Thursday, July 25, 2013

Love Dan Pink?

... Me, too!

Daniel Pink

Forwarded herein is Dan Pink's latest "irregular and irreverent" newsletter. Pink focuses on the big ideas reshaping our work, transforming our businesses, and changing our lives. I hope you enjoy it and sign up for more words of wit and wisdom from the sage of Lynchburg, VA.

"Welcome to the latest edition of our irregular and irreverent newsletter. In this issue, you'll hear about some changes to, 4 awesome productivity tips, and 10 articles you really need to read:  
Let’s go . . .

Starting today, you’ll see some changes in the website, newsletter, and podcast. Here’s what’s happening:  
1. will become a resource center. We’re reconfiguring the web site to make it much less about what’s happening this day or this hour and much more about providing you a rich set of enduringly useful resources. We’re going to shutter the blog and instead expand and deepen our collection of videos, articles, and guides on working smarter and living better. (For example, check out our new 90-second videos on pitching more effectively) 
2. This newsletter will become the main way I communicate with readers. I’ll still be sharing insights, tools, tips, and reading suggestions -- but I’ll do that through the newsletter, which I’ll begin delivering more often. Of course, the newsletter will remain free of charge and free of advertising. And for brief musings, I’ll continue to Tweet
3. Office Hours will become a straight podcast. Our radio-ish program – “Car Talk for the human engine” – has been a huge success. But since most people can’t listen live, we’re changing the format. Instead of a live broadcast, we’re now going to simply record the program and release it on iTunes and on This will offer us more flexibility in booking great guests and allow us to produce more shows. We’ll still take listener questions, but we’ll do that via Twitter in advance of each program. 
As these changes roll out, please let us know what you think of them.
Like most of you, I’m always looking for ways to boost my productivity and to stop doing the things that hold me back. That’s why I turned to Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Brain, a short new book from the folks at 99u that several people had recommended. 
The book was worth the quick read, especially for these 4 insights and suggestions: 
-- “The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second. This means blocking off a large chunk of time every day for creative work on your own priorities, with the phone and e-mail off.” 
-- “Book time on your calendar for uninterrupted, focused work—and respect those blocks of time as you would any client meeting.” 
-- “It’s better to disappoint a few people over small things, than to surrender your dreams for an empty inbox. Otherwise you’re sacrificing your potential for the illusion of professionalism.”
-- “What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.”
One of the features readers have found most valuable is reading recommendations. So, in what will be a regular feature, here are 10 articles I’ve read recently that I’ve found intriguing enough to recommend to you. 
1. Want to Learn How to Think? Read Fiction -- Pacific Standard explains how literature opens our minds to ambiguity and thereby sharpens our thinking. 
2. Gigawalk Does Temp-Worker Hiring Without Job Interviews -- BusinessWeek profiles a company that’s developed technology designed to “find good workers without ever engaging in personal interactions.” Big Data meets HR. 
3. Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report -- This isn’t an article per se. It’s a 117-slide deck from the smartest Internet analyst on the planet. But if you’re interested in the future of technology, it’s a must-read. 
4. Why Men Work So Many Hours -- In HBR, Joan Williams insightfully dissects the real reason why most workplace flexibility programs haven’t fully taken off. 
5. How to Escape Bad Decisions -- Adam Grant explains why we so often escalate our commitment to poor decisions – and provides four ways we can avoid the trap. 
6. Obituaries of Douglas Englebart and Amar Bose -- The inspiring life stories of two extraordinary innovators. 
7. Can Government Play Moneyball? -- In The Atlantic, a former Obama and former Bush official show that we often have no idea whether government programs are actually effective. 
8. Why Stage Parents Push Their Kids -- Time magazine on new research showing that – yes indeed –  Tiger Moms and Little League dads are living out their own personal demons rather than helping their kids.
9. Clayton Christensen: Still Disruptive -- The Economist interviews the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma about education, disruption, and the perils of relying too heavily on data. 
10. You Have 25,000 Mornings As an Adult. Here’s How to Not Waste Them. -- Lifehacker rethinks your mornings and offers 9 smart rules to make them better. 
One reason I’m putting more emphasis on the Pink newsletter is that I’ve come to rely on other newsletters as sources of ideas, information, and inspiration. Here, in alphabetical order, are 5 email newsletters that always elude my delete key:  
Barking Up the Wrong Tree – “I want to understand why we do what we do and use the answers to become awesome at life.” 
Brain Pickings Weelky – “A library of cross-disciplinary interestingness and combinatorial creativity.” 
Business Insider’s 10 Things You Need to Know in Tech This Morning – A short, informative daily blast. 
Farnam Street – “Seeking wisdom by mastering the best of what other people have figured out.” 
Springwise – “Your essential fix of entrepreneurial ideas”
Every other year, the keen minds at Thinkers50 select the writers, researchers, and professors who are having the greatest impact on business thinking. I was honored to be on the list in 2011 – and, frankly, I’d like to earn a spot again this year. 
That’s where you can help. 
As part of its process, Thinkers50 is asking people around the word to cast ballots for their favorite thinkers. If any of my books have been useful to you in your work, I’d appreciate your vote. No obligation obviously. But it would be a huge help. Even better, you can vote for more than one person, which means you can also include folks like Teresa Amabile, Bob Sutton, Edward Deci, Seth Godin, David Allen, and more. Could I have your vote? 
Cast your ballot.
As always, thanks for reading our humble newsletter. Enjoy the rest of the summer (or the rest of the winter if you’re in that part of the world).  
Daniel Pink

If you like what you see here--and I sure do--you can get lots more:
Web: http://www.danpink.comTwitter: @danielpink


Thursday, July 18, 2013



Next Draft? Every Day!

