Regulatory consequence.

Chicago has banned plastic bags from stores... Or so they want you to think. What they've actually done is require merchants to give out thicker, more harmful (for the environment) "reusable" plastic bags that people will likely just throw away anyway. 

But the politicians appear "progressive" and the progressives (who already had their own reusable bags) can count a "victory."

This is when the paradigm of "Presentation > Content" breaks down. The presentation is disconnected and in fact contradictory to the content. 

Changing society.

If there is something unjust about the culture, our immediate response is often to seek awareness for the issue. While this is an important step, it must immediately be followed by some form of action, else the awareness may make it socially unacceptable to talk about and, ironically, further entrench the ill.

Making it socially unacceptable to use the N word does not fix racism. 

In fact, the focus on words may have further entrenched racism because the most hateful of speech was simply driven into the shadows where it could fester and grow. Meanwhile, the rest of us thought we had made progress.

Business or pleasure?

If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life! 

False. 

A hobby becomes a profession when you have to do it. If you're tired or stressed from a hobby, you take a break. But once that hobby becomes a profession, you have deadlines and you can't avoid the parts that you don't like as much. 

This doesn't mean you shouldn't "do what you love," but be careful about making a hobby a profession, lot's of changes happen when you go from 5 casual hours a week to 40-50+ required hours per week. 

Carrot then stick. Then carrot... Then stick...

Carrots work, but carrots don't taste so good after a while. Sticks work, but after a while the pain is numbed. 

If you want to change behavior, you have to learn to use both. Once the carrots start to get old, bring in the sticks. Once the numbness sets in, lay out the carrots. 

The US and Cuba opened their respective embassies today. We've gone far too long with only sticks, it's time for some carrots. But for carrots to be truly effective, you must have a big stick in your back pocket and be willing to use it. 

Style... without the decision fatigue.

Much has been of the concept of decision fatigue: the more decisions you make, regardless of significance, the harder it will be to make good decisions. The standard solution is to simplify in order to make fewer decisions. 

Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Albert Einstein all have a uniform of sorts for this very reason. By not having to think about what to wear every morning, you can free your mind for more important tasks.  

You can both not have to think about what you're going to wear and not have to wear a black turtleneck every day. First of all, you should have an interchangeable wardrobe. Every shirt should be able to be worn with every pair of pants and shoes. Then you can just pull the next shirt and next pants out of the closet in the morning. Finally, you should probably only have enough clothes for two weeks. This will force you to keep things simple.

On debt.

This is a brief follow up on my last post. There seems to be a growing attitude that debtors are entitled to forgiveness. It shows up in Greece, but it also shows up with student loans, house loans, and personal loans. If you borrow money, you must pay it back, it's as simple as that. If it was a bad decision, then you have to live with the consequences like any other bad decision.

The creditor can still forgive or restructure the debt and often should for various reasons, but that is their choice. Debtors should not feel entitled to forgiveness or else slowly but surely lenders will stop lending.

That would be a tragedy, as leverage is extremely powerful and can create great good when used correctly.

Debt, democracy, and the Greek crisis.

Much has been written about how the Greek crisis is really a tragedy for democracy. The argument goes that the desires of the Greek people are being overruled by the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund) and Angela Merkel. This group demands how Greece should be run without any responsibility to the people by using the threat of economic collapse.

This is the problem of democracy, when the power lies with the citizens no one is effectively responsible. Direct democracy is unfeasible (and arguably undesirable) so we elect representatives; however, if a nation makes a certain policy decision, the majority of people can effectively disown it by saying "I voted for another party" or "I wouldn't have voted for them if I knew they were going to do this." 

Which brings is back to the Greek crisis. 

The Greek people elected leaders who made poor financial decisions. But while everyone feels the weight of past decisions, everyone does not feel the responsibility of those decisions or the responsibility of changing course. "I didn't do anything wrong so why should I have to suffer?" The difficult answer is that collective power means collective responsibility. 

The country is bankrupt. The Troika are not required to continue financing Greece's poor decisions and have every right to ensure that any additional bailout they provide will not be sent up in smoke.

