Friday, October 26, 2012

I'll Take My Stand


The Twelve Southerners


THE authors contributing to this book are Southerners, well acquainted with one another and of similar tastes, though not necessarily living in the same physical community, and perhaps only at this moment aware of themselves as a single group of men. By conversation and exchange of letters over a number of years it had developed that they entertained many convictions in common, and it was decided to make a volume in which each one should furnish his views upon a chosen topic. This was the general background. But background and consultation as to the various topics were enough; there was to be no further collaboration. And so no single author is responsible for any view outside his own article. It was through the good fortune of some deeper agreement that the book was expected to achieve its unity. All the articles bear in the same sense upon the book's title-subject: all tend to support a Southern way of life against what may be called the American or prevailing way; and all as much as agree that the best terms in which to represent the distinction are contained in the phrase, Agrarian versus Industrial.

But after the book was under way it seemed a pity if the contributors, limited as they were within their special subjects, should stop short of showing how close their agreements really were. On the contrary, it seemed that they ought to go on and make themselves known as a group already consolidated by a set of principles which could be stated with a good deal of particularity. This might prove useful for the sake of future reference, if they should undertake any further joint publication. It was then decided to prepare a general introduction for the book which would state briefly the common convictions of the group. This is the statement. To it every one of the contributors in this book has subscribed.

Nobody now proposes for the South, or far any other community in this country, an independent political destiny. That idea is thought to have been finished in 1805. But how far shall the South surrender its moral, social, and economic autonomy to the victorious principle of Union? That question remains open. The South is a minority section that has hitherto been jealous of its minority right to live its own kind of life. The South scarcely hopes to determine the other sections, but it does propose to determine itself, within the utmost limits of legal action. Of late, however, there is the melancholy fact that the South itself has wavered a little and shown signs of wanting to join up behind the common or American industrial ideal. It is against that tendency that this book is written. The younger Southerners, who are being converted frequently to the industrial gospel, must come back to the support of the Southern tradition. They must be persuaded to look very critically at the advantages of becoming a "new South" which will be only an undistinguished replica of the usual industrial community.

But there are many other minority communities opposed to industrialism, and wanting a much simpler economy to live by. The communities and private persons sharing the agrarian tastes are to be found widely within the Union. Proper living is a matter of the intelligence and the will, does not depend on the local climate or geography, and is capable of a definition which is general and not Southern at all. Southerners have a filial duty to discharge to their own section. But their cause is precarious and they must seek alliances with sympathetic communities everywhere. The members of the present group would be happy to be counted as members of a national agrarian movement.

Industrialism is the economic organization of the collective American society. It means the decision of society to invest its economic resources in the applied sciences. But the word science has acquired a certain sanctitude. It is out of order to quarrel with science in the abstract, or even with the applied sciences when their applications are made subject to criticism and intelligence. The capitalization of the applied sciences has now become extravagant and uncritical; it has enslaved our human energies to a degree now clearly felt to be burdensome. The apologists of industrialism do not like to meet this charge directly; so they often take refuge in saying that they are devoted simply to science! They are really devoted to the applied sciences and to practical production. Therefore it is necessary to employ a certain skepticism even at the expense of the Cult of Science, and to say, It is an Americanism, which looks innocent and disinterested, but really is not either.

The contribution that science can make to a labor is to render it easier by the help of a tool or a process, and to assure the laborer of his perfect economic security while he is engaged upon it. Then it can be performed with leisure and enjoyment. But the modern laborer has not exactly received this benefit under the industrial regime. His labor is hard, its tempo is fierce, and his employment is insecure. The first principle of a good labor is that it must be effective, but the second principle is that it must be enjoyed. Labor is one of the largest items in the human career; it is a modest demand to ask that it may partake of happiness.

The regular act of applied science is to introduce into labor a labor-saving device or a machine. Whether this is a benefit depends on how far it is advisable to save the labor The philosophy of applied science is generally quite sure that the saving of labor is a pure gain, and that the more of it the better. This is to assume that labor is an evil, that only the end of labor or the material product is good. On this assumption labor becomes mercenary and servile, and it is no wonder if many forms of modern labor are accepted without resentment though they are evidently brutalizing. The act of labor as one of the happy functions of human life has been in effect abandoned, and is practiced solely for its rewards.

Even the apologists of industrialism have been obliged to admit that some economic evils follow in the wake of the machines. These are such as overproduction, unemployment, and a growing inequality in the distribution of wealth. But the remedies proposed by the apologists are always homeopathic. They expect the evils to disappear when we have bigger and better machines, and more of them. Their remedial programs, therefore, look forward to more industrialism. Sometimes they see the system righting itself spontaneously and without direction: they are Optimists. Sometimes they rely on the benevolence of capital, or the militancy of labor, to bring about a fairer division of the spoils: they are Cooperationists or Socialists. And sometimes they expect to find super-engineers, in the shape of Boards of Control, who will adapt production to consumption and regulate prices and guarantee business against fluctuations: they are Sovietists. With respect to these last it must be insisted that the true Sovietists or Communists-if the term may be used here in the European sense-are the Industrialists themselves. They would have the government set up an economic super-organization, which in turn would become the government. We therefore look upon the Communist menace as a menace indeed, but not as a Red one; because it is simply according to the blind drift of our industrial development to expect in America at last much the same economic system as that imposed by violence upon Russia in 1917.

Turning to consumption, as the grand end which justifies the evil of modern labor, we find that we have been deceived. We have more time in which to consume, and many more products to be consumed. But the tempo of our labors communicates itself to our satisfactions, and these also become brutal and hurried. The constitution of the natural man probably does not permit him to shorten his labor-time and enlarge his consuming-time indefinitely. He has to pay the penalty in satiety and aimlessness. The modern man has lost his sense of vocation.

Religion can hardly expect to flourish in an industrial society. Religion is our submission to the general intention of a nature that is fairly inscrutable; it is the sense of our role as creatures within it. But nature industrialized, transformed into cities and artificial habitations, manufactured into commodities, is no longer nature but a highly simplified picture of nature. We receive the illusion of having power over nature, and lose the sense of nature as something mysterious and contingent. The God of nature under these conditions is merely an amiable expression, a superfluity, and the philosophical understanding ordinarily carried in the religious experience is not there for us to have.

Nor do the arts have a proper life under industrialism, with the general decay of sensibility which attends it. Art depends, in general, like religion, on a right attitude to nature; and in particular on a free and disinterested observation of nature that occurs only in leisure. Neither the creation nor the understanding of works of art is possible in an industrial age except by some local and unlikely suspension of the industrial drive.

The amenities of life also suffer under the curse of a strictly-business or industrial civilization. They consist in such practices as manners, conversation, hospitality, sympathy, family life, romantic love-in the social exchanges which reveal and develop sensibility in human affairs. If religion and the arts are founded on right relations of man- to-nature, these are founded on right relations of man-to- man.

