Seth Godin

Endarkment

March 27, 2020

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” Carl Jung wrote, “but by making the darkness conscious.”  Reading this, I realize that in a whole lifetime spent with seekers of enlightenment, I have never once heard anyone speak in hushed tones about the value of endarkenment. -Barbara Taylor Brown, author & Episcopal priest

And so even now, as light gives way to darkness, I know that once again light is born from darkness. Those who read out to help strangers are living out the oneness that is part of our spiritual DNA. -Science of Mind

 

What are we only now coming “to know” through this time of not-knowing?   

 

Either we will love and help one another or we will hate and attack one another, in which latter case we will all be one another’s hell. Perhaps Sartre was not far wrong in saying that where freedom is abused, society itself turns into heel.. (L’enfer c’est les autres.”) -Thomas Merton

 

Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus

This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come.

Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. They will shape not just our healthcare systems but also our economy, politics and culture. We must act quickly and decisively. We should also take into account the long-term consequences of our actions. When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world.

Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours. Immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger. Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments. What happens when everybody works from home and communicates only at a distance? What happens when entire schools and universities go online? In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these aren’t normal times.

The coronavirus epidemic is thus a major test of citizenship. In the days ahead, each one of us should choose to trust scientific data and healthcare experts over unfounded conspiracy theories and self-serving politicians. If we fail to make the right choice, we might find ourselves signing away our most precious freedoms, thinking that this is the only way to safeguard our health.

[full read]

https://www.ft.com/content/19d90308-6858-11ea-a3c9-1fe6fedcca75

 

How the Pandemic Will End

The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.

Story by Ed Yong

The testing fiasco was the original sin of America’s pandemic failure, the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure. If the country could have accurately tracked the spread of the virus, hospitals could have executed their pandemic plans, girding themselves by allocating treatment rooms, ordering extra supplies, tagging in personnel, or assigning specific facilities to deal with COVID-19 cases. None of that happened. Instead, a health-care system that already runs close to full capacity, and that was already challenged by a severe flu season, was suddenly faced with a virus that had been left to spread, untracked, through communities around the country. Overstretched hospitals became overwhelmed. Basic protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves, began to run out. Beds will soon follow, as will the ventilators that provide oxygen to patients whose lungs are besieged by the virus.

The White House is a ghost town of scientific expertise. A pandemic-preparedness office that was part of the National Security Council was dissolved in 2018. On January 28, Luciana Borio, who was part of that team, urged the government to “act now to prevent an American epidemic,” and specifically to work with the private sector to develop fast, easy diagnostic tests. But with the office shuttered, those warnings were published in The Wall Street Journal, rather than spoken into the president’s ear. Instead of springing into action, America sat idle.

After 9/11, the world focused on counterterrorism. After COVID-19, attention may shift to public health. Expect to see a spike in funding for virology and vaccinology, a surge in students applying to public-health programs, and more domestic production of medical supplies. Expect pandemics to top the agenda at the United Nations General Assembly. Anthony Fauci is now a household name. “Regular people who think easily about what a policewoman or firefighter does finally get what an epidemiologist does,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The lessons that America draws from this experience are hard to predict, especially at a time when online algorithms and partisan broadcasters only serve news that aligns with their audience’s preconceptions. Such dynamics will be pivotal in the coming months, says Ilan Goldenberg, a foreign-policy expert at the Center for a New American Security. “The transitions after World War II or 9/11 were not about a bunch of new ideas,” he says. “The ideas are out there, but the debates will be more acute over the next few months because of the fluidity of the moment and willingness of the American public to accept big, massive changes.”

[full read]

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/


7 Resources for Reliable Information About Coronavirus 

1. The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) is publishing rolling updates on the coronavirus situation as well as useful infographics and explainers, and should be your first port of call for new assessments of what is going on.

The WHO has also got a really handy page on common coronavirus myths — covering everything from whether eating garlic or taking a bath can help prevent you catching it (they can’t), to discussion about what age people are most susceptible.

2. The National Health Service

The UK’s NHS is another excellent resource. It includes easy to understand advice about symptoms, and what to do if you think you have them.

It also gives details of how and under which circumstances you need to self-isolate, and for how long, and on how to get a self-isolation medical advice note to get to your employer.

