 

It is unhelpful because it implies that if we were just smarter in the present, we could see clearly enough into the future to avoid stupid mistakes. But that is rarely the case. The data available in the present are wildly contradictory, and many outcomes seem plausible.

 

Regardless.

We also have psychological blind spots – aspects of our personalities that are hidden from our view. These might be annoying habits like interrupting or bragging, or they might be deeper fears or desires that are too threatening to acknowledge. Although it’s generally not pleasant to confront these aspects of ourselves, doing so can be very useful when it comes to personal growth, and when it comes to improving our relationships with others – there is undoubtedly something we do that, unbeknownst to us, drives our significant others, roommates, friends, or coworkers a little crazy.

 

I thought about this mostly because of Donald J Trump. while I have never met the man he seems oblivious to reality – the world and himself.

 

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 reality problem

President Trump in a new AP interview boasted that he has delivered CBS its best ratings “since the World Trade Center came down.”

After being asked about his relationship with voters and lawmakers across the aisle, Trump pivoted to the high viewership numbers his national TV appearances bring in: “It’s interesting, I have, seem to get very high ratings… You know [Fox News Sunday host] Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning. It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had.”

He then bragged about his ratings on CBS’s Sunday show Face the Nation:

“[Host John] Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for Face the Nation or, as I call it, ‘Deface the Nation.’ It’s the highest for ‘Deface the Nation’ since the World Trade Center.

Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.”

He then immediately transitioned to railing against “fake media”—save for Fox News—treating him “unfairly.”

 

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Whew.

 

Trump doesn’t seem to realize that his ratings get a big boost because people don’t want to miss it if he says something asinine or just plain stupid. He is oblivious to the fact that ratings are not an objective indicator of quality but rather indicative of interest <or entertainment>. And, as 99% of us know … interest does not necessarily equal “quality, trust or likeability.”

NASCAR wrecks drive ratings but they don’t convey a positive attribute.

Everyone in marketing, those who do it professionally, know the difference between attention & interest as well as why it is important to look at the relationship between positive approval, an negative approval, and the interest scores <and you are a fool if you do not look at those scores>.

 

Anyway.

 

I feel sorry for people who are oblivious to their blind spots.

 

And, yes, oblivious is different than ‘do not see.”

 

The difference between the two are in fact the ability to be aware, i.e., totally oblivious is to be not capable of awareness.

‘Do not see’ means you could be aware but you choose to not be aware <what you elect to focus or not focus on>.

 

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“The worst bullies you will ever encounter in your life are your own thoughts.”

 

—-

Bryant H. McGill

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stupid in the rain oblivious to ideas business

I imagine this raises the painful reflective question “are we even capable of seeing ourselves as who we really are”?

 

Yikes.

That’s a painful question.
Psychology has thought about this question a shitload and they use words like discrepancy between self-awareness <representing how we see and describe ourselves> and external perception <representing how others see and would describe us>.

 

This comes to Life in a way I believe 99% of us can relate to … times where someone perceived you totally differently than you perceived yourself “oh, I am not that way at all”>.

 

Or maybe think about it this way.

You meet someone and assess and create a perception and … well … it is totally different than the self-awareness of that person.

 

We all do this crap.
Psychologists have even designed a “window into your soul” called the Johari-Window. It is one way to illustrate the difference between self-awareness and external perception. It represents a graphic model illustrating conscious and unwitting personality– and behavioral characteristics developed by the U.S. social psychologists Joseph (Jo) and Harry (hari) Ingham. The Johari window looks like this:

——


Johari window blind spot oblivious self awareness

—–

 

The “Arena“ represents that part of our personality and our behavior which we are fully aware of. The part of ourselves we display openly and without hesitation when in the company of others or how we would describe ourselves if asked.

 

 

The section “Façade” covers everything we hide from others because we believe that it should remain private. It includes secret wishes, for instance or thoughts we don’t feel like sharing. Understandably the extent of this area varies and depends on the company we happen to be keeping at the time. When we are with our partner or possibly our best friends it may be very small because we share more of ourselves with people we trust than with those with whom we may not be all that close. Regardless, with every person there is always something left over that is private and he/she alone knows about him/herself (and that is just fine!).

 

 

The area “Unknown” covers everything in our subconscious and therefore is not immediately accessible but still has a considerable impact on our thoughts and behavior: unconscious fears, repressed conflicts, traumata, urges, instincts and much more. According to Sigmund Freud this part covers 80 – 90% of everything determining our everyday behavior.

