Is the Promise of Technology Broken?

We create cars with the promise of ubiquitous and unlimited travel. Then we tax gas, add license fees, mandate expensive insurance, set speed limits and otherwise make owning a car as much a punishment as a privilege.

We create computers with the promise of ubiquitous and instantaneous access to information, media, and communication. Then we tax the actual data transmission, inhibit download and upload speeds, force consumers to pay for network expansions rather than compete for consumers, and pretend there are dichotomies between computers you carry in your pocket and computers you set on a desk.

We create debit cards and electronic banking with the promise of ubiquitous access to our hard-earned money in a cashless world with unlimited shopping options. Then we tax access to our money, add fees for fake convenience, and subscribe to an absurdly convoluted system of credit punishment.

The best I can hope is that one day a future generation (maybe the children of your children’s children) will be so over-taxed, over-burdened, and over-tired of being punished for enjoying the fruits of their labor that they are forced to live by candlelight, walk everywhere, and read text on an archaic medium nostalgically referred to as “books”.

Only then, will there be hope that enough of them will trip across stories like “Atlas Shrugged”, “Animal Farm”, and “Starship Troopers”. Maybe then, forced to read and communicate with each other face-to-face in conversation… maybe then, they will be fed up enough to say “NO!” and create a better world rather than accept the one they have is the best they can “afford”.

Maybe when the promise of technology and innovation is once again a promise instead of a broken, limp excuse to take more… maybe then the world will be full of unlimited potential instead of filled with nothing but potential.

Just my two cents. Please don’t tax that.



This Is 1950

Today’s Lesson: The world has never been better than it is now.


In 1950, there were planes, but flying was for the very wealthy or for people who really needed to fly somewhere. Even when I was growing up in the seventies, flying was expensive and only for special occasions–you dressed up for a flight as if you were going to church.

Most people, even in the seventies, but especially in the fifties, were born, grew up, and died within a 30-mile radius. There wasn’t even Google Earth to virtually visit Paris.

Imagine that. Imagine if all the input you had about religion, morals, ethics, education, art, literature, and culture all came from no further than the town in which you were born. What would your tiny social bubble have you believe? Blacks are less than Whites? Marriage is only between a man and woman? The Russians are coming? The South is still fighting?

What flight did for the world is the same as what the car did for the nation. It opened boundaries and provided access to food, knowledge, and worldviews that transformed society. It allowed scientists to collaborate, politicians to regularly meet in-person, and engineers to stretch both their imaginations and their set of tools and teams.

The internet is doing the same but it is odd because it works in both directions, expanding and contracting at the same time. Thanks to the internet, you can explore the world on a 3-D map and communicate with businesses and people in foreign territories at your leisure. You can stay in touch with family and friends no matter where their journeys take them.

However, you can also shut the world out, filtering your social circle so you only receive news you want, interact with people who believe what you believe, and hear only music you have heard before. You can close the world out and stereotype and spread animosity, unfettered, with people in “your” tribe, losing contact with the rest of the world. You can stagnate, sustaining the dry husk of your potential on a diet of rotting ideas and long-dead ideals.

The nostalgia of the past may seem alluring but, by definition, it is also a whitewashing of history and denial of reality.

Yet, for perhaps the first and only time ever, you can choose to live in 2015 or in 1950.

You know what I am going to say here, right?

Choose wisely.




Just Say “Thank You.”

Today’s Lesson: A compliment is not about your self-esteem.


“You’re the one with the brains,” Dani, the host of the Katy Says podcast, told Katy Bowman. As the only actual biomechanist I have heard of, and as a decent critical thinker, I thoroughly enjoy Katy’s podcast. This moment, though, annoys me, because Katy’s dismissive response was, “No. You have brains. Everyone has brains. I think what I am is the person who is trying to explain something.”

Dani added, “…Which you are so good at!”

Katy quipped, “Well.. I guess that depends on who you are talking to.”

Twice the host tried to compliment Katy and twice Katy batted it away as an inaccurate assessment.

When someone gives you a compliment, they are not asking you to judge yourself. They are not hoping to see your low self-esteem shine through. They are acknowledging something in you they think is great.

