March 20, 2021 – You

You have a choice. Someone needs to hear this – so I wrote it for that person. Not sure who it is, but I was moved this morning to write it.

You are the only one responsible for your choices, period. Stop looking outside yourself for success or blame. Some of the choices you can make are hope over despair, empowerment of disempowerment, strength over weakness, happiness over sadness. Wake up and count your blessings, not someone else’s.

Spend your time looking for ways to improve you – that is really the only thing you have complete control over. You. It is true that we have no control over past events, but we have a choice on how to react to them. Do you grow from them or wallow in self-pity. You have a choice, fortitude or fragility. You can empower yourself with the knowledge that adversity brings or surrender to despair. But that is your choice. Yours.  Admitting you do indeed have control over your circumstances is powerful and liberating. You are the master of your ship – you.

So today make a choice whether you are a victor or a victim. I leave you with a great excerpt from Teddy Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Have a great day and hold your head high – you are a victor, never a victim.

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Antiques, Friends and Patriots

Antiques, friends and partriots

These three things might immediately not seem to have anything in common.

Antique: a collectible object that has a high value because of its considerable age

Friend: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection

Patriot: one who loves and supports his or her country

These are the dictionary definitions of each word. On the surface, they are pretty straightforward and understandable. However, words and definitions, like human beings change over time and with considerable usage. They change meaning at our individual level all the way up through the broadest application in language.

“One person’s junk is another person’s treasure” is a statement often applied to the extreme variability of the definition of antiques. One might think that an inanimate object would be easier to define in terms of value. But, myriad are the examples of some poor, uninformed soul tossing out a Van Gogh or some sucker paying out the nose for a “priceless artifact” that has no real value.

Friends and patriots have a little more in common. Although similar sayings have been made about both. My HS sociology teacher taught us that without closely scrutinizing people, one person’s friend is another person’s acquaintance. He walked us through an entire semester of understanding how casually many of us use labels like friend because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Liberal application of the term allows us to have stable of friends that makes us wonder why we don’t have paparazzi chasing us down on a daily basis. I learned the difference from this teacher and was able to apply scrutiny to the definition of my relationships for awhile. Then came Facebook. Suddenly, we’ve relaxed society’s standards for friendship not just each of our own. Suddenly, it’s an oxytocin-induced competition to see how many friends one can have. Even though I have a FB account for my own reasons, I’ll stick with ny HS teacher when it comes to defining a friend. My two coauthors are in that very select group for all the right reasons. The most important of which are that they support me when I need it and they call me out when I need it.

That second action is much tougher and far rarer in friends. It’s easy to say your a friend in good times, hang out and enjoy the benefits of each other’s company, and soak up the figurative sun. It’s a little harder, but still manageable as a fake friend, to support someone when times get tougher. The level of support required as determined by the difficulty of the circumstances helps illuminate the reality of our friends’ commitment to the true definition. However, only true friends will call you out and help you improve when you’re screwing up and perhaps blind to your own shortcomings. Fake friends will help you rationalize (rational lies) and deflect the blame on someone else rather than say what you need to hear and make you take the tough road of self-improvement.

The same applies to a patriot. Today’s political and social environment is ripe for “patriots” on both sides of the political spectrum to defend “their” country and protect “their” way of life. One person’s patriot is another person’s freedom fighter right? One thing I know is that our country isn’t perfect…it’s history’s greatest, successful experiment in governing and the experiment continues. That means we constantly have some work to do in making things the best they can be for everyone. That doesn’t mean we blindly defend the status quo. It doesn’t mean we suppress another person’s perspective because they aren’t “respecting freedom.” Like a true friend, a patriot supports our country when it needs it and calls it out when it needs it. I hope that never changes and I hope we can return to doing that in a civil, friendly environment that allows us all to get better together.

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Lent, Life, and Liberty

I have been re-reading a lot of my recent posts, email rants, etc. and have decided that for Lent I am going to give up (or at least strive to give up) overanalyzing, fixating and reacting to the events of the day.  I have returned to the realization that what I focus on becomes bigger and bigger and tends to color my mood and actions, or, as some have put it, what you think about you bring about.