Dave Pell's genius is picking and packing the day's buzz-worthy news into a smart set of talking points for your evening dinner party. Check out Next Draft, it's Water Cooler Cool...

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

1. Sorry, This Pocket is Taken

The major phone carriers know about your sick, demented need to have the latest gadget in your pocket. So they are offering new plans that will enable you to upgrade your device after only one year. The programs are marketed as an incentive to keep early adopting tech addicts happy. But what if something else is at work? What if these programs are really a response to the fact that fewer of us feel the need to upgrade, and more of us are satisfied with what we're packing in our pockets? "For the first time since 2008, computer-equipped phone upgrades dropped." Have we reached peak smartphone?

+ It took a powerful computing device for you to be at least partially satisfied with your phone. But your doctor could still be satisfied with a pager. From FortuneWhere pagers haven't gone extinct yet. (At least they've replaced their paper manuals with a handy CD-Rom.)

+ OK, so your phone is good enough. What about your TV? From Quartz, here's all the evidence that Apple is making an actual TV.

2. Deadly Lunch

In India, at least 22 children died after eating a poisoned school lunch. "After seeing the children get sick, the school’s teachers and administrators fled the school, according to Dr. Shambhu Nath Singh, the deputy superintendent of the government hospital in Bihar’s Saran District."

+ A lot of the stories about India focus on the country's economic rise. This incident is a reminder that there is another side to that story.

3. The Root Issue

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is the drummer for The Roots (currently the house band for Jimmy Fallon). In this NY Magazine essay, he shares his take on what the Trayvon Martin case meant to him. It's definitely worth a read: "Imagine a life in which you think of other people's safety and comfort first, before your own. You're programmed and taught that from the gate. It's like the opposite of entitlement ... I don't know how to not internalize the overall message this whole Trayvon case has taught me:

You ain't shit.

That's the lesson I took from this case.

You ain't shit.

4. Do You Like to Be Watched?

"Do we want to live in a surveillance society that might ensure justice for all, yet privacy for none?" The NYT's Nick Bilton on the pros and cons of a surveillance society.

+ We're seeing an increasing number of cases where those who are accessing our data have no interest in participating in debates on the matter. Universities are now facing a barrage of cyber attacks, and outside attacks on stock exchanges are putting markets at risk.

5. Cover Hurl

Today, the Internet is expressing great displeasure at the person Rolling Stone editors decided to put on the cover. Several stores have already said they will pull the issue from their magazine racks. Take a look at the cover shot of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber, and see what you think. It's of course not the first time a terrible person has been featured on the magazine's cover.

+ In response to the criticism, Rolling Stone editors decided to publish the entire story online (earlier than expected):"He was a charming kid with a bright future. But no one saw the pain he was hiding or the monster he would become."

6. Recruited at 13

"It gets to a point where I can't even stand myself. It's eating me inside little by little, and there's nothing I can do or say to justify my actions." A day after the arrest of notorious Zetas' leader Miguel Treviño, the Center for Investigative Reporting shares this short video featuring Rosalio Reta, an American teenager recruited by Treviño and trained to be an assassin.

7. Never Too Cold For A Cold One

"The most dire danger in Antarctica is always failure to respect the absolutely lethal environment of Antarctica itself. I was far happier to serve until I could guide him over to a couch to pass out than to see him stagger out into the -85F night." From The AtlanticOn Getting Drunk in Antarctica.

8. Tabs of Steel

Give me a hundred sit-ups, fifty push-ups, and ten laps around the track. Either that, or you can just give me one swallow. It's still a ways off, but scientists are making progress in their search for exercise in a pill.

9. He's Back

Get ready. Keith Olbermann is going to be back on ESPN, but he is contractually forbidden from talking politics. Fine, as long as he's not allowed to talk sports either.

10. The Bottom of the News

If you find something oddly fun about watching dominoes fall, then imagine how great you'll feel if you can make it through watching 275,000 of them tumble.

Mental Floss: 44 fictional characters whose names you don't know.

+ A bedding innovation for people who hate making their beds.

+ Let's Louie for a few minutes, shall we? Here are 10 Louis CK clips. Here's a collection of 14 of his parenting tips. And apparently, Woody Allen wants to make a buddy film with him (Spolier alert: The really young and attractive woman ends up falling for Woody who, after some nervous introspection, welcomes her advances.)

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When the Solution is Worse than the Problem

You have seen the news, right?

Maddow Blog | gillibrand-bill-on-military-sexual-assaults-gets-gop-backers
USA Today | gillibrand-bill-creates-broad-diverse-coalition
The Diane Rehm Show | prosecuting-military-sexual-assault-cases

Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) is articulate, and her bill to remove authority from commanders has gained allies in respected conservatives Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but here’s the deal. Would she, as a Senator, support transferring authority to the military for maintaining good order and discipline within Congress? Would she want Army lawyers (who may know little about the culture of Congress but a lot about order and discipline) to come into the Senate and decide how to investigate and prosecute allegations of misconduct among legislators? I doubt it.

