Posted in audience participation, connections, know better do better, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness

Our part in creating sustainability

I hate planned obsolescence.

I hate cheap shit.

I hate the “everything disposable” mindset.

I hate WalMart and the Dollar Store.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to pay tons of money for everything, necessarily, but we need to find a way back to well-made things that can be kept for a long time, repaired, upgraded, etc.

It’s better to pay more for a thing up front that you can keep for a long time than to pay half as much that you’re going to need four of in the same time frame.

(And in the case of handheld technology, it’s neither cheap nor long-lasting.)

In order to do this, we need to

1- Buy less stuff. Especially with average incomes as they are and cost of living expenses continuously on the rise, buying higher-quality but more expensive stuff isn’t going to work at the same volume.

2- Be OK with stuff not being the newest. This example pops into mind. When I was a kid, we had an Atari. It was awesome. And then Nintendo came out, and we wanted one of those. We didn’t get one, because we already had a gaming system. So sometimes friends came over and we played Atari, and sometimes we went to their house and played Nintendo.

3- Share. People seem to do this more out of economic necessity, but there are lots of things that we don’t all need to own our own. We bought a giant umbrella thinger when The Kid was doing track last year. A friend’s daughter was doing swim over the summer. Instead of buying an umbrella, they borrowed ours. It worked perfectly. Unless we needed it at the same time, there’s no reason for us both to own one. Less money outgoing. Less storage space. Less trash later. True for many occasional-use things.

Can we stop going to the Dollar Store and buying lots of junk because we can and it’s cheap? Can we stop buying clothes that we’ll only wear for one season? (Kids excepted, because they grow…)

It’s a big shift. But it will help us mentally (less stuff = less stress about stuff—spoken from a place of privilege), it will help us economically, it will help us environmentally. It will help built community (for sharing, and for playing each other’s games). And maybe it’ll bring work back here from overseas.

You in?

Posted in connections, differences, socializing

The hidden side of … everyone

Saturday last weekend, I was at a funeral for the husband of a coworker.

I know this coworker strictly at work. We’ve never talked about life outside the building; we’re not connected through any social media.

During the service, they played a slideshow, trying to capture this man’s life. (Can you ever really capture it?) They were married a long time, so, as expected, she was in quite a few of the photos.

 It was neat to see her “other life,” to see a little bit of who she is when she’s not at work. (Or who she is when she’s at work, because it’s all different sides of the same person…)

A few times, I’ve shared a “share a random fact about yourself” thing on Facebook, and I’ve learned things about my friends that I didn’t know. Not just the people who I don’t really know anyway, but people who I’m friends with offline, talk to often, etc. Some of them were surprising.

I’m sure there are things about me that people would be surprised to learn. I don’t know what those things are, because they’re really more about other people’s perception of me. (Just like my surprise was based on my perception.)

But this “hidden side” — sometimes hidden intentionally, sometimes legitimately just never came up — is what is so interesting about hearing people’s stories. Even people who I’ve known a long time. There are always more interesting things lurking. Often things that the owners don’t see as interesting. It’s just a matter of finding them. Which I’m not at all good at. But I often like listening, so there’s that. Now just to get better at asking the right questions…

Posted in audience participation, connections, know better do better, mindset, motivation, podcasts

Old dogs, new tricks, and endless possibilities

Schools in this area have an evacuation site. If, for whatever reason the whole school needed to be evacuated, where would we all go?

At my first job in Arizona, the steak house was mentioned.

New to the local area and vegetarian, I couldn’t think of any steak houses nearby … and also thought that was an odd place for a fairly large elementary school to evacuate to. We’re definitely bigger than their maximum capacity.

Turns out, it’s a Mormon thing. (Based on my Wikipedia research before writing this, she was incorrect to call it a stake house, but perhaps the locals differ from Wikipedia in their vernacular.)

The area has a large Mormon population. Nowhere I’d lived up to that point had much if any Mormon population, so these words/buildings/customs were unfamiliar to me.

My brain making connections the way it does, when I thought of this story, it reminded me that on Freakonomics Radio a few months ago, they were talking about trying new things:

…basically if you are not listening to a certain style of music by the time you’re 28 or so, 95 percent chance you’re never going to. By age 35, if you’re not eating sushi, 95 percent chance you never will. In other words, these windows of openness to novelty close.

Honestly … I think we can do better. Clearly, we need to be nudged … or pushed … or dragged against our will sometimes, but we can do it!

35? 28?! That’s less than half of a life trying all sorts of things and more than half a life with the same old same old. No wonder so many old people are cranky.

Seriously. If we’re open to new things, our lives will be richer, our brains will be healthier, and we have a much better chance at forward progress (in our personal lives, in our communities, in our country, in the world).

In the last 10 to 15 years, I’ve tried a lot of new foods and tons of old foods in new combinations. I’ve learned a lot of new stuff. Tried new activities. Befriended new people.

That said, I’m quite happy much of the time to eat the same stuff, read the same stuff, talk to the same people, and so on. Really, I could just stay home a lot of the time and be perfectly content.

How do I get into new stuff?

