Category Archives: Life
There are so many articles, opinion pieces being shared on the tax reform proposals by the House and Senate and many friends and family are camped out, or more like entrenched, on both sides of the issue tossing hand grenades toward each other. So with my simplistic brain, I am trying to first understand what problem are we trying to fix and will the recommended solutions actually fix the problem we have identified. First I have to confess I am not a tax or finance expert. Also, I am very skeptical and suspicious of any “data” I read on the internet that I have not personally confirmed. I think many times we are provided “data” from groups with specific agendas to sway us either towards their way of thinking or against another’s way of thinking by issuing subjective interpretations of data or providing data out of context. I understand that is in most cases that is their job, so I am not necessarily disappointed in their approach I am just mindful of it. I am disappointed, however, with how easily we assume what we hear to be fact if it evidences our leaning or persuasion, rather than taking a step back and checking sources and doing our own homework. I am not a big fan of living on either end of the pendulum swing I tend to prefer to be grounded rather than flying high one way or the other. However, I do think everyone is entitled to their opinions and it doesn’t threaten me if it does not align with my thinking. I just want us all to be using accurate data when making or reinforcing our positions.
What is the problem? In my humble opinion, the United States is on this steady economic growth path but the message we are hearing from all our leaders is that things are not good. Specifically, job growth is stagnant.
What is the current situation? I looked at the revenue of the top 100 companies according to Forbes in 1985 versus 2014. Why 1985 and 2014? Those were the dates that straddled the financial crisis in 2009 and the dip in 2011 to get a true baseline. So the total revenue for the top 100 companies (according to Forbes) in 1985 was $1 trillion and the profits were $1 billion, the top 100 companies (according to Forbes) in 2014 was $7 trillion and profits were $755 billion. So we see a nice healthy 600% increase in revenue and an incredible 75000% increase in profits, so life is good for our top American companies. We want our companies to do well because we know that means we will all win in this scenario. So let’s look at other data what are the average private wages in 1985 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average hourly rate was $8.61 and in 2014 it was $20.73 so this is an increase of 240% and payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, commonly referred to as the entitlements, increased from 7.05% to 7.65%. an increase of 108%. The CEO compensation increase at the same time increased 937%. Further, during my randomly selected time frame, I looked into what is the difference between the earning ratio of worker to CEO, in 1985 the CEO to private worker compensation ratio was $30 to $1 and in 2014 it was $300 to $1.
Now for those who need to know what was the Republican versus Democrat leadership during this 29 years time span I selected, I have the following data; there was a Republic President for 17 years and a Democrat President for 12 years. Over this 29-year timeline, the House of Representatives had a Republican majority 12 years and Democrats 17 years, The Senate had a Republican majority 16 years and Democrats 13 years. Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate 10 of those years and the Democrats controlled both 19 years. So what does this tell us? In my opinion nothing really, I just wanted to state exactly what it was because I have a feeling some people who read this really need to know this in order to stay with me.
So the economy seems to be doing well, the top corporations seem to be doing well and are cash-flush, but it appears there are many Americans not benefiting from this economy. So again in my humble opinion, the real problem is the depressed labor market and this is a complex issue with many nuances, however, to keep things simple I am going to just leave it there. And my concern is that I believe we are trying to help the depressed labor market by providing corporate tax relief. I say concerned because I am not sure this fix solves our problem. Historically corporate tax relief doesn’t necessarily translate into more jobs or higher wages. I am not against corporate tax relief I am just not sure it will have the desired effect. A corporation’s mission is to increase returns for their shareholders and investors so the incentive is to actually pay down debt, or replace human labor whenever possible. They focus on reducing costs to be able to make things or provide services at less cost and boost the profit margins and returns. And many times that is done by reducing labor through automation or mechanization. To further illustrate this concern, recently Gary Cohen, the current administration’s Chief Economic Advisor, attended a gathering of CEO’s hosted by the Wall Street Journal. A moderator at the gathering asked the crowd through a show of hands if lower corporate taxes would increase their capital investments when only a few raised their hands. Cohen asked, “Why aren’t the other hands up?” Again Corporate profits, while fantastic for the shareholders, do not always manifest jobs and increased wages.
