Enlightened Conflict

bedlam, simplicity & business

April 12th, 2015

—-bedlam absolute chaos

“It is an ancient political vehicle, held together by soft soap and hunger and with front-seat drivers and back-seat drivers contradicting each other in a bedlam of voices, shouting “go right” and “go left” at the same time.”


Adlai E. Stevenson







I never knew the origin of the word ‘bedlam’ which is The Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem <”bedlam”> in London in the mid late 1800’s. It was an asylum for the insane whose name shrunk in local dialect to Bedlam and eventually entered everyday language to describe chaos and confusion.





I have never been in an asylum … but I sometimes believe a business can be like being in one.





To be clear.



Most businesses are certainly not in bedlam. There may be moments of chaos or feeling of bedlam … but they are usually capsules in time within an overall structured environment. The only exceptions may be start ups or young companies which can feel a little like barely corralled bedlam.



But individuals in business?






There are certainly some who carry bedlam with them.


chaos glob of hugh

These are the people who hop into the vehicle as a front seat driver and, in a worst case business scenario, find a similar back seat drivers and everyone starts espousing business bullshit in a bedlam of voices.



These are the people who actually lead us to actual bedlam.



To be sure … far too often business bedlam is created only because there is one or two people, in positions that matter, that always seem to have a blob of chaos that follows wherever they go.



Interestingly … they very often do so under the guise of simplicity.






Simplicity creating bedlam <did anyone ever imagine anyone ever writing that?>.



Business Truth 1.


Simple solutions do not, or rarely, exist in business organizations … which tend to be complex.



Business Truth 2.


Doing one thing, usually stated under the guise of simplicity, does not, or rarely, create the necessary outcome within a complex system.



This simplicity management is maddening because successful complex systems tend to locate themselves at the edge of chaos … not in chaos … but on the edge.



Therefore this bedlam manager steps in … stands close to the edge … “brings about simplicity” <which they state is needed to resolve whatever it is that is happening> and under the guise of simplicity … well … chaos & bedlam actually occurs.



The successful complex organizational system has moved from the edge ultimately shifting directly within chaos. All because of some unrealistic direction of “lets break it down and make it simple for everyone.”



Everything then comes to a crashing grinding halt … albeit it looks like everything is still in movement. It is just a stagnant blob of unproductive chaotic energy.

order chaos consistent hugh

Which is too bad because successful systems are NOT simple … they are a complex combination of the semi-chaos, which generates innovation & fresh thinking to keep the system vibrant, and core structural stability that prevents dropping the organization into pure chaos & anarchy.



I say ‘beware.’



Beware the bastards who create business bedlam. These bastards can often be recognized because they are the ones who seem to state “this is simple” … or worse “let’s simplify this to the most important thing to do” when stepping in to an organization’s natural healthy bedlam feel.




They wield ‘simple’ or simplicity as an appealing looking ‘fix it tool.’ And because simple, when on the edge of bedlam, looks so frickin’ appealing people start lining up and grabbing it by the handful as if it will salve all pains.




Unfortunately great businesses are rarely simple … great business systems are rarely simple … and doing ‘one important thing’ is rarely enough.



I know I read somewhere that within complex systems theory, turbulence is caused by the spontaneous interactions between parts of the system and the changing environment.



Turbulence is not chaos but it still can create the random interruptions that businesses struggle with almost every day. And within that turbulence, if a business is not careful, it can begin to look an awful like chaos <although it is definitely not>.



But I guarantee some snake oil salesman asshole in the organization will label it ‘sheer bedlam!’‘chaos!’ and say “bedlam is bad” … we need to fix it <and bring out all the ‘simplicity tools’>.





<completely off topic note … but as i typed that last paragraph i thought of the bedlam sciencescientist guy in the old Thomas Dolby commercial shouting “SCIENCE!”>










The snake oil simplicity salesman will fail.



The organization will suffer.


True bedlam will rear its ugly head.




Harmony in a great business organization almost always has hues of conflict and an uneasy ‘edge-of-chaos’ feel. Kind of like a strong energy that makes you feel like if you don’t hold on a little tighter you may go flying off into the distance.



But at the same time it is productive and adaptive and energetic.



Complex systems theory suggests three aspects to a dynamic organization:


• Control – the ability to have some structure to the extent that the systems can efficiently maintain status quo success and yet respond to new circumstances

chaos business string tangled

• Flexibility – the ability to respond to new circumstances

• Change – the ability to exploit successful patterns



Well … that seems to summarize a shitload of response & change.






That implies a relatively consistent flow of ‘transitional organization moments.’



Realistically <or maybe hypothetically?> bedlam should only occur in transition moments. And even then it may only have the appearance of bedlam … because in reality it is simple functional organizational adaptation in real time speed to accommodate change.





That doesn’t mean it looks pretty nor does it feel ‘efficient’ or even feel comfortable.



In fact … it can look an awful like organizational chaos. But you have to look very very closely at your business to be really sure if it is true bedlam or not — true bedlam occurs within true chaos versus bedlam feeling occurs in an organized chaos.




True bedlam is shifting priorities, unclear direction, inconsistent processes, unhappy or disengaged employees and an out-of-whack energy invested to outcome proposition.



