Enlightened Conflict

deciding what it means to be a successful human being

May 26th, 2015

keys to success

“To paraphrase someone smarter than me, who still knows nothing, the philosophical task of our age is for each of us to decide what it means to be a successful human being.

I don’t know the answer to that, but I would like to find out.


Ottmer <the futurist>


trying human being





Being a successful human being.



I don’t know the answer to that and I would like to find out.



What do I like about this?



It isn’t necessarily a positive statement … just a hopeful one.


With a dash of ‘realistic’.





Absolutely aspirational.



It is about seeking without being overtly motivational.  It is almost acerbic … but truthful and openly honest in its regard to ‘self.’



This also brings to mind something called ‘mental contrasting. ‘



Mental contrasting is contrary to positive thinking.



In fact … the research suggests convincing yourself <… all that positive psychological mumbo jumbo> is suggesting to yourself that life is meant to be easy … uh oh … which just makes it appreciably harder.



As I have pointed out in past articles … the best way to make personal progress is to balance optimism with some pessimism. Please note … that is different than ‘realism’ in that in the balancing you take some fairly risky steps based on optimism and the pessimism keeps you focused on some practicality. Realism is just some mumbo jumbo for deciding to reside in the wretched hollow of what is in between optimism and pessimism <doing nothing and taking no chances>.




In discussing ‘being a successful human being’ this actually means the whole idea that picturing the future you desire makes it more likely you’ll attain it … is wrong.



Again and again research has shown that making a fantasy of something you want can make it harder to achieve in reality.

stupid son of a bitch



Imagine yourself having a productive week … and you’ll accomplish less.



Imagine receiving a windfall of cash … and you’ll be less motivated to engage in the kinds of activities that might bring you money.






There’s nothing wrong with a bit of positive daydreaming if it makes you feel good as long as you don’t expect anything more than feeling good.



But the search for the answer of what it takes to be a successful human being is way more complicated than some trite soundbite.



It’s not passion.


It’s not happiness.



It’s not really any one word known in the human language.



It’s a feeling.


And maybe that’s where I struggle with all the trite ‘self-help’ and motivational and Life coaching stuff.



Because here is all I really know about becoming a successful human being.



Sometimes you come to a place where there are no right decisions and all paths lead to bad ends.


It sucks.


But … there you are.


wood path stone steps

And you still must choose your way.






You may not think you know how to make that choice but you do. Often you think you don’t know how because you look at it all in the wrong way.



The question is rarely “what should I do? … but rather ‘who do you want to be.’



And , in fact, you do know how to choose because when you think about it a little … really hard <maybe in the harsh light> you recognize you cannot control everything that will result from your actions … you can only control the actions themselves.


Therefore you shove all the other crap off to the side and ask maybe the only question you need to ask at this ‘make a choice’ point:



If you died down one chosen path … how would you want to be remembered?






It is here I offer an odd thought.






Maybe something not really mainstream type thinking.



Realistically many times part of choosing a path is ultimately having to walk down a path you have never walked before.



And hoping the shit you will face … you will face well.



But you cannot be sure because … well … you have never faced it before.



Therefore I bring up a version of dreaming.



Back to that thing called mental contrasting.



Mental contrasting actually seems to retain the most useful part of positive fantasizing. Mental contrasting helps you envision and clarify what you want by mentally reminding you how good it can feel to attain something.



But it also builds upon the motivating power of knowing what you have not yet attained … that you have some serious ground to cover.



Does this prepare you for the ‘who you want to be’ hard choices? Shit. Nothing truly prepares you for that but at least you have thought about it and hopefully that eliminates some of the more unpleasant surprises.



Mental contrasting also is a very individualistic dreaming type exercise. Putting you <mentally> in positions and clarifying what you need to do.



I say that because being a successful human being is an “I” thing … not an external thing.


“I don’t need anyone to hold me, I can hold my own.”


Ani DiFranco




In the end.



Having a discussion on what it means to be a successful person pretty much means we try and find words for something indescribable.








And there is a Russian word for that:



It means … well … nothing, not a thing, (not) anything <pronounced: [neesh-TOH]


There are no words to describe a successful human being.



Yeah, yeah, yeah … we toss around a lot of words but they all seem ‘less than’ they should. Why? Well. Because the concept of deciding what it means to be a successful human being is an indescribable thing.