So what do I think the answer is I believe the real answer to increasing the job market and wages and provide the biggest near-term boost to gross domestic product comes from investing in our infrastructure. I sincerely wish Congress would have taken up infrastructure investment before tax reform, there seems to be more incentive for both sides of the pendulum to come together with infrastructure investment. Federal transportation infrastructure investment accounts for just 1.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a reduction from peak investment levels of 2.2 percent in the 1960s., leaving more of the responsibility to state and local governments. The US ranks 15th in the world for infrastructure expenditures as a percent of GDP.
In its most recent report card on the condition of America’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave U.S. infrastructure a D+ or “poor” rating. The engineers estimated the cost of bringing America’s infrastructure to a state of good repair (a grade of B) by 2025 at $4.6 trillion, of which only about 55 percent has been committed. Improving roads and bridges alone would require $1.1 trillion more than states, local governments, and the federal government has allocated. Schools need another $380 billion beyond what’s been invested. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting a $1.7 trillion increase in the federal budget deficit from the current House of Representatives tax reform bill. The Senates tax reform bill is projected to increase the federal budget deficit by $1 trillion. If we could instead invest the projected deficit and finance the new investment through new federal government debt rather than a progressive increase in taxation, a regressive increase in taxation, or cuts to government transfer programs we could have an impact on the labor market and wages as well as GDP. And the benefits of automation and innovation in infrastructure means the labor forces employed are more efficient and more improvements can be achieved. Jobs created would be disproportionately filled by workers without a four-year university degree. When the lower and middle class has disposable income they consume, which also benefits small business.
We need to modernize our infrastructure on a National basis through investment in driverless technologies, transit-oriented development, public schools, U.S. ports and inland waterways. Our infrastructure investments should focus on sustainable and resilient improvements. Properly executed infrastructure investment offers many ways we can put people to work with good wages and increase our economic engine while advancing our communities and benefiting the future generations of our country.
Men build too many walls and not enough bridges ~Joseph Fort Newton
I have known many people who have been forced to take a path less traveled through betrayal, illness, loss, or injury. When I saw their lives being derailed I felt a strong
empathetic reaction and tried to provide any support I could. However, there is no lesson better learned than the one you experience first hand. And this is where I was taught the most profound and painful lesson of my life. I was fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on your opinion, to experience a drastic unexpected turn that shook the foundation of my life. How did I get here? I took a very mundane trip on a hotel elevator one beautiful sunny day that ended with me in a coma with a traumatic brain and spine injury and my family being told to make necessary arrangements because this may not end well for me. As you may suspect since you are reading these words, the worst did not happen, I survived. The path since that time has been both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The heartwarming moments were the friends and family that mobilized to help me and my family through my rehabilitation and recovery. The heartbreaking moments are the debilitating pain I have suffered from since the accident, the loss of pleasurable pastimes and the drastic change in my career trajectory. I owned my own company, I was a runner and ran several times a week with a group of marvelous women who had become more than running buddies they were my emotional support system. I was a lover of food, my guilty addiction was binge-watching the food network. I own a BMW motorcycle and loved to go for rides with my brother and friends. Not only did I suffer brain trauma but I also suffered spine trauma that has required two surgeries to repair the damage. I have not been able to run since the accident, I have been told by the medical experts I should not ride a motorcycle again, according to the doctors I cannot afford another head injury. I have completely lost my sense of smell which has affected the flavors I experience. So the foods and drinks I enjoyed before do not hold the same pleasure now. I sold my company, my recovery demanded my focus and required an abrupt career path change.
These adjustments due to my unexpected turn, while regrettable, are trivial when all is said and done. But the adjustment I did not anticipate is the shifting sands of my support system. Two friends that were my stalwarts through this whole event both relocated out-of-state. Their sudden absence was difficult for me and my family. That coupled with the more subtle shifting sands of friends connected to specific pastimes and activities I can no longer participate in has been disorienting and disquieting. As a result, I have come to understand the inherent voluntary nature of friendship that makes it subject to life’s whims and unexpected turns. This path was unforeseen and has required me to release expectations of myself and others, which admittedly is a work in process. I have friends who have put me up on a tenuous pedestal as an inspiration and I have friends who have chastised me for infractions of judgment. Both are uncomfortable realities of my new path. Change is generally distressing for all, those riding out the storm as well as the onlookers. My ask for you dear reader – be gentle with yourself and others embroiled in change. There are many people traveling unexpected paths and they no longer fit in the box they have been dutifully building for themselves. Therefore to view or deduce them from your own constructed framework or ethos will prove frustrating for all.
