Damn this was a fun podcast! We talk with Maximiliano Campos of The Blind Hour podcast. Max went blind at 12 years old from a degenerative illness, and, to get him good medical help, his parents up and moved the family from Brazil to Boston. Max had to learn how to navigate as a newly blind teen while learning both English and Braille AND deal with becoming a teenager all at the same time. Holy crap.
We talk about how blind people see dreams, rollerblading and choosing a positive outlook. Oh, and of course we talk about the "Porn for Blindies" episode of his podcast.
In case you don't follow stories that many media outlets largely ignore, here's a brief overview of what's been going on in North Dakota the past few months (this is a huge simplification, because most of us don't have the attention span for the long, technical version as an introduction to a blog post; there's plenty of information out there if you want to do some more in-depth research).
(1) A large company wants to build an oil pipeline, called the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL.
(2) The original route went just north of Bismarck, a city full of white people. When the Army Corps of Engineers said they couldn't go there, the route was redrawn.
(3) This new route would go under a river that serves as a drinking water source for Native Americans half a mile south of the proposed route.
(4) Pick your term — Water protectors, demonstrators or protesters — have been out in force to try to stop the pipeline. They've been subjected to violent treatment by police (more. They've camped out for months and really gone above and beyond what most permitting processes would call "public input."
(5) The Army Corps of Engineers just this past Sunday decided they would not issue permits for this route, either.
(6) On Monday, the company building DAPL said they're going to build it anyway, on the route they couldn't get permits for.
In other words, the company basically said, "Well, we asked for permits, we didn't get them, and we're just going to build without the permits."
The fine for digging without permits, then, must be worth the cost of doing business.
Go listen to the podcast at the bottom of this post. The podcast was aired, and the post written, before the events of this past weekend. But this provides some good background and resources for us ignorant folk.
Here in Savannah, we have a historic district. It's beautiful, and comes with a bunch of rules. Want to build a fence in your yard? Public hearing. Permits. Want to build a porch that isn't an exact percentage of frontage? Public hearing. Permits. Want to put up a modern-looking building? Don't bother asking. Signs? Hearings. Permits. Awnings? Hearings, permits.
This is not unusual, especially in older cities, and municipalities that are near-saturated with buildings.
Imagine if people just skipped permits and did whatever they wanted to? We'd have shoddy construction, weird-looking buildings, people hitting gas lines and sewer lines and buried electrical lines, and property values would plummet.
This is actually why we have permits.
In the case of DAPL, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has very reasonable concerns about their drinking water. Drilling and digging are potentially polluting activities. Pipelines leak all the time (way more often than I thought — I figured there were probably a few every decade, which still makes for reasonable concern on drinking water). Talk to the people of Flint, Michigan, about what it's like to have water problems.
(1) Why do we have a public input period if people have to camp out and face violence for permitting bodies to listen?
There's another whole problem here, and that's a matter of sovereignty. While the pipeline wouldn't actually go through Native land, it would pass really close, and have environmental implications on what is technically sovereign territory. If we were getting really close to Canada, we'd be talking to their government. Same with Mexico (yes, even under a Trump presidency). We should be doing the same for the Standing Rock Sioux.
I'm no legal expert, but the way I understand sovereignty is...sovereignty. Many Nations have allowed easements for interstates to go through their land, but sovereignty says they could certainly place toll booths on the road and collect whatever they want for tolls. Or they could put walls across the road and you'd just have to go somewhere else.
Sound ridiculous? So does walking a half-mile away from the border and sending a pipeline under a river that serves as a drinking source.
One more for you...this appears to be some white guys threatening some Native Americans. Hard to get some context, but it's out there.
I was aware of Harry's, of course. They were not far behind DSC in launching, and came out with a much different look.
Dani, who's in marketing over there, emailed me to say, "Hey, I notice you're a Dollar Shave Club member, would you try us? Oh, and by the way, I see you're into philanthropy. Check out our giving program."
Now that is targeted marketing. She knew I was a member of a competitor and she knew I had a history of passion for something the company does that's different from other companies.
She also asked if she could send me the product to try.
I have to say, this is the best five-blade razor I've ever used on my head (even though they suggest not using it on a head), and my wife loves the smell of the shave gel.
While their primary charity is in New York City and so not local at all to me, it's cool that they're giving. If they grow enough, it'd be awesome if they could ask customers to pick one.
Short answer: When I switch to the final blade they sent, I'm going to pause Dollar Shave Club and give Harry's a shot for a while.
Note One: If you want to give Harry's products a try, I've seen them for sale in Target, though they're more expensive there than from Harry's directly, which I suppose is what happens when you take the middleman out of the B2C experience. Two fewer people to be paid (distributor, retail store) means the customer pays less.