Apologists of industrialism are even inclined to admit that its actual processes may have upon its victims the spiritual effects just described. But they think that all can be made right by extraordinary educational efforts, by all sorts of cultural institutions and endowments. They would cure the poverty of the contemporary spirit by hiring experts to instruct it in spite of itself in the historic culture. But salvation is hardly to be encountered on that road. The trouble with the life-pattern is to be located at its economic base, and we cannot rebuild it by pouring in soft materials from the top. The young men and women in colleges, for example, if they are already placed in a false way of life, cannot make more than an inconsequential acquaintance with the arts and humanities transmitted to them. Or else the understanding of these arts and humanities will but make them the more wretched in their own destitution.

The "Humanists" are too abstract. Humanism, properly speaking, is not an abstract system, but a culture, the whole way in which we live, act, think, and feel. It is a kind of imaginatively balanced life lived out in a definite social tradition. And, in the concrete, we believe that this, the genuine humanism, was rooted in the agrarian life of the older South and of other parts of the country that shared in such a tradition. It was not an abstract moral "check" derived from the classics-it was not soft material poured in from the top. It was deeply founded in the way of life itself-in its tables, chairs, portraits, festivals, laws, marriage customs. We cannot recover our native humanism by adopting some standard of taste that is critical enough to question the contemporary arts but not critical enough to question the social and economic life which is their ground.

The tempo of the industrial life is fast, but that is not the worst of it; it is accelerating. The ideal is not merely some set form of industrialism, with so many stable industries, but industrial progress, or an incessant extension of industrialization. It never proposes a specific goal; it initiates the infinite series. We have not merely capitalized certain industries; we have capitalized the laboratories and inventors, and undertaken to employ all the labor-saving devices that come out of them. But a fresh labor-saving device introduced into an industry does not emancipate the laborers in that industry so much as it evicts them. Applied at the expense of agriculture, for example, the new processes have reduced the part of the population supporting itself upon the soil to a smaller and smaller fraction. Of course no single labor-saving process is fatal; it brings on a period of unemployed labor and unemployed capital, but soon a new industry is devised which will put them both to work again, and a new commodity is thrown upon the market. The laborers were sufficiently embarrassed in the meantime, but, according to the theory, they will eventually be taken care of. It is now the public which is embarrassed; it feels obligated to purchase a commodity for which it had expressed no desire, but it is invited to make its budget equal to the strain. All might yet be well, and stability and comfort might again obtain, but for this: partly because of industrial ambitions and partly because the repressed creative impulse must break out somewhere, there will be a stream of further labor-saving devices in all industries, and the cycle will have to be repeated over and over. The result is an increasing disadjustment and instability.

It is an inevitable consequence of industrial progress that production greatly outruns the rate of natural consumption. To overcome the disparity, the producers, disguised as the pure idealists of progress, must coerce and wheedle the public into being loyal and steady consumers, in order to keep the machines running. So the rise of modern advertising-along with its twin, personal salesmanship-is the most significant development of our industrialism. Advertising means to persuade the consumers to want exactly what the applied sciences are able to furnish them. It consults the happiness of the consumer no more than it consulted the happiness of the laborer. It is the great effort of a false economy of life to approve itself. But its task grows more difficult even day.

It is strange, of course, that a majority of men anywhere could ever as with one mind become enamored of industrialism: a system that has so little regard for individual wants. There is evidently a kind of thinking that rejoices in setting up a social objective which has no relation to the individual. Men are prepared to sacrifice their private dignity and happiness to an abstract social ideal, and without asking whether the social ideal produces the welfare of any individual man whatsoever. But this is absurd. The responsibility of men is for their own welfare and that of their neighbors; not for the hypothetical welfare of some fabulous creature called society.

Opposed to the industrial society is the agrarian, which does not stand in particular need of definition. An agrarian society is hardly one that has no use at all for industries, for professional vocations, for scholars and artists, and for the life of cities. Technically, perhaps, an agrarian society is one in which agriculture is the leading vocation, whether for wealth, for pleasure, or for prestige-a form of labor that is pursued with intelligence and leisure, and that becomes the model to which the other forms approach as well as they may. But an agrarian regime will be secured readily enough where the superfluous industries are not allowed to rise against it. The theory of agrarianism is that the culture of the soil is the best and most sensitive of vocations, and that therefore it should have the economic preference and enlist the maximum number of workers.

These principles do not intend to be very specific in proposing any practical measures. How may the little agrarian community resist the Chamber of Commerce of its county seat, which is always trying to import some foreign industry that cannot be assimilated to the life-pattern of the community? Just what must the Southern leaders do to defend the traditional Southern life ? How may the Southern and the Western agrarians unite for effective action? Should the agrarian forces try to capture the Democratic party, which historically is so closely affiliated with the defense of individualism, the small community, the state, the South ? Or must the agrarians-even the Southern ones-abandon the Democratic party to its fate and try a new one? What legislation could most profitably be championed by the powerful agrarians in the Senate of the United States? What anti-industrial measures might promise to stop the advances of industrialism, or even undo some of them, with the least harm to those concerned? What policy should be pursued by the educators who have a tradition at heart? These and many other questions are of the greatest importance, but they cannot be answered here.

For, in conclusion, this much is clear: If a community, or a section, or a race, or an age, is groaning under industrialism, and well aware that it is an evil dispensation, it must find the way to throw it off. To think that this cannot be done is pusillanimous. And if the whole community, section, race, or age thinks it cannot be done, then it has simply lost its political genius and doomed itself to impotence.


Monday, October 22, 2012

A Doctor on How Physicians Face the End of Life -

Why Doctors Die Differently


Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. It was diagnosed as pancreatic cancer by one of the best surgeons in the country, who had developed a procedure that could triple a patient's five-year-survival odds—from 5% to 15%—albeit with a poor quality of life.

[DOCTORS] Arthur Giron

What's unusual about doctors is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little.

Charlie, 68 years old, was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with his family. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation or surgical treatment. Medicare didn't spend much on him.

It's not something that we like to talk about, but doctors die, too. What's unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared with most Americans, but how little. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care that they could want. But they tend to go serenely and gently.

Doctors don't want to die any more than anyone else does. But they usually have talked about the limits of modern medicine with their families. They want to make sure that, when the time comes, no heroic measures are taken. During their last moments, they know, for instance, that they don't want someone breaking their ribs by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (which is what happens when CPR is done right).

In a 2003 article, Joseph J. Gallo and others looked at what physicians want when it comes to end-of-life decisions. In a survey of 765 doctors, they found that 64% had created an advanced directive—specifying what steps should and should not be taken to save their lives should they become incapacitated. That compares to only about 20% for the general public. (As one might expect, older doctors are more likely than younger doctors to have made "arrangements," as shown in a study by Paula Lester and others.)

