Monday, January 30, 2017

After the Candlelight Vigils and Demonstrations … Then What?

Action expresses priorities. - Mahatma Gandhi

Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in. - Andrew Jackson

Some years ago, a former colleague of mine set up a 10km walkathon to show women in Africa that we in the west felt their pain when it came to the fact that they had to walk 10km to get clean water.

I thought this was a great cause and so I asked what the walkathon was producing.  Was it raising money to drill a well closer to a village so that women wouldn’t have to walk as far to get clean water?  Was it raising awareness so that other people would be inspired to take action to help people get better access to clean water?

“Nope”, the coordinator replied proudly, “The sole purpose is so that the women in that village know that we stand in support of their struggle.”

“Ok”, I responded, “but you are only promoting this on Facebook with no funds raised, no large-scale media attention or anything else.  So you are counting on these women in a remote village in the most destitute, desolate part of Africa to:

1. Have electricity

2. Have Internet access

3. Have a Facebook account

4. Know that you are doing this and to go to the right place in Facebook at the right time to witness your statement of camaraderie

5. Care what an overly well-fed white guy in Canada does once to feel good, after which he climbs back into his SUV, goes home and gorges himself on more food in one meal than they will see in a week.”

Meanwhile, the women in Africa still need to walk the same distance to obtain clean water.

“But I will feel good about it”, was his response.

Well, if that’s all there is to making a difference in the world, then I have a recommendation:

Let’s all take 5 minutes tomorrow to think good thoughts or say a prayer for everyone, congratulate ourselves and God for optimizing our contribution to the world and then go about living a life focused on our own needs instead of actually fixing the things around us.

Let’s not forget to tell everyone else about how good it felt also, preferably in an awesome display of social media prowess.

Or if that’s too much effort:

Spread some feel-good or feel-bad stuff on social media (truth, respect and relevance don’t matter) from the safety of a coffee shop (or perhaps while watching the Kardashians or some other mindless thing on TV), trash people whose opinions are different than yours, “Like” a bunch of things that resonate with your personal biases and then spend the rest of the day bragging about it.

Both are equally effective techniques, aren’t they?

They are but not in the way you would like to believe.

Meanwhile …

Tonight, Calgary and other cities across Canada will be having candlelight vigils to remember the people massacred in the mosque in Quebec City on January 29, 2017.

Throughout America, people are protesting their President on the streets and spreading hysteria through social media, throwing facts, truths, collaboration, respect and an eye towards solutions out the window in an attempt to create a viral contagion of their own fear, ignorance, hatred or personal agenda. (Note: This is not to suggest that President Trump hasn't done his own share of things out of potential fear or ignorance. However, meeting fear or ignorance with same plays to the people who enjoy such tactics and NO ONE wins from the escalation that ensues).

But what will these events really produce?

Will they stop future violence?

Will they somehow cause their President to be removed from office or cause him to suddenly start seeing their way as “the right way”?


We are emotional beings and it is normal, natural (and sometimes healthy) to express these emotions.

However, when the expressions of grief, love, sharing, caring and outrage have been expressed, it’s time to ask what we need to do next to prevent a repeat of whatever it is we are assembling for.

Because if we are unwilling to take truth-based, respectful, goal-inspired, collaborative action, then we must be prepared to fill our days with more vigils and demonstrations as well as more angst, anger, worry and anxiety (or comfort sharing, even though such sharing will not prevent future acts of hatred).

Because emotion expressed without action taken doesn’t change reality.

Reality couldn’t care less about what you think or want.

It is created by what you do (or not do).

The Bottom Line

John F Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.

Too many people today allow their feelings and opinions to be defined by blind, lazy, hateful sharing on social medial designed to prey upon their emotions and to manipulate them into acting on behalf of the needs and intentions of others or to diminish them, convincing them that they can’t make a difference.

Politicians also exploit such emotional tactics to recruit their minions to do their dirty work for them while the politicians smugly wait on the sidelines and harvest the result.

Meanwhile, the change that is needed remains unrealized, waiting for more people with courage to do more than give lip service to what they believe is important in standing up to ignorance, intimidation, hatred and lies with a focus on truly creating a better world.

Explore whether the inaction or hate-filled sharing of others has made a demonstrable difference and you will discover that despite all their efforts, the things that they are complaining about continue unabated (or grow in intensity,frequency and impact).  If you want specific examples, explore what things like Occupy Wall Street really accomplished.

By their example, you will discover what you need to do to really make a difference in the world.

Otherwise you are just offering lip service as others do.

And of all the shortages we have in the world, lip service is not one of them.

If you don’t have the courage to take positive action, if your words don’t inspire others to take positive action or if you prefer to spread hatred and negativity, then you are in for a long, painful, frustrating experience on Earth.