Even if we don’t want to go all that far, everyone knows that there are many situations when rational and conscious thinking and behavior play a very secondary role and that another part of us somehow takes over. The process of falling in love is an excellent example – or have you ever totally rationally and judiciously chosen your partner? We are unaware of our subconscious just as it is not obvious to others (well, the consequences sometimes are). We will never be able to get to the bottom of it ourselves, it would take considerable therapeutic reflections to come even close.

obvious oblivious

The last Quadrant, the “Blind Spot” is different. Although we can’t spot it on our own (just as we can’t see our face without a mirror), others can see it quite well and are able to tell us (acting as our mirror, so to speak). Even though we are not aware of it, the “Blind Spot” harbors habits, preferences, dislikes, prejudices and the like, all things that are clearly apparent to those with whom we deal. At best their reports will provide us with information about ourselves, in that way reducing our “Blind Spot” and therefore helping us to work on ourselves. If there is something in my “Blind Spot” I would like to change, others have to make me aware of it first. Alternatively others may discover competencies and skills in it of which I did not think to be capable.

 

 

 

In addition to this window if you google “oblivious” you will see there are gobs of psychological writings and ‘awareness offerings’ available if you ever want to professionally explore you blind spots.

 

Here is what I know.

 

We are all oblivious to some extent — some more than others.

 

Being oblivious to some extent can be dangerous.

 

Lack of self-awareness is never good.

 

I think 99% of us know we have some aggravating flaws & personal quirks … we are not oblivious to them instead we simply decide to overlook them as the ‘imperfections that make us who we are.’ At the same time … those same 99% of people do have blind spots — the shit they cannot see that others see.  That takes a little self work to get a grip on if we choose to accept this.

 

Oh.

 

sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mind

And then there are the 1% …those who are completely oblivious to what they do and how people see them.

Let’s call them the ones inflicted with is the malady of the ignorant <to be ignorant of one’s ignorance>. I am not sure they are redeemable.

I say that because to be completely oblivious either takes a shitload of work or you are just an arrogant egotist or you have some mental disorder that permits you to constantly live in some alternative universe in which you are the God.

 

I do my best to avoid the 1% and realize, as part of the 99%, I should do my best to improve my own sight of myself.

bad ideas never seem to die

June 6th, 2017

 

good idea bad idea fight time busines

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“If truth be told, the easy road is nothing more than an armchair in clever disguise. And if you look around, it seems that there are a whole lot of people in the furniture business.”

 

 

Craig D. Lounsbrough

 

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“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves …”

 

————–

Berean Study Bible

 

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So.

 

I tend to believe most of us learn, fairly early in our careers, that bad ideas do bad idea light up good path battle businesnot die on their own. In fact … as you gain more experience you actually find that bad ideas can often be incredibly hard to kill –they may actually have more than nine lives.

 

At exactly the same time most of us also learn that good ideas rarely are seen as the greatest thing since sliced bread and embraced as a good idea as soon as they are presented.

 

Think about that for a second.

 

Bad ideas are incredibly hard to kill and good ideas can be incredibly hard to bring to life.

 

Well.

That’s pretty fucked up.

 

And, yet, despite learning this I still believe most of us are surprised when we find a bad idea still breathing and a good idea is breathing its last breath.

 

Shit.

 

Even I forget this lesson despite having seen some of the most bad ideas in the world live despite my best efforts and some of the goodest of ideas die despite my best efforts.

that is a terribe bad idea speak out business ideas

And I seem to keep forgetting it despite the fact the world is filled with some incredibly absurdly bad factually incomprehensible, or defensible, ideas.

 

Forgetting this idea is dangerous.

 

It creates a Life & business world strewn with bad ideas which can quite easily lead to a complacency that bad ideas will exist no matter what we do … or worse … complacency when faced with a bad idea because we believe it is fruitless to fight it.

 

I will not spend a lot of time on complacency but suffice it to say it is a sneaky little bastard especially when it comes to bad ideas.

But the bigger issue is that, for several reasons, we tend to let our guard down when faced with a bad idea.

 

The difference between a really bad idea and a ‘shrug your shoulders a little’ bad idea can often be indiscernible.

 

We have a bad habit of dismissing bad in its initial stages as just “bad.” This lets run or diea hardier & sturdier bad idea off the hook. It is quite possible most of us just hope it smothers itself in its badness and just goes away but more often than not … it does not. And, yet, time and time again we make an initial assessment of “bad, maybe & good” and mostly dismiss ‘bad’ and move on.

 

I could suggest that not all bad ideas are created equal but it is probably better advice to simply treat all bad ideas as equally bad. Don’t waste your time discerning the difference; just assume a bad idea will be a motherfucker to kill.

 

 

Bad ideas have an innate knack to normalize their being.

 

Once you let a bad idea off the hook when it is initially introduced it has a nasty habit of slipping into the general conversation as “possibility.”

In other words … because it didn’t die before it could draw its first breath it somehow becomes normalized as some viable breathing idea.bad idea there is such a thing

 

Yeah. Normalizing is a word that is being tossed round a lot lately.

 

As a corollary that all bad ideas can look quite similar <bad ideas> we have a tendency to simply normalize them <as ideas that may not be as good as some other ideas>. Bad is a fucking big bucket to normalize as simply “another idea to consider.”

