Enlightened Conflict

questionable civil discourse, calm the rhetoric … and leading

June 14th, 2017

obama sad thoughtful tough

 

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“We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

 

—-

Barack Obama on January 12th 2011

 

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On a day which we are faced with someone who decided to take a gun and shoot words rememberpoliticians … and appear to target politicians … I am reminded of several things.

 

The first thing is the rhetoric.

The rhetoric of the citizenry but mostly the rhetoric of our elected leaders. I say that because words have repercussions.

 

Yes.

 

I do believe in personal responsibility and choices are made by individuals.

 

But I also believe leaders lead with words <because most of us cannot view their actions>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat their words as if we will not remember them forever.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if they are truly enemies <and even use that word on occasion>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if the opposite’s behavior is unfathomable behavior for sane, moral people.

 

And if our elected officials treat each other with verbal hyperbole as the standard rhetoric discourse … and the highest of the elected leaders, the president, tosses out the word ‘unity’ on occasion but 99% of the time does nothing verbally or behavior wise to unite … well … the electors will be tempted to do as leaders do.

 

We need to calm our rhetoric. We need to remind ourselves what we teach our children … that you don’t always get what you want and that most progress sis made in mutual effort.

 

We all need to be speaking more calmly and acting more civilly but we should be demanding our elected leaders do so. I get angry with how they act and what they say because it suggests to people that is behavior we should all embrace — and it is not.  Stop, and stop it now.

 

speechless

 

The second thing I am reminded of is one of the best speeches President Obama ever made.

 

To share my thoughts I will borrow <steal> liberally from a NY Times article written by Helene Cooper and Jeff Zelenyjan. The article was Obama Calls for a New Era of Civility in U.S. Politics and it shares the speech Obama gave on January 12th 2011 in Tucson after the shooting of a US Congresswoman and the deaths of 6 other people.

 

Apparently Obama wrote much of the speech himself the day before.

 

I suggest everyone read the speech but today I will share highlights because it is a nice reminder on a day on which we need some reminders.

 

 

President Obama offered the nation’s condolences on Wednesday to the victims of the shootings here, calling on Americans to draw a lesson from the lives of the fallen and the actions of the heroes, and to usher in a new era of civility in their honor.

 

The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.”

 

It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully” and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

 

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

 

The president led an overflow crowd at the evening service at the University of Arizona in eulogizing the six people who died on Saturday and asking for prayers for the wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who the authorities said was the target of an assassination attempt.

 

He warned against “simple explanations” and spoke of the unknowability of the thoughts that “lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.”

He suggested that the events should force individuals to look inward, but also that they should prompt a collective response against reflexive ideological and social conflict.

 

While the tone and content were distinctly nonpolitical, there were clear political ramifications to the speech, giving Mr. Obama a chance, for an evening at least, to try to occupy a space outside of partisanship or agenda.

 

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

 

suicide losing care“If, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse,” Mr. Obama said, let us remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.”

 

In the end.

No, I do not believe we will learn anything from today’s event <or the other shooting events that cost people’s lives today> but maybe, just maybe, we can start talking to each other like we don’t want to shoot the other person if given an opportunity. That is a good start.

obliviousness (or blind spots)

June 7th, 2017

reality-slapped-you-really-hard

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

 

Pawan Mishra

 

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

 

—–

Amos Bronson Alcott

 

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

 

Bryant McGill

 

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Ok.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Oh.

 

That sitting back thing.

 

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

 

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

 

Regardless.

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

 

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

 

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 reality problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Whew.

 

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

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

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

 

Anyway.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

—-

Bryant H. McGill

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stupid in the rain oblivious to ideas business

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

 

Yikes.

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

 

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

 

Or maybe think about it this way.

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

 

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

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Johari window blind spot oblivious self awareness

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

obvious oblivious

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

 

 

 

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

 

Here is what I know.

 

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

 

Being oblivious to some extent can be dangerous.

 

Lack of self-awareness is never good.

 

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

 

Oh.

 

sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mind

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

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

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

 

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

balanced versus proportional

June 7th, 2017

balance proportion life business things

 

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“You cannot live without establishing an equilibrium between the inner and outer.”

 

—–

Paul Auster

 

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“I used to think of you that way, you know. Like the sun. My own personal sun. You balanced out the clouds nicely for me.”

 

He sighed.

“The clouds I can handle. But I can’t fight with an eclipse.”

 

 

Jacob

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“The idea that talent is directly proportional to your trophy cabinet is one I oppose.”

 

—-

Alex Turner

 

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Ok.

 

balance elephantI have been extremely consistent over the years with regard to my belief that I think balance is the key to almost any successful endeavor – in life & in business.

 

Suffice it to say … I am a big balance person.

