Diversity and Creativity: The American Brand

The greatest assets of our nation are diversity and creativity because differences in thought, background, experiences, and beliefs bring to bear the greatest number of ideas for solving any problem. It also means, you have the best ability to question and optimize your ideas or solutions. Further, when you add a dose of creativity to the mix, the most effective solutions are expected. THIS is why researchers work in multi-disciplinary teams. Doing so increases the probability of getting the best answer to any problem.

Expanding that point across the entire nation means we have the best opportunity in our country to capitalize on our diversity and use it as a competitive edge internationally. Yet instead, we focus so much on proving we are the best that we handicap our abilities to achieve.

It’s not about proving ones opinion, it’s about finding the right answer.

The notion that someone is willing to cut off their nose to spite their face acts as a perfect metaphor to the compulsive need to be perceived as one who generates the good ideas rather than the one that cultivates them. In too many cases, people are willing to achieve a lower standard simply in order to obtain full credit for the marginal result. Wouldn’t it be better to work together instead of against each other?

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

Pulling that thread….consider inspiring your neighbor, your friends, your family, the strangers around you to share their great ideas rather than spending your energy trying to convince them of your own. If we can better capitalize on the diverse brilliance in this nation by creating national level conduits for sharing ideas, we can innovate at a much more rapid rate and propel our nation, and our world, forward. We don’t have to be the best at everything, we have to recognize the best and incorporate them into our solutions.

Photo Credit: Eneida Hoti  rawpixel.com

USA: Unity Strength Action

 There is no them. – Patton Oswalt

We hear it in parenting all the time: “We are a united front.” Why do we say this? Why do parents believe it? Why do we try to work together, compromise, when we disagree? Because at the end of the day, it is better to lose the battle than to lose the war. In this analogy, winning the war means raising a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child. Losing the battle means one or both parents have to acquiesce in their parenting style in order to achieve the harmony required for the child’s best development.

How are we, as a nation, any different? We stand by and watch as congress chooses to divide on issues so much so that when the budget isn’t passed, the Government shuts down. This is what I call:

“Divorce Court: Where everybody loses.”

And this is what is going to happen in our nation if we don’t stand up and unite. We must connect across our people, across our differences in backgrounds and belief systems, and across our nation in order to continue to be the world leader we claim to be. There is no disputing it – all of the other big countries are rushing forward with digital and cyber progress. They may not have the freedoms we do but they have the drive and unified goal to progress. If we dare to underestimate the motivation, abilities, and resources of other nations, we handicap our ability to maintain our global status. We hinder our nation, our people.

Jesse Jackson once stated, “Leadership has a harder job to do than just choose sides. It must bring sides together.” And yet….*we*, the people of the United States of America….must also choose to come together. It is as much our job to unite as it is leadership’s job to show us the path…

When did being human become an inexcusable state?

Think about it. How often do we feel annoyed, irritated, frustrated, or mad at people for actions or decisions that we feel are substandard? Do we pause and consider what we might do in their shoes? And I don’t mean if we had a clear head, unlimited time, all the resources we need at our fingertips, and clarity of how things will turn out. I mean….do we put ourselves fully into others’ shoes before passing judgment? Do we try to fully understand ourselves and the pull or confusion we might feel if we were them? We have become so quick to judge others and why? What is the driver? What are the triggers? And how do we get past this national level strife that seems to have invaded our country?

“Think like the enemy” is a concept used in the military to help our personnel better recognize and understand the adversary while in combat. It is based on the idea that if you can better imagine the situation from their perspective, you will also be better able to anticipate their actions. But what if you apply that same principle to understanding your neighbor? Understanding how he or she thinks and feels may very well make it easier for you to understand why they say or do things different than you. But why would you bother to do this? Life is busy enough and frankly, feeling like we have all the answers is empowering and benefits the ego.

Unfortunately though, it weakens our society, our people, our education, economic, and political edge over our adversaries. We are a nation that depends on one another, not because we want to but because we have to. We all need roads and schools and banks and an economy that is stable. We need a defense force and a Government that feels empowered, enabled, and motivated to work for us. It is not necessary to agree with your neighbor, but it is to our country’s benefit if you can understand them and accept them. In doing so, you increase our ability to share and capitalize on the best ideas our nation’s people can produce. You increase the probability that workers will be focused on economic growth, rather than intra-fighting, and you improve our reputation globally – which, in turn, allows our Government to be more effective and our military to face fewer combat events.

Avoid surface level understanding of others – or your assumptions may be our downfall. As Machiavelli said:

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

Avoid this trap and along with it, empower our nation.

Photo credits:  Jose A. Thompson, GoaShape, Nick Beswick

We are better than this

It’s like a card trick: Pick an issue, any issue. Pick a Twitter account, any account that focuses on politics….and I can show you hyperbole, discord, anger, offensive accusations…etc. etc. Look, politicians are humans. They make mistakes. They say things wrong. They are afforded no leeway, however. Would we rather robots in office?

