Enlightened Conflict

sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream

April 15th, 2017

 American Workers sweat hard hats



‘In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream …’ It’s a ‘death trap,’ a ‘suicide rap.’

‘I want to guard your dreams and visions.’ ”


Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run




“This man said that you can move to Greece, live in Greece, but you can’t become a Greek. You can move to Japan, live there, but you can’t become Japanese; or France and become a Frenchman; or German—or become a—all of these things.

But he said, everybody or anybody from any corner of the world can come to America and become an American.”



Ronald Reagan






I have a piece coming up on globalization but today it is about the American work flintstoneswork ethos and American workers and, I imagine, a view on any version of isolationism <extreme to practical>.


I admit.

I find very little appealing in an isolationist concept <any aspect of it> … even the common rhetoric of the day.


Simplistically I feel like it suggests we, America, cannot compete globally. In my pea like brain I view it like sports … sports in which almost every home team retains an advantage … despite the same rules, same number of players, same dimensions of the court & field. Mainly it comes down to coaching, ability and , I imagine, pride of home field … uhm … but I still get on a bus and go play away games.


I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said ”American workers don’t need to hide from anyone.”


Which reminds me of how much during American presidential campaign, and even now somewhat, I found it extremely aggravating how we had a bunch of people talking about American workers and American businesses.

work sheep wolf

They all seemed to forget that our ethos is “just do it.”


When set free to do the voodoo it does … American business is dynamic, energetic, innovative, can-do and actually gets out there and makes & sells shit.


We shouldn’t be impatient because the success is coming fast enough and in our impatience “change the rules” or “hide within our borders” but instead we should use our impatience to invite competition, sweat it out and beat the crap out of them.


My impatience? I sometimes get a bit impatient when I hear people moaning about the state of the world and the inevitable “the sky is falling” or “the world is unfair” <pick your poison>.


Given an opportunity every generation believes it is tougher for them and will create their own prognostications of doom & gloom and, yet, we are still here and still have the world’s largest economy <and best on a variety of measures>.


I am not suggesting there aren’t real business issues and I am not suggesting from a regulatory standpoint there are some tweaks to the system which would enable businesses to improve themselves to compete better <please notice I didn’t say “to constrict the competition” but rather to have us improve to compete>.


Isolation goes against every bone in our “just do it” American body & soul.


Nike trademarked it but the pilgrims brought it to America. From day one immigrants, with the help of Native Americans, went to work building America … stone by stone … seed by seed … idea by idea … sweat drop by sweat drop.


labor american workerAmerica First should never be America Alone.


America has never been an individual competition it has always been about a team competition.


America First should be earned on the playing field competing against the best of the best and winning <by the way … that defines ‘exceptionalism’>.


America should be about building a better engine, building a better race car and running a better race.



”It’s time to gun the engines, not put on the brakes.”



Ronald Reagan



It is aggravating to hear “close the borders” combined with “the world is going to shit” … which all leads to ‘disengage from the world <competition>.’






What kind of shit response is that?

What kind of “winner” doesn’t want to compete and compete against the best?


It seems like we should be investing not in building advantages for ourselves but rather in building a better team. That is where money and energy should be spent.


Hire better coaches.

Offer better training programs.

Buy better equipment.

Study better strategies.

Create better plan of attacks.

no substitute for hard work sweat edison



I wasn’t a huge Ronald Reagan fan but he got it … he hated changing the rules of the business game <tariffs & regulations> and only did so situationally, tactically and for short term ‘balancing out’ … as he says …  given a respite from predatory import practices, can become competitive in a world market.


But … he understood the importance of the attitude of the American worker above all else … check out these words he said to Harley Davidson:


… you gave some folks in Washington an important lesson about how we go about buying and selling with other nations. You see, we’ve shaken hands on an agreement with most of the other nations of the world, an agreement that sets the rules for international trade. We have problems, of course, with some of those nations—the ones that don’t let us sell to their people as freely as they sell to ours. But the agreement, called the GATT agreement—that’s the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade — gives us ways of dealing with those problems, and it also gives us ways of giving industries the kind of breathing room we gave you.


And if they’re as serious as you were about shaping up—now we’re about to begin worldwide talks on how to make this agreement even stronger.


Because of the GATT agreement, when you were ready to sell more bikes around the world, no one stopped you.

But now there are some in Congress who say, in effect, that the United States should break its word with the other countries.

They say American workers need to run and hide from foreign competition, even if that means other countries will strike back by not letting you sell your bikes to their people. Well, Harley-Davidson has shown how wrong that is and what the truth is. American workers don’t need to hide from anyone. America does best when America sticks by its word. And American workers can take on the best in the world, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. No one is better than you are.