Your job is neither to be arrogant nor humble when someone says something good about you. When you dismiss someone else’s compliment, you are not only demonstrating low self-esteem, but also you are passive-aggressively telling them they are too stupid to see the real truth about you. You are actively rejecting their ability to think for themselves and tell you they think well of you.

We think we are being humble when we down-play a compliment, but in fact, we are being jerks. When someone says they think you are smart, or pretty, or important, or a good parent, or clever, or witty, or just that you had a good idea, your response should be to accept the compliment gracefully. The way to do that is the simplest, easiest thing in the world.

All you have to do is smile and say, “Thank you.”



3 Ways Leaders Sabotage Companies

Today’s Lesson: Know what you want. Know how you will get there. Treat your best people best.


There are 3 ways I see leaders sabotage the success of their company:

1. Leaders want results, but do not know what “results” are (and do not have a legitimate path or plan to achieve them). Every company I know of has a goal, that trickles down as a never-ending demand, to “increase profits”. There is nothing wrong with making more profit except “make more profits” is a wish, not a goal. Cutting expenses, for example, would seem to help increase profit for a company but if the line-items being shaved are at the expense of employee morale, saving those pennies can actually undermine the goal of  profitability.

I once worked for a company that required a request form be completed when employees wanted office supplies, including standard disposable pens. Employees, of course, began bringing their own pens and other supplies to avoid the rigamarole. The policy worked. The company did save a few bucks, but also many employees eventually left for better companies that valued team members more than they valued disposable pens. No one cited the request form as a reason for leaving but former employees still bring the story up when they get together.

Results drive profitability; pens do not.

Leaders can fail at understanding which results are being driven or even how to identify a result. A result, I say, is the outcome (positive or negative) of actions taken to reach an objective. Knowing the results a company or team is striving to bring to life helps your team know if they are winning the game. So the first rule to defining a result is, there must be an end in sight or a way to know the game is over.

A desired result must be attainable, realistic, and tied to a goal. Imagine if marathon runners were told to run faster and faster (the desired result being to reach the finish line) but were never told where the finish line is or what path to take. They would lose steam quickly, not knowing when to tap their energy reserves to push forward. Some would run the wrong direction. Some would stop too often while others would never know if they should ever take a break. Many would quit after a short time. Team members need to know how to win, and what winning looks like.

A result must also be actionable. Running a marathon is obviously actionable. You strap your shoes on and run. But what about selling more widgets? The obvious action is not always present. A good leader reduces the workload and narrows the vision of the goal until the next action is so clear it seems stupid to do anything else. Telling your marathoners to “run that way really fast until I tell you to stop” is not clear. Pointing out the fastest, most direct route to the finish line, noting where a team should be at what point in the race, and encouraging them to move forward when they are tired (keeping updates on where the goal is, how far they have come, and how close they are) creates an actionable map to success.

The criteria for a result, then, is: it must have an end; it must be attainable, realistic, and tied to a goal, and you must be able to take clear action to achieve it.

What kind of map does your organization provide when asking for (or demanding) results?


2. Leaders have goals that are not actually goals. I have yet to come across a high-performing team that has met its primary objective. As my ROWE friends will tell you, many leaders and business owners operate under an archaic notion that the appropriate reward for work done well… is more work.

If you do not have a resting spot or reward zone for your high performers when they achieve results (which presumes the results are defined, reachable, and actionable), then your team is in jeopardy. Your true goal as a leader at that point has become simply to burn out your best people–to drain every ounce of effort from your top team members until they finally give up (and become middle or bottom performers), move up (being promoted so they can start the cycle over) or move on (to another career altogether). If that is where you are headed, then that is a goal worth re-thinking.

Many leaders I meet believe that “More” is itself a goal. “Our goal this year,” they say, “is to do even More sales than last year”. I challenge this by asking, “When is ‘more’… ‘enough’?”. Rather than create a goal for your team of “increase profit and reduce expenses”, define the terms. Set a profit goal of 30 million dollars and provide regular updates on which team members are helping most and how close you are to the goal as a team. Even better, add a clear incentive: “If we reach 30 million dollars in revenue by September 1st, the top 10% of our employees as judged by (X metric–widget sales, maybe, or customer return rate, etc.) will receive a one-time bonus check of $4,080 (or a two dollar-per-hour raise paid out in October if the goal is hit by September 1st). Does your team know what the stakes are and what the payoff for winning is? Perhaps most importantly, are the stakes and payoff commensurate to the effort you are asking of your team?


