Category Archives: Business

Living in An American Fairy-tale? Time To Grow Up

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“The hardest part about growing up is letting go of what you were used to, and moving on with something you’re not.” – Lyrikal

Growing up is hard. Things are never what they seem. You can kind of  live in a fairy tale, seeing life the way your parents kind of want you to. But as you get older you realize things are not as they seem.

Everyone is not your friend nor do they have your best interest at heart. Your parents aren’t the worse thing ever or vice versa, they are not the perfect people you thought they were. The realizations aren’t all bad. Like learning that those vegetables you used to hate actually taste pretty good and you really do need to eat more of them. Your parents weren’t lying to you.

Growing up was something I always wanted to do before I was ready. My mother reminded me often to not rush growing up. As I grew older, I learned that she was right. More importantly, while I was rushing to grow up, I learned is that I got to live in my fairy tale much longer than most.

Some kids don’t get to live in this fairy tale ever or very long. They come from very traumatic and abusive backgrounds. They get a tough reality check from almost birth. These kids have to grow-up fast, and it’s sink or swim.  They don’t get to complain, because what’s the point? They have to accept their pain and punishment, because who knows when the next traumatic event happens.

So, how does this relate to America?

For many Americans, they are finally growing up as it relates to America. Seeing America for what it is. It’s always been the same, but how it manifest itself is always changing.

The ones in power get to make the rules. We’ve had a few shiny moments. But often those in power are preying on the weaker, abusing natural resources for personal gain, and using that power to push their ideals forward with no consideration of certain people.

The Republican Party, of late, always seem to be quite aware of this and in national politics are a little more vocal about ensuring their best interests happen against all odds, and to some extent, can you blame them? Since they live in this reality, the last 8 years would have been hard on them. 8 years of Barack Obama where ACA was passed, gay marriage was legalized, and the economy improved under a non-Republican. Holy mother of WTF?

If liberals were less idealistic at times and awake to how America truly works they would have been getting their knives ready, because the GOP, no matter who the candidate was going to be, Trump or not, they were coming for the jugular.

Now, this is hard for me to say as someone who used to be in love with all things America (told you I lived in a fairy-tale). It is still a noble thing to be an American, to be born American, but how we go about life in politics is no longer noble.

We really have to start the conversation there.

We have to grow up and get it back to being noble. People still believe that most politicians go into politics from a good place. This could be true, but the system consumes you and spit you out a different person. I don’t care what anyone says about Hillary. I think people fail by talking about her like she was this young, wide-eyed law graduate with ideals of making this country better. At one point in time, she probably did. But after 30 years of being involved in the political game, she couldn’t help but be tainted by it.

And somewhere along the way, enough Americans convinced themselves that Donald Trump, who was not a seasoned politician, wasn’t tainted by the system. But he comes from the system, business, that majorly taints the political system. Dollar dollar bills ya’ll.

At first, I didn’t really get what “Make America great again” meant for Trump. People always assume that he is talking about when people of color, liberties for women were oppressed. Sometimes I believe he’s referring to era of American monopolies when one person completely controlled the market and working conditions and treatment of employees was poor. Trump and Rockefeller would’ve been best friends. That is the America Trump wants. But I digress.

Back to seeing America for what it is.

Since the election, I have been surrounded by people who were truly traumatized by Trump’s election and people who were not surprised. Now, this is my experience so hear me out.

The people who were traumatized, all white. Caucasian. Not one single black friend or family member was truly surprised or traumatized by the election (that I know of).  Yes, black people are like those children who grow up in trauma. Even black people who are born with a better station in life feel the pains of race (unless they are rich enough to lie to themselves). We aren’t complaining about Trump, because anything can happen when it comes to us in America.  When you’ve spent years seeing things happen unfairly right before your eyes or receive mistreatment simply because the color of your skin, it isn’t surprising a man could win on divisive rhetoric.

So it was no surprise that my Facebook timeline was full of people of color commenting on all the white woman who finally woke up to what America is. It has ALWAYS been this way. Listen to when I say this, it is nothing new. But here’s the thing, we can’t get upset at people who are in the ivory tower and they didn’t know they were up there. Once they recognize it, do we want them to stay up in the tower? No, we want them to come on down and join us.

The need for solidarity was important for many people this past weekend who have finally grown up to see what America is. But just like Trump can’t make America great again and turn back the clocks, every one whose eyes have been open can’t want the America that it was, because you were wrong. When people say they are fighting back, let’s be sure we understand what we are talking about.