Why such a large gap between the decisions of doctors and patients? The case of CPR is instructive. A study by Susan Diem and others of how CPR is portrayed on TV found that it was successful in 75% of the cases and that 67% of the TV patients went home. In reality, a 2010 study of more than 95,000 cases of CPR found that only 8% of patients survived for more than one month. Of these, only about 3% could lead a mostly normal life.

Unlike previous eras, when doctors simply did what they thought was best, our system is now based on what patients choose. Physicians really try to honor their patients' wishes, but when patients ask "What would you do?," we often avoid answering. We don't want to impose our views on the vulnerable.

The result is that more people receive futile "lifesaving" care, and fewer people die at home than did, say, 60 years ago. Nursing professor Karen Kehl, in an article called "Moving Toward Peace: An Analysis of the Concept of a Good Death," ranked the attributes of a graceful death, among them: being comfortable and in control, having a sense of closure, making the most of relationships and having family involved in care. Hospitals today provide few of these qualities.

Written directives can give patients far more control over how their lives end. But while most of us accept that taxes are inescapable, death is a much harder pill to swallow, which keeps the vast majority of Americans from making proper arrangements.

It doesn't have to be that way. Several years ago, at age 60, my older cousin Torch (born at home by the light of a flashlight, or torch) had a seizure. It turned out to be the result of lung cancer that had gone to his brain. We learned that with aggressive treatment, including three to five hospital visits a week for chemotherapy, he would live perhaps four months.

Torch was no doctor, but he knew that he wanted a life of quality, not just quantity. Ultimately, he decided against any treatment and simply took pills for brain swelling. He moved in with me.

We spent the next eight months having fun together like we hadn't had in decades. We went to Disneyland, his first time, and we hung out at home. Torch was a sports nut, and he was very happy to watch sports and eat my cooking. He had no serious pain, and he remained high-spirited.

One day, he didn't wake up. He spent the next three days in a coma-like sleep and then died. The cost of his medical care for those eight months, for the one drug he was taking, was about $20.

As for me, my doctor has my choices on record. They were easy to make, as they are for most physicians. There will be no heroics, and I will go gentle into that good night. Like my mentor Charlie. Like my cousin Torch. Like so many of my fellow doctors.

—Dr. Murray is retired clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California. Adapted from an article originally published on Zocalo Public Square.

What Pogue Actually Bought -

What Pogue Actually Bought

I get plenty of reader e-mail, and if I had to graph the question categories, "What should I buy?" would be the tallest bar by far.

The Times's technology columnist, David Pogue, keeps you on top of the industry in his free, weekly e-mail newsletter.
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If you could hold your finger down on that bar to explode it into sub-bars, "What do you own?" would be a pretty tall one. Imagine, in other words, if your job let you test and try every single brand of camera, tablet, phone, laptop and GPS, which would you buy for you and your own family?

That's why, every couple of years, I write the following post: What Pogue Actually Bought. Hope it's useful to somebody.

Main computer. A 13-inch MacBook Pro. I also have a Windows desktop and laptop, and there's an iMac in the kitchen for the kids, but the laptop is my main machine.

I'd love to get a MacBook Air, which is just as fast and far lighter and thinner. My problem is storage. The Air uses a chunk of memory, a solid-state drive (SSD) as its hard drive, rather than a physical, spinning disk. That's great. Fewer moving parts, faster start-up, better battery life. But SSD's are very expensive, and come in small capacities. The biggest one you can get in an Air is 256 gigabytes, compared with 750 gigs on the traditional hard drive on a MacBook Pro. I traffic in photos and videos; I'd run out of space quickly on a 256-gig drive.

I've been experimenting with other solutions: keeping my main photo and video collections at home on an external drive, for example, and having only the latest on my laptop. For now, though, I'm hauling around two extra pounds and a DVD drive I never use.

Camera. I bought the amazing Canon S100, a tiny pocket camera with the biggest sensor on the market. I wrote about my reasons here. But in two weeks, I'll be switching my allegiance. You cannot believe what's about to come down the photographic pike. Trust me: If you're in the market for a small camera with astonishing photographic results, hold off for a few weeks.

I also have a Nikon D80 with three lenses, an SLR that's showing its age. It still takes fantastic pictures, but I ache for better speed and to be able to capture video. Truth is, I use it less and less in the age of big-sensor, pocketable cameras. But I'm thinking of replacing it one of these days with a D5100, which is just about at my prosumery level.

Phone. I have an iPhone 4S. I'm constantly looking at and testing Android phones, which are just getting better and better  — the imminent Samsung Galaxy S III looks positively juicy — but for now, features like Siri and the whole iCloud thing are keeping me in the Apple camp.

It's a Verizon phone. As an East Coaster, my fondness for the Verizon network's ubiquity led me to overcome my cynicism regarding Verizon, the company.

Phone case. None. I know I'm tempting fate, but the Gorilla glass hasn't yet let me down, and if you're going to buy a phone for its slimness and beauty, why bury it in plastic?

GPS. We own two cars: a Honda Fit and a Toyota Prius V. They're absolutely fantastic cars; I'm so proud of myself for choosing them. They both have built-in GPS.

In general, the Honda's GPS is light-years better than the Toyota's. For one thing, it doesn't lock you out when the car is in motion, so the passenger can program in your address while you drive. For another thing, it's simply better designed. The Prius's GPS weirdly lists my town as being in "NY Metro Region" instead of Connecticut, for example.

But the Prius's built-in GPS has a perk that, let's hope, will soon come to all cars: the ability to speak your destination address instead of painstakingly tapping it in on the touchscreen. And you can do it while you're driving. "200 West Hartley Extension, New Rochelle, New York." Bingo: you're on your way. I've waited years for this.

Software. My family relies upon BusyCal for our calendar, which is just about one of the best programs I've ever used for anything. Fast, crashproof, simple, attractive, and it speaks to all the online calendars like Google's and iCloud's.

The rest of my life is spent in Mail, Word, Excel, Photoshop, FileMaker and this ancient freeform database cards program called iData. My notes, lists, brainstorms, phone numbers, driving directions, recipes, Christmas gift ideas and other thoughts have been happily trapped in that program and its predecessors for 20 years.

I also use TextExpander, which expands typed abbreviations for better speed and accuracy, and a little free macro program called Spark, which lets me open various programs and perform other functions with keystrokes of my choosing. And Dropbox. Wow, I love Dropbox, although I've added SkyDrive (7 free gigabytes instead of 2) to my desktop, too.

Online. Almost every day, I stop in to Twitter (I'm @pogue) to post a link to my latest column, or, if I don't have one, to post a joke of the day. I usually manage a Facebook visit, too, to see what's going on in my social circle.

What else is on my bookmarks bar?, Techmeme, Google Voice, my kids' school homework assignments site, my blog and the local commuter train schedule site.

