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Yesterday I left off with…
This leads me to a bunch of interesting questions.
There are two major causes of suffering: avoidable and unavoidable. Avoidable suffering is human caused. Murder, theft, torture, selfishness, all the deep human flaws. If we asked God how come we have so much human cruelty he might answer, “Look in the mirror. It’s all on you. I gave you a mind and will to choose your response to any situation, and just look at you. After all, I taught you. The best you can do is assault a young woman. It breaks my heart.” There is no excuse for human-caused suffering. We choose to do it to each other. To willfully cause another to suffer is a monstrous human choice. We’re not God’s puppets. We own the society we’ve created.
Unavoidable suffering occurs as the result of the natural world and our own biology. There are earthquakes, floods and fires, and cancer and fatal accidents. Stuff happens. But what if life doesn’t matter in the way we think it does? What if the length of our life doesn’t matter at all, and what if unavoidable suffering happens to some to give the rest of us a chance to be compassionate? Compassionate service, especially to strangers, is one of the most noble of human acts. So the world and our bodies are frail so we can become agents of kindness and mercy to each other. Ridiculous? I wonder.
Of course I don’t know why the world is a dangerous and sometimes evil and unjust place. I do know that if we all got what we deserved, we would be “trained” like Sea World dolphins to be good because there’s a reward for it. If we got everything we prayed for, we all would be praying. If the only reason we chose to act nobly were a practical payoff, we’d have no authentic nobility. And yet, maybe that’s the real purpose of life. To act from our highest self when there is no payoff because it is pure oxygen for our deepest, enduring identity: to love and learn, give and grow—surely those are what give our life meaning.
Everyone must come to his or her own conclusion about life’s hard questions. For me there are things that over the years have become self-evident. First, life has genuine meaning. (To conclude that life is meaningless because we can’t figure it out may be the ultimate act of egotism.) Second, that love is real. (It is more than emotion or brain chemicals or DNA.) Third, our greatest growth as human beings comes through our chosen reactions to our own suffering and the suffering of others. Fourth, what’s really important is not what we think it is. (It’s not power, recognition, stuff, or the length of our lives.) Fifth, our human form is temporary. Our consciousness is not. (So be careful to choose your thoughts, feelings, and motives.) Sixth, perhaps our biggest fear is not that life doesn’t matter, but rather, that it does and that we are responsible.
I don’t expect you to agree with everything I have come to believe. I just appreciate you taking the time to listen.
American Dream Project
It’s been a rough few days. When I returned home from teaching a class on Corporate Social Responsibility I had a message waiting from my 24 year-old daughter. When I called her she told me that she had been sitting in her car reading in the busy parking lot of a major mall waiting to start work. Suddenly her door was opened and this fierce young man grabbed her hair and pulled her head toward his unzipped pants. She somehow twisted around and pumped her left leg into his stomach. Then like a powerful piston she re-cocked her leg and kicked it with all her power into his lower chest. He gasped and fell back against the car parked next to her. She started screaming the moment he grabbed her hair, but no one in the busy parking garage came to help. As her assailant ran off she called 911. The police arrested him the next day as he lurked in the same mall. My daughter is a sweetheart doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing. She didn’t deserve this. She’s also resilient. She’s okay.
So yesterday I read an editorial by author Michael Novak on his ideas about why a good God would allow so much human suffering. This one question is the core “disconnect” for most people with the Divine. The idea is if God is all-powerful and all loving this world makes no sense. The choice our minds and many agnostic writers give us is that either God is mean or disinterested, in which case we don’t want to know him let alone live with him in an afterlife. OR God just doesn’t exist and spiritual belief is a delusion. But are these our only choices?
Last night I finished a book titled The Scalpel and the Soul by Dr. Allan J. Hamilton. It’s the memoir of a Harvard trained brain surgeon documenting the experiences he’s had that led him to conclude that humans are primarily spiritual beings rather than biological ones. His most unusual chapter documents the case of a woman whose blood flow to her brain was cut off in order to repair an artery. In this delicate operation the patient was clinically dead. No brain waves for 20 minutes. When she was revived she had a clear recollection of the surgeons and nurses and their conversations while she was brain dead. All of this was captured real-time on video, so it’s not just a story. What happened was simply biologically impossible if we believe our brain is what creates consciousness. So, are we more than our biology?…Indeed.