3. Leaders force top performers to work in the same cookie-cutter rule set as bottom performers, but continue to expect top performance. One of the biggest fallacies in work culture is that everything has to be fair. All workers have to follow the same rules, the same way, or you will be making exceptions all the time. The problem with this should be blatantly obvious, yet nearly every company institutes this erroneous idea to a fault. If every employee were the same and every work rule and practice were always the same, then results would always be the same… but they never are. Some weeks or months are more profitable than others; some employees are better at some tasks than others.

Leaders often refuse to acknowledge the reason “fair” does not work is because some employees are better than others. Go ahead and pick your cup off the floor–I said it and it is true. Some employees are better than others. If you prefer more politically correct phrasing, you can trade that for, “some employees provide greater value to the organization”.

I remember my first day working for a consulting firm that hired me for my innovative ideas on how to achieve the company’s vision and bring their mission statement and values to life. I watched the leaders of the company give a 3-hour power-point presentation to a large group. Afterwards they asked what I thought. I said, “I would get rid of the Power-point presentation or reduce the number of slides to 10 or less and remove most of the bullet points in favor of eye-catching pictures.” I was told the power-point has to stay as it is and I needed to learn their way instead of create my own. Although I gained invaluable experience, I did not last long with that employer because I was not a good fit for their cookie-cutter role. Within only a few months, they realized they did not know what to do with me. In the end, I lost a great team and they lost one of their greatest advocates and a committed employee… that might have become a great employee.

Effective leaders, I think, are effective because they know the distinction between a goal, a result, and a wish (a result, as stated previously, must exist in time and space–that is, a result is the measurable end of a cause/effect relationship in reality). A goal, on the other hand, is the desired end sum of results. It is what the results amount to. Great leaders understand that “More, Better, Different” are not goals (if your goal starts with any variation of those terms–“We need to make more widgets this year… we need better materials… we need a different approach…”, then you can stop there because you do not have a goal).

Goals set the end-point of results just as the finish line sets the end point of a marathon. The reward for meeting results and achieving goals should not be a never-ending raising of the bar. Top performers want a moment to enjoy their victory and look proudly over their kingdom–they need rest and a comfortable spot from which to observe their achievements once in a while.

Finally, great leaders throw out the cookie-cutter. Just because a company has done something the same way for 40 years is no justification to keep doing things the same way (“old” does not mean “effective”). Allowing your team the freedom to experiment and fail, and rewarding top-performers by treating them differently, with ever more freedom to do things their way, is a sure path to victory. Even if it seems crazy and no other person or team is doing it like your top performer… if he or she is producing the agreed-upon results and moving you toward your goal, don’t knock it; find a way to leverage it and improve it. Not forcing others to follow suit creates a little chaos, but it is exactly the right recipe for growth and innovation.

But don’t take my word for any of this. Ask your top performers what they think. Then listen, and step to the side of these 3 pitfalls.

Define results. Remember, the sum of defined results should lead to a goal. Reward your top performers with more freedom instead of more assignments.



Unique Versus Special

For most of our lives we are taught that we are special, somehow intrinsically gifted to offer the world something it has never seen. The only problem is… we are not.


I think what most compassionate parents and teachers mean when they say, “You are special” is actually, “You are unique.” It is clear that every individual is different in some way, even twins. After all, we are able to distinguish each of our friends from the other. We can tell our parents apart. Obviously, we are each unique.

The confusion comes in when people hear, “you are special”. Special means you have something no one else has. That is not the same as being different–it means being unusually different–greater or better than anything else in its class. By definition, however, most of us must be average. Most of us fall in the realm of the ordinary rather than the extraordinary.

It is okay, though, because it means for those who want to become special instead of unique, their work is cut out for them. They must strive harder. They must earn that thing which others will value. By virtue of being born, we are not granted any special powers or gifts. That comes with a lot of work, fueled by a strong ego and high self-esteem–the traits of people who are special.