I've just moved my online photo galleries to SmugMug, for the reasons I wrote about in the Times today. I'm really excited; I feel as though MobileMe's demise, in this regard, was good for me.

Noise-canceling headphones. In January, I reviewed the latest noise-canceling headphones — a must gadget for anyone who's a passenger in planes, trains or automobiles. I wound up buying my favorite of the lot: the AKG K495 NC. Expensive, but holy fuselage, did I make the right call. These things pack down smaller than the rivals, sit so much more comfortably on the ears (six-hour flight? no problem), and block sound so much more effectively.

Laptop bag. Every time I leave the house, I carry a T.S.A.-friendly Timbuktu bag — meaning that its laptop compartment folds out for the airport X-ray so that I don't have to remove the laptop. I originally raved about this bag, but with wear, I've found that it's become side heavy. And the laptop compartment has lost its shape, meaning it takes two hands to slip the laptop inside. It might be time to move on.

Inside that bag and its pockets, here's what you'll find: laptop, charger and video-output adapter. Camera and charger. Three flash drives. Phone sync/charge cable. Those AKG headphones. Checkbook. Pens. Emergency reading glasses (these cool fold-up ones). Emergency bag of mixed nuts.

And there you go: the 2012 What Pogue Bought list. I know, I know — I'm a minimalist. But I'm working on it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A More Perfect Constitution, by Larry J. Sabato

23 Proposals to Revitalize the US Constitution

by Larry J. Sabato
(in the order in which they appear in the book)
Send us your 24th Amendment!

1. Expand the Senate to 136 members to be more representative: Grant the 10 most populous states 2 additional Senators, the 15 next most populous states 1 additional Senator, and the District of Columbia 1 Senator.

2. Appoint all former Presidents and Vice Presidents to the new office of "National Senator."

3. Mandate non-partisan redistricting for House elections to enhance electoral competition.

4. Lengthen House terms to 3 years (from 2) and set Senate terms to coincide with all Presidential elections, so the entire House and Senate would be elected at the same time as the President.

5. Expand the size of the House to approximately 1,000 members (from current 435), so House members can be closer to their constituents, and to level the playing field in House elections.

6. Establish term limits in the House and Senate to restore the Founders' principle of frequent rotation in office.

7. Add a Balanced Budget Amendment to encourage fiscal fairness to future generations.

8. Create a Continuity of Government procedure to provide for replacement Senators and Congresspeople in the event of extensive deaths or incapacitation.


9. Establish a new 6-year, 1-time Presidential term with the option for the President to seek 2 additional years in an up/down referendum of the American people.

10. Limit some Presidential war-making powers and expand Congress's oversight of war-making.

11. Give the President a line-item veto.

12. Allow men and women not born in the U.S. to run for President or Vice President after having been a citizen for 20 years.


Supreme Court:
13. Eliminate lifetime tenure for federal judges in favor of non-renewable 15-year terms for all federal judges.

14. Grant Congress the power to set a mandatory retirement age for all federal judges.

15. Expand the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 12 to be more representative.

16. Give federal judges guaranteed cost of living increases so pay is never an issue.


17. Write a new constitutional article specifically for the politics of the American system.

18. Adopt a regional, staggered lottery system, over 4 months, for Presidential party nominations to avoid the destructive front-loading of primaries.

19. Mend the Electoral College by granting more populated states additional electors, to preserve the benefits of the College while minimizing the chances a President will win without a majority of the popular vote.

20. Reform campaign financing by preventing wealthy candidates from financing their campaigns, and by mandating partial public financing for House and Senate campaigns.

21. Adopt an automatic registration system for all qualified American citizens to guarantee their right to vote is not abridged by bureaucratic requirements.


Universal National Service:
22. Create a Constitutional requirement that all able-bodied young Americans devote at least 2 years of their lives in service to the country.


National Constitutional Convention:
23. Convene a new Constitutional Convention using the state-based mechanism left to us by the Framers in the current Constitution.

Friday, October 19, 2012

10 quick ways to improve your life, distilled from tons of research: | Barking Up The Wrong Tree

10 quick ways to improve your life, distilled from tons of research:


Richard Wiseman's excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute ends with a  top ten list of quick, research-based advice. Here are some highlights:

Develop the Gratitude Attitude.

"Having people list three things that they are grateful for in life or three events that have gone especially well over the past week can significantly increase their level of happiness for about a month."

Be a Giver.

"People become much happier after even the smallest acts of kindness."

Hang a Mirror in Your Kitchen.

"Placing a mirror in front of people when they are presented with different food options results in a remarkable 32 percent reduction in their consumption of unhealthy food."

Buy a Potted Plant for the Office.

"Adding plants to an office results in a 15 percent boost in the number of creative ideas reported by male employees and helps their female counterparts to produce more original solutions to problems."

Touch People Lightly on The Upper Arm.

"Lightly touching someone on their upper arm makes them far more likely to agree to a request because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of high status. In one dating study, the touch produced a 20 percent increase in the number of people who accepted an invitation to dance in a nightclub and a 10 percent increase in those who would give their telephone number to a stranger on the street."

Write About Your Relationship.

"Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost the chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent."

Deal with Potential Liars by Closing Your Eyes and Asking for an E-mail.

"The most reliable cues to lying are in the words that people use, with liars tending to lack detail, use more "ums" and "ahs," and avoid self-references ("me," "mine," "I"). In addition, people are about 20 percent less likely to lie in an e-mail than in a telephone call, because their words are on record and so are more likely to come back and haunt them."

Praise Children's Effort over Their Ability.

"Praising a child's effort rather than their ability ("Well done. You must have tried very hard") encourages them to try regardless of the consequences, therefore sidestepping fear of failure."

Visualize Yourself Doing, Not Achieving.

"People who visualize themselves taking the practical steps needed to achieve their goals are far more likely to succeed than those who simply fantasize about their dreams becoming a reality."

Consider Your Legacy.

"Asking people to spend just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at their funeral and reflecting on their personal and professional legacy helps them to identify their long-term goals and assess the degree to which they are progressing toward making those goals a reality."

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Big, Smart and Green: A Revolutionary Vision for Modern Farming | Wired Science |

Big, Smart and Green: A Revolutionary Vision for Modern Farming

Two-year corn-and-soy rotation field (left) and four-year rotation field covered in alfalfa (right). Both were photographed in early September, 2012. By using cover crops like alfalfa, researchers achieved dramatic reductions in herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer use without sacrificing productivity. Photo: David Sundberg

What they're doing on Marsden Farm isn't organic. It's not industrial, either. It's a hybrid of the two, an alternative version of agriculture for the 21st century: smart, green and powerful.

On this farm in Boone County, Iowa, in the heart of corn country, researchers have borrowed from both approaches, using traditional techniques and modern chemicals to get industrial yields — but without industrial consequences.

