Sí, se puede!

How does a cheap, unorganized and powerless workforce come together and challenge the giant agriculture corporations?

You build a narrative that requires action. 

That is how the United Workers Union in 1965, lead by César Chávez, took on the Delano grape farmers and sparked a movement.

As Marshall Ganz has spoken about, you need three things to organize and create a movement of action:

  1. You need a story of why we are doing this.
  2. You need a strategy of how—What’s the theory of change? How are we using the resources we have?
  3. Finally, what is the structure?—What is it we are doing to actually organize? Which tactic should we use?

If this sounds familiar it is because Simon Sinek confirms this work with his theory of The Golden Circle:

Image result for the golden circle

Whether we are talking about Apple, the computer company, or migrant workers, it’s the why—not the what or how—that compels a group of people to leap into uncertainty and hope for a better future.

The answer, sometimes, isn’t to just point to the injustice or to what is wrong with the world but, instead, substitute a simple slogan of what could be.

“Yes, we can.”

“It’s time.”

“He’s finished.”

“Enough.”

Narration over compliance.

Be missed when gone

In 1995, Chicago suffered one of its worst heatwaves in history that led to over 700 hundred deaths over a five-day span.

Most of the victims were elderly. People who couldn’t necessarily afford air conditioning or it quit working on them.

What’s interesting to point out, according to Eric Klinenberg, is that some neighborhoods even with similar social-economic status were more prone to have heat-related deaths than others.

The difference?

One had a library and the other didn’t.

The library was a place that the elderly would be seen and be missed when they were gone. And so, the staff would check on their neighbors to make sure they were okay.

Of course, it wasn’t just the library but Senior Centers, movie theaters, grocery stores…places where people come to make a connection.

We are made to connect. Yet, we have built so many layers in our system to avoid each other.

Just look at cubicles and email. All built to hide. To avoid contact.

We crave connection but we don’t want to bump into each other.

Additional food for thought: According to the Surgeon General, loneliness and weak social connections are similar to smoking a pack a day (one cigarette takes 11 minutes off your life).

Time poverty

“I’ve been busy.”

“I don’t have time.”

How is it that we have more resources to be the most productive civilization this world has ever seen, and yet…

Yet, we are still starving for more time.

More time for what exactly?

What can’t you do now that more time would allow?

The problem isn’t time.

If we had more time, we would just waste it.

Everyone has the same amount. (In fact, one can argue it is the most equally distributed resource we get each day.)

We don’t have a time problem, we have a priority problem.

With better priorities, comes more time. Not the other way around.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate.

With better priorities, comes the feeling of more time.

Constraints is where art begins

A deadline compels us to start.

A budget means this can’t last forever.

The medium defines the mode of travel.

A genre sets up guardrails.

Too much of anything and we are asking ourselves, “What should I do?”

Constraints open doors, not close them.

We have more choices than ever before in human history.

Narrowing those choices is a good place to start.

Intellectual debt

In 1854, cholera was becoming a massive problem around the world. One of the areas most affected was the Soho district in London. The prevailing theory at the time that was causing this infection to rapidly spread was miasmata (breathing in foul air).

John Snow, a physician, didn’t buy it. So, he began to investigate by looking at the water supply. Specifically, water companies. During his research, he would go on to discover that the 1854 Broad Street Outbreaks were an effect rather than a cause of the epidemic. That, in fact, the waste that London was dumping into the Thames River was the cause of making everyone sick.

What is remarkable is that Snow made this discovery before germ theory was ever established.

Jonathan Zittrain has brilliantly coined this term of discovery as intellectual debt. “Answers first, explanations later.”

We trust the system that has been built once we have seen how it works and ignore why it works.

Sometimes the price to pay back this debt is small and insignificant. Not understanding how a car works have little consequences until it breaks down on the side of the road. Even then, we have shifted the responsibility to have someone else to have the know-how fix it so that we can be back on our way.

