Commentary

Lance Armstrong has a Podcast?

I subscribe (I have no idea why) to a guy who occasionally posts some interesting things otherwise out of my orbit (oh, that’s why) and one of those things today was a link to Lance Armstrong’s podcast. Did you know he had a podcast? Did you know he still existed? Me neither.

I haven’t listened to a second of it yet and there’s a strong chance I won’t. Ok, I’ll likely listen to a bit of it because the person who sent me there says Armstrong “doesn’t give a shit.” Swoon. If you know me you know I love when people don’t give a shit. I want the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house to see what happens when they stop being polite and start acting like the bag of cat anuses they really are. In this instance, just the one anus will do; LA’s anus. That sounded different then I meant it.

Then I came across this as the top review on iTunes.

lancearmstrong

Whoa. Hold the phone. Betrayed? Fraud? Cheated? Those are some sharp knives to be throwing at Armstrong and I think only one or two of them may be accurately placed. I think we should avoid “betrayed” as when has a celebrity ever been loyal to you? That’s your problem right there. You don’t have a relationship with these people. Move on.

But then I thought about it for a second and I realized why I was prone to jump to Lance’s defense. Not only did the man beat Stage 3 Cancer, but then when he was done with that he did the work necessary to win the most physically demanding competition on earth, not once, not twice, but seven god damned times. In a row. In (*clap) A (*clap) God (*clap) Damned (*clap) Row.*

armstrongcancer

If I got this news I would have rolled myself into a ball and died silently while sipping scotch between sobs. Sure, drugs are bad, mkay. But let’s not pretend this is a Popeye cartoon where Lance squeezed open a can of spinach and bench pressed a battleship. Lance had to train like the Taking of Pelham One Two Three in order to tea bag the rest of humanity with his one remaining – look, you know what I’m saying. The man was literally Superman – drugs or no drugs.

He gets credit for doing the impossible. And I truly mean impossible. Some 4,000 people have summited Everest. Not 1,000, not 3,000, but 4,000. Shout out to my boy Tenzing Norgay. Know how many have won seven Tour De France? Just one. And as a Stage 3 cancer survivor no less. This is an appropriate place to bow down. Give that man his propers.

For real though, I never owned a LiveStrong bracelet. Partly because I don’t like fads. But also because I don’t like fads. I understand that the person that wrote the review was likely heartbroken over the discovery (*insert photo of Taylor Swift’s shocked face here) that professional athletes engage in performance-enhancing drugs to stay on top. Emphasis on “enhancing,” please and thank you.

shockedface

Maybe the person is bitter because they know in their heart of hearts that Armstrong has achieved more in a decade then they (and their children, and their children’s children) will ever accomplish in three lifetimes. That’s fair. But let’s not conveniently forget that despite the doping (which it’s widely been said everyone else was doing at the same time, so, even playing field?) this guy still dunked on all of our existences in the most complete way. That’s worthy of esteem.

Avant-Garde, modern-day philosopher-king, Malcolm Gladwell wrote this in regards the silliness of doping scandals. The main focus wasn’t even on drugs but on manipulating one’s own body by getting deep into the weeds of how to push the human machine to its absolute limit of performance. Removing your blood and putting it back into yourself before a race doesn’t seem immoral, does it? It’s your blood. It’s just a fascinating read and I urge you to follow the link and get your mind blown. Here’s a taste:

“Lance and Ferrari showed me there were more variables than I’d ever imagined, and they all mattered: wattages, cadence, intervals, zones, joules, lactic acid, and, of course, hematocrit,” Hamilton writes. “Each ride was a math problem: a precisely mapped set of numbers for us to hit. . . . It’s one thing to go ride for six hours. It’s another to ride for six hours following a program of wattages and cadences, especially when those wattages and cadences are set to push you to the ragged edge of your abilities.”