3. The BBC Coronavirus Podcast

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has launched a Coronavirus Global Update podcast, which includes a daily round-up on the spread of coronavirus.

It also includes reports from affected areas, details of the latest medical information, and the impact on health, business, and travel.

4. COVID-19 Facts

The COVID-19 Facts website works to collate information from sources including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the World Health Organization, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

It also features a series covering myths around coronavirus, including analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit of where the myth came from, and what experts say about it.

5. The New Scientist Podcast

The New Scientist podcast is becoming increasingly focused on COVID-19 — including episodes and pandemic preparations; the spread of COVID-19 and the importance of hand washing; the coronavirus vaccine; and a coronavirus special on disaster preparation and environmental change.

6. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The content platform of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Optimist, is sharing stories, research, and news stories about coronavirus from the Foundation.

The platform works to convene expert voices from across the global health sector, including sharing expert perspectives and updates on the response to COVID-19 — and you can also sign up for the Optimist’s news digest.

7. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

The LSHTM launched its new podcastLSHTM Viral in January 2020, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, and is releasing a new episode every week. It specifically focuses on the science behind outbreaks and how we respond to them.

Meanwhile, the LSHTM is also launching an online short course, for those who want to better understand the emergence of COVID-19, and how we respond to it moving forward.

The free-of-charge course launches on March 23, and will cover topics like: how COVID-19 emerged and was identified; public health measures worldwide; and what’s needed to address COVID-19 in the future.

Given that everything is going to be the way it’s going to be, we’re left with an actually useful and productive question instead: “What are you going to do about it?”

-Seth Godin

Anticipatory grief.

Stocking up on compassion.

Name it.

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief

Harvard Business Review

Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present.

Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.

When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.

It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.

https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

Zooming at home.

March 17, 2020

A short manifesto from author and former dot com exec/blogger Seth Godin.

The conversation

“A short manifesto about the future of online interaction

The world is changing. Faster and more suddenly than most of us expected.

And beyond the fraught health emergencies that so many are going through, many of us are being asked to quickly move our meetings and our classes online.

Fortunately, there are powerful and inexpensive tools to do just that. Unfortunately, we’re at risk at adopting a new status quo that’s even worse than the one it replaces.

We can make it better.

You have a chance to reinvent the default, to make it better. Or we can maintain the status quo. Which way will you contribute?

Rather than doing what we’ve always done in real-life (but online, and not as well), what if we did something better instead?

Here’s what we think we get from a real-life meeting:

  • A chance for people to come together and discuss important issues.

Here’s what we actually get:

  • A chance for some people to demonstrate their status and power.
  • A chance for most people to take notes and seek to avoid responsibility.

Real-life meetings are among the most hated part of work for the typical office worker. They last too long, happen too often and bore and annoy most of the people who attend. They can mostly be replaced by a memo (if they’re about transferring information) or they could be better run (if they’re about transforming information.)

But at least you’re not in school.

The traditional school day is nothing but a meeting. Eight hours of it. In which you are almost never asked to contribute, or, if you are, it’s at great risk, both social and in terms of academic standing.

And now, because of worldwide events, local meetings and local schooling are going online.

It will lead to one of two things:

1. Just like the ones in real-life, except worse.

2. Something new and something better.

Forgive me for not being optimistic, but if what we’re seeing is any guide, we’re defaulting to the first (wrong) choice.

It’s worse because you can check your phone, your email and your fridge. It’s worse because you can more clearly see the faces of people who are bored right in front of you who can’t realize you can see them.

[Did you know that there’s a ‘focus’ button in Zoom and other tools that shows the organizer when people in the room have put Chrome or something else in front and are only sort-of paying attention? It’s there to ensure compliance and it’s there because we’re figuring out how to not pay attention.]

The compliance of the mandatory Zoom meeting is not nearly as firm as it is in real life. It’s like an episode of the Office, except it’s happening millions of times a day.

And then when we try to move classes online! First we coerced students to pay attention with grades, withholding what they want and need (a certificate, a diploma, an A) in exchange for them giving up their agency and freedom and youth.

Then, because we weren’t getting enough compliance, we invented the clicker.

It’s a pernicious digital device that probably had good intent behind it, but like so many things that are industrialized, it’s now more of a weapon than a tool.

