Election Day in a Hurting America

7 Nov

It is election day and people throughout the country are lining up to cast their vote for local elections and for who will be the next President of the United States.  This important day will shape the future of our country for the next four years and beyond.  It is impossible to look at one President as only having an impact during their term.  Economic conditions, foreign policies, social programs and more are often carried on generation to generation so things that happen during four years have an impact that is felt far into the future.  

This election has been fierce.  Both sides – candidates, campaigns, and the public – have been fighting a battle that from where I sit has been filled with anger and frustration.  Watching the debates it was clear that America is choosing between two guys that really don’t like each other.  Fake smiles aside – they are not on the same page.  

The problem with an angry election is that the American people loose.  I have been watching a variety of news shows for months that discuss what each candidate is doing and what they have to say.  Some even talk about stupid Tweets sent by people on the campaign – as if that actually matters.  It is mind blowing to me because all of this talk about candidates does nothing for the citizens that have to elect them in the end.  A tweet sent by a campaign staffer does not help someone in Ohio get a job or put food on the table.  An insulting commercial does not help a student make their loan payment or the Johnsons keep their home.

We have real problems in America today.  Our problems run deep and cannot be fixed in a matter of months or even years. Our economic challenges are not just a problem to be discussed on the pages of the Wall Street Journal or on CNN.  These problems impact whether or not the kid riding the bus with yours has food for dinner.  They impact whether or not your parents can afford to retire or will be living in your spare room.  They impact whether or not your family can have two people working and pay your bills or if you have to downsize into an apartment.  The news media and politicians don’t seem to understand the gravity of the problems we are facing.  In my family and friends alone there has been massive unemployment, foreclosures, loss of health insurance and more – from people of all ages, walk of life, and education levels. This is not an isolated issue but something we are all dealing with.

I met a women in Montana a few weeks ago.  She was checking me in at a hotel as I passed through town and I asked her thoughts on the election.  She told me she would vote if she could find time to research in between working and caring for her three kids.  The only thing she did know is that she wouldn’t vote for Obama because she blames him for her husband being out of work.  He was in the military and planned on staying for his career.  Right before his ten year anniversary they let him go – all so they wouldn’t have to give him retirement.  Her family of five was left with no income and they lost their health insurance.  She got a job as a hotel clerk but her income couldn’t pay the bills so they lost their house and now live in a small apartment – barely getting by.  They have a problem with their car and can’t fix it so now the family drives in their truck anywhere the go.  The problem is the truck only fits three so they have to go in batches anytime the family goes somewhere.  She has applied for assistance three times and gotten denied every single time.  They are broke.  They need help and they blame Obama’s policies for their struggles.  Is it really his fault?  Maybe.  Hard to say.  The only thing I do know is that people in America are hurting and someone needs to stand up and lead our country back into greatness.  We can do it but someone has to step up.  My hope is the next four years bring an actual recovery – rather than one contrived by the media.  Obama, Romney – whichever one of you wins – do something.  The American people need it.

“Change” Americans It Is Time To Step It Up

11 Sep

“Change” Americans It Is Time To Step It Up.

We can place the blame for our economy and social conditions on a million different people, corporations or political parties.  The reality is we live in a free country and each one of us has the ability to influence our surroundings and create the change we seek.  Enough unified voices can make a difference.  First step: turn off the TV, get off the couch and do something.

“Change” Americans It Is Time To Step It Up

11 Sep

“By changing nothing, nothing changes.”

-Tony Robbins

With the recent political conventions in the US and constant talk about politicians stance on issues facing the country one thing seems completely clear to me, if we want change we need to create change.  When Obama ran on the platform of hope and change four years ago it sounded great.  Whether you believe in his politics or ability most people can agree that we needed change.  We needed reform.  We needed to strengthen our country economically and socially.  Millions of Americans bought into this ideal only to be disappointing in the lack of results over the past four years.  Those opposed to Obama can say that they knew the change would not happen or would not be positive but that is not the point.

The state of America should not be in the hands of a President, Congress or Senate it should be in the hands of the people.  We live in a free country.  That is right people – Free.  What we do with that freedom is up to us.  We can sit around the living room, watching TV and complaining loudly about this politician or that policy or we can stand up and actually do something.  It is time that Americans remember that politicians are elected by us and it is their duty to represent us.  If they are not doing a good job, replace them.  If they say one thing and do another get them out of office.  If they are unable to come up with ideas good enough to make an impact then we need to come up with the ideas.  Our founding fathers did not fight for our freedom simply for us to behave fat, lazy and entitled.  It is our job to fight for what we want, to demand it.  It is our governments job to listen and to implement the wishes of the people.

