Degrees of separation

As Seth Godin has pointed out, “Lee De Forest, father of radio, was raised by people who voted for Abraham Lincoln, but he died when Bruce Springsteen was twelve years old. That’s not many handshakes from “The Battle Hymn” to “Blinded by the Light”… During that same period of time, we invented and moved on from radio, live TV, nationwide magazines, color TV, cable TV, Compuserve, Yahoo, GeoCities, The Globe, MySpace and 10,000 other steps.”

The cycles of technology are moving faster and faster with shorter lifespans.

My first cell phone was the end of my Junior year of high school. You used to get charged for every text you sent. It blows the mind of teenagers today. They simply can’t comprehend what it was like to grow up without a cell phone in their hand. That is a massive shift. Things we now use every hour of every day like cell phones, computers, the internet, data, Google and social media wasn’t ubiquitous just 10 years ago. And yet…

Yet, the degrees of separation from us today and of slavery and the Civil War is not that large. It isn’t some blip on the radar. Our history in the US with slavery is longer than the history without. (In 2022, for the first time, that won’t be true.)

It can be easy to tell ourselves a story about how “that was so long ago.” In reality, it wasn’t. So much has changed so fast that it can feel like an eternity. Part of the shift is we have more access to more information than ever before. We know longer just keep track of local events. We talk in a global scale. Amplifying the feelings of time passing by.

It easy to feel superior when we talk about the past, especially with the tools we now have at our disposal. To look something up 200 years ago, you would need to live close enough to a library and be able to read. We’ve worked really hard to remove barriers. Now, with none in the way, we get caught on the next cat video. The next click bait.

The script needs to be flipped here. When we benefit from the work of others that came before us, it is our responsibility to the next generation to do work that they will benefit from too.

The door has been opened, how many doors are you opening for others?

It’s easy to stand out when everyone in the group looks the same

If everyone isn’t wearing a hat, you can put one on. Everyone wearing closed toed shoes in a foot of snow, you can wear flip flops.

But it is much more difficult to defend ideas that are different from the norm. To march to the beat of your own drum and to defend that position takes guts. It requires us to stand out. To be in the spotlight.

It isn’t popular but it’s important. The only way we inspire change is to tell stories and to shine a light of injustice. People are capable of becoming complicit to horrible things. And they are also capable of so much more.

Those in power are in fear of losing it. When we raise the floor, however, we all benefit.

Einstein barely escaped the clutches of the Nazis before coming to the US. What a tragedy if he never got to put his stamp on the world. Who never rose to contribute because of 250 years of slavery?

Difference between waiting and patience

Waiting can mean a lot of things. Waiting for deliverance. Waiting to win the lottery. Waiting for the Tooth Fairy to come.

On the other hand, patience is waiting with intent. Patience is trudging through the path persistently. But you’re on the path. That is an important distinction.

If you are waiting for the perfect conditions to start, you are going to be waiting for a long time.

The alternative is to begin. And be patient about the results you seek.

Misery loves company

Gossip isn’t news.

Gossip isn’t an informed opinion.

Gossip isn’t fact.

Gossip is speculation about other people based in unverified details.

The reason it is so seductive is that it can feel productive. That you are uncovering a conspiracy.

But how much gossip around the office has ever amounted to anything of substance?

More important to note, the one’s in the middle of the drama tend to be the most miserable.

Driving lessons

Driving in Costa Rica was stressful the first time I did it.

I didn’t understand the rules, the narrow streets, the signs were in a different language, the lines on the pavement were faded, one ways were everywhere, there is no place to turn around, the GPS didn’t work…

I was white knuckling the wheel.

And then, day two, I got a little better. Then a little better by day three. I understood a few more of the signs and how traffic moved.

“People like us drive like this.” At least that was the story I was telling myself. After a while, we begin to believe that everyone must drive like we do. This was my first experience driving abroad. And now I am reminded that there is a whole world out there.

Each of us has a story of how we live. Unique to the culture we were raised in, what we have been taught and what we experience.

Stating the obvious: Driving is only foreign once we drive somewhere foreign. At home, it isn’t unique, it’s just what we do.

That feeling of no where to go

My wife told me this incredible story of the hospitality worker at the hotel we stayed abroad. I will call her L:

L was born in India and was trying to get away from her violent father. She had experienced being tied up as a child, beaten and under threat of sexual abuse. Absolutely terrible.

L told my wife the feeling of being stuck. Hopeless. She can only make $100 per month and rent was $100 per month. She would share places to live to put food on the table.

One day, a man traveling abroad who owned a hotel got sick and L nursed him back to good health. Impressed, when he was about to leave, offered L a job in Costa Rica.

It was a way out that so many dream of.


Many of L’s friends and family tried to get her to stay in India. They told her that she would be human trafficked in Costa Rica. Life would only get worst.

Fortunately, L took the chance and the story for her has completely turned around. She is living the life she chooses.

While each of us has experienced hopelessness, I have never been even close to dire circumstances that L was in. Fear and no hope is what keeps people in captivity. It paralyzes us. It is what maintains the status quo.

We tell ourselves a story that,“This is the best it gets.”

That is utter defeat. So paralyzed with fear that you can’t even take the next step. Because the last ones were so hard. Because of the fear of oppression and consequences. The fear for your safety.

Difficult to make decisions without resources or safety or access or education or experience or without someone to help. Without hope we’re doomed to see circumstances as finite instead of the world of endless possibility. One door closes and there are many more to open. If you are fortunate to live without such fear and are feeling stuck, we need to remember that all we need to do is take a couple steps back and recognize the degrees of freedom that we have taken for granted.

Stand up. Stand out. Go.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

Someone born and raised in Manhattan will stand out at a rodeo in Nebraska.

You can see the differences in mannerisms, in how they walk, talk, sound, dress, their haircut…everything will seem a bit off.

And it’s really easy to point them out because everyone around them is different.

Someone who is culturally conservative might even begin to tell a story that Nebraska is even becoming more liberal. (Even though, the data doesn’t support it.)

Juxtaposition is a powerful tool for telling a story. The examples we use from the culture we live in are not necessarily the best representation in what is actually happening.

Everyone can always think of, “This one time…” but it doesn’t actually mean there’s a pattern or a trend. It might be what is sticking out to you because of the narrative you have created.

Yin and yang

It means positive-negative. The origins of the word are to describe dualism. Which is a way to see things that may seem opposing at first are actually complimentary.

We never really know how much we truly love until someone is gone.

We can’t know how much we need the light until we experience the dark.

One teaches us the other.

Signs of the times

The only constant is change.

And change is happening much faster than ever before. The changes from 5,000 years ago to the Industrial Revolution can be measured as incremental. Thanks to the internet and Google and Apple it has made life unrecognizable of what it looked like 200 years ago.

When my time here on this earth is done, it will be unrecognizable again.

It is difficult to recognize the wave as it moves towards us. Yet, impossible to ignore once it is here.

Change creates tension and discomfort. Particularly those in power who fight to keep things the same.

You can’t simply push injustice under the rug anymore. The world is changing. What kind of world do you want to build where we can all be proud of?