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  

How do we get Americans to discuss solutions….instead of yelling at each other?

PART 1: The Problem

A good friend of mine asked me this question and I answered simply: We must help people be less emotional before they can discuss anything logically. You see, once the brain is flooded with chemicals due to emotionally charged situations, it stops functioning. Given that the part of the brain affected by these chemicals (frontal lobe) is in charge of rational thought, what I’m actually saying is that reason, thinking, and the ability to discuss anything logically becomes impossible. THIS is why people say – let your partner or friend cool off during a fight before you discuss ways to fix the situation. This is also why we all say things we regret in the heat of the moment. It is also why we forget how to speak when we are nervous in front of a crowd or a potential new partner. All of these moments have one thing in common: emotions that trigger chemicals to release and shut down our logic centers.

 

These issues can be hard enough to manage when two people are involved. When the number of people increases, the potential conflict points increase exponentially in difficulty. Why? Because every extra person adds not just his or her emotions to every situation, but also reacts to the people around them. So in a marriage, for example, you have person 1, person 2, and the interaction between them (#3). Add one child and now you have person 1, person 2, person 3, interaction between 1 and 2 (#4), interaction between 2 and 3 (#5), interaction between 1 and 3 (#6), reaction of person 3 to the interaction of 1 and 2 (#7), reaction of person 2 to the interaction of 1 and 3 (#8), and reaction of person 1 to the interaction of 2 and 3 (#9). So with two people, you have 3 possible areas of conflict. Add one child and it escalates to 9. Add more and the possible areas of conflict just keep increasing at exponential rates.

Now…imagine all this on a national scale…and it should be no surprise that we have a giant mess of disagreement and potential conflict points available.

It used to be the case that when one was upset about something, that person went home, possibly vented to a family member, then slept on the issue. This separation time is incredibly important. Why? Because it allows the stress chemicals in the brain to drain. The following morning, one thinks more clearly.

That was then. This is now. The world is fast paced. Information flow is immediate. Why delay when you can vent immediately?

<ENTER SOCIAL MEDIA> 

Now, you can share your emotional, unvetted, completely raw, beliefs immediately. Not only do you get an extra rush of chemicals letting out your anger or frustration, you also get responses from others immediately…and…that’s right, another rush. The result of your one frustration not only makes your emotions high, it now increases the emotions of all those following you….who, in turn….share their frustrations with their entire network….and so on and so forth. One issue, that in the past would have faded while you slept, becomes a national epidemic of emotions in literally seconds now. Worse, the feeling of those chemical rushes is the same as one that takes drugs, seeks daring activities like jumping out of airplanes, or tries risky behaviors. So now, that one experience has not only affected your network of ‘friends’, the act of sharing also has you hooked on the chemical rush, and has you seeking more emotional situations that can start the cycle of chemical rush again and again and again. Eventually, your brain will reset itself permanently at a heightened state of agitation. At this point, you will need the rushes just to maintain a sense of balance.

Ironically, however, you will be constantly out of balance.

PART 2: The Fix

Fixing this national level epidemic of emotional turmoil is no small challenge. Simply telling people to calm down doesn’t work – most people don’t know how and frankly, self-control and delayed gratification can be difficult to employ when the chemical rush is so intense and elongated in time. Similarly, trying to speak reason to someone in a heightened emotional state is quite simply, a waste of breath. The person literally can’t digest what you are saying. The words will be simply filtered out of working memory as fast as they enter. This is why those who aren’t feeling that heightened sense of chaos and emotions can’t understand why friends who used to be pleasant to be around are no longer reasonable. It’s why many of the social media posts don’t even make sense at times. Ironically, it’s also why protests don’t work – they empower the people who already agree with you but act to further infuriate those who don’t.

