What if the problem has no answer?

Is it chronic?

Because it might mean that this is something you have to live with.

To be clear though, most things, you don’t have to live with.

You don’t have to live with your dead-end job for the rest of your life even though it can feel that way.

Are you stuck?

Because it might mean you have to build a better system.

Human beings have this unique ability to jump in and out of system thinking to better understand the problem as a whole. We can ask questions like What’s it for? and Why?

Is this a cycle of infinity?

Problems will always exist. Because once you solve one, two more pop up in its place.

Better questions lead to better explanations, not the elimination of problems forever.

Are you focused on the wrong thing?

You might not be asking the right questions.

You might have to dive deeper than a simple Google search.

Tuning in or tuning out?

For decades, television networks have trained us to tune in to prime time television (TGIF, Super Bowl, Must See TV). That all ended after Seinfeld.

The internet is the opposite. There is no one channel to tune in to but an infinity of micro-channels. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyplace. For everyone.

Even though, TV was designed to watch commercials, for the most part, we just chose to tune them out. (You would run to the bathroom during commercials but you certainly didn’t take your TV with you.)

Netflix changed things again too. Prime time might now mean 3:00 AM so that you can be the first to finish a series.

When we remove layers of inconvenience (continuous play, one click shopping, longer battery life, video recommends…), you increase participation.

It’s worth asking then, when you are tuning in, what are you tuning out?

Tuning in has never been easier to do. The challenge of our day is learning how to tune out the noise that don’t make our lives better.

Give hope

Hope isn’t tangible.

You can’t record it on a spreadsheet.

It isn’t measured.

And you can’t store it for later.

It’s a feeling experienced at the moment.

Feelings are amplified when we share them.

Because hope is too good not to share.

I’m not sure if there is a human emotion worse than hopelessness?

Even with all the pain, suffering and adversity, one faces…when there’s hope, there’s deliverance.

If you can choose to give anything to the world, give hope.

Sonder

Sonder is the moment you realize that other people have a voice in their head that is different from yours.

When we are not clear about expressing our emotions, people will often misinterpret these signals.

As a result, we let our biases and prejudices seep in, resulting in a false assumption.

We’re wrong when we say, “They just don’t care…” That is a misinterpreted signal—a false assumption.

What’s important is taking the time to be heard and to be seen. To really communicate what it is we are feeling, otherwise, the noise in someone else’s head will get in the way from seeing things as they are.

Destruction is different now

During Augustus’ reign, as many as 35% of the people in Italy were slaves. 35%!

This made Rome one of five historical “slave societies” in which slaves constituted at least a fifth of the population and played a major role in their economy.

The other major societies? Ancient Greece, Brazil, the whole of Caribbean—the Great West Indies sugar-producing empires of the French, the British, the Dutch, the Spanish—and, of course, the American South.

The practice of slavery amazingly still a problem today. It’s is important to note that every civilization in human history has developed slavery…

Think about that.

Here’s another case study: the plague (also referred to as the Black Death) that swept through Asia, Europe and Africa in the 14th century, killed an estimated 50 million people.

That is by some estimates between 25% to 60% of the European population during that time.

One more, during the Mongol Empire (1206–1368), they had the largest contiguous land empire in world history. During that time, 30 to 80 million people were killed (about half of China’s population).

In all these situations, whether it was having your agency and dignity stripped away or watching 1 in 4 people you knew die from an unknown cause or being occupied by an outside force…

It can feel like the end of the world. This tension isn’t something new we are facing.

Yet, the difference is today we actually have developed weapons that really could end the world.

The world’s current collection of 14,900 nuclear weapons possesses enough power to kill millions of people and flatten dozens of cities in seconds.

You can see the destruction it would cause right here.

Time is running out for us to decide what we are going to do to relieve this tension. We have figured out how to make it go away yet in human history, but if there ever was a time, now is our opportunity.

Doing good vs. doing better

Doing good implies we have achieved something pleasant. It indicates that you are doing something well-received by others.

There is another approach to this.

If we can move past the label of good, we can shed the stranglehold of comparison and praise that good implies and just see as is.