How the clicker works: Every student at a large university is required to buy one. Yes, you need to spend more of your own money to be controlled. It has built-in ID (it knows who you are) and wifi and GPS. Inside the lecture hall, you need to click. Click to prove you’re there. Click to prove you’re awake. Click to prove you can repeat what the professor just said.

Sure, it’s possible to use clickers to produce powerful and engaging discussion. My quick research seems to indicate that this almost never happens. It’s easier to have the student simply pay for compliance in exchange for the certificate.

So, we have a few problems:

1. The in-person regime of meetings and school is riddled with problems around status, wasted time, compliance, boredom and inefficient information flow.

2. Moving to online gives up the satisfaction of the status quo, diminishes the ego satisfaction for those seeking status, and creates even more challenges with compliance, boredom and the rest.

But…

There’s a solution. A straightforward and non-obvious choice.

Let’s have a conversation instead.

A conversation involves listening and talking. A conversation involves a perception of openness and access and humanity on both sides.

People hate meetings but they don’t hate conversations.

People might dislike education, but everyone likes learning.

If you’re trapped in a room of fifty people and the organizer says, “let’s go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves,” you know you’re in for an hour of unhappiness. That’s because no one is listening and everyone is nervously waiting for their turn to talk.

But if you’re in a conversation, you have to listen to the other person. Because if you don’t, you won’t know what to say when it’s your turn to talk.

Conversations reset the power and compliance dynamic, because conversations enable us to be heard.

Conversations generate their own interest, because after you speak your piece, you’re probably very focused on what someone is going to say in response.

You don’t have to have a conversation, but if you choose to have one, go all in and actually have one.

And here’s the punchline:

The digital world enables a new kind of conversation, one that scales, one that cannot possibly be replicated in the real world.

There’s even a special button for it in Zoom, and if you have enrollment and the passion to engage with it, you can use it to create magic.

We know, because we’ve done it at Akimbo. We’ve created important and useful conversations for a group of 700 people at a time. More than 97% of the people who joined our online meeting were in it at the end. With no coercion, no diploma, no grades and no clickers.

If we want to, we can use Zoom to create conversations, not a rehash of tired power dynamics. We can create peer to peer environments where conversations happen.

Here’s how it works:

0. The most important: Only have a real-time meeting if it deserves to be a meeting. If you need people to read a memo, send a memo. If you need students to do a set of problems, send the problems. If you want people to watch a speech or talk, then record it and email it to them. Meetings and real-time engagements that are worthy of conversations are rare and magical. Use them wisely.

1. People come to the meeting ready to have a conversation. If they’re coerced to be there, everything else gets more difficult.

2. Part of being engaged means being prepared. Consider this simple 9 point checklist.

3. Organize a conversation. That can’t work at any scale more than five. How then, to do an event with hundreds of people? The breakout.

A standard zoom room permits you to have 250 people in it. You, the organizer, can speak for two minutes or ten minutes to establish the agenda and the mutual understanding, and then press a button. That button in Zoom will automatically send people to up to 50 different breakout rooms.

If there are 120 people in the room and you set the breakout number to be 40, the group will instantly be distributed into 40 groups of 3.

They can have a conversation with one another about the topic at hand. Not wasted small talk, but detailed, guided, focused interaction based on the prompt you just gave them.

8 minutes later, the organizer can press a button and summon everyone back together.

Get feedback via chat (again, something that’s impossible in a real-life meeting). Talk for six more minutes. Press another button and send them out for another conversation.

This is thrilling. It puts people on the spot, but in a way that they’re comfortable with.

If you’re a teacher and you want to actually have conversations in sync, then this is the most effective way to do that. Teach a concept. Have a breakout conversation. Have the breakouts bring back insights or thoughtful questions. Repeat.

A colleague tried this technique at his community center meeting on Sunday and it was a transformative moment for the 40 people who participated.

If you want to do a lecture, do a lecture, but that’s prize-based education, not real learning. If people simply wanted to learn what you were teaching, they wouldn’t have had to wait for your lecture (or pay for it). They could have looked it up online.

But if you want to create transformative online learning, then allow people to learn together with each other.

Connect them.

Create conversations.”

 

The only one who has heard all of it…

January 23, 2020

…is you.

