Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Rotary Invocation
May 2, 2016
Shared Hope
Kim Brand

I can’t believe I’m giving the invocation on Primary Day 2016 during what will be remembered as one of the most notorious campaign seasons of the 21st Century!  At least, I hope it stands out – because I never want it to happen again!

Here’s what I think is worth talking about in an invocation on a day like today: shared hope – or what politicians would call the ‘hope gap.’

We may have entered a time in our nation’s history when nothing is shared less than hope.  You hear about income inequality.  You hear about immigration.  You hear about terrorism.  You hear about resurgent racism, international tensions, exploding debt, and economic uncertainty.  We witness unprecedented dysfunction in Washington.  What is the link between these maladies?

I believe we are suffering from the lack of shared hope and too many of us have lost confidence in the belief that for them tomorrow will be better.

Have we forgotten that to be hopeful is uniquely human?  Do we not all hope for peace? For the success of our children? To be treated with respect? For health and prosperity? Can’t we at least share those hopes?

More than losing our status in the world, more than ‘losing,’ more than the other party winning the Whitehouse, we should fear the loss of shared hope.  Shared hope is the binding that once tied our country together, forged a powerful nation and was the source of our prosperity.

Being an American endows us with a special kind of hopefulness.  The ability to work together, to overcome problems, to look beyond differences and to see a brighter future.  The measure of America’s greatness will not be in a budget or trade surplus, or military power – it will be in the ability of all Americans to hope again.

How do we do that?  Turn off the TV.  Surround yourself with optimists and push back on negative talk when you hear it.  Be prepared with positive facts - look for positive news and you’ll find it.  Allow inspiration into your life – from wherever you can find it; whether it’s a purposeful walk in the woods or a raucous service on Sunday morning.  

Be an actor not an audience member.  Practice Service above self – Rotary is a great way to share hopefulness.  Hope is a source of strength that is multiplied when shared.  Share your hope with someone when you have it – share theirs when you don’t.

The hope gap may be a tool politicians use to sell fear and mistrust.  Don’t buy it.  Find someone to share your hopes and dreams with today.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anyone can have a life changing idea

This video should be presented at every art, business, engineering and medical school.  It should be posted to every entrepreneur blog. For anyone who thinks that they are not 'good' or 'smart' enough to have the next great/transformative idea.  This brief talk pushes back and says: YOU CAN.  DO IT NOW!

Monday, January 18, 2016

News Porn

It seems to me that much of the growing antipathy in the nation is borne from irrational fear of anyone who disagrees with someone else's beliefs.  This applies to the fear of 'black thugs' by 'white people,' apostates by believers, conservatives by liberals, etc.  The fear ranges across all dimensions of needs and desires: life, health, wealth, liberty, security, family, lifestyle, power, heritage, etc.

I think if people were thinking rationally we wouldn't have this frenzied maelstrom.  But once triggered, an irrational response is immune from rational engagement.  I fear we now have hundreds of millions of people around the world caught in this irrational 'avalanche' racing towards some apocalypse.  Isn't that what caused the world wars, genocides, atrocities?

How do you reason with the unreasonable? Ideologues, bigots, idiots, ultra-partisans?  There are only a few of them and their numbers could be offset by the mostly sane.  But what if the media has the power to convert the sane into the insane?  Reasonable into unreasonable?  Exaggerating threats, impacts, causes, effects for profit or power; exploiting human tendencies to overreact, disproportionate response or simply intellectually lazy evaluation?

Is the media the difference?  Four TV channels and one newspaper attenuated the news to what could fit, sell advertising motivated by simple commerce and meet broadcast standards.  But now echo chambers have replaced journalism.

Are we teaching kids how to consume media?  We have restrictions on porn - is this 'news porn?'

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Thinking about the JA Spark Career Fair

A note I sent to the CEO of EmployIndy regarding the JA Spark Career Fair planned for September, 2016.

I can’t help thinking that career clusters are (or will be) obsolete.

Who would have predicted IT for me when I graduated Purdue with an engineering degree?  But I took a test in high school that did predict I would be good at programming.  Maybe I was analytical.  Liked problem solving.  I also liked risk.  I could have joined the risk taking entrepreneur tech startup cluster if one existed J

Does EmployIndy do any kind of testing like: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strong_Interest_Inventory.  The modern version is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holland_Codes

I really liked this explanation of how people pick careers – and just how old the problem of finding a place for yourself in the world is.

