We also said goodbye to the likes of Abe Vigoda and John Glenn and Umberto Eco and Harper Lee and Alan Rickman and Antonin Scalia and Nancy Reagan and Morley Safer and Garry Shandling and Merle Haggard and Prince and Muhammad Ali and Elie Wiesel and Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Michael and Fyvush Finkel and Alan Thicke and Garry Marshall and Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and Edward Albee and Glenn Frey and Leonard Cohen and Gene Wilder and Leon Russell and Gwen Ifill and Florence Henderson and Fidel Castro.
It was like The Great Hand-off. So many people who shaped news, entertainment and politics for the past 40-plus years are gone. They left it for us to figure it out. I don't have a lot of hope, but am hoping to be proven wrong on that.
We also said goodbye to too many people shot by toddlers, because the "gun rights" people and the "gun control" people are too stubborn to talk to each other about gun safety.
I'm a little afraid for the world right now. I fear empowered white nationalists following both a Brexit vote and a Trump election. I fear we don't understand context and that our memories are too short. I fear that we're choosing teams, protecting our tribes and forgetting that we're one species.
But I'm also optimistic. People have a good habit of surprising me sometimes. So, here's to 2017.
We had a last-minute cancellation and were already set up to podcast, so my lovely wife and I decided to open a beer and call Kelvin (you might remember him from Episode 5, or know him from his own podcast — Intensely Positive — or the Josh & Kelvin World Domination Podcast).
Jenny and I have a little echo (we picked up each other on our mics), so it gets a little trippy at points. Mostly we just chat. And laugh. Note: The audio was replaced at 12:15 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2016; you didn't miss anything if you had the earlier version.
We did it, folks! We elected a reality TV star to the presidency — a reality TV star who hates the news media, isn't a fan of facts, and brings a litany of followers who don't really care about either of those things. We talk about what it means to be a journalist in this environment, and what it means to be a news consumer.
We wandered through a whole bunch of other stuff, too. We'll keep the links brief for this one, though, since most of the links would be a repeat from our previous discussion (you'll find a link to that one below).
I see a lot of people on social media cursing 2016 for taking some of our greatest creative minds. A lot of one-of-a-kinds died this year.
To name a smattering, in no particular order: David Bowie, John Glenn, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Harper Lee, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey, Florence Henderson, Fidel Castro, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Gwen Ifill, Leon Russell, Janet Reno, Fyvush Finkel, Merle Haggard, Elie Wiesel, Garry Shandling ... it was a long list and then George Michael died on Christmas.
It may seem like the universe is taking something from us. It's not.
The universe is saying, "You see how much these people have done? They get to rest now. Go create something amazing for yourself."
Heed the call.
Hey, we're about to flip the calendar page. There's no reason not to go for it in 2017. Onward!
Step into someone else's shoes and think opposite at least once a day. Alison Donaghey of Domino Thinking gets into empathy, setting a why for your business and some of her favorite tools. We talk a little bit about Canadian and American politics, charitable giving and a challenge for 2017. This was really cool. I hope you enjoy!
Back at the beginning of the year, I decided to set a goal to run 1,000 miles this year. At under 20 miles a week, that may not be really ambitious to some people, but you need to understand a few things about me and running.
For most of my life, I've played sprint sports, like baseball and tennis and racquetball. I'm not a power hitter, so the most I ever really had to run in baseball was 180 feet (home plate to first base to second base). A tennis court is about 39 feet from one corner of the baseline to the opposite corner at the net. Racquetball is played in a 20-by-40-foot room, and since the ball bounces off the wall, you never have to run the full diagonal.
Before I signed up for that half-marathon last year, I'd only run longer than a 5K (about 3.1 miles) a handful of times. I also turned 40 this year, and I promise I am not getting faster and more agile as I get older; nor are my knees turning back the clock.
Until I was 38, I had maybe run a 20-mile week once, ever.
So that's me and running.
Why set the goal? Well, I wanted a reason to keep running. I think it's now ingrained in me enough that I'll keep doing it as long as my body allows, but I could have easily stopped after that half marathon last year. I can't say I enjoyed much of that training at all.
My goal-crossing run Monday was different, though. Instead of holding on to some 3-hour podcast so that I'd have something to listen to, I put my trust in iTunes to shuffle my way through 11.3 miles. I may have danced a little bit. It was cold and raining, but I smiled a lot. I made sure to run by some of my favorite downtown spots, like the fountain in Forsyth Park, the armillary in Troup Square and Monterey Square.
I stopped off where my wife was working to give her a kiss.
I also wanted to see if I could set a realistic goal for a whole year. It took me 354 days to get there. It's a leap year, so that's just about 97% of the year it took me to get to 100% of my goal. I'm going to say that was exactly the right number of miles to shoot for, if you're me.