And if all you have to offer is negativity, intimidation and problem creation, it could be argued that you are contributing to what is wrong on this planet instead of the unlimited potential that collaborative, respectful, fact-filled, compassionate, passionate human beings can create.

Which group of people do you wish to belong to – the problem creators or the solution creators?

Be sure to choose wisely (as measured by your actions), otherwise your time spent on Earth not only doesn’t live up to your potential and responsibility but it will be pretty miserable also.

Is that the way you really want to live?

Is this the example you would like to establish for your children, your family, your colleagues and your friends?

Are you sure?

It’s fine to initially express emotion but then ask yourself what your actions and not your mouth (or the dark recesses of your brain)  have to say about making a measurable difference.

Create a great day because merely having one is too passive an experience and waiting for someone else to create it is too frustrating, anxiety-ridden and random in manifestation.

If you need a boost of courage, there are others who are waiting to help you.

They and the world are waiting for you.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


Related Posts:

Addendum – Sad Realities of Respect and Results

It is an unfortunate reality that many people do not want respectful dialog and get quite upset when someone suggests that their actions of anger and hatred do not produce positive results.  For some, the mere request for respectful, fact-filled dialog produce hateful responses as the one that occurred as a comment in the blog post Facts – What a Pain in the You-Know-What.

In an interaction I had with a long-time friend a couple of weeks ago, he kept insisting on calling people he didn’t like “a moron” under the guise of demanding respectful dialog and solutions.  In my requests of him to explain how his children would view his behavior, whether or not such behavior provided a good role model for them and how he would respond if people kept calling him a moron, he kept responding with “what Donald Trump would do and what kind of role model Donald Trump is”.  Multiple requests to ignore what Donald Trump would do and to reply with what he would do and what kind of role model he offers to his kids were repeatedly deflected by himself and his colleagues.

If we wish to see change, we must be the change we wish to see (Gandhi).  Unfortunately, too many are too blind to see beyond their own hypocrisy and lack of authenticity.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Facts – What a Pain in the You-Know-What

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. - Mark Twain

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. - John Adams

I took a break from a phenomenally hectic schedule this morning to skim the social media world and once again I was reminded “Why did I do that?”.

In skimming the world of the interesting, the dull, the respectful, the disrespectful, the intellectual and the ignorant, I happened to make an observation along the lines of “For the women who are protesting all the bad things that they know President Elect Trump will do to them, why can’t they put the same energy into all of the areas that we know for certain where women are not being treated respectfully (or live in fear of their Life)?”.

Seems like a fair enough question to me – why don’t we put our effort into EVERYTHING that we are aware of that challenges a woman’s rights to equality and safety?

The blowback from this observation tells me that I was wrong for daring to believe that all women who face difficulty should be defended and for that I apologize.

I was accosted by three people I have known for a long time, citing a lot of interesting “facts” to prove that in fact, I’m completely out of touch.

For example ….

Did you know that Trump is going to revoke all rights for woman in the US, subjecting them to second-class (or lower if that’s possible) citizenship?

Did you know that he will also do the same for all gay people and reverse all the gains the LGBTQ community has made over the years?

Did you ALSO know that he will receive a cash payment of $1 Billion from Vladimir Putin for every Baltic state that America allows Russia to take unchallenged?

I didn’t know these things and for that, I must apologize again.  I appear to be the last person on Earth to know these things.  It is difficult, after all, to live a normal, busy, productive, non-paranoid, non-conspiracy-laden, contributing Life and not be in-the-know regarding everything that everyone might do just because someone says they will do it.  I could digress into a conversation regarding projection from a psychiatrist viewpoint but alas much has been written about this by people much smarter and informed on the subject than I.

When I asked for sources to be cited (I’m a data guy, after all), then the “discussion” turned towards my ignorance of facts and that my demands for data were always inappropriate.

One person who I demanded data of insisted that he couldn’t predict the future.  When I replied that predicting a new version of the Iran Contra deal (cash for Baltic state invasion) was in fact a prediction, the conversation devolved into me being an idiot because I dared to even ask such questions without accepting everyone’s claims at face value.

I always thought great claims demanded great evidence, but again, I’m wrong and for that, I apologize again for believing that I was entitled to an opinion and for not asking for permission to share it with anyone who might disagree or be offended by it.

Data Matters

As a strategy guy, data matters to me.  People in my field use a blend of data, past performance, models and yes, emotions and biases in predicting things as best as we can.

However, no matter how strong our emotions and biases are, if we can’t find data to use, most of us have to wait before we jump up and down in elation or cower in fear just because someone or something doesn’t appear to be in alignment with our desires, interests, values, characters and/or morals.

We also believe in the checks and balances in place in the system to prevent people from going over the top and violating rights and freedoms that we hold sacred.