 

It gets worse at that point.

 

“Outsider” ideas take on some personality that almost adds viability even though it is still a bad fucking idea.

It’s like all bad ideas wear black and blend into any crowd … and almost become cool by doing so. Yeah. Just ponder that for a second. How many bad ideas get a label of “cool idea” … but it’s actually a bad idea. Once a bad idea falls into the “cool thing to consider” category it becomes an aggravating difficult challenge for the actual good idea.

 

Anyway.

A moment back to complacency.

 

Complacent is a squooshy word and concept.

 

I tried googling complacency with bad ideas and got only 514000 results. Uhm. But looking within the top 8 results … the office, west point, teen life, politics, religion and a general one … there were none with regard to bad ideas.

 

This suggests complacency strikes everyone at different times in our lives.

But in no place could I find anyone discussing how complacent in our thinking that everyone can see a bad idea as a bad idea and therefore we can relax <become complacent> because … well … bad ideas just get thrown away because they are bad.

 

Complacency is squooshy.

 

Let’s face it.

 

No one wants to invest energy chasing after some bad idea to be sure it is dead.

Sure. The most experienced of us absolutely circle back after the original bad idea has been killed to make sure it is really dead. But we don’t circle around it and hover over it to see if it is really dead … we just check in on it.

 

Basically … we have better things to do than stick around to smother the sonuvabitch to be sure it is dead. But, in the harsh spotlight of truth, this is plain & simple complacency.

 

I have been burned by bad ideas so many times I have come to sometimes think of bad ideas as tsunamis. They begin as a small shaking of the earth miles down under the surface of the ocean … completely unseen. In this metaphor you may have actually been in the frickin’ meeting where it was declared  bad idea and even been there when it got discarded … but you just were not aware of the work bad idea panda angryearth moving way way down under your feet.

 

From there the bad idea can gain some incredible momentum only to build into some huge wave which can wash over even the strongest criticism at a later date <let alone drown a shitload of good ideas>. Suffice it to say … it can drive you crazy.

 

I think we have all been in this situation at work.

 

Once a bad idea has some momentum they are next to impossible to kill.

 

I sometimes believe this is because <a> some people pretend a second rate idea is first rate and <b> a shitload of people cannot see the difference between a second rate idea and a first rate.

 

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“What’s terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate.”

Doris Lessing,

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But I actually believe it is because we give bad ideas a free pass. What I mean by that is we take a good idea and start running the ‘idea to implementation’ gauntlet defending it and selling it and sharing it all with the end goal in mind. All the while, as we focus on the good, we don’t notice <or maybe it is just a nagging aggravation along the way> that the bad idea is also in the ‘idea to implementation’ gauntlet … but getting a free ride because it isn’t really being sold … it just keeps appearing along the way as “the alternative idea to the good one.”

 

While you were focused on good and paying attention to something else the bad idea has gained “a voice” … it can be a person or it can simple be some “myth” associated with it. And when that happens you can find yourself hearing about a bad idea in some hallway from someone who really knows nothing about it … and they speak of its myth in some positive way.

Suffice it to say the moment that happens … you are fucked. The bad idea is not only alive and breathing … it is healthy <in almost mythical proportions>.

 

Ok.

So rather than bitch about bad ideas let me make a suggestion to everyone.

 

Life, and business, is one big mosh pit of shit. The shit is made up of stuff to do, responsibilities, everyday commitments and responsibilities … as well as ideas. This mosh pit is a big dark gloomy cloud of stuff swirling around.

 

Now.

 

The ideas shit is a little different. What I mean by that is 99% of ideas do not just happen <good and bad ones> like most of the other stuff in the mosh pit.

good bad idea battle for path business

 

Ideas need some ‘oomph’ to get thru the mosh pit. They need to navigate a narrow winding path through the big mosh pit of shit from the moment they are introduced to the moment in which it reaches a point where the idea shifts to some action.

As noted earlier … in most cases … the path usually has two ideas jostling each other along this path … a good idea and a bad idea.

 

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“Our minds are a battle ground between good and bad ideas; we are whatever side wins the battle”

 

Bangambiki Habyarimana

 

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I imagine my real point is that bad ideas do not die simply because they are bad.

 

You cannot be silent, you cannot ignore them, you cannot be complacent and you cannot simply champion the good idea. You actually have to fight bad ideas.

It may be aggravating to do so.

It may take more energy than you want fight like hell hughto.

It may even get a little absurd in how often you feel like you have put a knife through its heart and you still find it alive and kicking not long after.

 

But if you want good ideas to win you have to accept the burden of the fight. And this fight has a number of rounds and takes place over an extended period of time.

 

Here is what I know about fighting bad ideas. I now assume they never die … they simply end up in second place to a good idea that competed better.

 

That last sentence may be one of the best pieces of advice I have ever given to the business world.