Citizen participation

Citizen participation is necessary …. but it has always been and will always be, not just because you are unhappy with what’s going on at the moment. Understanding different perspectives and keeping them in the forefront is important. Speaking about your thoughts and beliefs so someone can correct you, and this goes for all people, is important. Each of us has a weak spot or bias. Lately, I have allowed myself to listen and be educated by Liberals on their ideals, their hesitations and frustrations. I don’t always like or agree with what they have to say, but I am not acting like a child with my fingers stuck in my ears. I am adulting. It’s not going to be easy, but that is the only way to push America forward. I am ready. Are you?

So What If I Want “IT” NOW… Life is STILL a Marathon (The Monday Fits)

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“…The Millennial generation is accustomed to having questions answered quickly, acting on that knowledge immediately and receiving feedback on demand…” (source) 

“..The demand for instant results is seeping into every corner of our lives… The need for instant gratification is not new, but our expectation of ‘instant’ has become faster, and as a result, our patience is thinner..” (source)

“What’s really driving this is the need for instant gratification……Even when ordering online “they” crave immediacy …. the desire for convenience – and within that the desire for immediacy in a multichannel world.” (source)

One thing I have heard for the last 10 years, is that my generation, the millennial generation, loves instant gratification. With our current technology, and information at our fingertips at every minute of the day, our minds want everything faster from retail, answers to questions, and any service that you can think of.  Well, I have news for everybody, DID I ASK FOR THIS LIFE? NOOOOOOO

Yes, I do expect my computer to boot up quickly, I hate when Netflix or Hulu takes longer than 10 seconds to load , and I definitely enjoyed Youtube way better when I did not have to watch a 15 second advertisement prior to the showing of my video. Well, I have news for everyone, sometimes I don’t want this life, the need to be instantly gratified, YOU KNOW WHY?

Life is a freaking marathon. Most events feel like a marathon. AND the most IMPORTANT things that are done of any substance or quality happen over a period of time.

So the personal desire to see results tomorrow sucks sometimes. I wish I was more comfortable with waiting and not bothered when certain things take time. In fact, it would be awesome if things happened instantly only every once and a while so it would be like a surprise. I could say, “Oh, this a nice change, things are happening quickly for one.”

Why am I ranting about this? Because it’s summer, and as always there is always someone that I know preparing for the bar exam. Yeah, I had to study for that once. And my advice is  always remember studying for the bar exam is like a marathon. Training, studying hard is long, and it sucks, but you have to prepare every day or you will get behind and you won’t have all the knowledge needed to knock out the bar exam. You HAVE to do a little something each day, even when there are no results, no progress. As millennial, I had to learn this too. WHY?

As much as we want or love instant gratification, it doesn’t really mean everything in this thing called life happens instantaneously. And I repeat, Life is a freaking marathon.

Marriage. Kids. Buying a House. Running a Business. Paying Down Debt. Building Savings. Staying Healthy.Taking care of a pet. Do I need to keep going?

Now, don’t get me wrong, we look for shortcuts. Technology has provided this desire.  It doesn’t not however make us lazy. It’s time to change story that is being told about us. I WANT to change the story. This is the story that I am trying to tell:

  1. We are results-orientated.  – We may take shortcuts, or change course several times trying new things over and over instead of trying one tried and true thing, but  we want the best results. Does it matter that we’ve learned to cut corners and be effective. Got it?
  2. We don’t want to waste time. – Why keep unnecessary information in your brain, that’s what google is for. Or why do something when there is a quicker way to do it. Tradition is important. Unnecessary tasks are not. We grew up with recycle, reduce, reuse. We want to emphasize the REDUCE part. Cool?
  3. We can work hardThe way we want to work just looks different. I don’t want to work from 8-5, sometimes I want to sleep in, start at 10 AM, but I am willing to work at 7 PM and I don’t need a baby sitter (i.e. my boss) to be productive. We just want freedom in how we get to solutions, because we know there are so many ways to get there. Make sense?

Bill Gates is quoted as saying, “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job, because, he will find an easy way to do it”  and if it makes sense to him, maybe the older generations need to walk into the light. And we’re not trying to be lazy, we’re just different. Just like every generation before us. The reality is that, “People fear what they don’t understand”  (source: Andrew Smith)

Call us the “Trophy Generation” if you want to, but as one person pits  it, Jeff Avallon, the vice president of business development at IdeaPaint, a workplace technology firm in Boston says, “Millennials’ behavior is totally functional for the world they inherited. They don’t respond to traditional” [enter any word here] … Sorry, there’s no longer enough time for that. The economy demands constant innovation, and the ruling-by-iron-fist model is not nimble enough for reacting quickly. Millennials are simply trying to do better.” (source)

Look at Amazon.  The way they complain about how Millennials wants things fast, its as if they would have preferred Amazon not figure out how to get our orders to us faster. Would everyone prefer to go back to week long shipments?  Because you remember the time when it took a long time? Now that’s silly. If we choose to create other opportunities that are quicker and easier that is good, even if we spend a lot of time figuring out how to get there. Because there are so many things in life that are like a marathon, that take time and are challenging and there’s nothing humans can do about it, not even Millennials. And if we fail at events in life that are like marathons, because we are in love with instant gratification, well then, so be it. We will have to ADAPT to those things. So maybe it’s time everyone ADAPT to us.

