Privacy vs. Hiding

In a recent article by Google, there was a discussion about the younger generations’ seeming need to overshare via social media. I believe this is a major issue we need to help our youngsters better understand and navigate. Why? There are two major issues that surface when humans share intimate details about themselves without filter.

First, the compulsion to overshare is laced with a) the need to please and impress others and b) the need to maintain constant attention. Both of these reasons will predictably lead to people living in a revolving emotional rollercoaster where they are both controlled by others and where motivation is externalized. The result? Higher rates of depression and anxiety are expected in the long term and when it is pervasive across a society, the impact to decision making, personal motivation and effectiveness, as well as health will be severe.

Second, oversharing can lead to too much information being posted about a person that, in the future, will hinder them from jobs, relationships, opportunities. It doesn’t allow people to grow and change. The implications could be massive if our younger generations are recording every action, thought, experience and as a result being defined, constrained by their younger selves. Can you imagine if all your missteps in life were recorded and available to all to see forever? How might that have changed who you are today? How might that have stifled your personal growth? We all need the ability to reinvent ourselves and we need to help our youth respect their older selves.

We need to take a stand as a society to help our youth understand the distinction between privacy and hiding information. It is reasonable and appropriate to refuse to answer questions or requests from others when those requests are too personal. We need to help draw that line for them so they know how and when to say no. Most importantly, we need to support privacy instead of bullying and punishing people who refuse to answer or respond. As a society, we assume the worst when people say something is none of anyone’s business. But the reality is that if we don’t start empowering our people to say exactly that, with confidence, we guarantee a downstream loss of national maturity, mental health status, innovation and progress.

American Traditions….

Traditions have been around since the beginning of time and are present in every culture, every religion, every society…why? Traditions have stood the test of time and circumstance because they serve a very important function in a society, they bind people together, create a common experience, and create a rhythm to life. There is an interesting underlying impact to the body as well that likely helps perpetuate these events. They serve as a forcing function for pausing from everyday life, spending time with family, friends, and experiencing moments of happiness.

But in a nation as diverse as ours, it becomes more challenging to honor everyone’s beliefs and traditions. And as a result, further affects our struggle as a nation to feel connected – to feel united. So the question during this multi-holiday season is…how do we honor the different traditions, ideas, beliefs we have in America while also finding a way to celebrate together as a unified whole?

My husband often says Merry Festivus to everyone, recognizing there is no possibility of being politically correct, and instead embracing the goal of wishing people a happy winter season without referencing any one particular religious belief or personal preference. I think he may be on to something here. Perhaps it is not necessary for us to celebrate, experience, or live the same way, same celebrations, or same journeys – but instead to acknowledge, honor, and respect one another’s differences with the same recognition. On that note…


What is the American Dream….today?

 We’ve all heard the adage – aspire to “live the American dream” – but what it was is perhaps not what it is today.

Though, do we even know what it has become? Do the younger generations see the “Dream” in the same way our older generation does?

The dream that so many people of my age and older were taught was to grow up, get married, have a job and a house and a family and a dog. The white picket fence would be a true plus and in my area of the world (southeast), I was hoping to stay home with my kids, adore my husband, and have holidays with lots of decorations and selling baked goods at the elementary school…and then eventually be the house my children and their friends want to hang out at as the “cool house”….and once the children leave for their ideal college, begin my life as an empty nester ready to help around my community and be ready for grandchildren. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I have a job, a house, a family, and a dog. But uhhhh……nearly none of the rest came to fruition. We are a chaotic family, traveling all over the world, working, studying, and chasing….what? What is our goal? Where are we going? Where are you going? At my age, I can laugh. I mean, whatever I dreamed as a child was attempted but largely failed…and yet, I adjusted and I am happier for it.

But I spend a fair amount of time wondering – what does the next generation want? My kids don’t crave money or houses or even children of their own. All these things add responsibility and limit their abilities to experience life as they wish.

Even for Christmas and birthdays, we now give experiences more than things. We preach that growing older means one needs to accept more responsibility, more dependencies, grow upward in a company. But is any of this true? Is this the “dream” we all believe….now?

This is not one I’m going to answer immediately. Instead I’m going to start a series of highlighted stories. I’m calling it Thursday–Dreamday and I’m going to feature stories on my Facebook page of people fulfilling *their* American dream. I’m eager to see how their experiences weave together to make our nation whole, diverse, interesting, and inspiring. I’m interested to see if there is a new dream that we share, but don’t yet realize. Join us at the UNIFY USA Project and let’s see where this journey takes us….

Photo Credits: D Neyozhai, D Topkin, S Schneider, A Navarro

What’s your idea of a great night?

Pizza, cider, a white board wall, and a room of geeky friends = an awesome night of problem solving, intellectual banter, and mind blowing ideas that can change the world. Well, at least in my head this is a really fun night. I’m not sure everyone enjoys spending so much time solving large scale strategic problems but I find it invigorating. It’s like figuring out a not-yet solved puzzle and finding out that the picture is totally different than you expected.

What energizes you? What keeps you up at night that makes you so excited you can’t sleep? Finding ones passion can seem like a daunting task but there is an actual method for how to do it that doesn’t just involve aimless wandering through life without any idea when or how you’ll find your way. The method is like this:

First, try many different experiences. Second, watch yourself in each of these experiences. Do any of them make you feel like you have more energy? Do any of them spur you to ask questions? Want to learn more? Want to talk to other people about it? It doesn’t have to be the entire experience – only a portion. It’s like a breadcrumb. Once you find a small part you like, follow it to another. Every time there will be more to search but each time you will be closer and closer to those experiences that energize you.

