Thursday, April 20, 2017

Marking Time

As I leave Reed Group to start a new adventure, I find myself wondering: how do you measure 7 ½ years of work and life together?

I could measure it in accomplishments, I suppose:
  • We built 4 SaaS products and showed the absence management market how technology could be a differentiator.
  • We grew a software business from the ground up that now serves 1500 employers, 10 MM employees, and counting. In the process, we went from the chaos of a first release by “those IT guys” to a professional technology organization with over 300 people worldwide.
  • We grew a small family business from 225 people to the 2000-employee-strong international company that it is today
That all looks great on a resume (or a LinkedIn profile), but it’s unsatisfying to me. Here’s how I really want to measure my time since 2009: in the moments and personal milestone we shared.
There are the hundreds of people who joined our technology team over the years, and while some left (hey, it’s a hot market), I’m proudest of those “boomerangs” who came back after seeing that we had something special at Reed Group that they couldn’t find elsewhere. There are the 70 peer-nominated “Reed Group Excellence Awards” (the Groupies) that allowed people to recognize the efforts of those around them. And when we needed to encourage a “quality first” mindset, there were the stuffed “Seals of Quality” that our CTO chucked at recipients during the all-hands meetings.

One of the things I find interesting about working in technology is how people handle the stress, because no matter how well you plan or how smart you are, sometimes the complexity (or the client’s schedule) wins. In the late nights and long weekends of “crunch time” or “release night,” the facade cracks and you see the true person underneath, and then you get to deal with them. In those times, I’ve been proud to see the humor, compassion, and determination to do what’s right come out in my teams. I’ve enjoyed the zany humor of release night videos and pranks, one of which led to me coming in on Monday morning to find my pictures of my face plastered all over the office. That was a weird day.

Of course, not everyone handles stress so well. I’ve gotten to broker disputes, ghost-write apologies, and explain strange habits that made people nervous. I’ve also had the privilege of handing many people a tissue when the pressure was too much and they just needed a private place to cry for a few minutes. At last count, that number was 53 in 7 years, but I only made 5 of them cry and only one was a client. For the record, I apologized to each of them and made sure that the relationship survived the moment of frustration.

I’m proud to say that we created an environment where we passionately pursued the best solution to every problem. Sometimes, that passion looked like arguing, but I was always able to explain to new people that “we aren’t fighting: we’re designing.” In our whiteboard sessions, every voice carried the same weight, and the solution mattered more than the titles. Humility is critical in those circumstances, and a willingness to recognize the right answer no matter where it comes from. I think that we did that well.

We also remembered that laughter and celebration are an essential part of life together. We had 33 happy hours and release parties, and probably could have used a few more. I’m not sure why people kept running me into the guardrails during the go-cart races, but they seemed to be happy, so I’ll let it go.

And speaking of making people happy: the count for “quarterly all-hands meetings delivered through interpretive dances” stands at one, but I say that putting on those pink leg warmers was worth it for the laughter and smiles at the end of a rough quarter, and I’d do it again.

While we work, life keeps happening around us. I got to celebrate the births of 9 children and grandchildren and mourn the death of one. We went through sickness, divorce, and major life changes together. We mourned with our community after the Aurora movie theater shootings, and we joined together to “Take Back the Movies” by buying and giving away thousands of movie tickets to try to bring joy back. We held the great “Toys for Tots Happy Hour” and filled an SUV with toys when we heard that they didn’t have enough to go around. And when I asked my colleagues to help me “turn on the light” in 2016, they responded with acts of kindness both large and small.

I’m grateful to everyone at Reed Group for going on this journey with me, for giving me your trust when I deserved it and for challenging me when I didn’t. Don’t be strangers, and don’t be afraid to be a little strange when the moment requires it. Nothing passes the time like a little bit of laughter.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cleanup in aisle 2016!

For my birthday yesterday, my son shattered a glass jug of chocolate milk, spraying the sticky, spiky, dangerous mess all over our garage.  As I spent the next hour helping him clean it up, I was struck by how appropriately this moment summed up the whole year.  It feels like 2016 has been the Superfund site of calendar years, with one toxic mess following another across the national stage as well as my family's life.  But when you start your year like this...