M/P

Your Personal Brand Matters…. But Do You Believe You? (The Monday Fits)

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“Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value”. The quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein. Either way, it is one of my favorite quotes for multiple reasons. This particular quote has resonated with me since I was in high school when my mother was trying to instill in me the importance of a moral code and inner ethics before anything else. As we get older, balancing what’s right or wrong versus our self-interest can be a difficult task.  Not that you can remember exactly how it felt, but as a child there was so much more clarity in deciding what was right and wrong. The line was bright, loud and clear. Then as you begin to lose your innocence, some people younger than others, it’s as if that line begins to fade almost to black if you let it. The need to continually pursue the right thing is a challenge for all of us (or shall I say most of us).

The more I have become immersed into social media, business marketing, and personal promotion, there is something that is talked about over and over, and it’s called branding. Now you have business branding and marketing and the wave of personal branding continues to be more important now than ever.  But it feels as if you can have branding for just about anything that needs an image or has  a message to give to the world. Today, media has a huge impact on a brand. Our personal brand matters more than ever before and LinkedIn has made branding yourself an important component for even getting a job.

As with anything, when something is important for people there are more than a baGILLLION how-to books, [whatever topic] 101 articles and 50 ways to improve X. There is no shortage of information about how to effectively brand. And here’s why, “The average western consumer is exposed to some 3,000 brand messages a day.” (source)

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That’s right, 3,000. So how did we get here? Let’s take a look how branding became popular. “Personal branding, self-positioning and all individual branding by whatever name, was first introduced in 1937 in the book “Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill”(source). But it wasn’t until the 1980’s the idea resurfaced, and Tom Peters popularized the term “brand” with a 1997 article. (source)  But when thinking of branding, to get a better picture of branding, we have to look at business branding, which made brand management, messaging and public perception what it is today.

“In the 1950s, consumer packaged goods companies like Procter and Gamble, General Foods and Unilever developed the discipline of brand management….[they] required an understanding of the target consumer and what we call a “branded proposition” that offered not only functional but also emotional value.”  This emotional value is the component that would allow companies to charge more for its products. “This marked the start of almost 50 years of marketing where “winning” was determined by understanding the consumer better than your competitors and the getting the total “brand mix” right. The brand mix is more than the logo, or the price of a product. It’s also the packaging, the promotions, and the advertising, all of which is guided by precisely worded positioning statements”. (source)

And as the world becomes more global,  digital brands, in my opinion, try to be more more personal and “humanistic”. More and more CEOs, VPs, and successful businesspersons are available and visible. Figuring out who your ideal employees and consumers is easier, and therefore, the  need for your personal brand has gradually become important. So Wikipedia defines personal branding, as the “practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.” (source)
Now I am not here to add to the plethora of branding information out there, and by no means am I branding professional. But I am a natural (extreme) extrovert and one of those weirdos that genuinely enjoys networking unlike the average person. For a long time, I thought the idea of personal branding was just silly. In the sense, why do people need to “buy” into me based on the way I package myself and create some emotional response to who I am. See, if you are around a lot of people, you naturally are able to feel or sense one’s emotional response. I have come to recognize that this is not the case online, and there is a shift in digital world that we live in. It is important to brand yourself. There are so many messages and it is easier to mistake your message online than in an one on one interaction.

When I network, and if you do it enough, you can get a sense of what people are feeling, what they like or dislike based on body language, facial expressions, etc. You sometimes cannot gauge how a consumer or person will react digitally, but you have to put your best foot forward. On the flip side, because we consume so much digitally, it is important now than ever, that our in-person interactions are genuine, because we have less of them, and your first impression may be the only one. So yeah, I kind of have bought into this idea that branding can be important.

I am not exactly sure why I decide to write about this topic, but there is one idea that I want you to take away from all of this. The most important branding that one can do is the brand you are to yourself. You can try to fool others to think what they will about you. You must first have the message right within before you can communicate a message to your friends, your family, let alone a business or professionally. Figuring out what you stand for, and believing it. It’s the idea, if you are not  willing to drink your own kool-aid, then why would anyone else. How do you do this? Self-reflection. What are you reflecting in the pool? Now this is not a discussion on HOW you should be, if being evil is your thing and that’s your prerogative, then own that story you are telling, before you invest in convincing someone else. You must be of one mind.