Because none of us are that good at what we do.

For a two-year-old who paints a picture, it’s customary and culturally appropriate to tell her she did a good job. But compared to who? Compared to what? If we compared her work to Paul Cézanne, it wasn’t nearly as well executed. Well then you say, that isn’t a fair comparison. Sure, so how is it good compared to the other two-year-olds? How do we know that?

It must mean it is good from the last time she painted. But what if the emotional labor, the effort she put in wasn’t really there this time? Or maybe she tried to paint something that she never painted before, what then?

What is good anyway?

Good leads us to compare. It puts us in the role of the critic. Because when something is not good, it must mean it’s bad. Good indicates a destination, that we have arrived instead of acknowledged process. Good pushes our work to please the masses instead of pushing the boundaries.

The alternative then is better. Better, on the other hand, leads to more contribution. Better says that you took another step to perfecting your craft.

Bob Dylan has released 38 albums. Three of them being Gospel albums. Way different from what Dylan has contributed before and since then. So, was the Christian Trilogy good or bad? Did everyone like the albums? Of course not. Someone did though.

Isaac Asimov wrote 400 books in his lifetime. Do you think all of them were good or did they just keep making him better?

Since no task is ever done perfectly, maybe we should acknowledge that we are simply doing better.

No one finishes painting a picture and says, “I’m doing worse.” No, the picture may not have been as good (see I just did it) as last time but practicing your craft leads us on the path of getting better.

Doing better recognizes the infinity of progress.

“Life is revealed as a place to contribute and we as contributors. Not because we have done a measurable amount of good, but because that is the story we tell.”—Roz and Ben Zander

A note about poor judgement

They say that “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.”

This is the wrong approach.

Instead, good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from learning from someone else’s bad judgment.

I don’t have to ride a car without a seatbelt to know it’s a bad idea.

Simply asking the question: What do people like us do? can help start on the right foot a lot quicker than flailing around onshore.

Symbols drive mass movements

I read about this guy who tried to cut the pride flag down off the Dominion Energy building here in downtown Salt Lake.

The question isn’t whether he supports the important issues surrounding LGBTQ. The question is, why did he let a flag drive him to do this?

Because symbols are powerful.

They get us to do things we would normally ever do—from storming the castle to cutting a pride flag in the center of town.

Symbols can mean a lot of things: people, places, objects…the point is, symbols are everywhere. Because it is so saturated it can sometimes be difficult to see that one is standing in the middle of a revolution.

As Eric Hoffer has so brilliantly pointed out, mass movements begin with a widespread desire for change from the discontented people. Discontented people who place their locus of control outside their power and who also have no confidence in the existing culture.

All discontented people need is a symbol to spark a fire and make change happen.

Imposter syndrome

Eventually, you push through the dip.

Eventually, you are producing work that matters to people.

But as any surgeon will tell you, eventually someone is paying you to cut open their chest and little do they know that they couldn’t find their keys this morning.

This is imposture syndrome. The idea that the fraud police are coming to get you. That you’ll be discovered for who you really are.

A fake.

The thing is, you are never going to be good enough. You are never going to show up to do great work when you are perfectly ready.

My advice: Ship the work. Make it better. Resist the temptation to polish.

Part of the job is to step up on stage and perform. The best you can with the best you got.

The titled are powerful

The other players must accept this outcome as per the arena in which the title was one.

So when the boss tells his staff to come in on Saturday, he’s exercising his title.

And when the teacher says, “Because I said so” he’s showing his status.

Another word for title is label.

Labels are important to understand because…

Because they are a human invention.

When we label someone, we begin to reassess who they are. Subsequently, we put them in a box. Once someone is in a box, it is difficult to hear what they got to say.

Democrat. Republican. Liberal. Conservative. Gay. Straight. Affluent. Poor. Majority. Minority. Good. Evil.

See the problem? When we draw a line down the sand and ask people to choose, to sort themselves into one or another, we have created a culture of Us vs. Them.

By simply recognizing that these labels are all invented, we can draw bigger boxes.

One that includes all of us.

Humans. People. As one.

We are all in this together.