Once again, to be clear, most businesses have their shit together and don’t experience this.



Despite saying that … bedlam people are strewn within organizations. They see themselves as problem solvers and their role as ‘business as usual necessities.’



If an organization is not careful they begin, sadly, to see bedlam simply as a way of life and bedlam managers as necessary herders.







Actual bedlam is never a good thing for an organization.



While there needs to be adaptability & flexibility it is no excuse for ambiguity and bedlam inside organizations. Solid construct is essential for a healthy energetic business which bedlam revolution conscioustaps into that ‘bedlam feel’ but needs managers who don’t create the bedlam … they simply funnel the bedlam feel into a positive working environment.



Aspects of a bedlam feeling IS a good thing for an organization.



What do I mean?



I am not a huge proponent of ‘planned innovation’ or ‘collaborative ideation for the future.’ I tend to believe they create muted mediocre thinking & ideas. Creative innovation tends to be externally driven and therefore creates this bedlam like feeling <because it is not planned but has a sense of reactiveness to it>. This bedlam feel stimulates innovation, reduces employee complacency, and elevates attitudes & thinking & people to achieve new heights.



This type of bedlam is unavoidable within a dynamic organization and in swallowable doses is desirable.







Where bedlam people truly thrive <and create the most damage>.



All transformational moments <including when organization is adapting> but most especially within complex, large-scale transformational change.


This is where the stakes are the highest, the bedlam the mostest <I made that word up> and with tremendous potential for ROI and cost failure.




Research consistently shows that most business transformations fail to return their desired ROI. The ones, the few that actually do succeed, inevitably have excellent change leadership skills at a variety of management levels <not just at the top>.




And this is where bedlam people thrive … in times of transformation.



Any transformation is messy, often chaotic, and has serious impact on employees’ mental state <not just tasks>. In transformation, what you are attempting to create is typically very different than your current state of operation and often outcomes are unclear when you begin. This all means that numerous course corrections are required as you discover where you need to go and how to get there.



This process is nonlinear and full of surprises and requires a lot of flexibility and adaptability.



It requires a shift of mindset, behavior, and culture to implement the new direction.




Uh oh.



bedlam panicBedlam people, tapping into the angst of employees and people, seek to offer simplicity platitudes to ‘cross the transformational chasm.’ And instead, because transformations are complex and naturally chaotic, it simply increases the bedlam and inefficiency and while short term there appears some ease in overall organization angst <because people grasp the simplicity platitudes as ‘doable’ , sigh, and relax> long term it fails the complexity of the system and transformation itself.



Bedlam increases.



But even then bedlam managers succeed.

Bedlam people point to the point in time <in the past> that everyone relaxed and did stuff as ‘I know my shit.’




The net result?


Bedlam people become more empowered <while actually having increased overall bedlam>.






To be clear.



There is a huge difference between taking a complex situation and in a simple way articulate what needs to be done … and looking at a complex situation and articulating what needs to be done is simple.



The first is a skill.


The second is a lie.






I am done ranting.


And all of this because I found the source of the word ‘bedlam.’



I honestly do not believe an organization is like a mental asylum. Most organizations are well thought out with well-intended managers or leaders. And most people in organizations do the best they can with best intentions.



My point is that most dynamic organizations, the really good ones, do have an underlying ‘bedlam feel’ that they can tap into. It verges on bedlam but very very rarely slips into actual bedlam.




think look bedlamAnd therein lies the danger from people who walk around with gobs of chaos.



They have the ability to inadvertently guide an organization, or even a department or group, into real bedlam.



They are the ones who shout go ‘right, go right’ <or ’left, go left’ if they said right the last time>from the back seat while the leader in the front seat is mapping out a multiple path plan of progress <at different speeds for different departments>.




Not all decisions are simple.


In fact … most good decisions are defined by visionary complexity … the ability to envision paths yet to be taken or even sometimes yet to be built.



In fact … most decisions are defined by a complex intertwining of simultaneous tasks.




Bedlam managers suck at those type of decisions and therefore create more bedlam under the guise of simplicity.



And while my rant may seem … well … simplistic … it is an important discussion to be had.



Recently some guy at the Yale School of Management found that the average lifespan of an S&P company dropped from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today. He also found that on average an S&P company is now being replaced every two weeks as well estimates that 75% of the S&P 500 firms will be replaced by new firms by 2027.


FYI. Santa Fe Institute researchers note that these findings are different from what you would see in Europe and Japan <their business lifespan is much longer>.



And while many of these ‘deaths’ are because of mergers or acquisitions the majority represent real death.


Businesses fail or implode.



This suggests someone, a person, is at fault.

society live work complex


This also suggests in a business world where adjustment and transformation, in some degree, is almost essential to be successful & maintain a lifespan … bedlam managers can have dire consequences.


All I ask is that maybe you just think about this topic.



And store away this bedlam thought:



Simplicity creates bedlam in business organizations.



That thought alone will create bedlam.

college athlete to professional something else

April 6th, 2015

odds never n our favor

“How passionately they explain the numbers and how much they emphasize the deck is stacked against athletes varies between institutions.

It is a message that a lot of coaches don’t want to send.