Hematocrit, the last of those variables, was the number they cared about most. It refers to the percentage of the body’s blood that is made up of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The higher the hematocrit, the more endurance you have. (Mäntyranta had a very high hematocrit.) The paradox of endurance sports is that an athlete can never work as hard as he wants, because if he pushes himself too far his hematocrit will fall. Hamilton had a natural hematocrit of forty-two per cent—which is on the low end of normal. By the third week of the Tour de France, he would be at thirty-six per cent, which meant a six-per-cent decrease in his power—in the force he could apply to his pedals. In a sport where power differentials of a tenth of a per cent can be decisive, this “qualifies as a deal breaker.”

Bottom line, don’t hate on the GOAT because he broke some rules in pursuit of greatness. Just because you suddenly found yourself unable to wear your growing menagerie of LiveStrong bracelets doesn’t mean you should hate on the guy who inspired you to buy them in the first place.

*I really like clapping.

Do 97% of climate scientists believe in climate change?

I’ve just read my dozenth or so column where the author lambasted his poor readers for not “believing in climate change.” My thoughts on the subject have been difficult to put into 140 characters due to the branching nature of the questions and conclusions, so I decided to make a flowchart outlining my thoughts on how most of us may experience the conversation of climate change and what ought to be done about it.

Do 97% of climate scientists believe “yes” to the final portion of this chart? Of course not, but that’s what your neighbor expects you to believe when they say it over a beer while playing pool. It’s an emotional argument and an appeal to authority. It’s designed to end debate like a MOAB.

The 97% could be saying “yes” to the first question on the chart, or the fourth question on the chart, and that would make total sense, but it’s far from the only question. In additon, the scientific method avoids “belief” in things that aren’t consistently reproducible. Climate models and predictions routinely fail over and over again. Is it that the believed consequences of our collective inaction have caused stoics to turn into zealots?

It’s my belief that absent generalized political associations or dogma that each of us would move through some process like this to determine our course of action. At each diamond shaped question, I believe some percentage of people choose “no” and thus become what many will call “climate deniers.” I think the same people that would bandy about a pejorative will inevitably be the same people who get all the way to the very end deciding that any action at any cost is preferable.

I’m fine with people concluding that, by the way. I have quite liberal friends and I can appreciate their sense of dread at what they believe to be our inevitable destruction at our own hands. For myself, I’m more doubtful. If this were a trial, and I had to condemn a man to death with 100% certainty and I had to move through a chart like this I would never be able to pull the lever. There are too many variables and possibilities vs. the ultimate cost of what many would like us to do: give sweeping powers to governments, both domestic and international and impose regulations, taxes, and fines on all areas of life. In my opinion, it’s simply a bridge too far.

Globalwarming

Conversely, if you find yourself getting to the end and you take any issue with my layout or construction, please don’t hesitate to comment or drop me a line and let me know. I only worked on this for about 30 minutes and I’m certain it’s far from complete or wholly representative of the views of my cohorts that find themselves on the left side of the political aisle.

“Rich people exploit, poor people are exploited”

Howpeoplegetrich

Honestly, I hate this graphic. Not based on its artistic merit, but because of what the repercussions mean for those that buy into the message.

If one agrees with the graphic, one must necessarily agree with the following, more than likely, unconsciously:

  1. Being wealthy is either immoral, or purely the product of luck.
  2. Since wealth is obtained by either of these means, we’re completely justified in expropriating said wealth, and distributing in a way we prefer – either as punishment for immoral wrongdoing, or to adjust for fate.
  3. I wasn’t born to wealthy parents, therefore the only avenue available for me to enrich myself is by immoral means, which I’m not going to do.
  4. My actions are immaterial since I’ll never be wealthy anyway. I am exploited and acted upon by outside forces which deny me my fair share.
  5. People who have achieved, earned, received more, were fortunate, and anyone could be fortunate. Those with more don’t deserve what they have.

These ideas are poisonous. 

