New Year, New You (and me, and us, and Us, and U.S.)

December 29, 2021

It’s been a December to remember here behind my eyelids, with ups and downs and all arounds.  Most recent news - I got the Rona! - from my Honey Bear.  She came down with symptoms on the second day of a getaway trip we took to Palm Springs in early December, which was kind of a bummer, as it’s rather limiting to the activity options.  We made the best of it though, took a couple nature walks (oases are really cool - literally - at least compared to the heat of the surrounding desert!) and we did some driving around, including nearby mountain ranges and Joshua Tree National Park. I had opted for the upgrade from the Toyota Highlander to the Dodge Challenger R/T, and at least one of us enjoyed hot-rodding around in a big V8!  

The region is quite unique - one can travel from sea level in Indio to over 6,000 feet in elevation up highway 74 in less than an hour (if you’re in a Dodge Challenger R/T!), and the valley features some of the greenest golf courses you’ll ever see surrounded by single-level retail and residential districts that all look the same, and then surrounded by acres of desert, ugly and mostly useless really…and I’m sorry, but Joshua Tree National Park is definitely not the prettiest gal at the ball, if you get my drift.  Honestly, as a farm kid I hanker more toward places where life is really vibrant - the Pacific Northwest rainforests, Montana mountains, or the jungles or beaches of Costa Rica, or even big interesting cities full of strange humans!  Deserts kinda weird me out - they’re so…dead.  

It takes all kinds of places to make a vibrant nation and world though, just like it takes all kinds of folks to build a vibrant team, a vibrant club, a vibrant family and all kinds of experiences to build a vibrant life.  I’ll spend some more time storytelling and musing in today’s blog, and work my way around to the following topics:

  1. How can you (and I) come to know ourselves better?
  2. Once we know ourselves better, what can we do to best better ourselves?
  3. How can we use this philosophy to build better partnerships, teams, cities and nations?

Our Palm Springs vacation story picks up on Thursday evening, when we got back from Joshua Tree, and cancelled our flights home and made plans to rent something far less exciting than the Challenger R/T to make the drive home.  Chosen was a sexy beige 2020 Chevrolet Spark sporting a 1.4 liter with 98 horsepower instead of the 375 horsepower 5.7 liter in the Challenger. I looked it up and the 5.7 is kinda modest - the big engine in the lineup is a 807 horsepower 6.2 liter supercharged Hellcat Redeye…so fast.  Notable - there are Teslas all over the place in Coachella Valley, lots of solar panels and windmills to sustainably power those buggies I guess.  

Speaking of Tesla, Joe Rogan has a Tesla Model S Plaid, which can smoke a Hellcat and goes 0 - 100 in like 4 seconds!  Did you know it’s only about 6 episodes of Joe Rogan from Palm Springs Airport to DIA?  We rolled east on Interstate 10 and then to I-40 through Flagstaff to Albuquerque, and then North up I-25 - easy peezy - and avoided the forecasted risk of snow in the I-70 corridor.  Jill drove a couple hours a day and I did the rest, and we passed more cars than most driving a Chevy Spark.  Look ma, no tickets!  

Anyway, back to Joe - he’s the king of diverse guests, and our selection included ‘Merican Rocker Ted Nugent #1741, Bright Insights Youtuber Jimmy Corsetti #1742, High-Integrity Journalist Matt Taibbi #1745, Conservative(ish) (& Awesome) Trans Gal, Blaire White #1746, CNN’s Doctor-Personality-Vaccine-Promotor Sanjay Gupta #1718, and the scary one, Tristan Harris & Daniel Schmachtenberger #1736.  Tristan and Daniel are convinced that the algorithms in various social media, plus AI, plus Chinese and Russian bots…are gonna get us into an authoritarian state, or a civil war, or both in a decade or less if we don’t pull our heads out of our digital asses and fundamentally change the Metaverse of social media - and whatever else sprouts up to compete with it.  You might remember Tristan from the Social Dilemma movie - and Daniel is like a super-PhD in cataclysmic risk analysis.  

It’s bad news browns, I’m not gonna lie - but folks have been predicting end-of-world stuff for a long time. And…except for the interconnectedness, the just-in-time-id-ness, the inflated-fiat vs. energy-sucking crypto challenge, and the ESG-ness and Carbon-Freeness Olympics…I’d brush it off as idle talk.  But the truth is, I’m a harder-times-comin’ kind of cat these days - our societal and monetary systems - worldwide - are under grand duress - much of which is self-imposed.  I hate to say it, but it’s all about the reserve currency you see - if we break the US dollar (or someone breaks it intentionally) and we lose that status, we’ll be longing for the days of 9.6% inflation!

