Green to Go Initiative in Durham (a reprise)

Our friend Jill has posted an excellent post on the need to severely reduce plastic use to combat the overflow of plastic in the oceans and landfills. A link is provided below. Here is a neat local initiative in Durham, NC that I came across and wrote about three years ago. These are the kinds of initiatives that need expansion to other places.

Many sports fans know that Durham is the proud home to Duke University or the site of the cult sports and life lesson movie “Bull Durham” with Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. Some may know that Durham is one of the three cities that surround the Research Triangle Park which houses many global firms’ headquarters, marketing or research departments. But, it is now getting some good press for a grassroots initiative called “Green to Go.”

What is “Green to Go?” In short, it is a building partnership with 25 local restaurants to replace Styrofoam or plastic to-go or leftover containers with a reusable and durable plastic one. The idea is instead of throwing away a one-time product, it can be replaced by one that can be used for a 1,000 times. With islands of plastic in the ocean and spilling out of landfills, this is a much needed innovation.

How does it work? It requires a $25 membership, but let’s you check out a spill-proof container with your first order from one of the 25 participating restaurants. You simply return the cleaned container on your next order to any of the 25 participants and get a newly sanitized one. This is how the food inspectors are kept happy.

On the website link provided below, they have 507 subscribers and 1,522 measured uses of the containers. But, this is a replicable idea that will likely catch on with more notoriety. The website includes the PBS Newshour piece that I first became aware of their efforts. Please let others know about this and check it our for yourself.

STOP! | Filosofa’s Word (jilldennison.com)

Sometimes you have to change your mind – a life crossroads moment

Reading our Australian friend Amanda’s post this morning (see link below), she noted it is more than OK to start down a path and do a U-turn. Sometimes, you realize you have embarked on a journey you don’t want to go on or you have chosen the wrong person to go with. This reminded me of a real life crossroads moment.

I left consulting for a job with one of my clients which I loved. I wanted to work on that side of the table for awhile, knowing it would benefit me no matter what I did in the future. After a few years, I got an opportunity to go back into consulting and return to a city that my wife and I met in and started our family. With sadness I turned in my resignation.

As I was packing up my office, I came to the life shattering revelation that I did not want to leave, at least not just yet. I also realized I was selling myself short, as I was going back into the same level of consulting that I left, just with a different company.

So, I called my wife and said “I cannot do this.” She asked “Pack?” And, I said “No, leave.” She then said “Who are you?” in gest. With her blessing, we decided to stay, but I had to call my boss. In turn, he had to call his boss. And, of course, I had to call the employer I was turning down.

With their permission, I rescinded my resignation. It was the best unwinding of a decision I have ever done. I enjoyed my time there and received many opportunities to learn and grow. I eventually did leave a few years later, one reason being the company was going to have to merge as it needed to be more scalable. I was offered a job that was clearly a better one than the one I turned down after accepting. It should be noted, the job was with the same company I turned down, so I did not burn any bridges the first time.

Life crossroads don’t come around often. So, it is important to make sure the decision is what you want to do. If I left, it would have been OK, but I was much better off by staying. I have regretted not going further down certain paths, yet whatever steps are taken should involve some due diligence the more important the decision. Frost called it “The Road not taken.” Whether you take it or not, give it some thought.

The Destination or Pathway of Life – Something to Ponder About (wordpress.com)

People want your money – be vigilant

Scams abound. At the dinner table when the kids were younger, we discussed with our teens that people want your money. So, you have to be vigilant and guard against them. Some want it by legitimate means – advertising to get your money for services rendered or products bought. Some want it through aggressive marketing to accelerate such purchases and some want to steal or trick it from you. The scams are the trickster part of the equation.

I had a new scam attempted on me this week which I will call the Electric Utility Scam. This scam was quite well organized with a sincere woman saying I owed money to the electric utility and they were on their way to cut off my power. I could stop them if I called Accounts/ Billing and gave me the number. I called and they asked for my last four digits on my phone and I asked what address they showed, which they correctly offered. He said I owed $500 and I said that was not possible, as my last bill showed a lesser amount due and it was not the due date. He then gave me to a supervisor who wanted me to go on my bank account and do a quick pay. I then said I do not believe you are the utility company and hung up. I called the number on my account statement and they confirmed it was a scam.

I don’t know why I went along for so long. I was skeptical from the outset, but the sincerity and the multiple people involved showed how organized it was. Yet, it was a fraud attempt. Other scams have been tried on me, my wife and my relatives. Here are a few to let others know they are indeed fraud attempts.

Grandparents Scam – This one bothers me the most as the scam preys upon the elderly by saying a grandchild has been in an automobile accident and cannot reach his parents. When the grandparent asks which one, the grandparent offers the name, which the caller seizes upon. The scam is to wire a sum such as $2,700 to an account. Usually the numbers are high, but not extreme.