As someone who’s had a heavy dose of years of prolonged suffering I have thought (and read) a lot about this problem of evil and misfortune. And here’s my current thinking. First of all, projecting my motives and worldview on all-powerful God is pretty weak. It’s what psychologists call “projection.” It means to judge another’s behavior by what our motives might be if we did whatever they are doing. This is painfully immature. Without direct discussion and deep insight we can’t know the motives of another person, let alone God. So to accuse him of being mean or even thoughtless because bad things happen to good people is, at a minimum, irrationally presumptuous. We’re just feebly guessing. Concluding that God can’t exist because a good God wouldn’t allow evil is a lot like a 3 year-old concluding that his mother hates him because he can’t eat candy whenever he wants. The 3 year-old doesn’t view the world in the same way his mother does, and one thing we can be sure of is that if God does exist we don’t see reality, purpose, time or suffering in the same way he does. So my conclusion is, I don’t know what God is thinking, but I am pretty sure it is wiser than what I would be thinking if I were in charge of the universe.
This leads me to a bunch of interesting questions…
Check back tomorrow for the interesting questions, and the six conclusions to life’s hard questions that have become self-evident over the years.
To visit American Dream Project’s homepage, click here.
My father was John Wayne. Not the actor. He was better than the actor. He was the ideal. He was a real cowboy. A rancher who road the range, mended fences, and drove cattle. He also graduated from Cal-Berkeley in 1940. He never wanted to be a cowboy, but we had a family ranch and he was the only son in an Italian family so ranching chose him. Dad was a naturally spiritual man. My first 4-year-old memories of him were kneeling at my bedside just as I pulled my covers up and praying his guts out for me and my brothers, sister and mom. Then he prayed for rain and finally to know what to do if it didn’t rain. Then he would smother me with kisses. His day-long bristly beard would rough my little boy skin, but it didn’t matter; I felt so safe being loved by such a strong man. My dad was a cowboy and nothing could be better.
Being a cattle rancher was a financial high-wire act. When I got older I realized that every year Dad borrowed the money to buy cattle so he could fatten them on the grass we needed the rain for. If the market price was right at the beginning of the summer he could sell the cattle, pay the bank, our taxes, and I would get back-to-school clothes in late August. If we didn’t get rain or the cattle market was down, we would keep the cattle another year, mom would sew patches on the inside of my pants and we would all pray a little harder. Dad never worked for anyone. He’d rather wrestle with the unpredictability of nature than conform to the “man”. He was a cowboy.
My mother was Katherine Hepburn. At least my dad thought so. Every afternoon at about 3 o’clock she’d take a bath and put on a dress and make-up and start dinner. Just before dinner he’d open the kitchen door wide and flash a big smile at all of us. Then he’d make a beeline to Mom and sweep her up in his arms and kiss her on the lips like a sailor home after a year at sea. This happened all the time. It was their love ritual. My brothers, sister, and I all looked away and made throw-up sounds but out of the corner of our eyes we saw genuine, passionate, loyal love expressed. Dad always told Mom how beautiful she was and how great her food tasted. He was wildly enthusiastic and mostly uncensored. One Thanksgiving during my first year of college he proclaimed to my mother at dinner, “If you weren’t such a great cook, I’d chain you to the bed!” My roommate spit his food out. But this was genuine dad. He always referred to sex as being healthy. Dad was completely unrehearsed, passionate, opinionated, and most of all an advocate for all of us. He knew who he was, what he believed, what he must do.