The best business brands usually believe in the brands that they are selling. Although money and success can be great motivators for making a brand successful, the best brands believe in themselves, and also hire people who also believe in them as well. One thing customers hate more than being bombarded by all of these numerous messages, is being lied to. At the end of the day, your brand is a promotion of you. If you are promoting XYZ, and you’re ABC, then it doesn’t matter if you hire the best branding professional, your true self will always comes through. There is no way of hiding it, and you shouldn’t want to. This is not just about believing in yourself, it’s about believing in what your selling. Sell to yourself first, if you’re not buying, then no one else will. REFLECT.

When It’s Over, Is It Over? (The Monday Fits)

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The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. – Gaylord Nelson-


The life of a hero, idol, or even a dreamer are often legendary. The further from the bottom they climb, the better the story there is to tell. There are successful people who are chameleons who continue to mold their career, or have different stages in their life where it seems like there isn’t an end. But the average person is planning for their retirement. Some times that retirement doesn’t happen as early as they want to, or they cannot financially leave the workplace. Whether it is financial or they are not able to let go, when is it time to walk away? This subject is kind of a continuation of  last weeks Monday Fit. Every millennial or generation X’er works or has worked for a boss (or knows someone) who works where the person in charge has no plans to retire, and that should be the number one thing that they should be thinking about. Unfortunately, it has plagued our two generations with the reputation of being too aggressive and trying to push baby boomers out faster than we should or before it’s time. Now as a disclaimer, I am not SAYING every person who is older needs to retire, there are people who retire too early, or there are people capable until they are 90, because they have the capacity…. but that ain’t everybody .

But how do you know when it’s time to go? Better yet, as Millennials, how do we learn from inadequate leadership or managers? It may seem like we are a generation wanting to get paid more sooner, and be in charge sooner, but I promise a decent salary and a good manager, most millennials would be happy, just as much as any other generation.  More times than not, it’s about feeling appreciated and recognized for your contribution, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Part of the problem is the work culture baby boomers grew up in was harsher on their employees, and provided for less freedom, autonomy, so that when they get to a certain level in the career, that is the first time they may be really leading or feeling appreciated, why would they want to let go?

Being in Austin, I talk to a lot of millennials in start-ups or tech companies, and the reason they are less likely to feel frustrated is because they are given autonomy, freedom, and the ability to make decisions in the business structure, but understand that they are not in charge, but feel appreciated. That is the kind of environment that we should be striving for. But is the answer that simple? Probably not.

So let’s take a look at an industry where when it’s time to go, you don’t really have many options, and yet, time and time again, the aging workforce STILL takes forever to walk away, and it ain’t about the money. I think of my favorite football player, Peyton Manning, who could ( some would say should) retire today. He is going to the Hall of Fame one day, he already has a great legacy, AND he has a championship. But of course, he wants more, just like my least favorite player, Tom Brady, who know has 4 championships. But with Peyton Manning, I would hate to admit, his performance is declining and it was noticeable in the playoffs. Now Peyton’s decline is still better than half of the quarterbacks out there, but just like other quarterbacks who could hang it up, he plans to play next year.

Now his profession is the kind when your performance is declining you have to close up shop. Not because you are no longer going to be paid, but he’s own health and safety would be better served if he wasn’t out on the field with men half of his age. I wonder, how many tough games ahead I will have to watch and how painful will it be for me. But the question remains, why is it so hard to let go, when we aren’t the best at something anymore? How do we pass the torch in our industries, when the older population can contribute, but maybe not at the same level, and the younger generation is hungry?

If you look at most professional development advice for millennials, in most people’s top five things to do, is get a mentor. That’s right, if you’re under the age of 40 and you want to develop your skills and continue to improve, mentorship is key. Most people I admire professionally all had mentors who lead them and taught them along the way. That one person showed them the ropes, told them where the traps are, and how to avoid them. For some, they never had a mentor, they learned from trial and error, and you know these people, because they emphasize, that they made a lot of mistakes, but that they made it through; either path works.

But my charge is if you’re in a leadership or managerial role with millennials or generation X’ers under you that are eager to learn and you’re not mentoring, that is one sign it is time for you to go. If you’re more worried about the younger generation taking your spot, and making life hard for them in the bad way (not being hard on them to make them stronger way) then it’s time for you to go. Why do I say this? Because it is just as important to excel in a position and it is to bring in the best generation who can be vital assets.