We make it outrageously expensive to run for office…then complain that only the rich run. We literally destroy people’s families and pick apart their personal lives as if they are a piece of meat thrown to wolves….and yet act surprised when only those bold enough to care little, if at all, about peoples’ opinions are the only ones willing to run. We complain, complain, and complain until we run out of light in the day…and then act surprised when our politicians become frustrated, tired of dealing with the discord, and those we often feel are most qualified to run, refuse. In many ways, Americans, we have gotten exactly what we’ve asked for – we get rich politicians who make policies for themselves, or that promote their personal agendas, and who are very disconnected from the rest of us living in regular society.

Now the right question: How do we attract the right people for the jobs? How do we do a better job recruiting for these positions? Because make no mistake about it, *WE* are the customers, the hiring agents, the recruiters. Ergo, *we* must take it upon ourselves to ensure we hire the right people for the positions that affect us all so much. But how??????

Simple: Recruit and hire people just like we would any other job.

Step 1: DEFINE the position. What does this position actually require? Running for office is not just a popularity contest – or at least it shouldn’t be. So what are the skills and experience needed to be an excellent politician?

Step 2: Seek out individuals that fit those descriptions. DO NOT simply wait to see who is available and willing – RECRUIT the top talent. Attract them. Mentor them. Encourage them.

Step 3: Determine what training, if any, that they need. No one goes into a job and doesn’t receive training, we should expect nothing different for our politicians. We need to help them learn the aspects that are specific to the position and those areas where they need personal skill support.

Step 4: Make the job enjoyable, desirable, and pay well. In what universe does someone want to take a job that pays low, is terribly stressful, involves negative feedback daily, and posts every part of your personal life on TV? Oh my word! No one wants a job like that! Instead, consider making this a worthwhile position that will attract more people than those that are self-serving and tough enough to withstand the horrible treatment we impose.

By no means am I saying all politicians are self-serving, self-promoting people. Rather, I’m saying that we act in ways that decrease the probability that the people most qualified will be willing to run. I’m also not saying all Americans treat politicians poorly. Many are treated very well by constituents. I’m simply saying that the issues that exist can be affected by our actions more than we give ourselves credit.

We are more powerful than we think….we must act like it.

Photo credits: Patrick Brinksman, Dmitry Rafushny, Aaron Tejedor

Life Happens: What do you miss?

Our minds are amazing but we still have limitations. We push ourselves, our bodies, our time, our family, our money, our cars – we push them all in various ways to the very edge of what can be handled. We are constantly chasing the ability to squeeze out just a little more efficiency, a little more anything. But our minds and bodies force us to stop, to abide by our limitations because if we don’t sleep, don’t take care of ourselves, don’t maintain not only physical health but also mental health, we break down.

The mind has a natural ‘shut off’ button, if you will. Without it, we would overflow with incoming information. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), for example, is the mind’s way of shutting down memories that are too horrific to be maintained in daily thought. Unfortunately, these memories, though repressed, still surface unexpectedly and cause many issues for those that suffer from this disorder. But we often assume only extreme stress can affect the mind….and when we do, we are wrong.

When overloaded, the mind will focus on the clearest, easiest, most familiar information. I like to say – we focus on what we know, who we know, where we know. But what happens when this is not the information to which we need to be attending? What happens when we miss the important points? What happens when we are so overloaded by the chaos around us that we focus only on ourselves?

Take this test. Watch the video and test your ability to see the world that’s presented to you…


Did you see it? Or was your mind overwhelmed? Now imagine this idea in your everyday life…

In a country where information and data are surrounding its people all the time, everywhere, we would predict that the citizens would, out of necessity, focus almost entirely and exclusively on their closest surroundings, on people most familiar to them, and on information that is easiest to understand. Further, they would be expected to reject, possibly vehemently, anything that is different looking, from an unfamiliar location, or that is confusing or too complex. With the size, number of people, and diversity of thoughts, background, experiences, and beliefs of our nation, complexity is guaranteed. And as a result, our minds will crave, and possibly even force us, to focus on our closest surroundings and people that look, act, and think like us.

The right question then is: How do we empower our people to focus on the right information for growth instead of the most familiar information to maintain a feeling of safety?

To be continued….

When the world is dark, be the light: American Experience Series Part II

Is life perfect? Do we believe the messages of hope and grandiose goals? Do we believe there is a destination, a proverbial American Dream? To be honest, I did and now I don’t. That sounds depressing, right?

Perhaps it is or perhaps it reflects a maturation, a change in outlook, a reframe of country and personal expectations.

The world is not made up solely of sunshine and roses. Even in my beloved Florida, I wake up to 30 degree dark dreary days sometimes. Likewise, no matter how happy you are yourself or how perfect your life seems, there is no ability to avoid all struggles, bumps in the world, detours – heck, even u-turns at times!

Growth does not occur during moments of brilliance but instead during moments of darkness.

Is this true or just what we tell ourselves in order to endure and maintain hope? In truth, it’s the latter. We can learn plenty during good times in our lives. But it feels good to say there’s a silver lining to our pain and suffering because it brings meaning to the experience. There’s no evidence to support this notion, and more to the point, there is much evidence to the contrary. So if that’s the case, why do we have to live through dark periods? What is the benefit to us?