You may have heard that my temperature’s up about some trade legislation that’s before the Congress right now. On TV the other night, it was called one of the toughest trade bills of this century. I remember the last time we had a so-called tough trade bill. It was called Smoot-Hawley, and they said it would protect American jobs. Instead, after other nations were through retaliating, it helped us—or it helped give us, or at least deepened, the Great Depression of the 1930’s. I’m probably the only one here that’s old enough to remember that. I was looking for a job then. [Laughter] Twenty-five percent were unemployed, including me.


The Harley-Davidson example makes a very strong statement about how government, through the judicious application of our trade laws, can help the best and the brightest in American management and labor come together in ways that will create new jobs, new growth, and new prosperity. Government’s role, particularly on the trade front, should be one of creating the conditions where fair trade will flourish, and this is precisely what has been done here. Our trade laws should work to foster growth and trade, not shut it off. And that’s what’s at the heart of our fair trade policy: opening foreign markets, not closing ours. Where U.S. firms have suffered from temporary surges in foreign competition, we haven’t been shy about using our import laws to produce temporary relief. Now, there are those in Congress who say our trade policies haven’t worked, but you here at Harley-Davidson are living proof that our laws are working. The idea of going to mandatory retaliation and shutting down on Presidential discretion in enforcing our trade laws is moving toward a policy that invites, even encourages, trade wars. It’s time to work to expand the world market, not restrict it.


Today, as many as 10 million American jobs are tied to international trade, including many jobs right here at Harley. For more than a century, when America’s trade with the world has grown, America has created more jobs. When trade has declined, so have the number of jobs. So, when it comes to making new jobs, free and fair international trade is America’s big machine. It’s time to gun the engines, not put on the brakes. Your chairman, Vaughn Beals, summed it up when he said, and I will quote him: “We’re sending a very strong message to our competitors and to the international industrial community that U.S. workers, given a respite from predatory import practices, can become competitive in a world market.”


The best way to meet foreign competition is also the right way: by sticking to our agreements with other countries and not breaking our promises, by making sure other countries also stick to their agreements with us, and by being the best. As America prepares for the 21st century, you’ve shown us how to be the best. You’ve been leaders in new technology. You’ve stuck by the basic American values of hard work and fair play.




A danger we are currently meandering our way toward is one of attitude.


attitude foreign life adventureWe currently have a president who doesn’t foster attitude and belief in self but rather believes success is found solely in removing disadvantages, real or not, and removing “unfairness” <even if the other team were simply playing the game better or had better players>.


He is wrong in his approach.


Business is often more about attitude and fortitude then it is about whether “the pitch was mowed at 1 inch instead of an inch & a ½.”


It is a false narrative, and a dangerous narrative, to suggest success is based on ‘fairness’. Why? Because … well … more often than not we will always find that the world was unfair in some form or fashion … and you know what?

You still gotta compete, you still gotta play the game and you still gotta figure out a way to win.


America is at its best just doing it … sweating it out on the streets seeking the runaway American dream.


America is at its best when it ignores all the reason why we cannot do something and just go do it anyway.


America is at its best when we have a leader standing up in front of us not making excuses, not whining about unfairness and all the reasons why we haven’t been successful … but one who is instead saying “here is what we are gonna do and lets go do it.”


It was Theodore Roosevelt, in 1904, who said:

“We, the people, can preserve our liberty and our greatness in time of peace only by ourselves exercising the virtues of honesty, of self-restraint, and of fair dealing between man and man.”

But he also reminded everyone of the importance of work ethic.

“They stood for the life of effort, not the life of ease.”

Freedom, Roosevelt warned, had to be earned by the exercise of restraint, and its bounty could only be harvested by diligent labor.




I am not an isolationist mostly because of all I have written today. I am a compete flower bloombusiness guy and as a business guy I want to compete … and I believe I can compete well and win often enough if I put in the smart thinking and the diligent labor.


While I may proudly wrap myself in an American flag I also proudly wrap myself in an attitude … ”American workers don’t need to hide from anyone” … and I am an American worker.


We should never underestimate the American worker and American business ingenuity.

We shouldn’t hide from the world … we should be building the best team and sending them to the far corners of the world, wherever they may have an opportunity to compete, and win through hard work and fair play.


Isolation is the wrong path. It’s not American. We compete, work hard, play by the rules … and win more often than we lose.


American workers can take on the best in the world, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

friends and enemies and interests

August 29th, 2016

friends goofy unintended together



“We have no permanent friends.

We have no permanent enemies.

We just have permanent interests.”



Benjamin Disraeli






I admit.

murderers among enemy

I have always had a slightly contrarian view on relationships with competitors in the business environment.


I always met with them.


I always encouraged my people to meet, and interact, with them.


I always debated and discussed with them.


I have always had some friends at competitors … and certainly had some enemies at competitors.



