What makes America great

In 72 days, we will have a new President and Congress in office.

It will be a peaceful transfer of power.

There won’t be a military siege or coupe or militia or blockade.

We get a chance to set an example for the rest of the world once again.

Movember

150 years ago, young men would grow their beards and mustaches to appear old enough to vote. They were referred to as“virgin voters” or “twenty-onesters”.

To the new-comers: Welcome.

Enthusiasm for voting has been down for several decades. I’ve talked about the media’s role in a previous post and about the voting predicament many are faced with.

With all that aside, today is the day you get to choose to get in the game. Or will you sit back on the sidelines?

No one is going to pick you though. You have to pick yourself.

Sure, it’s nerve racking. You might pick the wrong candidate. You might get blamed.

That’s what happens in an ugly election.

Time will tell if we made the right decision. (No one will know for at least a few decades.)

But the right play today is to vote. I hope you have the courage to stand up.

[If your not sure who to vote for, I have one suggestion: Try prayer.]

Newton’s first law

Fauja Singh was the first 100-year-old to complete a marathon. He picked up running at 89 years old and hasn’t stopped. Objects in motion stay in motion.

That’s why management tends to give the most important projects to the busiest person in the room. Not because he can’t find someone else with more time on their hands. It’s because there’s no need to motivate the busy person—she’s already in motion.

The flip side is: Objects at rest stay at rest.

Pushing a boulder is difficult at the beginning. The boulder doesn’t want to move.

Which explains why it’s difficult to do something that has never been done before: moving from the industrial economy to one of connection, traveling to Mars and back, creating artificial intelligence. Or why it’s difficult to do something for the first time: riding a bike, voting, marriage.

But once you get the ball rolling, it’s easier to keep the ball rolling.

There are lots of outside forces trying to slow us down. Steve Pressfield calls it Resistance. Resistance is the voice in our heads telling us that we are not good enough and who do we think we are. But we can use Resistance as a compass. To guide us. If you are feeling Resistance, you are the verge of doing something daring and great. You should follow that.

My advice: Pick the right boulder (not too big, not too small) that you can start pushing today. Keep it rolling for the next 20 years.

Where did all of the explorers go?

Can you name one in the last 10 years? 20?

Geographically, there isn’t much left to explore on this planet.

(President Obama has gone on record to say that in the 2030’s we will be able to send someone to Mars and back.)

It’s been a while since we’ve seen someone like Neil Armstrong or Percy Faucet or Reinhold Messner dominate the news.

Going out to the edges is what we do. It makes us human.

We have to preserve the spirit of exploration by expanding our definition. It’s not just about how far you physically travel. It’s going to unfamiliar territory through places or art or science or religion or music or whatever.

Weatherman

A Weatherman is not the same as a Meteorologist.

A Meteorologist goes to school and studies the patterns of the Earth.

A Weatherman is an entertainer.

The goal of the Weatherman is not to be accurate but to boost ratings. As Nate Silver puts it, they “add ‘value’ by subtracting accuracy”.

Making noise, creating urgency may give you 15 minutes of fame. But this approach doesn’t scale. You can’t earn trust just by getting our attention. You need generosity and connection.

The problem is that *Weathermen don’t bother to make accurate forecasts because they figure no one will believe them. And people don’t believe them because they don’t make accurate forecasts.

The Meteorologist isn’t going to make noise like a Weatherman. No, he is behind the scenes. Analyzing and predicting so that people (including Weathermen) can do their jobs better.

Drip by drip by drip. Earning a little bit of trust with each interaction.

It’s extremely difficult for anyone to predict the future. Even a 5-day forecast (or a presidential election). No one has a crystal ball. But I much rather listen to someone who sees the world as it is, rather than someone who sees it as they want it to be.

[* It turns out there are lots of people who will ignore data, cherry pick the facts and manipulate the system to push a personal agenda. Finding accurate information about candidates is increasing difficult in a world full of noise. Look for someone in the accuracy business not in the urgent one.]

Powers of ten

In a world of tracking and measuring it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison.

I must be doing something wrong because…

  • Everyone’s life on Facebook looks better than mine.
  • You have a million Twitter followers. I only have a hundred.
  • Someone gave me a 1 star review on Amazon.
  • I spent all day writing this post and no one read it.
  • The picture I shared has no likes or comments.
  • The Jones’s bought another new car.
  • Your co-worker who constantly slacks off made partner.
  • That lousy professor you had made tenure.
  • Our stocks are going down and the competitions is going up.
  • I’m in the middle of the Dip.

It’s easy to get down on yourself when you’re choosing to seek discouragement.

No author ever got better reading all of her 1 star reviews. Life on Facebook always looks more polished than what is actually being published. And the Jones’s? Well, they’re broke.

Keep things in perspective. The universe is a big place. Earth is just a drop in the bucket.

Are you a genius?

We would like to think that a genius is someone with a high IQ or wins a Nobel Prize.

Our internal narrative is that people like I us don’t do stuff like that.

That is reserved for the likes of Albert Einstein or Marie Curie or the person who cures cancer.

But the Romans called anyone a genius when they would release their gifts. In Greece, they were called Daemons.

So if we redefined what it means to be a genius as someone who uses their talents to solve interesting problems or to make a difference; maybe people like us can do stuff like that.

Work and labor

Work is something we do by the hour. Work is urgent. Work is “this for that”. A fair trade. Even Steven. No one owes anyone anything. Follow the instruction. Do what your told. Get paid.

The funny thing is, we do all sorts of projects for free growing up. But suddenly, we graduate and turn 18, and we don’t want to do work anymore because it’s our job.

Labor, on the other hand, can’t be quantified. It has it’s own time table. Writing this blog post is labor. Raising your children is labor. Solving new and interesting problems is labor. So is making a difference or making better art. We don’t necessarily get paid for our labor (although sometimes we do). We do it cause we love it.

Why work if you are leaving labor on the table?

Labor has something interior to it.

Labor is an expression of love.

Higher is not better

I was reading the other day that there are people in low-income areas purposely seeking loans with higher interest rates. They believe that the higher the number is, the better it must be.

Huh?

These victims of predatory lending are not the only ones.

It was just announced that Obamacare premiums will have a 25% increase next year. You can find people excited about it here.

What’s going on?

It’s marketing. Brilliant marketing at that. People want a story, an internal narrative, that matches their world view. They are buying with emotion, not logic.

We don’t say your Obamacare payments will be increasing or your Obamacare costs are rising. We don’t use words like taxes or charges. No one wants to buy that.

Instead, we call it premiums. Because premiums sounds like a good thing. Your getting an increase in premiums. Your getting more premiums. More must mean better.

(It’s called Affordable Care Act.)

Bad choices are the easiest mistakes to avoid. It seems painfully obvious what people should do. The culture has to do a better job if we are going to build something that we can all be proud of.