We try and put words to it so that people have something to aim for.


Some words that at the end of the day they can hold up and point to.










Yeah … I say ‘nuts’ to that.



Let’s stop trying to describe what is indescribable.


stars and shrinking human

Being a successful human being is defined by you, with no words, because it is made up of choices & character.

And while we would LOVE to label it with a nice simple word … these are the type of things that are bigger than any word you can find in a dictionary.



And, in the end, you just gotta make the choice … and choices … in your search for that undefinable thing called ‘success as a human being.’



Do I know the answer to what it takes to be a successful human being?

Shit no.


But I surely would like to find out.

first, last, all impressions

February 18th, 2015


impression last

“Almost everyone will make a good first impression, but only a few will make a good lasting impression.”


Sonya Parker







First impressions don’t matter.



Maybe that was a little harsh.


last impression dessert

Let me suggest that final impressions are arguably more important than first impressions.


No. let me try that again.



Let me say I believe that final impressions are more important than first impressions.


I am fairly sure that I have always thought this and have continuously balked at the ‘make a good first impression’ emphasis throughout my career <and Life>.


But I would say this thought has become more tangible as I have gained more & more experience.






I will also say that all impressions matter.


First, middle & last.



However … most typically we judge our experiences based on what we experience last and not what happened at the beginning.


We most often judge based on the last impression imprinted upon our perceptions & beliefs.




The last impression puts a period <question mark, exclamation point, comma, etc.> on the totality.




The last impression can be the pin that pops the balloon of value you created throughout the experience.




The last impression can provide the ellipsis … <pun intended> … the suspension point offering hope for more.



And while I am focused on last impressions I don’t want to totally diminish a first impression nor ignore the fact that it is really, and truly, more about a compilation/summary of impressions.





First impressions do matter us a lot in our lives <to us and for us>.





We all know this <but I will remind you anyway> … we are evaluating things all the time.






Think about it.



If you start off on the wrong foot … is there really no chance of recovery?


<of course there is>




If you start poorly … are you doomed to fail?


<of course not>




First impressions maybe get you in the game <I say maybe> … but last impressions are … well … the last.




In addition.


Let’s be clear <continuing to make my point>.


Regardless of ‘good first impression’ or ‘bad first impression’ … there is always the last impression.




last impression sailboat


There are first impressions, middle impressions and last impressions.



There is even some guy who argues that when creating a message, in totality, you can leave the best impression if you have a slow start and conclude great <he calls it his ‘sailboat chart’>.


<while I agree conceptually I would argue this is not a particularly healthy strategy>




I have written about the importance of last impressions using marketing as an example as well Life.




past posts on the importance of last impressions:





impression deep




But lets talk a little bit about how to make impressions.



Like it or not … pretty much all the time we are being evaluated through this wacky thing called heuristics.


Lets call them ‘personal value cues.’



And we give these cues all the time … and they scream at the top of their lungs even if you aren’t looking at them.



Even worse?



You can even be silent and be giving a ‘value in self’ <character> cue.



For example.



Bach was a master of ‘negative space’ … building masterful musical combinations … he also used silences that are as eloquent and thought provoking as notes, tempo and syncopation.


<I used Bach because creating impressions is like composing a symphony>




If you think really hard about that … well … it sucks.




This means pretty much everything you do, you don’t do, you say, you don’t say … matters.



This means pretty much everything you do, you don’t do, you say, you don’t say … creates some impression.




This means pretty much everything you do, you don’t do, you say, you don’t say … creates ‘perceived value of you’ in others eyes.


<i am fairly sure that offers up every action, and non action, to say that pretty much just showing up, whatever you do, matters>





In fact … it reminds me of something I read:





“The world is not as simple as we like to make it out to be.

The outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.

Nothing is really truly black or white and bad can be a disguise for good or beauty … and vice versa without one necessarily excluding the other.

impress live life

Someone can both love and betray the object of its love … without diminishing the reality of the true feelings and value.

Life and business <whether we like to admit it or not> is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting where all frontiers are artificial <therefore unique is basically artificial in its inevitable obseletion> where at any moment everything can either end only to begin again … or finish suddenly forever … like an unexpected blow from an axe.

Where the only absolute, coherent, indisputable and definitive reality … is death.

We have such little time when you look at Life … a tiny lightning flash between two eternal nights.