 

 

 

confusing America First and Economics First

June 1st, 2017

normalizing america bad behavior values phoenix

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“America is great because she is good.

If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

 

Alexis de Tocqueville

 

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“We Americans are a do-it-yourself people.

We are an impatient people.

 

Instead of teaching someone else to do a job, we like to do it ourselves. And this trait has been carried over into our foreign policy.

 

Nixon from his Silent Majority speech

 

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So.

 

It is a little difficult to unpack everything happening with regard to “America First” and what it means for America short term and long term.

 

trump embarrassed point leader bullyI have a lot to suggest on this topic but because there is so much let me offer some overarching ways of viewing it all. I would also like to note that I am purposefully using Trump as a reference point and not Republican or Trump administration because I believe we would be incredibly shortsighted to not believe that his personal views on how the world exists <in his mind> do drive his behavior and the decisions being made:

 

  • How Trump views the leadership concept of dragging up versus dragging down

 

  • How Trump views rules & regulations

 

  • How Trump views I versus team

 

  • How Trump views uncertainty

 

  • How Trump views life only through a dollars & cents lens <driving an economics first, and only, view>

 

All of these views drive America First … all of which <I would suggest> actually encourage an America Alone strategy. In addition … to a larger extent … all actually encourage an “every man for himself” attitude <kind of an extremely perverse version of traditional conservative ideology>.

 

Dragging up versus dragging down

 

As of this writing I have no clue whether America will stay in the Paris Climate agreement but I will use it as an example of how Trump views America leadership and leadership in general <because it applies to almost everything he is doing>.

 

Leaders understand that to lead you need to ‘drag up’ behavior. This comes at shift up or downan expense in that you are demanded to do more things and act a little ‘better’ without any real compensation.

Yes. This makes Life harder for the leader and mostly offers no additional compensation for the extra effort. You do it because it … well … leads behaviors and attitudes.

 

For example, part of the Paris agreement was that United State had higher standards. This certainly places a burden on American companies. It also translates into an innovation push to meet those standards. And, ultimately, because we lead in innovation the rest of the world will eventually buy our innovations. This leadership also encourages other countries to ‘play up’ as close to United States as possible. Our ‘compensation’ for our better behavior may not be apparent short term but bears the fruits long term <and it is what leaders do>

 

Conversely, if United States drops out, the overall leadership standard drops and, as any organizational study will tell you, the overall tide of standards will sink lower as things get dragged downwards.

This is, simplistically, why leaders have higher standards in business. It drags the organization up … and not down.

 

Trump does not understand this. Nor does he believe in this. I feel comfortable saying this because if he doesn’t understand how his current behavior drags down … well … everything it is indicative he doesn’t understand dragging up.

 

 

Rules & regulations

 

I took a big gulp as I found a list of regulations the Trump administration has obey ruleseliminated while we were watching the general incompetence <by the way … I am not suggesting eliminating things is any less incompetent because even on that Trump seems to follow an “if it exists it should not exist” strategy and not “a thoughtful consideration of its impact” type decision> of Trump leadership.

 

Think of it is this way. Trump believes if there had been no rules & regulations he would be the wealthiest man in the world. He has never found a rule or regulation he has ever liked. He also believes that if he thinks that everyone should think that. I have written about capitalism a zillion times and I have argued that unfettered capitalism simply brings out the worst in people and increases inequality. Rules & regulations, done well, tend to herd behavior <and everyone makes money>.

 

Trump doesn’t think rules apply to him so why wouldn’t we expect him to eliminate rules so he doesn’t even have to pretend he plays by the rules.

 

I versus team

 

Trump has never been part of a team nor does he have any desire to be a team leader. How this translates into his decision attitude is that the global interconnectedness is irrelevant to him. No. He actually thinks it is a negative.

We are not a global team seeking to win but rather it is ‘every man for himself.’ Unfortunately this attitude also cascades down into domestic policy.

 

And because I used the Paris Climate deal earlier to make a point on something else I will do so again here. One would think it would be remarkable that someone who has not appointed someone to run the White House Office of Science and Technology <a person who traditionally serves as the President’s chief science officer> or has the majority of posts on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology <a group of civilian science and tech leaders who advise the president> unfilled would feel qualified to make this Paris decision.  However, if you do not value a team effort and believe “I” is all that matters then the qualified support doesn’t really matter and, in fact, could negatively affect “the I.”

That is what he is doing with … well … everything. “I” is all that matters … ‘fuck office-politics-navigator-sledgehammer-business-jerks-speechthat team thing.’

 

All that said. Everything Trump does and supports gives the finger to anything that could be construed as a team effort. It is “I” in the world. “I” as a country. “I” as a business and … well … “I alone” is the mantra.

 

That said, “it has always been about me and just me” bleeds into everything Trump believes and does.

