Business Ethics in the ’10’s

The following two comments are from a blog on an optimistic view of the future of business. I’m kind of proud of the first one and cringe at one of my sentences in the second:

Thank you, Gill, for another thought-provoking essay. I have enjoyed reading your blog over the past few months, in particular the way that you continually remind that we cannot separate business from human-ness.

Your blog has stirred up something I have been thinking about for the past couple of days that I will try to sum up briefly. I read an article by George Will recently that he wrote in April, condemning the American Public for their love of jeans. At one point in the article he states with displeasure that “Jeans come prewashed and acid-treated to make them look like what they are not — authentic work clothes for horny-handed sons of toil and the soil.”

That statement got me thinking. I used to work construction and in that world there are two very distinct classes of people: those that wear jeans and those that don’t. I realize that “the working man” is an oft-glamourized archetype and that there is nothing romantic about a group generally given to drawing dirty pictures in Sharpie on a Port-o-let wall. However, I do know that when I was laboring every day and earning my money by the sweat of my brow, I didn’t have time to think about how I could leverage the pension fund. The guys that were good at their jobs and had proven by experience that they were experts in their field made the most money. If we were lackadaisical in our work, people could be seriously injured as a result, so we were careful and accountable for the effect our labor had on others. If we didn’t perform to customer’s expectations, we didn’t get paid until we had fixed it at our own expense.

I now work a desk job in the quotations department of a manufacturer. We have a very relaxed company culture and so jeans and t-shirts are the norm from the CEO on down. I’m glad that I still wear my jeans and work boots and pocket knife because they remind me that I am at work. I try to remind myself that just because the physical part of my job is much, much easier, I owe it to my employer and to my customers to work hard at what I do. My jeans remind me that promotions are best earned by achieving excellence and know-how not by politicking. My sweatshirt, full of holes from wearing it while welding, reminds me that if I have to stay late to fix a mistake, that is part of the job and I need to do it to earn my pay.

It is easy in the business world of suits and khakis to forget that work is not meant to be easy and that rewards (and bonuses) are meant to be earned, not expected. I think that the only way to re-establish credibility is for business leaders to actively go against the culture of greed and privilege that has gotten us to this miserable state. They need to hold other leaders accountable, publicly, to higher standards of ethics and to decry ridiculous and exploitative practices like handing millions of dollars to CEO’s who drive their businesses into the ground at the expense of others. They need to remind themselves and their management staff that get-rich-quick schemes are just as much a sham for big business as they are for any consumer. Lastly, they need to emphasize proven excellence and character in their promotion and hiring practices, rewarding those employees that display those attributes ahead of “shooting stars” who talk a good game but don’t really know what they are doing.

Put simply, in whatever industry or position we hold we need to “put our jeans on” and remember that diligence and hard work are virtues to be embraced not troublesome efforts to be avoided as often as possible and that a dollar quickly made is often twice as quickly lost.

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@SKEPTIC – In defense of Pollyanna, she certainly was a happy girl, wasn’t she? To paraphrase C. S. Lewis in The Silver Chair, “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things…Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of your is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one…That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world…we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for [the play world]. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

There is no guarantee that believing in and striving towards a brighter future will make it so. However, waiting for something better to arrive before believing in its existence guarantees a long wait. I would rather speak of the world as it could be in hope that it will become what I envision than to allow cynicism or despair to keep me silent.

@FRANCIS DE CRUZ – While I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments, I am afraid that most stakeholders (specifically shareholders) would say that the thing they want most from a CEO is a high return on their investment. Part of what has set the stage for the recent economic crisis is the heavy participation in the real estate market and the stock market by laymen investors trying to make a quick buck. While banks and investing houses are certainly culpable for their part in underwriting bad loans and other shady dealings, we cannot completely hold ourselves guilt-free. If John and Jane Smith had not decided they were ready to be real estate moguls with no capital to invest and no training, they would not have no loan on which to default.

On Wall Street, the “consumerization” of the stock market via online trading services did wonders for stock values as more and more people became participants in the system. Unfortunately, many of these new investors are people who play the market like a slot machine with money they cannot afford to lose. The result is two-fold: an increase in market fluctuations (as more people participate for the sake of short-term gain) and an increase in emotional response to market fluctuations (since more people have more to lose when prices go down).