And I have always been quite willing to put them out of business if, competitively, I felt like my business was better than theirs.



I just said that. In fact. I said two things.




Put them out of business. This doesn’t mean doing anything evil nor does it mean going behind anyone’s back in some slimy undercutting way. This is about confidently putting yourself alongside the enemy and beating the living daylights out of them. And doing so over and over again until you suffocate their business or they just quit.




Please note ‘my business was better than theirs.’




Yeah.company culture die trying


Sometimes you are actually not the best and sometimes you are actually not different in any real significant way.

Sometimes you are just a different alternative.

Sometimes you don’t compete exactly directly.

And sometimes your enemy actually is a better fit for someone then you are.




If you are better, then beat them.




Beyond beating the crap out of some competitor … 90% of the time I find the ‘enemy’ quite the delight to rub elbows with.

This doesn’t mean I was flippant with regard to confidential information it is just that I believe ‘unique’ or ‘proprietary’ are more often than not … well … not. I also believe that my ‘enemy’ was simply a business competitor who had the same interests that I did <selling more shit at the highest price possible>.


But I have never understood some absurd ‘never talk with the competitor.” And I think it is absurd for a variety of reasons but let’s go through why business relationships are always tricky But no reason to not interact openly with a competitor>.


Your best employee may become the best employee at your competitor at some point.


Your favorite boss may leave and start a new company … competing against a portion of your offering.


You may leave, leaving behind a boatload of people you like & respect, to take a promotion at some competitor and … well … compete against those same people you like & respect who happen to be at a company you still like & respect.


And the trickiest?


Sometimes you actually decide to partner with a sometimes enemy because of mutual interest <and money of course>.


What business teaches you … well … what it should teach you is that there are no permanent allies, no permanent friends, no permanent enemies and, really, only permanent interests.


This shouldn’t be construed in any way as morally hollow or ethically challenged.

just keep trying flourish grow

It is a simple business truth that it is in the interest of a person and business to maximize behavior in a given situation. That means you give your best, you offer your best and be your best regardless of who is in the room or whomever you may be competing with.


I imagine the net translation on that thought is that through individual behavior the interests of a business are being best served and ultimately it is the interest of the business itself that is the only thing that truly remains constant.


The corollary?


Friends and enemies may keep changing depending on what suits the business interest best.




There are potential costs … as well as potential benefits to rubbing elbows and being friendly, or at least conversationally cordial, to your competitors.


But that should not mean ignoring competition nor should it mean not maintaining some dialogue with them.


Some people will not agree with this.


What I have on my side is diplomatic history. The concept of ‘continuous dialogue’ originated in the 17th century with the French and Cardinal Richelieu.

It is a “belief in the utility of diplomatic representation and communication even between states that have reached a hostile relationship short of war.”

And you do so not to be friends, nor to seek to be allies, but to maintain the respect of two entities with different interests, but a similar interest to succeed, as a way to reduce the chances of war.


But let me point to what I believe is the truest of benefits.




As long as your business is well defined, as long as your business has a strong culture, as long as your business fosters the attitude of ‘being the best’ without arrogance … I would suggest that nothing strengthens your people than interacting with the people of friends, enemies and those with different interests. Your people, through interaction with others who may be seeking things on their own self best interest, are the surest arbiters of what is right, wrong, true, false, lawful or ethically hollow.


And while I do not think this is solely an American trait it was Alexis de Tocqueville who said this about Americans in 1831:


[T]hey hold that public opinion is the surest arbiter of what is lawful or forbidden, true or false. … They hold that every man is born in possession of the right of self-government, and that no one has the right of constraining his fellow-creatures to be happy. They have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man; they are of opinion that the effects of the diffusion of knowledge must necessarily be advantageous, and the consequences of ignorance fatal; they all consider society as a body in a state of improvement, humanity as a changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent.



ignorance is their powerIt is the people who are the surest arbiter of true & false … therefore if you ever want someone to truly believe in your business that you must mentally believe “the consequences of ignorance fatal.”


And embrace that an industry, which is often a society within itself, is a body in a state of improvement.

Keeping yourself, or your employees, cocooned within just who and what you are endangers the livelihood of the business itself in that you miss the opportunity for potential change and run the danger of ‘permanent’ <or stagnant>.


I personally find nothing wrong with positioning yourself as close to your competitors as you possibly can. The benefits outweigh the possible negatives.


On a separate note.


I tend to believe this idea works just as well in non-business life.


I have friends & acquaintances who clearly have different political points of view, different views on religion as well as significantly different views on a spectrum of different things. I watch news programs and listen to news programs which clearly do not appeal to my sense of what is true or right.

enlightened conflict think

It doesn’t harden my point of view but it certainly makes me more self-aware with regard to how others think and why they do the things they do.