And we all know there is plenty of misconduct among legislators. But let us not digress.

Gillibrand wants to set up a system that, in her own words, caters to the needs of victims. In the United States of America, that is unconstitutional. The phrase I am thinking of is, "Innocent until proven guilty." Even if Gillibrand’s bill passes the Senate, it will not pass the Republican-led House, and even if for some reason it did pass and the President signed it into law, the Supreme Court would strike it down. Excuse me, “should” strike it down.

Why can’t we concentrate on what really matters in the military sexual assault epidemic?
  • Crucify the commanders who abuse their authority by failing to seek and uphold justice—don’t punish ALL commanders for the faults and failings of a few.
  • Crush the perpetrators who use sexual violence as a weapon in an abusive power play—don’t punish victims by not prosecuting allegations, and don’t punish non-perpetrators by subjecting them to hours and hours of PowerPoint lectures. And do not merely discharge these perps, passing the unresolved problem onto society at large!
  • A relatively small number of serial perpetrators are committing crimes. Is anyone asking why they perpetrate? What are the underlying causes of sexually violent behavior? What is being done to address the conditions that lead to this reprehensible behavior? Or are we just going to play “sociopath vs. system” games? Prosecution is pandering.
  • Are 100% of all incidents reported? If so, good. If not, why not and what is being done? Here is where Gillibrand scores her strongest points. Incidents are way under-reported. The reasons victims do not report are linked to embarrassment, fear of reprisals, and mistrust of the chain of command. Again, these obstacles are real and they must be breached.
  • Are the overall numbers of incidents declining? This is hard to measure because of the reporting error, but in any case the goal of "eliminating" sexual assault is unrealistic. Decreasing the numbers of incidents is good, especially if all incidents are being reported and not merely swept under the rug. Decreasing incident rates to a level below society at large is good enough. Getting to zero is a noble goal but a horrible objective.

The military’s approach has not been successful, by definition. If it were successful, we would not have a sexual assault problem in the military. Defending the status quo is not a successful strategy, as was amply demonstrated during the recent testimony of our Nation's senior military leaders before the Senate Armed Services Committee. So, retool or start over? This is a momentous question. If retool, then Gillibrand and her ilk are the enemy of the finest fighting force the world has ever known. They agitate for wholesale change of something they do not understand, even as they control the purse strings. The military leadership had better stay ahead of Gillibrand and retool. If the leaders lose to those who listen to Gillibrand and are forced to start over, we will watch as Congress dismantles the military.
Dismantle the military? Yes, I am not exaggerating. Consider this scenario. You, dear reader, are now an armor battalion commander in battle. You receive a report that one of your tank commanders is accused of angrily throwing a cup of coffee at a subordinate. Some of the coffee lands in the junior person’s mouth. Incredibly, this assault with battery meets the legal standard for rape, since there was force and penetration. The Brigade Combat Team attacks at dawn and you need all of your battalion's physical and mental resources for the fight. What do you do, Colonel?
  • If you investigate the allegation immediately, you lose the victim and tank commander, and therefore his crew and his tank, for the battle. Oh, and your investigating officer is probably your XO or S3!
  • If you defer the investigation, you send a signal that it’s OK to throw coffee at people, so long as one is sufficiently provoked, or if the battle starts at dawn, or it was just horse-play, etc. And the subordinate probably deserved it. And oh, by the way, how can you win a battle with people who are afraid of violence? Derp!
  • You'd like to think of this as a relatively insignificant incident compared to battle, but you cannot, because the same Congress that sent you into harm's way also said that all allegations of rape must be investigated by an external board.

Why not just hand the whole matter off to some of Gillibrand’s lawyers?  Wouldn't that relieve you of the effort? Why is that a monumentally bad idea? Because if YOU cannot handle this little situation, Colonel, or at least be seen as handling it, and if it must go to an outside authority to be resolved, then how in the world can you lead your battalion in combat, or even be seen as leading effectively in the bigger issue of battle where many more lives are at stake?

The claim can be made that rapes would never occur in a battalion commanded by a leader who had no tolerance for such abuse. And I have two comments to that. First, toxic commanders, such as those who do not see rape as a "significant" problem or perhaps are even part of the problem, are identified and removed. Secondly, the perpetrators of sexual violence are hard to identify. Don't gloss over that point. These serial predators are sociopaths who are very adept and remaining hidden. It's not as if finding them were a simple task. Therefore, rapes happen in battalions regardless of a commander's leadership qualities.

That said, it's obvious that strong leadership, culture change, new policies, effective training, investigative persistence, and judicial resolve are all part of the solution to the scourge of blue-on-blue sexual violence. I personally believe that the military has the wherewithal to solve this problem internally. I personally believe that Gillibrand and McCaskill (D-MO) do their part when they hold a mirror up to the military.  That's all they have to do! The threat of removing convening authority is over-reach. Would these same legislators, upset over the actions of a few Catholic priests or a few college football coaches start changing laws to dictate how the Catholic church or the NCAA may govern themselves?

