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!


Religion is not a Weapon

When the Bible is used as a political or power advantage…beware…

The person who is willing to use religion to control people is not a person who speaks for God, but a person who uses God’s words like a sword. Do not be led astray.

Know the difference between good and evil, even when they are cloaked in matching coats.

For simply to follow power because it commands your attention, does not mean it will call you to the right path.

I am deeply concerned by much of the media we are hearing today. When someone uses religion to justify nefarious actions, we should question their motives, their intentions, and their personal needs. Simply because a person claims religious affiliation does not at all mean they are a particularly faithful or righteous person. I believe most of us know this, theoretically, logically – but do we practice questioning? There is a preached taboo against questioning God…one should simply ‘have faith’, ‘believe in the higher power’, follow His word. But I don’t believe questioning people is the same as questioning God. It means questioning the person claiming to speak for God. 

Religion can be an enormously powerful source of inspiration and comfort or a weapon used to control masses of people. The only difference between the two is the intent of the person speaking.

One of the reasons I believe we have so much dissent within the Muslim culture is because there is a group of people committing heinous crimes against humanity and claiming they are doing it for God (Allah). Yet, simply because they claim to be acting on God’s behalf, does not at all mean they actually are. But consider the opportunity they are exploiting? If they claim it is on behalf of a specific religion, imagine how many people begin to assume all people of that religion are terrible people?

In our country, we have many absolutely amazing and wonderful faith leaders – across many different religions. As such, we often assume those that claim to speak for God, in actuality do so for the good of our people – and certainly, most do. But to apply that logic across all situations and all people who claim they speak for Him gives our faith to a human, not to a higher power. And when we do that, we do not worship or follow with purpose but instead follow blindly and not only give great power to anyone willing to use it but we also encourage others to rise up and learn to wield the same faith-weaponry. They are preying on our need to believe the world is safe and people who claim to be of faith, are good.

Do not be fooled. When religion is used to justify killing, defilement of children, judgment of others different than oneself, righteousness, or the denigration of women; question the person speaking. Question why they feel the need to prove their superiority over others. Question their need for power. Question the person, the message, the intent…because if you don’t, you are not honoring God with your blind faith but instead willingly giving your faith to an earthly being using it for personal gain.

Always remember: Religion should not be used as a weapon but instead as a source of comfort and inspiration.

Why disagree when we can learn?

European cities are filled with so much history, beautiful architecture, rich ideas, culture, and art. Yet so much of our nation is focused on declaring to the world that we work independently, isolating ourselves from global progress. Xi Jinping stated recently at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, “Openness brings progress, while seclusion leaves one behind.” Is this statement true?

When there is a belief that in all things, we know best, we run the risk of over-inflating our perceived knowledge and being burned by our own self-imposed, and prideful, ignorance.

Diverse teams have the advantage of multiple perspectives, experiences, skills, personalities, and ideas. By contrast, those that are made up of members who all think, live, and believe the same – will be hindered by the vast additional information and experiences they don’t even know exist. At first blush, one might argue that it is just a difference of opinion. In other words, some of us *believe* diversity is beneficial while others *believe* it is not necessary. But at some point, the question becomes not a matter of opinion but rather, one we can test and prove right or wrong.

The test of diversity versus homogenous teams is a question that is not just opinion, but proven fact. Imagine, for example, having a football team of just quarterbacks….who would catch the ball? It’s an easy concept to understand….but a difficult one to extrapolate. So instead of isolating ourselves and displaying an elitist, yet singular viewpoint, what if we embraced the world? Our nation’s differences? The benefits we and others can bring to the negotiation table?

We would create a world that optimizes the talents of our people and that identifies and applauds the most innovative minds we have in this nation. We would likewise differentiate ourselves to complement, rather than overlap and compete, with other nations.

Because together, we could divide, support, and conquer the infinite galaxy….

And wouldn’t that be a far better vision than the perpetual need to divide, destroy, and conquer each other, competing for the finite resources on Earth…

The Haves and the Have-nots

I’m sitting in a beautiful candle lit restaurant in Vienna, Austria….sipping a glass of too-expensive rose champagne…but the bubbles, the dim light, the atmosphere – they are simultaneously invigorating and soothing. I see a family of three near me – the man leans back in his chair, chewing thoughtlessly on a piece of bread. I wonder to myself – does he enjoy the taste? Appreciate the texture? Consider the effort that went into making that bread just right for him. I see a son about 14 sitting next to him. He’s old enough to carry himself with comfort and look present, yet appropriately unimpressed by his surroundings. Certainly, he has had many meals like this – today is no special moment for him. He orders the rack of lamb and eats it as if it is $1 pasta. It is just a meal – sustenance. He is not rude, but neither does he appear aware of how special his dinner is. Few of us will ever experience food of this caliber, let alone so often by age 14 that it is boring. The mother, she eats without thought. Interacts with bland consideration. She is present but again, this is no highlight to a trip, a day, or a family moment.