The rest of us, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending where you are observing from), can not sneak away the gifts of our heroes simply by proclaiming ourselves or others to be what they are.


Today’s Lesson: We are unique but not special. The world does not owe anyone anything for being born… and what happens after we are born is up to us.



5 Ways To Live Better: Live For You

This week, I have a theme: 5 tips that have helped me live better. I hope one helps you live better, too…


I have covered the importance of curiosity, eating more plantsbeing active, and having great integrity.  Always keep your word (even to yourself), live an active life (with or without “exercise”), eat more plants than animals, and question everything. I think those habits have transformed my view of the world and made my life wholly my own, which brings us to today’s post.

5. Live for your Self. Life is barely the whisper of a thought forming in a nigh-infinite universe. Life is so fleeting that I refuse to believe it should be lived for any one other than the individual living it. Many people think there is value in living for others or under the rule of others or by the guilt of others. They would have you feel ashamed for any success you achieve and expect you to share your health or wealth or property with others who did not earn it. I think those people mean well but are terribly misguided and perpetuating evil in the universe.

If you made a billion dollars from an idea that changed the world and improved the lives of millions, there are those who would demand you give away your profits as a penance to “pay back” or “pay forward” a debt to society you never incurred. Such people would shame you to give away your riches until you are as poor in money or health as they are in character, despite your having enriched their lives in the first place. This, to me, is the essence of misaligned evil–the idea that we should punish others for achieving.

I do not accept that “guilt” should be the default motivation of humanity.

There are many ways this concept of valuing the Many over the Individual has pervaded society like a parasitical cancer and brought down the living wages and mean success of all people. For example, consider how much of your money is stolen from you in the name of charity. Every cereal box or candy wrapper or clothing line or big box store that cleverly markets thievery under the guise of nobility by claiming to offer 1% of its profits to some charity or other or 5% for the world or a 3 cents to fight hunger… is taking money you earned and using it to subsidize what they should be paying to a charity of their choice. How many dollars have you given to nameless charities you are not even sure if you actually support?

How many tip jars have you dropped change into because you would feel socially guilty if you did not? How many homeless people, with shameless signs shaming you to give up the pay you worked hard to earn, have you felt chastised into giving part of your salary to?

Do not misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with charity or contributing to the homeless or other causes. There is everything wrong with giving away your money or time because you have been socially bullied into doing so. Imagine if, instead of having robbed from you 1% of the price of goods for unknown alleged rain forest coalitions, or cajoling your quarters from you for this association or that legion or those children who you have never met or heard of prior to someone schilling for change outside the supermarket… imagine if you could keep ALL your money and either spend it on enjoying the life YOU dreamed of, or at the very least, if YOU could consolidate your own funds and choose which person or charity you wish to give that full amount of your own earned salary to?

What if you could have all those nickels and dimes thieved away from you by social guilt or cleverly disguised bullying and were able put them toward your ailing parent or child if you needed to? Imagine if everyone had that same opportunity… to actually keep all the money they made and designate however much they chose to the thing or things they care most about.

That is the difference between living for yourself and living for everyone else. There is no shame in thinking for yourself, in questioning so-called truisms, and choosing a life on your terms. There is only shame when you accept the guilt of others as your burden for living.

This does not only apply to charity or money, of course. When you are in control of your destiny, you challenge yourself to create ways of turning the fiction of your dreams into living goals brought into reality. Living for yourself means living a life of adventure based on your moral code instead of whatever other people have told you is good or bad. It forces you to distinguish right from wrong based on logic and rational thinking because those are the primary tools of the self-made man or woman. Our bodies are living machines with external senses designed to provide data to our brains so that we may use our minds to navigate through the real world successfully. Our minds are not designed to be subjugated to other minds. This is obvious. We exist as individual beings, not as one collected homogeneous and amorphous jelly of tissue, nerves, and brain cells (by the way… gross!).

Living of my accord, however, means I can not rely on tradition, superstition, or mysticism to make decisions for me. It is at my own peril that I abdicate my ability to judge and define my world to other people or ideas instead of living on my terms.