If someone deviates from that in a way that we consider unacceptable, we believe the system will take care of it.  If the system doesn’t want or choose to address such behavioral aberrations, we have a MUCH larger problem than just the paranoid anticipation of what one man might do.

And so as I reflected on the conversation, it occurs to me that respectful, fact-based, minimally-biased (there is not such thing as nonbiased) conversation doesn’t appear to exist much in society any more.

Why is this?

I believe it is because we don’t teach such skills, assuming that such abilities will naturally evolve in the members of our society.

However, since we are the products of our environment, the likelihood of such abilities evolving without being taught are slim to none. In fact, such people would be seen as the exception and not the norm and we all know how people who stand out make us feel.

If you don’t believe me, try saying something factual (in a loaded space, e.g.politics) on social media and let me know how that experiment goes.

However, if you want to read a great book on evidence-based, minimally-biased dialog, how to create such a dialog and how to defend against someone who abhors such dialog, I highly recommend the book How To Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass - A Critical Thinker's Guide to Asking the Right Questions.

It is brilliant, insightful and witty (and, shudder, fact-based).  If it were embraced by more people, society would be better equipped to solve the problems in the world. 

On a side note, I know that if the author, Dr. DiCarlo, were present during my argument this morning, he would have loved how I handled it and would have praised my responses.

How do I know this?

I just know – you’re an idiot if you don’t agree with me.

Calm down – I’m kidding (someone is already writing a response to me, having been offended by what I just said and unwilling to see how my thoughts unfold).

The Bottom Line

It is ok to not know everything in the world. 

But before we champion something as a truth, we should know that it is in fact true.  If we use truth as a hammer, we should at least know that we can back up our claims with verifiable data (and even then, there are more persuasive techniques than hammering people).

There’s an old “Newfie” joke (I’m from Newfoundland, don’t get offended by the term on my behalf) that goes this way:

How do you keep a Newfoundlander in suspense?

I will tell him tomorrow.

There is another joke that goes the same way.

How do you make the bully, the manipulator and the ignorant angry?

Ask them for data to backup their claims or the hammer that they are using.

Humble, normal, balanced people will acknowledge their mistakes, apologize if necessary, adjust their behavior where appropriate and the world is a little better as a result.

Others fall to the lowest form of dialog and debate, using the personal attack against someone else because they have nothing else to offer in backing up their claims and assertions.

The funny thing is that such people believe that those of us who demand data are a pain in the ass.

The reality is that these people are the real pain in the ass, creating a world where problem elimination, solution finding, collaboration and the like play second fiddle to promoting fear, disrespect, intimidation and the like under the guise of “making the world better”.

Buy Dr. DiCarlo’s book.  You will not be disappointed and will be equipped to make your world and the world of others a better place.

In fact, you’re an idiot if you don’t buy it and absolutely love it.

Just kidding.

Or maybe I’m not.

I guess it depends on what type of dialog you like to participate in – the problem solving kind or the problem creating kind.

Create a great day!  Make a positive difference – it matters.

In service and servanthood,


Irony: It is ironic that the people who claim to be defending the rights and freedoms of others are often in fact the people who deny that right in others.  It is also ironic that the people who claim to be upholding the highest of moral and ethical standards are in fact guilty of things themselves.  One of my most vocal critics today was investigated for violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a fact that if revealed would prompt an immediate liable suit (even though it's a fact and not a rumor).

It's an interesting concept that we allow facts to slide when criticizing others but we demand the highest standards of others when defending our own truths. I wonder if these people put as much energy into their careers, families, friends, hobbies, service to others and knowledge acquisition as they do spreading rumor, conjecture and fear.  We must also be careful to avoid being hypocritical as in the case of Meryl Streep who applauded Roman Polanski (who plead guilty to unlawful sex with a minor and fled the country to avoid incarceration) for his Oscar win while denouncing Donald Trump as a man who has no respect for women.

Author note: I am NOT a Trump supporter. If I have wound you up convincing you that I am pro-Trump, save your breath before sending me hate mail. However, I prefer to see what he will create and would participate in using the checks and balances in the system to stop him if he screws up. I don't have the time nor the interest to waste my brain wondering what he might do and spread hatred and fear to support such unproductive exercises.

PS A few years back before oil prices went into the toilet, myself and a number of other colleagues sent messages to Provincial Governments in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador cautioning them to adjust budget expectations because oil was about to fall precipitously.  We provided projections of $75 a barrel or lower, provided data and cited sources from within the energy and financial sectors.  We were told to stop fear mongering and in response, we asked for data to refute our warning.  We never heard back from them and when their economies went into the toilet, we were not surprised to hear them announce how surprised they were by the turn of events in the energy sector.