In a free market, the forces of supply and demand are well understood, though seldom reflected upon when talking about the labor of people. Perhaps, because we can easily get emotional about a public school teacher making $35k a year, while raising two kids on her own, but it’s harder to feel that way about the price point of a blender.

Nearly half of the millionaires in this country are business owners, and they have risked mightily to start and sustain their businesses, while employing the majority of people in the US. Eighty percent of Americans with a net worth of north of one million dollars are first generation affluent. From The Millionaire Next Door:

“As a group, we are fairly well educated. Only about one in five are not college graduates. Many of us hold advanced degrees. Eighteen percent have master’s degrees, 8 percent law degrees, 6 percent medical degrees, and 6 percent Ph.D.s”

Hard work, doesn’t count for much, because hard work is in abundant supply. You don’t get a cookie for breaking your butt stocking the shelves at CostCo. Working at CostCo is what you get for playing it safe. For failing to procure an education for yourself that has value. For failing to see the world in such a light that you can provide a greater value than the next person. And CostCo pays little, because there are millions of people capable of doing that job with no training.

It’s also the same reason Lebron James NBA salary this year tops $30 million. There’s only one of him, and there’s more than 4 million people in retail, earning an average of $25k per year.

That sucks. I’m sorry. I know. I worked a ton of odd jobs in early adulthood, and a ton of manual labor. I get it. But believing the lie in the graphic above isn’t going to help you. It’s not going to add a dollar to your pocket, but it will keep more dollars from finding you.

Every moment you tell yourself one of the things listed above, is a moment you’re not telling yourself that you can have whatever you want, as long as you want it bad enough. Losers play the wall. They shy from engaging in actions that can meaningfully improve their financial situation. Playing it safe, and making $40k a year is fine, as long as that’s what you want. But if you want more?

Scarcity value, is where the real money’s at. If you have, and develop, a set of skills that will make your work more valuable, because your work is more rare, congrats – you’re going to be wealthy.  If you think a college degree alone is the ticket, you’re in for a real jolt.

Becoming a: welding apprentice, plumber, window setter, or contractor, are all easy (ha!) ways to become a millionaire in a few decades. But as the Wizard of Menlo Park said:

Opportunity.jpg

Eric Thomas does a great job of communicating a better mindset in this video from 2012. He makes the point in the first minute of this video, so don’t be scared away by the running time. You’re going to love it.

“Some of you want sleep more than you want success.” And that’s the truth. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t be hypocritical about it.

I could stand to lose 25-30 pounds. Having a shorter, endomorphic body type, of hearty German and Irish ancestry, with a deep rooted love of potatoes and pizza, keeping weight off for me is a real chore. Meanwhile, my friend can eat  whatever he likes and can’t gain a pound.

That monster. I should shove his thin-privilege in his face like so much delicious hickory smoked bacon… mmmmm, bacon….but I digress.

I could bitch and moan about how it’s not fair that he doesn’t have to work hard to be thin. I could dwell on how I wish the government would take away choices from me, so there was a greater chance I wouldn’t purchase sugary drinks. I can put my place in the world on everyone and everything else, but that doesn’t drop a single pound off this frame. That doesn’t change my situation in any way.

Likewise, people preaching “Rich people are lucky or immoral” are the leper’s bell. They’re not focused on success, they’re making excuses for their failure, before they’ve even failed. All the while, it takes the typical millionaire 32 years to get there.

If you don’t want to be a millionaire, fine. But stop lying to yourself about why you are where you are, and why the guy who’s taking four cruises a year is where he is. You could get there, in your own fashion, but it’s easier to upvote the distraction – the gewgaw that tells you you’re a good person, and those with more are bad or merely just lucky.

Try instead, to tell yourself these five things:

  1. I can likely have whatever I want, as long as I’m willing to be proactive in my pursuit of it.
  2. I understand success, of the uncommon variety, requires substantial risk, sacrifice, and deferred gratification.
  3. My future success means more to me than my immediate comfort and hobbies.
  4. I can set myself apart, and increase my earning power by learning new skills, and marketing myself.
  5. My path is my path, and focusing on those more or less successful has no impact on my path, it only distracts.

