The following is a repeat of an earlier post written four years ago. It remains relevant today. Our blogging friend Jill highlights weekly a few people who are shining lights in our world. Typically, these folks fly under the radar screen, as they do what they do to help people, not garner publicity. They are all about substance over optics.
Daryl Davis is one of those people. An African-American man, Davis has a mission to reach out and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan. His goal is to change hearts and minds and he has successfully influenced over 200 members of the KKK to give up their robes, which he collects.
Davis grew up mostly outside the US as his father was in the diplomatic corps. He said his school classes included the children of other diplomats from around the world. So, he was gaining a very open-minded education interacting with others. He notes if he grew up here, his education would have been either segregated or pigeonholed limiting interaction with diverse people.
Davis said he did not experience racism until his family moved back to the states. In fact, he did not believe his parents when he learned he was being maltreated because of the color of his skin. He was incredulous that people could be so cruel for such an inane reason.
Davis recognizes that bigotry has to be taught. No one is born hating or demeaning others because they are different from them. Their parents and other adults have to teach kids to be racist or bigoted. So, he would seek to change those learnings by having open conversation. Per the link below, he says how can someone hate me without even knowing me?
He is an overtly friendly and approachable man. Having seen him laugh, I would say he is cherubic in a St. Nick like way. He does not insult, he asks questions and tells folks what he believes. When a KKK person said they burn the cross to light the way for Jesus, he would say you worship a different Jesus than I do. Jesus lights the way for you.
Through these matter-of-fact discussions, he gets people to think. He has studied the KKK and through reverse examples , he can illustrate the absurdity of certain claims. When he appeared on Bill Maher’s show, he astounded the other guests into silence just to listen to what he had to say. For the longest while, even the host remained silent, which is rare for him.
Please check out the attached link to learn more about him. “Bigotry has to be carefully taught” says the famous Oscar Hammerstein song from “South Pacific.” The converse is also true. Let’s teach kids and speak with others about being open-minded. It begins with conversation. Thank you Daryl Davis for showing us how. You are to be commended.
It was a bad week for three big oil companies which culminated with news on Wednesday. In an article in The Guardian called “‘Black Wednesday’ for big oil as courtrooms and boardrooms turn on industry” by Jillian Ambrose, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron all received a message they need to do better in complying with actions to combat climate change.
A link to the article is below. Here are a few select paragraphs that give you the gist.
“The world’s patience with the fossil fuel industry is wearing thin. This was the stark message delivered to major international oil companies this week in an unprecedented day of reckoning for their role in the climate crisis.
In a stunning series of defeats for the oil industry, over the course of less than 24 hours, courtrooms and boardrooms turned on the executives at Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron. Shell was ordered by a court in The Hague to go far further to reduce its climate emissions, while shareholder rebellions in the US imposed emissions targets at Chevron and a boardroom overhaul at Exxon.
‘There is no doubt that this week’s news has been not so much a shot across the bows as a direct hit to the hull of Big Oil,’ says Mark Lewis, the chief sustainability strategist at BNP Paribas Asset Management. ‘They will have to recognise now that no amount of patching up the hole will do; shareholders and society want the vessel completely overhauled.’
‘It was honestly a really emotional moment,’ says Jasper Teulings, the former general counsel for Greenpeace International. The ruling by the Dutch court ordering Shell to cut its emissions by 45% within the next 10 years ‘shifts the debate’ and could influence courtrooms across the globe, he told the Guardian.
‘It makes clear that the onus is on the industry to act, and that it can be held accountable to take very specific steps. It’s very relevant in legal terms because the ruling was very pure in its demand: it’s not about money, it’s about conduct. It was astutely reasonable,’ he says.”
This is a major step forward for those fighting to corral and reverse climate change. The shareholder actions are indicative of a movement that started making strides in 2017 requiring three energy companies to inform shareholders of their progress in addressing climate change.
Let’s hope management is listening. With the removal of a couple of board members, that is a clear sign they better.
My youngest son uttered the above title that tickled all of us. A relative was visiting us the other day and she has habit (like many of us) of apologizing for things she need not do so.