Earlier today I walked the incredibly exciting streets and saw more amazing dresses, handbags, artwork, and shoes than I have ever seen. I am not at all a shopper but even I was impressed. I am not a big shoe person either (though I do love me some candy apple red pumps!) but the options here could make even the least interested take note. I took pictures!!!! A woman in one store kindly asked I’d like to try on the shoes – I laughed uncomfortably. What good would it do to try on shoes I could never buy? I smiled at her and thanked her for the indulgence. Because for me, just touching the shoes – dreaming of wearing them – THAT in and of itself was meaningful. I found pajamas of the softest material, vintage dresses that cost more now than when they were originally sewn, and coats that not only keep one warm but could make even the most homely person feel like a movie star.

And yet I giggled. Because why would any of these items matter? Yes, they feel nice on the skin. Yes, they are beautiful. But at the end of the day….If you have to cover up every part of yourself to be liked, valued, enjoyed – then has your soul been appreciated?

Perhaps it is cliché. Perhaps I am defensive – because, of course, I cannot purchase these items even if I wished. But while I sat at the same restaurant as that family – I enjoyed, savored every single bite and sip I took. Whose meal experience was better? Without question: mine was. I purchased only gifts for others on my shopping endeavor. Might I have enjoyed buying myself new clothes and shoes and bags? Perhaps. But I *know* I enjoyed buying my family European chocolates, stickers for my youngest, and fancy socks for my husband. I enjoyed seeing things I haven’t seen before. Though I admit – the 60s vintage dress: I’d have worn it with the biggest grin….just because.

Is money power? Does it matter? Does it impress?

To my mind, it provides options. But if it makes the joy of living less poignant, use it differently. If you see your child bored with an exceptional meal, switch to cheap ones and make them earn it. If purchasing fabulous clothes is commonplace….wear hand-me-downs until you feel thrilled and lucky to feel exceptional fabrics and dresses. If you aren’t enjoying what you have – give it away.

Appreciate pleasure, don’t waste it simply because you can.

Dodgers: Kershaw: Does the best always win?

The short answer is: no. Why?


In team sports – it’s a team…even a single best player isn’t going to change the outcome drastically. Even in those that seem like single person events – they are actually most often a team effort, even if behind the scenes – so in essence, you can’t be the lone winner either way. Moreover, there is the randomness one can’t predict. In statistics, it’s called “explaining the variance.” This means, we can only define a certain number of variables that help us predict an outcome, the rest is chance – or at least events/situations/variables we can’t predict. Did you know that when psychologists can predict 60% of the variance of anything, it is considered a HUGE outcome? And yet….it means it leaves 40% to factors we can’t predict.

The bottom line is this: You can control everything you can predict and there remains AT LEAST a 40% chance you’ll be wrong….no matter what.

So what do you do? Control what you can and accept what you can’t. It’s an old adage, but a worthy mantra. Thinking that if you just work harder, think longer, give up more, become a more dedicated martyr….none of these attempts are likely to result in more success. I used to tell my friend…

There will always be people who bet on horses randomly and win big. But the one that does her homework and makes an intelligent choice be will be more likely to win.

So my advice: Work hard, with limits. If you only work, you are guaranteed to lose the art of living. If you only live driven by chance and id-based desires, you are unlikely to achieve anything of meaning. Find the balance. Control what you can, dismiss what you can’t. Experience life instead of counting your achievements and diversify your interests. One of them is bound to succeed : )

But America….remember this doesn’t just pertain to winning in sports – it’s also the case in all events involving human prediction. This means that political races and domestic terrorist attacks are also influenced heavily by unpredictable forces. And herein lies our struggle to control our nation. Frustrated? Then consider the future use of big data analytics – where companies can record everything about you and better predict behavior.

So the right question is: Are you willing to give up your privacy to gain better predictability?

Photo credits: Boris Stefanik, Quino Al, Brian Wertheim


Meta-messaging is the act of providing a common message to a large group of people across more than one area.

For example, a company might produce several different products but have a meta-message across them all focusing on something like comfort or women’s products. Terrorism has a meta-message of fear and controlled actions. People in one part of the world who act to harm others can suggest that all people belonging to their group are similar. Meta-messaging can be used for or against a group, depending on preference and goals. In politics, there are many candidates and many territories but the party to which the candidate adheres has a meta-message – in this case, called a platform.