Amazon Scam – This one is the most active as we have had about a half-dozen calls. An order on the account did not go through and they want us to provide credit card info to pay an odd sum like $739.45 to process the order. The first time we asked each other if we are expecting anything at all or for that amount. Since the answer was no, it must have been a scam. When other calls came in for similar odd amounts, we knew for sure.

IRS Scam – This one is scary sounding saying there is legal action being taken against you for taxes owed, but this is a scam. The IRS will send you a letter, not call you. And, they will try to resolve issues without legal action, before they ever move down that path.

Microsoft Scam – This one is a phone call saying your system has been compromised. The first time I got this one, it sounded legitimate, but when I was booting up my computer the guy asked me if this was the computer I do my banking with? I hung up. Then I realized Microsoft will not be calling me.

Insurance Scam – This one was not an effort to steal, but to sell. My mother was told her certain insurance company account had been compromised. My mother did not have such an account. This was an unscrupulous marketer trying to sell her a Medicare Advantage plan, which she already had with another provider. So, I called to cancel and told the representative how this happened. We also had to change my mother’s banking information as a result.

Bank Scam – This one often shows up on our mobile phones which is annoying. Someone representing our bank or someone else’s bank will send a text warning of a compromise on our account. It is not the bank especially when we don’t even bank with the entity being used. It is a fraud. Banks do send texts at your request, but they appear more legitimate and are for helpful reasons you checked off on – activity, overdrafts, etc.

Please share your experiences below with these and other scams. These do not even count the ID theft attempts, actual compromised credit information at various stores or services or ransomware attempts. People want your money. Be vigilant, even more so than I have been.

Rally caps and what ifs

I recently wrote a post on avoiding celebrating at halftime as the game is not over. Too many politicians want to spike the ball celebrating success, when it has not yet happened. To illustrate my point, I used several games where premature celebration proved unwise. This got me thinking about some other premature celebrations in the sporting world to illustrate a few life lessons about thinking you won before you did or overcoming an obstacle to win..

Baseball has a fun tradition of camaraderie for a team that is woefully behind its opponent late in the game called “Rally Caps.” The magnitude of the deficit will dictate how early rally caps are deployed. The losing team will invert their ball caps and wear them backward in the dugout as they root their teammates on. While baseball is a team game, a key part is based on one individual batting against a pitcher. If a batter gets a hit, the next batter starts to think he or she can too. And, momentum can build.

The Boston Red Sox baseball team has participated in two such rallies in World Series games, losing one and winning one. They lost a lead in game six (out of a potential seven) of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets, sadly with the game ending on a key mistake by one of its better players. Eleven years before, the Red Sox rallied in another game six against the Cincinnati Reds trailing 6 to 0, winning on a big home run in the eleventh inning. For non-baseball fans, the retelling of this story by Robin Williams to Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting” was a pivotal moment of the movie.

In golf, Arnold Palmer succeeded and failed in two separate US Opens, one of the four major championships. In 1960, he was seven shots behind the leader, when he was asking a sports writer what he needed to shoot in the last round to come back and win. The sports writer told him he had zero chance of winning and laughed. Palmer proceeded to shoot a seven under 65 and win the tournament. Six years later, Palmer had a seven shot lead in the US Open in the final round. He continued to play aggressively while Billy Casper, the best golfer few have heard of, started making putts. Casper would go on to win in a play off.

In basketball, Coach Dean Smith of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels was famous for come from behind wins. One in particular stood out as his team trailed a Florida State Seminoles basketball team by twenty plus points in the second half. Since basketball is a game of momentum, Smith’s team starting playing more aggressively and in short order had halved the lead. Then, Smith called an unusual time out which the announcers questioned. Smith later said he wanted the other team to think more about what was happening. The Tar Heels went on to win easily.

Sports give us many examples of why early celebration is unwise. The above illustrate what can happen when teams or individuals that are ahead start thinking of winning and less of doing what it takes to get there. It also shows how a determined opponent can overcome obstacles. And, it shows how a person or team who think they can win, can build its momentum from a small crack of success.

Let me end with one more story which is telling based on the mental aspects of the game. In golf’s British Open (or The Open as it is called there), Frenchman Jean Van de Velde will go down as the golfer more people anguished over than any other. He walked to the last hole of the tournament with a three shot lead at Carnoustie in 1999. He needed to shoot only a double bogey six to win.

The tragic man made a series of poor club and shot selections that painfully unfolded on live TV coverage and he lost the tournament to Paul Lawrie who started the day ten shots behind the leader and behind many others. Yet, the story does not end with Van de Velde. Colin Montgomerie started the day tied with Lawrie, ten shots back. When asked, Montgomerie told a reporter he had no chance of winning, a self-defeating prediction. The man he was tied with came back and won.