And it’s a message, frankly, that a lot of athletes don’t want to hear at this stage in their lives.”


Mark Nagel



Lloyd Christmas: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me … ending up together?

Mary Swanson: Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. I mean, we don’t really…

Lloyd Christmas: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary.

The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?

Mary Swanson: Not good.

Lloyd Christmas: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?

Mary Swanson: I’d say more like one out of a million.


Lloyd Christmas: So you’re telling me there’s a chance … YEAH!


Dumb and Dumber


athletes -collage








Let me be clear in using a dumb & dumber quote I am not going to be suggesting college athletes are dumb. If anything I believe people would be surprised at how worldly and smart and hard working 99% of college athletes are.





With the NCAA men’s basketball finals tonight I wanted to take a moment and talk about the link, or the lack thereof, between playing collge sports and playing professionally.



I thought of this when during one of the semi final games I was asked how many players move on to the NBA. I guessed maybe 5%.



I was wrong.


Just using Division 1 it is 1.2%


There are 347 Division I college basketball teams. Each team offers 13 scholarships.


That’s about 4,511 Division I college basketball players this year.




In addition.



265 teams in Division II, 325 teams in Division III and 259 teams in NAIA.


That’s about another 11,000 players,
Using Division 1 alone … only 1.2% of college basketball players will be drafted by a National Basketball Association team.


Less will end up actually playing.






This means less than ½ of 1% of total college basketball players will play in the NBA.







“Professional” doesn’t have to mean the NBA because there are a lot of other options around the world, especially in Europe, Israel, Turkey, etc.


And, to be clear, there are not a lot of Division III student-athletes who think, or know, they are going to play in the NBA. Overseas professional leagues are pretty numerous <even if they don’t pay as well as the NBA> and the idea of spending at least a year playing in and getting to see another part of the world while getting paid is pretty attractive … especially to students focus more on their studies than many Division I athletes – especially those who want to play in the NBA.


athlete 98All the caveats aside … this means 98+% of college athletes never play professionally.



And while we watched Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin and Michigan State all play an incredibly high level of basketball … 98% of them will not play professionally.






That was a semi stunning thing to write.


You watch Kentucky and Duke and think High School All Americans and it will be a given they play professionally.


Yikes. Not so much.






So maybe the elite of the elite may send 2 … maybe 3 at best to be drafted … in one given year … and then maybe half of those are actually NBA worthy. But this is the best of the best and over a 5 year span the % drops significantly.



Playing professionally, in any sport not just basketball, is … well … a pretty long shot.
In January a guy named Jake New tackled this topic.



College athletes vastly overestimate their chances of playing professional sports.

The problem is so pervasive that Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s president, devoted significant space to the issue during his most recent state of the association address, saying that “athletes often have incredibly unrealistic perceptions of their professional prospects.”

According to NCAA surveys, more than 60% of Division I college men’s ice hockey players think it’s likely they’ll play professionally, but less than 1 percent ever go on to the National Hockey League.

About 45% of Division I women’s basketball players think they have a chance to play professional basketball, but only 0.9% of players are drafted by a Women’s National Basketball Association team.

<The NCAA said that it is currently procuring data on a player’s chances of joining other professional leagues, such as those in Europe, but the information is not yet available>

Men’s hoops players are the most unrealistic. More than three-quarters of men’s basketball players in Division I say they believe it is at least “somewhat likely” they will play professionally. More than half of Division II players say the same, as do 21 percent of Division III players. Only 1.2 percent of college basketball players will be drafted by an National Basketball Association team.





We <colleges and adult influencers in general> don’t help.



While the NCAA actually does a pretty good job marketing the fact that athletes should have realistic expectations and that ‘the majority of college athletes go on to do something better’ <note: I do like their message and the campaign>.



Colleges kind of derail the message by promoting their successes <by the way … not in percentages but rather by individuals>.



For example … some colleges list the individuals who have attended the university and gone on to fame and professional playing <not noting that these are actually exceptions and not the rule>.



For example … on its recruiting website, UCLA is described as “#1 in Olympic Gold Medals from 1984 to 2008″ and “#1 in professional athletes.” And UCLA is very open in saying that for athletes who do dream of going professional the information can be helpful when choosing a program <note … I used UCLA but I could have used any big time college sports program and maybe not used #1 but some marketing of program success as an example>.




In addition … parents and adults and gobs of books promote “if you work hard enough you can attain it” or even “believing you can do it is the path to actually doing it.”



This means that colleges simply feed into what has already been planted in an athlete’s head. Some guy named Gershon Tenenbaum, a sports psychology professor at Florida State University, calls it the “self-bias phenomenon.”



And adults clearly exacerbate the situation with some relatively absurd levels of adulation with successful athletes.



things to know

I actually believe most young athletes are aware the %’s associated with professional sports is very low <even though they may not be aware of the NCAA research or specific numbers> but young people are hard to convince … not only do they want to be seen as some statistic but we actually encourage them to be the exception.




Personally I know I have a love/hate relationship with regard to how my own parents managed my love of sports and whatever ability I may have had.


They constantly stressed the low likelihood of being good enough to play professionally and were relentless with regard to me not ‘wasting my time’ on sports and focusing on other things therefore I always had a pretty good perspective on my abilities and ‘chances’ … all the while I had coaches tugging at me to play and practice and ‘maximize’ the ability I did have.