I believe that both of these trends are responses to effective marketing campaigns in the form of commercials, TV shows and infomercials that take advantage of our get-rich-without-hard-work culture. Investing gurus tell us that we can make thousands of extra dollars from the comfort of our own homes with no money down, wow! Rather than fault The Media, I say that those of us who believe that honest hard work will result in greater dividends in the long run need to be more vocal and more visible in order to change the culture. I wish I had great ideas as to how this can be done, but I believe that we need to use The Media to create a counter-cultural movement towards the future that we wish to see.

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Anyone for Tea?

I posted this comment as something of a tangent (what?!) to a comment thread on an article about John Edwards and Sarah Palin:

@Mary (Washington State) – I think that there is some differentiation required between the people who are marketing (inciting, fomenting, profiting-from) the Tea Party movement and the people who are drawn to the message. I certainly do not agree with nor support the blindly oppositional rhetoric that the extremist poster children for the TP espouse, just as I do not support the equally unhelpful vitriol from extreme leftist propagandists. What I believe people are responding to is not a desire for anarchy or division, as TN60 proposes, but rather the profound sense that their government leaders care more about the raw exercise of power than about the people they are meant to serve. I think that this is a feeling shared by people on both sides of the political fence and these feelings are cynically used by people in both parties to make money, with the potential side advantage of garnering votes.

What people want is to remove the layer upon layer of insulation that exists between them and their leaders. Congress has become something of a cross between an exclusive private club and an elected noble class. They enjoy healthcare and retirement benefits most Americans can only dream of. They get to vote themselves pay raises! If they ever leave office, most of them have catered to the demands of enough special interest lobbies that they need not fear finding a job with a ridiculously high salary (which they don’t actually need thanks to their sweet pension plan that they gave themselves). Despite the slew of well-turned phrases streaming from the Capitol every day, the only thing most people are certain that Congress accomplishes is padding the wallets of their contributing lobbyists and making things harder for the rest of us.

As the rich get richer and the middle class get poorer (though I think if we are honest with ourselves it is not truly poverty we face but rather an inability to keep up with the lifestyle displayed in glorious color 24/7) the ethnic majority is finally feeling what it is like to be disenfranchised. People who have been raised with nary a care in the world are suddenly having a hard time making their mortgage payment. Middle class conservatives who profited from the Reagan years and had begun to feel like they were insiders to the world of the wealthy with their stock brokers and E*Trade accounts suddenly watched their 401K’s go up in a puff of smoke. The clay feet of the heroes of their corporate pantheon were suddenly and devastatingly shattered, leaving them with no one to worship. People who had supported a party that proclaimed the evils of a welfare state suddenly found themselves needing a helping hand.

What makes the Tea Party folks unique is not their tactics or rhetoric, it is their constituency. For the first time middle class white conservatives are feeling the same way that much of the constituency of the Democrat party has for decades. Let’s be frank, the Democrats have had their fair share of snake oil salesmen selling a bill of goods to people who feel “out of the loop” over the years (this is no means meant as a defense of Republican party ethics, they have simply used other methods to bilk the congregation) and public rallies where charismatic speakers decry the abuses of the empowered elite are not new to our political landscape. What is new is the branch of the populous to whom that message appeals.

If we can set aside our ingrained prejudices, I think we will find that most of us want the same thing: a financially responsible government led by people more concerned with the welfare of the nation than the balance of their bank account.

Executive Greed

From a Forbes.com article on Executive Optimism: (Credit to Gregg Easterbrook, among others, who introduced this idea to me)

Equally perilous will be Executive greed. One very simple way that CEO’s could manage expectations, keep their jobs and make a positive impact to their company’s bottom line is to make their salaries and bonuses directly proportional to the least-paid staff member in their organization. In this way they will benefit only when everyone in the organization feels the effects of positive change in the economy. When CEO’s who fail miserably are rewarded with multiple millions of dollars in bonuses and retention fees it should be no surprise that shareholders and workers are going to expect to see some tangible reward as well.

Forthright Leadership

This next post was in response to the question of whether or not Americans would be able to handle the bare truth of what’s needed to fix our federal debt.

Provide for the common defense. Promote the general welfare. Preserve the blessings of liberty.

Notice that “placate the constituencies” is not on that list. From a leadership standpoint, the role of public servants is to take action and make decisions in the best interest of the common good regardless of the cost in reduced approval rating numbers. When public servants begin to make legislative decisions based on their popularity they corrupt their role by placing the emphasis upon themselves rather than those whose trust they ought to guard.