As she was uttering an unnecessary apology for something, my son said “Don’t worry, we are a low judgment area.” It tickled all of us, including the apologist. But, it is also true. We do our darnedest to try to be less judgmental.
One of our blogging friends likes to say it is OK to judge things, but it behooves us to base our judgments on facts rather than biases. So, when I use the term “judgment” I am referencing an effort to not be unfairly judgmental.
Getting back to my son, his statement was marvelous as it was a nice way to invite someone to speak. It was “inclusive” rather than “exclusive.” I like that very much.
Let’s all try to be in low judgment areas. It will do us an awful lot of good.
The following post of five years ago has been revisited as its message is timeless. If you want to get better at something, practicing will help, especially when you practice the right things to improve.
The above phrase was uttered by Joe Walsh, the legendary guitarist with The Eagles and as a solo artist. Walsh was a guest on Daryl Hall’s show “Live at Daryl’s House,” where Hall has a studio in his mountain house and the crew and guest jam together, then cook and eat a meal. It is worth the watch (see a link below).
After jamming on Funk 49, Rocky Mountain Way, and Life’s Been Good along with a few of Hall’s songs, the group sat down for a meal which they prepared with a guest chef. As they spoke of how they got started in the music business, Walsh regaled them with his story.
In essence, Walsh spoke of an early band where “we all sucked.” This brought lots of nods and smiles. Then, he said The Beatles came out and they learned to cover The Beatles’ songs. He said if you knew the songs, you could get gigs and they began to play more. But, they also had to practice more beforehand. Eventually, they got closer to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice, which ironically referenced The Beatles in his book “Outliers.” Gladwell noted The Beatles were sent to Hamburg to learn to play better in front of an audience with seven shows a night, six days a week.
And, he then uttered the above line. The more I practiced, the less I sucked. This succinct lesson applies to far more than playing music or singing. It could be related to golf, tennis, free throws, research, business analysis, teaching, presentations, general medicine, surgery, investing, etc. It could be as basic as driving a car or learning to cook or bake.
If we put in the time, we will suck less. Doing something once, does not make you proficient. It means you did it once. It takes practice to get better at something. Thanks Joe for your music and advice. You no longer suck.
The following is a comment left on a friend’s blog as she lamented all of the regressive stuff that is going on in various states, in particular suppressing the votes of people and limiting reproductive rights of women. The author and several of her followers were not very happy with these shenanigans.
While it is hard to ignore some of the shenanigans going on, please take some solace in knowing a lot of these laws will be ruled unconstitutional. I remember a state legislator in North Carolina ripped me a new one when I told him the Voter ID bill he drafted was Jim-Crow like and unconstitutional. After he ripped me a new one a second time, I told him I was a 54 white southern man and former Republican and “you and I both know what this bill is all about.” It was later ruled unconstitutional as were several gerrymandering laws.
What saddens this independent voter is all of the effort going on to use the former president’s planned and staged election fraud claims which were highly predictable and still unprovable (he has won one court case out of over 60 cases) as a rationale to suppress votes. While I knew the former president would do this, it concerns and embarrasses me that sycophants in my former party would forget their oaths and support the former president’s deceitful and seditious behavior. Trying to act like the Wizard of Oz and say January 6 and events leading up to it did not happen they way they did is malfeasance in my mind.
So, we must speak to the truth and tell politicians it matters. And, for my Republican friends who feel I am all wet, ask if it worries them to not know what they will have to defend next week, the week after, next month and the month after….There is not enough white paint to cover the claim of fake news which will be shouted in defense. What concerns me the most is all of the truth tellers (senators, representatives, inspectors general, diplomats, staff, etc.) who were threatened, denigrated and ousted after they raised concerns over the former president’s actions. They were punished for telling “inconvenient truths” that the former president did not care for.
I am sorry for the diatribe. I can disagree on policy with both Democrats and Republicans, but it frustrates and disappoints me to see what was the Republican Party be so adrift and value untruthfulness and conspiracy parroting as they have done. As for folks losing their jobs for telling the truth, this is shameful.
Another mid-week has arrived. I thought I would use the hump day milestone to offer some miscellaneous comments. In no particular order:
-have you ever noticed the hamburger or chicken sandwich you pull out of the fast food wrapper looks very little like the one advertised on TV, online or in flyers?
