I’m at home writing this. At this very moment I am wearing: 1) socks that are probably 6 years old, 2) a pair of snow pants (because I grew up in CA and I’m a total baby about the cold) that’s at least 12 years old, 3) a shirt that’s a bit less than 1 year old, and 4) a jacket that’s just over 1 year old. So the combined age of my whole outfit is right around 20. How old is your getup? I started thinking about this question after hearing an interview with the founder of the outdoor lifestyle brand Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. For the founder of a massive retailer, Yvon says some pretty radical things. (For example: “Think twice before you buy a product from us. Do you really need it or are you just bored and want to buy something?”) In the interview, Yvon mentions that most of his clothes are 10 years old or more. He’s deeply concerned about consumer culture and the future of the planet. What if in an alternate universe, a big number floated above each of our heads signaling the age of our outfits? I wonder how that would change things… Continue reading What’s the combined age of the outfit you’re wearing right now?
Just a few more days until the 2016 presidential election season comes to a close. Thank God. Trump or Clinton. Boy oh boy. All indications point to a very close race. But no matter what happens, at the end of this, we will see (as we’ve seen for the past 4 elections), that the country is nearly split down the middle. Us vs. Them, with less and less common decency and civil interaction every time a new president is chosen. This is a trend that we need to reverse for the sake of our country’s future. So let’s all ask this question: Who is the most reasonable person I know who is voting for the other candidate? When you come up with a name, go grab coffee together. Talk about politics. Or don’t. But interact, listen, and continue to be reasonable with each other. It’s a low bar, but an important one. Continue reading Who is the most reasonable person you know who is voting for the other candidate?
No seriously. Have you read it? Here’s a direct Amazon link. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Trust me. I consider this question a good one to ask for the sake of the world for two reasons. 1) If you read this book you are 100% guaranteed to become a better human being for yourself and everyone in your life. 2) If a bookstore were classifying “The Gifts of Imperfection,” the staff would put it in the “Self Help” aisle. I HATE the stigma that surrounds self-help in general. I know not all of it useful, but SO MUCH of it is beneficial and life-giving and amazing. This includes books, talks, seminars like The Landmark Forum, sessions with a counselor/therapist/life-coach, the list goes on… Bringing up this question helps chip away, ever so slightly, at the accumulated stigma around “self help.” Life is full of challenges. Why not benefit from the really smart people who have trained and thought a lot about how we can all be better? Continue reading Have you read “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown?
(This one’s a bit heady, so stick with me.) Many situations have close analogies. For example, I’ve never cooked pheasant but I have cooked turkey and chicken so I can probably guess a bit about what cooking pheasant is like. Or I’ve never lost the Superbowl but I have lost athletic events that I cared deeply about (in high school and college) so I can probably guess how Superbowl losers must feel. On the other hand, many situations simply do not have close analogies. Here’s the one that got me thinking about this question: I barely remember a time that I didn’t know how to swim. So I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who can’t swim to be on a boat, or at the beach, or on a pool deck. I literally CAN’T imagine it because there are no close analogies for what that reality is like. You could say, “It’s like being afraid of heights.” Except it’s not. Because I could look over the ledge of a parking garage and it would make me feel uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t die after 40 seconds (which is the average amount of time a person can struggle on the surface of the water before submerging). A closer analogy would be walking around in daily life as a normal person except there are areas of your environment that are quicksand and you just know you have to avoid those places. Or pockets of blue poison gas that will kill you after 40 seconds. But that’s fantasy. I’ve never even seen quicksand. That’s why I can’t imagine what a non-swimmer’s experience of water is like. There are many other circumstances with no close analogies. Pregnancy. If you’ve never been pregnant, there is NOTHING in your experience that you can draw on to give you an idea of what pregnancy is like. (“Oh it’s like eating a really huge meal for 9 months! Oh birthing is like passing a kidney stone, I bet. I would guess that, nutritionally, pregnancy is like when tape worms were eating all the food I was eating.” Look! You sound batshit crazy just trying to come up with approximations.) Not knowing how to swim, being pregnant, being a different race than the one I am… To me, these things have no close analogies. What about for you? What circumstances have no close analogies? When you go through this thought exercise, you emerge with more humility, more willingness to dialog, and a changed posture that makes you more likely to learn from others. Continue reading What circumstances or situations can you think of that have no close analogies?
My sister came across this question. You know where of all places? On a posted sign in the hallway of a public elementary school (part of the San Francisco Unified School District). It was one question in a series encouraging kids to use the principles of restorative justice as they solved problems and settled arguments within their own classrooms. Restorative justice is a framework that has played a prominent part in many arenas including the truth and reconciliation efforts in South Africa after apartheid. After conflict of all kinds, this is a powerful question to ask everyone involved. Continue reading What do you think needs to be done to make things as right as possible?
“I’d learn to watch cat videos,” said no one ever. So what the hell are we doing? Or more to the point, what the hell am I doing half the time on my pocket computer-phone?
“If you had access at your fingertips to all the information in the world you’d need…” This was a party-game hypothetical question to all people for all of human history until about 15 years ago. For many of us in the developed world, it’s now just reality. So what now? Let’s at least learn to play the ukulele. Or speak another language. Or learn to code. Something! Anything!!! Continue reading If you had access at your fingertips to all the information in the world you’d need to learn any new skill or start any new hobby, what would you learn to do?
When you ask yourself this question, don’t think about how it would happen or what would need to occur for everyone to “be even.” Just imagine that with a wave of the wand, one broken relationship in your life could be the way it used to be (or even better than it used to be). Which person in your life do you want that with?
Nurturing the world back to health can ONLY start with nurturing the relationships immediately closest to us in our own lives. Continue reading If you could restore one broken relationship, which would it be?