But what happens when these messages are not clear? What happens when one of the products or candidates doesn’t fit?

Questions begin to arise by those listening to these messages. Doubt sets in. But the real damage occurs when people become critical of the lack of cohesive message being put forth. When this occurs, it allows loosely related messages, put forth by people or groups outside your control, to affect your message. For example, if a person commits an act of terrorism, people may become suspicious of a group to which they belong. It might be religion, but it might also be a club, or a level of education, or a set of organized beliefs. When the groups to which they belong are small in number, or not well known, people will often generalize the behavior to all people in the group. However, if the groups are large, this is less likely because too many people who don’t act the same would compel a different interpretation.

Perception colors reality. Data clarifies it.  

This is why we need to all be cognizant of our own biases….and also aware of the meta-messages we provide to others. To which groups do you belong? Why? How do they affect how others view you by association? Now….how might you use this messaging to your advantage?

Both the Republican and Democratic parties are in significant flux with regard to meta-messaging. The Republican Party is split by those that support the current administration and those who don’t. The Democratic Party is in shock over the election of the current administration and as such is simply rejecting everything put forth by them…but failing to provide an alternative message.

It is vital to our nation’s future that both parties define themselves in a way that focuses forward, is clear, and connects to the other. Unification will allow for a stronger nation, greater fiscal and personal success, and is the most likely, reasonable path to national defense and global leadership.

Perhaps we should consider the meta-message of our nation: Are we united or divided? America, the world is watching….

Photo credits: Mark Adriane, Alice Pascual, Ksenia Makgovonova

Focus on living, not achieving

Sometimes we need to pause…think….reconsider….remember that the unexamined life isn’t one that’s been lived to the fullest. Why? Why is it that we should bother to think about our lives, the lives around us, or our plans for the future? Because if all we do is go through the motions, then why are we here? Why bother?

I often say – don’t fear dying, fear not living.

As you examine, ask yourself, is the fighting, the arguing, and the negativity what you wish to spend your time sharing? I’ve asked many people on both sides of the political space this question and I find that folks really believe they are helping, adding strength to our nation, helping our people be better informed. While I thoroughly appreciate and lift up the passionate and determined support of our nation – I must challenge the method.

If the only people listening to you are the people that believed you in the first place…then have you really made a difference?

It is absolutely necessary to understand how our messages are being received in order to make a difference. Continued focus on achieving the goal of ensuring people have access to our personal interpretation of information does little to promote the lives of Americans and their ability to experience, maintain safety, thrive, and ultimately soar individually or as a nation.

We must instead focus on supporting the lives of our people rather than demanding they share the same beliefs. Drive national progress over your personal agenda.

“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” JFK

Photo Credits: Becca Tapert, Joshua Earle, Michael Browning

Strategic Psychology

  Strategic psychology is the study of national and international emotional movements.

With the advent of social media, the ability to share information immediately and widely has become possible. It has disrupted the flow of information so drastically that it allows anyone to control others, regardless of the accuracy of the information being shared. Essentially, the lack of filter on information and the immediacy with which it is delivered creates a recipe of disastrous proportions. Hence, this idea that large groups of people can ebb and flow in a joint emotional experience and that that combined movement has the power to drastically impact national and world events, is incredibly meaningful and must be better understood.

Some expected issues, in order of increasing concern:

  1. People will be unable to digest the enormous amounts of data and facts from social media. Accordingly, they will become overcome by emotions in reaction to factual or inaccurate information equally.
  2. This feeling-overload will begin to change the way people view facts. It will skew their ability to differentiate factual data from opinion and will result in people forming opinions based on whatever feels most accurate.
  3. This confusion will lead to erroneous assumptions, poor decisions, and expected bad outcomes – which will require justification. To take full responsibility for these outcomes would require significant self-awareness and generally speaking, people can’t handle taking too much responsibility for bad outcomes. Instead, they blame others.
  4. Once the outcomes spread across an entire country, we will see large-scale issues affecting not only those who made poor decisions, but everyone. Expected large-scale impacts could include unrepayable debt, relationship breakdowns, and the distrust of education and the media – all at the national level. Domestic terrorism is also expected to increase in frequency and severity as emotional outlets become constrained, rules of behavior are questioned, and as regulation of these emotions declines.
  5. Once rules of decent behavior are no longer followed and all information is distrusted, replaced instead with emotion-driven beliefs, the ability of a society to function with structure and safety will rapidly decline.