If the approach works at commercial scales, and there's good reason to think it will, it might just be an answer to modern farming's considerable problems.

"We wanted to show that small amounts of synthetic inputs are very powerful tools, but they're tools with which you tune the system, not drive it," said Adam Davis, a researcher with the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Marsden Farm experiment, which is described in a study published Oct. 10 in Public Library of Science One, started in 2003, when Davis was a graduate student under agronomist Matt Liebman of Iowa State University. Liebman's specialty is integrated pest management, or strategies that use nature to accomplish what's typically done with pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizer.

It's not a new idea, but it's one that's been generally neglected for the last several decades, as large-scale farming came to rely on simplified, chemically intensive and ultimately unsustainable approaches. For a while, these worked, but with high yields came big problems: the threat of catastrophic disease outbreaks in monocultures, an insatiable demand for nitrogen fertilizer, pesticide-resistant bugs and herbicide-resistant superweeds, and a new generation of crops designed to be drenched in toxic chemicals.

'We have to figure out this fusion of industrial and organic. They've illustrated what it looks like. It's power and efficiency.'
"We have two choices now," said Liebman. "We can double down, load more chemicals into the system, and get another decade of increasingly ineffective control — or we can choose the path towards integrated management."

Liebman, inspired in part by a pioneering Iowa farmer named Dick Thompson, wanted to bring integrated pest management back, but augmented with technology's new tools. On 22 acres at Marsden Farm, his team planted three plots with different rotations of crops. The first followed a two-year rotation, alternating between corn and soybeans, as is customary in the region. It was managed the usual way, with lots of chemicals.

For the second plot, the researchers rotated over three years between corn, soy and oats, with red clover planted in winter. The clover, which absorbs atmospheric nitrogen, was planted between crop rows and plowed under as soil-replenishing "green manure" in spring. On another plot, instead of red clover the researchers planted a fourth-year crop of alfalfa, which can be used to feed livestock. The animals' manure came back as fertilizer.

On these fields, the researchers still used herbicides and pesticides, but not the usual way. Rather than spraying them routinely over large areas, Liebman's team applied them only when necessary. "We use low-dose products in the smallest quantities possible," he said. "We're not against their use. What we're arguing for is using them as carefully deployed tactical options."

Liebman called these applications "therapeutic measures." Therapy wasn't often needed. Having different crops with different life cycles made it harder for weeds to grow. What might flourish among corn and soy, for example, was disrupted by oats. When red clover and alfalfa were mowed, weeds were chewed up before they flowered. As for insect problems, low pesticide use, along with habitat provided by cover crops, allowed pest-eating bugs and birds to flourish.

After eight years, Liebman and Davis used eight times less herbicide in the three- and four-year rotations than in the conventional plot, they report in the new study. Ecotoxicity in surrounding water was two orders of magnitude lower. Thanks to clover and alfalfa, the experimental plots also used 86 percent less synthetic fertilizer.

Most important of all, the experimental plots were as productive as the conventional. They produced just as much total crop biomass. When the researchers calculated the value of their environmentally friendly harvest, it was every bit as profitable.

"We exceeded those goals — not by pumping chemicals in, but by maximizing ecosystem services," Davis said. "We're not throwing away those tools. They're very important. But you use a strong cropping system as the foundation for your agriculture. Then, when you need it, you tweak it a little bit with the inputs."

Liebman and Davis said the system can be scaled up and applied to other crops. While the new study's details were local, the essential underlying principle, of building a crop system around the ecological services it provides, is universal.

"This is a great study," said John Reganold, a soil scientist at Washington State University who was not involved in the research. "We've been pushing the envelope on yields, and not paying as much attention to the environmental and social and economic consequences. This shows that these integrated systems can be profitable, produce high yields, and offer more environmental benefit."

In a paper published last year in Science, Reganold called for a transformation of U.S. agriculture along the lines seen at Marsden Farm. "They're almost like a blend of conventional and organic, using the best of both worlds," he said. "It's these kinds of systems we need."

"Their ideas point to the way that agriculture has to be in the future," said agronomist Nicholas Jordan of the University of Minnesota. "There's wide consensus that we have to figure out this fusion of 'organic' and 'industrial.' They've illustrated what that fusion looks like. It's power and efficiency."

Jordan stressed that the Marsden Farm data was sound: No fudged numbers, no apples-and-oranges comparisons or subtle statistical slip-ups. Asked if the methods could scale commercially, Jordan said "the answer is a resounding yes."

His enthusiasm was, however, tempered with caveats about challenges. Integrated pest management is much more complicated than industrial farming, requiring more day-to-day decisions and local knowledge. "We've become very, very used to a system that's straightforward," said crop scientist Germán Bollero of the University of Illinois. "Implementing this at a large scale is not going to be easy."

'Needing more labor means more jobs. It will be good for rural communities.'
Integrated pest management also requires more work. In the new study, the conventional method demanded one-third less labor than Liebman and Davis's fusion. "It takes an energetic farmer, someone who's investing a lot more of their own time, or potentially hiring added labor," said agricultural economist Greg Graff of Colorado State University.

These challenges should not be insurmountable. Locale-specific research will help with complexity. As for the additional labor, money that would have gone to chemicals can be used to hire workers. "I would argue that needing more labor in these systems means more jobs," Reganold said. "It will be good for the well-being of rural communities."

There are other advantages to the Marsden Farm method. As corn and soy production intensified in the midwest, field farmers often stopped raising livestock. These are now grown in concentrated animal feeding operations, which both incubate new disease and generate immense amounts of waste. If livestock again became part of local farming, as was required to consume the Marsden Farm's alfalfa, that waste would be fertilizer.

Diverse, year-round crop rotations are also more resilient to climate stress. Weather patterns in the the midwestern United States are becoming more extreme, veering between the catastrophic floods of 2008 and 2010 and this summer's epic drought. Complex root systems prevent soil from washing away during spring rains, and store extra water against dry spells.

"These more diversified systems, the three- and four-year systems in the study, are less vulnerable to resource scarcities, climate change and market volatility," said Reganold. "These systems use less fertilizer and pesticides than the typical conventional system. Yes, this is environmentally beneficial, but it also has economic benefits because the price of fertilizers and pesticides will likely increase in the future."

If transforming agriculture seems an imposing task, Liebman said it can start small, with something as simple as weaving conservation strips into fields. It also doesn't need to happen immediately, in one radical step.

"The concept could be introduced by encouraging farmers to continue farming in the traditional way, but little by little introduce diversity. There could be tax benefit or subsidy for introducing things like cover crops," Bollero said. "If those signals are there, you'll see a lot of farmers adopting this."

Graff noted that farm subsidies currently favor intensive soy and corn production, and that industry lobbying groups have actively resisted subsidy reform that rewards other types of crop production. Ultimately, however, this is an issue that citizens can decide.