Ski crash 2-for-1: torn ligaments in BOTH knees!

... the best that you can hope for is that things will get better from there.  In many ways, they didn't. Yes, we went to Hawaii for Spring Break thanks to the generosity of my parents-in-law, but we also got to find out just how Hawaiian expensive emergency rooms are (answer: very!) when my daughter fell on the peak of Mt. Haleakala.  2016 was the year of expensive medical treatments, with my ACL repair, my daughter's tropical ER visit, and my wife's back surgery.  Even the dog got in on the fun, tearing ligaments in her left knee in the most bizarre version of animal copycatting since Bonzo went to college.

Work was hard this year as my company struggled to absorb an acquisition three times our size and bring together disparate technologies, build new office locations, and blend different cultures.  I handed off part of my team to a new manager and took over a sizable group that's scattered across the globe.  Interesting opportunity?  Yes.  Awesome new source of stress?  Hoo boy.

At the national an international level, we had cop shootings, civil rights violations, terrorist attacks, and celebrity deaths that swept away a good portion of my generations childhood icons.  And in the "adding extreme insult to multiple injuries" category, we somehow managed to elect Donald Trump, the Clown Prince of the GOP, as our president for the next four years (or until he does something so monumentally stupid and illegal that Congress has no choice but to impeach him, whichever comes first).

"Worst.  Year.  Ever?"

Looking at all of this it's easy to jump on the "worst year ever" bandwagon, and I have to admit that when John Oliver blew up a giant 2016 on his show I was right there with him.  It's been a hard year.

But the worst year EVER?  Worse than the Dark Ages, when bubonic plague killed one third of Europe's population?  Worse than the Civil War years, when our nation was literally divided (and I intend that word in its proper usage, as opposed to "that class was so boring I literally blew my brains out") and Americans killed 620,000 of their brothers?  How about 1968, with the Vietnam war, civil rights protests that often turned violent, and the public assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy?  Can 2016 top that?

If we're honest, we have to admit that when most people say, "Worst year ever," what they really mean is "worst year that I can remember, and which therefore exists in my egocentric universe."  And the younger you are, the shorter a time horizon that represents.  In other words, if 2016 is the worst year ever, it might be because your sample size isn't statistically significant.

"You provide the meme, I'll provide the perspective."

This is what we call "perspective," which is that old people call it when they're about to tell you how tough things were in their day.  And while 2016 sucked in many ways, it pales in comparison when you look beyond the last 40 years.  This perspective is important when we feel like we're living in terrible times or when we start to draw fearful conclusions about the trends that we choose to focus on.  Income disparity is going up!  Hate crimes are on the rise!  Poverty is at record levels!  While there's some truth in each of these statements, before you react to them you have to ask, "compared to what?" and "what does that statement mean in practical (vs. emotional) terms?"  It's easy to draw a bunch of graphs that go up or down, but until you can explain their scale they're, at best, meaningless, and, at worst, deceptive.

So let's put away the superlatives.  I'll do it if you will, and together let's try to figure out what we can learn from this year.  Because while we said goodbye to celebrities who felt like family, most of us got to keep our real family for another year.  While we saw brutal civil rights violations on the news, we also saw another year of record lows in crimes.  While we elected a narcissistic man-child to be President of the United States... well, we'll have to see how that one plays out.

And while my family dealt with surgeries, injuries, and expenses, we also got to see our first child graduate high school and start college.  We visited Boston and New York and got a second honeymoon at DisneyWorld.  I got to see my son catch his first touchdown pass in a varsity game, which was also a first for all Cole men ever (we're known more for our size than our hands).

And while much of our country alternated between mourning and ranting about the new President-elect, I was blessed to see examples of people rising up from coast to coast to join me in showing kindness to strangers.  I was moved to tears many times as friends, coworkers, and strangers shared their stories of how they transformed fear and worry into generosity and joy by stepping out of their routines and providing for people who needed a little help that day.