 

Uncertainty

 

Suffice it to say Trump views uncertainty as a positive <with regard to everything> therefore he is willing to commit to no long term plans or vision and , at the same time, spin the wheel of the ship to wrench it in some direction yet to be identified. It also seems to me that wrenching the entire system 180degrees creates what I offered up as the biggest flaw in Trump’s way of doing business — uncertainty.

 

He does this because he thrives on the belief America will ultimately benefit from uncertainty. He believes that America will swoop in now that is it is free from the shackles of the ‘old order’ <way of doing things, deals, regulations, etc> and dominate what … well … we plans-plus-certainty-fail-uncertaintyalready dominated.

 

The country that has spent decades constructing an international construct based on free trade, multilateral cooperation, a global alliance network, and the promotion of democratic values has now chosen as its leader a man who detests any structure supporting any & all of those things. He wants a demolition derby hoping his car is the winner.

 

This is a bad idea. Very bad. And, once again, while I am disappointed in Trump I am even more disappointed a business man <the secretary of state> thinks this way because it ignores business 101.  Well. It ignores business 101 depending on whether you think America is special, exceptional in some way or that part of what makes America distinct in the world is not the bigness of our economy but rather the bigness of our idea.

 

That said, Trump doesn’t believe in big ideas he only believes in big money. Oh. If you have no ideas the only way to make money is to take advantage of uncertainty. The problem is that America is built on an idea & ideals and not money and while we may <if we are really lucky> benefit economically we will do so at the sacrifice of our ideas, ideals and leadership in this uncertain world Trump desires to play his dangerous game in.

 

Leaders don’t act with uncertainty as their compass they use certainty to lead. Of course, Trump wouldn’t know how to lead even if given an instruction manual with lots of pictures.

 

The dollars & cents lens <economics first>

 

I am not a diplomat or some foreign policy expert but I admit that I took a big gulp the other day when I saw secretary of state suggest that America should american global comercial ineterstmake economic and security needs above American ‘values.’ It seems to be that everything will be decided on an exchange of money and not on an exchange of ideas <where value is a combination of economics and values>. Yes. This means that everything and everyone will be viewed through a dollars & cents lens — if you have money, let’s talk.

 

US foreign policy, Tillerson said, is guided by fundamental values, but he cautioned: “If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we’ve come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.”

 

Well.

 

This seems horribly misguided.

It seems to me while USA is in the ‘doing & making & selling shit” business we are also in the “doing & making & selling shit with values” business.

It seems to me that USA should not really be in the “partnerships of convenience” business where we can conveniently set aside our values & ideals but rather we are in the “partnership with ideals” business where we are delighted to do business with you but you are gonna have to accept the fact we are gonna showcase freedom, democracy and what we believe people deserve.

 

But, that’s me, because to Trump everything is marginalized excepting economics <money>.

 

Let’s be clear … our values don’t get in the way of our economic interests. To believe that is to not believe in ‘value’ <in which premium price relies on some value equation above a dollar is a dollar>.

 

Anyway. Dollars & cents seems quite short sighted. As Gen. George Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, commented in 1945, Washington could no longer pursue a narrow conception of national interest or limit its strategic horizons to the Western Hemisphere: “We are now concerned with the peace of the entire world.”

 

To me, the pursuit of “America First” can often be accomplished best by protecting and defending the rights of others which actually includes economic relationships.

 

On that note I dug up a speech made on December 20, 1951 by Dean Acheson which laid out a view of American foreign policy very different from Tillerson’s:

 

——————–

The greatest asset we have in all the world—even greater than our material america one heartbeatpower—is the American idea. No one needs to tell an American audience all the things that this holds for us. It is so much a part of our everyday lives that we do not stop to define it, or to put it into packages for export. But throughout the world, wherever people are oppressed, wherever people dream of freedom and opportunity, they feel the inspiration of the American idea.

 

What we are trying to do, in our foreign policy, is to make possible a world in which our own people, and all people who have the same determination, can work in their own way toward a better life, without having to bear the yoke of tyranny.

—————-

 

Look.

 

I have always known the Trump administration would be putting economy, money, above all and I did outline some concerns I had about attacking a foreign policy based on transactional relationships in some past pieces … but it now has become a reality … it is commerce over conscience.

 

=================

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.

Steve Maraboli,

=================

 

I think this is a little crazy to think this way as a country. Money is the currency of survival in today’s world and offers an ongoing temptation for “well, just a little bit more would be nice.”

I would be naive to not understand that while 90% of us know money isn’t everything … that same 90% knows money is something. I mentioned it that way because it becomes easy to think money as a ‘this or that’ thought, everything or nothing, and, yet, in this case it is not everything but is certainly still something.

 

That said … Money is 100% everything to Trump and I think Trump yielding the high ground to simply gain some perceived temporary ‘economic advantage’ is simply wrong and will come back to haunt us.

 

To be clear … Trump wouldn’t recognize the high ground if it smacked him in the face.

 

hope light at end of tunnelIn the end.

 

Whew.