I am not sure it was the tug-of-war was the best thing for my esteem but it certainly gave me a realistic point of view when the time came to hang up my cleats & glove.



But it is not easy.


By the time you reach college level of sports you know you are ‘good’ … and have attained at least a higher level on the athletic pyramid. For years an athlete moves on to higher and higher levels of competition and by getting to a college level an athlete actually gets to a level that is maybe 95%+ higher level than your peers.



In basketball … a little over 3% of high school men’s and women’s basketball players make it to the college level. mature 69 percent


In football … maybe 6% of high school football players make it to the college level.



Success breeds some confidence … but the research also suggests it also breeds some delusional thinking with regard to what is possible.



What the hell.


You made it this far … why not all the way?



And in today’s world <which is NOTHING like when I grew up> we have elevated youth sports to such a level we almost create a celebrity status to not only successful teams <which inflates the egos of the individuals even if they are not stars> as well as the actual stars themselves.



We, adults, do this because we tend to believe confidence can elevate talent … or that a higher level of confidence can help overcome any real odds of ‘yikes, we should lose this one.’




Breeding confidence in a young person is a delicate balance and we adults are anything but delicate with regard to the young & sports.



This actually creates the “athlete student” problem <note: I did not say student athlete>.



We have created a breed of young athlete that considers academics beneath them because they are “going to play professional sports.”



Yes. This is a delusion for most.


But those who could actually judge talent the best, coaches, have no incentive to create a work ethic in academics <or social skills, emotional maturity and improving their reading, writing, and analytical skills beyond elementary school in order to “win” at something bigger> unless it is associated with ‘eligibility.’





We can find some coach exceptions.



But then there are we adults … who fuck everything up.



The head of the NCAA has clearly stated … “explaining to athletes that their passion — and years of hard work — is not likely to lead to a career is an uncomfortable but necessary conversation to have.”

listen hand


“How can we help them understand the realities of what that looks like?

What can we change to give them a more realistic sense of it? How do we get a handle on that?

How can we provide them with a greater sense of the realities and what that looks like?”




The NCAA clearly advertises: “there are 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports.”
Young athletes don’t always absorb the message.


But that is mostly because we adults haven’t learned the delicate balance of managing reality, dreams and confidence.
Reality is tough.

Reality is often captured in some harsh truth.



I could simply suggest that later tonight one team will go home as a loser.


It would be harsher to suggest that of the 26 young men who walk onto the court most likely 90% of them, the elite players on the elite teams, will leave the court and do something other than play professionally.



Has anybody told them that?


athlete dream reality

Would they play the game a little bit harder or with a little more passion or a little more ‘this is it’?





I don’t know.



What I do know is that I will watch the game and be amazed by the talent and skill and sheer joy of the game … and know that most of them will have to figure out a way of making a living doing something other than playing basketball.

the fine line in making a difference

April 2nd, 2015


society blame responsibility

“It’s easy to make a buck.

It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”


Tom Brokaw


“If you believe you can make a difference, not just in politics, in public service, in advocacy around all these important issues, then you have to be prepared to accept that you are not going to get 100 percent approval.”


Hillary Clinton










This is about Starbucks and “Race together” <“stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America”> and businesses making a difference.





hero family of the


In general … brands & companies tend to be rewarded when they align themselves with a cause. Cynically speaking … this is so because people are pleased to have the opportunity to feel self-righteous simply by buying something for themselves.







If when a business does something ‘responsible’ or something directed toward a specific cause or taking some action with an eye toward some issue and it is a true extension of the corporate culture, i.e., authentic, it is powerful. Uhm. But this teeters on a very very fine line … thinner than thin.







It is a cynical cynical world out there these days.




That said.




Let me take a minute to discuss the ‘race together’ Starbucks initiative and how the general population has responded <and of course my opinion>.





Howard Schultz, the head of Starbucks, thinks the gourmet coffee chain has a responsibility to address America’s vexed race relations.

After a series of internal meetings at the company, he decided to launch “Race Together”, a co-venture with USA Today, a newspaper, to “stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America.”

“Race is an unorthodox and even uncomfortable topic for an annual meeting,”

society fix please

“Where others see costs, risks, excuses and hopelessness, we see and create pathways of opportunity — that is the role and responsibility of a for-profit, public company.”


Suffice it to say the the initiative has created a shitstorm … okay … a fairly significant backlash.

Even by employees.



– Starbucks baristas, who were invited to write “#Racetogether” on coffee cups, responded with derisive tweets: “Being a barista is hard enough. Having to talk #RaceTogether with a woman in Lululemon pants while pouring pumpkin spice is just cruel,” tweeted Ijeoma Oluo.

– Corey duBrowa, a senior vice president of global communications at Starbucks, received such a deluge of angry messages that he temporarily deleted his twitter account.






Beyond the fact I think I would have a couple of choice words for my employees <like … shouldn’t those be exactly the type of people we should be starting the conversation with ? … and … gosh … i know your job is tough but sometimes companies are bigger than the shit we do every day ..> I would be scratching my head a little over the angry response from the genera population.


