Cultivating Indifference

I regret the time and attention I’ve given to things throughout my life that didn’t matter. Of course, I may have thought they mattered at the time. But that was only because I hadn’t cultivated indifference to such things. I wasn’t sufficiently sensitive to just how much time I was wasting.

Indifference isn’t the same as apathy. Indifference is about discriminating and prioritizing the things that truly matter. It’s about valuing your time and resources. And being aware enough not to allow others to dictate your agenda for you. It’s about being willing to say no. Often.

I’ve gotten better at it later in life, but I still have room for improvement. It’s easier to practice indifference when you’re not part of a company, church, or other organization. Organizations always seem to spend a lot of time and energy on things that don’t matter. It’s more noticeable to me now that I’m not part of an organization. Sometimes it helps to step outside and look back with a critical eye. And to ask yourself the easy yet hard question: Does this matter?

Often, it doesn’t. Frequently, people are filling time. Or working on things that keep them busy but are actually insignificant and immaterial. Activity isn’t the same as contribution. It sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised by the number of people who confuse the two.

When I became more aware of the need to cultivate indifference, I started to: Continue reading

77% Aren’t Getting Enough of This

Location matters. Culture matters. Especially when it comes to exercise. And fitness.

According to the CDC, 77 percent of us are slugs. We fail to get enough exercise.

Mississippians are the worst. The best state when it comes to exercise and fitness is the one I’m not allowed to mention around the house. My wife thinks I believe this state is perfect. She’s tired of hearing about it. So I won’t mention it. At home. Continue reading

Sometimes Ours Eyes Deceive Us

Anthony Bourdain’s recent suicide was a stark reminder we all have poor eyesight. It’s not a criticism; it’s just the way we were made.

To everyone else, Bourdain had it made. He was rich and famous. And admired by millions. Successful by any measure. Yet he wasn’t, at least not in any truly meaningful way. The reality was quite different from what we saw. But in the end, reality revealed itself, around Tony’s neck.

My guess is that Tony was good at hiding what was really going on inside. “This is the last person I would have expected,” many of his friends were quoted as saying.

It’s not as hard to do as one would think — to hide in plain sight, that is. I’ve been pretty good at it myself; perhaps you have, too. Continue reading

Beware the Unintended Consequences

Harley-Davidson is going to move some production off shore due to the trade war President Trump started. If they don’t, the prices of their bikes in the E.U. would increase, leading consumers to choose competitors’ products. This one hits home for me because, as Secretary of Community and Economic Development for Pennsylvania, I orchestrated a project to keep Harley’s production in York, PA. Now some of those jobs will be lost.

We’re going to see this unfold all across the country: jobs lost due to the trade war. I suspect Mr. Trump would tell us, though, that we’ll also see job gains in certain industries and companies, and that the gains will more than offset the losses. I don’t know; we’ll have to wait and see. What we can be certain of, however, is that prices will rise and quality will suffer. But if you’re someone who gets a job due to the tariffs, perhaps you won’t care. As for everyone else, well, we’ll just have to pay  more. And put up with inferior products in certain cases.

The interesting aspect of this war to watch will be the unintended consequences. There always are unintended consequences and, usually, they’re the hardest ones to anticipate. Sometimes, though, they can end up being the most significant.

It’s a good lesson to remember, Vera: sometime when you think you’re solving a problem, you’re actually creating a bigger one. The key is to think it though and try to identify all possible outcomes. It’s probably not possible to anticipate everything, but if you hope to become a good decision maker and someone who’s more valued in the labor market than the average person, then it’s important to be able to see what others miss and to avoid the big mistakes.

Whether the trade war will go down in history as a big mistake is yet to be determined. If it is, then the vast majority of us will end up paying the price and the man who’s most accountable may skate.

That’s life.

An Ideal For Which I Am Prepared to Die

Is there such a thing — an ideal for which I am prepared to die? Maybe not. Maybe I lack the courage. Maybe I feel I have too much to lose and not enough to gain. Maybe I think it’s a lost cause.