Note Two: I know a lot of you folks are safety razor people. I just am not, sorry. Tom Robbins wrote, "You're born, you die, and in between, there's maintenance." I'm not a maintenance guy. I don't want to actually have to learn how to shave again, because that's what that thing is.
Disclaimer: Product provided by company for purpose of review.
For the record, there has never been a Thanksgiving dinner plate at my house that was this neat and organized. If you're the kind of person who makes a neat, organized plate at dinner, you should maybe decline an invitation to Thanksgiving with my family. Not because we're not lovely people, but because your need for organization will be flailed and you'll probably starve.
Really short episode from the parking lot of the Creators' Foundry today, just to say thanks, remind you to shop local and to not just feel gratitude, but show it as well.
I turn 40 on Sunday (that's tomorrow, if you're keeping track).
I knew I wasn't going to do a "40 things I've learned in 40 years" post. That seems awfully arrogant. I started on a "40 things I've learned in my 40th year" post, figuring I'd point out that there's so much to learn. That still felt a little too BuzzFeedy.
Not that I have anything against BuzzFeed. Y'all seem like a great group of folks. And I know you have a serious news division, too, but too little, too late, I'm afraid. Just I can't even take your serious news seriously because you're making most of your money from listicles. Which are not as good as popsicles. Except the ones with pictures of dogs. And sometimes cats. Maybe if we're talking green popsicles.
I seem to have gone somewhere different. Sigh.
Anyway, I'm 40. I have nothing figured out. I have some advice if you want it. I have some insight if you want it. Mostly that's just from living through some stuff. Don't eat a pile of refried beans before you get on a fast-moving carnival ride. If you're going to be home later than you thought, call your mother or your wife or whomever needs to know. Use the Oxford comma sparingly, if at all.
These tips probably aren't going to change your life. Like I said, I don't have anything figured out. I've learned some stuff. I've learned a lot of it in just the past year. I'm pretty sure I'm always going to be learning stuff.
I can tell you, though, that I'm grateful to have made it this far, for the life I have and the people I get to share it with.
And thank you for being here. I appreciate it. Have a great week.
We're still talking about Trump's transition to the White House and some of the public fallout, fear, etc. We also talk about the Second Amendment and the First Amendment. And we take some time to digress to talk about creativity, hard work and more.
I know that lately with my non-fiction book reviews, I've been primarily listing the notes I took. But I took six pages of notes on this one. I'd be doing both you and Extreme Ownership a disservice if that's how I approached this.
What I'm going to do first is recommend the book. It's a quick read (I read it in three sittings, despite taking six pages of notes), it's really interesting and it's immensely practical.
In each chapter, Babin or Willink (they each wrote half the chapters) begins with a combat story. They set the stage, discuss the mission, how it was designed and executed, what went right and wrong, and discuss the principles at play. Then, in a short section, they more clearly define the principle. Finally, the chapter concludes with the principle at play in a business setting — using an example from a business their company has actually worked with.
The combat stories are interesting to me as someone who has never been in combat; I imagine they'd be interesting to someone who has served, as well. The principles are clearly defined. I've seen many of the business examples at play in companies I've worked for.
I tend to take bodies of work as a whole in my brain. These items were certainly in the book, but they also bleed into the podcasts and other writings. These are my four favorite takeaways (but again, read the book and listen for yourself). You can also scroll down to the bottom of this post for photos of my notes if you want more.
When the team understands the mission, they can better carry it out. This isn't a new idea, but it is something that leadership has long been resistant to. Jump to around 50 minutes in this Richard Feynman lecture — when the military conscripted a bunch of engineering students to punch holes in cards at Los Alamos, it was slow going. But when Feynman got clearance to tell them what they were doing and why, they went from solving three problems in nine months to solving nine problems in three months, inventing new processes and programs along the way.
Too often, the people doing the work are asked to just do the work, without any insight into the larger goal. In other words, they don't have a look at the big picture and are just checking off something on their to-do lists.
Be willing to tell your frontline workers why you want them to do something. At the very least, you give them a sense of purpose within the larger context of what you're trying to accomplish. You might get a lot more, though: you might get better ways to do things. You might get insight into other ways to accomplish your goals. You might get insight into other things you're also accomplishing without realizing it.
The more people you have invested in the goal, the more likely you are to be successful.
I think enough time has passed that I can talk a little about the time earlier this year when I thought I was going to be unemployed. I had received a month's notice that my department was to be eliminated. A little less than two weeks later, an asshole with a gun shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando, and instead of waiting until 9 a.m. to post to our news sites, when I was scheduled to work, I delayed my run by half an hour to post it before 7 a.m. A few days later I got a call that the company had decided not to eliminate my department.
I'm sure that the one action I took did not save the department. I'm sure, however, that it helped. I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't understood our mission as a company and what my role in accomplishing that mission was. I don't post news to check "post news" off my to-do list, I do it because it helps us achieve our goals. If I didn't understand that, I might have just waited until it was time for me to clock in.
