Jan 212014
 

Last week, I talked about how good it was when individuals approached their lives proactively rather than reactively. You often can’t enter an open door of opportunity if you’re not already prepared. However, in groups, too much general proactivity can be disruptive. In stable groups, harmony and respect for traditions can be comfortable and help bind members together.

In business, an employee is often tempted (or required) to be reactive. They may be content to do what they are told – simply doing their job and then coming back tomorrow and doing the same job in the same way. That is not bad in itself. When the job doesn’t change and the rules are well-known, the same responses in the same recurring circumstances keep things going smoothly. People who like predictability, and like for things to remain as they were before, can be happy doing this kind of work, especially if they are part of a team and able to share social connections.

I’m not just talking about low-wage jobs. A professional is, by definition, expected to be a highly-trained practitioner of a narrow specialty. In fact, you can expect that the more training they get, the narrower their specialty. They go to school and learn a great deal about a field such as architecture or law. And, having mastered the accepted standards of their specialty, they apply their training over and over again to particular types of problems. Such elite professionals can be very successful, and acquire remarkable wealth in this way. A conservative worldview does not prevent them from achieving great professional and economic gains.

A business middle-manager can also be reactive and still be successful. A manager’s job is about choosing TACTICS from available options. Managers gather measurements of compliance, compare these to expectations, and then adjust policies or budgets. This continuing feedback process can bring the system under their control back into expected norms. I’m not being critical. This can be very challenging, important, and rewarding work.

However, every business, social, or political LEADER is responsible for STRATEGY. They MUST be proactive to be successful. A leader must get out ahead of things, imagine possible futures, and make decisions about issues that most other people cannot see. A good leader is a master of change, recognizing where things are not working and sometimes reforming entire systems to adapt to new situations.

A good leader understands that many people resist or actively obstruct change. A good leader works persistently when necessary or presses for rapid adjustments if urgency demands it. Sometimes incremental change is no longer good enough and the group must transition to something entirely new. In any event, a good leader is always proactive about moving us forward.

© 2012, David Satterlee

Jul 112012
 

Last week, I talked about how good it was when individuals approached their lives proactively rather than reactively. You often can’t enter an open door of opportunity if you’re not already prepared. However, in groups, too much general proactivity can be disruptive. In stable groups, harmony and respect for traditions can be comfortable and help bind members together.

In business, an employee is often tempted (or required) to be reactive. They may be content to do what they are told – simply doing their job and then coming back tomorrow and doing the same job in the same way. That is not bad in itself. When the job doesn’t change and the rules are well-known, the same responses in the same recurring circumstances keep things going smoothly. People who like predictability, and like for things to remain as they were before, can be happy doing this kind of work, especially if they are part of a team and able to share social connections.

I’m not just talking about low-wage jobs. A professional is, by definition, expected to be a highly-trained practitioner of a narrow specialty. In fact, you can expect that the more training they get, the narrower their specialty. They go to school and learn a great deal about a field such as architecture or law. And, having mastered the accepted standards of their specialty, they apply their training over and over again to particular types of problems. Such elite professionals can be very successful, and acquire remarkable wealth in this way. A conservative worldview does not prevent them from achieving great professional and economic gains.

A business middle-manager can also be reactive and still be successful. A manager’s job is about choosing TACTICS from available options. Managers gather measurements of compliance, compare these to expectations, and then adjust policies or budgets. This continuing feedback process can bring the system under their control back into expected norms. I’m not being critical. This can be very challenging, important, and rewarding work.

However, every business, social, or political LEADER is responsible for STRATEGY. They MUST be proactive to be successful. A leader must get out ahead of things, imagine possible futures, and make decisions about issues that most other people cannot see. A good leader is a master of change, recognizing where things are not working and sometimes reforming entire systems to adapt to new situations.

A good leader understands that many people resist or actively obstruct change. A good leader works persistently when necessary or presses for rapid adjustments if urgency demands it. Sometimes incremental change is no longer good enough and the group must transition to something entirely new. In any event, a good leader is always proactive about moving us forward.

© 2012, David Satterlee

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Jul 112012
 

For a little change of pace: With fond memories of Andrew Aitken “Andy” Rooney, who left us more thoughtful in spirit and left us in body at age 92, just this last November.