Being responsible with public money, spending only what we have and making the necessary sacrifices to do so (many of which might adversely affect the services rendered to Congress more so than those rendered to the public anyway) is the only policy that makes sense in the long run. To wring our hands in fear of the response of the masses makes us no less cowardly than the parent who endangers their family’s future by charging up a storm every Christmas in order to make sure the kids don’t have a temper tantrum.

Anyone unwilling to do the right thing for the sake of pandering in order to maintain their position of power is no leader, regardless of their job title.

The Pledge

Occasionally I will take some time to jot down my thoughts in comments to other blogs or news sites.  Since I have this forum as well I figured I may as well copy those writings here to have a repository for the knick knacks that clutter up my attic.  Rather than waste a lot of space with the full posts to which I have replied, I’ll give a brief topic summary and a link to the original.

On the Pledge of Allegiance:

Taking a slight left at Albuquerque, while we’re talking about changing the Pledge of Allegiance why not change some of the other language as well?  Rather than pledging our unswerving loyalty to a flag and a Government, why don’t we pledge our allegiance to one another instead?  Enforcing a pledge of loyalty from its citizenry is a sign of insecurity in any government.  I would rather that Congress, the President and all public servants start their day with a Pledge of Allegiance to the individuals they are honored to serve than my daughter start her day blindly backing an often corrupt State.  I propose the following alternative pledge and encourage anyone required to start their day with their hand over their heart to give it a try:

I pledge commitment to my fellow man who walks with me in the journey of life and to the potential that we might reach, one nation formed of friends with liberty and justice for all.  (So say we all. grin.)
Perhaps our children might then be able to discuss their political views without shouting at each other.  Just a thought.

The Temptation to Quit

“All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance.” – Edward Gibbon (from my iGoogle Quotes of the Day gadget)

It is often said that life is a journey.  This analogy can be extended in a variety of ways depending on your personal philosophy or spiritual world view.  For some the journey is about holding firm to a path of moral rectitude.  For others it is a journey of self discovery where twists and turns are welcome.  There are those for whom there is no path at all, only the placing of one foot before the other.  While the application of the analogy may differ widely, the vast majority of people agree that the purpose of the journey is not to reach a destination, but to move from one place to another, to travel.

In my younger days, I believed that I had a specific destiny, that I had been created for one purpose.  Finding that purpose was a requirement, then, of achieving my potential.  Progress could be measured by my level of certainty that the path I trod was leading in the right direction.  When I reached a crossroads it was up to me to pick the one that would take me closer to my destination and if I chose poorly I would end up having to make up for lost time eventually.  During this period of my life temptation could be defined as those things which distracted me from my goal or that moved me off the path intended for me.  Temptations were forbidden or unexplored avenues that dazzled the eye but led to destruction.

Over the past few years I have come to believe that destiny, if I have one, is something that will find me.  I have a wife and a daughter who need and deserve far more attention than my search for a more ethereal sense of purpose.  I make choices to pursue things that I think will challenge me, like graduate school for instance, but they do not define who I am.  I’ve also found that my choice of traveling companions means much more to me than where I end up going.  Walking a lonely path covered in the rose-colored petals of Destiny was appealing once but I discovered that loneliness is a poor companion and flowers make terrible conversation.  So when I reach a crossroad now I try to look ahead to ensure that those with whom I travel will be able to follow.

These days, the nature of temptation has changed as well.  The danger is not is following a wrong trail but in ceasing to travel, to give up on maturing.  Some days I think the greatest relief I can imagine would be to stop trying.  To just yell at people who irritated me, or to simply impose my will where I see fit.  Mumbling and grumbling to myself about the problems in the world around me instead of speaking up and trying to be part of an active solution.  Perhaps even more insidious is the temptation to zone out, to live for nothing other than the gratification of the immediate moment.

The difference between facing temptation earlier in my life and dealing with it now is a matter of focus.  In the past I would rely on the strength of my conviction that where I was going was right and true and ultimately better for me than the delectable diversions at the end of the various rabbit trails of temptation.  Some times that would work great but other times the goal just seemed too far off, too ethereal and the hunger for something now too great.