“Jerry Garcia performed thousands of times, and he was the only one who heard every performance.

The same is true for the work you’ve created, the writing you’ve done, the noise in your head–you’re the only person who has heard every bit of it.

Tell us what we need to know. Not because you need to hear yourself repeat it, but because you believe we need to hear it.

Take your time and lay it out for us, without worrying about whether or not we’ve heard you say it before. We probably haven’t.”

~Seth Godin

‘…and it bends towards justice.’

January 20, 2020

‘Superman could bend steel with his bare hands.

Along the way, we’ve been sold on the idea that difficult tasks ought to be left to heroes, often from somewhere far away or from long ago. That it’s up to them, whoever ‘them’ is.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Theodore Parker: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

But it’s not bending itself. And it’s not waiting for someone from away to bend it either.

It’s on us. Even when it doesn’t work (yet). Even when it’s difficult. Even when it’s inconvenient.

Our culture is the result of a trillion tiny acts, taken by billions of people, every day. Each of them can seem insignificant, but all of them add up, one way or the other, to the change we each live through.

Sometimes it takes a hero like Dr. King to wake us up and remind us of how much power we actually have.

And now it’s our turn. It always has been.’

-Seth Godin

The end of ‘someone.’

January 6, 2020

The following idea is endorsed by all of these people:

None of them exist.

They’re constructs, built by an algorithm. Rights released, happy and smiling, but no one in particular.

Fifty years ago, you couldn’t trust the endorsements in direct marketing ads for lousy products:

“A miracle!” …Bob

Because you knew there wasn’t really a Bob.

Twenty-three years ago, when I created a book with the Weekly World News (yes, this is true), I visited their tiny office in Florida. It consisted of three people and a filing cabinet. Inside the cabinet were pictures of 400 people (mostly friends and former friends of the three editors) that would be cut and pasted in the WWN any time they needed a picture of an expert, a citizen or both. They weren’t news and they weren’t the world, but they were weekly.

I knew that the Weekly World News was low-brow chicanery, but I have a hunch that not everyone did.

In 2019, and perhaps forever, we’re now at a new level, one where the polish of photography or video is no longer any clue at all about the provenance of what we’re encountering.

I don’t think we have any clue about how disruptive this shift is going to be.

Even the real celebrities we purport to trust (“influencers” deliberately in quotes) are easily bought. It used to be only Rula Lens who we doubted.

There are people and organizations that are racing to break the fabric of community that we all depend on. Either to make a short-term profit or to atomize/vaporize widespread trust to hide from accountability and to slow change.

Like all shifts, there will be a counter-shift. But keep your eyes open, because the rules are clearly changing. Remaining trusted and consistent will become ever more valuable as it becomes more scarce. A resolution to be in higher-resolution for those you seek to serve.

In the meantime, it’s worth confirming the source before you believe what you see.

-Seth Godin

https://www.sethgodin.com

 

David & Seth

January 2, 2020

Seth Godin:

A Box of Infinity

It’s hard to look right at it.

The possibility that lies before us, the chance to connect, to lead, to be heard–it’s bigger than it’s ever been.

Tempting indeed to avert your eyes, because staring into infinity means embracing just how small we feel. We avert our eyes because to realize how much potential we have to contribute puts us on the hook.

But whether we ignore it or not, the infinity of possibility remains.

Dance with it.

︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶

David Whyte:

Hiding

It’s a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost eery part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the head but of a future summer rose, the snowbound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grown and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.

Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named.

We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed to soon into a world already awash with ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others.

What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.

Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control.

Hiding is a bid for independence, from others from mistaken ideas we have about ourselves form an oppressive mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.

Seth’s Seven

May 16, 2019

  • Identity

  • Axiomatic

  • Historic

  • Experimental

  • Experimental

  • Experience

  • Cultural

“A truth is a useful, reliable statement of how the world is. You can ignore it, but it will cost you, because the world won’t work the way you hope it will. You can dislike the truth, but pretending it isn’t true isn’t an effective way to accomplish your goals or to further our culture.

Most of the kinds of truth we experience are about the past and the present, and these are the easiest to see and confirm, but there are also truths about cause and effect.

Identity is the truth of description. A circle is round because we define a circle as round. You can say, “a circle is rectangular in shape,” and all you’ve done is confused us. Words only work because we agree on what they mean.