<and having met Howard I imagine behind closed doors he tore his hair out>



Just guessing here.
I imagine that the general backlash is grounded in some cynical viewpoint feeling that Starbucks was piggybacking on a serious social issue for its own economic gain.


Maybe people perceived that a Starbuck’s interest in racial issues kind of felt like some marketing ploy.



society sheep pigs capitalismAnd then a shitload of people <pontificating marketing & branding experts … kind of like me but smarter> started bringing up practical flaws — how are people supposed to talk about race in a 30-second interaction with a stranger while picking up coffee to go?




And then there are jerks like me who come out of the woodwork making snide remarks about how this is ‘bad for the brand’ poking at all the reasons from a marketing, PR or branding perspective the campaign was flawed or misconceived.




Aw geez … will everyone just shut the fuck up.




Just stop the talking & bitching.



Think bigger picture, people, … bigger picture.



The last thing someone should say., or CAN say, is that this was a stupid business decision.



It was a bold, risky business decision.


One fraught with business peril but with massive moral upside.



Do I think it was a good business idea? I doubt it.


Would I have had the kahones to do it? I doubt it.



What do I like about it?





Someone has to go first.


Or maybe.



You can make a bad business decision for the right reasons.


choices morally right

Right reasons?



Should a business be sticking their nose into social culture issues and shouldn’t they be sticking to making revenue and paying their employees fair wages?






If businesses are not permitted, or don’t even try, to play a role in the development of society issues, values and driving positive cultural dialogue <notice they didn’t offer a solution … simply desired to facilitate the dialogue & discussion> … well … then who will?



Please notice I don’t call this discussion ‘social responsibility’ which I tend to believe has become one of those trite business bullshit phrases of which is being abused and mangled by consultants and business leaders and gobs of useless books.



Far too often the discussion of the role of business in society manages to digress to simple business ‘criteria’ like corporate reputation, innovation, competitiveness and growth.



What bullshit.


If I decide to do something right it is because I want to do the right thing. I want to set aside ‘business criteria’ of reputation, innovation or revenue growth.



And the only growth I am talking about is moral growth. Integrity growth.






I know that this means I am standing up against Milton Friedman and disagreeing vehemently with his point of view as stated in 1970:



The discussions of the “social responsibilities of business” are notable for their analytical looseness and lack of rigor. What does it mean to say that “business” has responsibilities?

Only people can have responsibilities.

A corporation is an artificial person and in this sense may have artificial responsibilities, but “business” as a whole cannot be said to have responsibilities, even in this vague sense.

… and have said that in such a society, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”







I respectfully reject this thought Mr. Friedman.



I reject it with integrity and a belief that someone should stand up and speak when it is right to do so.



I reject t because … well … someone needs to stand up because if no one does nothing changes.






It is possible what Friedman said was true in 1970 but I doubt it. But suffice it to say that in 2015 businesses are in the social crapper <or on the bottom of the moral barrel> and therefore should be the ones to step up.



If not them, then who?



Peter Drucker clearly articulated salvation by society and how business plays a role in the ‘salvation.’ He also clearly outlined the dangerous shifts occurring back in 1990 or so when businesses started focusing more solely on bottom line measurement.






We spend more time working than we do with our families.


We spend more time interacting with businesses in totality than we interact with anyone or anything else.



Why shouldn’t they play a role?


And why should they be chastised for doing so?



In the good ole days barbershops and post offices or corner bars were where dialogue & discussion took pace.


These days?


The coffee shop?





I’m generalizing but you get the point.





small big matters tweak

I am not a huge Hilary fan but she is right … if you believe you can make a difference and actually do something with that objective in mind … you shouldn’t expect 100% approval. You just gotta take the step and start going. It doesn’t have to be a big step like what Starbucks attempted but take the step.



In addition.



“If you’re going to say what you want to say, you’re going to hear what you don’t want to hear.”

Roberto Bolaño


Stepping up ain’t always popular.


And stepping up means that you are at the front of the pack where it is a shitload easier to hear all the crap you don’t really want to hear.


And stepping up means you are gonna teeter on that fine line of making a difference in an authentic meaningful way..




In the end.


I like the fact that a big far reaching business suggested they WANTED a role in the discussion.



I like the fact that a big far reaching business suggested that something may be more important than sales <because if anyone believes this was a marketing gimmick guaranteed to generate sales they have been smoking far too much pot for their own good>.



I like the fact that a big far reaching business suggested that part of their brand ‘value’ wasn’t how much people valued them but rather how much people society live work complexrespected them … or how much self-character they placed on their own value.




A zillion experts will tell you all the reasons they shouldn’t have done it.



This one non expert stands and applauds and says ‘I am pleased you did it.’




Would I have had the balls to do what Starbucks did?


I don’t think so.


But, damn, I wish I did.

oldest known form of freedom

April 1st, 2015

consistency dangerous freedom


“If he wants to be an asshole, it’s a free country.


Millions before him have made the same life choice.”



Margaret Atwood







This is mostly about freedom of speech … but also includes the spirit of freedom that lies within us.






I would imagine that as soon as humans began some form of thinking beyond survival, sex and eating … they began to grapple with freedom. Uhm. And have been grappling ever since.