You just don’t hear the words “Presto Change-o” very much anymore. I kind of miss that. It was a great thing to say, after “one, two, three” while you were waving five fingers around with one hand and lifting the five of hearts out of your vest pocket with the other.

“Presto” is actually Italian for nimble or quick. It reminds me of how quickly five dollars can disappear at a carnival. Presto is also a pair of fives in Texas hold ‘em, but that’s another story.

The word prestidigitation is closely related. It is a noun for magic performed by hand, like when the best knife is missing after a relative’s visit.

The “digit” part is Latin for finger – and so we (most of us anyway) have five digits on each hand. Harry Houdini was good at doing magic with his fingers. You just don’t hear very much about Harry Houdini anymore either. He seems to have vanished – at least from popular culture.

A word closely related to prestidigitation is legerdemain. You just don’t hear the word “legerdemain” very much anymore either. I kind of miss that. English borrowed that one from the French for “light of hand.” It describes what you don’t say while you are lifting a fiver out of someone else’s vest pocket.

And, don’t even get me started on “Hocus Pocus” or “23 skidoo.”

© 2012, David Satterlee

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May 312012
 

Our Democracy requires the participation of informed citizens. How do citizens become competent to become active in government, working to create a better country for their neighbors? Education at home and at school is a key factor.

A successful democracy assumes that people are basically good and decent should make responsible choices for themselves. Without the general moral and intellectual capacity of its citizens, it would be impossible for a constitution to grant universal citizenship and self-governance.

Parents and schools are expected to bring out the best in our children. The best involves more than prescribed knowledge and obedience to authority; it includes self-knowledge, self-discipline, and the enduring desire to keep on learning. We hope to maximize every child’s potential. We want every person to have the liberty and ability to pursue the adventure of a productive and satisfying life. Further, we expect that the success of every person contributes to the collective success of our communities and our nation.

As children develop into mature adults, they should be able to understand their beliefs, form personal opinions, explain themselves, consider the needs of others, and make decisions that produce good results. Especially today, when few find secure employment for life, we need to be able to think critically about new situations, solve new problems, and work successfully with previously-unknown people.

It is not enough for a student to simply acquire the skills of a trade. Graduates need to be equipped with an expanded perspective and the mental flexibility to make their way on the unfamiliar landscape of our rapidly-changing world. This kind of preparation allows them to recognize and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Even better, this kind of preparation allows them to network socially, work well in a group, maintain supportive relationships, and actually create opportunities.

Critical thinking should not be the private tool of the privately-educated elite. Critical thinking should be one of our most cherished values, and the birthright of every child willing to apply themself. Critical thinking should be an expected product of a rich family life. Critical thinking should be the core competency delivered by our public schools.

Some may recoil from all this be-the-best-you-can-be and prepare-for-your-future effort. Some may be content to do what they’re told, do only what is needed to get by, and blame others for their misfortunes. Some may realize that I have been describing a “liberal education,” and correctly conclude that the more of it you have, the more liberal you will likely become. Maybe that’s a good thing.

How can our individual, community, and national well-being be bad? I am convinced that we must prepare our children to successfully resist those who would take away our government of, by, and for the people. If we do not, we will see the completion of the efforts of a powerful few to seize our government and use it to enrich themselves.

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 212012
 

Joe rolled his eyes after watching yet another cranky TV talking head take yet another pot shot at the other party’s candidate. “I just don’t get it,” Joe moaned, “They’re all crooks. If I even bother to vote this year, I’m tempted to just write in, ‘Someone Else.’” Linda looked at him quietly for a moment. If there was going to be a teachable moment, this was probably going to be it.

Linda had always been pretty quiet. Joe had always loved the gentleness in her touch, the light in her eyes, and the eagerness in her kiss. They had met in high school. Joe dated several of the pretty girls and Linda had let someone else take her to the Junior Prom. But, Linda loved Joe’s honest directness, his strong hands and character, and the attention and energy that he gave to the things he loved… and he said that he loved her.