Look at the benefits of reverse mentoring popularized by former GE Chairman Jack Welch. Now the idea is still a little crazy to me, because I have never seen it in practice, but I wish there was more of it in my industry. Reverse mentoring is described as “a situation where the old fogies in an organization realize that by the time you’re in your forties and fifties, you’re not in touch with the future the same way the young twenty-something’s. They come with fresh eyes, open minds, and instant links to the technology of our future”.  (source) This method is so key to the workplace, especially for millennials but also for baby boomers. And as baby boomers are retiring later and later, it will be important to accept this change.

According to a Gallup poll, the average age Americans reported retiring has increased over the last 14 years since the poll started to be collected. Although the difference is small, in 1991, Americans, on average, reported retiring at 57. In 2014, the average age at which Americans report retiring has increased to 62. (source) The polls cities that  “retirement age may be increasing because many baby boomers are reluctant to retire. Older Americans may also be delaying retirement because of lost savings during the Great Recession or because of insufficient savings even before the economic downturn”(source)

The reality is that the financial state of the country may require baby boomers to continue to retire later and later, so we have to be deliberate and intentional about the work environment in which we develop. It is important how we nurture and grow new and raw talent. Although our generation may seem whiny, demanding, and impatient, but as I’ve mentioned before, “Attitude reflects leadership”. We are a product of our environment, let’s make it an even better one.

Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done – Ronald Reagan

Sweet Home Alabama: The Litmus Test of America

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“If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey, he’s obligated to do so” – Thomas Jefferson

Since the story broke about the same-sex marriage fiasco in Alabama, my mind has been kind of in a frenzy. The story infuriates me on so many levels that I see red. I mean in 2015, the fact there were judges who were trying to justify not following the law because of personally held beliefs, knowing what all lawyers know, including myself, before you walk into your first law class:  a federal judge always trumps the almighty State Supreme Court Chief Justice on any given day of the week, until a higher authority tell the courts otherwise.

(ICYMI:  On January 23, 2015, a federal judge in Mobile struck down Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Then on February 10, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice instructed probate judges they didn’t have to follow the Federal Judges order.)

I would like to say as a lawyer, and a conservative, and a millennial. This action was wrong. It was wrong on so many levels. Not because I want to sit here and argue whether or same-sex marriage is right or wrong, I am not an advocate nor a critic,  but because a Federal court judge ruled as such, especially after the Supreme Court’s decision to not temporarily block the Federal Judge’s decision, and I’m not the only one.  “Judge Enslen, a lawyer for more than 40 years and a Republican, said he disagreed with the Supreme Court’s action but had to be guided by it. “Those seven justices went out of their way to slap Alabama,” he said, sending a message that they saw little chance of Judge Granade’s decision being reversed. “We’ve got the highest federal court siding with the District Court,” he said. “The ballgame’s over.” (source)

Many conservatives see it as the Federal court is budding in on a state’s issue, and that the state has clearly declared it as a constitutional amendment…. in 2006. Since 2006, the support of same-sex marriage has drastically changed across America, even in Alabama. In 2006, when the constitutional amendment passed, only 39% of people supported same-sex marriage nationally… let’s forward to 2014 people.

Gay Marriage Polls Support Oppose Undecided
Princeton Survey Research Associates/Pew Research Center  (2006) 39% 51% 10%
Pew Research Center (2014) 49% 41% 10%
Gallup poll (2014) 55% 42% 4%
Family Research Council (2014) 55% 39% 6%

(Source)

So things ARE changing, yet it doesn’t quite seem that way with the headlines in Alabama, or is it what they want us to believe? In my opinion, which I rarely give in my posts, we need to start having real conversations about the opposition to same-sex marriage, and not let the actions of a few people foolishly speak for the masses.  I started this blog to talk about things that nobody wants to talk about, but as I started blogging, it came very apparent why that is. If you start monitoring your viewer ratings you know what people want to read about, and the things they could care less about. So as a writer, you have to decide to be true to yourself or true to success…. and today, I choose the former.

Why is the refusal to issue marriage licenses so frustrating to me, because many conservatives cannot add to the conversation in a meaningful way. It is all or nothing.

Conservatives are not able to talk about gay rights, because for many, not all, any deviation from total utter and complete rejection of same-sex marriage, you will be going down the road of political suicide. Many younger conservatives, like myself, wish the older people in the party would just jump off a cliff (figuratively not literally) for a whole slew of reasons. But unfortunately, despite the uptick in voting among young people, older generations overwhelmingly outnumber us at the voting booths. (45% of ages 18-29 voting, 59.5 % of ages 30 – 44 voting, 72.0 % of ages 45 – 64 voting, and 67.9 % of ages 65 and older? (Source).