As the people who, at one point were hanging on to their frustrations, reach the end of their ability to keep speaking logically, and reasonably without feeling heard…they will become sucked into the same emotional cycle out of pure frustration…and yell back. Once this happens, everyone is yelling AT each other – and no one is listening. Both sides are defending their position – though more times than not, people have forgotten what, specifically, they are fighting for…because really, they are fighting to be heard.

Our people want to be heard.

It’s surprising how simple it can be in the end. Most of us can accept a decision different than our own preference, but only if we feel heard and understood first.

So the answer to how to get politicians to stop yelling is….LISTEN. These are the steps:

  1. Stop talking, start listening: It is rarely the case that the person you’re talking to is as crazy as they sound at first. They are typically frustrated, angry, or feel wronged. Let them get it all out before defending, correcting, or explaining.
  2. Ask: If it’s the way you want it, what does that look like? Most times, people don’t even know what they want. They know they don’t like what they have but they don’t know what success looks like. You must name your goal, define mission success.
  3. Make sure you understand what they are asking for: One always need to make sure that you’ve understood correctly.
  4. Define steps: Clarify how (the steps) to reach the goal OR explain why it can’t be done. By this point, a person’s emotions have stabilized typically because they have been heard, they’ve redirected to a solution-focused mindset, and you’ve repeated back to them their own argument. So at this point, you should *finally* be able to discuss actual solutions to issues, instead of yelling so much.

At the national level, the solution is surprisingly easy too:

Don’t social media when you’re angry 😉

Ok, while it’s simple, it’s not easy to convince people to follow it. But for every person that does resist the urge, it’s not just one reduction in a network – it’s the ripple effects that don’t occur that allow peace, calm, and logic to rule and begin the cycle of unity.

Photo Credits: Andre Hunter, Jerry Kiesewetter, Ben White, William Ivan, Vlad Tchompaloy, and Spenser H on Unsplash

America Day

Today is a day that brings another debate to our country: Celebrate the Indigenous people who inhabited our country first or Christopher Columbus who brought Europeans here in 1492? The issue of course lies in the extensive genocide that followed during the colonization of the Americas. This debate comes just shortly after the questions over the civil war monuments, making it even more heated. How do we balance remembering history with while acknowledging that much of our history involves significant loss of life – in our case, loss of Americans’ lives.

In any other country, people are more alike than in ours and so battles won, even at the loss of life, are often celebrated as a ‘win’. But winning in our case also means many of our people lost their lives. So how do we settle this? How do we move forward?

My son said it quite well – he said, “Mom, it has to do with what the focus of the celebration is. If we are celebrating someone for something good they did, then that is ok. But if we are celebrating someone who is known for pain and suffering, then we need to put that in a museum.”

So today, I’ve chosen a middle ground. Of course I want to remember and honor the indigenous people of our country. They deserve the recognition as the first to be here, the true Native Americans. I can also understand the celebration of Columbus discovering this continent while acknowledging that what followed – the way they colonized – was not with respect of our original inhabitants. In other words, I can honor one deed while not condoning another.

The way I choose to honor both the Native Americans and Columbus is by focusing on the positive outcome that ultimately surfaced for our country: we are land that is free and brave and diverse. I know how we got here is not the most diplomatic route but I cannot change the past. I can only channel the energy and look to the future.

So, in the spirit of our original ancestors and our ancestors that arrived – not only with Columbus but every other immigrant that followed – I created what I’m calling Unite America Command Central (UACC).

It’s a room in my house dedicated to the work I am doing to unify this diverse, creative, and amazing country. If we are going to continue, our people must come together, we must unite. In the wise words of another exceptional American:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” – MLK, Jr.  

Global Communications and Diplomacy for War Avoidance

“We have an obligation to the world to add to the global stability. We can do that with arms in our hands…or without arms in our hands…” – Thomas Ax
Certainly, it is possible to decimate an entire country with the launching of weaponry. So why don’t we just destroy countries that don’t act in a manner we wish them to? Why don’t we just destroy everything that doesn’t conform to our belief systems? Why don’t we just bully our way through the world and conquer it all?