In "The Holland Codes," a letter or code stands for a particular "type." Psychologist John L. Holland originally labeled his six types as: "motoric, intellectual, esthetic, supportive, persuasive, and conforming."[2] He later developed and changed them to: Realistic (Doers), Investigative (Thinkers), Artistic (Creators), Social (Helpers), Enterprising (Persuaders), and Conventional (Organizers)."[6] Professor John Johnson of Penn State suggested that an alternative way of categorizing the six types would be through ancient social roles: "hunters (Realistic), shamans (Investigative), artisans (Artistic), healers (Social), leaders (Enterprising), and lorekeepers (Conventional)."[7]

I think the whole cluster idea is wrong – those are assemblies of jobs.  The jobs are what someone is interested in doing.  Maybe there should be leadership, inventing, making things, working outdoors, problem solving, stress averse, helping people, art.  You can be in construction but be in HR – more like a helper than a builder.  I also think it is naive to reduce the range of human interests into eight or so government/economic job clusters.  There are lots more type of jobs, there will be many that go away (say radiologists,) some you can’t predict will emerge (like app developer in 1975) and one-offs.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Randomness, Leverage & Networking

In a recent conversation with a young entrepreneur I was asked about the word(s) I would recommend that he study.  I came up with three in a minute or so.

Randomness: Accepting the brutal reality of knowing your influence on events may be outdone by forces beyond your control.  This knowledge requires stoic resolution to accept that despite your best efforts the goal will not be achieved.  But: progress may just as likely be favored by these same random forces.  Roll with it.

Leverage: To make progress quickly with little or no power you need to create an amplifier.  Look for them - they are a gift of nature the way a natural amphitheater allows a voice to be heard 100 yards away.  Usually you need to trade risk for reward the way mechanics converts velocity for power. Entrepreneurship is the craft of leveraging ideas into movements.

Networking: All success flows from the impact of ideas on people.  People tend to share ideas within their tribes - social networks. The goal of an entrepreneur is to spread an idea among tribes using the natural tendency of the members of that tribe to communicate.  The influence of an entrepreneur is thus leveraged by the interconnections within these networks.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Another Rotary Invocation - December 2015

Rotary invocation 12/1/2015

The world seems to be coming apart at the seams.  Every day brings stories about violence, corruption, disharmony and polarization.

The news media gets paid to bring stories like these into our living rooms and to the front page of our newspapers.  Mobile consumers have this unhappiness delivered continuously to their devices a dozen or more times a day.  Bad news today travels even faster than it did when my mom warned me fifty years ago that bad news travels fast.

With this tsunami of tragedy, even the most hopeful soul could feel down by the end of the day.

Today is December 1st.  The beginning of the Holiday Season celebrated around the world by three great religions and over half the Earth’s population.  A time of joy and hope we need throughout the year but especially now.

If you are person of faith, you have these happy holidays to celebrate.

Christians celebrate Christmas – the birthday of Jesus
Jews celebrate Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication
Muslims celebrate Mawlid an-Nabi – the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad

I propose that rather than wait for January 1st to make a new year’s resolution, you make one right now to seek out and find good news every.  It will make you more optimistic, creative and energetic; even less stressful.  Doctors say it will improve your immune system!  Think of the impact on your love life!

And when you hear about polarization between peoples or politicians, I want you to think about this kind of polarization - North Polar-ization!  We can all agree that this time of year is enjoyed most by children who dream happy thoughts of gifts and giving.  We should pay more attention to them than the news.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Statistics inscrutable to Americans

This article (Politics and the New Machine) which appeared in the 11/16/15 New Yorker magazine, presented very troubling evidence that the polls with which Americans seem so fascinated are at best untrustworthy and at worst a fraud perpetrated on us by pollsters who know they don't represent electoral views.  Even worse, they may actually be corrupting the very purpose of the electoral process.

Americans are obsessed with simple measures which purport to represent complex phenomena.  To wit:

  • IQ
  • Credit Score
  • GPA
  • BMI
  • SAT/ACT Scores
  • Age
  • Zip Code
  • AGI (Adjusted Gross Income)

We don't have time for details.  We aren't interested in stories, just summaries and aggregates.

The convenience of a number trumps the work required to understand what it really represents and its potential irrelevance to an individual case.  The statistic belies the assumptions, trade-offs, biases and prejudices.

Big data gives us the ability to collect more information, but humans can't process it anyway.  Get ready for more approximations.