Life is good.  I don’t care what your circumstance is at the moment.  Every single one of us living here won the lottery in life.  We live in the greatest country in the world despite its flaws and missteps.  We have codified in our country and culture that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is an “inalienable” right, meaning, it is fundamental and transcends even written law.  While it has not always been practiced, we have established that “all people are created equal” as a foundational truth and we have continually strived to get better about recognizing and defending that truth.  We have established in law that every person has the freedom to speak their mind, which means we each have the freedom to debate or ignore that person.  We have the freedom to worship in accordance with our personal beliefs and are not beholden to a state-endorsed church or theocratic government.  We have the freedom to collectively gather peacefully and protest or endorse activities or ideas.  In short, we enjoy a degree of autonomy and opportunity that is incomprehensible to other nations, because we have the freedom to choose for ourselves.

We are far from perfect, but we are good and have been a force for good around the world.  We have not historically been nor are we an expansionist nation.  Our recent wars against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been to acquire new lands to add to the United States, but, rather to defend our interests abroad.  (NOTE:  I am not necessarily endorsing the idea of fighting wars in other countries, just making the observation that we aren’t fighting to extend our national borders.)

We encourage entrepreneurs and creative thinkers to challenge the norms and we reward their success.  We have achieved great technological, medical, and other scientific breakthroughs because of his freedom to pursue chasing our dreams (and wild ideas) and we reward success.  This has led to reusable rockets, self-driving cars, new medicines and medical treatments, hobbies that have become businesses, and the magic to literally create income out of thin air with the rise and proliferation of mobile and web apps.  We are not just enabled, but encouraged to be creative and are provided the opportunity to live off the fruit of our efforts.  If you are a woodworker, you now have access to a worldwide market for your creations.  If you are a writer, you can sell and distribute your intellectual capital without having to rely on publishers, book dealers, etc.  If you are a musician, you can teach, record and sell all from the comfort of your home and to a greater audience than the recording stars of the past.   In short, we have more opportunity than we have ever had in the past, greater potential than ever, and encouragement and support to pursue whatever we decide to pursue.

You may be saying, sure, this is true, but PERSONALLY, life kind of sucks right now.  I hear you and I have been there more than once.  I really like the song Grand Illusion by Styx.  Without quoting it all, the core idea in the song is summed up in the line “so if you think your life is complete confusion, because your neighbor’s got it made.  Just remember that, it’s a grand illusion, deep inside we’re all the same.”  Granted the song tends to lead you to the idea that nobody really is happy or content, but the truth in the song is even more relevant today.  When we look at the human highlight reels of our friends and neighbors on Facebook, Instagram, etc. it is very easy to believe that everyone is doing fantastic and that we are the only ones having problems, but that is just a “grand illusion”.

Everyone has struggles and areas of their life that are difficult and that suck.  Everyone has bad things that they have to deal with.  Some are things outside of our control that have happened to us.  Those suck the worst, but I have found that people tend to unite behind and support people going through those situations, and, frankly, today the ability to get support or to support others has gotten easier and better through things like gofundme, etc.  Most of the things that suck, however, are a result of (gulp) our own choices and decisions made in the past and those take longer to get past.  The only way to do that is to start making better choices and decisions now and day-by-day, over time the situations will improve and suck way less.  Even that, however, underscores just how great we have it.  Our past decisions don’t have to dictate our future.  We have the freedom AND opportunity to change and better ourselves and our situation.  This isn’t true for most people, and it definitely hasn’t been true historically.

In the past, your birth conditions dictated the rest of your life.  Here, your birth conditions granted you the opportunity to mold your life and change it for better or worse at any time.  You don’t have to follow a straight, mundane path from birth to death unless you want to.  You can make it as exciting or as mundane as you want, because it is YOUR choice and you get to decide the risks you want to take.  Rags to riches stories are universally popular, and WE are lucky enough to get to live whatever one we want, rather than just read about them.  Our only responsibility is to make sure we pass that same freedom to future generations.  That’s why I believe we are the most fortunate people on earth.

So, as we enter into this this Lenten season filled with snow and ice, Covid regulations, political churn, partisan bickering, and unease about what the future could bring, my advice is to use your freedom of choice, recognize that you live in a time, place and environment that gives you everything you need and all the freedom you need to define your future, and choose to be optimistic…pragmatic, but optimistic and then take a first step, any first step.

And remember, life is good.

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February 15, 2021 – Dingo Dogs, Moose, and Retirement

At the beginning of the movie Braveheart there is this monologue where the narrator says that history is written by victors. It seems that is true in most cases. You may think this is a political rant, it’s not. This deals with a work colleague who recently retired. I call him the arsonist-fireman. He created myriad problems that impacted mission and dollars. But fear not! Since he created the problems, he also knew how to solve them – throw money at the problem until it goes away. Anyway, during a recent townhall he was hailed as one of the best leaders our organization has ever had. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. Good thing it was a virtual town hall as this would have been detrimental to my future job opportunities and quiet embarrassing!