Let me be clear this has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats, nothing to do with Obama or Romney.  As far as I am concerned they are just people like the rest of us.  They were not born with vast wisdom or superior knowledge.  They are, or should be, merely a representation of the people.  We cannot continue to blame our politicians for all of our woes unless we are willing to come up with our own ideas, speak our mind, let our voices be heard and replace them if necessary.  The biggest fault with the “Change” message of Obama four years ago was not the message itself but the idea that the change could come from a few.  Change needs to happen because each one of us wants it and we are willing to take the steps necessary to bring it about.

This is an election year and an opportunity for the American people to show what is really important to them and what they are willing to do about it.  News stations are focusing non stop on the campaigns bombarding us with every detail from what someone said in a Tweet to a TV ad.  I am much more interested in hearing what the American people want their country and future to look like than a Tweet from a campaign manager.  Let your voice be heard because at least some of us are interested.

 

Corporations for Social Responsibility and the Civic 100

31 Jul

More and more companies are embracing the reality that they play a critical leadership role in our society.  As employers they have the ability to influence culture internally that promotes civic and social responsibility, volunteerism and raise awareness of specific community needs.  As a provider of goods or services they reach national and global audiences through their branding, advertisements and marketing.  When Proctor and Gamble makes a new commercial it is seen by millions overnight.  When Starbucks promotes a fair trade brand of coffee Starbucks drinkers throughout the world are exposed.  When Verizon created HopeLine every Verizon user received printed information when buying a phone.  The reach of large companies is vast and as consumers we pay attention to what they are doing, even without noticing we are doing it.

With that in mind I am excited for the Civic 100.  The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) and Points of Light are working together with Bloomberg News to conduct a survey to rank and recognize corporations for how they are engaged in the community and incorporate those philosophy’s into their culture.

These five business leaders wrote an open letter encouraging S&P 500 companies to participate: Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC and co-founder of America Online; Ray Chambers, former chairman, Wesray Capital Corporation;Mike Eskew, former chairman and CEO, UPS; Bob Nardelli, former chairman and CEO, Chrysler and The Home Depot; and John Pepper, former president, CEO and chairman, Proctor & Gamble.

This is an excerpt from their letter

Having been at the helm of major companies, we recognize the deeper meaning behind President Truman’s phrase, “The buck stops here.” Our leadership responsibility extends beyond ensuring financial success and ethical business practices. We and our associates are stewards of the cities and towns in which we work, and we are responsible for fostering a strong sense of community throughout our enterprises – each and every day. As business leaders, it is we who must grab the bull by the horns, rather than pass the buck, to ignite a culture of corporations giving back.”

Whether through promoting cause awareness, Employee Volunteer Programs, or cash donations corporations have the ability to create a huge impact.  According to the Giving USA 2012 Report individuals in the US gave $217.79 billion in 2011.  By contrast corporations gave $14.55 billion.  Currently individual citizens are leading the charge in charitable giving within the US.  My hope is that initiatives like the Civic 100 will prompt corporations to step up and take a more active role in charitable giving.  Great leadership is required and as shareholders, employees, and consumers we have the ability to support and promote this type of change.  I look forward to reading the results in November.

Experiment … Live a Little … Live A Lot

13 Jun

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

It seems like safety and security have taken a more important place in peoples lives, especially with the economy suffering the past several years.  I get it.  Having a comfortable place to live, a steady paycheck and money in the bank is important to most people and makes us generally feel better.   Whether your definition of “secure” involves food on the table and gas in the car or multiple homes and vacations in France we build up lives and have expectations about what stability looks like.  When we do not have it life becomes more stressful.

The challenge is not to sacrifice life for stability.  Yes they are two completely different things.  Life, living vibrantly, requires experimenting and trying new things.  Doing the same thing day in and day out without experiencing new challenges is like a slow death.  I see it in so many people that I know.  Feeling stuck in a job, town, relationship or lifestyle they give up on trying to achieve their goals and loose the spark that comes from keeping your dreams alive.  They have settled for a stable life vs. the one they always dreamed of.  For years I did it too.  My life was good.  It was stable and secure.  However it was not what I dreamed of.  I was not challenged.  I was not vibrant or creative.  I was stuck and I was bored.  I sensed myself loosing more of my spark every year until I was someone that was boring and a strange version of me.  In conversations I stopped discussing my visions and ideas because those around me looked at me like I was from a different universe.  “You mean you don’t want to do the same thing every day for the rest of your life and live in this cozy neighborhood?”  Thinking outside the box of social norms was not promoted so eventually I stopped talking about things that actually mattered to me and slowly lost brain power in the process.