"A very large amount of taxpayer money is channeled through the federal government into the farming sector. In Iowa, it's something like $1 billion of your money," Liebman said. "If you can get cleaner water, less exposure to pesticide, and more wildlife habitat, if farmers can maintain their revenue streams and work in a healthier world — why wouldn't you do that?"

Attributes of Great Leadership: What it Takes to Be an Exceptional Executive or Administrator by Michael Josephson

Attributes of Great Leadership: What it Takes to Be an Exceptional Executive or Administrator by Michael Josephson

Let's start with some key definitions:

A leader is anyone who uses authority, reason, fear, inspiration, charisma or personal example to influence the behavior or beliefs of others.

Effective leaders formulate their objectives and influence others to achieve them. Put another way, leadership is the ability to get others to want to do what the leader wants done.

Though we might despise their motives and methods, Attila the Hun, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Adolf Hitler were exceptionally effective leaders, but so were George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Cesar Chavez. The first group may have been good leaders but they were bad people because they were cruel and ruthless while the second group were, by most accounts both good leaders and good people.

The difference is found in values and character.

Great leaders, the kind we praise, admire, and want more of are principled.

Click here to see the 8 critical attributes of great leaders:

  1. Great leaders are principled; they are not merely effective, they are ethical. They adhere to moral principles in forming their objectives and using the methods of influence. They engender trust and credibility because of their integrity and loyalty and because they care about their followers and treat them with respect.
  2. Great leaders earn, exude and instill confidence without being arrogant. They also empower their followers with confidence and pride.
  3. Great leaders are both idealistic and realistic. They have great goals. They seek to close the gap between what is and what can be but they have no illusions that success is either certain or simple. They consider the past and evaluate the present so they can create the future.
  4. Great leaders are teachers not tyrants. They help their followers see and understand more. The inspire them to become more and motivate them to do more.
  5. Great leaders are lifetime learners. They turn every success, setback and failure into a lesson that will guide them in the future.
  6. Great leaders don't repress or replace the values of their followers; they respect them and they enhance and energize those values focusing them toward the leader's vision.
  7. Great leaders have an unusual bone structure. They have strong back bones and well-developed wish bones and funny bones.
  8. Great leaders derive no pleasure from asserting their power and they use their authority sparingly. They rely more on inspiration and persuasion than coercion, but they are not hesitant to use their power when necessary to assure that everyone is doing what needs to be done.

Also see my list of the Best Quotes Ever on Leadership at

Tagged as: leadership attributes

Leadership Insights: 100 of the Best Quotes Ever on Leadership Selected by Michael Josephson

Leadership Insights: 100 of the Best Quotes Ever on Leadership Selected by Michael Josephson


  1. A leader is anyone who uses authority, reason, fear, inspiration, charisma or personal example to influence the behavior or beliefs of others. Effective leaders formulate their objectives and influence others to achieve them. Principled leaders adhere to moral and ethical principles in forming their objectives as well as their use of the methods of influence. Michael Josephson
  2. Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand."— General Colin Powell
  3. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. — Peter F. Drucker
  4. A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see. – Leroy Eimes
  5.  As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." - Bill Gates
  6.  Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Harold R. McAlindon
  7. The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind in others the conviction and will to carry on." - Walter Lippman
  8.  The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. - Harvey S. Firestone
  9. A bold beginning is half the battle. Giuseppe Garibaldi
  10. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny … it is the light that guides your way." – Heraclitus
  11. A leader is someone who believes in you and gets you to believe in yourself.
  12. The leader must know, must know that he knows, and must be able to make it abundantly clear to those around him that he knows. — Clarence Randall
  13. Nothing so conclusively proves a man's ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself. — Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM
  14. Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself.  The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? – - William J. Bennett
  15. A boss says, Go! A leader says, Let's go! — E.M. Kelly
  16. A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. — John C. Maxwell
  17. Authority without wisdom is like a heavy ax without an edge — fitter to bruise than polish. — Anne Bradstreet, (1612-1672)
  18. Leadership is action, not position.  — Donald H. McGannon
  19. Not everyone agrees that leadership can be taught but all know that leadership can be learned. Michael Josephson
  20. When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that person is crazy. — Dave Barry
  21. Great leaders are principled; they are not merely effective, they are ethical. They adhere to moral principles in forming their objectives and using the methods of influence. They engender trust and credibility because of their integrity and loyalty and because they care about their followers and treat them with respect.
  22. Great leaders earn, exude and instill confidence without being arrogant. They also empower their followers with confidence and pride.
  23. Great leaders are both idealistic and realistic. They have great goals. They seek to close the gap between what is and what can be but they have no illusions that success is either certain or simple. They consider the past and evaluate the present so they can create the future.
  24. Great leaders are teachers not tyrants. They help their followers see and understand more. The inspire them to become more and motivate them to do more.
  25. Great leaders are lifetime learners. They turn every success, setback and failure into a lesson that will guide them in the future.
  26. Great leaders don't repress or replace the values of their followers; they respect them and they enhance and energize those values focusing them toward the leader's vision.
  27. Great leaders have an unusual bone structure. They have strong back bones and well-developed wish bones and funny bones.
  28. Great leaders derive no pleasure from asserting their power and they use their authority sparingly. They rely more on inspiration and persuasion than coercion, but they are not hesitant to use their power when necessary to assure that everyone is doing what needs to be done.
  29. What's troubling is the gap between our challenges and the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we are distracted by petty and the trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem. Barack Obama
  30. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better." — Harry Truman
  31. No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings. – Peter Drucker
  32. I must follow the people. Am I not their leader? ~ Benjamin Disraeli
  33. Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all. ~ Dwight Eisenhower
  34. Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. ~ George S. Patton
  35. A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves. ~ Lao-Tzu
  36. If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. — John Quincy Adams
  37. What you cannot enforce, do not command. ~ Sophocles
  38. Many people would rather you heard their story than granted their request.
  39. Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. — Stephen R. Covey
  40. No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it. Andrew Carnegie
  41. Leadership is the ability to establish standards and manage a creative climate where people are self-motivated toward the mastery of long term constructive goals, in a participatory environment of mutual respect, compatible with personal values. — Mike Vance
  42. Great leadership is about human experiences. It's not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine. — Lance Secretan
  43. Leaders don't force people to follow; they invite them on a journey.
  44. There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them. — Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin
  45. The real leader has no need to lead; he is content to point the way. — Henry Miller
  46. Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. — Dwight D. Eisenhower
  47. The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. — Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President (1858-1919)
  48. The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it. — Lord Thomas Macaulay
  49. The question Who ought to be boss is like as Who ought to be the tenor in the quartet? Obviously, the man who can sing tenor. ~ Henry Ford
  50. A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. ~ James Crook
  51. The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet. ~ Theodore M. Hesburgh
  52. Anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm. ~ Publilius Syrus
  53. Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too. ~ Robert Half
  54. As a leader, you're probably not doing a good job unless your employees can do a good impression of you when you're not around. — Patrick Lencioni
  55. There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, simple, and useful life. — Booker T. Washington
  56. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead
  57. My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence. — General Montgomery
  58. High sentiments always win in the end, The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic. — George Orwell
  59. It's possible to get people to do what you want through force or fear but that's not leadership. Michael Josephson
  60. Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  61. Leadership comes from integrity. You must do whatever you ask others to do. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity. — Scott Berkun
  62. Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. — Jack Welch
  63. I think that the best training a top manager can be engaged in is management by example. I want to make sure there is no discrepancy between what we say and what we do. If you preach accountability and then promote somebody with bad results, it doesn't work. — Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault-Nissan
  64. If you don't understand that you work for your mislabeled 'subordinates,' then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny. — Dee Hock
  65. Lead and inspire people. Don't try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead. — Ross Perot
  66. The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. — Ralph Nader
  67. To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone. — Harry Truman
  68. Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing. — Albert Schweitzer
  69. The leader has to be practical and a realist yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist. — Eric Hoffer
  70. Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. — Norman Schwarzkopf
  71. The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. — Harvey S. Firestone
  72. One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency. — Arnold Glasow
  73. Leaders conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts. — John Gardner
  74. Leadership is unlocking people's potential to become better. Bill Bradley
  75. A real leader has the ability to motivate others to their highest level of achievement; then gives them the opportunity and the freedom to grow. Buck Rodgers
  76. One of the greatest talents of all is the talent to recognize and to develop talent in others. General Colin Powell
  77. If you wish others to believe in you, you must first convince them that you believe in them.
  78. Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. Jack Welch
  79. The world of the 1990s and beyond will not belong to 'managers' or those who can make the numbers dance. The world will belong to passionate, driven leaders – people who not only have enormous amounts of energy but who can energize those whom they lead. Jack Welch
  80. I've never found an important decision made by a great organization that was made at a point of unanimity. Significant decisions carry risks and inevitably some will oppose it. In these settings, the great legislative leader must be artful in handling uncomfortable decisions, and this requires rigor. Jim Collins
  81. A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better. Jim Rohn
  82. Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  83. Most people who want to get ahead do it backward. They think, 'I'll get a bigger job, then I'll learn how to be a leader.' But showing leadership skill is how you get the bigger job in the first place. John Maxwell
  84. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. John Maxwell
  85. People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. John Maxwell
  86. Great communication depends on two simple skills—context, which attunes a leader to the same frequency as his or her audience, and delivery, which allows a leader to phrase messages in a language the audience can understand. John Maxwell
  87. Credibility is a leader's currency. With it, he or she is solvent; without it, he or she is bankrupt. John Maxwell
  88. A highly credible leader under-promises and over-delivers. John Maxwell
  89. The best leaders are humble enough to realize their victories depend upon their people. John Maxwell
  90. In the past a leader was a boss. Today's leaders must be partners with their people… they no longer can lead solely based on positional power. John Maxwell
  91. Vision comes alive when everyone sees where his or her contribution makes a difference. John Maxwell
  92. Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker
  93. Leadership is defined by results not attributes. Peter Drucker
  94. People will not follow you if they do not trust you, and before someone will lend you a hand, you must first touch their heart. Robin Sharma
  95. Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish. Sam Walton
  96. A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved.  He inspires the power and energy to get it done.  ~Ralph Nader
  97. Leaders keep their eyes on the horizon, not just on the bottom line. Warren Bennis
  98. The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. Warren Bennis
  99. A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.  ~Author Unknown
  100. I am more afraid of an army of one hundred sheep led by a lion than an army of one hundred lions led by a sheep.  ~Charles Maurice, Prince de Talleyrand-Périgord