Let me begin with a few words from Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert. “The basic concept found in Scott Adams’, The Dilbert Principle is that the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place when they can do the least damage: management”. In this case, they did far more damage than should have been allowed. As Scott Adams went on to say, “This has not proved to be the winning strategy that you might think. Maybe we should learn something from nature. In the wild, the weakest moose is hunted down and killed by dingo dogs, thus ensuring survival of the fittest. This is a harsh system –- especially for the dingo dogs who have to fly all the way from Australia. But nature’s process is a good one; everybody agrees, except perhaps for the dingo dogs and the moose in question…and the flight attendants. But the point is that we’d all be better off if the least competent managers were being eaten by dingo dogs.”

I could only think of the Dilbert Principle as stories were shared about how important this person was and their incredible contributions to the mission. I have known this person for almost 21 years – and I’m sure what was being said was from someone else’s retirement script. But history has been written. This man will be remembered by those who never knew him as the model of leadership and stewardship. I can only sit and wish I had figured out how to ship dingo dogs to Virginia 15 years ago. Have a great week!

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February 10, 2021 – Sweetness

Watching the Super Bowl with our good friends caused me to rethink the topic of my post this time around. I had planned to post something more serious related to current events in the nation, but I’ve decided to take a lighter touch. The Super Bowl wasn’t the best game of this NFL season. In fact, it was probably one of the least entertaining Super Bowls I’ve seen in a long time. The commercials were pretty good compared to recent years, but the musical performances were less than spectacular in one old guy’s opinion. But the real gift was having a Super Bowl.

I’m a firm believer that sports contribute significantly to each of our lives whether we see the immediate impact or not. All you readers who are anti-sports can stop reading here. Let’s take Jackie Robinson for example. #42 played for the Dodgers seven years before the Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” unconstitutional. Did MLB integration happen soon enough? Was it implemented perfectly? No and no. Even today’s gestures at righting these wrongs, such as including Negro League statistics as professional stats, aren’t perfect…but they are progress and progress matters. The examples of how sports have impacted society in a positive way are myriad, but I’ll only add one more example. So many athletes have given back in meaningful ways to their hometowns and society at large: Lebron James, Cal Ripken, Andre Dawson, Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King,…

During the Super Bowl every year since 1999, the NFL awards the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Prior to 1999, it was simply the NFL Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes one player for their exceptional leadership on the field and in their local community through charitable and volunteer work. The NFL describes this honor as its most prestigious award. The award was renamed to honor Walter Payton for his work as a humanitarian which set the standard for the league throughout his career.

Most people only know Sweetness for his on field accomplishments. As a kid, I followed Walter Payton from his rookie season through his retirement after winning Super Bowl 20. He was clearly and unequivocally the best RB to ever play the game imho. I was in complete awe watching his determination and passion for the game especially during the early years when the team around him was less than Super Bowl caliber. The yards, and bruises, he racked up through most of his career came while surrounded by average at best offensive teammates while other RBs usually listed in the NFL’s best were surrounded by much better talent. But let’s not have that argument here.

Being a local kid growing up near Chicago, I not only got to hear about his record breaking career milestones. I got to hear about the powerful programs Sweetness built for the Chicago area community which continue to have a positive impact to this day through the foundation he and his wife Connie founded and she still runs. His impact changed the lives of Chicago’s children and homeless veterans during his career and as his legacy to the city.

I revered Walter Payton for his play on the field. Every time we played a pick up football game, I strove to be Sweetness running the ball, throwing a devastating stiff arm, and hurdling defenders into the end zone. Of course, I was waaaaay better in my imagination than on the field, but it felt amazing to play like my hero. He played with heart and he served with heart. He wasn’t perfect just like the rest of us, but he set the sweetest example I know for how to put others first in all aspects of our lives. I just hope I can serve following his example a little better than I played pickup football pretending to be him.

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Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before…

Author’s Note:  The topic of free speech and media (social and otherwise) has been on my mind a lot lately. I am concerned that the actions we are seeing in squelching dissenting opinions, creating algorithmic echo chambers and replacing open debate about ideas with ad hominem attacks is taking our society down a wrong and costly path…and its one we have been down before. Be warned there is a brief rant, but I have marked it so that you can choose whether to read it or not.  The choice, as it should be, is yours.