 

And, yet, the other day during a business discussion it occurred to me that I may not be using the right word or even have the concept correct.

 

I may actually be a ‘proportional’ advocate.

 

Business, more often than not, is about assessing the correct proportional value of a topic, fact or idea and assigning the correct proportional response to that value.

 

Sure.

 

That may inevitably arrive at something we could call “a balanced response” but to get to the so-called balance we need to think about proportions.

 

I imagine, in my head, this means I need to stop viewing things as a zero sum balance but rather as proportional to the situation in hand.

balance and proportion graph

 

I did some research and back in 1975 a guy named Piaget described the essential characteristic of proportional reasoning as it must involve a “relationship between two relationships.”

 

Now.

 

I am not really sure what that means but I am guessing it means that proportional assumes some dimensional aspects while balance is simply a relationship between two more concrete things.

 

He also suggested that proportional involves something called “additive reasoning” which, to me, explained my misrepresentation of balance.

 

Balance suggests an either/or trade off … something like teetering on a balance beam … proportional suggests a more spatial trade off … or maybe ratio based trade off. What I mean by that is I can add one thing as part of a compromise and its true value is a zillion and give up one thing as part of the same compromise and its true value is 1/10th of a zillion.

 

I balanced my response but gained a proportional advantage.

 

There is even something called ‘the constant of proportionality’ but that becomes too complicated for my pea like brain so I will let you google it and see if you can explain it.

 

balance wheel of life proportionateI imagine my real point is that most of us, most likely, are proportional thinkers and not balance thinkers <although we say we are balanced>.

 

More often than not we invariably assess things through assimilation and the synthesis of multiple things <numbers, ratios, tangible, intangible, and … yes … even missing information & components>. Our decisions are a messy mix of analyzing a series of unequal and equal things shaping them into the proper proportions to make a … well … proportional response.

 

All that said.

 

Here was the bigger epiphany to me.

 

While balanced may be the improper term the more I focus on it the higher the likelihood I would actually end up doing the wrong things.

Huh?

If you focus on balance you will inevitably try and force equality in all things. That may sound good but it ain’t really reality. Simplistically it means you are focused on the wrong outcome & objective.

 

Instead, if you focus on the best proportional response to every situation, you may not end up with a one-to-one balanced relationship on any one comparison you review <which creates issues in its own right> but you will end up with a balanced relationship on any given series of comparisons.

 

That last paragraph may actually showcase why most people focus on balance. In a simplistic measurement business world we are almost always demanded to show one-to-one or linear explanations.

 

Balance does that.

 

Proportion does not.

 

This means to embrace being proportional means you will have to accept the burden of explaining the more difficult to explain, to showcase asymmetrical as actually being simple and dimensional can actually reflect symmetry.

 

Nothing in what I just shared in that last paragraph is easy. Particularly in thoughtful rabbit idea quick slowtoday’s business world.

 

All I really know is that whether I like it or not I am actually a proportion person and not a balance person.

 

It only took me over 25 years in business to figure that out <no one has ever suggested I am a quick learner>.

 

Think about it. You may actually be a proportional person too.

bad ideas never seem to die

June 6th, 2017

 

good idea bad idea fight time busines

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

 

 

Craig D. Lounsbrough

 

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

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

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

 

————–

Berean Study Bible

 

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So.

 

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

 

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

 

Think about that for a second.

 

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

 

Well.

That’s pretty fucked up.

 

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

 

Shit.

 

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

that is a terribe bad idea speak out business ideas

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

 

Forgetting this idea is dangerous.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Bad ideas have an innate knack to normalize their being.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

It gets worse at that point.

 

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

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

 

Anyway.

A moment back to complacency.

 

Complacent is a squooshy word and concept.

 

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

 

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

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

 

Complacency is squooshy.

 

Let’s face it.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Doris Lessing,

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

 

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

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

 

Ok.

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

 

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

 

Now.

 

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

good bad idea battle for path business

 

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

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

 

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

 

Bangambiki Habyarimana

 

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

 

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

It may be aggravating to do so.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

nights bigger than imagining

June 2nd, 2017

stars and night sky

—————

 

“And the nights, bigger than imagining: black and gusty and enormous, disordered and wild with stars.”

 

—–

Donna Tartt

 

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“This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.”

 

T.S. Eliot

 

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Well.

 

stars and planets at nightDespite the fact most nights remain the same amount of hours, minutes and seconds day to day a sleepless night can often look bigger than imagined. I have found that sleepless nights are less about restless minds and more about capacity in a squeezed space.

 

Huh?

 

Let me tackle squeezed first.

 

In general the world is a pretty vast place and our lives can seem fairly inconsequential. The good news about this is that within all that vastness there is a lot of room to let some of the more horrible or horribly mundane crap just slip by.