I tend to believe it is a lifelong, generation spanning, grapple because freedom is instilled in all of us.



It can be found in youth as breaking free of adult rules & restrictions.



It can be found in adults in physical behavior <traveling beyond the boundaries of current location>, self-esteem <freeing oneself from self-destructive – or self-inhibiting – thoughts> or even cultural attitudes <seeing things differently than before>.


It does not matter who you are or what type of personality you have … inevitably all of us seem to constantly seek to ‘free ourselves’ in a variety of ways or at least seek some aspect of freedom in our lives.


In fact.


I would tend to suggest that freedom is at the core of the human soul.





This means that anything that inhibits freedom chafes. Shit … something doesn’t even have to actually inhibit … we just have to think it may inhibit our freedom and it chafes.





I began this post when I saw a picture of “cuneiform” … an ancient form of writing … where, etched on a cave wall, was the word “Freedom”written in Sumeria in 2500 B.C.



freedom amagi cuineifform

freedom (ama-gi) written in Sumerian cuneiform





This means humans have craved freedom for thousands of year.


By the way.


Craving can create some fairly passionate feelings.



Ask her what she craved, and she’d get a little frantic about things like books, the woods, music.

Plants and the seasons.


Also freedom.


Nightwoods – Charles Frazier




All that said.


Who would have ever thought freedom would be tricky to discuss?

<not me>




It is.


I like to believe I am a fairy articulate guy and I know I always have an opinion … and yet … when discussing freedom I seem to offer up well intended meaningless pabulum <”freedom is good”> and struggle when asked “when does freedom become lack of tolerance?”


Maybe because I never thought freedom and intolerance would ever be in the same sentence let alone the same thought.


It is easy to say things like … if you say stupid stuff that will cost your employer money, expect to face consequences. But that also assumes I can show a direct cause-effect relationship.



I would suggest, however, that simplistically … while freedom is a privilege … free speech is actually a responsibility.




That means … you say dumb things and you can face consequences.



I say that because all of a sudden there is a ‘victim’ mentality being associated with people who say dumb shit.


freedom to speak



Any ‘victim’ is free to say stupid things.

Any and all the times they want.


But they also aren’t guaranteed a job by their employers if they do so.


That is freedom of an employer to decide who represents their company and their brand.


Is that discrimination?




Another tricky topic.





It is establishing some discriminatory behavior guidelines with which you assess your employee.


Outlined up front … well … they are established.


And they represent … well … let’s call it ‘rules.’



Some could argue that individuals do not exist to promote the interests of group consensus.



Unless that individual is actually part of a group … like a company.



Therefore, in that case, if a person who thinks differently from the company desired behavior says something that suggests “offensive” … outside the ‘established rules’ … the group <the company> does have freedom to act.





This is all why freedom is tricky.



Don’t bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted, what words or phrases are permitted and which ones will get you hauled off as some criminal to be placed on the rack in the middle of town.


Even worse?


Today’s world has created a minefield of inconsistency.



Criticizing Islam can be construed as intolerant and yet insulting Christianity is simply a sport.





This is not about religion … this is simply about freedom.


freedom feels like hold

And once you have freedom … you don’t ever <ever> want to give it up … even a small degree of it.



That is why I scratch my head as the mob delightfully destroys people’s lives under the guise of intolerance <and yet that person was sharing freedom of thought … albeit sometimes dumb>.


I also scratch my head thinking that the mob seems to never stop to ask themselves the basic scary question … what happens when they come for me?




If history is any guide that’s what will happen.



Regardless of the ‘mob mentality’ and political correctness … we need to pay attention.



Because, at its most basic, we are discussing freedom of thought.


And it is the out of control political correctness and the knee-jerk consequences we assign to speaking out of the norm that we need to pay attention to.


Maybe it is possible we are simply blinded with the richness of our freedom.

Because freedom is blindingly bright.




We feel like we have escaped from a dark cave into the bright daylight.


And here we stand not knowing where to go or what to do.”


unknown Siberian peasant after the Russian Revolution




I imagine I used that quote to make everyone think about the ‘dark cave.’ Let’s call it the cave of intolerance where views were never expressed. Or views were only expressed in private … in the cave as it were.




In today’s world the cave is public.

public is the new private

And public is the new private.






Let’s be clear. There is no longer ‘private.’



But just because it becomes public doesn’t mean you lose your freedom to speak and think.




And this public world is the world we live in.

Our forefathers made laws about freedom of speech (to protect citizens from government, not to protect gossip channels), but they never displayed equal foresight for privacy.

Probably because in their day decorum prevented certain behaviors from ever seeing the public eye.


That was a long time ago.


Today, no place is safe, no restaurant, no parking lot, perhaps not even your own bedroom.

But its not just privacy.



It is anything and everything IN the public.






Students at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota canceled a “Hump Day” celebration featuring a camel because someone thought the camel signified racism against Muslims.

(Yes, Muslims aren’t a race, but that doesn’t matter, apparently.)



Dartmouth cancelled a charitable fund-raising “fiesta” because one student complained that the word “fiesta” was racist. And going beyond race, commencement speakers, ranging from Condi Rice at Rutgers to Christine LaGarde at Smith, have been turned away by rabid student protests, mocked here by Yale Law’s Stephen Carter.