Begin Original Post

I struggled with too many topics for this post this week, but finally realized there was indeed a common thread that runs through them and that is that history, especially political history, repeats itself, and, (separate rant) unfortunately, political hypocrisy repeats itself, too.  Amazingly, though, the politicians and the media believe that if they ignore it and don’t report it, people will just miss it and/or forget about it.  I don’t tend to completely trust reviews of what happened, because they have a tendency to either omit or downplay aspects of events due to either implicit or explicit bias, so I tend to go to original source as much as possible in order to understand both what was said and what the context is.

WARNING – BRIEF POLITICAL RANT tl;dr I don’t like hypocritical politicians and trust them up until they open their mouths.  Long version – Granted there are many, many examples of politicians switching positions based upon whether or not it benefits them (see Harry Reid/Charles Schumer/Mitch McConnell history on the filibuster when Reid did away with it under the Obama administration, Nancy Pelosi/Adam Schiff/Jerry Nadler on impeachment of Clinton vs. Trump, Maxine Waters/Kamala Harris/Nancy Pelosi on violence at summer riots vs. Capitol, Barbara Boxer/Barbara Lee/Pramila Jayapal/Jerry Nadler/Maxine Waters on challenging electors during the electoral vote count (2000, 2004, 2016, 2020) and, of course, the multitude of pretzel-like positions taken about the integrity of the election in 2016 vs. 2020 on both sides.)  These are interesting political topics that I’d be happy to discuss over a beer sometime, but, frankly, such examples are myriad and really only serve to underscore the fact that politicians tend to take whatever position benefits them at the time and have no memory of ever having thought otherwise.  In many cases, though frustrating, these flip flops don’t normally result in major societal impacts, rather they end up being part of the political dance that makes for great theater in Washington and for comedy on par with Airplane for most the rest of the country who are spending their days working to attain their part of the American Dream.  END RANT

No, the problem is when our media and cultural leaders lead us down a road based on their emotional and personal ideology without recognizing that we have experienced this before and that history wasn’t kind to us.

With that, stop me if you have heard this before…

Private media and other companies blacklist, ban and/or refuse to hire people because of their political views.

What we hear today is that it is perfectly okay, and, in fact, admirable for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and others to ban people who espouse a right-wing viewpoint because they are private companies and don’t have to let everyone have a voice.  Additionally, they have a civic responsibility to protect individuals from exposure to misinformation. In fact, this responsibility extends to ensuring that society is protected from “speech we hate” in addition to “hate speech”.  The First Amendment does not apply because they are private companies.  Likewise, there have been many calls for businesses, particularly media-focused organizations to not hire anyone associated with the Trump administration because their willing support of the former President is tantamount to endorsing racism, fascism, etc. Because of this, they have no right, nor should they have any expectation that they should be given any platform to spew their bile.

The other side of the argument has two key points.  First is that the Internet was created to allow the completely free exchange of ideas, thoughts and concepts and that the responsibility lies with each user to decide what to read, support, etc.  Basically, if you don’t like it, don’t support it, but let it be posted.  It is the responsibility of each individual to choose for themselves what they will or will not consume on the Internet.  The second point is that the social media companies are protected from libel lawsuits exclusively because they are a “public forum” and are not responsible for the content posted.  By banning the President and several of his supporters they have become “editors” or “creators” of content and should be subject to libel and other lawsuits just as the traditional media companies are. (This is the Section 230 argument that has been going on for a bit.) Finally, there is a significant difference between speech you hate and hate speech and the first is protected under the First Amendment.

When you boil it down to basics, it is the age-old debate about whether an individual should be responsible for themselves or be taken care of or protected by a third party.

Where we’ve seen it before.  November 25, 1947 through 1960.  November 25, 1947, was the day the first Hollywood blacklist was created listing ten writers and directors who were subsequently banned from working with any of the production companies in Hollywood represented by the Association of Motion Picture Producers for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Commission.  This initial list grew as the production companies began requiring oaths of loyalty and writers, directors, and actors pushed back.  The result was a period in American history that is considered by many to be a stain on our claims of freedom of expression, freedom of speech, etc.  (See Kirk Douglas – Spartacus, Trumbo, etc.)  Don’t take my word for it, read about the history of the Hollywood Ten and the many actors and writers caught up in it (e.g., Dalton Trumbo, Dorothy Parker, Charlie Chaplin, Lena Horne, Orson Welles, Burgess Meredith, etc.)  The actions by the House of Representatives with the House Un-Amerian Activities Commission was a black mark on history, but the actions by the private studios are what I am calling out here.  As private companies, they decided to silence these people based on their political views and the popular yet wrong opinion of the political elite at that time.