Demagogues often play with the identity of words, as it distracts us.

Axiomatic truth is truth about the system. The Peano axioms, for example, define the rules of arithmetic. They are demonstrably true and the system is based on these truths. Einstein derived his theories of special and general relativity with a pad of paper, not with an experiment (though the experiments that followed have demonstrated that his assertions were in fact true.)

There were loud voices in mid-century Germany who said that Einstein’s work couldn’t be true because of his heritage, and many others who mis-described his work and then decried that version of it, but neither approach changed the ultimate truth of his argument.

Axiomatic truth, like most other truths, doesn’t care whether you understand it or believe it or not. It’s still true.

Historic truth is an event that actually happened. We know it happened because it left behind evidence, witnesses and other proof.

Experimental truth may not have the clear conceptual underpinnings of axiomatic truth, but it holds up to scrutiny. The world is millions of years old. Every experiment consistently demonstrates this. Experimental truth can also give us a road map to the future. Vaccines do not cause autism. The world is not flat. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising.

If you want to challenge an experimental truth, the only response is to do a better experiment, make it replicable and show your work.

Personal experience truth is the truth that’s up to you. How you reacted to what happened can only be seen and reported by you.

And finally, consider cultural truth, and this is the truth that can change. This is the truth of, “people like us do things like this.” Which is true, until it’s not. And then people like us do something else.”

-Seth Godin

https://seths.blog

C’mon, let’s go.

January 12, 2019

‘In The Wizard of Oz, we meet a powerful heroine. Dorothy is resolute, focused and honest. A generous partner, leading her friends to where they seek to go.

“C’mon, let’s go,” is a great sentence, worth using more often.

It doesn’t require a permit, a badge or a degree.

It’s simply the work of someone who cares enough to lead, at least right now. And right now is enough.’

-Seth Godin

“It seemed like a good idea.”

December 21, 2018

“Of course it did. We wouldn’t be in this jam if it hadn’t.

The nature of our independent choices means that sometimes we’re seduced by a decision that turns out to be a mistake.

Worth considering for next time:

Was it a failure of strategy (wrong choice) or execution (bad follow through)?

Are we thinking long-term enough?

Are shiny objects swaying our judgment?

Is it the arrogance of being sure we’re right, or the impatience of not waiting for more information?

What about the desire to go along with (or against) the crowd?

Or perhaps we’re trying to teach someone a lesson when we’re actually hurting ourselves.

Often, we’ll be in a jam because we failed to act at all. And sometimes it’s because we didn’t leave ourselves enough of an out in case of a pothole, because, as we all know, it rarely works every time.

A passion for forward motion is the single best way to improve the status quo. And the more forward motion we make, the better we’ll get at figuring out if its a good idea next time.”

Seth Godin

@ThisIsSethsBlog

 

Two kinds of careening.

November 16, 2018

A Toyota Prius passed me at 100 miles an hour. I didn’t know a Prius could even go that fast. The driver was passing on the right, using the breakdown lane, zigging and zagging across traffic. If a car could careen, he was.

The problem with this sort of fast passage is that there’s no room for error. One mistake, one failure, and you’re out.

The other sort of rambunctious, risky forward motion is very different.

This is the work we do when we’re out on a limb with a new idea. When we’re sharing ideas that feel personal or important. This is the work of practical empathy, and most of all, of acting ‘as if’ before we’re sure.

The thing is–even though this might feel as risky as driving down the Saw Mill River Parkway at 100 miles an hour, it’s actually the safest work you can do. If you fail while trying to help, you’ll get another chance. And then another.

Unlimited chances.

-Seth Godin

Do we see?

November 14, 2018

One by one, the urgent goes away.

Those emergencies from a year ago (and a month ago), they’re gone.

Either they were solved, or they became things to live with. But emergencies don’t last. They fade.

Knowing that, knowing that you will outlast them, every single one of them, does it make it easier to see the problem, not the panic?

-Seth Godin

The day after July 4th.

July 5, 2018

Often mis-characterized as a day of independence.

What actually matters is what you’re going to do with it.

It turns out that if you have the power to make rules, the rules are your responsibility.

If you have the freedom to make choices, the choices are your responsibility.