I refer to us “unexpected path pilgrims” as phoenixes. A phoenix attains new life by arising from the ashes of its forebearer. There are many of us out there, for those who love the phoenixes in your life, understand the phoenix no longer has their rigid framework, it was obliterated. There is a blessing in that glorious cacophony as well as turmoil. So relating to your phoenix with your own rigid framework will be disappointing. You can both grow from this experience and peek outside your own cage and search for connections in unlikely places not previously explored. If you are only drawn to people who see and experience the world as you do, and one of those conformists suddenly takes you out of your comfortable allegory, it’s scary. Your phoenix may no longer fit in the story you have created. I encourage you to explore a new narrative. I have always loved mosaics, the beautiful randomness of divergent colors, shapes, sizes, and flow that come together to paint a beautiful image is a wonderful example that a change in path or perspective can lead you to an unexpected and powerful result.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading ~ Gautama Buddha
There is a belief among the Lakota people, of a very powerful and important person called the heyoka or as they were called by early European anthropologists, “clowns,” who misunderstood their contrary behavior and role.
Because they use their powers to help their people, they are held in great reverence. The heyoka is a lightning bolt that cuts to the truth in an uncomfortable way by inspiring confusion or anger by not following the rules and asking difficult questions. Ultimately their role is to inspire others to a higher place. Being a heyoka is not an easy path, and someone does not “become” a heyoka but is so from birth, they are essential to the sustainable functioning of a tribe.
Essentially by doing the opposite of what is accepted behavior, it teaches the tribe moral behavior by achieving a better understanding of their own foolishness, hypocrisy, and ignorance.
I have been thinking about the heyoka a lot lately, and their role to help us confront our own demons so we may reach a higher calling. I see so many people in disbelief that we are in such a confusing time in our world. Where the social norms we used to follow no longer seem to have a place in our society. People are focusing on what divides us, particularly by using labels. In Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” Alice walked through the wood of no names, where there are no individual names and no awareness of qualities that set them apart from others. Alice loses her identity and meets a fawn who also forgets its identity and accepts Alice completely and fearlessly. There are no distinctions in this place between human and animal, self and other. The eradication of distinction allows their universe to expand.
Rather than apply labels to dehumanize others’ unconventional behavior, or to make us feel “right” wouldn’t it be magnificent if we used this wisdom to recognize our connectedness. Recognize what we are feeling when we see, read or hear a message by another and how it relates to our own fears, beliefs, and misunderstandings. Labeling is extremely divisive and distancing. Instead of our tendency to separate from each other by applying labels, what if we listen to each other and our unique perspectives. Labels smear your glasses so you will never be able to see the person or their perspective clearly. When we label or base our opinion of a group based on religion, race, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation we have merely stunted our own growth which stunts our collective growth. It is powerful when we can discuss ideas or approaches without labeling or deciding the worthiness of the person in the discussion.
We are barraged with messages of what to think and believe. What is true. Who is good or bad. May I suggest instead listen to your intuition, your gut so we can learn to trust our instincts again rather than seeking from others what is true. And our truth may not conform to others and may have aspects that conform to those who despise each other. Heyoka’s are a powerful teacher and while they taught through contradiction and satire they were honored because of the value they brought the tribe.