Or, agree with the graphic at the top. Let the siren song of abandoned responsibility wash over you and take you lovingly into the rocks of being poor and bitter.

Ultimately, it doesn’t alter my path. I offer this merely as a warning to those that I care about that could be lulled into the rocks of a terrible outlook on life – one that sacrifices their initiative at an altar of blame.

“I Intend To”

Bureaucracy is a bitch.

What few people realize is that as an upper level exec, in a lot of too many organizations, there’s virtually no natural incentive to approve… well, anything. If you don’t approve requests or initiatives, what can go wrong? You don’t get some (rare) praise for accomplishing something – big deal. But if you approve something and it goes wrong??

As a young Community Manager, if I had a broken hot tub that needed a $1.6k repair and it was over my $500 spending limit, I’d need express written approval.  No biggie, right? I’ll just email my boss and get an answer.

After multiple follow ups, weeks later, there’s no answer beyond the yawning chasm of silence. Why wouldn’t they just tell me ‘no’ if that’s what they wanted? Because not answering the question meant they were the safest they could be.

See, there’s risk in saying yes to things. What if someone comes along later and says you screwed up by approving that thing which could have been done cheaper, better, differently, etc…? What if I get yelled at? What if… something something bad feeling?

I wasn’t alone. A LOT of my cohorts’ bosses did the same thing. Ignore, brush off, delay, deflect, slow roll, forget – anything to not have to take a stand on something that should be easy because the fear was always at their neck that they’d get ripped for it. They wanted express permission from the owner before they’d be ok saying yes. What point was there for their existence then? We could just get the permission from the owner if that’s all it was.

When the issue finally reached crisis level, the owner had the foresight to implement the system that Simon mentions at the 33 minute mark in this video: “I Intend To.”

The way it worked was, if we needed to do something and couldn’t get an answer, we’d fire off an email with “IIT:” in the subject line. If we weren’t told NO within 48 hours, we were free to do it. It changed the onus from getting approval to bosses having to say NO if they felt something shouldn’t be done.

As you can imagine, things improved immediately. Bosses who didn’t have good reasons to say no, besides their personal fear, could tacitly approve something without lifting a finger. Oh happy day!

And don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say there shouldn’t be checks and balances and proper vetting of capital requests. By all means, I’d include how many bids I’d received, what the nature of the issue was, what the repair proposed was, why that was a rational way to proceed and what the timeline would be. I’d proactively try to answer every question I could get to make sure it was in line with our company’s values and goals.

Bottom line or TL;DR: There’s all kinds of benefit in empowering your people as opposed to teaching them to subsist on compliance. Your people aren’t the problem, your environment, your culture are the problem.

Eliminate bureaucracy, breed commitment by increasing your team’s involvement.

 

There’s a Way to Stop Mass Shootings, and You Won’t Like It.

There’s a Way to Stop Mass Shootings, and You Won’t Like It.

isolation

That’s right. You’re not going to like it because it’s going to require you to do something personally, as opposed to shouting for the government, or anyone to “do something!”

You ready? Here it is:

“Notice those around you who seem isolated, and engage them.”

If every one of us did this we’d have a culture that was deeply committed to ensuring no one was left lonely. And make no mistake, as I’ve written before loneliness is what causes these shooters to lash out. People with solid connections to other people don’t indiscriminately fire guns at strangers.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s never going to work because no one is going to make the effort to connect with the strange kid sitting by himself at lunch each day. No one is going to reach out to the gawky, awkward guy at work and ask him about his weekend.

You’re probably right and that’s an absolute shame.