And if you have the ability to change the culture, to connect with others, to make a ruckus, then yes, what you do with that is your responsibility as well.

Doing nothing is a choice. The thing you didn’t say, the project you didn’t launch, the hand you didn’t lend…

But whatever we do, if we have the independence to do it (or not) is our responsibility.

-Seth Godin

Seth Godin

October 24, 2017

Degrees of Freedom
 
“All you have to do is look around to realize just how many choices we still have. What to eat, who to speak to, what to do for a living, what to learn, what to say, who to contribute to, how we interact, what we stand for…
 
The safe and comfortable path is to pretend that we’re blocked at every turn.
 
But most of the turns, we don’t even see. We’ve trained ourselves to ignore them.
 
A habit is not the same as no choice. And a choice isn’t often easy. In fact, the best ones rarely are.
 
But we can still choose to make one.”

June 7, 2017

Off the hook with Milton Friedman.

Here it is 2017, and the Chairman of one of the largest pharma companies in the country is gleefully telling patients and the FDA to live with the costs of his profit seeking, at the same time he pays his CEO more than $95 million a year. Because he can, and, like many who lucked into top jobs at big companies, because his excuse is simple: He’s just doing his job.

If the idea is so wrong, if it leads to an erosion of the social contract and the deaths of innocent kids, why are we still discussing it?

Because it’s simple, because it diminishes responsibility, and because it comes with prizes and warm chocolate cookies for those in charge.

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/files/milton-friedman.pdf

[More from Seth Godin]

Nearly fifty years ago, Milton Friedman published a polemic, an article that altered the way many people think about corporations and their role in society. Countless writers have explained why it’s poorly reasoned, dangerous and wrong. (Including business school deans, Harvard Business Review and Fortune).

The simple message of the simple article was: “there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits…”

Friedman does add a parenthetical, “so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud,” but it’s clear that his emphasis is on the first part.

Businesses, he argues, should show no corporate responsibility, do nothing to further the goals of an ethical society, do nothing to improve the lives of customers, employees or bystanders—unlessthese actions coincidentally maximize profits.

An interesting question that most people haven’t focused on: why did this dangerous idea catch on and stick around so long?

Because it’s simple, because it diminishes responsibility, and because it comes with prizes and warm chocolate cookies for those in charge.

The simplicity of the argument matches up with its mendacity. There’s no need to worry about nuance, no need to lose sleep over choices, no endless laundry list of social ills to worry about. Just make more profit.

Do this, get that.

A simple compass, a north star, a direction to go that absolves the employee/boss of responsibility for anything complicated or nuanced.

People love mechanical simplicity, especially when it benefits them.

The official rules of baseball are more than 250 pages long. Why? Because working the system, cutting corners and winning at all costs long ago replaced playing by the spirit of the game. Since the league can’t count on people to act like people acting on behalf of the community, they have to create ever more rules to keep the system in check.

The problem is far worse in a supposed free market. When humans stop acting like humans and instead indicate that they have no choice but to seek every short-term benefit and cut every possible corner, we can no longer trust each other to act responsibly.

Off the hook feels like a simple way out. “I’m just doing my job, and not thinking hard about the side effects (or to be more accurate, the effects) of my actions. Not only that, but one of the things that’s part of my job is lobbying to have fewer rules. Because working the refs is good business. And because everyone is doing it, I have no choice but to do it too.”

Of course, it’s difficult for us to solely blame poor Milton. Lots of us have bad ideas, I’ve certainly had plenty. No, we need to blame ourselves for letting selfish corporate officers get away with this reasoning. When we go to work, or partner with, or buy stock in a company that signs up for Milton reasoning, we’re rewarding people who have long ago stopped acting like people.

Profits are fine, they enable the investment we need to produce value. But almost nothing benefits from being the only thing we seek, and the pursuit of profit at the expense of our humanity is too high a price to pay.

Here’s a different version: A business is a construct, an association of human beings combining capital and labor to make something. That business has precisely the same social responsibilities as the people that it consists of. The responsibility to play fairly, to see the long-term impacts of its actions and to create value for all those it engages with.

Full Friedman article:

http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

‘What about endogeneity?;

May 25, 2017

SETH GODIN:

“Ask this question often.