And it certainly reminds me that no matter how much I may disagree with someone the majority of the time they have the same interests that I do – a better country and a better way of doing things.


I don’t think this makes me any better than others but it may make me a little more enlightened and aware.

And I have to believe that isn’t a bad thing.

do I suffer well

April 2nd, 2016

 dignity suffer



“It’s true, I suffer a great deal–but do I suffer well?

That is the question.”





Thérèse de Lisieux





I have had this debate a zillion times … the one where you discuss who has it worse. Who is going through tougher times. Maybe even discussing a bad moment in life as horrible … but how horrible? … and horrible relative to other horribleness?

dialogue with pain


And while it is most likely true that, regardless of your situation, someone somewhere has it worse than you do … that thought doesn’t really seem that comforting nor does it really offer any solutions when it is you in that moment.


To me … comparing bad situations is not only not very helpful but it also tends to suggest the wrong thing  – “my suffering isn’t equal to your suffering.”


I mean … well … how the heck do you compare suffering? Isn’t suffering suffering?


I hesitate to use this next quote only in that while making the point it suggests ‘horrible’ can be viewed as a flower:



A flower does not think of competing to the other flower next to it. It just blooms.

<zen shin>



But I thought I could use this quote because flowers do not judge … and maybe we shouldn’t judge suffering, or more simplistic for most of us, the holes each of us fall into on occasion.



To me?


Horrible is horrible. A black hole is a black hole. And while maybe not all holes and abysses are created equal  … all seem equally deep when in one and the suffering when within a hole is … well … pretty insufferable.


This may not be literally true … but figuratively I tend to believe that is how we view it when encountering horror or slip into some dark hole.


And, yeah, we will all fall into a hole, or two, in Life.

I wrote this back in 2013 I wrote this about holes


…. almost everyone has their own hole that Life makes you climb in and out of on occasion.


But inevitably, at some point, Life puts you in your hole and leaves you there … alone … with your thoughts … thoughts of how different you are or how different you think or simply how different your life is from every one else … and Life doesn’t help you get out of the hole.

Because it is yours. And it is yours to figure out how to get out of.



This leads me back to my opening quote.

no brain pain

Everyone steps, slides or falls into holes in Life.


Inevitably this pretty much means we all suffer to some degree during our Life.


The question one must ask themselves at some point is … well … do I suffer well?


For if we all suffer at some point … and 99% of us figure out a way of getting out of our hole … then the question isn’t really about getting out of the hole but how did you manage yourself when in the hole.


In other words … do I suffer well?


An interesting question of character I would say.


A thoughtful one to ponder.

what hath america wrought

October 22nd, 2015

ideas urinal

Aici lo tems s’en , va res l’Eternitat.”

<here, in this place, time moves away toward eternity>


“This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper. “

T.S Eliot

<“The Hollow Men”>


“Has it been in your experience that one’s affairs are always in order and that all life’s conundrums will eventually be made clear?”

David Stone







what hath god wrought


It is always interesting to read a historical book <What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe> and look at what is happening in today’s world.



Historical note on the title of the book.



The first telegraph message, sent by inventor Samuel F.B. Morse on May 24, 1844, over an experimental line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, was “What hath God wrought?”



At over 900 pages and pretty academic in its detail and narrative … this book is not for the faint of heart <but very interesting if you can wade through it>. The book is heavy on political history and the role politics & government played, and didn’t play, in the transformation of American society.



Simplistically you see that government has always been functionally dysfunctional constantly lurching through the decisions a country needs to make as it struggles with private versus public, growth and the well-being of its citizens <all within a Constitutional construct>.



In addition … in looking at that one particularly period of history we see everything was magnified, or amplified, by developments in communications <mails, newspaper, books, and telegraph> and mobility/transportation <trains, steamboats, canals, and roads>.





Isn’t that what technology & the internet is doing today?




And that magnification created the same issues we seem to discuss today:

traffic hurry disconnectd going


–      In 1846 Philip Hone wondered if the rapid pace of change threatened cherished values …

“everything goes fast nowadays, even the winds have begun to improve upon the speed with they have hitherto maintained; everything goes ahead but good manners and sound principles.”




They discussed the delicate balance of empowerment and responsibility within the citizenship … the power of government to enable individualism all the while encouraging the citizenship to use their liberty & freedoms to seek improvement.




–      John Quincy Adams stated …

“Liberty is power and the citizens have a responsibility to use their freedom.
The spirit of improvement is abroad upon the earth. Let not foreign nations with less liberty exceed us in ‘pubic improvement’ … to do so would ‘cast away the bounties of providence’ and doom what should become the world’s most powerful nation ‘to perpetual inferiority.’