“I am a fierce combination of confusing contradictions that add up to magical possibilities.” ― Unknown Author
My wish for humanity this year and moving forward is the ability to gracefully
and respectfully address, challenge or confront ideas, NOT people. Many people engaged in discussions with a compelling argument on opposing sides, rather than a thoughtful discourse on ideas use the statement “you are……, he/she is………they are………” which is frequently followed by a label, insult or disrespectful moniker. We determine the worth of the ideas by the moniker or label we attach to the person. The judgement we use determines the value we assign to the idea. How limiting and suffocating! We are all let down by the potential power of the moment when people are attacked and diminished rather than a healthy vetting of the idea or philosophy. Unfortunately the recent election in America has seemingly given permission to this manner of communication. Please be aware that assigning blame to any particular person, party or persuasion, is not important and ill advised, a wise elder I know says, stay focused on the signal not the noise. Focusing on the noise, which our ego will compel us to do, will entangle us in a quagmire of stagnation and drudgery. So let us focus on the signal instead and ascend to a more satisfying and expansive world by concentrating on possibility, potential, courage and abundance.
We all have an important decision to make henceforth to truly affect what kind of world we want to manifest for each other; our children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters. We have to resist becoming idle in our comfort zone or paralyzed by our fears. So this year dear readers consider as part of a New Year’s resolution to fly towards a life of exhilaration and authenticity. Let us be mindful in all our interactions and observations to advance each other. Remember this simple approach in our communications both written and verbal; is it true, is it necessary, it is kind, and will it improve humanity.
We all have the ability and power to create our own journey and in turn impact the journey of others. So it is up to us how our journey will be, we can choose a rugged or a flowing path. Things will happen that effect us, but how we perceive these events and take action from there is our choice. Speak up when doing so advances our humanity. When engaged in a challenging discussion scrutinize the idea not the person. Try to avoid “I” or “You” statements, remember the vision of humanity is to focus on we and us. Look for common ground when areas of conflict appear remember the strong foundation we share first and then work through the conflicts. When we see injustice or unkindness be courageous speak up for our vision of humanity. Let us celebrate and spend time with what is refreshing and rejuvenating in our community and lives. Let us encourage fellowship and kindness. Each day focus on what supports this vision, the signal, rather than what doesn’t, the noise. We all seek belongingness and to sustain a peaceful and thriving existence we have to find ways to advance the feelings of acceptance to each other while also advancing our cleverness.
Let us all transform and break out of our cocoons of fear and spread our wings to create a humanity of oneness!
If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other ~ Mother Teresa
I read an article online of the top 20 fake news stories in 2016 and how they out performed real news stories. As I read through the list I recognized several stories I recognized from social media postings. I thought about how I am wired with regard to this type of situation. I treat everything I see or read as a single data point then I look for more data so I can develop a hypothesis or conclusion. It’s how we are trained as engineers, we have to look at all the data available to provide a practical approach to solve a problem. Ergo each story I read is just one pixel in a picture made up of millions of pixels. If you look at one pixel you really cannot tell what the picture is and that pixel may mislead you to believe the picture is something vastly different from the reality.
I feel there is a considerable amount of distortion going on through social media. We see these titillating pixels and even though it is just one teeny pixel we decide we know the picture. This approach lacks curiosity! The great accomplishments and innovations over the millennia are thanks to curiosity. Curiosity is engaged innocent observation. Curiosity is fun! When we are curious and seeking solutions it’s a powerful and delightful quest. There is no ego attached to curiosity, we have to be present and open when we are engaged in a curiosity crusade. When we are curious and not attached to ego the search and observation is for edification or problem solving not proving you right or someone else wrong. Curiosity allows room for discussion of differing ideas without the need for hateful communication or insults. Curiosity can make the most ordinary task exciting and a potentially cantankerous subject intriguing and enjoyable.
I recommend that we all engage and exercise our curiosity muscle, it will enhance our well-being, our humanity and our happiness. So remember the next pixel you see is just a wee bit of the big picture that awaits you.
Curiosity is one of the greatest secrets to happiness ~ Bryant H. McGill
From a very early age I have always been fascinated by the human condition. Why some people can face incredible hardship and come out stronger more centered and at peace while others literally self destruct. What is the secret?
I believe it all comes down to what you tell yourself. Those little voices in your head. I have become very mindful of the tapes I play in my head, and notice when they are not helpful. I want to succeed but many times my thoughts are feeding fear and failure. My cousin told me, you have to put a bubble around negative thinking. Now I will admit this sounds crazy, but I get it! Putting a bubble around negative thoughts is not burying your head in the sand, it’s actually like applying sunscreen at the beach. The damaging rays are beating down so you apply a barrier. I need to develop a barrier to those damaging thoughts.