But if you looking at the national polling, even in good ole’ backward leaning Alabama, the numbers are still telling, “ 48 percent of Alabamians under 35 favor gay marriage—not a majority, but a plurality. (Only 21 percent of those older than 65 do.) The strongest predictor for supporting gay marriage nationwide, according to some experts, is having close gay friends, which is far more common among younger Americans.” (Source)

Maybe that’s why the first couple married, was from my Alma mater, Tuskegee University. Heck, even the Koch brothers support same-sex marriage. (If you believe them, they just think the economy is a more important issue, so they support candidates who oppose same-sex marriage).

So Thomas Jefferson is correct, if a law is unjust, you should not be required to follow it. Laws that have allowed same-sex marriage are not unjust. You do not have to agree with same-sex marriage for it to happen where you live. You do not have to support it, and if you feel like your salvation is doomed, because America is conducting same-sex marriage, maybe you should move out of America. Because imagine an America where some states allow same-sex marriage, and others do not allow same-sex marriage, oh wait, that is what we are living in now; a divided America. Will companies begin to move their offices based on marriage equality? Will people have to pick which state to live based on marriage equality?

America was built on certain freedoms, including the freedom of religion, not just your religion, or one religion. People ask how do I merge the two as a conservative. It’s not about what I believe. You might not see me out a gay pride parade, but I sure as heck ain’t not damning nobody to hell, or saying the wrath of God is going to come out against the State of Alabama now. (Thanks Alabama GOP chair for that one, you’re ridiculous). It’s about equality, and treating people as human beings.

I have worked in civil rights ever since I left law school, and over the years I have thought long and hard about the subject of same-sex marriage. While in law school, it was something that we debated all the time, because we have a friend who was gay, and another friend, who was much more staunchly a conservative than myself.  But at that time, I still hadn’t made it to the point where I am today. I was fortunate for a couple of years to work at a  Human Rights Commission in a small Indiana community to work very closely with the a couple of the gay rights organization there. They made this video that discussed growing up in that community being gay in a very conservative state and at times, the city.   Never had I heard such gut wrenching moments, and stories of triumph even remotely close to those of Blacks during the Jim Crow era. Or maybe I had never taken the time to listen. Hearing their struggles had a definite impact on me, and not because it changed my personal beliefs, but I realized in that moment, it is not up to me to judge or decide, and I have to be more than just “tolerant”. Nobody wants to be just tolerated.

Whether you do or you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, the right for them to marry is not to be based on your personal beliefs, if it is the law as according to the people of this country. Minds and thoughts are changing progressively towards same-sex marriage, what are you going to do when it happens?

M/P

 

Matthew 22: 15 – 22 (NKJV)

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him (Jesus) in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

Capitalism Needs A Hit of Community

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This past weekend I was at a restaurant and I overheard a couple young kids, maybe in their early twenties, talking about marriage, or rather talking about looking forward to their second marriage, because the first marriage was just practice. And one specifically, who sounded as if he was going to the military after college, because he just knew his first marriage wouldn’t work, because they never do in the military.

I wish I were exaggerating, just a little bit, but I am not. As I listened, I was first annoyed, saddened, and then quite angry for so many reasons. I quickly jotted down what they said, and added a few comments of my own and thought, “this is what this week’s blog is going to be about: marriage.” That’s usually how I pick my topics, something usually happens during the week that sparks my interest, I do a little research, form my opinion, and then I write, write, write.

But then I sat down to write, and with the election around the corner, I thought I should be focusing along those lines, and all the other issues that seemed more important than marriage, traditional marriage, marriage equality; such as the economy, racism (civil rights), healthcare, terrorism, and all the other topics that  are in the forefront of our minds. As I sat down to write, something was still tugging at my heart, about the disregard of marriage. There are so many people who are still fighting for marriage equality, others fighting to maintain traditional marriage, and the statistics surrounding divorce are truly depressing. Why is that? What can we do? And then I realized, all of the issues today, including marriage point to at least one thing that is lacking … community (a sense of family). How did we get here? Capitalism. Yes, Capitalism. Is Capitalism bad, Nope. I would just argue that Capitalism just needs a HIT of Community….

In 2012, David Brooks, a conservative political and cultural commentator from the New York Times, made the assertion that the idea of capitalism “is a problem for the American family because it reinforces self-interest” over other social ethos of the family. (Source). And I would tend to agree, and argue that it seeps into other parts of our lives besides just the family. It applies to almost every issue in America, overwhelming self-interest is hurting America. When we specifically look at marriage, the marriage rate is 6.8 per 1,000 people and the Divorce rate is 3.6 per 1,000 people, which is why they say that 50 % of marriages end in divorce. (Source). The researchers say those statistics are misleading for several reasons that I won’t go into today. But no one would disagree that there are a lot of divorces. And although infidelity is rampant, the number one reason people still get divorce is  finances and money. And if we look beyond marriage, capitalism is creating a crippling economy as the wealth disparity grows and the middle class continues to shrink, especially with rising healthcare costs,  and educational opportunity is different depending on what side of town you were born in. Not to mention all of these things are the main cause of the growing strain of race relations in America.