I often say: I don’t believe there is a reason for everything but I am willing to learn from every experience.

If we can’t stop lemons from growing, then at least we can make lemonade out of the ripe ones, right? The question to ask oneself is: What can I learn from this experience and where can I go from here? When I buried my daughter, it was, without question, the hardest day of my life. In that moment though, I had two choices, grieve forever and martyr myself as a mother that lost or honor her memory with happiness and light. I chose the latter. It’s not that I never cry and miss her but 99% of my time spent thinking about her or doing things in her honor are done with a smile and a joy that few would realize in this situation. I *choose* to believe that when I smile, it doesn’t mean I’m not sad she’s gone, instead it means, I’m glad I knew her and I’m happy to remember her.

We have choices in our life experiences….we can be overcome by worrying about the bumps in the road that not might, but will, occur, and work ourselves to the extreme to try and control everything in an effort to avoid certain disaster. But spending one’s life trying to reach the peak of a pre-defined mountain instead of letting the train meander its way around it, guarantees you will miss the most beautiful parts of life, rather than ensure you reach the dream.

Live, experience, let your life reveal itself and you will likely find a path much greater than you could ever imagine on your own.

When is enough, enough? Privacy v. Hiding: Part II

Trying to stop a moving freight train is basically an impossibility but the option to redirect its trajectory creates the opportunity to avoid a predictable destination.

The necessary things to know though are: What are you doomed to hit and where would you like to land instead?

This metaphor is useful in so many decision making cases that I use it in many of my talks and in much of my life. Too often we tell people that their decisions, their ideas, their plans, etc. are no good and they should stop. We say, stop smoking. We say, be abstinent. We say, don’t eat junk food, don’t over spend, don’t overshare on social media.

There’s a saying in psychology that goes something like, “Don’t should all over yourself.” The reason is because when we focus on what we shouldn’t do, we are still focusing on it. Instead, we have to redirect our behavior in order to be effective in avoiding a known problem. Eat carrots, buy X items this shopping trip, share in these topics only on social media.

We are basically trying to help you trick your brain to do the things you want it to do and avoid the things you don’t. Now let’s apply the same principal for change to social media oversharing. To quote my earlier article, the problem we face is this: “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.”

So oversharing is defined as posting pictures or information that make us look like we a) lack self-control, b) lack good decision making skills, and/or c) are overly angry or hateful.

Any one of these will give them impression of immaturity or an inability to function and will create the possibility of hindering growth, affecting job placement, or reducing others’ willingness to trust us. But telling people to stop posting in these three areas is as likely to succeed as standing in front of a freight train with your arm outstretched yelling STOP!

Alternatively, we should clarify what *is* beneficial. A good set of guidelines to follow are to ask oneself, is my post: self-enabling for growth, self-promoting, and/or positive toward others? If the answer is yes, go for it. If the answer is no, change it. If the answer is I don’t know – ask someone to read it before you post. And most of all, remember the old adage:

Less is More. Be real, be cautious, be aware. These are the best ways to ensure sharing is helpful to life, and not hindering it.

Photo credits Michael Mroczek  Rodion Kutsaev  Kristina Flour

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018: What have you learned?

Every year, I learn something – at times, that “something” isn’t something I wished to learn but I find that life comes regardless of our plans, preferences, or even our best efforts to control our world. THAT was one of the toughest lessons I learned – over many, many years. But for this year, I learned an incredible number of things I actually wanted to learn, and for that, I am truly greatful. I learned much about our Government and political system. I learned how much I love traveling the world. I learned how important it is for me to do my daily workout – it keeps me centered and my brain active. I learned how valuable it is to find “your kind,” or those people who really understand you. I belong in the real life version of The Big Bang Theory – I am, at my truest core, a geek who loves being with people who challenge me as much they love me. But most of all, I found my passion and THAT is an incredible thing to find.

For me, finding and solving problems for our people, our nation, our world is about the most invigorating experience I have ever had. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to explore these areas and particularly to help solve really hard problems. In my personal world, I’ve finally realized a dream to write on a regular basis about what I see, what I know, and in a way that reflects my view of the world. My ultimate hope is that these ideas, this energy, all converges into a single goal. My UNIFY USA Project (see my Facebook page) is the culmination of all these interests and while I hope it starts a movement of people in our country walking in the same direction, metaphorically speaking, and doing a better job understanding and respecting each other’s differences….

True happiness comes not from the acknowledgement of others but rather, the personal pursuit of those things that keep one up at night…thinking, questioning, rethinking, and strategizing.

It doesn’t matter if you love skateboarding or marketing or cyber security or problem solving – whatever it is – pursue it will earnest and your life path will unfold before your eyes…

HAPPY 2018 AMERICA! May this year be more invigorating than the last! Be fearless, be passionate, be yourself.


*Photo Credit: NordWood Themes  Ian Schneider