It’s interesting how hurt I am when someone else says or does something I feel is negative. Yet internally I will “take myself out to the wood shed” constantly without reproach. Unfortunately I am my most ruthless critic. I am very quick to forgive others and move on but I do not give myself the same forgiveness.
I know when the voice in my head attacks me or anyone else it is not my highest self. When I am aligned with my highest self and live in alignment with grace, love and compassion the path is gentle. We can use our power of choice to choose our thoughts, to choose our path, to choose our reality.
I see so much self-induced misery in this world. Be mindful of your thoughts what are they telling you? Have you become captive to your negative thoughts? When you listen to those negative thoughts what manifests in your life? Watch the people you choose to surround yourself with, do they facilitate alignment with your highest self? Are you drawn to discussions about people or ideas? Do you focus on gratitude or grievances?
Try an experiment for one week pay close attention to your internal tapes, when your thoughts become negative gently interrupt those thoughts and think of one thing you are grateful for, it can be as simple as being grateful you are alive. Continue each time to replace your negative thought or grievance with an acknowledgement of gratitude. See what happens and share your experience here.
Take tender loving care of your thoughts, they will guide your life and your experience in this world. You have dreams to manifest let your thoughts lead the way.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein
I am the type of person who, as they say, does not let grass grow under my feet. During the winter my tempo or pace of constant movement is in stark contrast to the dormant cues from nature. I think about why that is so, I see the animals slowing down, hibernating, even my girlfriends joke about being summer friends because they hole up during the winter.
This particular day as I buzzed to yoga, picked up a gift and delivered it to a neighbor’s house, drove my daughter to her friend’s house, stopped by a dear elderly friend’s house to check on her and then returned home to butcher two whole free range, pasture raised chickens to make my mother’s famous fried chicken recipe, I began to wonder what IS wrong with me, exactly. Why can’t I follow the cues of nature and slow down, hibernate a little? But I feel so alive when I am helping, doing, experiencing. I can’t help it, it’s MY natural instinct to be out in the world, living life.
In the recent past I had an unexpected year-long hiatus from my career. I had the romantic notion that I would take long meditative strolls, read more, relax, stay close to home and clean out closets, that sort of thing, however, what did I actually do? I took numerous trips to see family and friends, ran a marathon, volunteered in my community, wrote a book, and then started the business plan for my latest entrepreneurial adventure. I can honestly say I was busier than when I had a job to go to everyday. While it wasn’t what I originally intended it was an amazing year, although I am still a little bitter about not getting those closets cleaned out!
I sometimes wonder maybe I am intended to live in a climate where, even though the calendar says it’s winter, the weather says…hey baby it’s summer all day every day!!! Perhaps then I would feel more in sync with my environment. I love the seasons though, I love when it’s crisp outside and get I get to put that big bulky sweater and boots on. I believe, even though it may not look like it, I am slowing down in the winter, when I compare my summer self to my winter self it is very apparent to me that I am less active. Everything is about perspective, isn’t it? So to my summer friends holed up and hibernating enjoy, I will see you after the Spring thaw, in the meantime I gotta go, I have some winter adventures to tend to.
In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus
Being an entrepreneur in the business of consulting engineering has always been an incredible journey for me. The freedom to choose a particular path, the creative energy devoted to developing a great team, the excitement of watching exceptional people rise to the occasion. These are the aspects of the business that have always held the highest appeal for me. However, there is a side to the business that is a slippery slope for me and I find myself disenchanted each time I encounter it, I call it the “hobnob façade”. We’ve all seen it and to be honest I have participated in it in the past, and each time I experienced a very unsatisfactory feeling afterward. So what is the hobnob façade? It goes something like this:
“So how is business going?” Says Dean Goldberry, CEO of Initech Corp.
“Fantastic, we are blazing new trails, can’t seem to count the money fast enough it’s pouring in so quickly.” Says Earl Lee Riser, President of Dunder Mifflin, Corp.