I do feel for the Greek people though. No one wanted to talk about (and people still avoid) the fact that maintaining a true currency union requires the individual members to give up sovereignty to the central authority. Not doing so simply creates a set of exchange rate pegs and history has shown that pegs are unsustainable except in a narrow set of circumstances.

The Greek people have spoken. They want their sovereignty. And so they should leave the Eurozone now no matter how destructive that would be.

Meanwhile, the E.U. and the Eurozone need to address their identity crisis head on. I have an idea, but that's for another post.

Value dilemma.

You have a set of values. Others have their own set. But what happens when these conflict? What would you do if your values would lead you to do something that would "hurt" another? You could compromise your values and maintain peace or you could maintain integrity and cause harm.

My gut reaction is to evaluate your values first and if you still believe them to be correct, then you should opt to maintain integrity.  It's not an easy choice though.

A hypothetical to evaluate nuances will follow. 

 

Remember to breathe.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, let your stomach out and your chest swell. Now let it all out through your mouth.

When was the last time you did that?

We get so focused on whatever we're working on or thinking about that sometimes we forget to breathe. I don't mean literally, I hope you don't pass out on a regular basis, but in the sense that short shallow breaths with a clenched stomach isn't really breathing.

Now we have different types of breath for different situations and we shouldn't always be deep breathing. But a few more deep breaths a day will probably lead to a few less gray hairs. (In my scientific opinion...)

Watch your energy.

Do you want to do anything in life that doesn't involve sitting on a couch or laying in bed? Well you need a good amount of energy to do it. Seems straightforward... Until you grapple with what that requires.  

It means eating well, sleeping enough, and drinking lots of water... Every day. Feel lazy, unproductive, anti-social, or tired? Eat good, real food, get a good night sleep and drink a glass of water or two. 

A changing mind.

We often admire those who stand resolutely and uncompromisingly for their beliefs. No doubt this is good an admirable at times. But often, what requires more courage, and is much less recognized, is being willing to change your mind, admit that you were wrong, and argue for a new position. 

The flip side, while less common to recognize, is just as dangerous and maybe even more prevalent. That is having no real opinions and taking a stand on nothing.

It is hard to make a firm, public stand for something only then to "flip-flop." To protect ourselves we choose one side or the other and often deride those in the middle. 

But we should stand in the middle. Our opinions will be tested by fire and eventually we'll have better ones. We'll have right opinions that we truly believe because we've stood on both sides of the argument. 

Let's do it live.

I didn't really like that last post. I like the concept in my head, but I did a poor job explaining it. But that's the point of this blog, to learn to better understand and convey the ideas in my head. I could have spent hours thinking and writing, but let's be honest, ain't nobody got time for that. I plan to revisit the topic, but I don't plan to edit that post, or any post here.  

There is a time and a place for perfection (see Presentation > Content.) but we cannot live that way all the time. We'll collapse under the pressure. Right now, pressure is for work, this blog is for exploration. And as an Explorer, you have to do it live and you have to learn to live with the messiness that comes with that. 

P.S. For a future post: experts are those that can do it live and still avoid the mess.

On self in relation to the world.

We are the most important person in the world and absolutely meaningless. We are special and average. We have significant influence and none at all. 

Things that seem like a contradiction but still describe some truth are usually just situations imprecisely defined. 

We are the most important person to ourselves, but not to a single other human on earth. We are the best in the world at our unique combination of skills, personality, and experience, but in each individual area we are likely not. We can influence our own actions and those of a select few in a select few areas, but most we cannot.

While this may seem intuitive, we often don't live that way. We live extremely stressed about situations we can't control, worried about what people think of us, and trying to be something we're not suited to be. The sooner we learn to what areas we can influence and focus on those while letting everything else slide away, the better.

Mastering self is good, and no one will blame you for stopping there. Greatness though, is seeking to influence others after you've mastered yourself. But seeking to influence others before you master yourself is a recipe for disaster.

A self-fulfilling avalanche.

When discussing liberalizing economies, we often think of two paths: the rip the band-aid off, shock-and-awe approach that some praise of Poland or the measured, step-by-step approach that some praise of China. The problem is that the world is not linear; everything naturally happens in exponents.