Passion is defined as those experiences and topics that make you feel more alert, more alive when you do them.

Everyone has a relative passion. Find it. Be fearless in your pursuit of those energizing experiences. Trust that you will find a way to fund your passion and your ability to have work-life balance will be greatly increased. Your mental and physical health will thank you.


Big Data and the Personalized World: What’s the impact on the mind?

It’s coming, the metaphorical bullet train that will bring significant changes to the way we operate in our day to day lives. Unlike the little engine that could who brought candy and toys to the children on the other side of the mountain, the gift of data will be invisible, odorless, chaotic, and manipulative.

The age of personalization is being branded as a utopia where everything is about YOU.

When you walk into a store, items you might like will be highlighted. You’ll wear glasses that will augment what is in front of you with information like price for clothes or information about a place you are visiting. Students will have personalized learning pathways in school that move at their pace and provide them learning experiences all the time, everywhere. Medicine will be revolutionized as your diagnostic and treatment plans are all focused on helping you get well faster….and without having to even go to the doctor most of the time. So what’s the downside? There are several.

First, once you are only getting pieces of information, even if they are picked especially for you, you have to wonder, What are you missing? What isn’t being shared with you? Realize that if someone or something can give you only ‘some’ information, they have the power to dramatically control your thinking and actions.

Second, the world is already becoming ME-centric…but what happens when the world really is only about you? What happens when we don’t interact directly as humans but instead entirely through technological devices? What happens to humanity? Helping behaviors? Raising of families?

Third, the influx of extreme amounts of data into the brain is expected to have serious consequences to one’s psychological well-being. Imagine when you are at the gym and on the treadmill. In front of you are 10+ TVs all playing simultaneously the news, the reality shows, etc. When you see all that at once, and you can’t turn it off, it hyper-stimulates the mind and can have deleterious effects like increased heart rate, changes in brain chemicals, and mental overload. These effects translate to expected higher rates of depression, anxiety, paranoia, and increased difficulty focusing, listening, and assimilating new information. Decision making effectiveness, at the national and international level, is expected to decline.

So what do we do about it?

We need to consider ethical requirements for technology connectivity and the ability of people and organizations to push information to us. We need to be wise consumers of the new gadgets and gizmos – recognizing that with their benefits also come drawbacks. We also need to get serious about mental down-time. We preach work-life balance…but generally speaking most people just preach it, they don’t do it.

Resting the mind is the single most important thing you can do for your body, your work, your children, and your life. Breathe, smile, listen, focus, be calm. This future chaos will figure itself out but how long that will take depends on us.

Happiness or Depression: Which is truer?

Unbeknownst to most, depression is usually felt by those who see the world accurately. This is a psychological phenomenon that was found unintentionally. Researchers set out to show that depressed individuals perceived their world worse than it really is – but what they found, was the opposite.

Happy individuals see the world through rose-colored glasses. They leap, metaphorically, from one wave top to the next without deeming it worth their time to explore, or even acknowledge, the troughs. They are rewarded with energy, positivity, increased work productivity, and more friends. Yet, in fact, their minds reside in a world that doesn’t actually exist. The question is: Does it matter?

We scream and fight over the points of reality versus perception and opinion. We demand others see the world through our eyes. We require people to appreciate data. But what is the point? What is our goal?

We claim that we “just want our children to be happy,” but is that really true? What cost are we willing to pay to ‘be happy’? Are we willing to skew reality and tell ourselves lies to achieve a state of happiness? Are we willing to reject others’ suffering so we can avoid the troughs of the world that might bring us down? Are we willing to live in squalor and run our lives without thought, being driven by our impulsive desires of immediate joy?

And more to the point…what happens when a whole nation abandons reality? Truth? Data? What happens when we make up our reality?

Momentary happiness becomes the currency of the day….but at the cost of long-term success, societal structure, and a transcended mind that both accepts the world as it really is while appreciating the beauty in the journey of life.

Is healthcare a right or a privilege: Wrong question

Today, we focus on two main questions for health care: 1. Is it a basic human right? and 2. Who should pay for it? I would argue, given that we live in a capitalistic society, we’ve asked the wrong questions.

It’s not about altruistic optimism. It’s about capitalistic meta-success.

Realize this: when your neighbor is successful, it enhances your success. The impact of not having personal health care coverage is far wider than you might notice at first glance. The ripple effect, no matter who you are, will affect you. Why? Because while we are not a socialistic society where all people receive the same or similar benefits/support regardless of skills, education, or effort, we are a society in which people are interdependent. What does that mean? It means that each person’s success or failure affects those around them. In other words, when your American family member is suffering, like it or not, their struggle will have a ripple effect that affects you. How?

For those who don’t believe in abortion – realize that a woman is far more likely to have an abortion if she doesn’t believe she can have a healthy pregnancy or raise a healthy child. For business owners – realize that workers who are sick won’t work at their best, they won’t help your business grow or operate as optimized as it could. Even workers that just worry about the health of their children and their ability to support them is enough to reduce work productivity. For educational systems – realize that students who don’t have health care coverage will miss or drop out of classes for longer than necessary to either self-treat their illnesses or to take additional jobs to pay off their medical bills. For the greater society – realize that when young people don’t get the education they seek, their ability to work up to their potential can’t be optimized because they are too bogged down with bills and untreated illnesses.

It is well accepted that preventative medicine helps maintain better health and that quickly addressed illnesses are easier and cheaper to treat. And yet, as a nation, we seem to struggle to understand what these two points really mean…

A healthy nation is a happier, higher achieving, better educated, and more productive nation.

It’s not about being fair or unfair, expensive or inexpensive – it’s about raising a nation that can operate at its best!