In the past, it was not possible to traverse the Earth and destroy everything in one’s wake in an instant. Now we face the challenge that we are capable of such destruction…but similar to the old adage – we would cut off our nose to spite our face – when you reach a level where everyone will lose in the event of a fight, you are left with the requirement to stand down. Yet to do so appears at first like an act of cowardice to some…when in fact, it is the stance of reason, strength, vision, and resolution. It is not a sign of weakness to choose diplomacy before violence – it is an act of intelligent warfare.

There will always be a reason to fight, to disagree, to engage in conflict, to prove a point. However, once the act of fighting alone results in a guaranteed loss of humanity, you must find another path. Diplomacy, international coordination, cooperation, and assimilation offers the most optimized option for global stability. All our nations must take seriously the need for our people to work together, think together, share our lives together. Because when we do so, we create a community that understands each other and through that experience….we create the best chance of our human survival.

TERRORISM: How to understand and combat it

*Dedicated to the angel warriors lost in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Boston – may your sacrifice remind us to live each day with intention, grace, and strength*

 

Access to weaponry makes destruction possible but it’s the mind that triggers the event…

TERRORISM DEFINED: Control by fear

It doesn’t matter if it’s domestic or international, the definition is the same. Terrorism involves controlling people by fear. Sometimes this involves killing, but it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is scare you enough for you to change the way you act. International terrorists, lone shooters, gangs, organized crime rings, and abusive spouses operate the same way with the same goal: to control your behavior to serve their needs. Now, the important questions are:

  1. Which behaviors are they trying to control?
  2. How are they controlling them?
  3. What is their end goal?

If we can’t answer these questions, we can’t combat the terrorist cell and we can’t regain control. But one thing that is important to note, is that these are the same questions to ask regardless of the situation and community in which the behavior is occurring.

So let’s take the first one – there is a big difference between someone who wants to control which products you sell in your convenient store versus someone who wants to control what religion you practice or what personal acts of submission you must display. Knowing the difference is incredibly important when designing an anti-terrorism plan. At the international level, the goal is most likely something you don’t expect – personal safety, predictability, and freedom. In the most war torn countries, people are often wishing for the same basic freedoms we in the U.S. take for granted. Few of us have been faced with the horrific pain and suffering they know as commonplace. Eventually, one has lost so much that anything is better than these horrors. But domestically, that’s typically a different story. And, as a consequence, the strategy to combat it is also categorically different. You must be able to understand the terrorist, his or her mind, and then you can begin to understand why and how he or she executed destruction.

Second, understanding how the control is maintained is key to dismantling it. Religion is often used in international terrorism for two reasons: 1. It’s easy to claim that all people associated with a religion believe and act the same. This allows individuals in one part of the world to fairly easily convince people in other parts of the world that all individuals who claim to part of the same religion are potential threats. The effectiveness of this argument is strengthened if it is a religion with which people are not well acquainted. If they can convince you to fear everyone associated, and you don’t have the time to check their facts, fear will typically affect your reactions to all individuals in that religion. What an easy way to control people’s reactions without having to do hardly any work at all!

Domestically – it depends on whether or not it is a single group or single individual versus a series of independent events/people. A single group (e.g., gang) or a person (e.g., spouse) can control the frequency and intensity of their actions to maintain your fear. Essentially, they can expend just enough effort to make you afraid without extending beyond necessary. They can also edit based on you personally. However, serial domestic terrorists usually have a personal goal, which may or may not be ever known to the public. Though these people never formally coordinate with each other, or even more likely never meet, the national public is nonetheless affected by the impact of their actions, not as singular events but as a combination. The media acts as a support unit and connector of these events – inadvertently, yet exponentially, increasing their impact. You see, it’s not just about each event, it’s about the commonality and patterns between them. Even if patterns don’t exist, people will try to find them. Imagine what would happen if no one acknowledged mass shootings. We can’t of course, because to do so would suggest we don’t value the victims. And we truly value and respect the loss to family and friends. But for argument sake, imagine if we did. Do you think the number of attacks would increase, decrease, or stay the same? Psychology data would suggest that the number of incidents would decline.