So, What do I mean? Capitalism at it’s most basic level is to allow trade and industry to be controlled by private owners for profit rather than the government. This is a good thing, because when governmental regulations are too stringent it hurts growth and the economy. But at the same time, when the private owners are such a select few, capitalism can hurt the economy for the whole, and not the select few.

I am in no means saying that we should utilize another system besides capitalism. I like capitalism, especially at its core. When describing Ayn Rand’s political philosophy, a fan of laissez-faire capitalism, a scholar described it as, “Her basic theme was that free people, acting together voluntarily, produce greater general prosperity than central planners wielding the whips of State power”. (Source). The key word in that is “greater general propensity”; the problem is that prosperity cannot only be defined in monetary terms. Prosperity includes security, comfort, and well-being. Nowhere in the definition of capitalism or free-market economy  is the focus supposed to be so heavily focused on self-interest; see the simplest form of capitalism does not exclude community, but we’ve created that environment.

When you have a capitalistic society that is not in touch with community then you cannot expect the country to be successful as a whole, and we should be concerned. There will be plenty of people who are successful, who have no worries. Why is this a problem? People who you really start from the bottom, need a village to help raise them. Not only are they born without enough resources, but often lack the social and human capital to compete with others who face few challenges.  If we don’t help those children, no wonder they become delinquents in our justice system, dependent of benefits from the state, etc.

There are a lot of people who lament against food stamps, Medicaid, and any other “handouts” given out with the backdrop of a low minimum wage. While an increased minimum wage would hurt some small companies, let’s tier the minimum wage based on profit and size of the company, or any other factors that would make sense. I would argue that the mom and pop stores shouldn’t have to pay the same minimum wage as Wal-Mart. But it does not make sense for executives of Wal-Mart to live in an extreme excess and their employees struggle to try to obtain their American success story. There’s come a point that making the highest profit isn’t the MOST important thing and the market may not be calling for it. This is why we need more community in capitalism. We want businesses and the economy to continue to grow and be prosperous, but not if it’s hurting a large number of the population. If we care about the success of America, taking a couple of million dollars away from the richest parts of America, to decrease the wealth disparity,couldn’t be the worst thing ever.  But the thing about capitalism, which is why it’s awesome, the private actors have to decide to take this action for themselves.  Just like the CEO of Starbucks, creating a partnership with Arizona State University to make it a little easier for their employee to reach educational advancement.

This can be seen very openly in our political voting system. The wealthiest Americans are attempting to buy elections on both sides, donating large amounts of cash that have potential to change elections. Despite, the large amounts of money being poured into elections it doesn’t necessarily create more involvement in the voting process, and to some extent probably decreases it. But do you know where people come out in high percentages? In places with high sense of community.

There are 6 states that have high voter participation compared to the rest of the population, and three out of those six states, including the state with the best record (Minnesota), all cite a sense of community as a part of why they are successful in getting to the polls. In South Dakota, they have a 60. 2% voter participation rate and say that “South Dakota is part of the collection of Upper Midwest states where a strong sense of community, civic duty, and civility in political discussion are abundant”. (source).  In Wisconsin, with a 60.93 % voter participation rate, they say, “People want to live up to the expectation for themselves or community norms,” says Michael Slater of Project Vote. “They think, ‘voting is what we do in this community.’” (source) . And last, but not least, is Minnesota, which has a 68 % voter participation rate, they say, “Minnesotans do love this place we call home, It’s our responsibility to take care of this place, and voting is one of the ways we do that.” (source) . Although there are a few other factors, such as competitive races, access to the polls, the community is a large reason that they are able to have such high voter turnout and we all should strive to duplicate this effort in other communities.

I have said a lot here, and even included the infamous Ayn Rand, who would probably disagree with most of what I said. She has a famous quote that says “Capitalism and Altruism care incompatible … they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society”, and I would actually agree with her.  Altruism is taking it too far, were not asking for an absolute selfless concern for the well-being of others. But I do think we need to take a look in the mirror, and wonder if we’ve turned capitalism into something so selfish it is bad, when its not…. we all need a little community in our life.

M/P


Have thoughts? Please comment and start a discussion with me. I love to hear other perspectives!

The Fight For Our American Dream

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A·mer·i·can dream

noun
  1. the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.