Last week, a Minister in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador shared some intentions with me and I asked what data supported their intentions.  I didn’t say that their intentions were right or wrong but was curious what data they used.  The reply was that if people like me were as smart as we claimed (I never claimed anything) then there would be no need for the government to have to solve problems in the first place.

I see – I guess I owe the people of Newfoundland and Labrador an apology also since I am now responsible for the economic disaster in progress out there.

I’m now feeling very guilty and inadequate – maybe I should submit to those who appear to know better.

Unfortunately, they shout louder but not more intelligently.

The Bottom Bottom Line

Being caught off guard by a surprise event is forgivable.

Lying or insulting people because data suggests something politically or publicly unsavory and unpopular is about to happen (or not happen) is not forgivable.

That’s the problem with data.

It doesn’t care about how you feel about it and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

It only makes the problem worse or creates a problem if we project using emotion or bias in absence of data

And once we know a problem exists (or we create one), WE become the larger problem if we choose not to do our best to address it as strategically, factually, respectfully and collaboratively as we can.

Take a Valium

Gwynne Dyer wrote a great article urging everyone to calm down regarding President Elect Trump.  It can be found here - Everybody Take a Valium.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Trump, WikiLeaks and Russia

A guest post by Gwynne Dyer, an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

When a Fox News reporter asked Donald Trump about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange back in 2010, just after Assange had released a huge cache of secret US diplomatic cables, the reality TV star had no doubts: “I think it's disgraceful, I think there should be like the death penalty or something.”

Circumstances change, however, and smart people with big brains know when it’s time to switch sides.  It was WikilLeaks, once again, that revealed the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee that did such damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign last summer. But Trump now readily accepts Assange’s word that he didn’t get those emails from the Russians.

Trump has been having a problem with the main US intelligence agencies, which unanimously insist that the Russians did indeed hack the DNC’s emails, and that they passed them to WikiLeaks (through an intermediary) in order to damage Clinton’s presidential election campaign. “Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” as the joint intelligence report put it.

So Trump was very happy to be able to reply (in a tweet, of course) that “Assange... said Russians did not give him the info!” After all, what motive could Assange have for lying about it?

Well, there is the fact that Assange has been living in one room in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the past four years, in order to avoid being extradited to the United States on espionage charges that could get him up to 45 years in prison. Donald Trump is the one person who could make all that trouble go away, once he becomes the president, so doing him a favour now might be a wise move on Assange’s part.

Assange would not even have to lie outright, because the Russians would obviously never give him the emails directly. There would have to be one or more persons in between, because WikiLeaks is not in the business of taking leaks from governments. Assange might have strong suspicions about who originally hacked the DNC, but he did not necessarily go all out to confirm them.

Moreover, as Trump points out, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation  are the same organisations that cooked up the evidence for Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” so that President George W. Bush could invade Iraq.

Nevertheless, the US intelligence agencies are probably right to blame their Russian counterparts for the hacks that caused the Clinton campaign such problems. President Vladimir Putin has been quite open about preferring Trump to Clinton, and the leaks definitely gave a boost to Trump’s election campaign in late July and August.

On the other hand, that happened so long before the actual vote in November that it’s impossible to say if it had any effect on the outcome.

The event that probably did give Trump his very narrow margin of victory (100,000 votes spread between three key swing states) was FBI director James Comey’s bizarre decision to declare that Hillary Clinton was facing another investigation only eleven days before the vote.

It’s all might-have-beens, and the only reason it has become controversial is Trump’s extremely thin skin. He is questioning the intelligence services’ conclusions about Russian interference because he believes (wrongly) that they undermine the validity of his election victory. But his strong sympathy for the Russian position, though driven by perceived personal interests, is a refreshing break from the usual Washington paranoia.

He said it himself (in another tweet): “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only stupid people or fools would think that it is bad. We have enough problems around the world without yet another one.”

This is a perfectly reasonable statement. Trump’s views on China give cause for alarm, but his desire for a reconciliation with Russia makes more sense than the reflex hostility that both Hillary Clinton and the US intelligence services bring to the relationship. Vladimir Putin is a player, and sometimes he plays rough, but his recent meddling in the American election is far less than the massive US interference in Russian elections in the 1990s.

In seeking a rapprochement with Moscow, Trump should not make the mistake of accepting Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Changing borders by force (even if most of the local population approves of it) has been banned by international law for more than half a century, and we should not start making exceptions to that rule now.

But while the United States never accepted the old Soviet Union’s illegal annexation of the Baltic states in 1940, it did not let that stand in the way of improving the US-Soviet relationship as the Cold War drew to an end.

There is much that the United States and Russia could usefully cooperate on now, starting with putting an end to the war in Syria. On this issue, at least, Trump is right and Obama, Clinton and the spooks are wrong.

A guest post by Gwynne Dyer, an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.  Reproduced with permission from the author.