Which brings me to the last point: What is their goal? If the goal is freedom, safety, and predictability in day-to-day life, would you help them achieve it if it meant ending a circle of crime and death? If it were only this easy and clear, then probably we would. But, of course, it is not this clear. People do not come with a list of clear demands. They become emotional and overcome by anger and act accordingly. But what if we could stop the cycle before it starts? What if we could provide people with what they need before it’s an issue?

Understanding the broken mind of a terrorist requires a deep understanding of psychology and the ability to see the world from their perspective – something few people can achieve. The darkness that clouds a mind willing to separate from reality far enough to kill a large number of people is so dark that it is nearly impossible for any of us to recognize it, let alone predict it. If we could, we’d struggle considerably to retain our own sanity and our day-to-day faith in safety.

So the right question is: How do we empower our nation to rise above fear-driven reactions?

Resolute pride, determination, action, and compassion will free our nation from the tyranny of terrorism – anything less ensures our sabotage. WE control the future as long as we are brave enough to envision it.

Don’t fear death, fear not living….

We are a nation stronger than the weak-minded individuals attempting to control us…have faith, be strong, fight back with fearlessness!

 

#LoveToLasVegas #OrlandoUnited #BostonStrong

#AmericaTheBrave

Unify: Why????

Why should we work together? Why should we stop the intra-fighting in our nation?

I think this is obvious to most: spending our energy fighting against one another is an epic waste of our time, our energy, and our productivity. Yet….we do it anyway, why????

We want so desperately for everyone to list to us – to agree with us – to be reasonable….like us! Yet how is it that half our nation is unreasonable? Do we all really believe that? If it is really the case that half of all our people – hundreds of millions of them – are crazy, unreasonable, diseased – then we are doomed. Seriously – this notion, these accusations – they are inflammatory and frankly, ridiculous on their own.

Our nation is not crazy – not even half our nation is crazy. We are angry, we are scared, we are frustrated….and we are taking it out on ourselves. Truth be told, we are acting like an angry couple. We are yelling before speaking. We are inflammatory in our accusations and lacking in goal-oriented requests. Simply calling people names not only perpetuates the anger, it also guarantees no one will listen to us and that we will never achieve our actual goals. So WHAT ARE WE DOING?!?!

Basic psychology: We have to *listen* before we can understand. And we need to understand before we can find agreements. Here are my recommendations for achieving a more unified nation….

  1. We need to connect within and outside our country on joint projects: I don’t care if people are in a choir together, building a house together, chatting on social media, or planning a work project – when people work together, they value and understand each other better. We need to find a way to do this as an organized unit in our nation. Support America could be a way for us to donate time to our nation and unify our people. This project would allow our people to share our talents, rather than our money, to help optimize our nation’s success. Everyone has value, we need to capitalize on it!
  2. If you want something, ask for it: You don’t need to yell or scream, insult or destroy others in order for people to listen. Oftentimes, we can just ask for what we need and compromises can be made. It’s really, seriously, not hard. Yellers reflect on themselves more than the ones being yelled at. The trick is, rarely do people know what they actually want. If you want to preserve history – then ask for that instead of yelling that liberals are diseased. If you want equality recognized – then state how you want to achieve that without suggesting that promoting one race reduces the value of another. We don’t always realize how our words sound to the recipient – WE NEED TO LISTEN TO OURSELVES!
  3. Value people – This is the crux of every argument happening right now. Everyone wants to feel valued. It’s a basic personal wish. What I struggle to understand is how we got to the point where we believe as a nation that the only way to feel valued is to reduce the worth of another. It is a ridiculous notion. Your neighbor’s success enhances yours, not reduces it. Everyone can win something – we just can’t all win everything!