 

“The U.S. is, for now, out of the world order business.” <Robert Kagan>.

After more than 70 years, American internationalism was pronounced politically dead.

 

What is really stunning, and upsetting, to people like me is that now the United States is going backwards. It is simply beyond me that we are steering ourselves toward antiquated systems and antiquated thinking rather than moving forward to leading in innovations and ideas. I can only feel a sinking feeling in my stomach as the rest of the world understands what Trump, and his administration, apparently does not … that the United States is about to give away the markets, the technology, the innovation, the jobs and … the leadership. The unifying thread through Trump’s agenda appears to be an attempt to resurrect an earlier antiquated world which marginalizes future considerations and maximizes short term considerations culminating in a stunningly self-destructive United States act of diplomatic and economic isolation.

 

We have faced other crisis in our history and have become stronger by rejecting the easy way out and taking the right way in meeting our challenges. Our greatness as a nation has been our capacity to do what had to be done when we knew our direction and path was right.

 

There is a price to pay if America concludes we are now indifferent to freedoms globally as well as global issues and sit on the sidelines willing to watch it diminished under the guise of “we will not lecture or suggest we know better than you” <which, frankly, is about as un-American as you can get because we DO know better — freedom of thought, religion, speech, etc is better & good> in combination with suggesting “but we will talk with you of you have some money to give us.”

 

I would note that Pew surveys show United States becoming less and less popular and while popularity is not the best measuring stick I could suggest <in looking at the information> that the decline is a reflection of our growing indifference to democratic values and increasing interest in economic values.

 

The world see United States under Donald J Trump assuming a transactional based relationship with the world and not a democratic based relationship with the world.

 

Sigh.

 

There is a price to pay for such positions.

 

Here is what I believe.normalizing america bad behavior values phoenix

 

Trump’s attempt to reverse the shift toward the future is not sustainable. Going backwards never is. And while his quasi-insane onslaught against any rule & regulation under his belief that rules & regulations were the only thing that kept him from being the wealthiest man in the world he is actually going to be a horrible temporary “aberration” in the world’s long march toward the future.

 

I also believe this aberration will come at a terrible cost to America. We may become first but first to the bottom looking up at those who chose to lead the way forward not lead the way backwards.

 

Trump is a profoundly mediocre man with a profoundly dangerous idea of how to make America First.

 

I personally don’t believe Trump has ever known what America First meant … it was simply a slogan to him. It would behoove him to think about this: If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great <Alexis de Tocqueville>. An Economics First strategy sacrifices “the good” which inevitably means America will cease to be great.

For that, I will never forgive Trump. Ever.

 

the non decline of American military

May 29th, 2017

military cemetery

=====================

 

“Those who worry about an American military supposedly in decline should relax.”

 

—–

Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus

 

===============

 

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley:

 

“the US Army … more capable, better trained … and more lethal than any other ground force in the world.”

 

=============

 

 

“Neither our strategy nor our psychology as a nation and certainly not our economy must become dependent upon the military establishment.”

 

——-

John F. Kennedy

 

========

 

Ok.

 

heroes memorial-dayOn Memorial Day, a day on which we honor the ones who gave ‘their full measure of devotion’, I pulled out a piece that has been sitting in my draft folder for quite some time.

 

It is a thought piece on the rhetoric and thinking on the overall decline of the American military as well as some of the simplistic thoughts being shared on the spending and size of the American military.

 

I will not provide gobs of resources to support my thoughts but rather I will direct you to two foundational resources if you want some more thinking fodder.

The first is www.warontherocks.com . If you ever want to get a better grasp on military thinking & strategy, I find no one better than the people at WarontheRocks at offering a wide range of thinking, and thinkers, to help you move beyond the simplistic politician rhetoric.

The second is a fabulous piece written for Foreign Affairs magazine by Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus called America’s Awesome Military.

 

Anyway.

 

I can honestly say I have always had a point of view with regard to how much the USA spends on its military and I absolutely believe in spending on the military and defense.

100%.

 

But I sometimes believe we need to get a grip.

 

Now.

 

Politicians, Trump in particular, seems to have a nasty habit of tying spending to old school military things and thinking – lots of big ships, lots of people in uniform and lots of big weapons <and cool ones>.

always more and more life desire

Basically it is just a ‘more & big’ spending strategy.

 

But if you listen or speak to military people there are some real nuanced discussions going on – what do I actually need money to spend on and what strategies of combat do I need to invest money to support?

 

There are some real debates within the military with regard to spending to support the present and spending to support the future. I wish politicians would just step aside and let the military go directly to the people and say “this is what matters and this is how much it would cost” <with none of that wacky politician budget maneuvering and fake low ball estimating where we end up accommodating overages>.

 

I wish that because a couple of military commanders, Petraeus in particular along with Michael O’Hanlon, have put a nice stake in the ground with regard to some spending truths.