One final thought, dear reader--and by the way, thanks for playing the role of a battalion commander in this post. As you know, the military exists to fight and win our Nation’s wars. Any parent who sends a son or daughter off to your tank battalion and expects you to protect that young person even if it means losing the battle is either living in a fantasy land or possibly working on Sen. Gillibrand's staff. Rape is unacceptable. Rape inside a family or a high performing team is especially harmful because it not only damages the victim, but it damages the whole unit. I do not minimize the problem of military sexual trauma. I just bristle when people who have never been anywhere close to the Battalion Commander scenario described above take it upon themselves to solve the problem with no comprehension of the second and third order effects.

Senator Gillibrand's solution of removing convening authority from military commanders and giving it instead to an outside judicial system is a solution worse than the problem.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Role of Goals

"Robert M. Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, describes joining a group of elderly Zen monks mountain-climbing in the Himalayas. Though Pirsig was the youngest member of the expedition, he was the only one who struggled; he eventually gave up, while the monks effortlessly ascended to the peak.

"Pirsig, focused on the goal of reaching the peak of the mountain and overwhelmed by what lay ahead, was unable to enjoy the climb; he lost his desire--and his strength--to carry on. The monks also focused on the peak, but only to make sure they were staying on course, not because reaching the peak itself was most important to them. Knowing that they were headed in the right direction allowed them to focus their attention and enjoy each step, rather than be overwhelmed by what lay ahead.

"The proper role of goals is to liberate us, so that we can enjoy the here and now."

                                                     --Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier, pp. 69, 70

Running a marathon is not about crossing the finish line so much as it is about learning to find joy in each stride taken from the first day of training right up until the goal is achieved. One foot in front of the other. Stay the course, and the finish line eventually comes to you.

Prosecution is Pandering, not Influencing

Joseph Grenny, Co-Chair of VitalSmarts, speaks,
consults and writes about human behavior and how to change it.
ARTICLE: Sexual Assault in the Army: Focus on Prosecution is Pandering not Influence, 18 Jun, Forbes
SYNOPSIS: In 2009, an Army recruit in Afghanistan became the seventh victim of sexual assault of the same perpetrator. His first six victims filed only “restricted reports” which allowed the victims to get needed care but prohibited an investigation of their rapes. Since then, more than 100,000 of our nations finest have suffered similar abuse. In response, the Department of Defense has built enormous prosecutorial and investigatory muscle to hunt down and punish perpetrators. Strength and justice are necessary—but insufficient to eradicate the scourge of sexual violence in the Military. We certainly need to ask the question, “Where are the offenders?” We need to ensure every assault is investigated and perpetrators are punished. But if we want to influence real change, we also have to ask, “Why are they perpetrating?” Simply locking up offenders is akin to trying to reduce crime by increasing incarcerations. We’ve been trying that for a couple of decades and the jury is in: Americans are now the most incarcerated people in the world. And yet, we’re less safe than countries with much lower incarceration rates.

A recent article by Forbes contributor, Joseph Grenny, asks an important question so often overlooked, it is jaw-droppingly stunning to see it in print.

“Why are they perpetrating?”

Helluva good question, and one that is neither asked nor answered in the Army's Sexual Harassment / Assault Response & Prevention (SHARP) training. Oh, sure, we understand that rape is about an abuse of power. Rape is not about sex, or hormones, or pornography, or temptation, but only about the desire to use sexual violence to subjugate another human being. But those are the things we tell ourselves about “them.” What do perpetrators say about themselves?

Forbes’ Grenny observes that locking up offenders is necessary, but insufficient. That is a powerful observation that exposes a huge gap in the current approach to dealing with military sexual trauma (MST). It’s not enough to remove caught offenders from civil society. Why not? Well, except for the deterrent effect, removing caught offenders does nothing to prevent uncaught offenders from harming people. For proof, one need look no further than to the fact that rapes are continuing to happen within the military at rates that exceed those of society at large.

It’s impossible to prove the negative, and so we’ll never know how many rapes have been prevented by the SHARP Program. However, every US Army perpetrator caught in the past 2 years attended SHARP’s world-class training program before offending. Some perpetrators have even been through SARC / VA certification training before getting caught offending!  What is missing in the training that allows perpetrators to slide through, undetected? Are perpetrators simply using the training to learn how not to get caught?

Prosecution is Pandering, not Influencing

The title of the Forbes piece reminds me of the classic definition of leadership: the art of influencing people to do things they would not do on their own. A prosecution mentality merely sets the stage for a battle between a sociopath and the system. Where is the emphasis on self-examination of character? Where is the art of constructive criticism which is so important in the art of building each other up? Where is the commitment to improve one’s character through shared hardship and service to a great cause? Why are we not finding and remolding the perpetrators among us—before they offend?  In short, where is leadership in the equation?

Why do Army leaders seem to think that the way to influence sociopaths is to give them a PowerPoint classes over the Internet? We cannot help the Army identify and close the gaps in the SHARP Program until we coach them to first ask,  

“Why are they perpetrating?”