Living this way forces me to break down concepts like “integrity” and “love” that otherwise have no intelligible definition for most of us (what is Love?). I have to think hard about the essence of these things and define them for myself. I must decide if murder is bad or religion is good, not based on news and hearsay but by really inspecting the essence of their values until I have found their intrinsic nature and motivations, and only then can I make a choice about their merits.

It is not an easy way to live, admittedly. I am ever skeptical and vigilant. I try to be both arrogant enough to know I am right because my decisions are made based on my values, yet also humble enough to accept when I am wrong because I have misunderstood or miscalculated something. That means accepting there are things I am simply not qualified to have an opinion about, either because I have not given appropriate attention to them or because I do not know enough about them regardless of what agenda popular media or friends or family might be pushing me to believe.

For example, I am sometimes asked where I stand on Genetically Modified (GMO) food because I am vegan. People on both sides of the debate are usually disappointed to hear me say, “I do not have an opinion. I am not a food scientist. I do not have degrees or extensive knowledge in chemistry or genetics and I don’t accept pop journalism or good camera work and narration as truth at face value.”

The value of living for yourself, though, is straightforward. Living for yourself means living for your Self. You can not rely on the esteem of others to build your “self”-esteem any more than your car’s engine can rely on fuel from other cars to run itself.

The nice thing is, applying the other 4 tips I mentioned at the top of this blog basically do the steering for me. Living for yourself starts with keeping your word as a matter of integrity–the essence of being true to one’s Self. Staying active ensures the machine of your body is able to continue providing good feedback to your brain. Eating plants instead of animals is the fundamental choice of Life over Death (no matter from which side you look at it) and the first step to morality and building ethical character. Being curious enough to ask questions and avoid assumptions, “Why do I think that? What if everything I have ever heard is not true? How does that work? What if I do this?”, helps provide the foundation for making decisions and living a life that is truly yours, beholden to no one else’s ideas, shame, guilt, willful ignorance, or self-destruction.


Today’s Lesson: Live your life. Live YOUR life. Or, think about it this way: if you are not living for your Self, then who are you allowing to live your life for you?



Why We Can’t All Just Get Along…

Do not judge lest ye be judged… hey, wait a second. Did you just judge me for judging other people?!?


James Altucher, one of my recent favorite authors, makes a great point that I have heard him repeat a few times on his podcast: “If everyone wanted world peace, there would be world peace.”

Such a simple and compelling and depressing and poignant sentence. We are, as a society, addicted to judging others. The simple fact is, as James eloquently points out, not everyone wants world peace. If everyone thought men and women should be equal, then men and women would be equal. If everyone wanted to end racism, then racism would end.

The reason we can not all just get along is because we are all different, with different values, beliefs, ethical quandaries, and moral boundaries. This is as much a good thing as a bad thing. If we were all the same, then there would be nothing and no one to value. Life would be homogeneous and infinitely boring. The reason we can identify what is good (something like equal rights) is because there is enough diversity to distinguish what is not good (cases of social injustice).


Today’s lesson: Diversity is good and judging is also good, but as with most anything, the Aristotelian view holds true: “everything in moderation.” (Incidentally, distinguishing the importance of Aristotle’s lesson over that of all others is also a judgment…) 






How To Be Happy

A friend, who has fought depression for a long time, asked me if I am really happy and how do I stay happy? 


Something to consider:

Happiness does not come from the desires you have met, the position you have attained, or the social graces others believe about you. There are people who follow every whim or desire but never seem happy. There are people who are in positions of power or authority, or have great wealth, but never seem happy. There are people who attend lots of social gatherings and seem to have lots of friends, but never feel happy.

Desires, Position, and Social Grace are not required for happiness. What is required is the willingness to be happy.

Happiness (or contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction, etc.) comes first from the choice to be willing to be happy. This is different from the choice to be happy. I have seen the phrase, “Choose Happiness” in many places but for some people, the basic choice is not happiness itself; it is simply being open to the idea that happiness exists and is attainable in a given moment.

I have found this to be most true in relationships. I have been in relationships where I have held to the past for too long, unwilling to let go of old hopes and desires or even old problems. The result was an inability to give my best to the relationship at hand. Suddenly, I would find issues from past relationships made their way into my current relationship. If not that, then I would simply not be able to be happy with the person I was with, even if she was a great person. She might have been everything I was looking for in a mate at the time, but still… I was not happy.