When I was 14, a down-on-his-luck drifter drove his beat-up station wagon up the ranch road. It was dusk and Dad went outside to meet him. I snuck out and watched through a shed door. The stranger was a rough looking character, and he threatened Dad. He said he would kill him and take what he wanted. Dad calmly asked him if he had any skills. The man said he sharpened knives. My heart was pumping faster than a squirrel dodging cars. Dad said we had lots of things that needed sharpening. He paid him $50 to sharpen our lawn mower and every kitchen knife we owned. He spent an hour talking to the man while he worked. Dad never said anything about it except that the man was “just doing the best he could.”
Well that’s the kind of man who raised me. I have no excuse. Dad really mattered to me. Throughout my life there have been so many times I asked myself, “What would Dad have done?” But today being a father, a real one, not just a biological one, is increasingly rare. According to the Center for Health Statistics, nearly 30% of white children, 50% of Hispanics, and 71% of black children are born out of wedlock. And today more than a quarter of our children have no male in their homes, father or not. This has all happened in one generation. And it’s not fair. 40% of single moms live in poverty. And being a child without an everyday father makes life much riskier. Risk of not finishing high school or college, becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, becoming obese, suffering from chronic illness, going to prison, getting divorced, or even going bankrupt are all much more likely to happen to children who grow up without in-the-home fathers.
Is this the best society we can create? Being a father is a choice. It’s a sacred life long commitment. I have no excuse. I had a truly great father whose memory I strive to live up to. Being a male is a matter of chromosomes; being a man requires courage; being a father is an act of life-long integrity.
Our world needs fathers.
American Dream Project
To visit American Dream Project’s home page, click here.
The challenge is always the same. How do we survive and thrive under circumstances we do not control? Gas prices, debt, job insecurity and personal challenges such as illness, divorce or loneliness all can trigger prolonged, intense stress. And yes, stress makes us stupid. Stupider than an eight-year-old with a butane lighter. Brain research reveals that stress shuts down access to our creative problem solving and critical thinking centers of our brains. The result is that we can exaggerate feelings of helplessness, despair and rage. Stress triggers strong emotions that focus our attention on the regrets of the past, fear of the future or blame on others. But it’s all we see on TV or hear on the radio. All these emotions are self-destructive. Stress slays us in the face and gets our attention so what’s the solution?
Well, it begins with suspending our fears and frustrations. There are two movie theaters in our minds. One is showing the latest horror film of our lives and the other is a film festival of heroic tales (like Lord of the Rings) and romantic comedies (like Sleepless in Seattle). In our inner movies we are either the victim, getting slashed, squashed or shot, or we’re the hero whereby staying with our values and vision we transcend our challenges and pursue a life we both value and enjoy. We choose which movie to watch every waking minute. Our horror flick makes us stress crazy. Our epic journey inspires personal wisdom. But all of us must choose. But just willing ourselves to be positive and heroic is exhausting. A positive internal reaction to threatening external reality can seem insane. So how do we get the right movie of our life playing?
It requires more than will power. It happens when we change how we think, how we feel, and what we do. It requires one huge commitment. Are you ready? You must commit to really enjoy life as you are living it. Minute to minute enjoyment happens when you show up for every moment. You know your life has become an endless breathless sprint when your mind is constantly preoccupied and obsessed with personal fears or anger at things you do not control. When you’re sitting at dinner pretending to listen to your spouse but you’re actually having a second conversation in your mind, you are in attention deficit. When you’re home checking emails and your young child is telling you a story and you’re saying, “Uh, huh…I’m listening…Go on,” you’re only pretending. There is no such thing as true multi-tasking. Instead it’s called ping-pong focus. It is exhausting to play and never satisfying to any of the players. When your life is in your rhythm, you will be emotionally present for those whom you love. You will see your own feelings. You will savor beauty, taste your food, and laugh easily. You will even be alert in meetings. You will have new options and have more energy. And that will only happen when you pursue your authentic dream, using your most natural talents to contribute to a better future. Yours and others. Most of all it will only happen when you’re driven by love instead of fear.