Think Locally, Act Locally is a phrase turned by another podcast host I listen to on occasion - Brion McClanahan - and I think he’s onto something.  And when I say locally - I’m talking to you - the person behind the eyeballs reading this blog.

That’s as local as it gets you see! - and it’s not a new concept.  “Be the change you want to see in the world” you see often credited to Mahatma Gandhi - but his actual quote is much more comprehensive and intriguing:

"We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”  - M. Gandhi

So when I say new year, new you - it’s an encouragement, because I can’t make you do anything - only you can make you change  - just like only me can make me change…but together we are us, and we can collaborate and hold each other accountable and encourage virtuous behaviour in one another - and more importantly, in ourselves!  

But me and you, we can only do so much you see, call us a double-lowercase us.  But if we combine with a larger group of folks, like the Rotary Club, or Realities for Children, or the Chamber of Commerce - then we can be Us - and we can fund service projects, or provide a safety net for neglected and abused children, or lead an alliance to Fix North I-25!  You couldn’t do that, nor me, and not even us - but You could choose to be a part of an important group and cause, and so could Me!  Or you can choose not to.  

That’s the thing about groups that gets people twisted up these days, is that they are exclusive.  If a group is formed to help neglected children, it’s likely not a good place to find new members for your band.  A group of local CEO’s created to debate local incentive tax policy can’t allow just anyone to join because the group can then lose its focus and purpose.  If your group is so non-exclusionary that you let in any person for any purpose, then the group should be called God, or the Universe - because that is the scale of meaning for a group that is open to anyone.  If your group is more focused than The Universe, then you’ve got an exclusionary ideology and purpose mixed in there somewhere - and that’s ok!

So, anyway, back to you - as that’s where we’re heading, is the new you.  It’s been said that, at least from a Western perspective, there have been three major influences.  The Greeks, and especially Socrates, who encouraged us to know ourselves, the Hebrews, and especially Moses, who encouraged us to control ourselves, and the Christians, beginning of course with the founder, Jesus, who encouraged us to give ourselves.  And that’s really the progression I hinted toward in the beginning.

Socrates famously said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”, and when asked to sum up all of the philosophical commandments, declared - “know yourself” - but what’s that really mean, anyway?  And what’s my reference point unless I know you?  We’re the same you see - human creatures finding our way in the world - but also so different!  

I’ve shared regularly that one of the big things that our members at LoCo Think Tank gain from their memberships is self-awareness - brought about through straight talk from their peers, and also by observation and reflection on our differentness from one another.  In reflecting on this self-awareness, I’ve been sharing a bit about my recently-acquired interest and certification in Hallos Relational Intelligence - (explainer video linked to avoid redundancy for regular readers, and bring you up to speed if you’re just joining!) - and I think what’s valuable in that learning is the common language provided.  

So we can examine ourselves, but to what end?  And, in what context?  We’ve got to have some understanding of virtue I think to make that examination fruitful - comparing ourselves with our ideal selves - but how do we create a picture of our ideal self?  I wrote a whole blog just about this topic in July of 2020 - On Virtue - and eventually came around to Moses, and his list of ten commandments.  And, because I’m a liberty-minded guy, and irreligious I suppose, I rebranded these commandments as Ten Principles for Peoples Best Good - don’t do them because they are commanded, but do them because they’re good for you - which is good for us!  It’s a unifying code of self-control I suppose, and they form a foundation for the ethics of the Western society - or at least they used to.  

To me, self-control is so much superior than others-control, because any concentration of power such as to provide control over others will undoubtedly corrupt anyone who holds it.  And even if one could avoid being corrupted - who’s to know if one is doing the right thing?  I’ve been encouraged to stay away from the whole vaccine topic and so I’ll just brush against it with this one - what if it turns out in the rearview of history that this new-tech vaccine developed to end the pandemic is not only insufficient to the cause, but detrimental?  I’d hate to be the guy or the institution, or the administration that mandated something that turns out to be harmful to the (citizen-subjects?), they not gonna like it!  And that’s why I’m glad I’m not the decider in this stuff - I’m not confident enough in my own judgement to make decisions for you!  But - I am confident that my input + your input can help us make better decisions together than we would individually!  And that’s the idea behind a representative government with a constrained executive branch - an elected President, smart as he or she may be, is likely not as smart as a large group of smart people - and in a way that’s the same idea behind our chapters!