From the economics to the politics, colleges and universities are looking less like serious places to improve one’s mind and one’s prospects, and more like expensive islands of frivolity and, sometimes, viciousness.





Frankly … it has reached some absurd levels.


freedom free speech















And I am not speaking of political correctness … but rather … freedom of thought.




“We naturally associate democracy with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos.”



John Dewey


I am certainly not condoning stupidity.







People are free to be stupid.


<note: I have written about how the most articulate stupid, the morons, are actually quite intelligent: http://brucemctague.com/morons   >


And while I ramble on about tolerance, and intolerance, it may be good to remind ourselves that we are actually a country of knowledge and learning. While our country’s success has a foundation of “doing” <other countries always think we are always in a rush>, the doing has a strong thread of quality about it because we are a country of thinkers.



Great thinking.



Great freedom of ideas.



Great freedom of thought.







We always think about what we deserve or are entitled to.



Sometime these rights, or freedoms, are viewed that way by people.


We think about those rights to which we are entitled … which, uhm, are actually not an entitlement but rather a privilege guaranteed by our Constitution & Bill of Rights.


The words are part of our everyday vernacular and part of our identity and therefore deemed a ‘given’ not a ‘privilege.’



But just because we enjoy certain rights and privileges does not mean we can do whatever we want … whenever we want to.



There are necessary restraints on freedom.


Basically the most basic restraint is that you may enjoy your ‘freedom of’ liberty as long as you do not harm others <or yourself>.

confidence stupid people






And this doesn’t mean ‘harm someone else’s’ thought.’


This means actual harm.



I think <I am no lawyer> that legally … restriction of our freedom is rarely justified.  Suffice to say that the legal judiciary has to prove it has a reason to limit the freedom, that the law actually addresses the harm (i.e., that by limiting our freedom the government is actually protecting us from something harmful).




So why should a ‘jury of peers’ not have to follow the same rules? The burden is to PROVE a reason to limit a freedom … not just bully it into change or limiting.



Harmful thought is incredibly difficult to prove <excepting maybe inciting to riot’>.


There’s a massive difference between expressing your personal opinion versus trying to punish someone for theirs.


I fear we are leaving ‘I do not agree with what you have to say but will defend to the death your right to say’ behind and it is being replaced with I do not agree with what you have to say and will do everything in my power to ruin you for saying it or even thinking it.’



I fear there is little, or no,  tolerance for a different point of view these days.



I fear it is gone.



And within that fear is a greater fear.



I fear we have begun a slippery slope on something so innate, so powerful … it resides within all of us – freedom. I fear we are grappling with ‘what are the limits on freedom’ on this very very slippery slope.


stupid but will do it anyway











I fear we are undoing something, freedom, which has been around for thousands of years.



In the end I like to remind people that a desire for freedom resides in every one of us … from the minute we are born. And while it is born within us many of us never have the privilege of  living somewhere in which we can actually live with freedom of thought, speech and religion.



And because it truly is a privilege … it seems like we should be doing more to protect freedom rather than seeking ways to limit it.



This includes, yes, freedom to be stupid.

gracefully letting go

March 29th, 2015


———gracefully let go card




“Teach me how to gracefully let go of things not meant for me.”



via lilac-veinss







There are moments in the life of a man, and of a nation, when it is right to say:



I have done my utmost, and I can do no more, therefore I will cease my striving and seek another road.”







“People will try to hold on when their world starts to tilt.



They will grab onto whatever is in reach.”




Claire Zorn






freedom feels like hold




Letting go of shit may be one of the hardest things to do in the world.



Even more difficult?



Letting go gracefully.



These are the moments in which you have decided you have done what you have done, done what you consider enough … and you are … well … done.



These are the moments in which you actually consciously think:



How do I let go?

gracefully let go lemons

Where do I begin?

Do I let go memory by memory?

How many goodbyes will this take?

Do I leave words with everyone until I have no more words left to give?






And if I do all this, will it even matter?



In addition.


Maybe I should do nothing.


Maybe I should just stand here and let others let me <or ‘it’> go.


This stuff, letting go in general, let alone gracefully … is hard. Really hard.



And while we typically suck at letting the right things go, let alone anything I imagine, we REALLY suck at letting things go gracefully.



Suffice it to say..




Most people don’t let go gracefully let alone let go at all.



You just get stuck.


You just hold on tight … and then when you do let go you just want to throw it away and ignore it as if you never held it.



And maybe you get a little confused.







There is no handbook for “how to let things go gracefully. “


gracefully Yep time let go


It does not exist and so you must try to find ways to figure it out on your own.



Frankly … it seems almost cruel that a handbook on “letting go” doesn’t exist <let alone gracefully>. Because it may be one of the most common things we do in Life.



We don’t seem to notice the almost daily experience as we let go every single day of countless amounts of things:













We may not notice until we are faced with a situation that we want to hold on or that we are the ones being let go.


That must be it.



There comes a moment where we realize we are the ropes in a tug-of-war.


Someone holding on at each end … until one decides to let go.



Someone watches you leave.



Or maybe you end up watching someone else leave.







We have lots of personal experience letting shit go.