None of this is unrealistic. In fact, it’s the most realistic way to live. When virtually all of your efforts are being invested in your real dreams, when you are using the gifts that create the most value, and when your prime motive is love, your anxiety for success, your mad panic for relief from stress begin to fade in an integrated life that offers long stretches of active contentment and deep emotional refuge to deal with the inevitable storms of disappointment and setback. It all happens when what really matters in life matters most to you. As soon as we focus our highest energy on creating a long-term life we both value and enjoy the challenges of making whatever changes we must will gradually melt in the light of our sustained vision.
I have seen many people make seemingly unbelievable changes to successfully live their dream life. I’ve seen a single mother, high school drop-out get a Master’s degree and become a high school principal. I’ve seen a multi-billion dollar company CEO leave his stock options and start a local community-based firm so he could spend more time with his family. I’ve seen an executive needing a heart bypass cut his weekly job time by 40% and be more successful. I’ve seen a young family go bankrupt and then have their own business living exactly where they want to within five years. They all did the same things. First they quit being mad or scared. Second, they got clear on what they did want. Third, they pursued a long-term plan (multi-year) to get there. This isn’t self-help drivel from the Love Guru. These are the finding of multi-decade studies of behavioral economists. Life success and personal happiness come to those who resist overreacting to immediate circumstances and consistently invest in themselves for the long run. Believe in your future. Write your screenplay. Be the hero of your own life. It’s a great movie.
In the past two weeks I have traveled from Florida to the Rocky Mountains and back to California. I have spoken to nearly every age group, gender, and color of American, literally from 18-80. What I heard was anger. Anger at, well, almost everything that is so obviously broken. But the most pervasive feeling expressed was that we are angry because we are scared. And the most heartfelt question people asked is what can I do to create a personal oasis in a world that seems to be becoming a desert? What can I do to create personal, financial, emotional, mental and spiritual sustainability even if the outer world is convulsing with financial bankruptcy, emotional drama, mental instability, and spiritual confusion? This is the real question for all of us all the time. As one 80-year put it, “Every generation has its great challenge; welcome to yours.” From a perspective of someone who’s lived through pre-antibiotic healthcare, a great depression, a world war, civil rights, riots, and the birth of Rock ‘n Roll, that statement is code for. “Quit whining and take care of yourself.”
That very night I found myself reading a great new book, The Art of Learning, by Josh Weitzkin who quotes a powerful proverb that fits today’s challenges. Life is a long road of thorns in which we are confronted with three options: 1) we can walk the road barefoot and bloody, 2) we can sit down, weep and wait for someone to pave it, or 3) we can make our own sandals.
There have always been awful challenges. Plagues, earthquakes, wars, famines, and droughts. Job loss, divorce, death, and depression. Life’s question is “Are we willing to make sandals?” There are many ways to make them. One truism I have discovered in coaching others for three decades is that often a 5% change in our life will result in a 100% change in how we feel. Even though sandals only cover the “souls” of our feet, our entire body and mind rejoice at being relieved of the pain from the thorns of our life. Here is some “leather”—tough and strong ideas that may be of value.
If you’ve made some changes that have improved your quality of life, tell us about them. We need to share our “best practices” of life.
Founder, American Dream Project
Recently I spent some inspiring time with David Wyman, a Professor at Clemson University who teaches leadership and entrepreneurship. He showed me his X-Y-Z model of business strategy which, it seems, has great personal application. David explained that the “X” stands for business-as-usual. Doing what you always do. When you persistently offer X to the world, the world responds by asking for more X at a lower cost. The reason is you have many competitors. You don’t make much of a difference. This isn’t just true for stuff we buy at Wal-Mart; it’s true about us. The value we produce at work or bring to our children or spouses is simply what everyone else does; we are just X. Plain vanilla in a world looking from more delicious, can’t-take-my-mind-off flavors. Being only a generic worker or father or mother or spouse means, in fact, that we can be easily replaced. The house brand of any vanilla ice cream is easily replaceable. Sure, someone may love us because that’s what they do, but they’d love nearly anyone else in the same position.