Even in religious environments ‘responsible capitalism’ was discussed:




–      As the author points out … even in 1826 preachers were teaching …

“work hard, be thrifty, save your money, don’t go into debt, be honest in business dealings, don’t screw down the wages of those who work for you to the lowest possible level, if you manage a surplus be faithful stewards of your bounty and generous to causes.“





All the foundation things of capitalism done the right way and economic growth without sacrificing values to a better society.




The book does a nice job reminding everyone of the challenges any government faces.



–      Tocqueville expresses concern with the future of a democratic government.sheep

“… it rarely forces one to act but it constantly opposes itself to one’s action; it does not destroy it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize , it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes and finally reduces the nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”




Mostly, as I read about a country’s transformation, I was reminded that change is never easy and in the midst of progress you do right things and wrong things and there are consequences for all <and you inevitably have an opportunity to ‘wrong the rights & right the wrongs’>.



It reminded me that we all adapt.



Countries also. Just look at capitalism.



America developed a prosperous example for capitalism and ultimately exported the example. Other countries then adapted the idea creating a customized capitalism to accommodate their needs, wants and desires <which, by the way, may not match America’s>.






America exported capitalism …. not values or rights <or democracy>.


Economics is what inevitably changed behavior because as country leaders desired people to be more productive <so they could be more competitive globally> they inevitably had to give them more rights, liberties and avenues to do so.



This means that the expansion of rights was driven by economics … and only curbed by that particular country’s government ideology <or the country’s overall culture>.



I mention that because we Americans tend to look outwards with a sense of righteousness … and the outside world states unequivocally … I do not want to be exactly like you.

being yourself cahnging



I struggle to understand why we in America don’t get this.


Our book stores and amazon are strewn with self-help books shouting “being yourself … don’t be someone else!”“learn from the best but be nobody but yourself.’



In other words … learn the shared learning and implement as an individual.






Are countries really any different? Why wouldn’t we expect another country to want to maintain its own character and way of doing things?



In addition.



The book reminded me how grumpy I get with people who continuously claim <loudly> that America is declining <i.e., going into the shithole>.



I never really thought of us as a country of whiners, pessimists and blamers <finger pointers>.



Context and perspective … the book once again reminded me of this from a historical perspective.



The book reminded me that in the 19th century there was a relatively balanced global power <hmmmmmmmmmmm … kind of like where we may be heading today?>. Oh, and yes, there was a ‘global economy’ at that time.



And the 21st century began with an extraordinary imbalance in world power.



The United States was the only country able to project military force globally, it represented more than a quarter of the world economy and had the world’s leading “soft-power resources” in its universities and entertainment industry.



America didn’t purposefully build the imbalance … the imbalance was opportunistic and reflective of contextual situations.



What that means is that no one truly knows much about social engineering and how to “build nations.”


The transformation of America in the 1800’s certainly reminded me of that.


At times it appears like America reached its strength position despite itself.



Therefore … if we cannot be sure how to ‘build a nation’ or have some formula to improve the world hubris is dangerous. It certainly seems like what is required is a careful understanding of the context of change.






Here is what I know <and believe>.



Anyone, and any country, will be successful if it finds its pride cloaked in humility <not hubris>.



I cannot remember where I found this quote but it seems to highlight what Americans should avoid at all costs <domestically as well as internationally>:



“Sweep in as if emissaries of light bringing salvation to the natives living in a dark forest. You think you are heroes because people ask for your help and advice. You think that worth works for you will automatically work for everyone else. Your teeth are whiter and your clothes are better and suddenly that permits you to be the ultimate arbiters of public morality.

You assume America, and capitalism, is the ultimate model and you end up judging everything simply by how close it comes to your own ideal. You begin to think you have carte blanche to remake whatever you want to remake in your own image.”


Speaking of humility.



We, everyone in a country leadership role, lurch back and forth between what is right and what is wrong all the while every step taken on a path with a sign that says “what is best for the country & people this way.’


And each step nowadays seems to be burdened by this word ‘compromise.’



Compromise implies ‘giving up something that is right or the best.’



It seems like it would be better to recognize that there is no one right way and no one right answer in heading down this path … all head down the path … it is just an argument over what shoes I want to wear that particular day.



maybe we have no ideaAnd that is … well … it all seems just fucking insane.



It seems like maybe those spewing forth the idea that the other’s ideas are stupid and the path to greatness is ‘this way’ …and it is the only way … could drink from the cup of humility and accept that our past has certainly taught us that there is no one way nor right way.



Our past is strewn with greatness intermingled with some dark aspects.



Greatness doesn’t reside in our actions or accomplishments … it resides in one’s belief in hope & the future. Greatness resides in the ability to keep an eye on the horizon and the ability to put one foot in front of the other, sometimes not knowing where your foot will exactly land, on this path of ‘better.’




