Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do we need to be "religious" to be "good"?


Among the many things built into our DNA, two seem fundamental. The curiosity to wonder where everything comes from and what the purpose of it all is; and, the basic need to be good and to do good.

Over the ages, peoples from around the world have developed varying interpretations (religions) to try to explain what lies beyond. At best, these man-made interpretations of what lie beyond incorporate the basic and natural need to be good. At worst, they are used to control and manipulate others through fear or worse.

In reality, one (i.e., religion) has nothing to do with the other (i.e., being good). In fact, religion often negatively impacts, alters, and distorts our natural instinct to be good and to do good in the worst possible way.

So, here are my suggestions:

• For our core need to believe in something greater – let’s think about it individually and develop our own way to make sense of this? No need to push or force our own interpretation/religion onto others? Trouble usually starts when the pushing begins.

• For our core need to do good for others – why don’t we just get busy and do something already? Why can’t we help people when they are hungry, sick, or needing comfort just because? Do we really need somebody else’s stories/religion of reward and punishment to compel us to act?

At the end of the day, I think “love” trumps all this craziness. If you do not have an answer to the first question, then focus on the second. Focus on love. Give a lot. Get a lot. You may then find the answer to the first question.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Who should be responsible for the proper transition of children into adulthood?

The family.

It seems that our society has developed an interesting system that continuously pushes, restricts, and encourages limits on the role a family should play in helping our children as they grow from adolescence into adulthood.

Why does our culture systematically deliver the notion to new adolescents that being with their parents should be embarrassing and that distancing themselves from their families is the thing to do? And, when it is time to go to college, why do we make them go from being an integral part of a home/family, with all that comes with it (i.e., support, coaching, values, boundaries, responsibilities, etc.), to complete separation over a weekend.

In addition, we have grown to expect the government to step in and do part of a family’s job by defining blanket laws for their growing children ... minimum ages for drinking, driving, smoking, military service, public place curfews, buying spray paint, TV shows, video games, movies, etc.

What ever happened to families stepping in and providing the necessary guidance and support to help teenagers successfully grow into full independence? What happened to making the transition into all of these things a more gradual and natural process based on the specifics of each child?

In other cultures where families (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins - with all of their craziness and quirks) stay involved in all aspects of a growing teenager’s life the transition seems smoother.

Would our teenagers be better off having their birthday parties together with both their family and friends? Why should teenagers be embarrassed of the crazy aunt interacting with their friends if that is part of who they are? What is wrong with learning how to drink at the dinner table with the whole family instead of in a dark alley with friends hiding from the police? Why do we need to tell our children they need to leave home at 18, go to college and never come back, instead of providing a nurturing home until and when they are ready?

Is it because not all families are ready to provide the level of support required to ensure a healthy transition into adulthood? Maybe. On the other hand, why are so many healthy functioning families abdicating their responsibility in these areas to laws and culture?

Is it because it is just easier than to do the work? Think about what is at stake. The most important thing of all … our children.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How can we enjoy things more?

Simplify things - Less is more.

Have you noticed that when you limit the inputs to your brain, you actually seem to enjoy things more? You seem to be able to concentrate better and remember more things. You seem to get more pleasure from simpler things just because you are there, paying more attention, able to think deeper about what you are doing and about everything around you.

When we are constantly bombarded by information and advertising from the Internet, TV, movies, magazines, newspapers, Facebook, Twitter, cell phones/texting, iPads/iPhones, Blackberrys, etc., we have no choice but to react to this incessant stream of information demanding our attention. How are we supposed to find the time to just think about who we are? What is important to us?

When was the last time you had time to slow the world around you to analyze and observe, or to get to know yourself better? Was it at a time when these distractions disappeared? A trip to the mountains perhaps?

So, let's limit our exposure to things that rob us of time to enjoy our lives. If we are constantly reacting to somebody else's inputs, we are living somebody else's life. Remember, less is more.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What is the most unstable economic system?


Capitalism, when left unchecked, tends to concentrate wealth the fastest. It is simple human nature - survival of the fittest.

Over time, the most aggressive, most intelligent, best educated, most resourceful, and luckiest will eventually take most of the resources over the less fortunate members of society.

Some of the most successful and stable forms of government today are those that find a way to harness capitalism's energy while controlling its bad side effects. These controls come in the form of regulations, incentives/disincentives, and some level of safety net that provides basic needs to those that cannot fend by themselves in such a system (e.g., elderly care/retirement, health care, etc.)

So, let's be nice to others while we enjoy the bounty, shall we? : )

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What are some of your one-of-a-kind moments?

Two come to mind immediately:
  • Coming home after a long trip and having my two little children and my wife running to meet me and then hugging me and kissing me ... you know right then that that is where you belong
  • Getting up early in the morning in a far away country, far from everything, and getting on my motorcycle not knowing what amazing places I will see or what amazing people I will meet that day
At these times, the universe is completely aligned : )

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why do so many religions that support love cause so many wars?

Control over people.

At the end of the day, religions are man made structures. Religion is our futile attempt to try to explain the unanswerable life questions (e.g., what happens after we die, why are we here).