-have you noticed with the success of Popeye’s chicken sandwich, more fast food place seem to now have a chicken sandwich, with a piece of chicken that has to be on steroids?
-speaking of food larger than it should be, one of the jobs my brother-in-law used to have was measuring the enlarged size of fruits and vegetables that grew near a nuclear energy site.
-speaking of energy, setting aside the climate change need to move to renewables, don’t you think we should pursue energy that won’t harm us when it spills? When a wind mill crashes in the sea, the only thing you hear is a splash. One of the big cost savers from renewables is not having to spend money to clean up messes or pay litigation costs when people are harmed.
-it is exciting to see the new electric powered Ford 150 pick-up truck following on the electric Mustang fleet; American car makers need to move forward with these investments to compete with foreign automakers.
-speaking of cars, one way to save money and improve your health is walk to places close to home taking a cloth bag for shopping. Also, a high percentage of car accidents happen close to home, so that risk is lessened, especially in today’s cell phone age.
The less we drive, the better it is for our planet. We benefit here as I have a shopping center within a mile and a half of my house in one direction, a small grocer within a half-mile and another smaller mall within two miles. My favorite use is to drop my car at the service place and walk home to wait and back when it is ready
One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian born to a Jamaican mother and English father. In an interview, he responded to a question about his ability to look from afar at issues close at hand. He noted his bizarre appearance made him an obvious outsider, so he crafted an outside looking in perspective.
One of his books is called “David and Goliath” about how underdogs sometimes are not whom they first appear to be. In one of his examples, he noted the Nazi’s bombing of London during World War II was actually counterproductive. Why?
People did perish and were injured. And, buildings were destroyed. But, the lion’s share of Londoners were not impacted other than being frightened. They were also galvanized with a defiant “I am still here.”
We should not set aside that galvanizing affect as it is crucial to the British resolve. Outside of tacit support from America before December 7, 1941, the British bore the heavy load to fight the Nazis and Italians in the Europe/ Africa campaign. I am still here was a big part of their perseverance, especially after near catastrophe at Dunkirk which may have cost them severe loss of soldiers had it not been for a make-shift volunteer navy.
Standing up against tyrants and bullies requires that kind of perseverance. It is said the tenacious Winston Churchill was the ideal man to lead Great Britain during these times. He saw Adolph Hitler for exactly who he was – a psychopathic tyrant. Churchill’s predecessor tried to appease Hitler, which seems ludicrous in hindsight. You don’t stroke a bully.
The only way to stand up to a bully is with resolve. Please remember that when bullies and liars try to denigrate and gaslight you. The truth is your ally. So, is your conviction. I am still here. And, I know who and what you are.
False bravado per the Urban dictionary means “Portraying yourself as much more confident then you are as a defense mechanism.” One of my favorite examples is that of the male gorilla who will beat on his chest and make a ruckus in an attempt to intimidate his opponent. Unlike his human counterpart, the gorilla can usually back up being a blow hard.
I have long grown weary of politicians who intentionally portray a false bravado or faux toughness to appeal to voters. Politicians blowing smoke at people to paint a picture of toughness occurred long before the latest former president. What has always amazed me about this former president is the thing that scares him most in this world is a woman (or man) armed with facts. He would much prefer a name-calling mud fight, as he has a better chance of winning that. It is those pesky facts he fails to study, that get in the way.
His greatest fear is being found out that he really is all about perception and his base of knowledge tends to be far less than portrayed. This is why a false bravado is so important to him. He must look tough and smart. To my earlier point, we must not forget he declined to do one debate if Fox News’ Megyn Kelly was there asking him questions. She was mean to him at the previous Fox debate asking him questions he did not know were coming. We learned much later that the Fox News network had fed him the questions that were to be asked.
I read this morning that Senator Rand Paul is the latest tough guy saying he does not need a vaccine. Fellow Republican and realist Representative Adam Kinzinger mocked this false bravado. Being an eye doctor, Paul believes he can convince people the vaccines are unneeded. I find this to be a dereliction of duty. What is sad is the whole attempt is to mask over the former president’s woeful handling and downplaying of the COVD pandemic that caused more people to die than should have. Even today, too many people do not take this pandemic seriously thanks to this political messaging.
