A friend of mine asked me to write the forward to his book, The Leap Year Project. He's been kind enough to let me post it here.
There are two kinds of days that make up our lives. Those days of big decisions and change. And the days in between. This book is a story about both of those sort of days, and how to make the most of each.
If you desire to have an average life, you should focus just on the big decisions. Then in between those big decision days, keep your nose clean and do your 9 to 5. That's right. Focus on those big decision moments and the best you can hope for is a mediocre existence. Seems sort of backwards but there you have it.
So how about an above average life? Well, for an above average life, don't sweat the big decisions. Just go with the flow. But, and this is a big but, show up for each day in between like it's the only day you'll ever have. In the end you will end up miles ahead of the "big decision" folks. Why?Probably, it's just math. Because no matter how good you are at making big decisions you'll only have a handful or so your whole life to make. Maybe 5 to 10 big decision days where you get to really shine. Now those "in-between" days are going to be a whole lot more numerous. Statistically, figure you'll get 30,000 of those "in-between" days. Even if you're if you take off weekends, holidays and lots of personal days, you can easily crush 15,000 days. So clearly, the odds are in the favor of the people who show up big every day.
Now, what if you want something even better than an above average life? What if you want to live an extraordinary life? Well, then you'll need to focus on both kinds of days. Those big decision days and each and every "in-between" day.
What you'll see in the pages of this book is the story of a young man doing just that. Victor has made some courageous big decisions but even more impressive than that, is how he showed up each day. In fact, after his time with us, I referred to him as "The Greatest Intern, ever." But his real contribution goes way beyond the work he did with companies like ours and just might have more to do with you. Yeah, you. Because along the way, Victor has uncovered an approach to higher education that might be your first step into an extraordinary life.
For those under the age of 30, it’s hard to imagine there was ever time when there was no Craiglist - a time when selling a car required shelling out money to buy an ad in a local newspaper.
Yet it is likely that most people would not be able to name the “Craig” who changed that part of our world. And we would certainly have no clue that the reason Craigslist has become such a reliable force in our lives is because of the core philosohpy at the heart of the site.
Craig Newmark is clear about that philosophy, though - not just as a recipe for online business dealings, but as the philosophy Craig brings to everything in his life. That philosophy is simple.
Craig expects that people will help each other out, and that they will give each other a break.
In my short conversation with Craig early last year, it was striking how consistently Craig came back to that same point.
What was more striking to me, though, was that Craig walks the talk of that expectation so consistently and with seemingly little effort. Given the cynicism rampant in our society, talking with Craig feels like coming home to something basic and quiet and important. Here are just 3 things that stood out in my conversation with Craig:
The power of expectation
Craigslist is built upon the expectation that people will give each other a break and help each other out. And with rare exception, that is the case. Everyone I know has a Craigslist story about meeting someone cool, about someone going the extra mile. I personally have so many Craigslist stories - stories that started with the sale of a piano and a dog kennel and an old copy machine. Stories that, years later, I still tell over and over. Stories that make me smile every time I tell them.
Our expectations create our actions. And when we act from the expectation that people will give each other a break and help each other out, magic happens.
The power of being the example you want to see
Like many people seeking to create a better world, Craig talks a lot about the need to cross silos and connect with each other. But he doesn’t just talk about it, and he doesn’t just expect others to do the silo-jumping. He quietly makes sure that in every conversation and every email exchange - the mundane “stuff” of life - that he is actively making those connections.
When instead of waiting for others to take action, we “be the future we want to see,” things shift. And again, magic happens.
The power of creating conditions and getting out of the way
Listen to Craig’s voice for just 30 seconds, and you hear the voice of someone who stands reluctantly in the spotlight. That is often the case with people whose life is about connecting; it’s not about them.
Craig talks about creating the space for connection to happen. With Craigslist, he created that space online. But he is quick to note that it is the connection that matters, not the technology. The role of the connector is to make that connection and then get out of the way.