I know we are in a politically charged environment and that there are strong emotions on both sides of the aisle, but we cannot abandon or sacrifice the principles that have made us the greatest nation in the world in the name of nothing more than petty revenge.  We are better than that, or, at least, we should be.  Hopefully, history will show that we responded much better than our predecessors.

 

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January 24, 2021 – Carpe Annos Singulos (Seize the Year!)

It’s funny how everything sounds cooler in a foreign language, doesn’t it? The theme of this post deals with making the most of this year. Last year had so many ups and downs, and for many, more downs than ups. So, this post will focus on making 2021 a better year for all.

This is the year to make big goals. I’m not talking about New Years’ resolutions which are usually forgotten within days or weeks of making them. I’m urging you to make a big, achievable goal and tell someone. Write it down. Post it on social media. My goal this year is to finally write the novel that’s been rattling around in my head for a decade. I’m laying down a marker that by this time next year that goal will be a reality. See how easy that was?

When you make goals, make sure they are big enough to scare you, but within the realm of possible. I’ll never play golf like Tiger Woods – that’s an unreasonable goal. But I could make a goal of shaving 10 strokes off my golf game this year – that’s reasonable but still a challenge.

To help with your goals, I have some good advice I’ve used to reach past goals. First, do your work before you play. Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” When you wake up in the morning, find a quiet place and write down your tasks for the day which will help you reach your goal. Do this everyday – no exceptions. If that task is writing 1000 words with the goal of finishing your novel, write 1000 words before you do anything else. Eat your frog.

Last, one parting thought. There are so many opportunities hidden in diversity – you just have to find them. Make this year your best year and set some big goals. And while you are at it, be a good person. Say thank you, please, and you are welcome. Pick up a piece of trash when you see it. Return your shopping cart to the cart stall. Be the change you want to see in others. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Amen.

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A New Day

With today being Inauguration Day, I thought it would be appropriate to write about new days. Today is a new day, historically, for our nation with President Biden becoming the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris becoming the first woman, African-American, and Asian-American citizen to become the Vice President. That second fact has obvious significance because of the barriers being broken simultaneously by one individual and because of the importance the American people placed on that aspect of the ticket she belonged to during the election. It is an example for others that this is a new day that affords new opportunities and new ways to look at ourselves and each other. For me and my co-contributors, it is especially germane because we each have immensely talented, intelligent, caring daughters who have sought ways to serve their families, their communities and their nations. We are all very proud of them, their successes and the example they set for others.

While today is a historically significant new day, it is also simply a new day distinct from yesterday or tomorrow. Each new day brings us a clean slate for our thoughts, words, and deeds. It’s a chance to right wrongs, finish things we started, and create new things. In one way, it’s the only day that matters. Yesterday, and all preceding days, are history and tomorrow is the future. Neither of those are tangible and in neither case can we effect the events that happened or will happen. Everything we did yesterday, good, bad and indifferent, have little meaning or impact if we don’t treat today as a new day. Anything we plan to do tomorrow has no meaning if we don’t act today. That doesn’t mean the past and the future don’t matter. What it means is that today matters the most and how we choose to approach today has significance. We can choose to rest on our laurels and coast through today. We can choose to rest today so we can have the energy to take on our big challenge tomorrow. When we take those approaches, we rely on a concept of credit for past deeds or future intentions that is negatively impacted by our inaction and failure to commit ourselves to being our best.

Today is a new day in every respect. Recommit yourself each new day to upholding the person you are, the person your family needs, the person your community needs, the person your country needs…don’t shift into cruise control today. We need each other at our best whatever that looks like for each of us. It matters whether we see it or not.

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Welcome to a New Year?

Well, I fully intended on posting this over the weekend, but, have needed time to process all of the churn and to “moderate my content” so as not to run afoul of Facebook, Twitter, et al.  Time will tell if this was successful!

While I have a lot of thoughts on all that has gone on throughout 2020, culminating in the fiasco we saw last week, I want to refer to them, but I don’t want to overanalyze, debate or even acknowledge all of them.  I’d rather take this limited time I have with you all to talk about us and how we fit in to all of it.  I have categorically and unreservedly have been against violence in protests.  I don’t care what side is doing it (and it is driven by the radical fringe of both sides), it is abhorrent and the perpetrators should be held liable to the fullest extent of the law.  That said, there were a LOT of peaceful protesters (the mainstream of both sides) who have valid points they have wanted to raise, and, frankly, the valid points should be things we openly discuss, debate and address.  We may disagree, but the issues are valid ones and they deserve an open and honest discussion among the citizenry and leadership of the country.  Unfortunately, between the violence and hatred and the virtue signaling, the valid points get lost and marginalized and the discussion never happens.