To compete, most businesses try to add value. That’s the Y factor. But Y is easy to copy. It’s like making ice cream in the popular and trendy flavors. But like most factory made ice cream, soon competitors have identical or better flavors in better packaging and at a slightly lower price. In our work or personal life, it’s like trying harder. Sure you can work later or go to a soccer game, but so do most other try-hard employees and parents. Working and living in the X and Y world is stressful and exhausting. You can never do enough. Everyone wants more for less.
But there is another choice. It’s invisible to most. Nearly unthinkable to some. It’s your Z factor. (David is English so he insists on calling it the “ZED” factor.) Z is the unexpected unique value a business can create with a breakaway from business-as-usual idea. And it’s your own unique personality, interests and enthusiasm brought full force to your relationships and your work. The Z factor in business is something like Cirque De Soleil, which is a combination of opera, acrobats and three-ring circus perpetually blowing peoples’ minds in a new, unique form of entertainment. It’s the ipod combined with itunes that changed the way most of us “consume” music. It’s Cold Stone Creameries, which lets us invent a new flavor of premium ice cream every time we buy a waffle cone. (See Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne)
In business the Z factor is always what people value the most. It is more than innovation. It is the invention of new, unexpected value that creates an endless “Wow!” It always comes by over-investing in some aspect of value and eliminating what’s unnecessary. Walt Disney insisted on creating amusement rides that cost 2 to 4 times what carnival rides cost. He way over-invested in landscaping, architecture and employee training. Everyone, especially his bankers, thought he was crazy. But Walt Disney understood the Z factor. So what about us?
We live in a time of hand-wringing fear. It seems that we have all the problems a society could have. That means it’s a time for us to bring our own unique “Z” to the big game. What is it that others most value about you? If you aren’t sure, ask them. Ask them what you should do more of that you’re already good at doing. Ask them what you could stop doing that isn’t really valued or appreciated. What do you love doing, at your work, with your family, friends or spouse? How could you become the Walt Disney of what you’re already good at that you love doing? And what do you do when your family or friends express their most genuine appreciation to you? How do you make them laugh? What makes them trust you? What might you consistently do that would be the thing that your co-workers or loved ones would enthusiastically tell others when you’re not around? That’s your Z factor. It’s your unique one-of-a-kind value that is your great contribution to our future. What we all admire in others. The courageous expression of unique gifts driven by our genuine goodness. As Stephen M. R. Covey (The Speed of Trust) tells us when our competence and character is expressed at an extraordinary level of energy the whole world rejoices. It’s time to get our “Z” in gear.
Will Marre, founder American Dream Project
To visit American Dream Project’s home page, click here.
I just finished reading one of the most inspirational books of my life. It’s called The Power of Serving Others: You Can Start Where You Are by Gary Morsch, M.D and Dean Nilson.
The book is Gary Morsch’s first person account of starting Heart to Heart, a global medical relief and rescue organization that are the first responders to hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and war refugee victims anywhere in the world. They also conduct educational clinics in remote, impoverished parts of the planet. The organization is extraordinarily effective. In the past 15 years it has delivered nearly $500 million in medical supplies and has provided thousands of medical volunteers in over 100 countries and across America. Dr. Morsch has also served as a volunteer for Mother Teresa in Calcutta and a combat doctor in Kosovo and the current Iraq war!
Dr. Morsch is simply a people-serving maniac. What he has accomplished is the result of simply responding to dire human need with wise ferocity and fearless commitment.
His message is, “If you want to make the world better, start now. Today. Right were you are. Just do something.” Most of us are waiting for a better time to volunteer or respond to needs. Most of us, including me, suffer from limp compassion. We feel others’ pain but we’re not ready to inconvenience ourselves. But the loss is ours. Helping, serving, loving others makes us clinically happier. It elevates our moods, fills us with gratitude, and sparks creativity. And most importantly can increase the quality of our personal love.
Two days ago I was speaking with a close friend who lives in Boston. He and his wife have a big empty house because their children are away at college. So his wife has started taking in guests. They are mostly foreign students who are trying to renew their visas but are confused by our bureaucracy. They are poor, far from home, lonely and scared. I asked my friend how it was and he said candidly, “Difficult, we’re learning a lot about living with strangers in our home. Strangers from different cultures with different hygiene habits and awkward communication. But,” he said, “we are learning to love extravagantly.”