Everything has to do with everything else.

Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.”


Arturo Perez Revarte




That all maybe too poetic in discussing something like creating impressions and creating value but simply put … “everything has to do with everything else.”



Suffice it to say … the first impression impacts the last impression … or at least how the last is viewed. And this means people view in totality <not just first impression> and the last has higher value than the first.




In addition … the outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.


impress other screwed up people

That is why I shiver when I hear ‘its all about making a great first impression.



The outlines of how to create an impressions are often vague … but … suffice it to say the details count.






Everything counts.



Sure … a carefully crafted first impression that makes you stand out or make you distinct is clearly a good thing and … well … insure you get listened to.



But, remember, this whole ‘impression discussion’ is really about that wacky thing called ‘value.’



I hesitate to call anything to do with self and how people look at you as ‘value’ but if you strip away all the politically correct ‘feel good’ bullshit … people assess you for what value you will provide them <friendship, commonalities, smarts, experience, etc.>.



And if you are not careful … how you present yourself can send a different value, or price, cue than who you really are.



That is misaligned messaging <including non verbal cues into the messaging header>.



And misaligned is bad <that is a Bruce-ism>.



Particularly if the kind of impression you want to create is important to you.





Here is the thing about impressions … damned if you do … damned if you don’t.



What I mean is that you gotta ‘play’ if you want to make an impression because even if you don’t … you make an impression.



You gotta let the chips fall as they may … “my last impression may suck … it may just not be as good as my first impression but ‘give me the ball coach and let me play’” has to be your attitude.






One last thought on last impressions.




In today’s world … I included <because I am writing this damn post> … we are often quick to judge off of outcome.



Our last impression is often the tangible. The output and the outcome.



Should it be? Sure.


<I guess>




But it is quite possible that the last impression judged should be ‘the measure of the person.’



And it is with that thought where the whole concept of ‘the first impression is most important’ falls apart … while our first impressions are frequently based upon instincts, impulse, intuitions and emotions; they are also built on our doubtful beliefs, not all are rational thought or fact-based evidence.



First impressions inherently suck at assessing & providing the ‘full measure’ of a person.


It is the last impression permits you to assess the ‘full measure of the person.’



The full measure assesses those who chose to play the full game.
Win, lose or draw.



Whether the game was thrust upon them or they thrust themselves upon the game … the ones who step up every day and every moment.



“They call me observant.

That’s not particularly true.

People are so easy to read – we bleed emotions even in the way we drink our coffee.

No one seems to notice though.

They’re all too busy drinking their own damn coffee. “impression responsible





Giving the ‘full measure’ of someone demands that we not only bleed emotions as we bleed impressions but that we force people to stop drinking their own coffee to watch us bleed.



Inevitably that means the last impression is an impression of someone’s character.




That’s why last impressions count the most.




Because it ain’t the first impression that matters … it is the last.

not all dreaming is created equal

February 10th, 2015

 reality and dreams


“All men dream: but not equally.


Those who dream in the dark recesses of the night awake in the day to find all was vanity.



But the dreamers of day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, and make it possible.”




T.E. Lawrence






“The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”




Eden Phillpotts





“On stormy nights they both dreamt intensively, violently – they often drowned.”


Ellen Van Neerven







dreamers who do

This is about dreaming & doing.



Let me be clear.



Discussing dreaming is fun, challenging & tricky. It can very easily fall into a ‘wasted unpragmatic use of energy & brain’ discussion. But I like dreams as in ‘aspirational thinking.’


I associate this kind of dreaming with hope.






On the other end sometimes dreaming can be associated with ‘big thinker.’





I dislike it when I hear ‘visionary thinker’ or ‘good at the big picture’ because most often, attached to it, is an implied ‘not a doer.’


As if ‘doing’ is bad.





I love it when people realize that dreaming without doing is not worth a shit.


dreams few successes


I love it when people realize that doing without fulfilling a dream makes you feel like shit.



I love it when people realize that the combination of being as ‘aspirational thinker’ <dreamer> and effective doer is the most powerful combination in the world.




I love it when people realize that having an undefined future is okay <but that doesn’t mean you are not doing something worthwhile or dreaming is bad>.







“I daydream because my future is still undefined.”









I love the thought that the universe truly is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.


magic takes boldness

I love the thought that dreaming is a way for our wits to grow sharper.