Ralph Waldo Emerson … “America is a country of the future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”





Daniel Walker Howe writes on page 853 … “Americans live by hope for the future but their conflicting hopes for their country and their own lives provoke dissension.
Americans are constantly proposing new ideas and then wrangling over them.”



America is, and always has been, a country of the future.



America will, and always has, wrangled over ideas and hopes.



We always have and always will.



The moment we accept that, and embrace that, we accept dissension and accept that sometimes we will get it right … and sometimes we will get it wrong … because … well … while maybe being a great nation we are inevitably a great big group of people trying to do the best they can without having any specific formula for what to do.



The news of the decline & demise of America is tiring. Or maybe better said “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” <Mark Twain>.but yes ideas matters debate hugh






That’s why I hack my way through 900 page history books … to gain and maintain some perspective.




Sometimes I learn something.


But mostly it gives me some perspective on what is happening today.
One last random thought.




I am not a speechwriter nor am I politician <most likely not qualified for either> … but … it slightly puzzles me that we don’t hear more Ralph Waldo Emerson or Adams or … well … many of the great American philosophical thinkers of the mid 1800’s quoted or used to make a point.



They had the ability to capture the American spirit, the American desire to ‘do things’, the American power of individualism and the American belief that government supports to ‘better.’



But, hey, that’s me.

And if they did … well … then I couldn’t use all their great words and I wouldn’t have a blog.

independence, ideals, celebration … pride of being American

July 4th, 2014

USA American soccer fan face paint from USA photo by Monte Isom


“I don’t believe there’s any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can’t completely solve.”


Americans have a way of doing things ‘big.’ We are vocal and loud-ish and unequivocally … well … American.


4th of July is a perfect example.
For some time before I traveled and met others from around the world … I was convinced that every country had an Independence Day that they celebrated with the same gusto <if not fierceness> as America does.
But at some point I realized this isn’t the norm everywhere.


That isn’t to say that most countries don’t celebrate <or at least acknowledge> their independence day <for example … a place like Finland celebrates its independence from Russia> … it’s just that no one seems to do it as bombastically as we Americans.




There’s nothing wrong with patriotism.
And certainly there’s nothing wrong with independence <and celebrating it>.


Independence is an ideal.


Ideals often don’t live up to their expectations when faced with reality … but that doesn’t make it any less powerful


Ideals are ideas.

Ideals are hope.

Ideals are a vision.

Ideals are … well … frustrating.


If you have ever personally sought the ‘ideal weight’ <not to diminish freedom & independence … just to personalize the discussion> you know that progress never comes as fast as you desire, you make mistakes, you have setbacks … you have successes … and the moment you take your eye off the ‘ideal’ you lose Belgium vs USAprogress if not slip backwards a little.


Living with an ideal in mind is difficult.


Hopeful but difficult.


Using my metaphor … think of it as 317 million people stepping onto 317 million different scales 365 days of the year … evaluating their ideal weight against the ideal weight the country bears.


Not everyone is going to be happy. Some people will be frustrated. some will quit. some will shrug. some will soldier on. some will swear. some will cry.




All of the somes, the sum total, will get back on that frickin’ scale again the next day … and if not the next … the day after that. That is what we do. That is what we are.


And you know what?


That is independence. And that is the ideal we measure ourselves and our country against.


The bar is high.

But we Americans aim high.


Suffice it to say I am grateful for the country I grew up in and the freedoms we have in America that we often take for granted.


And I do not subscribe to the theory of blind patriotism that some people suggest follow along with holidays like the Fourth.

I do not because I believe it is on days like this we are reminded of the work in progress ideal we strive for … and our founders strove for.


We are reminded, sometimes painfully, of the work in progress aspects.


But we are also reminded of … well … independence. And everything good that comes along with it.


And in thinking about it … and the value it has to our souls and hearts … and the fact we know we have flaws and are still , sometimes sluggishly, working towards that ideal … we are self-conscious in our Americanism.


“It is, I think, an indisputable fact that Americans are, as Americans, the most self- conscious people in the world, and the most addicted to the belief that the other nations are in a conspiracy to under-value them.”
Henry James


I have seen someone call this self consciousness … self pity.

I don’t.


And I would argue until my last breath it has nothing to do with pity or any ‘woe is me’ attitude.


I would say it has something to do with that ‘high bar’ I stated earlier.


I would say that having earned independence we have assumed and responsibility to an ideal. And it is an ideal that is most likely truly unattainable <as most ideals are>. And as Americans who like to complete, do and succeed … we are self-conscious about the fact we are still working our way toward that ideal.





Yes … but … on this day … we celebrate the ideal.


And you know what? That is a big deal.


And we do it big.

Many people in other countries do not seem to understand patriotism the way Americans celebrate the 4th.