It got me thinking. Loving is a lot like building muscle strength. It’s easy to love the lovable. Little resistance, little growth. But our capacity to love grows when we’re loving “in spite of.” In spite of the fact it’s inconvenient, in spite of the fact the person isn’t appreciative, in spite of the fact the person isn’t deserving. That requires pressing against real emotional weight. That builds love muscles.
Here’s how I see it. Heart to Heart isn’t just a rescue mission for disaster victims. Heart to Heart is a way of thinking. It’s the rescue mission of our daily lives. Most of us are too busy, too stressed, and too scared to do what our hearts have been telling us we should do for a long time. All of us have family members who are selfish, thoughtless and often cruel. All of us work with some people who are mean, back-biting jerks. All of us have been betrayed by friends, or even spouses. All of us are carrying the scars and wounds of deep disappointment. And all of us can heal by loving more extravagantly.
With those whom you trust, love with all your might. Be fully present, fully authentic, fully vulnerable. Enjoy planned, positive experiences together. Go for walks, rides, picnics, concerts, sports events, take classes; talk of your hopes, fears and desires. Fill your souls with each other. This may be a friend, children, a parent, or if you are fortunate, a spouse.
With those whom you love but do not trust, be cordial. Be respectful. Affirm what is good. Help them in practical ways when they don’t deserve it. But don’t be intimate with all your thoughts and feelings. That’s like offering drugs to an addict. Bullies and manipulators use vulnerability to hurt others and destroy themselves. Love powerfully but wisely.
Pray/meditate for your enemies. Yes, there may be people who seem to hate you. People who are jealous, resentful or just plain mean. Either pray, or if you don’t pray, meditate with positive intentions for them to be blessed to let go of their hatred and to have all the good things that you desire for your life to also be theirs. Pray/meditate for them to forgive you even if you’re doing nothing wrong. Also, forgive yourself of all your past mistakes. Your life has brought you to this point of wisdom. Be grateful for your wisdom and the silver lining of your painful experiences.
Finally, returning to the inspiration of Dr. Morsch, we would all be better if we would turn the whispering of our heartfelt compassion into action. We do not need to have fear about being wise about our compassion or even be effective at first. It’s in the doing that we become wise and effective. Imagine what our world would be like if we just acted on our noble voice. Volunteer. Relieve the pain in others you most feel in yourself.
It’s time to Spring Forward.
Will Marre, Founder
The American Dream Project
As the primary election season gives way to the general election I am concerned that the battle for the White House is still a war of new sound bites hiding tired ideas. Something more is needed.
How We Lost Our Vision
If you think wisdom, integrity, and new ideas are missing in our government leaders, you are not alone. That’s because both major political parties have lost their understanding of the four values America is centered on: freedom and responsibility, opportunity and equality.
America’s promise has always been that you can determine the quality of your own life. Where you start in life does not determine where you finish. We strive to be a society that promotes the key conditions to help us optimize our quality of life no matter what our circumstances. Doing that isn’t easy. It requires constantly balancing four distinct priorities: freedom and responsibility, opportunity and equality. If any one of these values are lost or even de-emphasized, our system is thrown out of balance. People lose confidence and our national mood sours. Today, lots of us are in a sour mood. The ideology of the left screams for personal freedom and equality. The right insists that personal responsibility and unfetter opportunity are America’s only true values. But these arguments lead us nowhere. Both sides are correct but incomplete. The result is a distorted, twisted gridlock of half-baked compromise in action. America’s true center is not the mid-point between big paternalistic government and greed-based free-for-all. Our founders understood it as a higher center. The optimization of these four ideals, not their compromise.
When leaders govern from the high center, they do it from a balance point that gives all of us the best chance for life, liberty and happiness. That’s why, most of the time, leaders who advocate policies that respect all four values simultaneously make the most sense to the most of us.
