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Ya gotta show up

I have, at times, referred to myself as a “serial entrepreneur,” meaning I have started multiple businesses, none of them at the same time. (What the word more accurately describes is the person who starts one business after another in relatively rapid succession, but this is my blog, so there. Nah!) It was during my efforts at starting number two (if your inner and giggling adolescent is activated by this, please keep it to yourself) that I learned something really important. Because it was an industry with which I was completely unfamiliar, I was going to every pertitent seminar I could afford, reading every relevant book and asking questions of every successful person I could find in the industry. It was during the question-asking portion that someone said something that made a huge difference, both in my business and in my life.

The man I was talking to/asking questions of was already immensely successful in the field. He said (my paraphrase) “You’re here, which is a huge advantage over almost everyone else. The single biggest part of your success, in terms of what you do (as opposed to how you think) is simply showing up.” It took me a little while to understand that “showing up” covered a lot of ground. It meant running my business like a business instead of running it like a hobby. It meant actively learning all I could. It meant doing, day in and day out, all the little things (including and especially the ones I disliked doing) that made the big things possible.*

To paraphrase (and twist the words of) “Red” Sanders, “showing up is not the only thing, but it is everything.”

There was a question on Quora recently that went something like this: Is atheism the wave of the future? There were quite a few answers. The one pertinent to this post was given by Tom Kratman.** Its basic points, as I recall, were these:

  1. People learn their most basic values at home.
  2. Religious people tend to be more conscientious and conistent in their efforts to pass on their values to their kids than are the non-religious.
  3. Sincere adherents of religion tend to have more kids than other people.

Then, he gave his conclusion: the future belongs to those who show up. To put it another way, historically, religious people have shown up more consistently and in greater numbers than have the non-religious and the non-believers.

If I don’t have what I want, there’s a very good chance it’s because I haven’t bothered to consistently show up. Do I take classes to learn what I don’t know? Do I read things that will help me become better at what I do? Do I set goals (using a system like SMART goals)? Do I budget my money and my time? Do I give my life the same sort of conscientious attention I give my job? Do I do, every day, all the little things, including the ones I don’t want to do, that will help me get where I want to go? In other words, can I be bothered to take the time to just show up for the life I say I want?

Stuff like this isn’t complicated. It’s actually pretty simple. The tendency to make it complicated, to describe it as complicated, is easy to explain. If it’s simple, then we can probably do it. We just have to put forth a little effort, every day. Of course, that means we’re going to have to change. The problem with that is that we are human. Humans don’t like change because causes discomfort and we don’t like discomfort. So, we convince ourselves it’s complicated. And now, because it’s complicated, we get to be lazy and we get to avoid discomfort, including the discomfort brought on by the simplicity that leaves us nowhere to hide.

Wouldn’t it be better to just show up?

*Almost inarguably, this is an enormous reason (as in, the reason) I’m not yet a published author. I simply have not committed to showing up. That’s one I have to change.

**Sadly, I have been unable to find the link to either the question or to Tom Kratman’s response. The latter is particularly unfortunate, not only because he deserves full credit for his answer, but because he wrote it in his very unique style.

Please, don’t be stupid

What follows is based on a conversation I had with someone, yesterday. It’s not very tightly reasoned and it paints with an enormously broad brush, so you have been warned.

People, I have decided, can be amazingly stupid. If you are inclined to think I am referring only to those people who disagree with some position I hold dear, allow me to suggest that’s not what I am doing. No, it’s people in general, which at times undoubtedly includes me. While this tendency toward stupidity can be seen all around us and in almost every arena of life, I’m going to use an aspect of concern about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as an example.

Before going further, let’s note that I’m not talking about whether AGW is occurring or not, though I will, for the sake of this posting, assume AGW as a real thing. More than that, I will assume it poses, to use a currently popular term, an existential threat to continued human existence.  I’m making this assumption because I want to talk about AGW as regards social and political capital.*

Some years back, there was a man elected President of the United States. Early during his time in office, he was asked if he would be pursuing a particular policy which seemed consistent with his political position. As I recall, he indicated he would probably not be doing so because, he noted, everyone who is elected enters office with a finite amount of political capital which he must spend in order to accomplish his goals. The obvious, and I submit accurate, implication was that when that capital was spent, there would be no more. As a general rule, once it’s gone, it’s gone. How does that relate to AGW?

Here are some things we can observe about those who seem to be leaders in the movement to address AGW. Be advised, once again, that I am painting with a broad brush, here.