2017: The Year of Rehab

I spent a lot of time in physical therapy this year, and I've learned to appreciate the saying, "When you've hit bottom, there's nowhere to go but up."  When you can barely move your knee, each degree of flexion is a victory, each shuffling step a triumph.  I learned through that process to appreciate every movement that I'd previously taken for granted, and when I took my first ski run this season I was filled with gratitude that I never would have felt had I not gone through the work to get back there.

I learned something else this year: like any explosive substance, anger is a powerful tool when properly channeled, but destructive as hell when it isn't.  Getting hurt pissed me off, and after I got through the first wave of anger at my own clumsiness, at the person who ran into me for not watching the hill more carefully, and at God for letting it happen, I put that anger to work.  I attacked my injury from the day of my surgery onward, pushing my body to get back to its full capability again and taking the pain as my wages for hard work.  I was careful -- because re-injuring my knee would have really pissed me off -- but I was persistent, and that persistence paid off.  I still growl at my knee now and then, especially when it starts to twinge after a hard workout or halfway down a mogul run, and I still use that anger to make things better.  I did the same thing after the election, and invited others to learn from my experiences and channel their anger toward productive actions.  I'm pretty sure we aren't done being angered by things, so we should have plenty of energy to use in the year to come.

Many of us hit bottom in 2016, one way or another,  and even if it wasn't the worst year the world has seen, it still hurt.  But 2017 is a new start, and we've nowhere to go but up.  So here's what I'm going to do this year, and I hope that you'll join me:

I'm going to appreciate the things that I have, including my family, my job, and the works of film, music, and writing from the artists that inspire me, whether living or dead.  I'm going to make time in my week to be thankful for the good things before I start dwelling on the bad.
I'm going to build on the things that worked in 2016, and keep going out of my way to bless friends and strangers alike with the gifts God has given me.
I'm going to channel my frustration and anger into positive action, whether that's by writing, teaching, or buying coffee for a bunch of strangers.  When someone's specific actions frustrate me or the news makes me want to kick a puppy, I'm going to ask myself, "What can I learn from this, and what can I do to counteract that negativity with something positive?"  Then I'll go and do it.

And above all, I'm going to make sure that 2017 is better than 2016 for myself, my family, and those around me.  Because when you've hit bottom, there's nowhere to go but up.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Holiday Lights Project

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

On September 11, 2011, I was sad: haunted by memories of the events of ten years ago, grieving for my country's lost innocence.  I felt like I needed to do something to remember the friends, colleagues, and classmates who died that day, to brighten a world that seemed to darken every time this date rolled around on the calendar.  I needed to find a way to fight that darkness.

So I walked into a nearby IHOP and I asked for the manager.  When she walked up, wondering what anyone could possibly be angry enough about to actually come back in to complain about, I said, "I'd like to buy everyone's breakfast.  Could I do that?"

She was shocked.  "Everyone?"  She gestured at the restaurant full of Sunday brunchers. "Everyone in here?"

"Yes," I said.  "Can you help me do that?"

"Um, sure!"  Then began a chaotic process of printing bills, adding them up, and explaining to waitresses why their customers' balances were disappearing from the system.  Eventually, we gathered up everyone's breakfast bills and I paid it, adding a healthy tip for the by now completely confused wait staff.

As I handed the signed credit card slip back to the manager, she asked, "Why?"

Holding back tears, I said, "Because someone needs to spread some joy today."

Then I left.

It's been a little over a week since what I've come to call "The Tuesday Surprise."  Our country is reeling once again, but this time the damage is self-inflicted.  The 2016 election has polarized America more than any other election, the ugly culmination of over 20 years of progressively escalating bad behavior on the part of our elected leaders.  People are confused, angry, and, in many cases, genuinely frightened about what the next four years hold for them and their loved ones.  And these feelings aren't limited to the "losing side" in this election.  A majority of Donald Trump's supporters cite "anger at the establishment" as one of their primary motivations in voting for him, and many moderate voters who chose him as the lesser of two evils now find themselves painted as bigots, racists, and misogynists because of the broader platform they received as a package deal with their chosen candidate.