Several times a day, at least.

Endogeneity is a fancy term for confusing cause and effect. For not being clear about causation and correlation.

It’s one reason why smart people make so many mistakes. We think A leads to B, so more A gets more B. While A and B may have been related in the past, though, it’s not at all clear that improving A is going to do anything about B.

There is, for example, an extraordinarily high correlation between per capita cheese consumption and the risk of being strangled by your bedsheets while you sleep:

Chart

That doesn’t mean that eating less cheese is going to help you not die in bed.”

Choose the tree.

May 8, 2017

Seth Godin:

“The boom emoji gets a lot of play. It happened. It worked. We won.

Boom.

The tree emoji, on the other hand, celebrates the patient and generous acts of planting seeds, watering them, caring for them, and then, in a generation, you have a tree.

It doesn’t even have a noise.

Simple growth. With patience. (I prefer the deciduous tree instead of the evergreen, because the leaves coming in and falling off are part of the deal).

Put me down for the tree emoji.” 🌳

 

The invisible fence.

April 4, 2017

“There are very few fences that can stop a determined person (or dog, for that matter).

Most of the time, the fence is merely a visual reminder that we’re rewarded for complying.

If you care enough, ignore the fence. It’s mostly in your head.”

-Seth Godin

 

Words that resonate.

February 20, 2017

‘Our worldview casts a shadow in the words that resonate.

One reason it’s difficult to understand each other is that behind the words we use are the worldviews, the emotions and the beliefs we have before we even consider what’s being said.

Before we get to right and wrong, good or bad, effective or ineffective, we begin with worldview.

They affect the way we choose a car, engage in a conversation or vote. These cultural and learned worldviews alter the way we see and hear and speak.

Words like: Fairness, change, interference, freedom, responsibility and opportunity trigger different reactions based on worldview. It’s always easier to encourage action based on an existing worldview than it is to change that view.

The columns below don’t line up for everyone (or anyone), but instead highlight different instincts on different axes on how each of us see the world in any given moment…

An all-powerful authority Treat others as you’d
want to be treated
Confidence, results,
right now, right later
Exploration, truth, working toward perfect, always a little wrong
Self-respect,
power, agency, taking space
Role awareness, dignity,
giving space, flexibility
Deserve, entitled, keep Share, distribute, invest
Effects Side effects
Ends and means Means and ends
Getting things done Listening, speaking up
and being heard
Patriotism, nationalism,
the homeland
Community, ecology,
the system
Power, authority, compliance, respect, status Fairness, hope, justice,
connection, healing
Profit-seeking Public utility
Intuitive Informed
Realism, denial Optimism, pessimism
Rewards, incentives,
victory, spoils
Equity, fairness and
the alleviation of suffering
Urgency, triumph,
security, impulse
Self control,
long-term thinking, wisdom
Vengeance Forgiveness
Zero-sum Win-win

Once we understand the landscape that someone sees, we have an easier time using words and images to fill in that landscape, to create a story that they can hear and understand, and, perhaps, we can make change happen.’

-Seth Godin

Power & Reason

February 17, 2017

A fish is not like a bicycle, but they’re not mutually exclusive. You can have both.

Part of our culture admires reason. It celebrates learning. It seeks out logic and coherence and an understanding of the how and the why.

At the same time, there are other people who seek out influence and authority. Either to exercise it or to blindly follow it.

Sometimes, they overlap. Sometimes, power is guided by reason. But that’s not required, not in the short run.  And sometimes, reasonable, informed people wield power. But again, as a visit to a university’s English department will show, not always.

It’s tempting for the powerful to argue with those that admire reason, pointing out how much power they wield.

And it’s tempting for the well-informed to argue with those that have power, pointing out how little reason they possess.

But just as a fish isn’t going to stop you from riding a bicycle, these arguments rarely work, because power and reason don’t live on the same axis. Listening to someone argue from the other axis is a little like watching TV with the sound off. It might look normal, but it is hard to follow.

Before we engage, we need to agree on what’s being discussed.

-Seth Godin

January 29, 2017

#WeThePeople

“But often, what we want is traction. The traction to find our footing, shift our posture, make a new decision. The traction to actually influence what happens next, not merely slip our way toward a goal of someone else’s choosing.”

-Seth Godin

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