Joe started working for his father early on. His dad owned a small, but reasonably successful, chain of retail stores. As soon as Joe could drive, he started driving a delivery truck for his Dad. Linda won a scholarship to a state university. Joe made the trip to see her the first weekend of every month. By the time she graduated and moved back home, Joe had been promoted to warehouse supervisor. They got married that fall, just like everybody always thought they would.

Linda took a breath. This was not a time to cite Macroeconomics or quote Noam Chomsky. So, Linda started, “The big difference between the political parties these days is all about who gets the goods. One party wants to make it easier to make a profit…”

Joe interrupted her: “There is nothing wrong with earning a profit. If you don’t earn a profit, you go out of business and then what good is that to anybody?”

Linda smiled her best disarming smile. “You’re absolutely right. Businesses and the people who buy from them keep money in circulation and make the economy healthier, and that is just as it should be. And, if a business makes a profit and wants to take a risk, they can invest in a new location, or a new product line, or something worthwhile. And, because they put their own money at risk, they stand to make an even greater profit and that’s a good thing too.”

Joe knew his woman well, so he just waited. The other shoe was about to drop. Linda regrouped, “The problem comes when you want to make your profits on transactions that put other people’s money at risk… or by buying and plundering other people’s companies and the pension plans of their employees. Some investors have even figured out how to keep profits while transferring risks and losses back into public society.”

Linda realized that she was going too fast when Joe replied, “Wha…?” It was quite obvious that he was experiencing some issues and had just barely not objected: “What the hell are you talking about?” Actually, that would have been better than some of her friends’ husbands who would just have gotten a beer and tuned in ESPN. All was not lost.

Linda remembered a paper that she had written for American History 202. “Actually this is nothing new. Andrew Jackson had a problem with the Second Bank of the United States. He said that those bankers had been using funds on deposit to speculate in commodities. And, when they won, they divided the profits, but when they lost they charged it to the bank. He said they were a den of vipers and thieves.

“Well damn.” Joe interjected, “I hope he closed them down.”

“He sure did,” Linda agreed, “and you can see how bad that kind of thing is. In fact, that is why the recent financial crisis was so hard on the country. That kind of financial abuse has been happening on a huge scale. And then, when their bad investments went south, it was us that had to bear the burden of the bailouts, protecting them from their losses, because they truly were too big to fail.”

Joe was still feeling angry. “The government should do something about that.”

“Well, your candidate actually sometimes did that kind of stuff for a living and his party is fighting hard for others like him to be able to keep on doing it. They want to keep on reducing government regulations that protect the public, people like me and you… and your dad with his business. I’m planning to vote for my candidate because I just can’t support such a den of vipers and thieves.”

Now Joe was feeling alarmed — with just the first twinges of regret. Some sort of penance was in order. He reached over, took Linda’s hands in his, and he promised to support her and vote for her when she ran for City Council.

©2012, David Satterlee

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May 062012
 

Extract from famous 1936 speech in Madison square garden….

“For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away.

Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair!

Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent. For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace‹business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.

We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me‹and I welcome their hatred.”

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Mar 042012
 

imgresI cross-posted “Hate Speech at my US Post Office” to Open.Salon.com where it was selected as an “Editor’s Pick.” I described responding in alarmed kindness and signing my name. It felt kind of liberating.

It was very satisfying that a lot of “closet liberals” commented that they felt empowered. Here are some samples:

