Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Things That I Wonder About

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. – Ryunosuke Satoro

In between selling a large tech company and starting up a Foundation that will “help NPO’s “do good better” through fact-based decision-making and evidence-based outcome assessments” (quoting friend and colleague, Doug P.), I often have other distractions that cross my mind that I feel merit some attention.

As a long-time Wall St. strategy guy, unsolved problems are always a conundrum for me, especially when the problems are significant in impact and are far / wide reaching in society.  Problems in society affect us all at some point, even if we don’t feel the affect directly (or believe we don’t).

However, I can’t tackle all these thoughts, nor should I (no individual is tagged as the “savior” of the world).  That being said, they are worthy of thought and action and so, with the encouragement of very nice colleagues who kindly never lose patience with me when I muse about other concerns in the world, I’m going to occasionally toss some ideas out with the idea that someone else may feel inspired to own some of them.

This is not a typical blog post for me such as can be found in the #1206 series, the Abigail / Gabriel series or any general post.  It is a grab bag of thoughts that pass through my brain in the course of leading a busy Life.

If you want to own one, I would be glad to help!

A subset of my random thoughts this week:

  1. How is it that the Newfoundland and Labrador Government can have as its top bureaucrat, Bern Coffey, who, while leading the bureaucratic corps of the Government, was also a lawyer representing a client who was suing a Crown Corporation of the same Government and a few years before, while a clerk of the Government Executive council, led a case against a Government health authority (details here and here)?  While officials claim they are “just finding out”, the truth is that they knew for a while.  Conflict of interest, anyone?
  2. By the same token, how is it that Tzeporah Berman can serve as a member of the Alberta Government Oil and Gas advisory team while at the same time, receive compensation for campaigning AGAINST the oil and gas industry in Alberta (details here)?  Conflict of interest, round 2.
  3. Premier Ball dismissed Coffey in the first scenario but Premier Notley refuses to dismiss Tzeporah in the second one.  When such appointments with obvious conflict-of-interest are knowingly made, what does this tell us about the leadership skills of the people in the respective situations?  Is it a reflection of poor execution, low intelligence, self-serving motives or an indifference to how things are perceived (or something else)?
  4. Are apologies or “sharp corrective action” from politicians acceptable because we believe that someone recognized their own mistake and want it fixed or are we being played as politicians attempt to harvest political points while continuing their inappropriate behavior?  In my companies, you are fully supportive of the organization that pays you or you are not but if you are not, you work to make us better through compromise or you leave.  You can’t play for me and against me at the same time.  Why don’t we demand this of government?
  5. How is it in the Newfoundland and Labrador government, a blind trust for a politician can be run by a politician’s husband, wife, daughter, son-in-law or lover?  There is nothing “arms-length” or “blind” about such a set-up.  Who do you think benefits from this arrangement?
  6. How is it that Stephen Colbert can refer to the President of the United States as Vladimir Putin’s “cock holster” when a comment such as that, if directed at the previous President, would have required riot squads to be deployed (details here)?  Why is it that the “tolerant left” has no issue when insults are issued against the one that they despise but they are quick to demonstrate in the streets should there even be the possibility that one of their own might be insulted at some point in the future?  One must respect the Office of the President and if one disagrees with the President himself, Colbert’s approach is not the way to express it.  Respect earned is respect given.  Anything else leads to significant problems in society.
  7. How is it that very few people care about emergency planning, regardless of the source / scale of the emergency?  Officials routinely warn of difficulties ahead, whether it be in the form of a cyber attack, a nuclear war, climate change-induced natural disasters and a plethora of other things and yet most people would be lucky if they could survive a minor inconvenience that lasted through a weekend.  We have all seen people panic-shop at supermarkets when a storm is forecast.  What if the “storm” came without warning.  I mused about this yesterday in the post Statistics: The Mathematical Theory of Ignorance.
  8. How is it that US politicians can claim a triumph in the low unemployment rate when the vast majority of jobs created in recent years are part-time / low-paying jobs with little or no health benefit plans?  When more than 50% of American families have $1000 or less in the bank, over 48 million Americans are on food stamps and over 98 million Americans are not working at all, how can we champion a recovery that benefits a small minority of people?
  9. Pursuant to the previous point, personal debt is growing and more than 50% of families have less than $1000 in the bank.  Where is personal freedom and empowerment for these people?
  10. If people are happier than ever, why do we have a steady increase in the need for antidepressants?
  11. The next time you are in Costco, a supermarket or other place filled with abundance, ask yourself when you last helped someone who couldn’t partake in such abundance.
  12. It is estimated that we will work 80,000 hours in our lifetime.  1% of that (800 hours or 20 work-weeks) is a small amount to spend in planning our work Life but we don’t teach kids how to do it.  In fact, if I told someone when I was 20 that I was about to spend 5 months planning my career, I would be told I was insane (even though it’s such a small number in the grand scheme of things).  We teach kids phenomenally more than when I was in school and yet basic skills of Life strategy (including long and short term goal setting), financial strategy, respectful dialog when ideas are polar opposites and the like seem absent from the skill-set of many young people.  We seem to insist that they learn these things the hard way.  Why?  Is it because we don’t know how to either?
  13. Many not-for-profits are phenomenally wasteful in how they spend their money and many people who work for them know how to steal from them as a profession but we don’t care.  Why?
  14. How is it that people put little or no effort into the things that matter in society but will spend an amazing amount of time watching videos of cats, sharing pictures of their oatmeal or losing their minds over how their favorite TV series ends?

Do these things matter or am I just over-sensitive?

Should we care that these represent symptoms of a society that is not ticking over as well as claimed by politicians or do we ignore them, saving our complaints and intention for action only when we are directly affected as opposed to when our neighbor is being pummeled instead of us?

If they matter, what can we do about them?

The Bottom Line

I’m a big believer in sharing thoughts and encouraging people to dialog about things with an eye towards taking measurable action.  Good intentions and thoughts are worthless without measurable results.

However, we can’t own everything that comes before us, even when it impacts us deeply.  Some of us who work hard to make a difference in the world need others to share the responsibility, especially when many who put little into society want to reap the harvest that comes from a better world.

It’s time for more people to be concerned about society and where it’s going …

… while it’s still a going concern.

In service and servanthood,


PS:You will note that I didn't mention things like privacy, surveillance and the like.  I believe that that fight is over.  You needed to care 25 years ago to have made a difference in regards to that subject.  Do you see what waiting accomplishes?  This is also, as I noted, just a subset of the things that went through my mind this week in the 5% of my brain that I have left over from the projects that consume it.

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