Injustice has been on my mind a lot lately now that injustice, cruelty, and racism are once again ascendant, this time under the presidency of Donald J. Trump and other similar autocrats around the world. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of injustice. It’s easy to feel devoid of courage — a coward, if you will. No one likes to feel like a coward.

Looking back through history, it’s clear change for justice and truth often, if not always, comes from the hard, sacrificial work of courageous people — people who were willing to sacrifice their freedom and livelihoods and, sometimes, even their lives. Truly courageous people.

Last week I listened to Nelson Mandela’s remarks to the court when he was being put on trail during white South Africa’s attempt to quell the equal rights movement and preserve apartheid and white supremacy. Here is a portion of his remarks, Vera. It will be well worth your time listening to them someday. He closes by saying, “It is an ideal, for which I am prepared to die.” “It” is the freedom and equality of his people — Africans (people of dark skin) who were being subjugated and oppressed in their own land.

No education in justice can be complete without also reading the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. in what has become known as his Letter from Birmingham Jail. You can find it here. It’s a letter that should be taught in every church in America, but, of course, it isn’t. The fight is not over.

One of my favorite bloggers, Yves Smith, recently wrote: Continue reading

Is Your Government Moral Per Se?

Recently, in defending the Administration’s immigration practices, Attorney General Sessions said:

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

It’s not the first time the Bible and, in particular, the Apostle Paul, has been used to justify governmental action and quell dissent. For a long time, slavery was the beneficiary of such moral reasoning.

Having been reared in the Christian faith, I find such reasoning ludicrous. After all, it was the state that executed the leader of this faith tradition and it was the state that executed Paul. The suggestion that Jesus thought one should always obey the government or any human authority for that matter is ridiculous on its face. Continue reading

When Your Time Has Passed

There comes a time. At least for most people. When their time has passed. When there’s nothing left to do. When they are alone.

I see it every week when I visit a friend who lives in a nursing home down the street from our house. It’s a nice nursing home. Six cottages. Each has no more than 12 residents. Most are in wheelchairs or use walkers. Many are hard of hearing. Some have a tenuous grip on reality.

Yesterday, when visiting my friend, one of the ladies, who’s in her late 90s, obviously wanted to engage me as I walked by on my way to my friend’s room. This lady is often sitting alone in the living area. I always say hello and perhaps have a brief exchange. But yesterday was different. I could tell she wanted to talk. Continue reading

Should You Delete Your Social Media?

Jaron Lanier, regarded by some as the father of virtual reality, was interviewed about the hazards of social media. The interview is well worth your time, particularly if you’re a parent. It can be found here.

An interesting comment is Lanier’s contention that President Trump’s addiction to Twitter has not served him well. I can believe it.

As much as I enjoy following some experts and others on Twitter, I am not at all sure the positives outweigh the negatives. I’m off Facebook and LinkedIn and frequently consider pulling the plug on Twitter, too.

In any case, listen to what Lanier has to say. And if you really want to treat yourself, read Lanier’s book Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. It’s a gem.

Are Republicans Stupid? Immoral? Or Both?

The poll of roughly 1,000 adults aged 18 and over was conducted June 14-15, shortly after President Trump’s historic summit with the North Korea dictator. According to the results, 19 percent of Republicans indicated they had a favorable view of Kim . . . . That compared slightly better than the perception of Pelosi, who had a 17 percent favorable, 72 percent unfavorable rating among self-identified Republicans. – The Daily Beast

That’s right: Republicans have a more favorable opinion of the dictator who’s tortured and executed his own people for political reasons, and who has held innocent Americans and others against their will (in one case, resulting in the death of an American man), than they do of one of the leaders of the opposition party, Ms. Pelosi. That’s how far it has gone. That’s how stupid or immoral some of these people are. Continue reading