 

————————–

Despite five years of official complaints about “sequestration” budgets, U.S. military spending remains historically high. In 2016, U.S. military spending will be $607 billion, including $59 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, the fund that ostensibly finances wars but also funds non-war (or base) accounts. Barring a new budget deal, the fiscal year 2017 budget, now stuck in Congress, will be virtually the same size.

 

In real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, Americans spend more on the military today than at any point in the Cold War, except the brief peaks during the Korean War and the 1980s. Current military spending is 36 percent higher in real terms than in 2000, with two-thirds of the growth in base spending. The United States spends more than double what Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea collectively spend on their militaries.

————————–

 

Their real point is that the military doesn’t necessarily need a bigger budget but rather they need money to update & upgrade.

And here is where I believe politicians are showing a true lack of imagination.

 

Year after year we haggle over annual budgets and all we end up doing is funding a great military operation in need of investment spending.

That’s stupid.

 

what-i-think-i-can-do-mind-over-matterWhat would I do?

 

Just as I would have done with the Iraq War <but Bush decided to not do> I would go to the American people with a specific number needed and a specific one-time tax to get the money. I would treat the upgrade need as a specific project with specific objectives for which the military will offer specific updates to the American people showing what their money is being spent on and what is happening.

 

Why do I believe that will work?

 

  1. The current budget is big enough. I may be interested in tightening the screws a little on current Pentagon budget management but, in general, they have enough money. Tell the people that because it sounds reasonable.

 

 

  1. People are fine with paying one-time costs … especially for something as important as the military. In addition it sets the military up for future “ask American people for specific project funding” asks. And you know what? if people cannot be convinced to invest in it maybe, just maybe, the military should go back to the drawing board. but I have to tell you … in my experience … the senior military personnel are better than 99% of business people at outlining needs & wants and rationale.

 

 

  1. To a certain extent the military should involve the everyday people more often. We often talk about the wealth inequality gap in America, well, there is an increasing gap between military and everyday people. Military people, and families, and associated services are becoming increasingly cocooned. This does not benefit the military nor does it benefit the everyday citizen. Both groups are made up of some incredibly patriotic people who have the best intentions for America … it would behoove America if they interacted more often.

 

 

  1. Lastly, military strategies are changing. And while my idea is about budgeting and asking for money it bleeds into the military sharing with people how conflicts will be conducted. This benefits both the military and the everyday schmuck like me. it sets better expectations and stops people from defining military by movies and past military historical events.

 

 

Now.

 

I brought up that last point because WarontheRocks had a fabulous piece on “the three things the current Army Chief of Staff wants you to know about the Army and the changing face of conflicts/war.”

 

The biggest thing that jumped out to me was actually a business idea <described in military terms>. I call it “controlled autonomy” <driving disciplined decision making in a business as close to the actual business itself> but the Army Chief of Staff called it “disciplined disobedience.”

 

Wow.

What a great fucking phrase.

Awesome.

 

But it also has budgetary repercussions <you need to train and recruit different types of soldiers>.

And the everyday schmuck like me needs to hear about this so I can better understand why the military needs a specific budget.

doing the right thing bravery

Milley offers several fabulous thoughts which impact funding.

 

Mobility versus static <not just troop movement but supplies, command posts & resources – “stand still and die” is the overriding thought>.

At the point of conflict ‘disciplined disobedience’ skill set.

Ability to adapt shifting necessary resources <air, ground, support & naval> in real time.

 

All of which suggest that monies need to be shifted to accommodate strategies.

 

All of which also suggest that U.S. military spending is partially high because U.S. security ambitions are broad AND the strategies are evolving but not evolved <this suggest inefficiencies>.

 

What do I mean? For example … quick strike & response is dictated by proximity and if you see threats everywhere then … well … you need to be everywhere with enough force to be meaningful.

 

———————

A strategy of restraint would serve the United States better. By narrowing the scope of what U.S. security requires, restraint would establish a true “defense” budget. Though cost savings are secondary to strategic benefits, a military budget premised on restraint would save substantially more than hunting “waste, fraud, and abuse,” a common method of finding military savings. Waste hunters implicitly endorse primacy by objecting only to what offends their sense of sound management: overruns in acquisition programs, failed projects in war zones, or research projects with foolish titles. The Pentagon’s efficient pursuit of unwise goals is a far richer target for cuts.

<source: WarontheRocks>

—————–

 

Once again … we have the resources, we have the trained soldiers … the military doesn’t need complete overhaul but rather some fine tuning <source: America’s Awesome Military>:

 

  • The condition of most weaponry compares well with that of the Reagan era. For example, most Army vehicles have “mission capable rates” exceeding 90%. To be sure, there are concerns, for example in certain helicopter fleets. Problems that exist are specific, not systemic.

 

 

  • Training is still recovering from the stresses and strains of recent years. The ground forces in particular, after so many years conducting counterinsurgency, are gradually restoring their abilities for large-scale maneuver warfare of the type vital to deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, among others. About two more years will be needed to complete the task. But the recovery path is now well charted and well funded.