  • “Thank you for sharing this, and I have to say, you inspired me. I am a liberal amongst conservatives at my work and I usually ignore the hate-speech and brow-beating to try and get me to “see it their way.” I don’t bite, so they lose steam. I just moved to a new office and I heard my first anti-Obama joke in the new building today. I didn’t say anything. But you have just inspired me to stop being the silent liberal! I will prepare my logical retorts and be ready the next time they come around with inappropriate comments and condescending attitudes and I’ll tell ’em what’s what. Thanks again.”
  • “I did a similar thing a few years ago in a slightly less public space (the bulletin board in the break room of a large office building.) The fact that I signed my name helped other people to step forward and speak up, and the end result was that anonymous sniping was established in the office culture, for at least a few years, as a very un-cool thing.”
  • “And yes, we need to stand fast and push back against the bullying. I hope you write that column, and find there are many other people in your town who feel you speak to them and for them, too.”
  • “Too often the “other” side runs to name calling, innuendo, and outright lies to make their point. Instead of hating on someone you don’t agree with, how about talk in plain terms of what you would rather see, why and how that will help.”
  • I applaud you for speaking up and taking a stand, particularly when it may not be a popular one in your community. Hopefully, it will let other people see that they’re not alone and push them to speak up too.
  • “Living outside the U.S. for the better part of the past ten years I can tell you the rise of racism in America is extremely noticeable to those of us who do not live there, nor suffer the consequences. Name them, and shame them. That’s about all you can do.”
  • My synagogue was stricken with a swastika. We will try to set up some public education programs around it. It stinks and calls for talk, rather than anger. I say, treat it with education. Post an anti-hate poster. Set up a discussion. Write an article.
  • When Obama was about to get elected, I threw a fundraiser and posted invitations throughout my building, to attend and watch his acceptance speech. Some pinhead yuppie Libertarian spawn defaced Obama’s picture as a crude caricature of Hitler with reversed Swastikas over the invite text. A lot of folks who attended were outraged, but I told them that I wasn’t really worried about bad art. What worried me were the quiet guys with deer rifles. As much as pinheads like Rush and Newt piss me off, I still worry about the quiet guys with rifles.
  • “Liberalism is a mental disorder” is a Michael Savage saying. The author is thus likely a typical Savage fan: old white male, paranoid and resentful. Good for you for speaking up, but take care: these men are very, very angry people.

As I continue to contemplate my most recent encounter with hate, I am warmed by increasing optimism. It occurred to me that conservatism is the condition you leave and that liberalism is where you go from there. That produces a positively-trending dynamic. It can be summed up in the observation that:

”Liberals are just former conservatives who have relearned the True Meaning of Christmas.”

If you do a Google image search of “true meaning of Christmas,” you find lots of Christmas trees, mangers, and Peanuts kids. That’s level one; that’s for people who don’t look very far and don’t dig very deep.

If you’re persistent, however, you find a few images that emphasize Jesus’ expressions of love, being compassionate, doing good, teaching, serving, feeding, and healing. These are examples of, metaphorically, “opening your hand” and “giving liberally.”

There is no shame in being liberal. It is an open, joyful way of life. Liberalism was modeled, not only by Jesus, but by every person we like to admire or call “a great man.” Think Gandhi, Mother Theresa, the Buddha, Dr. King, and many others.

Liberalism is not a bad word or an embarrassment. It is not a light to be hid under a basket. Liberalism should be a light that you confidently thrust high, as an illumination in the world.

DavidS

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Feb 042012
 

It occurred to me a while back that the conservative ideal of “individual freedom,” taken to its logical end, promotes anarchy. If everybody does only what appeals to them as being in the best interests of themselves, their family, or their tribe, it prevents them from fully engaging in the interests of broader civic and societal responsibility. If you are primarily looking out for yourself, you aren’t being a good citizen.

Of course, it also occurred to me that the liberal ideal of “common good,” taken to its logical end, promotes totalitarianism communism… or maybe the kind of selfless love of neighbor that Jesus endorsed. None of these extremes seem practical for America at this point in history.

Isn’t there some balance, some moderate center ground where we can meet and agree to compromise if not find consensus? If you consider American political history during the last few decades, an interesting dynamic appears. It used to be that both the Democratic and Republican parties had their liberal and conservative wings. However, increasingly, the Republican party has been swinging more and more to the radical right and adopting rigidly-held extreme positions and an unwillingness to compromise. At the same time, the Democratic party has been edging more and more toward a moderate center and adopting positions that already have compromise built in.

But, I digress. It seems that the Republican party is structured for divisiveness and conflict rather than constructive citizenship. They are a loose coalition of conservative interest groups, each tightly focused on their own subset of specific issues. They lack unity on almost every philosophy except “leave me alone.” Commentators have described these factions, giving them names such as: traditionalists, conservatives, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, moderates, and libertarians.