The three of us don’t always agree on everything.  We have had some energetic debates and even some heated conversations about things, but we have still remained the closest of friends/family.  This is because of the way we disagree, and the way people used to disagree.  I spent time analyzing it and it comes down to just a few principles, and, I personally believe, that if we all employed these on a wider basis, particularly with friends/colleagues/family, slowly but surely, we’d make a difference.  So, here goes.

  1.  We respect each other.  This doesn’t mean that we acknowledge each other’s accomplishments.  It means we legitimately believe that the others have value.  We see each other as unique, thoughtful and having an opinion or point of view that has merit.
  2. We assume noble intent.  This means that we believe that the others have a desire for improving and making things better.  This also means that if something goes wrong or fails, we don’t question their motives, because we already believe that they are acting on what they believe to be for the best.
  3. We listen.  This one is vitally important.  When we are together and discussing a topic, we are actively listening, rather than sitting there figuring out what we want to say next.  Many times we find discover that we aren’t as far apart on a topic as we think or that our approaches, while different can lead to similar outcomes.
  4. We seek to understand why there is a difference in our opinions. We don’t do it for the purposes of “fixing” the others’ faulty understanding, rather we do it to see if there is something in our understanding that we are either missing or haven’t considered.
  5. We sincerely apologize when we cross the line.  Yes, we have crossed the line with each other before.  It happens in every relationship, but we recognize that when we’ve done something or said something that crossed the line from debate into personal attack, we need to apologize because that is wrong.
  6. We understand that the value of each other is not in each one’s individual opinions, but in who they are as a whole.  One decision or one opinion does not define who any of us are as people and anyone who tries to define people by only one or two data points isn’t trying to understand people but to segregate them.
  7.  We push each other to understand and test why we believe what we believe.  This is because we all are looking to better understand and grow, not because we are trying to bludgeon opposing viewpoints.
  8. We understand and accept changing opinions.  We have learned that as we have gotten older, we have learned new things and some of our opinions have changed as some will probably change in the future.  We recognize that this is a sign of growth or of understanding new information and that is generally a good thing.
  9. We agree to disagree…agreeably.  If we don’t agree and after talking through it, we still don’t agree, we leave it at that.  We don’t keep trying to hammer on the others to change, we don’t take cheap shots about the disagreement, and we revisit it only if warranted.

This list isn’t rocket science.  It’s basically the golden rule.  We treat each other as we want to be treated and we believe the best.  Given what we have seen in the political discourse, the media bias, and the culture of “it isn’t enough to win, I have to destroy you” and “I am right and good, therefore you must be wrong and evil”, I don’t see this approach being adopted to widely by the leadership and exemplars of our society, so it is up to us to model it, practice it and influence others around us.  I heard a suggestion for bringing civility back to online discourse.  The suggestion was to make every comment and response a 2-way video rather than text.  Force people to look at the person they are writing about and tell them directly rather than hide behind an anonymous keyboard.

At the end of the day, the division, strife, violence and name-calling will probably continue, for a number of reasons.  We, however, have a choice.  We can contribute to its longevity, or we can resolve to do what we can during the course of our daily lives to build bridges rather than burn them and encourage rather than tear down.  One thing I have learned is that it is far easier and quicker to destroy than build, but there is much greater satisfaction from building.  So, think before you post, resist the urge to press the send button on something you know is inflammatory, and assume noble intent, especially with friends and family.  After all, they’ll be the ones helping you change a tire at midnight in the cold, not Pelosi or McConnell.  Have a great week!

 

P.S.  For those of you who believe 2020 was the worst year ever, take a look at 1968, or 1919, or 1944 or 1862.  Those were some bad years.

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January 3, 2021 – We are back for 2021!

After a two year hiatus we have decided to start writing the post again. We will move to a weekly post as opposed to daily and are looking forward to sharing new insights as we have grown and so have our children. As the three of us reflected, we determined that posting was as much for ourselves as our family and friends. Writing this post has been cathartic for many reasons. We also plan on adding a podcast in the near future.  So much has changed in the world and we are looking forward to sharing our insights about those changes. Carpe Diem!

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