  1. They seem to fervently believe what they preach. In other words, they expend a great deal of time, energy and effort attempting to persuade other people of (at least) four things:
    1. AGW is real
    2. AGW poses an existential threat to human existence
    3. AGW can and must be addressed
    4. Those who disagree are anti-scientific neanderthals who must be silenced
  2. Many of those who seem to be the loudest proponents of addressing AGW are wealthy and live lifestyles/do things that contradict their calls for things like smaller carbon footprints.
  3. Some leaders of this movement travel to AGW conferences, held in what some people might consider “exotic” locations, in private or chartered jets.
  4. Some attend lavish parties or social events while at the conferences.
  5. There is significant opposition to using nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. Instead, there is a push for “green energy.”

All five of those waste political and social capital.

  1. Screaming “the science is settled” to end or forestall debate persuades only the already convinced. To all others, it makes you look like you’re afraid of debate.
  2. It is inconsistent to own and drive multiple fossil fuel driven cars and to own one or more large homes, while telling others to reduce their carbon footprint. It makes one look rather hypocritical. People don’t like hypocrites.
  3. Private and chartered jets are inefficient uses of energy, at least within an AGW context. Why not simply telecommute or have a video conference, instead?
  4. Parties sort of give the impression that the purpose of the conference was something other than an attempt to address a real problem.
  5. Safe nuclear energy is a reality. Pretending otherwise is dishonest.

My observation is that the behavior of some leaders and/or mouthpieces of the movement has been such that an increasing number of people simply don’t believe them. At the very least, it predisposed people to not believe them. This is a problem because it seems quite likely to lead people to reject attempts to address AGW, which leads to an even bigger problem. To wit, AGW will go unaddressed (at least unaddressed in a timely manner) and it will bring about the very thing we are trying to avoid, because those most visible leaders will destroy both their own credibility and that of the movement in general.

Which brings us to the next problem: what can be done about this?

The simple answer is “stop doing those things which burn up social and political capital for no real gains. Stop looking hypocritical. Start doing what you want others to do.” Let’s be honest with ourselves. This means media personalities, business and industry leaders and political figures must do what they ask of everyone else. Bill needs a smaller house and Al needs to fly business class.

Who believes either of these are likely to become reality? No hands? Me either. Which leaves us facing a threat a large number of people, perhaps even a majority of people, do not recognize and answers to which they will not accept. Given the nature of the threat (i.e., the end of the human race), it must still be addressed.

Which is where the real problem comes in.

See, if people won’t accept the answer to something that threatens to wipe us all from existence, there remains only one response. Government force. And if they still won’t cave in to the pressure? If they still decline? Yep. That’s right.

You have to kill them. Remember, this is about survival as a species.

Presumably, we’d start with a certain number in mind. In other words, we’d have an idea of how many people needed to die to reduce the impact we’re all having on the climate. Ideally, the initial targets would be the loudest “deniers,” but others would likely have to follow.

Of course, people might object. They might actually decline to be killed, even if boxcars weren’t involved. They might even fight back. I would. I will, if you come for me, my family, my friends or my neighbor.

Which is why, if you are convinced we’re facing a likely TEOTWAWKI threat from AGW, you don’t burn up your social and political capital for no good end. Because you will hasten the very thing you seek to avoid. This stuff really isn’t all that complicated and there’s no reason to be stupid, even though people are pretty good at that.

*If you are inclined to think you know, based upon this brief posting, what I believe about AGW, allow me to suggest I haven’t provided nearly enough information for you to make such a determination with any degree of accuracy. On the other hand, you can get a pretty good idea of what I think of authoritarians.

No, I’m not nervous

Recently, there was a question on Quora that I took the time to answer. The question, “Do Americans feel nervous in public places where the person walking behind them could easily have a gun, and could easily kill you if they so choose,” elicited a variety of answers. Some of them were creative, some were boringly predictable and some were, well, stupid. Mine follows. Feel free to assign it to whichever category you choose.

My answer requires me to provide some background. Please, bear with me. I’m a retired US Navy officer, but I began my military career by enlisting in the US Coast Guard. I am also a RN with what we like to euphemistically call “significant” clinical experience in both psychiatric/mental-health nursing and in the Operating Room. In addition, I am an executive life coach.

My answer pulls from both the question and from some other answers to the question.

No, I do not feel nervous. Allow me to explain.