Deciding to risk things and change my situation I started thinking of ideas.  I looked around and started paying attention to things I could do better, services I could provide, demands I could meet and started brainstorming.  Standing at the whiteboard, pen in hand I felt liberated because I was allowing myself to think outside of the box and dream again.  The freedom that I felt by simply letting my mind work creatively was fantastic.  I was hooked and could not stop.  I allowed myself to stop worrying about what if things did not work and start thinking about what if they do. I spent months doing that before taking the steps to launch a company.  I went through countless ideas narrowing it down to what I wanted to start with first.  I conducted market research and I jumped.

I had no safety net to fall back to so the only solution was to make it work.  Having a lack of financial stability caused stress that I did not enjoy but instead of focusing on that I focused on my dream and put my effort into making it work.  I have had to revise my vision multiple times.  Along the way I have tried things that have been failures.  It is disappointing but I have not let myself dwell on them for a moment longer than needed to learn.   I have tried others with various levels of success.  When I start out I can not guarantee success or failure.  The only way to find out is to try.  This means that I will fall down many times but each time I get up I will be wiser and stronger and when I do hit home runs they are that much sweeter because I can appreciate each success.

Great scientist and inventors will tell you that they try multiple versions of things in order to get it precisely right.  Many dedicate their entire lives to finding solutions to our problems.  They keep experimenting, keep learning and adjust course as needed.  The same is true for business.  No matter how many wins or losses I have in my life I will never stop experimenting.  I will never again settle for stability because I would rather live a life that is vibrant, full of color, risk and reward then a life that is safe yet slowly destroying the spark within me.  I encourage you to try something new today even if simply letting your mind be open to dream.

Freedom

29 May

It’s Memorial Day in the US. Most people celebrate by having a barbecue with family and friends, enjoying the sunny weather and playing games outside. It’s a fun time, a day off and something people look forward to. What is often missed is why we do it at all. Memorial Day should really be spent reflecting on and being thankful for the men and women that have and do serve our country. These people and their families risk their lives, put their lives on hold and set aside the comforts of home to serve. It’s a sacrifice I have often taken for granted but today I want to say thank you. Thank you for sacrificing so that I can live in a free country and be able to follow my dreams.

I think in today’s modern society it is easy to take freedom for granted. It is something that we are so used to: freedom to chose, freedom to go where we want when we want , freedom of information, freedom to worship, freedom to speak our mind, and even the freedom to write this blog. The concept of freedom through democracy started and has impacted the world because immigrants and farmers were willing to risk their lives on the battlefield and often sacrifice their homes and fortunes. We feel far removed from it today but the reality is sacrifice was required for me to live the life I have today. When we take that for granted we put our very freedom at risk. All over the world we must value our freedoms, value our independence and guard it passionately so that generations of people after us can enjoy them and also be thankful. Assuming that we will always have it without working to preserve it only sets us up to loose it.

Character in Hard Times

17 May

Talents are best nurtured in solitude.

Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.

-Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

It is no secret that the economy has been suffering for several years now.  As this lag continues I have noticed more and more people desperate for success, or the appearance thereof, check their character at the door to the office.  Whether trying to get ahead or make ends meet they make pro misses they do not intend to fulfill, present themselves as what they are not, and can be deceptive in order to get a contract or make a deal.  In my personal experience it has gotten so bad that when meeting new service providers I often ask myself “Are they another scammer or is what they say truthful?”  Am I being cynical?  Perhaps but I have spoken with many business owners that feel the same way.

What I would like to point out is that as the quote mentions above, storms are an opportunity to build character not eliminate it.  It is when times are tough that we learn what we are made of.  We are forced to be more creative, to use our skills in new ways, to grow as individuals and learn new ways of doing things.  These are valuable lessons that will benefit professionals and business owners when the economy does improve.  How people behave now will influence their reputation going forward so unless you are planning on retiring in the next year keep your character.  It is not worth the loss!

For cynics like me… I am apt to believe the best and look forward to the day where the negative experiences of today are but a memory rather than an ongoing occurrence.

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