When we create the space for connection to happen - whether that is in a Facebook group or a weekly workshop at your bicycle shop - we are connecting people to their own abilities. And that, too, is when magic happens.
And perhaps there is one more thing - and that is about the power of it not being about you, but about everyone else. And that the more that is true, the more people will love you for it.
The more you show people the goodness and trust you believe they have, the more they will show you that goodness and trust in return. And that holds true in our businesses and our personal lives - and in the mundane act of listing an old bookshelf on Craigslist.
To download or listen to the entire conversation with Craig, click here:
Everyone I know who continues to do what they love has had to say "forget it" to the money at least once. If you do anything long enough you may have to say it more than once. The funny thing about all this is that the people around us keep telling us that it's some sort of sacrifice to put happiness before money. Yet it isn't the people doing what they love that are making the sacrifice. No. Seems to me that the ultimate sacrifice is when you settle for an uninspiring life just because everybody else if doing it.
People's willingness to sacrifice dreams at the alter of money hit me in the face like a wet carp this week.
I had a friend email me to say he might like to work at Made Movement, the marketing agency I helped get going about a year ago that is dedicated to the resurgence in American Manufacturing. He'd read that we'd had an amazingly successful first year and it piqued his interest.
He said he really wanted to get back into advertising to "work with companies hell bent on doing good things."What he was doing now "pays well" but wasn't exiting. I wrote back that I wasn't the person who made decisions around hiring but I'd be happy to make an introduction and vouch for him. And I went on to add that it was doubtful that they could match his big-time salary.
His next email declared that if his salary requirements were a problem then now was not the time for an introduction. It was sort of shocking to me since we never even spoke about any actual figures. Just the idea of less money put him right back into that uninspiring job.
It made my heart ache.
In wonderful contrast is this post from Catie Pavilack was sent to me by her dad. She's a college kid who is clearly questioning the conventional wisdom and in the last line of her post she sums it up nicely, "Deep down we know our passions, it's just whether we choose to ignore them or not."
The collapse and fire in that Cambodian factory last week makes me feel like I'm stuck in some sort of unending loop. Like we're all somehow doomed to play out the same scenario over and over like in the movie Groundhog Day. I mean we're still finding bodies in the Bangladesh factory collapse. And it's not like we had even come to grips with suicides and unsafe conditions in the Foxconn factories that make the iPhone. Before that, weren't we still getting over learning about lead paint in toys from China? Oh, And not long before that we had the tragic news that our running shoes were being made by little kids.
Each time we were assured that this was an anomaly and that it would all be cleaned up so we could go back to feeling good about our $5 t-shirts. Well, after ten years of trying to manage factories that are half a world away, it's safe to say it's not working. Now the big brands are scrambling to come to some policy or accord that can ease our minds. Walmart, Target, GAP, and more are all considering some label that will allow us to stop being such worrywarts and get back to shopping.
So what's the app?
Somewhere between lead-painted toys and the nets being installed under the windows at Foxconn to catch suicidal workers, I started to think about this app. Some way that I could scan to find out if children were put to work to make my pants. Maybe take a picture and make sure that nobody was exploited to make my running shoes. Search to know that some river wasn't treated like an open sewer to make my iPhone case. That a dirty coal power plant didn't rain down mercury into the rivers and ocean and the tuna fish my kids eat. That excessive CO2 wasn't used to ship something around the world three times to produce it.
When I figured out this already existed, and I'd been ignoring it, I felt like a fool.
Made In America. That's the brand that guarantees the stuff we buy is made to the standards in safe and clean manufacturing that we believe in. And actually, you don't need a fancy app. You don't even need to scan anything. Just remember to check the label. Oh, and it has this additional benefit of creating middle class jobs. The kind we need more of right now.
Me and most of my generation was sold on and fully bought into the outsourcing idea. And the campaign to buy American fell on deaf ears. Keep your money in the economy, they said. "How about I buy something cheaper and imported, and I keep the money in my pocket?" I said back. It breaks my heart to realize how wrong we got it. And how far down this road we had to get to realize that making things is bigger than just finding the cheapest labor on the face of the earth.