Right now, we are a nation divided.  Fear, anger, current events, the news, social media, all of these forces are pushing us away from our fellow citizens, driving us into ideological armed camps populated only by people who agree exactly with everything we've decided is true.  When we look at each other, we see stereotypes instead of people, labels instead of personalities.  We've forgotten how to be civil.  In fact, civility and an openness to discourse are starting to be seen as a sign of weakness, as witnessed by the backlash against people seeking a middle ground between the factions in this post-election climate.

The darkness is spreading and we're running around turning out all the lights.

I think it's time we changed that, and I'm starting with the only thing over which I have any real control: myself (and, with my wife's permission, my family).  We've grieved, we've reassessed, and now we're heading back into the fight, but probably not how you think.

We're going to fight hate with love, darkness with light, random acts of violence with random acts of kindness.  And I'm inviting you to join us.

For the next six weeks, now through the end of the year, my family and I are going on a Blessing Tour.  We're going to buy coffee for strangers, send gifts to distant acquaintances, and pay for people's groceries.  We're going to raid the Community Giving Tree and buy ALL THE PRESENTS FOR ALL THE POOR FAMILIES!  We're going to open our eyes, look beyond our own worries, and see the need around us.  Not just the obvious needs, like homeless people on the streets, but the hidden needs, like the mom quietly worrying about her gay daughter while she goes shopping, or the coworker at the office dreading the holidays because it's his first year alone.  We're going to turn on all the lights and send the darkness fleeing wherever we go.

We can't do this all by ourselves, so I'm inviting everyone in America to join in.  Yes, even you.  Will you look away from the news and Facebook and Twitter, step away from your outrage and fear over what "the other side" -- whoever that may be -- are doing and just try to make life better for the real people sitting right next to you?  Will you turn on one light and make the world just a little bit brighter?  And if that feels good, maybe another, then another, and maybe even another after that?

It's easy to start:

Do something small for a stranger.  Anonymously.

Why a stranger?  Two reasons:
  1. It's a complete surprise.  If you ask for your check and the waitress says, "Someone already took care of it," then you get a moment of pure joy and gratitude, two things that we all need right now.
  2. There's no way for them to pay you back, so there's no strings attached.  It's kindness for kindness' sake.
Why anonymously?  Because it's not about you.  It's about letting someone else experience a moment of feeling loved and cared for, even in a small way.  Bonus: no awkward conversations with strangers!

Things you can do:
  • Buy dinner for someone who's eating alone at the same restaurant.  Just ask the waitress to quietly add their meal to your bill, then skedaddle.
  • Pay for the car behind you at a drive-through, then take off before they can get your license plate.
  • Pay for the groceries for that old lady at the store who always takes ten minutes to find exact change.  This is harder to do anonymously, but it does have the added benefit of getting you though the checkout line more quickly.

Go wide.  If you can, go big.

You don't have to learn the life stories of everyone around you before you can help them.  If you cast a wide net by doing a bunch of small things, then you increase your odds of giving someone that, "This is exactly what I needed!" moment that can change a life.  If, like me, you don't really enjoy talking to lots of people, this is the perfect approach.  If, also like me, you might also get teary when trying to explain why you're doing something like this, then this is also the best way to avoid making a scene at Starbucks.

I find that the best way to do this is to find some small luxury, like a cup of coffee, a treat, or a movie ticket, that offers a real jolt of pleasure when someone is surprised to learn that it's free.  This gives you more bang for your blessing buck.  If you have the skill to knit scarves for everyone in your neighborhood, then you can do that, too.  I just can't knit.

There's also something special about giving extravagantly.  Anyone can drop a few cans into the food drive bin, but when someone shows up and fills that bin, then stacks more food beside it, that act helps more people and touches the hearts of the people working the food drive.  Again, you're getting more positive impact for the same amount of energy, and I'm all about efficiency.

Things you can do:
  • Buy a gift card at your favorite coffee shop, then hand it to the person taking orders and ask them to use it to buy everyone else's drinks until it runs out.
  • Tell the bartender at your favorite brewpub that the next round is on you, but don't let them tell anyone who's paying.
  • Rake your neighbors’ leaves this weekend before they can get to it, or shovel their driveway when it snows.
  • Grab a bunch of small gift requests for poor families at your local community center, Salvation Army, or church and go shopping.
  • Hit Costco and show up at your local food bank with a carload of food.  Involve another family and make it two carloads at the same time.