They see it as our typical over the top celebration of pride.




We have parades to celebrate America and being American.


Yes.how to be an explorer
We have spectacular firework extravaganzas that everyone goes to.


We have massive parties that entire towns attend.


Sometimes we go a little wacko with the red, white & blue.
But that is because we look at America differently than others may look at their own countries.

I am not suggesting it better or worse .. just … different.


We celebrate our ideal.

And unlike some other countries who feel like they embody their ‘ideal’ … we do … and we don’t.


We know we have an ideal … but have not reached the ideal state.

In fact … on the 4th … oddly we are celebrating our flaws.


And I wish we Americans would say that more often.

Celebrate our flaws.


Because in doing so we admit we are celebrating the reach … the aiming high … the place of hope.


Set aside the celebration aspect <which is certainly an American trait>.

The 4th is and is not about pride.
If it were solely about pride many would hesitate because we are flawed.


But to think the USA has more dirty laundry than other countries is … frankly … silly <and slightly absurd> … and no excuse for not being proud to be an American.


And we should have some pride in that we hold an ideal out for everyone … just beyond their grasp … and say ‘go get it.’
4th of July is fun.


america one heartbeatMillions sit around with family.


Millions of beer drinking guys stand and grill the shit out of everything and anything they can get their hands on.
And other millions go out and spend an hour setting things on fire.
On this day maybe 300 million people <I will allow maybe 15 million curmudgeonly unhappy tools to sit around and gripe about how bad things are and how flawed our country is> set differences aside and have some fun.


Fun with an ideal in mind.


“Americans… are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.”
Kurt Vonnegut


What I love about America is the searching.

Do I personally get frustrated, angry, proud, excited, disappointed and reflectively optimistic & skeptical … all at the same time … when viewing America?

Sure I do.


Geez. I am an American for god’s sake. I wouldn’t be American if I didn’t.


All that said. I am American. Unequivocally proud … and relentless with reagd to the ideal and the search.
And on the 4th …

… we celebrate the search

… we celebrate the hope

… we celebrate the ideal.


And we should.


On the other 364 days we grind it out working toward the ideal in fits & starts, and hugs & pushing away, and tears & laughter, and anger & joy, and disappointment & triumph … and failure & success.
In places it can seemingly never be … we see what could be.
And maybe that is why Americans are so damn obnoxious in their 4th of July celebration.


america capt am
We are celebrating what could be … not just what is.


A better America.


I would suggest the attempt to being better than what you are today is worthy of a celebration … the biggest most obnoxious darndest celebration you can have.



Happy 4th of July.

Ālīs volat propriīs

December 3rd, 2013


“One flies with one’s own wings.”wings she flies tattoo



Ālīs volat propriīs is the Latin phrase most accurately translated as “one flies with one’s own wings” or “it flies with its own wings.”



I am becoming more convinced that if one wants to adopt a good motto it is best to start with a classical language <like Latin>.


I find it interesting how often I find a Latin phrase which exotically seems to capture a big thought in a seemingly simple way.


Latin is quickly becoming an extinct if not simply an endangered language.

Excepting the fact that there are so many timeless latin phrases. Without them, and their thought provoking motto-esque feel, the language may have fallen into obscurity already.




Ālīs volat propriīs. One flies with one’s own wings.


Brings to mind a number of thoughts.


wings to flyIndependence.

Being able to always depend on oneself.


Do things your own way <and the ability to suffer the consequences>.



Control one’s own life. Masters of our own destiny.



Flying takes a leap of faith. And it doesn’t always go smoothly and sometimes it hurts.


Self-reliance <and achievement>.

Empowered to reach for the sky <one’s potential>.



Flying implies new places, new experiences, new lessons, new learning.



Ālīs volat propriīs. I love this phrase.


Whew. Having your own wings to fly.wings flies with her own


We cannot control everything.

Sometimes bad things happen but what we can control is how we let it affect us.

We get to choose our attitude.

We get to choose how to fly with our own wings.


This doesn’t mean we always do what we want whenever we want.

It simply means you are free to be yourself.


You have your own wings.

You know how to fly <or can learn … oh … yes … everyone can fly …>.

wings flies and rootsYou may not know exactly where you want to go but with wings maybe you can find it.



To me this little Latin phrase embraces independence of spirit and attitude. And isn’t that really what matters?




I am not sure it’s sad that no one learns Latin anymore because, frankly, it’s just not that useful.



Let me take that back.


Maybe if Latin phrases that capture big thoughts like one flies with ‘one’s own wings’ capture our attention and interest and build attitudes which positively impact our lives?

We should seek to learn them.



holes and kids

November 3rd, 2013


“And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into hole darkness lifeyou.”