The people who tend to be the brave ones, usually do not need to broadcast that. This is one reason people who have done brave things in wars do not want to share details, as it is too horrific and they were just doing their jobs. A famous baseball pitcher who did well in pressure packed games said something interesting about this. The people who do well under pressure tend to do their jobs at the same level when the pressure mounts; it is others whose performance falls off when the pressure increases. They were just doing this jobs.
That is what we need more of in public service from politicians. Worry less about keeping your job and just do your job. That is all we ask.
The following brief post was written four years ago. Even more progress has been made in other cities in the United States and around the globe. Wind energy is growing like gangbusters in the plains states and and solar energy continues to grow in others. US car makers are competing with foreign auto makers to make entire fleets of new electric vehicles and offshore wind has been approved off the Cape Cod area to help us rival other countries in offshore wind, such as Scotland.
I am often bemused by folks that argue against renewable energy citing costs and jobs. Some say the industry is fledgling, but this does a disservice to the huge progress made over the last five years. Renewable energy jobs are growing at double digit rates per annum and the production costs continue to fall and are much closer to fossil fuel costs, and even cheaper when the present value of all costs (environmental degradation, extraction, transportation, maintenance, health care, litigation, et al) are factored in.
Yet, let’s set that aside and consider five cities in the US – Aspen CO, Burlington VT, Greensburg KS, Houston TX and Las Vegas NV. The first three cities are fully powered by renewable energy, where the last two have significant renewable energy portfolios.
Burlington was the first city to claim being 100% powered by renewable energy – solar, wind and hydro-electric. Per a November, 2016 Politico article, the electric utility has not had a rate increase in eight years for its 42,000 residents.
Greensburg came next, unfortunately they had to experience a tornado that leveled the town. As they rebuilt the town, they did so with a green mindset. So, using solar and the heavy wind across the plain states, helped electrify the town with renewable energy. Starting from scratch let them build for the future.
Aspen was the third city. I find this interesting as I read an article a few years back over the concern of climate change on the skiing industry. More often, climate change impact focuses on coastal cities. This city acted and has now pushed the envelope to 100% renewable energy.
Which brings me to Las Vegas. They got press stating they were 100% renewable energy powered, but that was somewhat of a misnomer. Yet, what they did do is still impactful. The 140 municipal buildings and facilities are now 100% powered by renewable energy. That is not the rest of the city, but it is a statement nonetheless.
Finally, let’s visit Houston, deep in the heart of oil rich Texas. Per The Guardian in an article this week, Houston is the leading city in the US in producing renewable energy through wind and solar power with 1.1 billion kWh. 89% of its electricity is renewable energy powered. They are in the top 30 in the EPA’s list of Green Partners leading six Texas cities on this list. As I mentioned recently, Texas gets just under 13% of its electricity from wind energy.
These are powerful stores, pun intended. Please remember them and tell others. We are passed the tipping point on renewable energy and we should highlight those leading the way.
We are creatures of habit. A book I often cite is called “The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg. My niece thought I might like this and she was correct. I would encourage you to read it as well, as it articulates how much of what we do each day is based more on habit that is ingrained in each of us or in our organizations.
A friend who taught philosophy at University shared with me that Aristotle felt habits reigned supreme. In his “Nicomachean Ethics,” as referenced in Duhigg’s book, Aristotle said:
“…just as a piece of land has to be prepared beforehand to nourish the seed, so the mind of the pupil has to be prepared in its habits if it is to enjoy and dislike the right things.”
A few examples from “The Power of Habit” might help reveal further Aristotle’s belief. Paul O’Neill is a great example. In short, he came in and transformed Alcoa as its CEO in a very unheard of way. It unnerved so many financial experts, they told people to sell the stock once they heard O’Neill’s first speech. One analyst later said “it was the worst piece of advice I have ever given,” as under O’Neill, Alcoa’s earnings and stock price soared for many years. What did he do that was so unusual and successful? His first focus was to make Alcoa the safest company it could be, as its safety record was atrocious. In other words, he wanted to change Alcoa’s bad safety habits.