Departments within the same company need to find a way to work together without blaming each other for shortcomings. I've encountered this problem in every company I've ever worked for. Some of those companies have been hugely successful. Some have failed.
In every case, the problem has been communication. Specifically, a failure to communicate a reminder that different departments are not competing, trying to keep each other down. We are working toward the same goal. It seems sometimes like Department A is trying to sabotage Department B. In all likelihood, it really is that Department B has never told Department A what the problem is how Department A could better help Department B — and conversely, ask if there's a way for Department B to help solve the problem, with different communication or other practices.
Leadership works in two directions within the chain of command: Down and up. Leadership is a personality trait more often than it is a function of title. If you have a leader among the rank-and-file, you'll want to make sure you listen, even if you're a great leader. A higher rank is not always an indicator of the best idea for every situation.
In about 4 of every 5 shifts I work, I have rank. I'm good at a lot of things. Sadly, delegation is not one of them, but I'm working on that. One of the things I have definitely gotten better at, though, is recognizing strengths in others and either leaning on them for the things they're strong at, or asking them to teach me those things.
If you want to change the way things are done, pick your battles and earn the right to be heard. This is hugely important in every organization, not just companies. Every organization has its faults, and many of them are operational. "That's the way we've always done it" is a common answer for why things are done the way they are. That doesn't mean it's a good answer.
When you see something that could be done better, it makes sense to speak up. But first, you must show you understand the mission: why you're doing the thing you're doing and why it's been done that way for so long. You must be a voracious worker — someone who has earned the trust of those who have the power to change things before you'll really be heard up the chain of command.
And if you make noise on one thing, you might not get heard on something else, so pick your battles. You don't want to be seen as a complainer, someone who just hates all the processes. At some point, you'll just be the boy who cried wolf.
Willink also has his own podcast. I personally don't enjoy it: his delivery is very dry even if the information is interesting; it's not for me. I know other people who enjoy it.
Political disclaimer: Willink and Babin are both veterans. They served their country with honor. They support the missions given them. They also follow Department of Defense guidelines n the way they write about war, soldiers and the U.S. mission. You do not need to agree with them to get a lot of their work. You do, however, need to be willing to look past your own prejudices, whether you agree with them or not. Either way, I don't believe either of them is guilty of blind boosterism.
We're rambling and such about the US election because we...wait for it...elected a reality TV star with four bankruptcies behind him to run the country. In the words of comedian and cage fighting commentator Joe Rogan, "Wait, what..."
I'm not gonna lie: A large number of Trump's supporters scare me shitless. I'm going to spend much of the next four years glancing over my shoulder.
Some newspapers around the world went with "Oh My God" on the front page. At home, they went with "you're hired," you know, because he's a reality TV star and editors think they're clever.
Where Hillary Clinton and the Democrats went wrong
So many places.
Clinton wasn't the right person in 2008. She wouldn't have been the right person in 2012. It was only a small echo chamber who thought she was the right person this year. Nobody actually listened to the majority of actual voters.
The party elite forgot that Bernie Sanders supporters entered the primaries as Sanders-or-Trump folks. They forgot that those weren't dyed-in-the-wool Democrats — that they were independent thinkers. Having Sanders ask his primaries supporters to vote for Clinton wasn't going to work — they were going to vote for whom they thought would be the best candidate, not follow the guy who dropped out.
After the convention, Clinton ignored Wisconsin altogether. She sent surrogates to Michigan. She banked on Pennsylvania. She lost them all, to the tune of 46 electoral votes that would have swung the election.
She spent the last week posting Twitter ads asking for money, when she hadn't even shored up our votes.
Clinton spent the election season sounding entitled to the office.
Where Trump went right
Trump went for the heart. He's a smile-and-shake hands kind of guy. Some of us find that kind of slimy, but most of us go for it anyway. It's the kind of thing that sells millions of cars, houses, boats and insurance policies across the country every year. It's big business.
He didn't need facts. He got a lot of stuff wrong. Nobody cared. He knew that.
What Trump's first 100 days look like
Trump's going to have a difficult first 100 days, I think. His cabinet will sail through, he'll get someone appointed to the Supreme Court. All the Washington stuff will go easy. He has a Republican House and Senate. Expect a lot of rubber stamps for two years.
But the work is going to be intrinsically hard. He's a figure head. He runs companies, shmoozes, shakes hands and entertains. He's going to have to get his hands a little dirtier than he's used to.
He's going to earn in a year what some of his businesses earn in hours — he's going to take a pay cut to the tune of four or five zeroes. He's not going to be able to run his businesses. His assets are going to be caught up in a blind trust.