Just a thought—

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sentence Completions Facilitate the Art of Living Consciously

I have enjoyed Tal Ben-Shahar's book, Happier. One of the tips that I have found most valuable is Dr. Ben-Shahar's suggestion to use sentence completion drills as a means to raise one's self-awareness. He cites Nathaniel Branden's work in this area, turning readers to Dr. Branden's website, The Esteemed Self. Here is Dr Branden's description of this exercise:
"Sentence-completion work is a deceptively simple yet uniquely powerful tool for raising self-understanding, self-esteem and personal effectiveness. It rests on the premise that all of us have more knowledge than we normally are aware of – more wisdom than we use, more potential than typically shows up in our behavior. Sentence completion is a tool for accessing and activating these dormant or “hidden” resources.

 "Sentence completion can be used in many ways. Here I will describe a way I find particularly effective. The essence of this procedure is to write an incomplete sentence (or sentence stem) and then write a number of different endings, with the sole requirement that each ending is a grammatical completion of the sentence. Aim for a minimum of six endings.

 "To truly benefit from the exercises, you should work as rapidly as possible. Don’t pause to “think”, invent responses if you get stuck and don’t worry if any particular ending is true, reasonable or significant. The object is simply to let your thoughts flow forward without impediment.

 "When doing sentence completion exercises, it is best to work with a journal or computer. That way, past entries can easily be accessed for reflection."

I have chosen to operationalize Dr. Branden's suggestion with a few minor modifications. I offer this summary of modifications for your consideration.

In your gratitude journal, write out at least 5 replies for each stem. Work quickly, without over-thinking. Spend no more than 5 minutes before breakfast (B), no more than 5 minutes before Dinner (D), and no more than 5 minutes before bed at night (N). In addition, spend no more than 5 minutes  Sunday (S) to review and assimilate the past week’s entries.

B1. Living consciously to me means –

B2. If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my activities today –

B3. If I pay more attention to how I deal with people today –

B4. If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my most important relationships –

B5. If I bring 5 percent more awareness to (fill in a particular problem you are concerned about— for example, your relationship with someone, or a barrier you've hit at work, or your feelings of anxiety or depression) –

D1. When I reflect on how I would feel if I lived more consciously –

D2. When I reflect on what happens when I bring 5 percent more awareness to my activities –

D3. When I reflect on what happens when I pay more attention to how I deal with people –

D4. When I reflect on what happens when I bring 5 percent more awareness to my most important relationships –

D5. When I reflect on what happens when I bring 5 percent more awareness to (whatever you've filled in) –

N1-5. Today I am grateful for --

S1-5. If any of what I wrote this week is true, it would be helpful if I –

As I said I made a few changes from the original.

  • For one, I like to do this exercise daily, rather than Monday through Friday. 
  • I cut back to 5 completions from 6, because it's a bit faster and because the resultin sum of all sentences is a nice round number B (5 * 5) + D (5 * 5) + N (5 * 5) + S (5* 5) = 100. 
  • I used to write out the stems as well as the completions, but that took too much time. Now I have a printout of the above stems in my journal. 
  • What I call D3 above is something I added to the mix. In Dr Branden's list, there are only 4 stems for the evening. However, I prefer a "call and response" between morning and evening so I added D3 for symmetry. 
  • I tried writing out the stems and leaving blanks to be filled in later, rather like a template. But this did not work for me. If I did not complete the work on a given day, I wasted a bunch of space in my journal plus the time writing the framework out. Now I just do what I can, when I can, and if I miss a session I just move on. 
  • I use the abbreviations B, D, N, and S and the sequence numbers to cross-reference the stems and that keeps me straight and seems to be the fastest and most efficient process. The awareness and behavior changes that occur are more important than what the writing looks like on paper.
  • I prefer the journal rather than the computer foe many reasons. I spend too much time at the keyboard as it is. Moreover, I believe there is something special, personal. and intimate  about the mind-body connection of transmitting a thought through a pen to a piece of paper.
Try this at home! I recommend it. After you have performed this exercise for several weeks, visit Dr Branden's site. Look for more stems. There are currently two additional 30-week programs published. As of this writing, I am still learning from this first level.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

Recently, I have posted about Nathaniel Branden in relation to Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, and also about the 6 pillars of character according to the folks at Character Counts. This post is an interesting combination of the two previous posts. Nathaniel Branden is a leading psychologist in the field of self-esteem, and his seminal work is called, coincidentally, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.

I think of my architecture professors every time I see a temple icon with an odd number of columns. The Romans and Greeks would have never built a temple with an odd number of columns! The central axis must be open and unobstructed, and that requires an even number of columns. Of course, there is a huge difference between a free-standing column and a wall that is reinforced by a pillar, but that is probably semantic.

The 6 pillars are:

1. Live Consciously

This requires us to be fully in the present moment. And for most, this takes a bit of practice, because many of us are conditioned to disown the here and now, to survive what we have thought that we cannot handle.

2. Accept Yourself

Yes. You have flaws and attributes. You also have the opportunity to enhance who you are, by accepting everything about yourself. In fact, the only way to enhance who you are is to accept yourself.

3. Take Responsibility for Your Experiences

Through my journey, I have learned to be in conversations where I say to myself, "It comes down to 'this is where you end, and I begin,'" Saying such an affirmation has helped me to congruently say what I will and will not experience. And this is quite liberating not only to myself, but also to my interlocutor (most of the time).