<Beyond Good and Evil> Friedrich Nietzsche







This is mostly about being different.





Maybe this is just about being yourself.


Because everyone is different.

Sometimes discernible to the naked eye and sometimes not.


Unfortunately … sometimes being different seems to put you in some hole where you appear to live where no one else lives.


Oddly enough if you can actually get out of the hole you would simply see that almost everyone has their own hole that Life makes you climb in and out of on occasion.


But inevitably, at some point, Life puts you in your hole and leaves you there … alone … with your thoughts … thoughts of how different you are or how different you think or simply how different your life is from every one else … and Life doesn’t help you get out of the hole. Because it is yours. And it is yours to figure out how to get out of.


Stay in the hole long enough and … yes … it begins to look like an abyss. A never ending abyss leading to some sort of personal hell.





holes and kids face


Being yourself is extremely different in your tween & teen years than in your adult years.


In other words … not all holes and abysses are created equal.


We may like to think so but they aren’t.

An adult abyss is significantly different than a teen abyss.


I am certainly not suggesting that at any age you can find your way into a variety of different holes.


In fact … this hole thing … the abyss if you get stuck in the hole … when this abyss looks back at you it means that when you begin to know something that is fundamentally different from yourself … and you take a piece of it with you and it changes you and vice versa … all that I just said ? Well That much is pretty much the same at any age.


But that assumes you get out of the frickin’ abyss.


And that ability can only come from Life experience.



Kids just don’t know how to get out of the hole.hole climb god must hate me They just don’t have the experience.



And even as we know some adults need help getting out of the hole … kids DEFINITELY need help getting out of the hole.


The adult example?


I will use a wonderful West Wing tv show episode, Noël, scene where Leo tells Josh the following story:


“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.


“A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

    “Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on


“Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”


<West Wing Hole scene>


These are smart adults.



Kids need the same help.


And I say this unequivocally  … even if they are shrugging off the help or adamantly opposing the help or any other type of typical tween/teen independent ‘fuck you I don’t need your help’ attitude you will get.


Kids need help getting out of holes.


That’s it. No ifs, ands or buts.


They may not like asking for help … but they need it.




We encourage kids to embrace their individuality.

And we should.


hole different taylor


But with that encouragement also comes a responsibility. For if they do embrace their individuality they will also be embracing the fact that they are in some form or fashion … different.


We don’t want our kids to be alike.


The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”

The Dawn


Self esteem really isn’t about ‘being alike’ or similarities or being part of the crowd. Sure. It can play a role. But real self esteem comes from embracing the individuality … the ‘true to thineself’ aspect that lies within everyone if they seek it.


And in that path to a strong self esteem … there are potholes … sometimes some really big deep frickin’ holes.


I can almost guarantee every kid will either slip into a hole or go crashing into a hole at some point in their young Life. I can guarantee that because there are so many holes … real ones and created ones <the worries that inevitably follow a young person through their teen years> … that it is simply not possible to miss them all.


I will share a teen truth just to remind all of us adults.

Teen life and high school is not really a melting pot but more a jungle, run along crude and arbitrary lines of popularity. The kids <today as was yesterday> face the onslaught full spectrum of adolescent anxiety … worrying what your peers will think … secret crushes <and finding the courage to tell the object of what is sometimes simply a fantasy> … worrying you’re too poor <or too rich>, worrying about your parents … worrying if you are good enough … even worrying if haven’t rolled the cuff of your jeans  up just high enough to be right.

Some of that sound silly? You bet.

But we should take it all seriously.

Teen life is the worst and the best of Life.

It has dark, brutal undercurrents and the glittery sparkles of Hollywood all tempered by the disturbing ongoing clash of the dream and the reality.



All that said … they will need help getting out of whatever hole they fall in. And I am talking about active help … not simply insuring they now they have some intangible support system to lean on or reach out to. holes reality familyI say that because we are often quite flippant with regard to the belief that we are ‘there for them’ and the reality is that sometimes when they fall in one of their holes … they not only lose sight of you <and everything else> but the abyss steals their voice.

For any number of reasons <fear, insecurity, embarrassment, esteem, misplaced courage, independence, rebellion> they will not speak up … or out from the hole.



You have to be active. You cannot simply say ‘here is a rope and I can pull you up if you need help and take it.’ More often we have to jump in the hole yourself and join them.


For if you permit them to linger too long in the hole … well … the abyss will gaze into them. And inevitably that abyss will find some dark corner in the mind and will find a place to live, eat an breathe for years and years to come.




Holes are fine in Life.


They are part of Life.


You just have to make sure you know how to get out of them.


Just make sure you teach kids around you to get out of them.


Make sure you do not simply offer a lifeline out of a hole but jump in with them and show them the way out.



It will be a Life lesson they will never forget.



Enlightened Conflict