“We are too, this level of success was really inconceivable to me,” Dean adds enthusiastically.
Earl responds, “we should get together and see how we can join forces and conquer the world of paper and data.”
“Absolutely, I will get in touch with you in the next couple of weeks and we will formulate a plan to seal our deal,” Dean says.
“Well….(as Earl awkwardly fumbles with his phone) I need to get going my wife just text me and our dog desperately needs a flea bath I am the only one who can do it. Let’s get together over a grande sugar-free vanilla latte soon, I’ll call you.” Earl declares as he hastily power walks to the door.
This is a dramatization of real events, the names were changed to malign the guilty, no lattes were actually harmed in the making of this dialog.
All silliness aside, this is a very real, albeit heavily embellished, side of the business that is not consistent with my way of being in this world. I feel the most powerful, the most in sync in this world when I am being honest, kind, patient and brave. I also like to have fun, so I will go along with Ralph Waldo Emerson and add silly to that list. I try to measure my words and actions by those benchmarks. It’s so interesting as I have become more successful in the realization of my intent, life simplifies and my relationships have transformed. I find myself attracting like-minded souls. The hobnob façade, which used to repulse me, has become a practice of observation and presence. The presence to know I am up to something else, and the compassion to recognize others are on their own journey which has nothing to do with what I am up to. In other words I’m OK and they are OK.
I notice, particularly on social media, this overwhelming need by many to engage in the repulsion of others, I get it, I have done the same in business. I invite us all to consider a new thought, a new way of looking at it, and recognize what bothers you, be present to it and make your choices from there. These moments of repulsion are not an invitation to lay down and roll in that same mud puddle, they are an invitation to be present, to recognize where you are being pulled or repelled from and make a choice from that place. Always, always, always go back to intent and harmonize your thoughts AND your actions, your intention AND your words. Peace out.
“Great intentions become tragic actions when delivered without careful thought” ~ Michael Dooley The author of, Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams.
- My friends were perfect – As the saying goes we choose our friends, not our family. So the pressure is really on here to get it right. Trust me imperfection among your friends is a hell of lot more fun and enriching. I love mixing my groups of friends the more conventional gals with the avant-garde. It’s great to see the affect they have on each other. If I want someone who thinks and acts just like me I’ll go in the bathroom and talk to the mirror.
- My kids were perfect – Ugh!!! Kids need to be able to fail, yes I said it, they do. We need to teach our kids to do the best they can, period. Sometimes there will be trophies and sometimes there will be disappointment but the goal is to learn discipline. Most wildly successful people are like the legendary Phoenix climbing out of the ashes of their failures to start again. In our house laughing at your imperfections is not only encouraged, its mandatory!
- My body was perfect – Your body is a mass of tissue, fat, bones and muscles, its function is to protect your vital organs. Feed it well and if you are blessed and can, exercise it, to keep it HEALTHY. Your body is not a measure of your worthiness as a human being, your body is unique like your personality. We live in an amazingly diverse society our bodies should reflect that, not some airbrushed version spoon fed to us on the pages of a magazine.
- My partner was perfect – This myopic view is missing half the of the story, it’s more about the partnership than a partner. When my hubby is really falling short on the perfection meter, I engage in a practice I call “fact-finding.” You know, pointing out his imperfections to support my judgement to help him, of course. Sure enough when I am looking for warts they are everywhere! When I told my life coach my husband was not taking step to improve himself at all, after all this helpful feedback I’ve given. She asked me to try another approach, only comment on things my hubby did that I appreciated or liked, for one week. Anything I disliked or disapproved of I needed to let go. I was suspicious of this approach and my husband was totally confused, but I have to say it worked. I saw more of the things I like and appreciated because that is what I was looking for!
- My job was perfect – It would be great if we all had perfect jobs, our dream job, whatever that means! Some jobs just suck, if you’ve seen the TV show Dirty Jobs you know what I am talking about. In a book called Fish! they talk about four principles that can energize your work environment: 1) Choose your attitude. 2) Find ways to play. 3) Be present. 4) Make their day. Your job may not be perfect but take responsibility for your experience there, focus on what you have control over. Change your perspective and change your life!