Throughout the ages, religion has often been about power, about controlling others, about inclusion/exclusion. Instilling fear or doing harm to whoever does not agree with a specific "story" is a way to control people and amass power using fear of the unknown as a weapon. It is human nature for the strong to try to control others.

On the other hand, it is also true that religion provides fertile ground for good people to get together and do good things (e.g., helping the poor, the less fortunate, the sick, orphans). Others are just seeking a reasonable way to explain life's big questions.

Unfortunately, because the rules and structures of religion are ultimately designed, implemented, and carried out by men - they are susceptible to all the good and bad that human nature has to offer.

So, would the world be better off without organized religion? Probably. And, given what we know, is separation of state and religion a good thing? Absolutely.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

What happens after you have a near death experience?

Clarity and Focus.

It is interesting to me that after surviving one of these experiences, things in life seem way less cluttered. Some of the things that seemed important before, are no longer, and other things become clearer as a result.

Realizing that you cannot really take anything with you when you are close to the end has a powerful effect on your priorities and in identifying what really matters.

At that moment, the love you feel for your loved ones (family, friends, humanity, etc.) and the love they feel for you is all that you have left. At the end of the day, nothing else matters.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What is the purpose of life?

I do not know.

There are some premises and emerging hypothesis that are sort of helping me build an answer to this question. Starting with the fact that 3-4 generations down the road nobody is going to really remember who we were. Even if we do something transcendental like making a great discovery, all that would be remembered is a name - not the person or anything else.

So if this is the case, is it valid to say that all we can do is to ensure that we live each moment to the fullest and to love as intensely as possible?

Maybe our DNA is already programmed with the answer to the "what is the purpose of life" question. If we are really programmed to pass on our genes, isn't this the source of the most intense love you can find? .... your children, your mate, your family.

The danger in modern society is that it is too easy to get stuck in the pursuit of so called "basic needs" that go beyond true basic needs (food, shelter, etc.). We lump the endless accumulation of material things into this basic needs category (houses, cars, vacations, etc.) that we sort of forget what really matters.

So, until we figure out what the purpose of life is ... love and live ... intensely! : )

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What is the United States' key competitive advantage?

Three things come to mind: ability to organize, efficient infrastructure, and immigration.

After traveling to more than 50 countries, I believe the US continues to shine in these 3 areas. Americans seem to have an innate ability and willingness to work together and cooperate to create very complex and highly efficient systems (i.e., corporations, networks, markets, etc.). This ability is embedded in society, in the education system, and in the people. Many other countries are still struggling with the "survival of the fittest" syndrome - where personal gains are to be pursued first and foremost regardless of the cost (e.g., corruption, exploitation, violence, etc.).

Another key advantage is the US' infrastructure (i.e., roads, telecom, government, laws, banking, employment, etc.) which is one of the most efficient in the world at all levels. Because of its ability to organize, the US has developed strong infrastructures that are resilient and built to last. As a result, very few countries have the ability to approve a mortgage in less than 3 minutes, or create a new company in less than 5, or dynamically adapt your workforce up or down to meet market demands, or quickly secure growth capital for a business that has shown a good track record, or design and operate airports that can process 10-12 landings and take-offs every minute, etc.

Finally, the energy, hunger, work ethic, ambition and creativity that newly arrived immigrants bring to the table are unquestionable. The US has built an immigration system that allows a steady and constant influx of new immigrant talent (e.g., the university system at the top levels and illegal immigration at the lowest levels). Interestingly, most millionaires (as measured by having at least one million dollars in liquid assets) are either immigrants or first generation immigrants. This influx of talent and energy is a vital component that keeps the US at the forefront of innovation, efficiency, and financial success.

(It is interesting that countries like Singapore are also beginning to realize the value of immigration as an economic engine. They are now allowing and relying on an influx of Chinese immigrants to keep the economy growing after their own population has begun to slow down to enjoy the fruits of the previous generations' efforts in getting this island nation to have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.)

So, are we losing our competitive edge? Not yet.

The one thing that we need to realize is that the landscape is changing. We are no longer the sole and powerful economic "black hole" that everybody else orbits around. There are now 3 equally powerful, and potentially independent, centers of gravity - the EU, Southeast Asia, and the US. The game is definitely changing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Are entrepreneurs born or made?

Born AND Made.

This is the one area where both nature and nurture have an important role to play. The risk taking, adventure seeking, resourcefulness, self-starting, self-driven characteristics of an entrepreneur need to be there from the start (the "born" part). However, these traits alone will not result in a successful entrepreneurial career ... or even an entrepreneurial start. Combining these traits with a compelling personal need, access to capital, know-how, experience, mentoring, and education are also critical (the "made" part).

And then, when you finally have the "born" and the "made" parts lined up - you also have to have the trigger that causes it all to start rolling (e.g., losing a job, a willing investor, a friend with the skills you need).

Knowing that you "are" an entrepreneur is the easy part - knowing when you have acquired and learned what it takes to succeed is a bit harder.

If you need help figuring it all out, find a mentor (an entrepreneur that has been through this before) to help you get moving ... and enjoy the ride!