He consciously picked this as he explained later, as it was the one thing we could get management and labor to agree on – a safer workplace. So, what happened? Communication between the line workers and management improved as accidents and how to prevent them had to be reported within 24 hours. He showed by example, after a tragic death, that this mattered to him and was not window-dressing. He changed the habits of executives, managers and line workers by insisting that we cannot condone safety problems and must avoid them at all costs. Through the improved communication, other benefits occurred – processes had to be improved to make them safer, the workers were empowered to share ideas on how to improve processes, and management’s goals could be communicated more readily. By emphasizing the importance of safety habits, the company got better. And, so did results.
Another good example about habits is regarding Starbucks. There is a moving story about how a young man had fallen into bad and even criminal habits. His drug problem caused him to lose everything time and time again. Then, someone suggested he try to get a job at Starbucks. Someone gave him a chance and mentored him. But, it was really the Starbucks training that transformed him. The training told him how to serve customers well. It told him how to address situations with an irate customer. It taught him the need to be organized, as if you were not, the customer would be ill-served. This consistent training replaced his bad habits with new habits. He built on his success by first building his self-esteem through better habit. And, it spilled over into his personal life. Now, he is managing a Starbucks and improving his education.
There are numerous examples in the book, but one my niece and I both found interesting is about the fabric freshening product called Febreze. Now, you may not know that Febreze was almost pulled from the market as its sales were almost non-existent. It was a flop. Febreze’s inventor had found a way to chemically remove bad odors from fabrics. When it was first marketed, the elimination of bad odors was the pitch. Yet, that pitch only sold to people whose houses were a total wreck and reeked. The average homeowner did not buy it, at least buy enough of it. Before Proctor and Gamble (P&G) pulled it, they did more research of their target buyers.
Through this research, they discovered a habit in housewives (please forgive the gender reference), who after they made their beds with new linens, they purposefully inhaled the crisp, clean laundered smell. In fact, after they did any cleaning, the desire for a clean-smelling house was habitual. P&G realized people did not crave scentlessness, instead they crave a nice clean smell after they’ve spent 30 minutes cleaning. With this focus, a new marketing effort was launched and within two months sales doubled and then took off, spawning dozens of spin-off products. P&G’s Febreze provided the reward of a clean-smelling house to someone who cleaned it, which was the cue for the reward.
I use cue and reward, as these are two of the tenets of understanding and changing habits, whether they be smoking, nail-biting, eating bad snacks, drinking, etc. In short, Duhigg articulates:
1) Identify the routine (what leads to the habit and why, when and how does it occur?)
2) Experiment with rewards (to change a habit, a new reward has to be substituted, but it has to be fulfilling, so experimentation is needed)
3) Isolate the cue (what is truly the cue; what more than any other thing is causing the habit?)
4) Have a plan (this is what am I going to do about it, this is in my control to change and if I write down my plan, I will have a better chance of success).
One example was an office worker and his craving for a mid-afternoon donut, muffin or unhealthy snack. The routine was the person would leave his desk from boredom, being tired, just to get up, etc. and would go to the vending machine for a snack. The reward was the snack. The cue was harder to find, as various paths led to the reward. It turned out the cue was the time. Invariably, between 3 and 3:30 pm, the person would get the unhealthy snack. So, he noted this in a plan to do something differently. He experimented and felt if he purposefully socialized with others for ten minutes instead of getting a snack, the new reward would satisfy him. So, he planned and executed the plan by getting away from his desk at the same tim each day, forming a new habit. Instead of eating, he would talk with colleagues.
There are other habits noted that have been replaced by new rewards. The key is to find a new reward. If you drink, substituting something that takes the place of the drink will make it a new habit. It could be drinking fruit juices, hot tea, coffee, etc. or it could be taking a walk after dinner, when your old habit of drinking most occurred. The same would hold true with smoking. You have to find a new reward to replace the smoking reward. Otherwise, the old habit will have a better chance of returning.
Let me close how Duhigg did referencing a passage from William James’ book “The Principle of Psychology.” Note William’s brother Henry is an author of some renown.
“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organized for our weal or woe, and is bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”
Habits can be good or bad. If they are the latter and you want to change, the above steps are worth considering. The book is a good read, with many understandable examples. I highly recommend it. Let me know what you think.