I walked through my neighborhood last Sunday and noticed that some of my neighbors had disappeared. Maybe The Rapture predicted to happen last Saturday did happen! But if all the people “who believe were raised up, and all who doubt were left behind,” than why are my friends, children and grandchildren still here? I understand why I’m still here.
Where do you get your news about what is going on in the world? In case you missed it, we have moved into a new era of news media. For many of us, our sources for news has moved from a few media outlets where journalists reported the news to talking heads, producers, public relation firms and consultants who become the news. And for others, who are younger, we get it from social media outlets like Snapchat, Facebook, and a whole host of others too numerous to list here.
Yes, that is correct. In all three era’s, the news has been and continues to be prepared before presented to the public whenever possible. However, the difference between the three eras is the manipulation of the news and the motivations behind manipulating it. No longer is influence peddling a commodity for just the rich and famous. Anybody can do it.
And, of course, there is the fake news and the alternative facts. There is more fake news and alternative facts than ever these days. More people are falling prey to character assassinations by other individuals or news organizations protected by freedom of the press and speech than ever before. Not that some of these people don’t deserve it. Before, there was a level of responsibility, accountability and even best practices that went along with most of the reporting. Now, with the playing field much more level and with greater access for the populous comes no censorship, no editors, no fact checking at all. So which is better?
Frankly, if we could eliminate all of the bullshit that comes with it, I prefer what is happening now over the past. Even with the Steve Bannon’s of the world out there delivering the fake news and alternative facts, it is far better that we, as a free society, are able to know what is going on in the world in real time without censorship.
Remember when that phrase was shocking to hear or see in print?
So maybe The Rapture didn’t happen last Saturday after all. And maybe I shouldn’t believe everything I read or hear on social media. And maybe I will have to pay back all of the money I charged on my credit cards last week just before “it” didn’t happen. But then, it’s not about me.
Customer Care. Ensuring the Health, Safety and Happiness of your Customer. All excellent attributes to have if you are a politician. All excellent attributes if you are an Uber Driver. Maybe every politician should drive for Uber before they take the helm of government?
I started Uber-ing on a part time basis in the Greater Washington DC area last February. I really enjoy it. I like most of the passenger who get in and out of my car. I never once have thought about shooting or stabbing anyone. Ejecting them, maybe! Like the guy who told me I needed to treat him with greater respect because he was a very important person.
By greater respect, he meant that I needed to pick up a friend of his along the way. Along the way for him mind you. Two miles out of the way for me. I told him no. This didn’t sit well with him.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked. “I’m a very important person in this city!” he bellowed. “Mister, if you have to tell me you are a VIP, you probably aren’t,” I quipped. “And this is Washington DC. Everybody in this town thinks they are important! Now if you would like to get out of my car and get another Uber driver, I can’t make you stay in mine. Kidnapping is a federal offense.” He stayed and shut up. But that is the closest I have come to wanting to hurt somebody. However, violence does happen between passengers in Ubers.
“A husband just shot his wife in an Uber!” Melody exclaims. “It happened in Seattle.” Yes, this somehow doesn’t surprise me. Just last week, I read that two carpoolers who had never met before climbing into an Uber in Chicago’s North End, got into a fight about who should ride in the back seat and one of them pulled out a knife and stabbed the other one several times before opening the door and running away.
According to current data, there is no occupation more dangerous in America than being a driver for Uber, Lyft or the like. Police Officers are victims of homicides at a ratio of 7:100,000. For Convenience Store Clerks, the ratio is 15:100,000. For Taxi Drivers, the ratio is 20:100,000 and they have traditionally been recognized as one of the most dangerous and most at risk of dying on the job. The difference between the Taxi Driver and The Uber Driver is that the Taxi Driver has a dispatcher to communicate with whereas an Uber Driver has no way to communicate with anyone in a quick and painless way. I’m certain Uber’s app will soon have a way to contact 911. It will be coming soon now that people are being shot and stabbed in “Ubers.”
Despite the risks, more and more people will use Uber. For example, the DC area is a very transient place with people coming on and off the Metro, from Union Station and in and out of the 3 major airports. There must be a thousand hotels in a 20 square mile area. And of course, a trillion hotel and restaurant employees who Uber every day because they cannot afford the $14 an hour parking lot fee or the $4.60 an hour fee to park on the street. Even Metro has cut back the hours and the frequency of the rides while jacking up the price of traveling to and from home. Not to mention the sweltering heat and high humidity during the summer. Mix the heat with the clash of cultures and the stress with a dash of politics and shake or stir the car and you get trouble.