This is less relevant in the Poland example because change happens very quickly and then it's just adaptation to the change. But in China, we think economic liberalization can happen linearly. It can't. Exponent curves look linear when they begin, but once they hit the tipping point, you know you're not on a line anymore. 

This year has been a crazy ride for the Chinese stock market. In it's gradualist liberalization, the Communist Party connected it to the Hong Kong exchange and loosened rules allowing investment. Money has poured into the market creating what very much looks like a bubble. In an attempt to cool the bubble, they approved a slate of IPOs, which they had been postponing, to suck up the extra funds. Then people got scared about the bubble and the market started tanking. Today they allowed pension funds to invest up to 30% of their assets in equities (gasp!) to prop the market back up.

It's hit a tipping point and the Party in no longer in control. There are two options: 1) clamp down and restrict the economy, damaging investor confidence and dramatically slowing the growth China has relied on to prevent civil unrest, or 2) liberalize further to allow the market to sort out the problems and determine value itself.

"Shock-and-awe" vs. "step-by-step" are appropriate strategies in different situations. But the important thing to remember is that step-by-step is not a linear walk and will eventually become an avalanche.

Love.

Below is an excerpt from a weekly email to the community church group I co-lead:

As I write this email, the pride parade is going by about 50 yards out my window. Across the street from the parade is a group of people who are condemning everyone involved to hell. As much as I want to write a normal weekly email, I can't.

Homosexuality is a difficult issue for the church. I don't have all the answers, in fact I have very few answers. But what I do know is that historically the church as a whole has been very unwelcoming to the gay community. This is wrong. If we as Christians want to be a little Christ, we must open our doors and offer the love of Christ to everyone. Jesus spent time with and loved all people, regardless of how society saw them, regardless of they saw themselves, and regardless of their relationship with God at that point. 

We must love our neighbors as ourselves.

The theology of homosexuality and sin is not something I believe I'm in a position to discuss in this email but I will leave you with this: 

We as the church have long demonized homosexuality while letting things like greed go almost completely unaddressed. We must recognize the plank in our own eye first. And we must treat everyone as a fellow child of God. Someone who is broken, in need of God's grace, is made in God's image, and who is deeply loved by Him.

You cannot hate someone into heaven. At the end of the day, God is love. And #lovewins

-Adam

P.S. - this also means we must love those who stand on the corner and profess hate, too... no one said being a Christian was easy

Presentation > content.

Why do we dress our best for an interview? Or for a date?

The person we're trying to impress knows this probably isn't what we look like on a daily basis. But yet we put on this charade. Or is it really?

Content is king, sure, but worthless when presented poorly. First impressions matter. If your slide deck is jarring, if your sales materials are dated, or if you're dressed inappropriately for an interview or a date, the person on the other side of you will doubt and question everything that follows. All the content that you spent hours, weeks, or a lifetime perfecting now means nothing.

A daily shower.

"People often say that motivation doesn't last.Well neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar

Motivation, prayer, exercise, goal reflection... and bathing.... are all the same. To go one step further than Zig, a day without a shower won't kill you, and with some deodorant people may not even notice. There are some who even recommend that you not bathe daily. But each day you don't bathe the dirt and grime and odor compound. You don't know when the tipping point is, but one day you wake up laying in filth with rats keeping their distance from you.

Motivation, prayer, exercise and goal reflection are the same. A day missed may even be a good thing. But a day missed makes the next day easier to miss, and so on and so forth. The next thing you know you are completely unmotivated, disconnected from God, out of shape, and drifting through life.

The analogy breaks down when you get to the recovery part. Months without bathing can be rectified within a day or two. Months without motivation, prayer, exercise, or goal reflection take much more work to recover from. 

On blogging.

Life is really all storytelling. The stories we tell others, and more importantly, the stories we tell ourselves. I'm not particularly good at storytelling, hence this blog. My goal is to write something short and simple, every weekday. Longer posts may come on the weekend.

But why blog instead of just journal? The pressure.

I can scribble some things in a journal, and indeed will and then retype them here, but that is safe. Writing something that can be used against me later is much harder, but better for strengthening out my integrity. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

So I beg your patience with me. I desire for your comments. Let the games begin!