Because I can tell you the things that aren’t going to work in this country when it comes to stopping these heinous acts. But they seem to be all anyone says, when inevitably, another person comes forward to inflict their tortured pain on innocent people.View Post

  1. Ban All Guns! – Due to the reading of the 2nd amendment and the precedents established by recent Supreme Court cases, this isn’t going anywhere. You’d need an amendment to the Constitution and there will NEVER be 30+ states willing to overturn it. Never mind the multitude of good reasons for its existence, no amount of outrage will overturn it so let’s just stop.
  2. Ban All Guns! (pt. 2) – Assuming you actually could overturn the 2nd and outlaw every firearm in the country, then you’d have to go out and get them. Famously, there are more guns than people in the U.S. You couldn’t come close to collecting them all. Further, if Prohibition and the War on Drugs have taught us anything it’s that those intent on breaking the law are going to do just that. Laws be damned.
  3. Ban Scary Guns Like the AR-15! – Fully auto weapons are already banned*. Most of these shootings occur with a handgun, plain and simple, and these aren’t going anywhere. Murder is illegal, and that doesn’t seem to stop these individuals from performing these atrocious acts. Do you think if there was a ban on shotguns that would stop them?
  4. Keep Them Out of the Hands of Bad People! – Felons are prohibited from owing a firearm already. But let’s not forget, the overwhelming majority of these mass shootings aren’t done by criminals and their guns were obtained legally. How can you know who is going to do something like this? You can’t.
  5. Do Something About Mental Health! – Cool. Yeah. So, like, free psychologists visits for everyone? Even if you could, the people that have done this haven’t been mentally ill, by and large. And, let’s not forget that medical records are private. Would you endorse mandatory psych screening for everyone and those records being sent to the government? Maybe just those who wish to own a gun? Remember, not every person who has engaged in a mass shooting has owned the gun they performed the act with. This is a complete non-starter of an issue with an insane price tag that does nothing to actually keep a person committed to violence from putting their hands on a gun.
  6. Do… SOMETHING! – Gotcha. What do you want to do? “SOMETHING!” Ok, what do you have in mind? “I DON’T KNOW! BUT SOMEONE NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING!” Sure. Agreed. But what? Even Obama has had to say in his latest speech how routine it’s become.

If you can’t tell by this point in the list, there is NOTHING the government or any other organization can do to prevent these events.

You can’t effectively keep drugs out of the hands of those intent on doing drugs. You can’t keep beer out of the hands of high schoolers intent on getting beer. You have a HUGE supply of weapons everywhere and concrete federal law protecting those weapons. You’d have as much luck passing regulation against tornadoes. It would be equally as effective.

So there it is. The god’s honest truth. No entity can do anything meaningful (more than is presently being done) to thwart a disaffected person hell-bent on committing such an act.

But you can.

You can talk to your co-worker for a few minutes. You can talk to the kid in your Physics class that appears to be all alone. You can teach your children to do the same, to make sure no one is left to feel totally isolated. Because that’s the breeding ground. That’s where the seeds are planted.

rosalind-wiseman-quote-social-isolation-is-one-of-the-most-devastating

Community is easy to take for granted. Most of us have strong family connections and healthy friendships. Most feel as though they’re part of a group, be it community, religious, or work related. But it’s increasingly easy for people on the edges to withdraw and it’s easy for us to forget them.

No, it’s comfortable to forget them. It’s preferred to forget them. It’s highly desired to forget them. And we have to change that.

Holding a sign isn’t going to do anything. And writing your congressman will do even less. But you can do something today, this week, this month. The people you engage may not become life-long friends, and they don’t need to be, but it could be enough to keep someone away from the darkness and isolation needed to eventually think lashing out is an effective strategy for dealing with their pain.

If you’re conflicted at all about the subject, I can’t encourage you enough to read this post by Sam Harris on the subject immediately following Newtown, CT, that I’ve written about before.

* Edit: Fully auto weapons are legal, but only under the strictest of conditions and at a price that makes them hardly affordable for the vast majority. For all intents and purposes, let’s just call them banned. The AR-15 is not a fully auto weapon, but is often confused for one based on appearance.