TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Not a huge fan of TED talks, my opinion is they often oversimplify success and explain rather than promote critical thinking. They also seem to be just high level enough to not really give me anything concrete. Not quite enough substance to actually disagree with.

That said, what I get from this is the importance of getting the team to believe in the work. Whether it is in business or fighting social injustice, success is tied to leaders who get people to believe in the “why” of the business or organization. I do see a connection in the book “It’s an Uprising” where some believe in the slow and steady method. Getting to believe in the group through small successes rather than a singular movement against one injustice.

TED Talk link

Does Anyone Still Read Books?

People don’t read to grow is the issue for me. Even the educated in our society accept as fact tv and online news stories that are relatively easily dispelled as fiction. Reading tends to expand anyone’s knowledge base and inevitably we question that which counters it. Without reading, we are limited to whatever information we are told, far too often by sources who know very well they can sway opinion through some believable, or even unbelievable versions of the truth.

I would add to the article, prevent yourself from being misled, read and read multiple sources on the same topic. It is the only way to get to the truth.

Article Link

Moral High Ground

I agree with the Facebook post “I can’t stand moral absolutism”. Although my world may be grayer than what many are comfortable with, I don’t believe we can categorize everyone into angels and demons buckets. Yes, there are those figures in history whose actions surpass the definition of evil for so many, and, those who gave more of themselves than most of us could possibly conceive of, but the moral absolutism that exists in society breeds judgement that just adds even more separation between people who already have huge barriers to teamwork and growth as people.

Telling a Compelling Story

Tomasz Tunguz’s Telling a Compelling Story is a little tough for me to relate to. I would offer up almost any workshop on the art of storytelling to the readers. There are many, many, professional storytellers who are experts at telling stories with a message. Many offer workshops on using those skills to get messages to groups and businesses.  If you are really interested, there is a National Storytelling Festival each year where topics of social injustice and lessons of bias in our society are common. I would also offer up the article, The Four Truths of the Storyteller by Peter Guber in HBR in 2007.  I find it a little more clear in explaining how telling a compelling story, whether it be about business of social injustice can be used to send a compelling message to an audience.

I do find, even though my storytelling skills are very limited, that it draws people in a way that mansplaining does not.

Feminist Fight Club

The book Feminist Fight Club for me was mostly a guide to how to deal with both overt biased behavior and those habits ingrained in our culture that cause women to be treated as less than equals.

It’s a bit of a switch when it’s sandwiched between books about people getting the death penalty unjustly and the homeless to read about biased behavior in the workplace, but it is none the less truly an issue.

In my case, I find that in business environments where there is a strong hierarchy and some accepted practices of treating team members with less than equal respect, it is applied to men and women both, with women probably getting the worst of it. There are those who simply stand out as treating women as less than men. Those people seem to stand out, to women and men alike. Then, there are those who treat women as less than but in a much more politically correct way. In the end, they are equally at fault for women not being able to develop, grow, and assist an organization in a successful path.  I have found that women add to the balance of any team, just as teams perform better with varied talents and personalities, they perform better when they include men and women both. In some cases, having both seems to keep work more professional as team members are more aware of their behavior. I suppose having women on workplace teams prevents locker room talk and behavior in some ways. That alone can improve an organizations productivity.

Gender bias has improved in our country, but in no means is extinct. I think many Americans truly believe we will take steps backward in reducing gender bias with the current President’s recorded behavior towards women. This may have been the best reason not to vote as many Americans did. I hope this concern is unneccessary as many believed.

On Just Mercy

Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson gave me more new information about a social injustice than all the other books combined.  The inequalities in incarceration rates among races are well known to most Americans.  Still, few of us the realize how much of what causes that is legal or was legal. Few of us realize the level of illegal activity happens in the justice system as well.

I have long been opposed to the death penalty in general. Maybe after DNA testing became standard practice and it was revealed just how many people the justice system had put to death that were not guilty, it became my opinion that there was no reason for it. I believe that the death penalty is about vengeance as opposed to deterrence. This alone for me is reason to not allow its use. Just Mercy revealed a lack of oversight on executions that I would not have imagined could be a recent as it is.  I assume that through the appeals process, everyone would ultimately get due process in a punishment as severe as death. That the justice system would require appeals to prevent mistakes and abuses. This certainly has not been true for many.