 

 

  • The men and women of the U.S. military, though tired and strained, have never been finer. That is not a simple statement of patriotism. The data back it up. For example, today’s typical serviceman or servicewomen has even more experience in uniform than those of Reagan’s day. Military pay is solid, compared with jobs in the civilian economy. For example, the latest quadrennial review of military compensation calculated that the typical soldier, sailor, airman, airwoman or Marine earns more than about 85% of his or her civilian cohorts with comparable age, education and experience in overall compensation.

 

 

  • The defense budget, though itself not proof of quality, is high by historical standards. Counting combat operations as well as nuclear weapons accounts at the Energy Department (but not counting the Department of Veterans Affairs budget, which is separate), national defense now costs America slightly more than $600 billion a year. That compares with a Cold War average of about $525 billion, in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars. It is at least three times China’s budget and six to eight times Russia’s. And those much-pilloried U.S. allies collectively budget about an additional $600 billion between them, meaning that the Western alliance system accounts for at least two-thirds of global military spending.

 

obama military stand up for the uniform politicsLet me summarize all the detail I shared <because I dint think everyone would go to the highlighted article.

 

Setting aside all the rhetoric … the US armed forces display high standards of professionalism, expertise, and experience. As Michael O’Hanlon and David Petraeus said in America’s Awesome Military:

 

———————

The United States has the best military in the world today, by far. U.S. forces have few, if any, weaknesses, and in many areas—from naval warfare to precision-strike capabilities, to airpower, to intelligence and reconnaissance, to special operations—they play in a totally different league from the militaries of other countries. Nor is this situation likely to change anytime soon, as U.S. defense spending is almost three times as large as that of the United States’ closest competitor, China, and accounts for about one-third of all global military expenditures—with another third coming from U.S. allies and partners.

 

Nevertheless, 15 years of war and five years of budget cuts and Washington dysfunction have taken their toll. The military is certainly neither broken nor unready for combat, but its size and resource levels are less than is advisable given the range of contemporary threats and the missions for which it has to prepare. No radical changes or major buildups are needed.

=============

 

“We have what we need, but we need every dollar, every training event, every person.”

 

———

Col. Robert Whittle, 1st Cavalry Division

 

================

 

Now.

 

Politicians posture. That is what they do <no matter how misguided it is>.military respect salute

 

But we need to stop talking about military not only in last generation terms but also in a discrete way … what I mean by that is the United States has many resources to draw on beyond its military forces. The country’s high-tech and innovative sectors are the best in the world. It has solid economic fundamentals, including a gradually growing population base, the world’s best univer­sities, and a large market at the center of global finance and commerce.

 

===============

 

“We know already that computers are mightier than guns. We know that the new opportunities reside in the campuses of the scientists, rather than in the camps of the army.”

—-

Shimon Peres: May 1994, at the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Accord

=============

 

And, assuming the current administration does not dismantle it, the United States leads a globe-spanning system of alliances and partnerships that includes some 60 countries, collectively accounting for two-thirds of global economic output and military capacity.

 

Look.

 

Feel free and visit some of the resources I have provided. You will clearly find some incredibly smart military minds discussing what strategy & tactics look like in the future. Most discussion revolves around mobility, instant adaptability, ability to integrate with nation coalition forces, divesting force structure <remove some land bases and use increase navy as ‘moving platforms’ to deliver & deploy … which allows substantial savings in personnel, operations and maintenance, intelligence, and real estate costs> and the combination of combat & stability operations <post combat>.

 

They clearly recognize that the world looks different as does military response needs.

 

And all of that impacts budget needs beyond the simplistic “more ships, more planes and bigger stuff” arguments.

 

Lastly.

NATO.

 

Geez.

At some point I would either like Donald J Trump to have a NATO 101 lesson or simply let DOD secretary Mattis handle it.

 

Bottom line is that there is a relationship between what other members invest in their defense and what USA invests. But it isn’t ‘their money versus our money.’

 

Their investments eliminate the need for USA resources … that is the soldier dad youre-home-safe_largerelationship. They spend more and we can spend less <make some cutbacks>.

 

And you know what? Obama was able to squeeze out a promise to increase their own expenditures 4 years ago and … well … as Mattis just said: “And the bottom line is that nations are spending more on defense now than they were five years ago or ten years ago”.

 

The whole NATO discussion out of Trump’s mouth wanders between crazy ignorant and crazy grandstanding.

And the worst part is that uncertainty with NATO impacts budgetary needs.

 

Anyway.

 

On this memorial Day I want to suggest we need to provide the proper resources to our military … but that doesn’t necessarily mean just throwing money at them. In today’s world I want money to chase smart thinking. And, as I have already said, peruse the military minds around the country and we have the smart thinking … we just need politicians to get out of the way.

 

Enlightened Conflict