Most times things are let go little by little. And in these small but significant changes we don’t really learn the ‘gracefully’ part … just the letting go part.



In addition.



Not only do we let most things go in small insignificant increments … often you have no control.



Things get lost.



People are going to begin to let you go regardless of whether you ask them to or not.



I have said it before … but part of growing up is leaving shit – regrets, stuff, people, choices, etc. – behind.






That is the gracefully part.



Learning to let things go that you not only made the ‘let go decision’ but also the things that were ‘let go’ by someone else.



In other words … learning to let things go even when your world starts to tilt.






Holding on is a shitload easier than letting go.



And, in fact, I am not sure there is such a thing as ‘holding on gracefully.’



You are just … well … holding on.






Let’s end with this thought.


Unfortunately … I tend to believe you encounter more things not meant for you than those things actually meant for you in Life.

And while we may eventually get better as we get older with regard to sifting through all these things inevitably you will end up with a lot of shit that … well … aren’t really meant for you.


And even more unfortunately … there really isn’t anyone to help you sift thru … no one is going to … ‘teach me how to gracefully let go of things not meant for me.’



That is something you just gotta figure out on your own.


gracefully Life



I am a work in progress.




I have certainly learned to let go of things … but still learning to do so gracefully.



I can only hope that I am more graceful on the important things.

when not to let go (and balloons)

March 28th, 2015


hold on let go balloons

“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go.

Balloons are designed to teach small children this.”


Terry Pratchett





I have written about how difficult it is for people, in business & Life, to let go of things so much I am not sure I can find any new words to share on that topic.



In fact … if you google “reasons to not let go” you get nothing.





You get jack shit on the topic.



All you get is page after page of ‘reasons to let go.’



And, yet, there are certainly times to know when to not let go.



To be clear … a purposeful ‘not let go’ is a different difficulty for us. While not letting go is something that is mostly based on some version of fear or doubt … knowing when to not let go of something seems to be more about our difficulty in discerning what is important, or good, and what is unimportant , or bad.



In fact.


I think part of the ‘not letting go’ difficulty resides in how we learned to hold on in childhood <the balloon thing>.



We learn very early on that when you let go of something good it floats away never to be seen again. So we have learned to hold on a tightly as possible to goodbye handanything that could be construed as good <even if it is really a crappy balloon>.


We have become so good at it we are almost proud of not letting go. Therefore the problem isn’t our ability to actually hold on … it is choosing what to really not let go of.



Not letting go is complex compounded by the fact we are complex people.



Why does the complexity matter?


Because there is no formula. No ‘rules of not letting go.’


Yeah, yeah, yeah.



Some things are obvious.



The self stuff, the character stuff, the ‘who you are as a person’ stuff you don’t let go of. They are good balloons.




But after a while you have so many balloons you can’t discern the good ones from the bad ones. Which leads me to suggest I sometimes believe the ‘what not to let go’ choice is an acquired intuition thing.




I just typed acquired and intuition side by side.



I like to remind people that you are not borne with good intuition. You may be borne with a good intuition muscle but experience strengthens the muscle and it takes some time & experience to ‘acquire’ the intuition necessary to ‘not let go’ of the right things.





I suggest intuition because unless one of the balloons has lost all its air and has sunk to the ground you are choosing amongst a shitload of balloons that maybe all look pretty good to you.



This may sound crazy because balloons float above you and should seem obvious at all times … but the connections to many of the balloons in your life are actually like links of a chain underwater.


“The moment of truth, the sudden emergence of a new insight, is an act of intuition.

Such intuitions give the appearance of miraculous flushes, or short-circuits of reasoning. In fact they may be likened to an immersed chain, of which only the beginning and the end are visible above the surface of consciousness.

The diver vanishes at one end of the chain and comes up at the other end, guided by invisible links.”

Arthur Koestler


learning to fly hands
You see the balloons.

Okay. You see some of them.

But the strings get all tangled up and you cannot tell which string to let go of <because you are not sure which balloon will go away> and which one to hold on to. Some of the choices you make as you look at the strings is intuitive. And given some time and experience I imagine the string feels a little different in your hand as you pluck it out from all the others. That is this version of intuition.






One of the things I admire most in people is consistent great intuition and how they manage what to not let go of.



It is an interesting characteristic to assess when you meet people and is fairly easy because you can just look up and see the balloons they carry with them.



So, in the end, maybe the balloon metaphor is bad … or maybe I simply overused it … but suffice it to say that while there is a lot of free advice on ‘letting go’ there isn’t a whole shitload of advice on ‘what to not let go of.’



I think it is obvious that there are certainly some ‘be yourself’ characteristics that you should never let go of <although figuring out what to not let go of as you try and improve yourself is not easy either>.
What is less obvious is the other stuff in your life. Experiences, knowledge, even people.


birds on hand

I don’t have any answers today. Just questions. And maybe some prompting that this is something we should think about a little more.



Most letting go advice online is vapid and a waste of time <albeit with good intent>.



I don’t have any advice for ‘not let go’ other than think about it. We all learn to hold on to balloons because they represent freedom and hope and good things waiting above us. Those should be the things we hold on to and not let go of.

Enlightened Conflict