Did I say politics? People in DC, whether they live here or they are visiting love to talk politics. People using my Uber sure do! I like it. It allows me to conduct informal focus group discussions about current events. Even though the surrounding area of local residents is a majority blue, meaning Northern Virginia is about 70 percent Democrat and DC appears to be about 94% Democrat, the transient population appears to be more like 30-30-40. Thirty percent are Republicans, Thirty percent are Democrats and Forty percent don’t trust either party to get something done. However, nearly all of them like the way I drive.
I’ve gotten compliments like “Best Uber driver ever!!” “Very personable” Excellent driver, nice conversation 3 thumbs up. thanx for the ride.” “Thank you for letting me talk to my family on the phone while you drove me!!” “After missing us on my part, he came back around and picked us up. Great guy and very, very, very nice.” “James was the best.” “He was lovely.” “Awesome service.” “Thanks for the tolerance.” “Great ride!!” and “Even tho the guest was difficult, he provided amazing service! Thank you!” My current rating is 4.88 out of 5 stars and my acceptance rate is at 97%.
I’m not sure any member of Congress and certainly not in the Oval Office enjoys near the five star rating I have. But then, it’s not about me.
The more I learn about the fraud, waste and abuse coming out of the student loan industry, the angrier I become.
A recent headline from Bloomberg reads “Americans are Paying $38 to Collect $1 of Student Debt”. The controversy surrounds about $1 trillion in student loans in default. Student loans are the second largest category of consumer debt (behind home mortgages) and unlike credit card and medical debt, they can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.
It is a cash cow for the student loan industry including student loan predators, colleges and universities who get kickbacks on promoting them and student loan collection companies aka predators. To the students who use them to pay for tuition at colleges, universities, tech schools and the like, they are the gifts that keep on giving – a ticking time bomb posing as a life preserver.
Imagine paying $38 for that crunchy, stale, high in fructose corn syrup small bag of cereal at the Love’s Travel Stop on US Highway 40. Never, right? Well that is what we do every day as Americans to collect $1 from an unfortunate, unknowing kid who wanted to get a college education but couldn’t afford it. His teachers told him it was okay. His parents didn’t seem to think it was a bad thing. Why not? Fortunately, I wasn’t one of those kids. But I am one of those Americans who is paying $38 to collect each $1 and this isn’t how I want to spend my money.
When my electric bill comes for $200 this month, I’m not going to reach in to my bank account and right a check for $7600 to the utility company. But then, it’s not about me.
I first met Eric when he was 4 years of age. I fell in love with him at first sight. It sounds odd I know. Falling in love with your kid at first sight? The funny thing is that I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t fall in love with Eric at first sight. What makes him even more amazing is that these same people never stop loving him. I know I never have.
When Eric was in the first grade, his teacher called me in for an impromptu parent/teacher conference. We had not one, but two teachers and the school vice principal in the room when we walked in for the conference. Everyone seemed pretty serious so I worried that Eric had done something terrible.
“Eric has been taking stickers out of my drawer without permission and putting them in his book,” his teacher told us.
Apparently, the teacher was giving students stickers when the students did something well as a reward. At the end of each week, the students with the most stickers would redeem their stickers for some type of a reward like a stuffed animal or a game. It seems that Eric figured out another way to obtain stickers. For nine weeks straight, Eric was coming in first or second with the most stickers.
“Well, this is stealing and we can’t have this! I’ll see to this that Eric understands this and that he returns the ill gotten prizes” I told them all.
“Oh no! Please don’t! We love Eric! Eric is wonderful! He can keep them!” they all said. I didn’t understand them. I scratched my head. “We just wanted to let you know.”
And there it is. People love Eric. I love Eric. Eric has never done anything wrong. Never.
We moved to Lawrence, Kansas when Eric was 7 years old. He came home the very first day with a picture of a bird he had drawn and in the background was an American flag.
“What is that?” I asked. He put his hands on his hips, shook his head and looked at me looking pretty disgusted at me on his face.
“Gosh Dad, don’t you know? It’s a Jayhawk and they live in KUSA like we do!” Ever since that day, the hands on the hips, shaking of the head and the disgusted look on his face has always worked for him when it came to something he wants from me. Five Roy Williams Basketball Camps, a Danny Manning Basketball Camp and who knows what else. I’ve never really kept track.