If you think you can, you just might. If you think you cannot, you won’t. As for our dear Mr. Van de Velde, this is one of the few times a caddy should have not given the player the club he asked for. The player needed an intervention to stop the negative thought patterns. Like Palmer before him in 1966, he started to think about what losing a big lead would look like.*

*Note: A friend who went to Stanford was following Palmer that day in San Francisco in 1966. He recalls standing behind Palmer when he was seven shots ahead while Palmer’s ball was in the very deep rough. Palmer pulled out a driver to try to advance the ball to the green and my friend and the crowd groaned. The ball went four feet and Palmer never mentally recovered. He needed his caddy to do what Van de Velde’s should have done and handed him a different club.

AARP – Climate Change and you (a good synopsis targeting older Americans)

It is not unusual for AARP to have a good article in its monthly news bulletin. Its June, 2021 edition has a piece called: “Climate Change and You – Extreme Weather Is Affecting Older Americans’ Wealth, Health and Daily Life. How to Prepare This Summer and Beyond.” The article is written by David Hochman, Sari Harrar, Laura Petrecca and Brian Barth, but let me emphasize the beauty of the piece is it is geared to inform an audience that this problem is here now and is not just a future thing.

One of the key takeaways is a map that indicates “What’s the climate risk where you live?” The risk varies, so some areas are more prone to wildfire risk or water stress risk. Others are more subject to increased hurricane risk or sea level rise risk. While still others have more extreme rainfall or extreme heat risk. Or, some will have multiple sets of these risks. I mention this as too often naysayers will focus on sea level rise as its only risk.

The article is organized into Risk and Opportunity subsections beneath larger categories, so let me follow their lead noting the risk and impact, leaving you to read the supporting information. They also note a few things we can do to help on the remedial road, but acknowledge we need to do much more on a larger scale, which is beyond the scope of this article.

Your Finances

Risk: Greater storm risk Impact: Rising home insurance rates

Risk: Chaotic farming conditions Impact: More expensive groceries

Opportunity: Climate mitigation Impact: More green investment

Your Home

Risk: Hotter temperatures Impact: A shifting retirement map

Risk: Chronic weather catastrophes Impact: Falling home values

Risk: More extreme weather Impact: More fortified houses

Your Health

Risk: Seasonal changes Impact: More allergies and bug bites

Risk: Hotter climate Impact: Heat- related ailments

Risk: Rising ozone levels Impact: Increased lung disease

Your Lifestyle

Risk: Changing seasonal climates Impact: Tougher gardening conditions

Risk: Hotter weather and rising sea levels Impact: Lost travel opportunities

Risk: Heat and your air quality Impact: Becoming housebound

Risk: Shifting seasonal climates Impact: Birding flies away

What can you do to help?

Park the car (walk more)

Unplug electricity vampires (chargers, appliances, dormant wi-fi cords, etc.)

Eat less meat

Protect your home for less energy use

Discourage ticks and mosquitoes

Take heat and ozone warnings seriously

This piece is not intended to address systemic things needed like increased use of renewable energy, restoration of carbon eating fauna such as mangroves, sequoias and kelp or carbon removal or absorption technologies, etc. But, it does introduce this important topic in a different way to a group of people that needs to be more aware of climate change. Climate change does not limit its risk to our children and grandchildren – it impacts us older earthlings today.

Thursday Threads – freedoms do require accountability

Since I am headed out the door for a day trip to garner fresh produce at a place called The Peach Stand, I thought I would pull out a few threads to twirl around our fingers as we contemplate issues.

The US Supreme Court has just ruled that freedom of speech does give you license to be an asshole (sorry folks, the real word is needed), provided you do not hurt anyone. A person now known as the “profane cheerleader” won her case, but missed the message. Just because you can be an asshole, does not mean you should. We must be accountable to each other and for our actions and words.

If the profane cheerleader never learns that lesson, she will be like a certain former president in his 70s, that remains an enfant terrible, even at his age. I mention him as the other court story is people involved with the January 6 insurrection are starting to get sentenced. Some will get light sentences, as they did not harm people or property, but others will likely receive more. As these sentences start to pile up, they will stand right in front of those Republican elected officials holding white paint brushes trying to paint over the insurrection as if it did not happen.

That accountability stuff is important, especially with folks who feel entitled to do anything they want. In their minds, it is OK to treat airplane attendants with disdain and threaten them. It is OK to show road rage which has been a growing problem even before the pandemic. It is OK to rage at slow service in restaurants, who are understaffed as they build back up their business. But, it is not OK. You can disagree without being disagreeable. You can share disappointment, without being uncivil.