Well … every now and then, it’s something that I’ve been interested in for a while but never made time for (because you can’t do it all at once) — like photography.

Even more rarely, it’s something that creeps into my life in such a way that I don’t even remember how it got there, and then it grows and I feed it and it grows and I feed it… — like triathlon (currently defunct) and healthy living stuff.

Most of the time? Someone else introduces me to it. Most of the music I listen to; all “ethnic” food that isn’t Italian, Polish, or American Chinese; running; rock climbing; camping; a trove of details about dinosaurs, Saturn V, and Minecraft. These are all things that I would not have come into on my own — someone else introduced me to them.

And my life is richer for it.

Though I would be OK without Minecraft.

If you know my eating habits, you know some of my favorite restaurants are Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, Mediterranean. I never ate any of these before I moved to Arizona. (Thank you to the people who introduced me to these amazing cuisines!)

What have you done or eaten or listened to or read or watched lately that was new? (And what do you love that you can share with me that might be new to me?)

Posted in audience participation, connections, differences, hope, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Workplace wellness

Today’s post is full of broad sweeping statements. Of course they are not true for every individual in every category. But I’m not going to make a disclaimer in every paragraph because it’s unwieldy to read.

Many companies are introducing (or have already introduced) wellness incentive plans regarding various biomarkers of their employees (with questionable legality).

But stress is seemingly worse for your health than any of the markers they’re measuring.

How many employers are actively seeking to reduce their employees’ stress levels?

None? Benefit of the doubt and say a few?

This embodies so many facets of America.

1. We’re unhealthy. We eat badly; we move insufficiently; we’re overweight and underslept; we lack meaningful community; we view vulnerability—necessary for connection—as a weakness; we prioritize work over play, over rest, over family; in addition to all of the -isms that culturally define us.

2. We don’t believe in health care as a right. Which, on a tangent, is mostly sick care. (For more details on that, see point #1.) Only people who work the right jobs for the right people for the right number of hours get to have health insurance. And even then, many of those people still have to pay for it. Sometimes a lot. And pay even more for their families to be covered. Which doesn’t even cover all of what’s potentially needed.

3. Companies are not interested in their people. They are interested in money. So they do whatever they can to siphon more money to the top people. (Because, despite current mindset, companies are not actually in themselves people. They’re just run by people. So we could more accurately say that the people at the top of companies are disinterested in everyone else in the company, so long as they continue to live large.)

Whether that’s hiring fewer salaried employees and expecting them to work more (sometimes way more) than 40 hours per week, or hiring more hourly employees part time so they don’t have to pay for benefits, or paying as little as possible, or countless other possibilities, the money needs to pour up.

It’s a giant mindset problem. A cultural problem. A mental health problem. A shaming problem. A physical health problem. An economic problem.

I don’t know how to fix it.

But I do know that I can contact people in charge of stuff (whether it’s government officials or company leaders), and I can vote. (Are you registered? If not, open another browser window and go do it now! People taking it all for themselves depend on your apathy to maintain or advance their position.)

And I can do my best to be the change I want to see, live my life out loud, and hope others join me. (And they do. They always do.)

Be the change. Be self-aware, even (especially) when it sucks. Be open. Be vulnerable. But be fierce.

(Except on the days that you just need to lay on the couch. Then just lay.)

Posted in connections, know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, podcasts, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

Apologies

Apologies.

We tend not to be good at them.

We tend to force children to mutter them insincerely.

We get in the habit of muttering them insincerely, if we mutter them at all.

The first place I heard an excellent, clear explanation of what an apology should be was in Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon. (To be clear: I wasn’t there; I saw it online.) It was given and recorded in 2008 and the linked video has almost 20 million views. But the one I saw was a reprise on Oprah. It’s much shorter; you can watch it here. (It has a lot of good stuff in it.)

He says (starting at 7:40 in the shorter clip) that a proper apology has three parts:

  1. I’m sorry.
  2. It was my fault.
  3. How do I make it right?

A long time later, I heard an episode of Radiolab that was all about apologies. Legal, religious, secular. The history of apologies. It was fascinating and infuriating and frustrating and well worth the hour. (There’s about 5 minutes of business at the front end that might not interest you.)

But what prompted me to put this out to you today was this article from the Harvard Business Review that a friend texted to me the other day.

Like Pausch’s lecture, it includes three components of a good apology. The three pieces are a little bit different:

  1. Admit you were wrong and you’re sorry.
  2. Show them you understand the effect it had on them. (This would be amazing as a receiver.)
  3. Tell them what you’re going to do differently in the future so it doesn’t happen again.

But what really made this article impactful was the story it told prior to getting into the general “this is how you do it” part. (As per yesterday, it’s always the story we connect with…)

In the end, with mediation, someone at work apologized to someone else at work for being a jerk, and the man being apologized to broke down and cried. Because he had never been apologized to. For anything.

Part of me finds this hard to believe, but much of me sees life as it is, sees people as they are, sees my own experience, and believes that this is true.

So … own your shit. (This seems to be less and less lately.) Acknowledge it to the appropriate person or people. See what you can do to fix it, whether in the present or in the future. Make the world better by making your connections better.