I love the thought that dreamers of day are dangerous men … for they may act their dreams with open eyes, and make it possible.





Suffice it to say … I just love dreaming.



For I believe dreaming can change the world … and the future.



To be clear.


Not all dreaming is equal.



But all dreaming has value.



Dreaming can destroy reality.






At least change a reality that may need changing.





“Reality can destroy the dream; why shouldn’t the dream destroy reality?”


George Moore


“A dream will always triumph over reality, once it is given the chance.”


Stanislaw Lem



Many people may not like to hear this … but … it really is the dreamers that change the world. This may be a ‘chicken or egg’ type discussion but in my mind … dreamers envision the impossible and everyone else follows behind making it possible.

dreams walking

But someone has to envision.



That is the dreamers.




Bottom line?





Just go ahead and dream.

nostalgia … plus ca change, plus ca meme chose

May 20th, 2014



‘plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’

<the more things change, the more they stay the same>



Nostalgia is a
dirty liar
that insists things
were better
than they seemed.
Michelle K  I Can’t Stop Questioning It.



“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.”

—Chuck Palahniuk,


Nostalgia is a drug.

Plain and simple.


Nostalgia is an addiction that truly sinks in when you become old enough to actually have memorable memories.





life which wayI imagine that means … ‘old’ … okay … older or old enough to have gathered up some things in that past to compare to what is happening … and theoretically place against what you imagine the future will look like.



Ok. That said.


Nostalgia is the bane of every older generation’s existence.


And when I say ‘older’ I will unequivocally state it begins in the 50something age bracket.

All of a sudden we begin looking toward our future <the young> with mistrust … for … well … let’s say two reasons:


<1>: because we struggle to give up our past and how things were done <as we did them>. In other words … we mistrust them to do it as well as we ‘perceived’ we did it … or would do it. By the way … we mistrust even if we actually sucked at doing in the past.


<2>: power … the loss of power. every generation hesitates to let go of power and empower the next generation. but this generation is exponentially more difficult because of the rise of technology. technology means older folk are losing power not transferring power to the next generation.

letting go claw marks



Bottom line … we mistrust our future and hold on to the past.





Not all things.


Just the changes that we can’t wrap our heads around <like technology>.


And before all the old folk want to begin bitching to this old folk <me> I am not discussing unfounded 50something negative stereotypes about younger people <the 80 million millennial Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000>.  My observation is backed up by gobs of sociological research … our negativity is grounded is some things we do not like.


One of the researchers at The National Institute of Health suggests that rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, millennials are just adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change. And while adapting <very well I would like to point out> they are also optimistic … and confident … and pragmatic … at a time when it can be difficult just to get by. Those aren’t bad qualities to have <even if it feels like they spend too much time on their phones>.



I say that because this is an example where the old folk just cannot wrap their nostalgic heads around the changes in the world <and how things are adapting>.

We far too often <in our nostalgic pea like brains> intertwine attitudes and behavior creating some fairly negative overall perceptions. We are nostalgically selective <picking and choosing what we would like to remember>  with regard to what we perceived as our attitudes in our youth <somewhat warped by time> as well as our behavior <once again warped by time> and we say things like this:life explained diagram



–          This generation lacks respect … respect for others … respect for their jobs … respect for themselves … they think that everyone owes them something … their boss,friends family,co workers and it all boils down to a lack of respect. And the phone …. just because we have access to it doesn’t mean we should be on it all the freaking time … kids come in all the time and i want to rip their headphones right out of their ears … seems to me that this generation doesn’t want to be part of this world at all they want to be part of a virtual world. A world where they can rant and complain about the world but not have to change it .. .i feel sorry for the youth and young adults … most of them are rude and inconsiderate. get off your fricken phone…..get off the fricken internet ….and live a real life and not a virtual one… believe me it’s a lot more complicated out here than it is in your virtual world …”




laugh at deathWhen I read the above.

First … I laughed and shook my head.



It made me think of this quote:


Every human generation has its own illusions with regard to civilization; some believe they are taking part in its upsurge, others that they are witnesses of its extinction. In fact, it always both flames and smolders and is extinguished, according to the place and the angle of view.”

Ivo Andrić


Simplistically … we often just get nostalgic for how we perceived we were when we were young <a portion of that is a wish that they respected older ‘power’ like we supposedly did>.