Without intervention, the destruction of our nation is a significantly possible outcome. We must rise up and support our people.

We *can* stop this before it progresses but it will take a system-level plan for how to affect emotions and information flow at the national level. It will require a sophisticated strategic plan to help our nation, provide the hope we need, and clarify a path to progress. Strategic psychology then is the idea that we can affect emotions in systems of people and delves into the ethical, moral, and scientific obligations associated.

We are all the same…or are we?




A wrinkle in time….The Giver….Movies that show us a future of control, sameness, no sadness, no happiness – calm predictability. Do you prefer it?

Think big – open your mind – ask yourself – are we aiming to make everyone think the same? Be the same? Act, do, believe the same? 

What’s the benefit of sameness? It’s predictable. With predictability, comes comfort. With no competition, comes no loss. With mediocrity, comes middle ground. With controlled feelings, comes safety. But….

If we squelch the desire to fight – we lose our drive to soar….

Are we willing to give up the chance to succeed? To persevere? To learn? To think? Question? Disagree? In exchange for comfort, we release extremes – both pain and euphoria.

Knowing what something is….is not the same as knowing how something feels.

Where do you stand? What do you prefer? How much control do you believe should be executed on our people? How much opportunity should we provide?

Photo credits: Soren Jorgensen, Waranont Wichittranont, Jonathan Simcoe

Centrism vs. Unification

What’s the difference? Why do you care? I like to say Centrism is like divorce court: Where everybody loses. The centrist opinion usually falls in the middle of issues – we call these people ‘fence sitters.’ Nobody likes a fence sitter because at the heart of their decisions is the need to not upset anyone, not take a position, avoid decision making. But the real problem is that when you take a centrist position, you ignore the real preferences and possibly the needs of the opposing parties.

The best way to bridge people or groups is to unify them.

In order to achieve this, you first have to determine what, exactly, it is that the parties want. But when emotions are high, this can be a real challenge. Sticking with my analogy of divorce court, you often see people whose actual goal is just to punish the other party. They don’t actually care how the punishment is carried out – could be public ridicule, could be losing time with kids, could be reduction of money or loss of home – doesn’t matter typically. The person is just so angry they want to see the other party punished and they want to feel vindicated. This is not an actionable goal nor is it a reasonable way to act. Yet, the reality of my point, stops no one. 😉 People still want what they perceive as ‘justice’. This behavior can also be seen in all other areas of life, including business and politics.

For example, at the root of the Never Hillary movement was a strong need to make a point and deliver perceived ‘justice’. There was an underlying need to punish her, the democratic party, and even possibly all politicians in general. Enter DT and you’ve got a way to both punish Hillary and the party, and even throw in a little pain for politicians in general. Vindication was the goal, and it was achieved.

But what was the cost? To some, nothing – many people are thrilled with the current administration. For others, they believe it has begun the fall of American society. With such a huge difference in beliefs, we either have to assume that a large group of people aren’t seeing reality, have a disorder (both of these have been suggested of course…by both sides), or they are using a different set of goals and measurement sticks to determine success. There is little likelihood that millions of people have all lost their minds so the most likely answer is the last one.

Using different success metrics means we have to listen to each other, understand others’ metrics, and then press forward with a plan.

If both sides have different needs, this is the easiest situation because, unlike in a centrist view where neither party would get what they want, in a unified stance, we can provide each side with their wish. Similarly, when parties want the same goal, but believe in different pathways, we can generally find a way to reach success. However, when groups want opposing outcomes, this is where we struggle. Or do we? Rarely is it the case that groups want truly opposing results. Rather, an oversimplification of the argument makes it seem that way.

For example, take the goal of free education that Bernie Sanders put forth. Is it really the case that it is bad for our people to be educated? Of course not! I doubt large groups of people really believe that. Rather, they don’t want to pay for it for everyone. THAT’S the real issue. So, be creative instead of pushy! Create an education system for adults that can be replicated, accessed, and provided to people at relatively no additional cost. Online education has a one-time cost and a relatively low cost to maintain.  Why hasn’t this been recommended? Because people want to win their point. Always be careful about focusing on the battle at the cost of winning the war.

Get the right answer, not your answer, and use innovation and creative problem-solving to find win-win scenarios.

With an understanding of people, an ability to listen to people’s needs, and some innovative thought, we can unify this nation by providing people with what they really want instead of suggesting everyone should compromise to the middle.

Unity is the strongest position of defense, excellence, and world leadership we can achieve as a nation. It’s high time we make it a priority!

Photo credit: Tim Marshall, Alondra Olivas, Courtney Hedger