Today my focus is much narrower – the feet in front of me and the people near to me.  To shrug off temptation means taking a single step, making a single motion towards a loved one or replacing a “treadmill” activity with a “road race” activity.  Interestingly, as I focus on continuing to move forward I am finding that as a matter of course I am also pursuing a narrower path than before as well.

Finding Resistance

Yesterday I took my second yoga class.  I’ve done yoga stretches as part of warm-up exercises in acting and dance classes for years but I’ve never had a strong desire to take a class in it.  Part of the reason for this is pure laziness.  I’ve been relatively un-limber most of my life and it’s something that I have come to accept.  I don’t do a lot of activities that require flexibility – or if they do I haven’t paid the price for my vise-like hamstrings.  The other reason is that I was raised in a yoga-free environment, my only exposure being caricature images of middle aged women in tie-dyed tops and leg warmers or soft-spoken gentlemen on PBS in uncomfortably tight leotards.  Not exactly the kind of things that make me want to jump in the deep end.

But a few years ago my dad had a triple bypass and I found myself instantly transformed from a relatively young guy in his early thirties who could stand to lose a few pounds to an overweight male approaching middle age with a history of heart disease in his family.  A couple of weeks before my daughter was born I had some blood work done to check my cholesterol levels and they were a little bit high.  Nothing major but a warning sign that without making some changes to my diet and exercising more I could be putting my family at risk.  So when some signs showed up at work announcing a yoga class starting in the new year I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

So there I was in class yesterday and the instructor starts talking about resistance.  As we were contorting our bodies in a fashion that would have made an Inquisitor proud he continued to philosophize: Many people find that doing yoga brings up things, resistances, that they need to breathe into and let go.  Something caught in my chest as I breathed in, imagining the air flowing to my recalcitrant leg muscles, grabbing the tension and flying away.  My body isn’t the only thing that’s too tight.  As the class continued I kept thinking back to quarrels with my wife that were caused because I didn’t want to take advice, I wanted to do something my way.  I breathed into it and let it go.  I thought about the ridiculous feeling of frustration when my daughter cries even though I’d prefer she was calm.  I breathed into it and let it go.  I thought about the friction at home when my personal would-like-to-do list gets overridden by the my-wife-and-daughter-need-me-to-do list.  I breathed and let it fly away.

It wasn’t the episodes of conflict, frustration or anger that I was releasing, it was my need to justify myself in those moments.  I wasn’t holding on to my anger I was holding on to my right to be angry.  My leg muscles have no intrinsic desire to lengthen, soften or change in any way – that motivation and effort has to come from me.  In the same way, my emotional muscles have no inherent impetus to make room for others.  Muscles shrink and stay rigid for two reasons  – lack of use and protection of an injured body part.  Emotional inflexibility exists for the same reasons.  By consciously embracing the practice of relinquishing my right to harbor negative feelings, by purposefully seeking to release when I find resistance, I am giving my heart the opportunity to expand, to soften and to experience love in places that have been dying for it like a cramped quad aching for some oxygen.

One of the Myer-Briggs personality trait pairings is Perceiving v. Judging.  I’ve always thought of myself as a perceiving person, at least according to my test results.  I think back to various times in my life where I’ve been happy to go with the flow.  But feeling that resistance in me has forced me to rethink that conclusion.  I think now that my concept of myself as being free-flowing was really a denial of my preference for putting off unpleasant decisions.  If I could let circumstances eventually wipe out one of the choices then I would have The Universe to blame for the results.  So my challenge to two-fold: to pursue and embrace flexibility both in body and mind and as my ability to move increases to use that openness to take more initiative in tackling things like taxes, chores, career and education.

When conflict becomes an opportunity for education and insight instead of a means for deepening one’s entrenchment then growth, flexibility and inner freedom become possible.

Gee, thanks!

I learned something today from my daughter, or rather from taking care of my daughter.  Rosalie Jayne is a sweet, sweet little 5 week old girl who seems generally very mild mannered and happy to be happy when everything is going smoothly.  However, when she’s got some bad gas or an irritated bum (by the way Irritated Bum is the name of my new emo band [tips hat to Paul and Storm])  she has no problem demonstrating the quality of the work Katie did in developing her lungs in utero.  Most days so far we’ve been able to run through the litany of food, diaper, hold her, rock her, walk her and fairly quickly she will calm right down and be as peaceful and beautiful as only a happy infant can be.  Some days, though, we just haven’t been able to make her feel better no matter what we do and she is absolutely inconsolable for several minutes at a time.  (Note:  I have heard stories from several parents that have helped me to realize just how fortunate we are that her tough spells are still measurable in minutes.)  However long, every time that she cries out it feels like someone is core drilling through my guts and setting off a fire alarm in my skull.