In other words … we want them to be like us … despite a world unlike what it was for us.

<and that is frickin’ crazy>




To be <very> clear.


There is a significant difference between nostalgia and learning from the past. And this is a very important distinction with this particular current generation gap.


Significantly … this is the first generation to be born with easy access to the internet which opens “us” up to new ideas and different perspectives. It also gives us a greater ability to look at the mistakes of the older generations in better hindsight. The combination of technology & perspective is creating a faster shift of power than in past generations. And a wider gap between nostalgic memory and present reality.


Yes … there may be some in the younger generation who are lazy or expect the world to hand them everything.


There are also many more who have the knowledge to think more critically than those in the past, more self-confidence to succeed and the desire to prove our many stereotypes wrong.

And they all pretty much know significantly more about living Life in a technology driven world than the older generation <lazy or industrious that they may be>.




What will become of this younger generation will not be written for many years but it is difficult to not feel optimistic when you stop being nostalgic and actually see what the young have to offer. As well as stop being nostalgic simply in the attempt to maintain control over them <as they increasingly gain power>.



The young always are frustrated with older generations. That is their place in generational Life.


But nostalgia gives them a real bitch against us older folk.

Because nostalgia can often be an easy attitude which actually puts a comfortable attractive comforter  over ignorance and blind arrogance.


The underlying conceit is that only our specific generation is ‘right’ when it comes to everything from popular culture preferences to fashion and style to how to conduct business … shit … nostalgia tucked awayabout how anything is done <attitudinally mostly but some behavior things also>.

The truth is that as we aged, we shifted our own biases upwards with us, so that we always reside in the ‘sweet spot of attitudes & behaviors <in which people act reasonably> whereas those younger and older than us are always flawed in a variety of ways.

And because we are ‘the sweet spot’ we feel compelled to point out the flaws at every opportunity.



But here is the funny thing … oh … I was going to write something sarcastically funny here but gawker.com already did it for me:



Though we don’t like to give away trade secrets, in this case, will reveal the following fact: this is a “joke.” The subtext of this running joke—a joke that we intend to run for so long that it becomes indistinguishable from a true prejudicial belief, and comes to define us (negatively) in the minds of the casual readers—is, of course, that every generation is basically exactly the same, and there is very little new under the sun, and, my god, even Socrates was complaining about the lazy ways of the youth back in his time, what the fuck would make you think that your generation, whatever it is, is in any way inherently special compared to the thousands of human generations that came before you? The entire farcical idea that humanity reaches its peak with your generation and then proceeds to go into decline with the next generation is made all the more hilarious by the fact that every generation before you believed the same thing, as will every generation after you. Humans: even our sense of uniqueness is not unique!


<I loved this>




nostalgia definedThere are a number of research studies that basically say the foundation of our behaviors are fairly consistent from generation to generation as we age <although some of our attitude characteristics will vary – as per Strauss & Howe 4th Turning generations>.



And luckily Ad Age magazine did a study which points out that the entire image of the Millennial generation as a bunch of lazy, shiftless Skrillex-listeners is largely just a media creation, because—wait for it—Millennials are pretty much just like you:



But like generations before them, millennial parents tend to be more traditional and shop more frugally than their non-parent counterparts. According to the study, before millennials have children they over-index on brands like Abercrombie, H&M, Apple, Macy’s and Sephora. After they become parents, those brands not only drop, some of them disappear from their consideration set. Instead, millennials shift to over-indexing against the entire U.S. population on brands like Dollar General, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Value City. About 44% of millennial parents are “very financially stressed.”





–          Your mom was young and free and then had you and then she shopped at the cheap store.

–          You were young and free and then you had kids and then you shopped at the cheap store.

–          And Millennials were young and free and then they had kids and then they shopped at the cheap store.



Bottom line.

No matter who you are, or how old you are, or what generation you’re from, we’re all just struggling to get by and will end up shopping at a cheap store <whew … that is an uplifting thought, huh?>


All that said.serious nonsense change anything


As the French say: ‘plus ca change, plus ca meme chose’ (the more things change, the more they stay the same.)


We should accept that the young have good ideas.

We should help them make the changes that need to be made.

We should stop complaining about their confidence, optimism, independence and ability to navigate technology.


We should stop constantly being nostalgic because … well… it’s getting old <and sounds old>.