Feeling nervous

Most people, as in the vast and overwhelming majority of us, have this amazing ability. We exercise it regularly. Unfortunately, we often do so without being aware of what we’re doing. What is this thing we exercise both regularly and without conscious awareness? Simply this: we choose how we feel. That’s it. We choose. What’s even more amazing is that we can learn, if we so choose (there’s that word, again), to do so consciously. We can even learn to make a given choice a regular, settled part of our lives. This includes the things/situations we choose to fear or not fear; the things about which we choose to feel nervous or not. It’s a choice.

Trust

I knew a man, now divorced, who simply would not trust his wife though she gave him no reason for his lack of trust. My advice was simple. Either make the decision to trust her, and act like he trusted her with the goal of making that trust both easier and stronger, or make the decision to not trust her and get out of the marriage. His method, not trusting but staying in the situation, was driving him nucking futs.

As an OR nurse I have participated in several thousand surgeries, in both military and civilian settings and all over the world. And yet, I have worked with only a small percentage of the world’s surgeons, OR techs, anesthesiologists, and nurse anesthetists. During that time I have seen surgeons endanger staff and patients by choosing to lose their temper(s) in the OR. I have seen surgeons deliberately break expensive implants by throwing them against a wall, break functional surgical instruments with an orthopedic mallet, threaten staff members, and commit assault and battery. I’ve seen similar behavior from others in the OR. And when I decided to have a mass removed from my neck, I chose to trust the OR team, entrust myself to their care and undergo both surgery and general anesthesia. Why? Because in spite of what I’ve seen, I know it doesn’t happen all that often, even though it happens far more often than many or most people think.

It’s a choice.

Easily have a gun

Though they are not original with me, there are three rules, adherence to which greatly reduces one’s risk of being a victim of any sort of violence. Those are

Don’t do stupid things
Don’t go stupid places
Don’t hang out with stupid people
When I was young (and stupid) I violated those rules, whether one, two or all three, with reckless abandon. I suppose I was particularly stupid in that I violated them not only in the US, but in other countries, as well. It was during that time that I made an observation. I saw something in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, some Commonwealth Countries, some countries on the European continent, and in some Latin American countries. This is my observation based on my experiences: If you live in one of those countries, and spend/have spent any significant time in a metropolitan area, then you have been, more than once, within not just shooting distance, but very likely within spitting distance (and maybe even “bad breath” distance) of one or more people who are at that moment in illegal possession of a concealed firearm.

Could easily kill you if they so chose

When I was in the US Coast Guard we devoted a lot of resources, including time, energy and effort, to law enforcement. At that time, one of our big concerns were the incredibly violent Colombian cartels. One of the points made during law enforcement training was this: if the bad guy(s) want(s) you dead badly enough, there is nothing you can do about it and you will die. Talking to my friends in civilian law enforcement, this is still recognized as true. It is independent of person, occupation, weapon or method. It does not matter if you are shot, stabbed, poisoned, run over with a car, blown up or killed by an “angel of death” nurse, you’re just as dead.

Other thoughts

I don’t usually talk about statistics. As far as I can tell, even before Great Britain started its walk toward increasingly draconian gun laws, the US was a more violent place. Interestingly, over the last 20–30 years, as gun laws in the UK have become more restrictive, and as they have become in many ways less restrictive in the US (concealed carry, specifically) and as the number of privately owned firearms in the US has increased dramatically, something interesting has happened. Crime, including violent crime (which includes crimes committed with firearms) has decreased dramatically in both places, suggesting the driver is not guns.

I can choose any number of things. I can choose to be nervous and/or afraid, or not. I can choose to trust my fellow-citizens, or not. I can choose to believe the democide of the 20th century makes it reasonable to entrust government with a monopoly on force and its tools, or not. I can choose to believe my safety is primarily my responsibility or that of someone else or some entity. I can choose to be just a little more alert and see the colors of the flowers in spring, the tree leaves in fall, and all the other amazing things going on around me, or I can choose to remain oblivious, trusting in blind luck to keep me from violating one of the three rules. I get to make all those and a myriad of other choices. I can make them consciously or otherwise. Regardless, I will choose. So will you, OP.

People are nothing if not interesting, to no small degree because of how they approach their choices.