He has always loved the University of Kansas and the Jayhawks. It turns out that they have an awesome basketball team. He loves the Jayhawks so much that he fell in love with one and they gave me a granddaughter and she is a Jayhawk too. What is so funny is that I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t fall in love with her at first sight either. I know I did.
But it’s not about me.
Cheering for the New England Patriots again? Are you a big fan of the Boston Celtics? Don’t you just love the Red Sox? Well, I’m not, I’m not, and I don’t. But maybe it’s because I am not from the area or maybe it’s because I’m ” a Bum!”
“Get outta heyah you bum!!!” they’d say in a local tavern or from the bleachers.
One thing they’d almost never do at a sporting event is to say they wished me hurt or dead because of who I was cheering for at a game. Not so true in politics these days. And in some cases, in our modern day culture, hate speech has begun to spring up in our homes, our schools, at local sporting events and at sporting events on the screen. Now people voice their rage with hate speak about my political beliefs or who or what I supported on the ballot in all of these places. OMG, it has even made its way into our churches, our synagogues and in our mosques.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Cubs Fan. We have been very patient. We waited how many years before we won the World Series? For me, it was my entire life. But we didn’t go hating anybody because we couldn’t get our ring. Okay, some of us hated Steve Bartmann. But we got over it in one winter and we were back at it when Spring Training came around. Steve who?
If we were struggling in the standings we changed Skippers. From Joey Amalfitano to Dusty Baker to Ryne Sandberg to Lou Pinella, when we weren’t winning, we would change managers. When we struggle in this country, we change our leadership too. Instead of playing nine innings, Congress and the President campaign every two, four or six years and if we aren’t happy with the job they are doing, we replace them. There is a democratic process and we all play by the same rules.
I’ve asked my friends what they thought and some of them told me it’s because people consider political issues to be extremely personal. Some of my friends told me that my comparing sports to politics is extremely shallow. It is a metaphor with no home in America. “Politics is serious business and sports is not!!” they say in almost a feverish pitch.
I think some of my friends need to push the “reset” button. You know, it’s not the enthusiasm or intensity in their belief system that I take exception too. It’s the character assassination they carry with them when they choose to wade in to the political waters that worries me every time somebody disagrees with them. I believe this is what makes politics personal.
But then, it’s not about me, is it?
I read a poster the other day that said that “there is more food in a rich man’s shampoo than there is on a poor child’s plate.” Wow. These are some profound words that really hit home. I don’t have any hair so shampoo isn’t something I can relate to, I thought. Well, and than there is the “rich man’s” part of that equation. I have no money.
I get the idea though. In fact, in America, 40% of all the food we produce goes in the trash. It doesn’t even go in the gas pump. It gets thrown away. Now that is shocking! When I was in the Navy, I heard a speech by President Jimmy Carter. In the speech, he made the statement that “Waste and Inefficiency never fed a hungry child.”
I think what he meant was that the money our government wastes each year could be used to feed the children and families who go hungry every year. Of course, those were the good old days when most Republicans and Democrats could get along, like Senators Dole and McGovern, and sponsor bills that benefitted the farmer and the poor and create the food stamp program.
Now it is so much more divisive and only a handful of folks in each party get along and get things accomplished that benefit the have’s and the have not’s alike. I think we have all experienced hunger. But not to the extreme of not knowing where your next meal was going to come from.
I’ve experienced some of it when I was homeless in my teens. It was nothing like most children and families do who live in poverty these days in America and around the globe. And I’m only focusing on hunger here. Combine the feeling of panic over where your next meal for you or your child with the needs of housing, health and safety.
Yet 40% of all the food produced in America goes to waste. I know I’ve already written this down, but it is worth repeating over and over again. I have to say that it adversely affected me when I first heard the words of President Carter. I thought that in the wealthiest country in the world, that we waste so much food. I travelled the world and I saw children eating food scraps out of a truck with waste in the Southeast Asia. I went to places both here and abroad and saw people starving.
I immediately started eating everything in my plate. When I had children, I ate everything that was left over in theirs. I ate more calories than I could burn and eventually I grew quite obese.
But then, It’s not about me…
Have you ever played a game with your partner called “The ten things I love about you? It is a great game intended to bring some intimacy to the relationship by build a truly great connection between each partner by letting them know how much you love them and why. Sometimes just saying you love your partner isn’t enough.