Nostalgia is our fallback place to go when we distrust the future.

We hold on to what was … because we have no clue ‘what will be.’


I am not suggesting we shouldn’t learn, or take some learnings, from the past.


Once again.


There is a significant difference between nostalgia and learning from the past.


–      Nostalgia simply encourage us to regurgitate past mistakes.


–      Learning from the past means shedding aspects and adapting other aspects to the present.



I don’t know what the millenials will do or what the generation after them will do.holding universe together matters

I admit that I find many of them engaging and they often do not carry the bigotry, attitudes and prejudices of us older folk.


I am not nostalgic.

In fact I hope there is a better future to be found by discarding much of the past.


I’m older.

But I have faith that the young people of today can learn from past mistakes and will grow up and get it <whatever their version of getting it is> and continue building a fantastically imperfect perfect  future.


I’m older.

And I recognize that far too often nostalgia is a liar.


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.

telling someone the truth (and aún aprendo)

February 22nd, 2014



“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of tell the truth society ofsilence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” 



Czesław Miłosz







This is partially about me and partially about how I feel about telling someone the truth. And, maybe, just simply about communicating truth.




And the fact that truth can often not only sound like a pistol shot … but feel like you have been shot.


And because it is partially about me, and truth, I will begin with the infamous Michelangelo quote … said at age 87 I may add:



    aún aprendo

<I am still learning>





Please note Michelangelo said this in Latin and the one above is in Spanish.



I am humbly in good company.doing the right thing bravery


Because I am forever ‘still learning.’


At the same time I am still telling someones <anyone I can> the truth.


Personally I believe they are related.

Telling the truth and constantly learning. And I imagine I tell everyone that because therein lies some of the issue in telling the truth.





Why write about this now?



I have received enough emails about some things I have written lately that I wanted to explain why I think what I think … what I think about what I write … and how I think about truth and sharing truth <versus opinions>.




I have never been one for blowing smoke up someone’s ass <as well as I have always wondered what that phrase meant>. And this attitude extends not only to things that I say … but when I see & hear other’s blowing smoke up someone’s ass <particularly if they are doing it simply to make a buck>.




This attitude of mine has most likely not helped me in the business world. But in personal Life it has most likely established me as a ‘stand up guy.’ Kind of a nice alternative version of some degree of integrity.


I can live with that.




I started here with this sharing of thoughts because while I think most life coaches are simply snake oil salesmen, The Secret is a bunch of tripe, formulas for success are anything but successful and trying to figure out how to emulate greatness will lead you to somewhere other than something great … I believe people need to do whatever they need to do to get their head on straight to move forward in Life.


I write about stuff sometimes simply because I want to take as many blinders off as I can <I often do this under the nomenclature of ‘enlightening’>. I do this because I think if people could see Life a little more clearly see what we look for… without bullshit and smoke & mirrors … well … living Life is just not that complicated.




Life hurts some times.


Life feels great at others.



There are some valleys … and sometimes those valleys can get pretty deep & dark.


There are some peaks … and boy it is nice & bright & warm when you are there.


All that said.


When I see smoke … I try and blow it away.


Do I ever wonder if avoiding telling the truth to keep from hurting someone’s feelings is a better path?


Sure I do.



I believe any <and all> ‘truth teller’ has twinges of angst … all the time.


If they didn’t … they wouldn’t really be a truth teller … they would simply be opinionated fools <if not arrogant assholes>.


Comfort with honesty and speaking the truth for what it is … this version of candor … is a responsibility one assumes if you choose his path.


I would like to think it is an honorable path wherein we avoid the perils of false flattery or mistaken confidence in some special secret to Life <of which there is none>.




First … I have found that truth actually begins with being honest with yourself.


This may seem unusual given that I am speaking about telling the truth to others … but I tend to believe until you can be honest about your own weaknesses or share of the blame or biases… and even recognize your own ignorance <and can accept there is infinite to learn> you risk communicating a false truth which simply covers up your own lack of … well … something. Suffice it to say if you are not honest with yourself I sincerely doubt you can be accepted as honest to someone else.


And all that self reflection kind of suggests a self truth … being honest with ‘self’ is about knowing … and accepting … yourself … that includes the good and the bad.


And that also means accepting that ‘I am still learning’ is nonstop until your last day.