Yes, the freedom of speech gives Americans the right to be assholes. But, there must be accountability along with that. That Jesus guy speaks of treating others like we want to be treated. If someone chooses to be an asshole, the offender needs to know it gives others the right to ignore you and not consider your raged filled or threatening words and actions. We need leaders to lead in this area, being representative of our better angels not or worst demons. Emulating a deceitful and bullying former president is not the example to follow.

There is an old saying that is more true than not. Those folks who are the least tolerant of others tend to elicit more tolerance from others with their own actions and words. What the intolerant ones do not realize, is people will eventually vote with their feet and not want to be around you or lessen their time with you, if that cannot totally avoid you. In other words, people tend not to want to suffer fools. So, at least be accountable for your own sake.

Who’s got the monkey? (a revisit to an earlier post)

Henry Ford once said, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain.” It reminded me of an article I read about twenty years ago called “Who’s got the monkey?” penned by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald Wass.

In essence, the article is designed to help managers budget their time.* The authors called the delegation of an assignment – the monkey. The manager has passed along the oversight of this task to a member of his or her team. Yet, what often happens the team member will get stumped and bring the problem back and place the monkey on the manager’s shoulders.

The only result of this process is the manager becomes a bottleneck and nothing gets done, as the manager lacks the time. The manager also gets frustrated and stressed. The key theme of this article is for the manager to not accept the monkey back, unless one condition has been met. The monkey comes back with a couple of ideas to solve the impasse. Rather than bringing an unsolved problem back, the subordinate brings a solvable problem that just needs an OK.

So, if a team member just hands the problem back, the manager should not accept the monkey and ask that he or she work through a couple of paths forward. So, Henry Ford quote is very relevant, in my view. The article can be linked to below.

*Note: Management is hard work and often it does not get done as well as it should due to busy schedules or unfamiliarity with what is needed. One of the best pieces of advice came from a staff member of a very busy manager. She helped the manager manage her by making the best use of his time. She asked if she could set-up a fifteen briefing with him a couple of times a week to ask him questions and tell him where she is on various projects. The manager loved the focused time. It was her way of managing up.

https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey

A Low Judgment Area

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 Power of Habit (updated)

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.

Sand castle virtues (a reprise)

With my recent trip to the beach, this old post is aptly titled. I think of these words often, when I am walking along the shore as yesterday’s castles are washed away.

I was listening closely to an old song called “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull, when a phrase struck me more so than before. Jethro Tull is renowned for interesting and unusual lyrics mixed in with equal parts flute, guitars and piano making a unique sound. Yet, amidst the lyrics is a reference to “sand castle virtues.” Here is the stanza which includes the term, penned by Ian Anderson:

And the sand castle virtues are all swept away. In the tidal destruction, the moral melee
The elastic retreat rings the close of play. As the last wave uncovers the newfangled way.

I found this reference profoundly insightful, as many of our so-called virtues are not as concrete as we would like them to be. In other words, they are easily washed away by the waves and replaced by a modified version meeting a new paradigm. This is one reason people can support a candidate or politician who changes posture on a topic. Or, when the candidate was against an issue earlier when the opposing party supported it, but now favors it as it suits his interests today, we followers can overlook the previous stance.

The tide has washed away the previous virtuous stance and has been replaced. What is interesting to me is this song was written in the 1970s, so it is referencing that these malleable virtues or positions have been around a lot longer than today. The only difference is today we can more easily find the previous position, which may have only been stated a few years before. Yet, we don’t ask questions of why you have changed. In essence, we are “thick as a brick” by not staying on top of things and realizing when smoke is being blown at us.

Speaking through my imperfections, I find it hard to fathom why we choose virtues like we are at a cafeteria. A friend of mine uses the reference to “cafeteria Christians,” not to pick on this religion, but use it as an example. Some will cherry pick the parts of the bible they support, but overlook overarching themes. But, this occurs in other religions as well.

If we focus on the overarching virtues and endeavor to do the right thing, we will be on more solid footing. It is when we try to massage a virtue to meet an ideologue or a position, do we risk our position being washed away with the tide. Here are few that would solidify our foundation:

– Treat others like you want to be treated

– Be more inclusive, rather than exclusive

– You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion

– Kindness is not a weakness and in fact is a quiet strength

– It is easy to love someone when things go well; only when they don’t is it hard

– Help your neighbor when he needs it, as you may be in need one day

– Pay attention to what leaders are doing and shine a light on poor behavior

– Treat our environment well for the next generation, which is even noted in the bible

I could go on, but these are a few virtues that would not be washed away. These virtues are far more than sand castles and could stand the greater test of time and barrage of waves. And, if we did these things day in and day out, they would become ingrained making us less “thick as a brick.”