The rules of engagement are that each partner writes down 10 things they love about the other partner and than each partner goes back and forth with the other and shares each item with the other until they are done.
So here was the list I came up with for my wife that day:
TEN THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU…
1. I love the way your eyes light up and smile when they look at me.
2. I love it when you tell me that you love the way I love you.
3. I love how much better, fuller, richer (not money), my life is when we are together.
4. I love your devilish good looks, personality, wit and charm and how you put a spell on me and leave me powerless against it.
5. I love it that I can share my dreams, desires, hopes and fears with you without fear of being judged.
6. I love it that we can make great baby’s together.
7. I love your spark of genius and the brilliant solutions you come up with when we problem solve.
8. I love it that you love to watch football with me.
9. I love it that you dress weird. Nuff said.
10. I love your laughter and the way you express your joy with the world.
Guess what happened? Everything was great until we got to number 9.
“What do you mean you love that I dress weird. What is wrong with the way I dress!”
“I guess maybe weird was the wrong word to use.”
“No, you used it. What do you mean by weird. You don’t like the way I dress?”
“I love the way you dressed. I just find it different than most people dress, sometimes, occasionally.”
Deeper and deeper the hole that I was digging for myself got. It appeared to be about the right length and the right width and the right depth for my casket. But no, I couldn’t just shut up. I prayed she was distracted by a text or a call on her phone but it never came.
“But you loved the other nine things I came up with, why does this one matter so much?” I asked.
Ouch! There went the other nine good things, right out the frickin window. Just sucked out of the universe as if they didn’t happen! Guys, if I could only take back number 9 on my list. And if only I could take the last line too about “her loving the other nine things I came up with and why does this one matter so much?” line. Ouch again. Discounting your partners feelings once you have screwed up is really bad form, even if its not what you meant to do.
For future reference, the correct things to say are:
“Sweetheart, it was a stupid thing to say, I didn’t mean it like it sounded, I made a mistake and I’m sorry if I hurt you.” And once you have said this like you really mean it, just shut up.
Why is this so hard for me to do?
The easy answer? It’s not about me.
What does it mean to “do the hard right, rather than the easy wrong?” Some of the best people to ask this question lie in Arlington. Certainly, those who have given their lives for our country and whom we celebrate every Memorial Day.
Doing the hard right, rather than the easy wrong is a way the concept of integrity is described in military leadership training. The ability to choose the hard right over the easy wrong is the essence of true leadership. My wife often says that I am the only person she knows who wants to be in charge when everything is going to hell in a hand basket. I think that is her way that saying my gut tells me something is wrong I feel compelled to investigate and fix it.
I went to Afghanistan to serve my country in a position with the Department of Defense working for the U.S. Army. My position was as an Acquisition and Business Specialist, the equivalent of a program manager over several contracts worth $4.3 billion dollars. The position required me to gather information from people in positions of authority over me and people around me from the military, civilian employees, federal contractors and Afghan citizenry, some of whom had an inability to communicate in each other’s language.
What I discovered was that the greatest difficulties was not interpreting between one language or another in the pursuit of the truth but between one frozen mindset and the other in order to identify needs and requirements and satisfy the mission. Soon after beginning my work that gut feeling that something was wrong kicked in. I suspected that predecessors had chosen the easy wrong, safer in a hostile environment. After much interviewing of individuals from each of the sectors, I determined that a new course of action was necessary.
First, I reviewed the three contracts I was managing. I set up an excel spreadsheet where I identified the contract requirements at each of the 87 service sites in Afghanistan. I listed everything from the latitude and longitude of each site to the individual contracting officer representative (COR). I contacted each of the 37 COR’s and learned more about each site. I read two years of reports from the COR’s which contained information including environment impacts, inventory data points and infractions committed by the contractor responsible.
Second, I ventured into the field, donning my helmet and Kevlar vest. I knew that I had to put “eyes on” in order to verify what my gut had told me and my spreadsheet had verified. This was the first time in two years that any body had bothered to verify the data or even to fully collect and analyze it. It was a dangerous “hard” thing to do and the review was met with resistance from many levels. It was the only right way to obtain the necessary information for a mission critical evaluation.
Because of my choice to do the hard right rather than the easy wrong, the government was saved millions of dollars. For my efforts, I received three medals including one from the Secretary of Defense and one from the Secretary of the Army. However, my greatest satisfaction was not the recognition but the knowledge that I had taken the correct course of action.
Of course, it’s not about me….