For example, there is the religious right that doesn’t want to have anyone disagree with their [conservative Christian] religious convictions while insisting that they press their values on others. There is the individual-liberties right that just doesn’t want to be told what to do about anything, such as register their guns or wear a motorcycle helmet. There is a blue-collar economic right that doesn’t want to have taxes collected that benefit anybody but themselves. There is the elite financial right that doesn’t want anyone to interfere with their pursuit of short-term profits. Each of these positions seems to make sense if repeated often enough and without a discussion of broader context and consequences.

This conservative disposition tends toward “Leave me alone, I’ll take care of myself and you take care of yourself,” or simply “fuck you.” (Witness the audience’s unsympathetic reactions during the GOP debates to the hard consequences on disadvantaged citizens of some candidates’ policies.) The moderate liberal center, however, tends toward “we’re all in this together.” Oddly, while this conservative position pointedly rejects the interests of others, the liberal position embraces and empathizes with the interests of others including, ironically, conservatives.

Why would the kind of conservatives described above want to get involved with any civic sacrifice that didn’t promote the interests of themselves or someone who is part of the limited group that they consider to be “us.” The difference is that liberals have a broader perception of “us.” While liberals can still embrace an appreciation for personal liberties, the moral benefits of religious faith, and the importance of family values, they are more likely to also feel heightened responsibilities for the needs of their communities, their overall nation, and others with whom they share this planet.

Very few Americans want “communism” as practiced in the former Soviet Union or in China under Chairman Mao. Nore are there very many Americans who want the kind of “cradle to grave socialism” of some European countries (despite the recent name calling against liberals by conservative candidates). But, as Albert Einstein, and generations of Complex Systems and Developmental researchers have pointed out, the significant problems that we face can not be solved at the same level on which they were created. We must come together to solve problems that are bigger than ourselves. That is why we form communities and that is why we need government. That is why we should (and do) sacrifice individual liberties for the greater good of ever-larger populations. That is why we give governments limited power to regulate our affairs and tax us so as to act for our collective welfare.

The bottom line is that, between impractical extremes, there is an important place for layers of community and government. In the balance between individual liberties and and the state’s ownership of all means of production, there exists a range of options that allow for our pursuit of happiness while remaining interested and involved in our common good. It is the urge to active citizenship. It is the position of empathy, moderation, compromise, and consensus.  It is the sweet spot of the modern American Democratic Party.

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Quotes

 

Brian Johnson of PhilosophersNotes has compiled an outstanding collection of quotations on topics of human potential, development, and performance. Use the links below to go to specific pages.  Then consider opening up your wallet and subscribing to his PDF and MP3 comments on important books.
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Action
Effortless effort
Excellence
Act
Acting
Anxiety
Appreciation
Athletes
Attitude
Audacity
Audio
Authentic
Autobiography
Balance
Belief
Blame
Breathe
Buddhism
Business
Careers
Challenges
Change
Character
Chess
Commitment
Common opinion
Communication
Confidence
Courage
Creativity
Creator
Criticize
Critics
Death
Decide
Depression
Desire
Divine Within
Drama
Dream (aspirations)
Dreams (sleep)
Eastern
Emotion
Emotional Intelligence
Energy
Enthusiasm
Excellence
Exercise
Experience
Failing
Failure
Fear
Flexibility
Flow
Friendship
Forgiveness
Future
General
Genius
Goals
God
Gratitude
Greatness
Growth
Habit
Happiness
Health
Honesty
Horizon
Humility
Humor
Impreccability
Individuality
Insanity
Inspiration
Intent
Intention
Intelligence
Interconnectedness
Intimacy
Iq
Jobs
Judgment
Kind
Laugh
Leadership
Learn
Learning
Live
Love
Luck
Management
Meditation
Million Dollars
Muscles
Mystery
Non-attachment
Overachievement
Patience
Perception
Perfection
Permanence
Perseverance
Persona
Philosopher
Prayer
Projections
Psychology
Purpose
Questions
Reflection
Responsibility
Risk
Secret
Self-awareness
Self concept
Self-mastery
Simplicity
Sin
Smile
Solution
Stoicism
Stop
Stress
Struggle
Success
Sweat
Teach
Temperance
Tension
Think
Thinking
Thoughts
Time Management
Truth
Vice
Vision
Visualization
War
Water
Wisdom
Worry
Yin
Zen