So - we have to set our pointer toward something, you and me, and decide what we’re trying to accomplish before we go about making it happen. Our team has held a pair of strategic planning sessions the last few weeks, and the punchline is basically this - to build a stronger LoCo Think Tank we need to enhance the value and experience for our members and our facilitators. We’re looking to make the job of the facilitators easier - take some of the administrative burden from them and to open new communication channels directly to our members from HQ.  Hopefully, that also serves to enhance the experience of our members, and we’re also going to be asking them to share more with us about what they’re concerned about, and share with their chapters, and even other chapters, their abundant topical expertise in various areas.  We’ve got amazing deposits of knowledge within our chapters, and we need to better develop that resource!

So…back to my topic! - once we’ve decided together what the things that we value are - in whatever group we have defined, now we can set about bettering ourselves - and whatever partnership, team, or organization we have engaged with - us!  We’ve painted a picture together of the ideal, with buy-in and idea exchange from this diverse group of people - us - and now it’s time to set about in that work.  It’s kind of back to that first step - to know yourself - but now it’s corporately - whatever the scale of the us that we have grouped together.

So, now we’re making the final turn in our tour from Socrates to Moses to Jesus - know yourself, control yourself, and finally - give yourself!  you gotta try, and remember it’s not you you’re working for, but us!  The next quote that comes to mind here is from Zig Ziegler - “You can get everything you want out of life, if you will just help other people get what they want.”  That’s what an economy is built upon, is people doing things to help one another - and doing it to the best of their abilities, lest they be out-competed.  

And I think that’s part of what’s been lost in our nation, is that vibrancy of people actually trying hard toward a unified goal.  We’ve gotten fat and happy, in a manner of speaking, and there is a contagion of excuse-making, blaming, and victimhood that consumes our media channels and popular press.  That biggest us from my title - the U.S. - has perhaps become too big and unfocused and distracted to have the clarity of unified purpose that made our nation the most influential and powerful in the world after WWII.  

And you know what - that’s ok! - and one can argue it’s by design! - we are the United State of America.  The name of our nation presupposed its’ organizational intent - we are states, united - we were never designed to have a strong federal government or presidency.  States that are allowed to have their own pursuits, and designed to compete with one another, making one another stronger in that contention of ideas and best practices.  

When I think about the title of this blog, I think of a series of concentric circles - like a target I suppose.  In the middle is you (or me, from my perspective, but you’re reading this, not me!), and then the next circle out might be your marriage, and then your family, and then maybe your team, your closest friends, your church, your neighborhood, your clubs and memberships, your city, your county, your state, and then - your nation.  Our locus of focus is the center, with lesser amounts of energy expended each layer outward from there.  Both nationalism, and authoritarianism, are kinda yucky…

The punchline is - if we each would try to become our best selves, and build our best marriages, and create our strongest teams, and strengthen our families and our friendships, and build the best schools…the big stuff will take care of itself!  But we’re distractible creatures, and so I find that a reference point is useful, for daily reflection and a re-setting of the pointer.  

Years ago, in the summer of 2018 I believe, I came up with an acronym for a business self-evaluation of sorts - we called it FLOATS, and it’s basically a 1-5 ranking of self on the following, with an intention to commit to action and improve a little at a time - (the higher the score the stronger the component):

Financial Tracking & Performance 

Leadership and Team Development

Opportunities & Obsolescence

Administrative & Documented Processes

Technology & Risk Mitigation

Sales & Marketing Development

When I created this process, I was barely afloat - and my aggregate score of 13 showed it.  Now I score LoCo at a 19 or 20, depending on the day, and we’re sustaining and continuing to grow.  But you, and me, (and all of our various usses!) long to thrive, not just float, and so I came up with a new acronym for this blog.  It’s intended the same as the prior, but with a little more space to start super-local - with Y-O-U - and then carry it out to the various levels of us that you would like.  

This is intended as a reflective tool, just like FLOATS, to both spur thinking and action taken to improve and THRIVE - ranking yourself, and any group you’re a part of from 1 - 7:

Truth - Are you being real with yourself?  With Others?  Spending time on the right things?  Do you have those right things defined, for yourself and your team/organization?

Health - Are you physically healthy?  Financially?  Mentally?  Emotionally?  Spiritually?  What are you doing to stay that way or get healthier?  

Relationships - Do you have strong relationships?  With the right people?  What’s missing?

Investing - Are you investing in yourself?  In your business/organization?  In the right things and right people?

Vision - Are you clear on what you’re trying to achieve today?  This week/month/year?  

Efficienient - Are you spending effort wisely?  Is your technology helping, or a stumbling block?

I’ll build this out a little more and share more with you in next month’s newsletter, and also I’ve got ONE free giveaway this month for those who read all the way to the end - a FREE Hallos Triads Assessment, to help you know you better.  Email with the subject line PICK ME! - and one lucky winner will get both the Triads report AND an hour with me to review the report and share insights.  As always, THANKS for being a part of our LoCo Community!

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