The origins of the American Dream are unknown, but this underlying theme has lasted with America for over 200 years dating back to the colonial time period. It is engrained in the very fabric of this country. And there are some people who believe that we all have the same road to the American dream and that all we need is hard work, determination, and initiative. For the most part, this is true, if you do these three things, it happens. But the reality is that we don’t all have the same road, because we don’t have the same starting place, never have and to be honest, we never will. But that’s okay. Is Warren Buffett’s achievement of his American Dream any less than Oprah’s, probably not; every son of an investor/congressman did not have his successes. But let’s not act like Oprah’s pursuit of her American Dream was not more challenging. No one is saying being born into a certain family is wrong, but we cannot negate the fact that there are some challenges certain groups of people have to face. That is what diversity is all about, and learning to first understand those differences actually helps us move beyond them, but do you know what doesn’t:

ignoring that these differences exist or

separating ourselves based on these differences, because we only need to be around people who “understand” us.

No one will understand you, if you don’t tell them. When I hear people complain about close-minded people, and that it’s not their job to bring diversity to them, you should ask Martin Luther King if he would trade you jobs…. I can hear him now, “All you had to do is talk to someone, maybe several times, be a little uncomfortable, and make an honest effort to help make them understand, and you couldn’t do that, WHAT?”

YBCLImU

Since I began blogging, I have not written directly about diversity, because it’s what I do in my day job, but I find it so improperly defined and viewed in America that we will never fix our problems with race, sex, or religion if we continue to separate ourselves or act like if we ignore it, and it will go away.

So what does the American Dream have to do with this?

Women often have a different road to the American Dream, and when, we as women embrace the differences it makes reaching the goal easier and more attainable. That’s really what feminism is truly about, it’s not that we want to be separate, but our ability to reach the American Dream is just different, and that’s okay. And we have to keep talking about our struggles and successes. I came to this idea, because there continues to be so much talk about feminism, I can’t help but think about it on a regular basis. As a young single woman, with a good education, and no kids, I think about it quite often, whether it’s other people’s perceptions I face, the questions I have to answer to, and the seats I’ve been told to take, and wait my turn. I can firmly say I believe that my life experiences would be very different if I were a man. I don’t think this is true for all women. There are areas that we, as women, have successfully navigated without as much trouble. However, I believe there are areas that we are still forced to break the glass ceiling, so yes, I believe feminism is part of that answer.

So I ask myself, why DO people have such a problem with this idea of feminism. And then it hit me: The American Dream. That’s what we are all striving for, as Americans. Achieving the American dream is different for each person, but to some extent everyone has dreams of success, and this success looks very different for each person, it could be measured in money, family, fame, notoriety, respect, salvation, or even legacy. The idea of the American dream dates back to the beginning of our country’s origin. Settlers came to America for their freedom and to be successful in their own right.

Now the reality is that for people to really obtain and achieve the American Dream there has to be a reasonable amount of people not reaching for it or failing to obtain the American Dream. Over the years, the number of people trying to reach for the American Dream has increased as America’s population has grown, and the number of different groups  striving for a seat at the table has also grown. As the numbers increased, those who had already achieved the American Dream were skeptical, presented challenges to the new groups every step of the way… we can look back to the Germans, Catholics, Italians, African-Americans, Jews, Hispanics, women and so on. And I’m not just talking about majority who are not cooperative, minority groups can become just as combative, because someone is trying to take a piece of their pie. Now I am not saying that these people feel threatened because they are racists, bigots, or sexists (although some may be), when someone is crouching on your territory, it is only natural to have a negative reaction.

That’s what I would say about the reaction to Emma Watson’s speech at the United Nations a few weeks ago. Here you have a young lady, fresh out of an educational institution, using her influence to create an initiative “to galvanize one billion men and boys as advocates for ending the inequalities that women and girls face globally”. (Source) Sounds, positive, right? Yet, there was such a negative reaction to her speech. Why? She was asking a whole segment of people to give up a little piece of their pie, and not just in America, but around the globe. And that’s the problem. Most successful people, especially women, didn’t ask, they just did it, even if they had to climb insurmountable obstacles. So let’s embrace the idea that we are not all given equal opportunity, but we are given an opportunity, and no one will give it to us. What we do with the opportunity, is really up to us.  The opportunity to continue to break barriers, and change the minds and hearts of those around us, is in our hands.

If we just look at a microcosm of women, you see a variety of differences that are truly beautiful. We have different dreams and goals. There are some of us who want to be the next CEO of a major company, or handle the small, quaint shop in a little country town; there are some of us who want to reach the highest point in their career while remaining a good and attentive parent, or taking care of the family and the household full-time. What none of us want to be inhibited from is pursuing our destiny, our American Dream.  But we must not ask for it, we must take it.

M/P


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