4. Assert Who You Are

Honor what you think, feel, believe, need, and want. Yes, for many readers this may be a challenge. But the results of accepting this challenge are wonderfully fulfilling.

5. Live Purposefully

Make an agreement with yourself to reach your highest potential, while you maintain balance in your life.

6. Maintain Your Integrity

Know exactly what your principles are. And stick to them, no matter what others think or do.

For more information, see The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field, by Nathaniel Branden. ISBN: 9780553374391.

CHARACTER COUNTS! The Six Pillars of Character

: Trustworthiness : Respect : Responsibility : Fairness : Caring : Citizenship :

I am interested in the development of character. In fact, I agree with Aristotle who opined that the development of character is the aim of life. So that begs the question, how will we recognize when we have achieved a fully developed character? Can we understand the desired end-state well enough to describe it? Can we figure out how to measure the end-state in such a way as to facilitate scoring our current state compared to the end-state?

That is a tall order, and I suppose the answers change over time. However, I found this article helpful. Do you see anything missing, or is this list complete? How would you measure something such as, for example, self-discipline (under Responsibility)?

Enjoy! Comments welcome.


Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country


Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements


Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act — consider the consequences • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others


Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly


Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need


Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer

- See more at:

Remaining Clear and True to the Pulse of Life, Part II

Welcome to Part II of a three-part meditation on Mark Nepo's July 2d entry, "Wrong View," from The Book of Awakening. Our mental well-being depends, Nepo says, on " clear and true we remain to the pulse of life...". In Part I, we concluded that the Pulse of Life may be described as the quest to commune in Oneness. Here in Part II, we'll explore how to remain clear and true to the quest for Oneness in our current age. Part III? That will be some ideas about moving toward a future age of increased Oneness. 

Remaining Clear and True to the Pulse of Life

The Western World stands on what some believe is the brink of a fate similar to that of the Roman Empire: collapse. The European Union is showing weakness. The income gap is huge and only growing bigger. People do not trust elected leaders. The leisure class demands more for less with a sense of entitlement, and the working class is increasingly and humiliatingly unable to get by. In addition to gaps in the health of Nations and gaps in the wealth of individuals, a generation gap as wide as the one in the 1960's divides Americans on a whole range of social and fiscal issues. For the first time in the history of this Nation, middle class parents worry that their children will not inherit a better life.

I have children. For me, this topic is real, personal, and real personal!

Under these circumstances, it is useful and good to think about the health of individuals and Nations going forward. Not just physical health, but mental and spiritual health, as well. Can we put health in a broader context?  If we go deep enough, is there something at the core of humanity that ties us all together? Does Nepo's "pulse of life" meet that contextual need?

Our goal is to develop an understanding of how we as individuals and groups remain clear and true to Nepo's pulse of life, i.e., the quest for oneness.  We must understand what is meant by the pulse of life before we can discuss how to remain true and clear to all which that phrase implies. Let's see what insights emerge when we examine Oneness in these seemingly unrelated topics: technology, innovation, morality, religion, genetically modified organisms, sustainable food, mental health, warfare, national security, and the elements of national power.

Grab your Bud Lights, sports fans, because "Here we go!"

Technology & Innovation

Is technological innovation inevitable? Absolutely. We humans are tool-makers, and we could not stop if we wanted to. Furthermore, this is a very good thing for humanity--to a point. And the point is that moment when our brains can no longer keep up with the pace of change and innovation. How many people never learned how to set the clock on their VCR? Isn't it ironic that this is a moot point, since the more advanced DVRs automated the challenge away. How many people are even aware of half of the functions on their digital watches? How many people have given up on simple automotive maintenance tasks? The gap--or digital divide--between the technologically savvy and the Luddites who cannot or will not keep up is big and growing. Do you think it will ever shrink? Of course not. You know intuitively and rationally that the digital divide will continue to grow. Which side of the gap are you on? Which side do you want your children to be on? The pace of change is increasing. What happens to those who are left behind?

Technology will continue to advance at increasingly rapid pace. Until now, the diffusion of innovation has occurred through a spectrum of innovators, early adopters, mainstream consumers, and laggards (see Fig 1.). This spectrum has been defined largely by choice, not ability. In other words, laggards did not adopt the innovation because they did not want to, not because they were not able to. However, as the control of wealth and influence concentrates in fewer people, the ability of average people to keep up with technology will be adversely affected. The inability of many people to enjoy the best technology creates a perception of imbalance. 

Fig. 1: the diffusion of innovation and market share

Technological innovation can either be a tool to bring us together, reduce barriers, and promote harmony and oneness, or a weapon with which to divide us.

Morality & Religion

Of what practical use are ethics? From whence do ethics spring? Is it possible for people in a society to have shared morality and ethics without a common God and a common religion? What is the connection between religion, politics, and law? Consider this premise: Individuals do not need ethics, but groups do. People are born without religion, culture,or politics, but they have an inherent sense of right and wrong. Groups of people invent religion, culture, policies, and laws to codify "the way we do things around here," i.e., what behavior is and is not accepted. 

The social fabric holds together so long as information is shared, rules are clear, justice is swift and fair, and liberties are not unduly infringed upon.