What I find really interesting about the question is the presumption which underlies it. The belief that it is the lack of a gun which prevents someone from attacking you (including with deadly force) is childish reasoning. The gun, an inanimate object of metal and wood (or polymer) and which lacks both will and volition, is cast as a present-day version of the One Ring. As such, it is viewed by many as being imbued with the power to warp the thoughts, twist the mind and pervert the character of its possessor. It turns this inanimate object into a focus of evil talismanic power. It also, almost certainly inadvertently, deprives people of their ability to choose; to choose how they feel and to choose what they do.

Look, you may feel nervous at the prospect of someone around you being in possession of a gun. If you are in even reasonable possession of your faculties, that is entirely up to you. And, yes, what that person does with that gun is entirely up to him, as are the actions of the person passing by you at 45 miles per hour in a car while you walk down the sidewalk mere feet away. If you decide to make your feelings and actions, as well as those of others, a matter of something other than choice, it’s worth asking yourself why you wish to deprive humans of both their power and their responsibility and accountability. Why do you object to people possessing agency?

75 years ago

today, Operation Overlord (aka “D-day”) took place. It was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany and aspirations of the madman who had led the world into globe-spanning chaos, death and destruction. It was also the single biggest exercise in logistics the world had ever seen. It remains such to this day.

D-Day landing craft.

More than that, though, at least in terms of what we remember, is that it was a day when many of an entire generation did what was needful, rather than what was wanted, convenient, or safe.

d-day

Every year, and, I suspect, every day there are fewer and fewer left of those who were there. Fewer of those who can give their perspective. Fewer who can help us remember and understand the “why” of such a thing. If you have the opportunity, take the time to talk to someone who was there.

May we who remain never forget.

Music and the sea

Occasionally, I torture those around me by playing my guitar. That’s what I call it, anyway. Some people call it…something else. Since I play an acoustic guitar, specifically a dreadnought which has a rather pronounced (some say “booming”) bass, overall loudness and rather dark tone, I tend toward musical genres for which it is best suited – folk, country, bluegrass and some rock. In all likelihood, my musical preferences came first and the guitar followed.

Folk music

I think it was Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, who said “folk music is the music folks play.” That’s probably about as good a definition as one is likely to encounter. It allows one to avoid discussions of  the meanings of things like “traditional cultures” or “orally transmitted,” and the like. It was folk music that got me interested in finger picking (once it became obvious I was never going to be successful with country style flatpicking). Often associated, at least in my experience, with efforts at social change, I tend to enjoy the older songs. Some of the newer stuff seeks to address issues I don’t see as issues. Which is probably an indication I am becoming, uh, “seasoned” or perhaps “mature.”

The Newport Folk Festival began in, I believe, 1959. In its early years it featured both great musicians and great music. While many of the current musicians are also quite talented, the music, in many cases, has changed. That’s okay. Music does that, over time. Long ago, the guitar was not a lead instrument. That took the creativity of the Spanish and the advent of classical guitar. I recognize the inevitability of change. I also recognize that I like what I like. With that in mind, I thought I’d share an old clip from the 1963 Newport Folk Festival. It features two musicians, Judy Collins and Theodore Bikel.* This one is a sea shanty. I first heard it on a vinyl album I checked out of the public library in Phoenix, Arizona, many years ago. The quality is what it is, but I enjoy it a lot.

 

Next, there are two more modern songs which, if not sea shanties, are at least sea-related songs, both by the same artist. The first appeals to me mainly, I guess, because of my time in the Coast Guard. In its earliest form, it was the Revenue Marine. They weren’t pirates. They were simply an armed customs enforcement service. By the time I came along, of course, it was the United States Coast Guard and we spent a lot of time chasing the very people the song describes. Occasionally, we even caught some.

 

The second is just fun.

 

I have made a life and home here, in West Texas. Still, I’ll admit it. There are days I miss the sea. There are days I miss being underway. I wonder if that will ever change?

*No, I don’t agree with either of them about much, politically, but there is more to life than politics. If we are to only appreciate the work and efforts of those with whom we agree on politics, we force ourselves into bubbles and echo chambers, which is not a good idea. We miss a lot, that way. Besides, it’s a damn sea shanty. Not to mention that I consider Wilmington, North Carolina my hometown. I spent many of my formative years fishing, clamming and crabbing from the Cape Fear River to the ocean. My entire military career was spent in the USCG and the USN. I like sea shanties and related songs.

It’s not about numbers!