Or, go deep.

Extroverts who are into probing conversations, this one's for you.  Instead of scattering your seeds all over the field, look for the needs right around you: the coworker who's gone quiet, the neighbor who says she's worried, the new guy who doesn't know anyone.  Find people who have nowhere to go for Thanksgiving and add them to your chaotic mess of a family dinner.  Ask someone how they're really doing and wait for the answer.  Look beyond your worries and give someone the chance to share theirs.  You may be exactly what they need to avoid a downward spiral between now and New Year's.

Things you can do:
  • Seek out “holiday orphans” and invite them to join in your celebrations.
  • Look for people around you who are "faking it" and invite them for coffee or a meal so they can talk.
  • Find the perfect gift for that friend who doesn't seem to have anything going right in their lives right now.
  • Volunteer at a counseling center or in some other role where you think you can help.

Just do something.

My point here is simple: it's time for all of us to stop fretting and start acting.  We'll have plenty of time to fight more battles once we know which battles actually need fighting.  In the meantime, people all around us are hurting, angry, and frightened, and they need someone to show that love still exists in the world.  We need to remind ourselves that we still have the power to do good, to affect the world around us in ways that our elected officials can't.  We need to move, to take action, to do something that doesn't just fuel our fight-or-flight instincts.

Whether you're happy about the election or not, whether you're funding your ACLU war chest or waiting for Trump to fix Washington, you're still surrounded by people who need your help.  When the time comes, we can and will hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the people they're supposed to serve.  In the meantime, we need to come together as good-hearted people and take care of each other.  We need to see and show that good still exists in the United States of America.

Go out and show some kindness today, and then post a comment below or on your favorite social media platform using the hashtag #turnonthelight. Describe what you did or share a picture. If you think this is a good idea, share this post with your friends and dare them to outdo you with their good works. Let’s see if we can get something positive trending.

It's time to turn on the light.  Will you join me?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Trump won. Now what?

President Tr--.  Nope, I still can't make myself say it.  Maybe in a year or two.  Or four.

Like 48% of American voters, I'm... let's go with "disappointed" by yesterday's election results.  This wasn't how I expected it to play out.  I thought that we had better taste in leaders, I really did.  But, there it is.  The votes are in and our candidate lost.  I was upset, I didn't sleep well, and I was a little distracted at work today, but the sun still came up and the second Civil War didn't start overnight.

From the angry and overwrought messages in my social media feeds, I'd say that quite a few other people are upset, too.  Since I've carefully curated my feeds to eliminate views that I find obnoxious, rude, or crass, I can safely say that 99.9% of people like me -- I kept one conservative friend from college to prove that I'm open-minded -- are pretty pissed and scared right now.

I already asked everyone to take a deep breath last night and take a break from the hysteria, but what do we do now?

Like my middle-school health teacher taught me to do in any emergency, let's start by taking stock of the situation:

First, this isn't the Apocalypse. I checked the book of Revelations, and while it does describe the coming of a horny monster, this isn't the monster you're looking for.  We'll have to wait about 3 1/2 years to be sure, but I'm pretty confident that Donald Trump's election isn't one of the Seven Signs.  Besides, when the Antichrist comes, my sources tell me that he'll run as an independent.

If you watch TV or open Twitter or Facebook, it's easy to believe that the United States is about to be overrun by toothless Neo-Nazis waving Confederate flags and wearing "Make America Great Again" hats.  It isn't.  Forget what the news is telling you: they profit from drama.  "Election Apocalypse" brings in more viewers than, "Huh, the other guy won."  Forget the cartoonish Trump supporters you met on The Daily Show, Full Frontal, or Last Week Tonight.  While they are real people, they still live on the fringes of society and don't accurately represent the 47% of America that voted for Trump yesterday.  Normal, sane people don't make for good comedy, so they ended up on the cutting room floor.