Genetically modified organisms & Sustainable food

We are repulsed by animal farms where chickens and cows are treated, not like sentient beings, but like inanimate potatoes and corn: grown, harvested, and processed for human consumption. Yet we are also repulsed by muscle cells grown in a test tube which have the texture, flavor, and nutrition of animal flesh.

We are repulsed by Monsanto's efforts to make a better tomato by inserting a gene that repels pests. This genetically modified organism is no longer the same species as the garden-grown one we remember.

Can we reamin clear and true to the pulse of life in something so basic as the food we eat?

Mental, Physical, & Emotional Well-Being

What does it mean when we see increased rates of depression and suicide in society? In the first 155 days of 2012, the US Military suffered more deaths due to suicide (154) than combat (124). Look at divorce rates. Look at drug use and abuse. Look at sexual harassment and sexual assault crimes on the rise within the military. Look at the adrenaline junkies coming home from war and racing high-powered motorcycles in an unsafe manner to get a rush--and the sad result of increased injuries and fatalities. Is it possible that the stress of life as we have defined it is too much for the human psyche? Looking just within the military, could it be that 12 years of war have taken more of a human toll than we could have anticipated? How do we stop suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and risky behavior and restore balance in the military?

Warfare, National security, & the Elements of National Power

Is technology all about power? Is power all about technology? Could a smaller, weaker nation control the United States through superior technology? The Nation of Israel is surrounded by larger neighbors, many of whom pose an existential threat. Peace is maintained through superior technology and powerful allies. This simple reality carries the implication that changes in technology will dictate changes in alliances. The geo-political world will likely break down into smaller tribes or divide into two very large and diametrically opposed coalitions.

The DRONES are taking over. Consider horse cavalry replaced by tanks, and bombs replaced by nukes. There is no putting the drone genie back in the technology bottle. The question then is not whether drones are moral, but whether drones can be used in a moral manner and precluded from being used in an immoral manner. To my way of thinking, pressing a technological advantage in conflict is moral if the conflict itself is moral.

Remain Clear and True to the Quest for Oneness in our Current Age

I know that in my own case, I have cultivated a skill for planning. I also have developed a skill for archiving. I have the future and the past covered. But where I am weakest is in living the present! The vectors of technology, innovation, morality, religion, genetically modified organisms, sustainable food, mental health, warfare, national security, and the elements of national power are just some of many vectors with long tails and far-flung trajectories. One can study the past of any one of those topics and use that knowledge to project into the future. But is Nepo's "pulse of life" a frantic race to an inevitable death? Will Oneness come about because of technological advances in every aspect of our lives, or in spite of them? I believe the answer lies in being fully present in each and every moment: neither under- nor over-reacting; neither dwelling in the past or projecting to the future; but sentient, awake, mindful, and grateful.

At first blush, mindfulness classes for the military may sound as incongruous as ballet classes for the football team. Dig a little deeper into Nepo, though, and the conclusion is inescapable. The quest to commune in Oneness is a deeply held human need. Our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being depends on the sort of connectedness, peace, and balance that comes from, and is evidenced by, mindfulness.

EnJoy: Feel free to comment and share.

Part I:

Part III will be some thoughts on how to make the world a better place by applying these thoughts toward a future age of increased Oneness.  

Who are your Role Models? Part 2: Michaelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarroti (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564) was a painter, sculptor, and architect. As a young 12 year old aspiring artist, I was so impressed by a photo of Michelangelo's sculpture of my namesake, David, that I went to the library and checked out the biggest book about the artist I could find.

The book told of how young Michelangelo became a professional artist at age 13. This inspired me to hurry and sell something of my own creation, so that I, too, could claim to have been a "professional" at age 13. In fact, I did sell an elephant sculpture carved out of a bar of Ivory soap for $5, and a pencil rendering of the crucifixion of Christ in a clunky frame for $10. I went on to sculpt a bust of JFK in clay and take many classes in drawing, drafting, and painting before becoming an architecture student at Notre Dame.

I admire the "art for art's sake" approach to creativity. When you hire Frank Gehry to design a building, you don't just want a building--you want an iconic Frank Gehry. You don't tell him too much about how to do his work. He wouldn't listen anyway!

Unlike so many famous iconoclastic artists and architects, such as Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright or Andy Worhol, Michelangelo always had a patron. He worked for wealthy customers who employed him to tell stories. Michelangelo had great gifts, but he is one of my role models because he used his gifts in service.

I have since made my pilgrimage to many of Michelangelo's timeless gifts to the world: the aforementioned David in Florence, and the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Cathedral at Vatican City, or San Pietro in Vincoli
 in Rome. My favorite Michelangelo work is the powerful and poignant Pieta.

Read more about Michelangelo:

See the other Role Models in this series:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How P&G Presents Data to Decision-Makers - Tom Davenport - Harvard Business Review

I highly recommend this article by Tom Davenport in a recent Harvard Business Review.

"Those of us who believe that managers make better decisions when key data are presented visually tend to get very excited about all the innovation going on in the graphical display of information. (For a sampling of some new and cool tools, see the popular Hans Rosling TED talk.) However, if you work in a large organization and want it to make better use of data visualization, I'd argue that commonality is more important than creativity. If you can establish a common visual language for data, you can radically upgrade the use of the data to drive decision-making and action."
Innovative desktop "dashboard" displays, meeting spaces called "Business Spheres," and graphics such as the "heat map" shown above are fueling better decisions. 