I adore my daughter.  I am thoroughly and rapturously wrapped around every finger on her cute little hands.  But I would be lying to you if I said I never got frustrated with her or hurt or afraid (which leads to the Dark Side) when she wails, especially in those times that we are trying so hard to figure out what is causing her distress so that we can fix it.  When I reflect on the moments of frustration or fear I see clearly the they are rooted, as you might expect, in selfishness and helplessness.  I try to use those moments to fuel my commitment to growing in those areas, consciously letting go of my daily agenda for the sake of what my family needs and acknowledging that having a baby that cries is not a sign of failure as a parent or as a man.  This morning, though, I finally realized why I would feel offended or hurt – feelings that surprised me when they surfaced.

Gratitude.  My daughter is incapable of actively showing gratitude.  She cannot acknowledge our efforts to comfort her and care for her, she has know means of understanding that we are trying our best.  All I wanted during that crying spell was to know that she was grateful for all that we do for her, all that we happily sacrifice for her.  I know it will be some time before she develops enough to be able to say thanks and I know that this is an opportunity for me to improve my ability to love by removing the condition of gratitude.  But I also see now how important it is to express my thanks to the people in my life who show me love, or compassion or generosity.  I want them to know that their actions are thoroughly appreciated, that their efforts on my behalf were successful.  I want them to reap the full measure of joy they deserve in giving to me (or to anyone).

If you know someone who loves without the expectation even of thanks, honor them and marvel at the perfection of their love.

Avatar Critique & Review

This is my first post of what I expect to be many under this category.  Having performed as a musician, actor, voice actor and stand-up comedian for many years in addition to my time spent behind the scenes I find that I cannot help but watch, read or listen without analyzing the craft behind the art.  I am the kind of person whose enjoyment of a novel decreases with every typo and grammatical error.  Continuity errors drive me insane.  Yet I often will still be moved regardless of these flaws, in fact sometimes they are the best part.  I find this more true in music and static visual art like painting and photography, where an “un-manicured” appearance or sound often conveys more clearly the passion of the artist.  Media like books and film require a more refined or graceful approach to their storytelling to avoid becoming incomprehensible.  Because these media reach my heart through my mind, if my intellect is frustrated it interferes with the reception in my gut, if you will.

Because I am so critically oriented I have had to learn to separate what are often two very different reactions within myself when I encounter art.  The first reaction is the Critique, my reasoned analysis of the execution of the artist.  In a Critique I often focus on what appears to have been done poorly or well, what could have been done better and how effectively the artist has achieved their apparent intent.  Once I have explored these questions I am then able to set my intellect aside and examine how the piece made me feel.  This is what I think of as a Review because it is on the basis of these feelings that I will recommend the film to others or not.  I realize that my intellect informs my feelings more than vice versa but I would still prefer to be moved by art than to be simply impressed with it.  In the Review section I will focus on my responses to the characters and my sense of connection to them and to the story they tell.

I am beginning this category with the film Avatar because I just went to see it this afternoon with my wife on our first date since having the baby.  Much thanks to my mother-in-law for making that possible!  Now, all ado aside, here we go!

Critique:

This is the third film that I have seen in a theater since discovering that I need glasses earlier this year.  The first two, Star Trek and District 9, were much better experiences thanks to the assisted vision – a fact that I checked several times throughout each movie by lowering my glasses to see if I noticed a difference.  The difficulty with Avatar is that the 3D glasses were incredibly uncomfortable on their own (my wife left with a bad headache) and only made more so by my regular lenses.  In addition, I assume due to the anti-glare coating on my lenses, if I tilted my head even slightly the edges of the images became blurred in the annoying way that 3D films always have (and apparently always will).  Going in I was really looking forward to seeing the 3D breakthrough that had received so much hype.  To be sure the image as more fully 3D than any I had previously seen but every time the image jagged I was jarred out of the world of the film and back into the world of watching a film.   In addition to these distractions there were very, very few scenes where I felt that the story was better told in 3D.  Perhaps that is unfair because I don’t have a 2D version for comparison but the fact remains that the 3D images did not help me feel like I had stepped through the fourth wall except during the shots filmed in a first person perspective.  I believe I would have preferred to see a seamless 2D film rather than an occasionally jarring 3D film no matter how richly rendered.