I tweaked a calf during a race earlier this year, and it's been bothering me for a while. It flared up around mile eight, but I wasn't going to let it stop me from getting to where I wanted to be. I'm sure it'll bother me for a good while, so I might be looking at bicycles and elliptical machines for a couple of weeks to get it some rest.
I'll share with you some tunes from my run, because who doesn't love a little music in their life?
1. Jane's Addiction's cover of The Grateful Dead's "Ripple" — this one got me out the door and down to the pavement.
2. Asylum Street Spankers, "Monkey Rag" — I might have been dancing up Habersham Street. OK, I totally was. Bonus, this animation is adorable.
3. Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road" — This came on about halfway. If you thought you saw some crazy dude grinning and saying good morning while running down West Bay Street, this was in my ears.
4. Edesio Alejandro, "El Sopon de Yuya" — Yeah, so I was doing the rumba (badly) in the bike lane. So?
5. Gooselove & Antara, "Change With Me" — You know how some artists are formative in your life for the eight months you really needed them and then they disappear, only to show up in your earholes 15 years later?
6. Willie Nile, "History 101" — This is the song that was playing when I hit my thousand-mile mark.
Honorable Mention: Ellis Hooks, "Uncomplicated" — This came on as I turned toward home. It's one of my faves, but I can't find a video, so here's an excerpt at Shazam.
OK...it's almost 2017. What are you up to for the year?
I had a great time speaking Ash from Ash Said It. She is SO full of energy I almost grew hair! We only spoke for about a half hour, but there are enough lessons in here for a lifetime (or at least a couple years).
We discuss loss, mistakes, faith, energy, hope and creativity, and Ash offers up a challenge for you for 2017. We also talk about big news she got just a few hours before we spoke.
There's a phenomenon in statistics called regression toward the mean. You can read a good explanation of it here, but the short version goes like this:
(1) Give people a test (say, driving a golf ball, but don't worry, this isn't going to be a sports post), then plot the results. You'll notice that there are some outliers (those with really long drives and those with really short drives), but most of them will cluster around a mean, or average.
(2) Add a new variable to all of them that you'd expect will change their drive. An example might be a golf lesson (which you'd expect to increase the drive distance) or wrist weights (which you'd expect would decrease the drive distance).
(3) Test them again, and plot the results. You'll find that there are still outliers and a cluster around a mean. The mean may be different, but there's still a mean and there are still roughly the same number of people clustered around it.
OK, cool. Now, let's look at life.
Can we all agree there are outliers? We might have different measures and have different tastes, but I'm going to suggest as success measures not having trouble paying your bills, generally enjoying what you do, and not worrying about what other people think.
I'm going to suggest the "positive" outliers — people who are "winning" at life, if you will — are people like Richard Branson, Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian. They all seem to be pretty happy folks with successful business ventures (look, I'm a fan of one of the three of them and I did absolutely no research).
Then there are "negative" outliers — people who maybe aren't doing so well. People who are homeless, hungry and unhappy about it, maybe. (Yes, I realize it's a very American-centric view of things, can we move on, please?)
Then there's some line that is the average of those people.
Depending on how you measure things, now you have people clustered around that line. We're going to stick with the generally subjective items I seem to have come up with here.
There are people who have no trouble paying their bills, have a generally satisfying family life but hate their jobs. Or people who are wealthy but alone and miserable. Or people who like their jobs and like their home lives but are just scraping by, sometimes eating just rice for a couple days at the end of the month to keep the heat on.
When you add up their "scores," they wind up somewhere in the middle, give or take.
This is regression toward the mean.
Now, let's add some measure of happiness to everybody. I don't know, maybe one day each week, every person gets some sort of dopamine release that launches them into absolute bliss for 16 hours. Or maybe everybody always gets all the sleep they need every night.
There are still outliers now, but everyone's happiness went up. Most people are still clustered around a mean, just the mean is higher than it was before we added our new thing.
Still with me? Good, because this is where it gets important.
We're all making this up as we go along, trying to get a little bit better, day by day. Some of us have figured out some things. Some of us have figured out other things. Some of us haven't figured out anything.
But we can all get better. The top outliers can become better, the bottom outliers can become better, and everyone who regressed toward the mean can get better — it just gives us a higher mean. The distribution remains the same, but we're raising the mean.
Let's make up numbers. Let's say the outliers at the top are 90 and the outliers at the bottom are 10 and the mean is 50. What if we bump the top outliers to 100 and the bottom to 20 and the mean to 60? Everybody got better. What if we bump the top outliers to 200 and the bottom to 120 and the mean to 160?
Same distribution, but the mean is higher.
Here's the point: Nobody has to get worse for you to get better. There's room for everyone to improve, for everyone to rise, and it doesn't detract from your ability to also rise.
So lift people up, don't put them down. As you rise, bring people with you. It'll be easier at the top if you have people around you.
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.