I did not know it at those times but it had nothing to do with the person I was with. I was simply not happy because I was not willing to be happy. Once I realized that, I made a choice. I chose to be willing to be happy. It was a conscious effort and I had to remind myself for months to keep being open to being happy. Eventually, I realized I was there. I was content. I was happy and had been for a while but I could not have told you where the turning point was. It was gradual, often deliberate, but it became easier until it became natural.

I am content now and have been for a long time. Beyond being willing to be happy, I have learned 3 other keys to happiness:

Gratitude. When I am not happy, it is usually because I am not grateful for what I have. I am stuck in a state of wanting something (usually something more, better, or different). If I pause and reflect on things I am grateful for (even simple things like the smell of autumn, or being able to see, or listening to my cat purr), then I will usually find something to smile about. Having a flashier car is not so big a desire when I realize many people would be happy to have a pair of warm socks and a meal today.

Humor. Life is crazy, right? Being able to roll with the ups and downs by appreciating the bizarre unpredictability of life and laughing with it makes the tough times easier to bear. Knowing I will eventually be able to look back and laugh when facing a difficult situation…sometimes that is enough to provide the strength to make it through. Laughing at myself is probably some of the best medicine I have taken. I have a lot of confidence and I can be arrogant sometimes but when I make an embarrassing mistake, rather than beat myself up I laugh with myself for not having the hubris to have seen the mistake coming in the first place. Laughing with myself also takes the tension off others who are not sure if they should laugh at a situation. Finally, being able to laugh (especially with myself) allows me to enjoy my company and appreciate both the good and rocky times of my life.

Self-Esteem. Without a high level of self-regard, both gratitude and humor become tools for self-loathing instead. Having a lot of self-esteem removes the cynicism that would otherwise befall laughing at oneself and it makes gratitude generous instead of suspicious. I think people with low self-esteem who demonstrate gratitude only share half of the sentences they are thinking. Someone with high self-esteem might say and think, “I am grateful to have a friend like you.” Someone with very low self-esteem might say, “I am grateful to have a friend like you,” but finish the thought in her mind, “…but what do you really want?”


Choose happiness, but first choose to be willing to be happy. Remember to have gratitude for your life, laugh with yourself during both the good and tough times, and hold yourself in high-regard by acknowledging your own greatness and the greatness of others. Perhaps most importantly, be deliberate about your happiness. As with anything, to be really good at it requires regular practice and a lot of patience. With happiness, though, half the fun is getting there!





Where Are The Renaissance Men?

They just don’t make them like they used to… because they make them better now.


There is a longing for Renaissance Men to return. Jack of All Trades like Benjamin Franklin (Inventor, Philosopher, Writer, Speaker, Politician) or Galileo (Writer, Artist, Philosopher, Engineer, Scientist)–men who seemed capable to tackle anything because they had such broad arrays of talent.

Where are those types of men now, bread from ingenuity but with working hands that could just as easily run a plow as yield a paintbrush? I was debating this today when I realized there are more Renaissance Men now than ever.

I am neither arrogant nor vain enough to put myself in the same class of celebrity genius as Ben Franklin and other historical polymaths, but I know many people, including me, who are talented at many things. For example, I know how to write well enough to run my blog and draw new readers (thank you, by the way!), I know martial arts well enough to have earned a black belt, I understand leadership well enough to run a top-selling team and write a manual on becoming a leader, and not for nothing, I know enough about food to lead a healthy, vegan lifestyle and help others do the same. I am also learning yoga, meditation, and a second language, and I have taught myself to type on a Dvorak keyboard. I am not saying any of this to brag. My point is that I know plenty of people with plenty of talents.

I don’t think Renaissance Men have disappeared; I think they are all over. We are all Renaissance Men and Women now. We have access to knowledge, tools, and capabilities people like Ben Franklin could not ever have imagined (when Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity, do you suppose he foresaw smartphones, tablets, driver-less cars, and Google?).

Today’s lesson: Don’t look back and marvel at what people have accomplished without also looking forward and asking what can we do next?