America is stronger than one bad President (see also: Andrew Johnson, William Henry Harrison, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush).  It's a country specifically designed to contain the whims of its leaders, with a series of checks and balances specifically designed to render a tyrant impotent (and if there's anything that should give you a cheap giggle today, it's the thought of anyone calling Donald Trump impotent).  America isn't dead.  It isn't even on life support.  It's working exactly the way it's supposed to work, every year in November.  We just lost this round.

Second, America is not divided into armed camps.  While the colors on the electoral map are a binary red or blue, Americans inhabit a wide continuum of ideas, beliefs, and needs.  Why, in New York City alone you can come across an ultra-rich, fascist-leaning banker, an immigrant street fair, and a Gay Pride parade on the same day.  We are a rich tapestry, and when you get past the voting labels, most of us live right in the mushy middle of political and social beliefs, somewhere between the pot-smoking socialists and the Alt-Right Nazi trolls.  Where we fall on a given day has a lot more to do with our personal experience, family situation, and how much sleep we got last night than it does with a hard-line political agenda.

Twitter and Facebook are not America.  This may be hard to remember right now, but humans are far more complicated than 140-character shouted slogans or snarky comments.  As a white, Christian male from the West Coast who married into a Jewish family and raised two children in New England and Colorado, I can't possibly express the complexity of my feelings on gay marriage to you through a tweet, not even if I made it a series of five and used emoji.  Neither can you, on any topic, and neither can anyone else.  Social media is great for generating sound bites and sharing cat-based memes, but it's a terrible forum for complex discussion.  It boils all of us down to simple caricatures and it enforces a binary worldview.  Don't mistake it for reality.

Despite what your fears are telling you today, Trump's election isn't a validation of racism, xenophobia and misogyny.  It isn't a sign that 47% of the people you pass on the street are closet Nazis.  It's a sign that, when given the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, more people chose him.  That's it.  Your monster is someone else's lesser of two evils.

Finally, like it or not, he won.  I don't know how he did it, or how he caught everyone by surprise.  Some guy in an orange wig kept saying it was rigged.  However it happened, when all the votes were counted, we ended up with a real-estate mogul/reality TV star for a President.  You can kick and scream, you can #notmypresident until your hands cramp, you can threaten to move to Canada.  The reality is that, from January 2017 until January 2021 (or until he follows his baser urges one too many times and gets himself impeached, whichever comes first), legally speaking, he's our President.  So what are you going to do about it?

“Happiness at the misfortune of others? That is German!”

You can choose to sit on the sidelines, smugly waiting for Trump to fall on his face and embarrass himself in front of the world.  Indulging in that kind of schadenfreude ("Happiness at the misfortune of others? That is German!") might make you feel better in a stomach-twisting way, but it's missing the point.  When Trump fails, we all fail.  When he looks stupid on the international stage, the United States looks stupid.  You can say, "Don't blame me, I voted for the one in the pantsuit!" but how does that make you any better than the poor losers who complained about President Obama for eight years?  It just makes you a progressive poor loser.

Let's put that energy to better use.  Instead of spending the next four years putting orange wigs on Grumpy Cat, let's start making America a better place, regardless of whose face we put on the front of the package.  But how?

Step 1: Stop typing and start talking

You can have the rest of the week to keep commiserating with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but after that you need to step away from the screen and start talking to some real people.  And like it or not, some of them are going to have to hold different opinions than you do.  Here's your assignment: go out and find 5 people with varying viewpoints and have a conversation.  Ask who they voted for.  Don't roll your eyes and leave if they say, "Trump."  In fact, as part of this assignment, you must find at least one Trump voter and ask them "Why?"  And not a whiny, self-righteous, breast-beating "Whyyyyyyy?" that really means, "How could you?"  I mean a curious, open "Why?" that says, "Help me understand."  Because you need to understand why someone is different from you and what motivates them.  You also need to see that, beyond the superficial differences, you have more in common with them than you realize.

Now, if you come across a Green party voter you can whine at them all you want.  Those people are just idiots.

I kid.