The book left me more opposed to the death penalty than ever, but also open to the idea that abuses can and do occur even within the justice system. The bias of groups of people allow injustices to occur, even to the point of breaking laws in order to force a result they judge to be the correct one.  Judgement of others is a difficult enough task in any legal system, and likely few Americans will fight for more rights for those suspected or convicted of crimes. It opened my eyes to serious conflicts of interest within our legal system as well.

On Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted by Matthew Desmond is a New York Times bestseller and it’s easy for me to see why. I read it in about 2 days.

Eviction, and housing uncertainty, keeps many Americans locked in a cycle of poverty that makes it difficult for them to get out of. With the 8 families he interviews and tells the story of, many have essentially given up on stability because of how many times they have tried to get to a better place only to get pushed back into debt and uncertainty on where they will live next. The hopelessness in these families lives and the points where getting off of welfare and saving become disincentives painted for me a clear picture of a broken system for everyone. While there will always be those who believe it is within the control of the poor to break the cycle, for me, Evicted showed how difficult and unlikely it is to break the cycle. Having a system that should be supporting those with housing difficulty penalize them for having been evicted may be near the top of what makes no sense to me.

The housing projects of previous decades were a plan that seemed like it would work, and should have been a path out of the cycle of poverty and housing uncertainty, but it seems like even in those cases, government agencies only half committed, doing the construction but unwilling to spend on the ongoing social services needed to sustain those buildings and the communities that could have developed from them.

The voucher system proposed by Desmond seems like the only working model at this point. If I had my way, there would be a sequel to Evicted where Desmond (or some other author) follows families who make the difficult move from a city or region that has inadequate housing and employment to a city or region where there is more availability and lower unemployment rates. I’m not implying this to be the solution or that vouchers or some other option aren’t still an imperative, but it seems there is a constant imbalance in available labor in areas of lower unemployment and less migration by workers in America to the need.

The book was one of the best I have read in some time. Great insight into the lives of those facing poverty in the suburbs and city and the connection between rent and poverty.


One in four Americans think poor people don’t work hard enough

This was an article linked to the article about poor kids who do everything right not getting any further ahead than rich kids who do everything wrong. I found this one more interesting.

Maybe it’s because I’ve working in manufacturing for 30 years, but I still find this statistic a little hard to swallow. A quarter of Americans think poor people just don’t work hard enough. Which quarter of Americans think working in landscaping, restaurants, hotels, farms, is easier than what they are doing? We know what those wages are and people in those jobs are inherently poor. Maybe the belief is to get rich takes a lot of work more than poor people don’t. In some instances, I would agree. There are certainly entrepreneurs with amazing work ethics who pulled themselves to the top. They seem to keep driving themselves further no matter how wealthy they get,  but I would contend they are the exception rather than the rule. Maybe the belief is so strong in capitalism, we cannot accept the truth, that not everyone can just work harder and get ahead.

Article Link

Evicted by Matthew Desmond review – what if the problem of poverty is that it’s profitable to other people?

I have the book “Evicted” to read, but I am getting to the review first and it’s the most interesting of the poverty topics to me. Being poor is expensive, and it is profitable to others. Someone is taking the rent payments and making money on it. It’s well documented, even in the review that the eviction process and power over the poor is in the hands of those they must pay to survive. Between rent and healthcare costs, it seems like an impossible mountain for many. I look forward to reading the entire book with more perspectives.

Article Link

Re-balancing medical and social spending to promote health: Increasing state flexibility to improve health through housing

This article from the Brookings Institution puts into perspective how off target the U.S. is in spending on healthcare and housing support.  It seems like we will never fully understand how bad our healthcare system is, and was long before the AHA. All over the world, social spending is higher and healthcare spending is lower.

As the article states, in countries and states in the U.S. that invest in social spend and living condition improvements, less is spent on healthcare. It seems that this is simple proactive spend instead of reactive spend. It also seems like this would have a positive impact on overall productivity of the population since, apparently they are less sick.  We also know that homelessness and living in low income housing are certain to result in healthcare issues. The article proposes the U.S. begin to shift resources to more social spend, but I suspect the government and U.S population in general will have to come to realize how far off the path our healthcare is. Since we apparently still don’t want change, I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.

Article Link