 

The bad news occurs when all of a sudden Life, and the world, shrinks and you feel squeezed. And this can happen a lot easier than one may think.

 

Ponder what I am going to say as “the big squeeze.”

 

Everyday everyone faces some naturally occurring ‘shrinking’ aspects which in and of themselves can’t shrink your Life enough to matter. Let’s just say this is the daily grind of work, chores and family & Life commitments. Some things go well and some things don’t.sometimes the smallest things

And then, of course, there will be a day or two where the things that “don’t” significantly outnumber the things that “do.” because this is day to day shit I view this as getting squeezed from the sides. They kind of suffocate you a little.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

And then there will be some days where you have that ad hoc shit you have to plan to get done … the faucet is dripping, the car engine light is on, someone hit the mailbox, crap like that. 95% of the time this kind of shit never goes as planned. It takes too long or it doesn’t get done right the first time or … well … suffice it to say … the easy stuff never gets done as easily as you would want.

And then, of course, there will be a day or two where the things that never get done as easily as you want actually end up just not going right. This is stupid little shit … but maybe think about it as maybe getting squeezed from underneath – an unexpected aggravating shift on the ground below you.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

And then there will be some days where you turn on the TV or maybe scan the internet news breaks and … well … some shit has hit the fan. Your country has made some monumental decision that seems to shift its place in the world.

Some nutjob terrorist has committed some heinous act to innocent people.

Some “thing” happens that feel like a shift in the bedrock of ‘what is.’ It may not directly affect you but you sense that it is a monumental thing which will most likely affect you <even though you aren’t sure how yet>. This is big shit … this just makes you feel a little like the weight of the world has gotten a little heavier and the world as you have known it has become a little murkier. You are getting squeezed from above.

But set that aside for a moment.

 

life big squeeze

 

Now.

 

I will now get to capacity.

 

Let’s assume on one day all there of things happen … you get squeezed all on one day. Oddly, this becomes a test of your capacity <which implies largeness>. And, yes, maybe it is about largeness. As in how large you can remain as you get squeezed.

 

Some nights it isn’t easy to not get suffocated.

Other nights you find your capacity and push back a little.

Most nights you find just enough largeness to not get … well … too little.

 

But the nights in which all three aspects I outlined squeezed you I would suggest … well … the word ‘forlorn’ comes to mind.

 

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“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.”

 

J.R.R. Tolkien

 

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I use forlorn because I associate it with capacity as I am discussing it today.

Forlorn has a sense of shrinking to it in that the good in Life seems to shrink forlorn bird in a cage squeezeand that which is bad seems to grow and you are left with that wretched forlorn feeling which dogs you throughout a sleepless night. Forlorn seems like it is more appropriate than lonely or lonesome in that it specifically embraces a senses of wretchedness and desertion or abandonment … in my mind … ‘despairing of the arrival of a friend … in this case … a friend called Hope.”

 

To me … all of what I just shared with regard to squeezing and capacity captures the essence of the worst of the worst sleepless nights.

And, if I were a betting man, I would bet we have all had a few of these.

 

Ok.

Here is what I know.

 

Most of us get through these nights. Despite the vast emptiness of a night, more vast than we imagined it should be, we cast about among the chaos of the stars and find some light.

I like to think of it as we clamber through the clouds and exist.

 

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“I will clamber through the clouds and exist.”

 

—-

John Keats

 

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And the outcome of most of these nights, in addition to being tired, is out of the gauntlet of forlornness we seem to come out with a degree of hope. point where too tired despair night get to work

 

Hope for a better day <at minimum> and maybe Hope for something better <at maximum>.

 

In other words, out of the bigness which seems to squeeze us if but for a moment we rummage through a sleepless night … one black and gusty and enormous, disordered and wild with stars … and come out a little less black, a little more calm, a little more ordered and a little more focused on some star.

 

 

confusing America First and Economics First

June 1st, 2017

normalizing america bad behavior values phoenix

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“America is great because she is good.

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

 

Alexis de Tocqueville

 

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

We are an impatient people.

 

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

 

Nixon from his Silent Majority speech

 

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So.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  • How Trump views rules & regulations

 

  • How Trump views I versus team

 

  • How Trump views uncertainty

 

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

 

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

 

Dragging up versus dragging down

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

Rules & regulations

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I versus team

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Uncertainty

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The dollars & cents lens <economics first>

 

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

 

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

 

Well.

 

This seems horribly misguided.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

——————–

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

 

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

—————-

 

Look.

 

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

 

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

Steve Maraboli,

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

hope light at end of tunnelIn the end.

 

Whew.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sigh.

 

There is a price to pay for such positions.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

For that, I will never forgive Trump. Ever.

 

Enlightened Conflict