And Avatar was rendered richly indeed.  It is by far the most impressive piece of animation I have ever seen.  The detail level in the animation was simply stunning and clearly everyone who worked on the CGI for this film earned their paycheck and then some.  However, the clearly CGI work was so prevalent that I would go so far as to say that this is an animated feature rather than a live action film almost like a reverse Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The live action characters, when entering the Na’vi world become more animated in their appearance, much like the characters in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I don’t mind the juxtaposition and it was very beautifully done, but it detracted from the impact of the story in a way that I will detail more in the Review portion.

I have always preferred the Star Wars style of special effects when it comes to creatures, droids and the like.  There is a look, a feel to an actor in a costume that no computer can truly mimic.  When the set and props and persons in a scene exist in physical reality they create an immediacy that animation has not yet been able to reproduce.  There is a sense that these events could somehow happen to me, were the circumstances in time a space just right.  When a scene looks animated, it negates that illusion because some part of me knows that I cannot inhabit that world.  As a result the characters and actions become other, more remote and less effective.  In stark contrast to the rest of the film, my single favorite shot is when Jake is holding Neytiri’s face near the end.  It is obvious that they used a real, physical model for the face and the results are astounding.  I really, really, really wish that the Na’vi had been live actors even at the cost of some of the visual gymnastics because I believe that the film would have had much more impact.  For example, had District 9 gone the full CGI route it would have fallen flat on its face.  It is the immediacy of the action, the physical truth of what Wikus endures that both pulls the audience into the story and creates the connection that allows for instruction.  More on that part in the Review.  Sadly, I believe this film will make so much money that the art of latex masks and model making may be lost in the swirling depths of indie horror as the games of one-upmanship begin.

The last portion of the film I would like to critique is the writing, specifically the dialog.  I think the shot selection and scene changes were very well written and as part of the visual presentation of the film this is no surprise to me.  When I left the movie, though, there is only one line that actually stands out: “You’re not the only one with a gun, bitch.”  Is this really what James Cameron wants his audience to leave with?  Is this the “famous line” that will get quoted ad nauseum?  This line is as cliché and predictable as the rest of the dialog.  I felt like I knew what each character was going to say at any given moment, at least in general terms.  It is as though all of the characters are avatars – archetypes being channeled, in and of themselves, unoriginal.  There is no nuance to the dialog and therefore no nuance to the characters.  Because the stereotypes are so strictly adhered to there is no surprise as the plot develops irrevocably to its very predictable conclusion.

That’s all for now, I’ll write the Review soon.

I’m Not Fat, I’m Just…

…allergic to everything except Doritos and Mountain Dew.

…King Size.

…really fat looking.

…full of marshmallow goodness.

…fatter than you.  Go eat a sandwich you skinny bastard.

…dating your sister.

…suffering from “puffy bone disease”.

…really good at denial.

…getting ready for a growth spurt.

For the past few years I have been jotting down random t-shirt design ideas with the thought of some day turning those ideas into a business.  I have a few different series rolling around in my head, the above being one of my favorites.  The last one above was inspired by my 4 week old daughter, whom I have already seen go through a major increase in feeding followed by a noticeable change in size.  In the past couple of days she has started this process again (thank God I am not one of my wife’s nipples!) and watching her has given me some food for thought.

All growth requires massive amounts of energy.  As I watch my daughter I realize that if I am to grow then I need to make sure that I am feeding richly and drinking deeply as well.  I need to take some time to consider what I am taking in and there is no time like the present.  I have an appointment this week with a nutritionist to go over how I can lower my cholesterol, which is a bit high.  While I am considering how to cut the fat out of my diet, I am also challenged to take a close look at what I am reading and watching as well.

So I am going to try to make some intellectual strides this year as well as emotional.  This will be the year that I finally read the non-fiction I have collected instead of re-reading my favorite novels.  I will spend less time watching TV and more time engaging in debate online.  If I am going to grow up, I need nourishment.  I need more than the same old diet of overcooked ideas that are nothing but mush.  It’s time that I developed my intellectual teeth and paused to consider that I might do better than to settle for merely being entertained.