Tagged as: Josephson, Leadership quotes

Are Leaders Really in Control? - Eric McNulty - Harvard Business Review

HBR Blog Network

The rambunctious, topsy-turvy U.S. Presidential campaign took its latest turn on Tuesday night. From jobs to gas prices to world events, central to the arguments advanced by both candidates was the idea of exerting control. Governor Romney, in particular, has criticized President Obama for "leading from behind" rather than using U.S. power to direct the evolution of events such as the Arab Spring. Early in his term, President Obama pledged to bring the unemployment rate to below 8%. Mitt Romney has promised to create 12 million jobs if elected. Should we take either candidate at his literal word?

While charges and counter-charges elicit cheers or jeers from supporters of the respective candidates, they are spun from the same non-partisan myth of leader control.

We live our lives enmeshed in complex adaptive systems. Our economy is just one example. Two fundamental properties of complex adaptive systems are that no single person or entity can exercise control over them and that their reaction to stimuli are largely unpredictable. Witness the self-immolation of a fruit vendor in Tunisia that set off revolutions that toppled governments across the Middle East. The previous president, George W. Bush, predicted that victory in Iraq would usher in friendly democracies across the region. No one predicted that a single merchant would be the match that lit the fire rather than the shock and awe of the U.S. military. Once alight, no one could write the script for where movement would go. Yet we readily expect our leaders to assert control and assure outcomes.

Our thirst for leader control arises from a need to believe that someone has a firm hand on the tiller. We usually know that it isn't us and so we look to someone in whom we perceive greater wisdom or power. The adulation of the master-of-the-universe CEO springs from the same well.

Politicians are not elected based on pledges to try really, really hard; candidates triumph through bold promises to deliver whatever it is voters seek: I will create millions of jobs. I will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I will tame the deficit without cutting key programs or raising taxes. We believe that if we grant them the authority, they will exert benign control. This in the face of ample evidence that luck plays at least as big a role in success as anything the leader might do. We followers love to have a hero out front. We look for someone we think can make sense of a complex and confusing world.

When the news is good, leaders are more than happy to take the credit. When the Berlin Wall fell, President Reagan was happy if we believed that he personally shoved it over. CEOs are photographed for magazine covers, and collect big bonuses, based on the increased shareholder value attributed to them.

President Obama has learned (as have all past Presidents, no doubt) that that there is only so much that even the President can do to control a complex adaptive system. Admitting as much has his critics declaring him weak. Obama discovered that he couldn't control the economy as both stimuli and monetary policy moves failed to reduce the unemployment rate below 8% until just recently.

In making definitive pronouncements about future outcomes, Mitt Romney is making the same mistake that Obama did about unemployment. We watched him do it on Tuesday night. One example was his pledge to lower gasoline prices. Oil and gas are global commodities. U.S. policy has some influence on prices, but global supply and demand, including disruptions such as Hurricane Isaac wrought in the Gulf of Mexico this year are far more consequential to price fluctuation.