I tend to believe that this self reflection means that you are not only less likely to try to conform to other people’s expectations opinions but probably also lessens the need to lie at all.


The truest of true benefits of thinking <and acting> this way is consistency.


People already know what they can expect from you.tell truth frustrating




“As long as they’re telling the truth, and saying the things that you don’t ever want to have to say to another human being.”

Mark Ruffalo




Expectations becomes very very important because in the end a truth teller is weaving their way through … well … truth <note I did not say lies>.


In fact most truth tellers are doing their best to separate the truths into hard truths and soft truths … big truths and small truths … the truths that matter and the truths that don’t matter all that much.


And then deciding whether the more soft truths, the small truths, and the truths that don’t matter all that much … are not so important that they must be said.


And also deciding whether the hard truths, the big truths, and the truths that matter … are important enough that keeping them silent is actually a detriment to truth itself.


Anyway. That sounds painful when I reread it.


The real question becomes must painful truths always be told?




Surely not.tell the truth run



We always need to realize that you don’t always have to tell someone the truth if it will be painful. Sometimes, with an acquaintance or friend, when no harm will come to them, you can omit something or tell a smaller truth. I call this ‘no harm, no foul.’


On the other hand.


I have also learned to not beat around the bush and talk about a lot of other things first if you are actually going to tell the truth.


It only makes other people perceive that something’s wrong with what you are saying … and worse? That maybe you are not telling the truth.




Get to the point. The truth is the truth.


Find a positive if there is any … unwrap it from all the bullshit … and lay it bare.


Ah. That ‘point.’ Some people call a ‘bare truth’ the painful truth.





I don’t know.


I call it bare truth because it isn’t smothered in smoke.


While the bare truth may be stripped of any gray … it bears the burden of vivid colors and the sense of a sharpened knife swiftly moving toward you.


Paradoxically … this moment of truth often seems to slow time.


And, in that slow moment, the truth laid bare leaves the truth teller as unprotected as much as it may have opened up a wound in the receiver.


For telling someone the truth bears the burden of permitting the receiver<s> to respond … to ask questions.

This is the only way to even have a chance to come to terms with reality as a bare truth.


I know everyone says to be as specific as possible.



Here is the trouble with that.



Or ‘the gray.’ When discussing intangibles there is often no clear black & white.

So how do you specifically describe gray?


You cannot.


truth speakYou can only unequivocally state there is no hidden ulterior motive … that truth benefits them <even in just hearing it … even if they don’t accept or take action>.



Speaking of baring things.

Truth has a nasty habit of reflecting the fact most times, in speaking truth, you are rummaging around in someone’s life <personal or business … oh … which is personal too …> digging for the painful truth beneath some what is usually some fairly lovely <or attractive> lies.



I imagine that telling someone the truth is like most things … balance.

You have to recognize that the piece of truth you have pulled out while rummaging in someone’s life is a gift you uncovered … and it is not something that was owed you or given simply because you are someone who ‘tells the truth’.


As someone wrote … “on any given day I’d much rather be hit with ‘the hammer of truth’ than ‘the feather duster of truth’.”


Painful or not at the end of the day the truth is the truth … and most people much rather live a painful truth than a comfortable lie.tell the truth respect



Telling someone the truth has often got me in trouble.

Trouble in that the ‘pistol shot of truth’ doesn’t just lay bare truth … it ultimately is a bullet to kill what someone believes … or hope … or just has a strong feeling about.

Therein lies the pain.


Killing something is no less painful than being killed <in this case>.


Here is the thing about being a truth teller and willing to tell someone the truth.


If you have any soul or any desire to be good at it … you just … well … keep learning. Learning new things about the world … and maybe more importantly … about yourself.

“… if you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler. A long stretch of road can teach you more about yourself than 100 years of introspection.”


You travel places or travel through knowledge and absolutely travel through ideas and thinking.

You know what traveling where no one knows you also teaches you?


We are all learning.

We are all pretty much doing the best we can.

We are all work in progress.


It’s good to keep this in mind in telling the truth.listen hand

All you can really do is … well … two things actually … listen & learn:



“The best decisions come from listening to ourselves”.




Listen to yourself.




aún aprendo



I am still learning.


What more could anyone ask of a truth teller. Truth rarely resides in the absolutes. In resides in the learning.


Telling the truth.

Like a pistol shot.

Enlightened Conflict