Monday, July 8, 2013

Ayn Rand's Objectivism Explained by Her Student, Colleague, Lover, and Self-Esteem Guru

Have you read Atlas Shrugged? Do you know the answer to the question, "Who is John Galt?" Did you ever wonder about the connection between Alan Greenspan, the Wall Street Journal, and Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism? Are you suspicious of Big Government? Assuming you aspire to become the best possible version of yourself, do you know how to tell whether you are on the right path? Are you willing and able to help or correct someone who has fallen off their path?

If the answer to any of the above questions is "Yes," you're in luck: today's post is for you. Below are excerpts from the May, 2011 Daily Bell interview * with Nathaniel Branden, a pioneer in the psychology of self-esteem and one of Ayn Rand's primary proponents.

In the excerpt below, I added the emphasis to build discussion points. As you read the excerpt, please prepare to engage in the two discussion questions at the end. 


Daily Bell: Do you feel Atlas Shrugged is Rand's greatest work?

Nathaniel Branden: Of course I do. I think it's the work of a genius on a very high level. It is an international best seller and is the most global treatment of her philosophy, which tells the story of what happens to the world when the people of ability go on strike against a sort of statist-collectivist world.

[Note: Atlas Shrugged was Rand's fourth book, final fictional novel, and most famous treatise As a young architecture student, I preferred The Fountainhead. However, I read Atlas Shrugged as an adult philosophy student and found it much more compelling.]  

This portrait of Rand was used in a US Postage Stamp

Daily Bell: Can you sum up [Ayn Rand's] philosophy and its antecedents?

Nathaniel Branden: Reason is the highest possible value, given the condition of all truth. Reason is our only means of acquiring knowledge. Reason is the foundation of ethics knowing that individuals require a code of ethics. Individuals have a right to exist and they have a right to protect values, to protect equal liberty. Her philosophy is more complex than we can discuss right now, but I would have to say she was first a champion for the supremacy of reason, then for the argument of code of ethics, on human nature which would respect the human's right to belong to him or her own self. Her thoughts were you must own your own life, and to respect your own needs, and not to see the self as a servant of society or the state or the globe or planet.

Portrait of Branden

Daily Bell: What is the most important of [Ayn Rand's] ideas in your opinion?

Nathaniel Brandon: That human beings have a right to exist. They have a right to freedom. [People] do not belong to the government. These are all very liberating statements and that is the main message from her work. She also raises very important questions that are foundational. She asks, Why do we need ethics?? That is key because you have to come to that conclusion for yourself. Life on all levels is full of challenges, and you are not born with the knowledge of what is best. You need to look at principals and how they relate to all parts of your life because without it you are susceptible to people with very vicious ideas.

[Note: what is the relationship between values, morals, beliefs, laws, ethics, and behavior?]

Daily Bell: Explain why rational self-interest vs altruism is so important.

Nathaniel Branden: You have to understand what altruism is and needs. The term was coined in the 19th century by Auguste Comte, and it means "others above self." Altruism is to sacrifice and means insubordination of the individuals for the group, it meant it was morality superior in virtue of the fact that their primary goal was to service the state or the monarchy or the union or god knows what.

You will find it with Stalin, you will find it in any number of dictators and if you want power over people, it's a very useful concept to have. A lot of intellectuals who live in the world are surprisingly on the side of the "others" in this negative sense. I think they had this sneaking idea that it would work because they would be on the side of the good guys. It's the opposite of egoism.

You feel a moral obligation to live for the sake of others. Rational self-interest holds reason, purpose and self-esteem as supreme. You have a responsibility to yourself first to survive. To remain alive you must act and before you can act you must know the nature, and purpose of your actions. If you are living for others and not putting yourself first, that is altruism. Ayn did not use negative connotations, which are usually used for selfishness or self-interest.


And now, for those of you so inclined, the discussion: Branden tells us Rand valued rational-self interest as a guiding principle for a secular ethical code. She points out that there are people in the world with vicious ideas, and therefore one must examine the nature and purpose of one's own actions as well as those of other people, in order to survive and thrive. 

Question 1. The art of constructive criticism is nearly a lost art. People no longer offer or accept constructive criticism. We feel it is not our place or our right to critique others, and we are easily offended when someone else tries to critique us. Describe the future of a society in which everything is acceptable and nothing is incorrect or forbidden. 

Question 2. How can anyone (take Paul Ryan, for a famous example) claim to be both a Christian and an Objectivist? Are not the principles of love for others and love for self in direct opposition? To what degree are Christianity and Objectivism aligned? Or are they in fact mutually exclusive? Suppose a person living in community recognizes a Creator. It's rational for the Creator to appear on the top of any hierarchy. But who comes next, the individual, or the other people? 

Thank you for reading and thinking. If you care to engage, please use the comments section or email me to share your answers.

* The Daily Bell is a leading free-market publication and thought leader documenting the rapidly changing political and economic landscape during what they call the Internet Reformation. They regularly scrutinize dominant social themes – fear-based memes purveyed by the power elite intended to frighten people into giving up power and wealth to globalist facilities. More: