President Donald Trump

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Dear Donald Trump,

As I quoted in my blog back in July after the Dallas Shooting you said, “Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better. This isn’t the American Dream we all want for our children.”

Please don’t let us down.

Sincerely,

Your fellow Americans

Please be sincere in Making America Great Again – especially for our children and our future.

I agree with Mr. Colbert here.

US Citizenship

US Citizenship

statue of liberty

I’m reminded of it by many current events. The recent 15 year anniversary of 9/11. The current 2016 election less than 2 months away. The Colin Kaepernick/NFL players protest during the national anthem. The recent presidential debate and the many other news stories that continue to inundate us everyday.

For a large majority of us we are born as citizens of the US. We don’t have to go through any active process to get citizenship. It is a right bestowed upon us by our birth in this country. However, it’s not a right we extend to everyone in our communities. True, those of us born in the US learn about what it means to be a citizen as part of our education. We learn about history and politics in the first few years of school. In fact education in-grains certain elements of citizenship. We say the Pledge of Allegiance, we learn about voting and civic engagement. Moreover, we take trips to national monuments, the capital or other institutions that represent aspects of our local government.

Let’s look at what outsiders immigrating here have to know to become a citizen. Is that a better barometer of what a US citizen is?

I would argue not. You are taught a cursory number of facts which have been deemed important. Then you need to use those facts to pass a test that reminds me of the one needed to get a driver’s license. Can you identify the statue of liberty, the length of a senate term, who the speaker of the House is, or the president during WWI? Do you know the word “capital”, “stripes”, “border” or “east”? ie Why are there 13 stripes on the US flag? Name a state that borders Canada. What ocean is on the East coast of the United States? These are real questions that real immigrants study to attain US citizenship. I know because I encountered a person doing this precise studying. That’s what motivated me to write this post.

Personal Meaning

So what does US citizenship mean? First let’s tackle what it means to me. To me it means being a part of a community. I’m obligated to interact with and contribute to this community. It’s one where everyone deserves our respect, and one in which we share many core values. One of those values is that everyone has value. Sometimes it takes more to discern what that value may be. However we should care enough to try to find that value

In the current climate, and with our country still in a state of constant agita, I find it meaningful to reflect on this. We are very worked up about race relations, about economic uncertainty, about both real and perceived infringements on freedom, about all the social injustice in our imperfect world.

That said, what do we do about it all? For me I’m reflecting on what it personally means to be a citizen of the USA. Why is this important?

It’s important to construct a well thought out personal world-view. For it is collective word-views of a group of individuals that shape a community. That’s where I think we start. My last point is that the diversity of world-views is where we get in trouble. The way we respond to that diversity of opinions is what ultimately decides if the foundation of our community is robust and capable or not.

The Hedonic Treadmill: A Loophole

The Hedonic Treadmill

I came across an article recently that made me pause. Exceptions to well found rules or theories are interesting to explore. In this article the author explores a loophole to the hedonic treadmill theory, the lasting level of satisfaction and well-being that accompany plastic surgery. Continue reading

“Too Divided”

too divided

Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better. This isn’t the American Dream we all want for our children.
Donald Trump’s statement after the Dallas shooting

“Us” and “Them”

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You can’t make up the world into ‘us’ and ‘them,’ and denigrate and express hatred towards groups because of the color of their skin, or their faith, or their sexual orientation, and not feed something very dangerous in this world.
President Obama. Full remarks can be found here.

Small Moments

An Unusual Occurrence at 6:50 AM

I drive the same route in the morning as most people do. When you do that the surroundings tend to blur. Often as I leave my neighborhood I see the same girl walking to her bus stop. She’s approximately 10-12 years old. Today, she was waiting on the sidewalk with her head buried in a book with a smile on her face. It didn’t look like a textbook either.

She was enjoying a novel.

In public these days people rarely look up or out, especially while waiting for something. I would guesstimate that 90% of the time you see someone looking down they are buried in some sort of mobile device. What does that say about modern culture (or my perception of modern culture)?

I don’t know why, but this short scene made an impression.

The scene seemed so anachronistic. It was as if this girl briefly made an appearance through a wrinkle in time from a distant past. Of course reading a book is still a regular occurrence and small moments like this occur all the time. However, in that particular moment I had a feeling of gain. I was able to gain a new perspective. I appreciated seeing a glimpse of someone avoiding the typical pressures of modern culture, if only for a moment in her life.

Here’s to everyday small moments of inspiration.

Lessons from a Grassroots Canvasser

canvassing

canvassing

Back in high school I worked for Colorado Citizens Campaign (CCC), a nonprofit that ran a “Good Neighbor Campaign” focused on the CEMEX cement plant in Lyons, Colorado. Our issue with CEMEX was its environmental impact on the community. CEMEX had multiple neighborhood complaints and EPA violations. Our mission was to activate Colorado citizens to pressure plant managers to make changes. Each afternoon we would gather in the office, pile into a large van, and set out to a different neighborhood in Colorado. We would spend the rest of the evening educating folks about our cause, collecting signatures, and asking for monetary contributions. I was the prototypical canvasser for any grassroots cause. We literally went door to door with a clipboard and backpack. CCC no longer exists, and I’ve not really heard or been able to find any results from our efforts.

Back then I honestly cared more about the experience and compensation. I believed in the message, and cared about the environment. Yet, I had no direct experience with the travesties experienced by the folks living nearby the CEMEX plant. Hearing stories of burning tires, and the statistics on EPA violations was indeed shocking and helped me to rationalize meaning in my work. Yet, I didn’t care how I contributed to making a difference. I only cared that I was helping and that by doing so I was making some extra cash.

Nevertheless, I did learn some important life lessons.

I learned of the generosity of people. As a canvasser, ringing a stranger’s doorbell and sharing a story for a few minutes, I was able to get a guy to give me a $320 check, and multiple people trust me with their credit card number. Many days I had at least a contribution from a donor of $50+ (sometimes multiple).

I learned how to quickly build rapport and sell something. To get donations from a stranger, you sell a convincing message. However, just as important as the message is the tone in which it is delivered. Scripting the framework of a conversation is important, but you should never script the conversation itself. You always need to mirror the person.

Reading people is important. Are they going to be receptive to my message? Customer service folks should listen up. I think there is value in pushing, but please don’t annoy people with your persistence when they are not receptive. There’s a fine line there. Instead of staying to convince someone, I was encouraged to move on to the next potential donor. Quantity is valued over quality in selling something.

People who weren’t interested either quickly declined or did not answer the door. There was only two bad experiences that I could remember. Fewer than I expected.

When someone is home alone, they are more likely to donate. They feel independence in their decisions without having to justify the expense to a significant other or family member inside the house.

Walking up to a person’s front door, you notice many things. You’re on the threshold of a personal space. You notice the wealth, the value someone gives to appearances, the quirks, their value of privacy, and so many other things.

I also learned how people do segregate themselves based on ideology to a much larger degree than you might expect. Neighbors are much more like minded than you may think. I always knew the neighborhoods we visited were carefully coordinated and planned based on past experience. We visited the Boulder area quite a bit. Boulder folks obviously cared about the environment, are open minded and generous. I could tell right away how successful the day might be based on the reception I had in the first few houses of the afternoon.

Environmentalists are a unique breed. I worked with true hippies. I was first offered weed working with these folks (I refused). Their political views were obvious. Back then I remember discussions about nuclear power and John Edwards presidential candidacy for 2008 (before his fall from grace).

Working on commission (partly true at CCC) or getting compensated based on the contributions we could gather is not a good a motivator. At least for me, I worked just as hard using all my skills even if my day started out well. On bad days, I didn’t change my approach. I think commission work often breeds bad practices and use of shortcuts. It focuses too much on the money side of things rather than the message we want to deliver. This is an absolute feeling where I’m sure nuances and exceptions exists.

I said before I didn’t care how I made a difference. In all honesty, I really don’t think my work was so impactful. Our focus on quantity over quality was more efficient and profitable. However, I doubt any “good neighbors” followed up on their contributions and we made some incremental changes, but as a nonprofit, I’m sure were expected to achieve loftier goals. Its definitely hard to create passion and move people to forge lasting change by asking them for a signature or for a one time contribution.

Process vs Product

Belleview Park - Thienan

Belleview Park – Thienan

The process matters more than the product. It’s something we learn to forget as we grow up. What comes to mind when someone says “art.” For adults, perhaps they may think of the Mona Lisa, a Rodin sculpture, a particular impactful song or movie. For kids they think of “art” as something you DO… the process of painting, sculpting, composing or creating. Of course, it’s great to have the best of both worlds – to care about both process and product. This is especially true in marketing where a belief in the end result matters a great deal. The product isn’t necessarily a tangible thing. It may be a service rendered or a message conveyed. Whatever it is adults need to get back to the process.

Too often, people start from the wrong end and worry too little about the process. People are so wrapped up in the next product whether it be bitcoin, drones, virtual/augmented/mixed reality, voice interfaces etc. I find the concept of blockchain more appealing, the applications of VR or robotics (drones, autonomous vehicles) intriguing, and the excitement of artificial intelligence so much more interesting than worrying myself about getting the oculus rift on its consumer release.

For a consumer, instead of buying the next hyped thing, maybe learn about new ideas first and make informed decisions based on the ideas behind it. I see way too many hypebeasts on social media!

For the insiders, I would focus more on the process of solving problems, serving people, and creating value rather than creating buzz. Buzz gets you quick money, but doing important work to get a mature stable service or product makes a much bigger difference.

Extemporaneity

anemone and starfish
We are trending towards more extemporaneity in expressing ourselves. The most popular platforms to share thoughts or interests have become places like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. Rather than writing an article to share some thoughts we share snaps and instagrams. It’s like taking a photograph rather than painting a picture. The frequency of these small sharing sessions are greater, but the content of each shared snippet is less. This phenomenon occurs in all mediums (Writing limited by the number of characters, shorter videos, random photos of everything). As a result, reactions to these shared snippets are different. How do we express ourselves with this realization in mind? We compete in finding the perfect precise moment to tell everything we want to share, but not finding it we turn to sheer volume.

The amount of available content is also greater than ever. Our hard-drives get filled with 500 photos of the dinners we had the past year. Technological advances only spur this trend on. Maybe we’re writing too much, taking too many photos, creating too much content. It takes away the time we have to create good content and to appreciate good content which gets easily lost in the daily deluge. Then again, we’re also thinking less in uploading a picture, or writing a tweet. The world is more unfiltered than ever. I do appreciate these “realer,” more impromtu human expressions even if there is less of a message to be said in each expression. Still, at times you just have turn off the social media microphone once in a while and go outside.

Limetown Season 1 Review

Limetown

Season 1 of Limetown was definitely a podcast worth listening to. It’s one that is dense and full of substance. Many compare it to Serial. In the same vein, you have a female reporter who reports on a strange mystery. This time however, the story is all fictional. Lia Haddock, or the voice actress who plays her (Annie-Sage Whitehurst) has this same reporting voice that brings about calm enthusiasm, and reporter-interest innocence that Sarah Koenig does so well. However, it’s the intrique in this story which forces you to listen to this podcast by yourself, alone without distractions in order to pay attention and fully absorb every single detail as you unravel the mystery alongside Lia.

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