Yet, the consequences continue to increase when we don’t understand how carbon outputs have caused the atmosphere to develop cancer.

And what about AI? What happens when machine learning begins to identify patterns of how things work without ever understanding why? What happens when we blindly adopt whatever the machine pops out?

A fascinating read, you won’t want to skip.

Writing doesn’t give you passion

Neither does music or your job or even the noble cause of curing cancer.

Your passionate AND you write blogs.

Not the other way around.

It doesn’t matter what the medium is.

Because…

You won’t find passion in your work but you will always find work in your passion.

[Of course, “Finding my passion” is the great lie we tell ourselves (and others) so that we can continue to hide.]

HT Gabe the Base Player

“If it’s not broke then don’t fix it.”

This job, it pays the bills, but it isn’t bringing me closer to the change I seek to make.

This remodel, it helps pass the time, but it isn’t fulfilling it.

Satisfying a demand is not enough to classify something as working.

And just because it functioning doesn’t mean it’s working either.

The best time to break things is during smooth sailing—when things are working just fine.

Before things become too stagnant. Before things become obsolete.

If it’s not broke then break it. 

If you seek to make a change, you have to break something.

(If someone doesn’t hate it, then you are not doing enough.)

Stuck in the job loop

Today, less than 5% of our labor force is working to create food in industrialized countries. That is a dramatic shift from the thousands of years prior.

It’s important to note that as we moved from an age of agriculture to industrialism that jobs didn’t go away. But instead, we created new jobs in factories that never existed before.

And so the cycle continues, as we stand on the precipice of the age of AI.

As Albert Wenger has brilliantly pointed out, though, the way to read this chart isn’t to assume that AI will create different jobs for us to take. No, what Wenger argues is that now is the time to step out of the job loop.

What is the job loop?

The job loop is having a car payment so that I can get to work, I go to work so that I can pay for my car payment. We sell our labor to buy stuff and then you turn around and sell more labor to buy more stuff. In the process, creating a negative cycle of losing our time and attention.

The point of innovation isn’t to create more jobs to distract us and to fill discretionary time but to cultivate time and attention to solve interesting problems like democracy, climate change, nuclear weapons disarmament, healthcare….to create art.

We have more time than ever before in human history but we misuse it in all the wrong ways. Instead, we have let tech companies mind our attention and distract us from what is happening all around us.

There are now enough cat videos to watch for a lifetime. This one may be the weirdest:

Our attention is our most precious resource. How are you spending it? (Interesting word spend.)

Another thought about discretionary time: We have worked and innovated for so long to move away from the obligations in the fields, to build safety and security from the elements, to create lifesaving drugs to fight the invisible…for what? To waste away in distraction? Having discretionary time is a luxury that not even everyone gets to enjoy today (and certainly not what previous generations had.) Are we really that eager to sit around and wait until we are told what to do next?

Your role as a teacher

Your job as a great teacher isn’t to share new stuff.

No, your job is to help others do important work.

The kind of work that people are afraid to do.

Open doors for people who will turn around and open doors for others.

Busyness was never happiness

Facebook is busy.

So is the office, traffic, your email, smartphone…busy.

Where is the busy taking us?

You have to fill your time with something, but unfortunately, too often, we fill it with the wrong things—status symbols, outward appearance, more zeros in the bank account, better title…

The never-ending cycle of accumulation is just that. Never-ending.

Here are 10 essential questions from Jerry Colonna that are worth asking ourselves every day:

  1. How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?
  2. What am I not saying that needs to be said?
  3. What am I saying that’s not being heard?
  4. What’s being said that I’m not hearing?
  5. How are things going for me?
  6. What would I like my children to feel at the same age as I am?
  7. Am I a good person who’s doing the best I can?
  8. In what ways do I deplete myself and run myself into the ground?
  9. Where am I running from and where am I running to?
  10. Why have I allowed myself to be so exhausted?