Built with Mexicans' money? They say they'd get that money by intercepting money sent back to Mexico by workers. That means they're going to be opening mail. If there's cash in an envelope, it might just go to the wall (or some other project). Do grandmothers still put $3 in Valentine's Day cards for four-year-olds? Yeah, that's all going to the wall now. Because the federal government will be opening our mail.
Trump says he's going to force Apple to build iPhones in the US? He's not. First, because he's not going to move his own manufacturing to the US (his hats, shirts, suits and ties are made overseas), but also because Apple's not going to pay the millions it would take to create the fabricating equipment, and you'll probably balk at whatever the iPhone costs after manufacturing costs go up $100, or about a third.
A lot of the campaign promises Trump made (let's make this clear — most presidents fail at most of their campaign promises) are big government promises. Dictating where companies make products. Checking mail for cash. Getting the federal government involved in local law enforcement. He's now at the top of the small-government party. The legislature is not going to go for most of that.
What you can do as a Trump supporter
Have some empathy and don't be an asshole. No, really. Your "team" won. There are people who are actually scared for their lives, their livelihoods and their liberty. These people are your neighbors, your coworkers and your customers. Some of them are people you hire for jobs you don't want to do. You don't have to agree with them. But you have to live them.
This isn't football. You don't get a good ribbing in this week and then get back together next week for pizza, beer and the game again.
The future of third parties, and other US election issues
If you were hoping for Clinton to win, don't blame her loss on third-party voters. Most Gary Johnson supporters were not going to vote for Clinton. He was a Republican governor and had a Republican governor as his running mate. Jill Stein wasn't even on the ballot in most states.
It's not up to voters to vote for people they don't want to win. It's up to candidates to rally passion in voters.
I've begrudgingly voted for people before, but never as strongly as I did when I voted for Clinton yesterday. She was never the right candidate for me, and I still didn't know when I walked into the room whether I was going to click that box for her.
We're going to see more third-party candidates coming out of the woodwork if we keep seeing first-wave baby boomers running as major-party candidates. They're just out of touch with most of us.
Polling is going to change. We can't keep relying on people answering landlines or hanging up cell phones as an information collection method.
We need to get big money out of politics. We say it every election cycle, but until we have an election cycle that allows people to run without requiring many millions of dollars, we're going to keep having rich, entitled people with little actual empathy (despite what their ads show) running for president.
Finally, we need to put term limits on the House and Senate. Make it 10 or 12 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate — that way if you're awesome, you're serving under at least two presidents. But career politicians who get rubber-stamped into office need to get out of the way and let fresh blood help move the country forward.
The back-and-forth we have right now isn't working. We're behind in education, in manufacturing and in social issues (seriously, stop pointing at the Bible and saying being gay is wrong if you've spoken back to your parents since you were 13 or can't name a price to sell your daughter into slavery).
We need ways to get fresh brains into office, and term limits and curbing campaign spending would go a long way.
What you can do because you're scared after the election
Organize. Love. Hell, organize love.
Yes, Trump will be your president, too. If you feel like he's not going to do a good job, you can run away or you can work toward making things better. Do the latter. If you run off to Canada or Australia or wherever you have dual citizenship, consider whether your patriotism is fairweather and maybe consider staying there when someone you like better is elected.
Revolutions aren't built by majorities. They're built by a passionate 10 percent. Get a couple of revolutions together, and you have a coalition. Pretty soon you have a plurality. Good for you. That's what you need.
Build great stuff in your neighborhood, in your city and your state. Share it. It will grow.
Finally, don't bury your head and disappear. This election (and any other) isn't about you. It's about us. Americans. We were built on collaboration and peaceful transfer of power. Our system was built to survive its government. Buck. The fuck. Up. Do something great. Do it from love, not from fear.
I posted this at 2:30 a.m., right about the time AP and CNN called the election:
Here are a few things that I learned tonight:
- We are bitter winners
- We are bitter losers
- We are full of anger
- We are full of hate
- We are full of love
- We are full of fear
- We really don't understand one another as much as we thought we did
- We have a lot less empathy as a whole than we thought we did
- We have a de facto system that is broken in a lot of ways
Here are a few things things I'll be thinking about going forward:
- Revolutions aren't built on majorities, they're built on a dedicated 10%
- No one is entitled to the presidency. We need to stop treating the office as though party elites get to dictate who "should" wind up in the chair
- As a Jewish journalist, I'll spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder. I don't trust a lot of people right now.
- We need to get money out of politics. Until that happens, elections are out of the hands of the majority.
I really wish we could hear from George Carlin this election season.
(1) importantly, remember it's still OUR America and no one tells US how to live
(2) there are some groups of people who might seem Truly Fucked, but there are organizations that help almost all of them. Volunteer. Donate. Don't leave your friends, neighbors and loved ones stranded.
(3) be physically and mentally strong. You may get less help than you hope for. That doesn't mean you're helpless.