Jefferson’s “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was designed to expand in meaning as our vision expands. The question today is, are we really committed to these ideals? As a nation are we really interested in removing the causes of avoidable suffering? Things like substandard education, unaffordable housing and health care, urban and school violence to name a few.
Shouldn’t we all be working to ensure that the real American Dream flourishes not only in the productive, creative expression of our own freedom, but also in our mutual responsibility to create a physically and psychologically healthy society for our children? All of our children?
So now our media-trained politicians tell us they are all for change. But is it really change? A Right-based platform of low taxes and uninvolved government and big military is hardly a plan that accounts for what’s happening in our lives and the world. And Left-based high-tax, we’ll-solve-all-your-problems program sounds like the 1960’s Great Society recycled. Perhaps there’s another way. A way that starts with the fundamentals of our founders. When we view the future through the lens of optimizing freedom and responsibility, equality and opportunity for all, a New American Agenda emerges.
The New American Agenda is simple: we must demand better from our government. Government has the central role in providing a safe society needed for Life and a fair society that is the meaning of Liberty. Together these play the major role in creating conditions for the pursuit of Happiness. According to research from the World Values survey, countries in which citizens report the most personal well-being have most of the following characteristics. As you read them, think about how we’re doing. What direction is America headed in?
1. Citizen voice.
2. Fair and equal enforcement of laws.
3. Lack of violence.
4. Leadership accountability.
5. Dependable government services.
6. Absence of corruption.
7. Effective regulations.
8. Universal Access to Capital, Health care, and Education.
9. Fair and Simple Taxation
10. Strong, Wise, and Good Foreign Policy
Well, that’s the list. If you’d like my perspective on what each one of these 10 factors might mean in terms of policy changes for 21st century America, download the 4th American Revolution excerpt. It’s free. You can read it on your computer or print it. I wrote it to help us consider what advice we might give the candidates who are running for president. If enough of us speak up, in time we may have the country we want our children to grow up in.
I sincerely appreciate your many emails and other expressions of encouragement for the messages of the American Dream Project. As you share and forward our blog, our community steadily expands. And that’s what makes it worth it. So, first of all, thank you.
Something exciting has recently happened. Mark Effinger, the founder of Rich Content, which is an internet media company, has discovered our extensive library of American Dream event DVD’s, speeches, and interview video footage. He has asked to “broadcast” them as short (1 to 3 minute) segments all over the world wide web. He has also asked me for daily video commentaries on a wide range of topics that affect all of us ranging from politics, the economy, careers, relationships to book reviews. All related to issues that impact our quality of life right now. Doing these daily video blogs is a big commitment. And, I agreed. So, I converted part of my basement to a very simple “studio” and am starting these test videos. I am more used to talking to live, see-your-face audiences so it’s a new and challenging experience to just “let it rip” in front of a single camera in a musty basement.
The name of the daily super short video commentary is “ThoughtRocket – Ideas that Boom.” And it can be found on a new dedicated website – www.thoughtrocket.com. What you’ll see are short clips of professional video from speeches and on other days you will see my comments on important topics. It’s absolutely free and you can automatically receive new video posts by clicking the RSS link on the home page of the site. Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time if it gags you to see my face everyday.
The American Dream Project blog will continue just as it has been, usually once a week. So, if you want to stick with that, you don’t need to do anything. We’ll keep sending you our American Dream Project blog, calling for a new American agenda based on the “pursuit of genuine happiness.”
The voice of the American Dream Project, and now daily videos on ThoughtRocket.com will continue to creatively confront the issues of our time and how our responses can save our future and enrich our personal lives. Please be assured that neither the current American Dream Project Blog, or the ThoughtRocket videos will become obsessed with politics to the exclusion of coaching and comments on enlightening our lifestyle and strengthening our relationships. Although many of you like to engage in the great political debate of today, others of you appreciate a discussion on our personal lives and how to improve them no matter who is in office or what they are doing. We will seek to keep a healthy balance between these two and connect the dots wherever we can.
I encourage you to reply back with your thoughts, hopes and dreams. It is by coming together that we can amplify our individual voices so the future will be built on our united wisdom.