Step 2: Now, listen

If you thought Step 1 was hard, you're going to love Step 2.  Now that you've started the conversation, shut up and listen.  No, really: Shut.  Up.  Don't prepare a response, don't start mentally gathering statistics that prove that whatever the other person is saying is the most asinine idea since Tesla first licked a Van de Graaff generator.  Don't judge at all.  Just listen and try to understand.  Seek common ground. Ask yourself, "If I were in this person's situation would I think or act any differently?"  This isn't about being right or changing someone else's mind.  This is about understanding what motivates them and recognizing that, while the results might differ, our drives are almost always the same.

Wait until they're done and they ask you what you think.  Now it's your turn to talk.  Be open.  Lower your defenses a little and explain what motivates you, what led you to think the way you do today.  Talk about your grandfather who fought in the war, or the other one who refused to because he believed that all life was too precious to waste.  Explain what drives you and what "making the world a better place" means to you.

Be human together.

If you try this, there's a small chance that you might stumble across someone in that small percentage of the population whose beliefs are absolutely abhorrent to you and any rational person.  It's OK to move on.  You don't have to try to understand everyone.

Step 3: Stop worrying about what's out of your control and start owning what is

Donald Trump may turn out to be the worst President in history.  He might repeal the Constitution, start a nuclear war, and declare that immigrants are now a legal food source for rich people.  More likely, he'll turn out to be an old guy with a huge ego who got in way over his head and was kept out of trouble by the career politicians surrounding him.  No matter what happens, though, it's out of our control.  We don't work in the White House and our Twitter rants aren't fixing anything.  Worrying about it, obsessing over worst case scenarios, and feeling sick and angry also aren't doing anything but hurting your health.  In the immortal words of Adele Dazeem: Let it go.

You can't control Donald Trump.  I'm not even sure Donald Trump can always control Donald Trump.  You can't go back in time and change the results of the election.  You can only look ahead, look around, and see what needs to be done right around you.

You're concerned about women's rights?  How many women in your town are living below the poverty line? Buy them some groceries or offer your skills to help them find a better job.  

You're concerned about racism?  How many families near you have members of a different race?  Invite them for dinner, cheer alongside them while your kids play sports together, or ask if they want to grab a beer.

You're concerned about social justice and poverty?  Well, the holidays are here and I guarantee that a lot of kids aren't expecting any gifts this year.  Go grab all of the gift requests off of the local community giving tree and go on a shopping spree for someone else's family this year.  Bring your kids and say, "This is how we share with people who have less than we do."  Volunteer at a food bank, your church, or a homeless shelter.  Don't have time?  Give money so that someone else who has time can do the work.  You still get partial credit.

You think people are ignorant?  Educate them.  Think they're afraid of the wrong things?  Show them love so they don't have to be afraid.  Think they were fooled by a charlatan?  Show them how a real man behaves, win or lose. 

If you're afraid of the dark, don't yell at the night.  Turn on the light.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Let’s take a break

OK, Blue America, time for a hysteria break.

This isn’t the end of the US or the beginning of the Apocalypse. We won’t repeal all 27 amendments to the Constitution tomorrow. We still live in a diverse country of immigrants with more institutional freedoms than most of the rest of the world enjoys. We can still dissent without fear of arrest and work through our differences compassionately and reasonably.

The people who crawled out of the darkness to celebrate the worst aspects of human nature haven’t taken over, nor are they suddenly multiplied a thousandfold. They were always there; they always have been there, lurking in the dark corners of humanity since Cain killed Abel in a fit of jealous rage. They have crept out into the light again because they think that this is their time, but it isn’t. They haven’t been given the keys to the country, they have just been given a slightly louder voice by a man who seized an opportunity to win by whatever means necessary. When this election is over, the voices of hate can be, once again, drowned out by the voices of love, of reason, of compassion.

Love beats hate.

Every time.

Without fail.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we didn’t know that before this election took place, either. All we can do is face our lives one day at a time and do what is within our power to lift up the people around us, regardless of their race, nationality, or political affiliation. The showman will dance around on the stage, but we don’t have to pay attention to him. This is one election in a long series, stretching back into the past and far into the future. Our country will survive. We will survive, and we can continue to make our world a better place, together.

Breathe. Pray. Go on. This too shall pass.