North Stars

“The journey of a thousands miles begins with one step.” — Lao Tzu

Although beautiful, this quote is thoroughly incomplete.

True, our journeys do begin with a single step, but then we must begin with another and then another. Day after day after day.

But most importantly, the journey must have a destination. Without one we will not know which direction to walk, or whether we ever arrive.

Clearly this is a problem with personal goals. Losing weight, making more money. Without defining a terminus, we are forever wondering.

But when talking about groups of people, whether in sport, government, a single project or an entire organization, the issues multiply exponentially.

Enter North Stars. Concise, written-down, published destinations:

Win the 40+ Soccer League.
Provide affordable, quality health care to all Americans.

Perform frictionless digital transactions.
Take 50% share from Google.

 

These provide powerful guidance:

  • They focus the energies of all of the actors in the the same direction.
  • They provide clarity when issues arise.
  • They illuminate answers when making tough decisions.
  • They enable the managers to chunk up their respective responsibilities.
  • Those chunks then provide the day-to-day clarity-of-task for each individual journeyman.
    • Is this task moving us forward, in the correct direction?

It certainly takes effort and consensus, but as competing forces reveal themselves these beacons will continually prove their worth.

To get someplace we must first define where we are going. So go North and conquer!

The Power of Silence

No one enjoys “uncomfortable” conversations. Be it personnel issues, resource allocation or product direction.

But since we are intimately familiar with our own formulations, the goal of these discussions should be to extract from the other party additional information or an agreement to a certain position. To have them say/commit to more than they were initially willing to.

And there is no tool more powerful in the conversational arsenal than shutting the hell up.

It takes only a single beat of bizarre quiet to make the awkward conversation that much more so. And it works 100% of the time.

When faced with this silence I have yet to come across a person who does not continue just filling it with additional data.

More information. More agreements. No downside.

Next time you’re in a tense discussion, be it personal or business, try this simple little trick.

Shhhhhhhhh…

Magic Doesn’t Exist

David Blaine cannot do magic.
Chris Angel can not.
Harry Houdini could not.

Sofia the First cannot execute any magic.
Buzz Lightyear cannot.
Elsa cannot.

Barak Obama has zero magical powers.
Hillary Clinton has none.
President Trump has none.

Elon Musk offers no magic.
Warren Buffet employs none.
Bill Gates is without-magic.

Jesus never wielded magic.
Moses did not.
Allah did not.

LeBron James knows no magic.
Tom Brady knows none.
Tiger Woods knew none.

Airplanes contain no magic.
iPhones have none.
The Hadron Collider affords none.

George Washington exploited no magic.
Thomas Jefferson provided none.
Benjamin Franklin worked none.

Physics provides none.
Economics none.
Medicine none.

Leprechauns grant no magic.
Tooth fairies transport none.
Santa delivers none.

Ghosts reveal no magic.
Demons possess none.
Vampires dispatch none.

Insemination contains no magic.
Gestation displays none.
Child birth is not magic.

Harry Potter is magic-less.
Hermione Granger produces none.
Voldemort implements none.

Someone from Game of Thrones cannot do magic.
Another person from Game of Thrones cannot do any.
A mythical creature from Game of Thrones provides none.

Sunsets contain no magic.
Black holes are not magic.
Nature yields none.

The most magical part of this human experience is the knowledge, whether revealed to us yet or not, that everything has an explanation.

Always is Easier than Sometimes

My wife is an avid gym-class-taker.

She has an app on her phone where she can view the schedule of classes and manage her attendance.

Obviously going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week is a great thing but the constant internal debate seems exhausting.

She is forever battling herself about the timing, the energy, the weather, child care, house responsibilities, work responsibilities. Should all those things line up she clicks “attend”. Should they not, she doesn’t and feels guilty.

The effort is in the deciding.

Now lets flip the script.

I run every day.

After work I come home, kiss my family, put on my running shoes and head out for 3 miles.

There is zero internal dialogue/debate leading up to the activity. I am going, period.

Staying active now requires zero mental energy [and zero guilt should I miss a day].

Which got me thinking…

Can this paradigm be implemented in other areas of life?

Like eating healthy: Instead of battling day in and day out, meal in and meal out, what if we said to ourselves, “at every meal I am going to eat healthy, period”. We’ve just eliminated many of our internal daily struggles.

Or being honest: Instead of having to continually conjure up historical context, maybe just say, “in every conversation I am going to be honest”. Mark Twain put it best — “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Or work relationships: Instead of constantly being on the watch, what if we entered every situation as being helpful, thus eliminating the need for calculations [**caution: may be hazardous to near-term career prospects].

Embracing “always” frees up a ton of mental bandwidth that gets clogged with “sometimes”.

 

Two Guys Walk Into a Police Station

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

On Feb 5, with Brandon Vreeland videotaping, James Baker walked into a Dearborn, MI Police station wearing a ski mask, flak jacket and two visible guns.

They were angry that they were pulled over earlier in the day and wanted to “file a complaint”.

They believed they were being smart and just exercising their second amendment rights, which as far as I can tell, they were.

But the part of this story that gets lost is not the actions of these two “patriots”, but the completely sane [by being insane] reaction of the police.

You could argue the cops were so hyped because of the ski mask, but I’ll bet it had more to do with the loaded weapon of destruction slung across Baker’s chest and the loaded Glock 19 holstered on his hip.

Those two devices took the situation from a 1 or 2, instantly up to an 11.

But since Mo Guns, Mo Safety wouldn’t bringing two more firearms into the mix make the Police station a safer, more secure place to be?

That’s almost as silly as the guns regulations in Michigan.

America, The Meme

American is a just a set of ideas.

230 years ago a group of intelligent, white guys assembled in Philadelphia and debated the definition of “America”.

This led to our initial Constitution; Our core tenants.

But the U.S. Constitution was, and is only a piece of paper. A rectangle of parchment.

And the words written, while most certainly well thought-through are nothing but a jumble of letters and punctuation.

We sometimes act as if three equal branches of government, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are obvious. Truths so unalienable we might just take them for granted.

Throughout history there are very few examples of countries who’s “memes” would ever speak such things. Say nothing of actually protecting them.

Both prescient and malleable, the Constitution has no power of its own.

It is a contract we follow to be earn the title “American”.

If we allow that contract to be broken without paying a political penalty we now have a different meme.

We have a diminished “America”.

Dancing in The Darkness

By definition, leaders have a following.

Whether in our churches, our businesses or in our White House, they have risen to warrant some power.

But, however they’ve acquired said power, leaders must then guide “their flock” in some direction [no direction would itself be a direction].

They can either wield their energies to lift people up, to help. Or they can use them to knock people down and to frighten.

They can lead towards the light, or they can sow the darkness.

What is the point of the latter?

For the ones who have worked their entire lives to get where they are, when they finally arrive, Why would they use their power to injure? To divide? To destroy?

“Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.” — Steve Bannon 11/18/2016

“I’ll seek the light. Barak Obama. Luke Skywalker. God. That’s power.” – Eric Gatz 1/30/2017