How many people in the US are killed with firearms every year? Of those, how many are suicides? How many are homicides? Of the homicides, how many are murder? How many are lawful self-defense? How many are committed by law enforcement? How many are committed by non-LEOs? How many are truly “accidents?” How many homicides are the result of, or are associated with, other criminal activity?

These are the things over which many gun control advocates and advocates of the right to keep and bear arms, argue. Allow me to suggest something you may not have considered. It may be something you find odd or even disturbing.

The numbers don’t matter.

Okay, that’s not quite true. There is a set of circumstances under which the numbers matter. In fact, under this set of circumstances they matter a great deal. If you believe liberty is properly subject to the calculus of social utility, then the numbers not only matter a great deal, they are, in the final analysis, the only thing that matters. This belief gets expressed in different ways.

  • “Does the right to keep and bear arms outweigh its cost?”
  • “What’s the benefit of the right to keep and bear arms?”
  • “Is the right worth this (insert number of choice)?”
  • “We need to balance the right with the cost.”

All of those are the same basic argument; liberty should carry water for social utility. People can (and people have) made the same argument regarding other rights. They all seek to make liberty subject to and dependent upon utility. Thus, depending on what the numbers actually are, people (real, individual people, not some conglomerate) are permitted to exercise a right without interference, or (again, depending on the numbers) with ever-increasing restrictions up to and including denial of the right. By the way, it is largely authoritarians and those who are accepting of authoritarianism who argue for this position.

On the other hand…

If you believe liberty is not properly subject to the calculus of social utility. If you believe liberty is both its own benefit and its own justification, then the numbers don’t matter. Try to understand. I’m not saying harm to people (again, real individuals, not some conglomerate) does not matter. It does matter and it matters a great deal. I’m saying that ultimately, at least in terms of what we have experienced here in the US (I try to avoid much commentary on other countries’ experiences), liberty* matters more.

It’s not really about numbers, then, is it? It’s about something far more basic, more fundamental. It’s about how we view liberty. It’s about how we view the relationship between people and government. It’s about how we view the relationships between individuals. It’s about freedom**.

*NOTE: Historically, the American definition of liberty can be expressed as “you can do whatever you want, up to the point that your actions infringe upon the rights of another.” I make this point because there is a tendency among some who see a need for (further) restrictions of liberty to argue that I and others want to be able to do whatever we want, even if it harms others. This is not only inaccurate, it is a lie. I don’t know about you, but I was taught, even as a child, that lying is bad.

**Why, then, would those who insist they are arguing about and for a fundamental right which is inherent in one’s being human, argue about numbers? Why would you tacitly accept a premise which is, by its very nature, opposed to the thing you seek to defend? Why cede such important territory to one’s opponents?

A musical interlude

I grew up in a Protestant tradition that put a lot of emphasis on singing. Now, my particular branch of that tradition was almost entirely a capella (or a cappella, if you prefer the Latin version), but throughout the greater tradition there remained an emphasis on music, especially singing. (FWIW, I have no interest in revisiting tired and pointless arguments re: which sort of music is “right” for worship. I’ve been down that road…won’t go back) Anyway…

I always wanted to be a bass. Never made it. As it turns out, I’m a baritone whose voice tends toward the lower end of that range (what one of my sons calls a “bassotone”). I’ve learned to live, rather happily, in my comfortable range, though I could use greater control over my instrument. Many of the old-time crooners were baritones. They followed a strict rule, which I state this way: “Never, ever leave your most comfortable, most resonant range. Ever.”

Which brings me to a song many people now arguably find offensive. While I don’t care for the Showboat version of Old Man River (the inclusion of the chorus really ruins the song for me, whether its the William Warfield version or the Paul Robeson version), both artists did a fine job.

 

Both would have been even better, I think, in the absence of a chorus. But, it was a Broadway production and then a MGM musical, so a chorus was pretty much de rigueur for the time. To suggest the song has “racially charged” content is to understate the obvious. People have dealt with the content in various ways. My preference for songs is for them to be sung, at least most of the time, the way they’re written. Thus, Gordon McRae’s (of Oklahoma! fame) treatment of the song*, shearing it of the lyrics he (or maybe his producers) perhaps found offensive, turns a great song into pablum.

Really? What is this crap?

On the other hand, here’s a version I enjoy a great deal, at least in part because, as sung, it falls within my vocal range. It also, blessedly, lacks the MGM chorus.

 

*Note: If you’re going to argue some version of “white people shouldn’t sing this song,” then I urge you to seriously consider the implications of that argument in light of who wrote the song.