Politicians are not alone in over-estimating their control. In his book, Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs, Harvard Business School's Rakesh Khurana showed that a company's success or failure is dependent less upon the characteristics of the CEO than on general industry or economic trends. The same is likely true of whoever occupies the White House. What is required is someone who can navigate adeptly through the twists and turns of turbulent times; a leader who can make the most of what is thrown at him.

A basic truth about leading in complexity is that you always control less than you think and you can always influence far more than you realize. Trying to exercise control over what you do not have power over only leads to wasted effort, frustration, and failure.

So what is a leader to do? Here are a few observations:

  • The first thing is to back away from omnipotence. Admit that there are limits to your power and control. Speak of how you are working to create conditions for success without guaranteeing it when it is beyond your control. CEOs who are rethinking providing analysts with quarterly earning guidance are taking a step in this direction.

  • Second, set expectations — but with room to revise. If Obama had said about unemployment that his goal was to get it below 8%, that if conditions improved faster than expected he'd shoot for 7.5%, but that if there were unexpected turns in the economy we might have to accept 8.5%, he would have left himself space to maneuver.

  • Third, delegate responsibility where appropriate and then be ready to share the credit. Among the more grating statements of CEOs and politicians are those that refer to "I" when it clearly is a case of "we." A leader needs the energy, commitment, and cooperation of followers. You get that when you give people responsibility to achieve a shared goal and are ready to spread the accolades. Remember the inspirational St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V: "We few, we happy few, band of brothers..." Think of Churchill's famous words from World War II, "This is our finest hour." Not I, but we.

Listen to the debates and remember: leaders who fail to understand the bounds of what they control do so at their peril — and sometimes ours.

Monday, October 15, 2012

9 Signs it’s Time for a Change

9 Signs it's Time for a Change

9 Signs it's Time for a Change

It's never too late or too early to be who you are capable of being.  There's no time limit, you can simply start and stop whenever you want.  You can change or stay the same.  You can make the best or the worst of it.  It's up to you, so make the best of it.  Do things that startle you.  Feel things you never felt before.  Spend time with people who help you grow.  Live a life you're proud of.  And if you find that you're not, have the courage to make a change.

You know it's time for a change when…

  1. Fear is holding you back. – Realize that fear is the worst of it; fear is your real enemy.  So get up, get out in the stormy weather of the real world, and kick fear as hard as you can right in the teeth.  Do so by staring at it dead in the eyes and then walking right through it into the storm.  Let the rain kiss your skin.  That's the first step.  Because a wet man doesn't fear the rain anymore.  Read The Road Less Traveled.
  2. You catch yourself feeding the negative. – There is always a fierce battle between two hungry forces going on inside you.  One is negative – anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, and hatred.  The other is positive – love, joy, peace, hope, compassion, kindness, and truth.  The force that wins is the one you feed the most.
  3. Your mind is everywhere except right here, right now. – Some people believe the past is endless, the future is endless, and the present is a moment.  But the truth is, the past is a moment, the future is a moment, and the present is endless.  Make sure you're living in it and making the most of this present moment we call life.
  4. You feel pressured to be someone other than yourself. – Some people will simply not like it when you are being yourself.  They will always be more comfortable with the person they imagined you to be.  So when they disapprove of you, ignore them.  Because what makes you happy supersedes what they think will make you happy.  Do not disown your truth.  Do not fear your originality.  Do not live in their opinions.  Decide that you matter and that there is nothing wrong just being YOU.  Read The Mastery of Love.
  5. You feel like you're competing against everyone else. – You are in competition with no one other than yourself.  You are running your own race.  You have no need to play the game of being better than anyone in any way, shape, or form.  Just aim to improve – to be better than you were yesterday.  This is the mindset that will set you free.
  6. A relationship is making you miserable. – You can't change all the people around you, but you can change the people you choose to be around.  No relationship is worth being miserable over.  Sometimes you just have to erase the messages, delete the numbers, and move on.  You don't have to forget who they once were, but you do have to accept that they aren't the same person anymore.
  7. You feel bored. – Don't say you're bored; it's a useless thing to say.  You live in a vast world that you've seen only a small fraction of.  And even the inside of your own mind is endless – it literally goes on forever to depths you've never explored.  Do you understand?  The fact that you are alive is amazing, so you don't really have the right to be bored.  If you are, you know it's time to make a change.
  8. You've been resisting change. – Change isn't part of the process, it is the process.  The bad news: nothing is permanent.  The good news: nothing is permanent.  Therefore, avoid overzealous elation in prosperity, or undue depression in adversity.  In time, both will change.  Read The Tao of Pooh.
  9. Other people are writing your story for you. – Your life is a story, and you are the protagonist.  Everyone, and I mean everyone else, is a side character.  Your parents, your boss, and every stranger on the street are all just side characters.  Now, how much do they affect the story?  Well, side characters can be great, but they only exist to help you move the story along.  So if you make a mistake, feel awkward or embarrassed, don't get too stressed out.  Laugh it off, you're the protagonist.  No other character has the power to stress you out unless you let them.  This is just a friendly reminder to help you get unstuck and move your story along.  Again, this is YOUR STORY.  Live it the way you want to live it, and don't let anyone else write the ending for you.

Photo by: J.T. Noriega

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Overcoming the Reason People Resist Change « Leadership Freak

Overcoming the Reason People Resist Change

"In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to
changing vessels is more productive
than energy devoted to patching leaks."
Warren Buffett

Talking about change is easy, acceptable, even exciting. Talking and executing are two different things. Change becomes real when we have to change our own attitudes and behaviors, not until.

The wrong picture:

Change movements don't begin with painting pictures of a castle on the hill – dreams of the future.

People won't dream of bright futures
until it feels dark all around.

The right picture:

Doom and gloom in the valley always comes before gleaming castles on the hill.

Change movements begin with dissatisfaction in the present. Create want. People won't change until they want change.

Change begins with those who accept
that the present is unacceptable.

Paint pictures of organizations who failed doing the things you're doing. Demonstrate the current path is mediocrity at best and death at the worst.


  1. All doom and gloom inspires defeat not dreams.
  2. Insulting the present insults those who are invested in the present.
  3. Making it hurt, hurts. All change hurts because something always goes away.


  1. Where possible, celebrate and build on the past and present.
  2. Help people see where they fit in.

    People won't go to a place
    where they don't have a place

  3. Provide large doses of comfort and encouragement with honor, recognition, and gratitude.
  4. Realize all change happens from the bottom up and the top down. Neglect one and you're doomed.

Martin Luther King's dream was a top-down and a bottom-up movement. Its real power was it touched and empowered people at the bottom.

Favorite quotes:

"A year from now you will wish you had started today." -Karen Lamb

"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."—General Eric Shinseki

How can leaders paint dark pictures without defeating the troops?

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This entry was posted on October 13, 2012 at 10:36 am and is filed under Change, Leading, Marks of leaders, Motivation, Taking others higher. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.