Oh yes, if you decide to view the daily ThoughtRocket videos, I’d love your feedback. I especially need help with my basement commentaries. I had no idea that talking to a camera would be so challenging. No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to get that tiny digital camera to laugh!
Thanks again for your support and comments,
My wife and I were flying back from nine degree Minneapolis this past week when it struck me. It was a slap to my own forehead moment. Something I already knew. I had just given a speech to about 300 businessmen and women for the Masters Forum. It was Renewal Day, an end-of-year meeting to consider the 2007-year and look forward to 2008. They asked me to speak on work/life balance. So I gave them “Lifeology: How to Change the World and Still be Home for Dinner.” It turns out that the “how to by home for dinner” part of this speech gets a lot of people sitting up in their seats. Whenever I speak on this topic to business audiences, it’s often the most personal topics that peak the most interest.
The core message of Lifeology is for us to integrate career, lifestyle, and relationships into a seamless life that nurtures all three arenas. The topic that gets the most comments is relationships, particularly marriage and romance. That’s because most marriages are “on fire.” Either they are ignited by constant loving energy or they are burning down consumed by their own toxic smoke. That’s because many, many marriages are the story of the 3 ways of thinking: analytical (reason), practical (common sense), and intrinsic (intuition). When we fall in love we are using intrinsic thinking. It is non-judgmental. It focuses on the uniqueness of the other. It idealizes that uniqueness. A nasty mole is a distinctive “beauty mark.” A baldhead is sexy. We simply can’t imagine anything undesirable about the other. If this blind euphoria of intrinsic thinking is surrounded by planned positive experiences found in courtship, this “unreal” way of thinking lasts about two years. This is about as long as a “Hollywood” marriage. It seems that the romantic feelings caused by our intrinsic thinking about the unique value of the person we love causes positive brain chemicals to host a three-ring circus in our brains. Every day is a good day. Every look, touch, and kiss is a high.
When this feeling dies it’s because practical thinking takes over. When we use practical thinking we ask, “Am I getting what I want?” Feelings of “we” give way to the feeling of “me.” When practical thinking dominates, we begin to focus on our own needs. Things we once delighted in doing for the other, like running errands or cooking a meal, become resented drudgery. We start to negotiate. We demand our relationship be “fair”. Conflict becomes more frequent. Often couples fall into roles of dominance or peacemaking. The person who cares the least has all the power. Bullying, manipulating, guilt tripping become practical (although damaging) strategies to get what we want. When couples’ relationships are ruled by practical thinking, romance evaporates. Loyalty, duty, and habit keep it together. But it’s work. When people say marriages are work, this is what they mean. It doesn’t have to be work. It only is because of how we are choosing to think.
Marriages get really troubled when analytical, black and white thinking becomes the voice that narrates our experience. We cling to rigid definitions of what a husband or wife should be or do. We’ve picked up these definitions from our parents, our religions, or worst, our popular culture. Our judgments become sever. Our spouses are either fair or unfair, mean or kind, strong or weak, pretty or ugly, good or bad. These either/or judgments justify our contempt, our whining, our separation, and our emotional intimacy with others. Marriage becomes a prison we endure. No relationship can thrive when people are primarily using judgmental thinking toward the other. All of us are flawed. When we fall in love, the flaws contribute to our uniqueness. They make us interesting. Using analytical thinking, our flaws make us intolerable.
Today about 10% of existing marriages are mutually viewed as “highly fulfilling.” Intrinsic thinking plays a large part in these marriages. It turns out that romance and even positive brain chemistry can be rekindled in a nearly constant healthy fire when two mature people remain focused and even idealistic about the most positive aspects of the other. There is little effort to fix each other’s flaws because the flaws are viewed as irrelevant. In these marriages, courtship never totally ends. There are plenty of planned positive experiences: thoughtful dates, fun trips, and regular authentic communication. Turns out that for highly satisfying love to thrive there is no substitute for time spent focused on each other. The exact thing we did when we fell in love in the first place.
If all this seems “impractical” that’s exactly what it is. It’s intrinsic.
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