Many people say it is too late. It's never too late. It's hard to even give this sort of fatalistic whining the justification of a response but here goes: Let me take on the arguments one by one.
1) "American-made stuff is too expensive."
It's certainly true that American-made goods are often more expensive. But in some cases there is actually no difference. That being said, even in cases when it is more expensive, isn't it worth looking a little closer at the real "costs"? I've been on this kick long enough to realize there is a reason that American-made goods are so coveted in other countries. We make solid, long-lasting products. We've gotten used to disposable goods, but if something last three times as long and costs twice as much it's actually a better value. That may not appeal to everybody, but as my friends father used to tell him, "We're too poor to by crap."
Additionally, what are the hidden cost of buying that 5 dollar t-shirt? One hidden cost is that we send more jobs overseas. You might not know anybody that works in manufacturing but maybe you know a barber. Manufacturing jobs that leave take with them the jobs that would have supported that worker. The barber, the insurance salesman, the car dealer, the clerk at the shoe store, etc. You lose half of an additional job for every factory job that goes abroad. That's one and a half jobs. Because of this, bringing those factory jobs back provides a bigger boost to the economy than any other kind of job.
If we forget the quality and the American jobs, we are still left with the question of exploitation. Essentially, how much would you pay to know that the goods you buy were not created in unsafe conditions by workers unfairly compensated? For many, the answer is that we would prefer to pay more. And the dirty truth is that by the time the factories and wages in Bangledesh, Cambodia, and even China are up to our standards it won't be any cheaper to make things abroad. The system only works if people are exploited. The system only works if we accept the idea that as long as it's cheap we really don't care who pays.
Finally, there's the hidden cost to the environment that overseas production creates. There is no environmental oversight and so factories can and do pour toxins straight into the rivers and the air. Pretty soon those pollutants are everybody's problem because they don't stay where they're dumped. Coal power has fouled the air quality in China but it has an effect on all of us. As emissions pour into the atmosphere untreated and unscrubbed it not only carries CO2 that warms our entire planet but it's also the reason you don't want to eat too much fish anymore. Yep, that mercury in fish is predominately from coal and those emissions are predominately from China. It goes up and comes back down as rain into the rivers and oceans where fish can't help but ingest it.
2) "It's a global marketplace and labor shifts to the cheapest place it can be found."
The argument goes on to say that this is good news, too, because America doesn't want to be part of making things anymore. We will think of things and other people will make them. This certainly is the path we've been on and if you can get one of those "thinking up things" jobs then this might work out, at least to a point. I'd be more confident in this plan if America led the world in high school math and science scores. Or really in any scores. But based on our education system and all those people moving into the job world, I think we're going to need some "making" jobs, too.
We can look around right now and see that this plan makes money for the top 1% and it produces McJobs for the rest. Literally. It's now estimated that 1 in 8 Americans has worked at McDonald's.
The wealthiest Americans can certainly survive the shift of all the middle class jobs to other countries so they've been selling this idea hard for a long time. But back here on planet reality, the loss of the making jobs has stripped out the middle class and created an America where the gap between the classes is the largest it's been since 1929. So even if you're rich and you have a great "thinking up" job you would be wise to remember we all rely on the middle class to keep the economy humming. Otherwise, you might find yourself poor overnight and leaping out of a Wall street window.
We can also look at an example of what happens when you DON'T treat labor as a commodity. Germany has protected, and invested in their domestic manufacturing during the same period we embraced NAFTA and shifted manufacturing to the lowest bidder. Today, Germany is the world's second largest exporter behind China with a population less than 1/3 of the US. Providing lots of good "thinking up" jobs as well as good middle class jobs. They've proven that manufacturing has an important and vibrant place in a first world economy.
3) "We've lost the know how."
This argument states we've gone so long down this road we can't go back. This one is hardly worth the time, but it's also easy to just cite some examples. Many consumer goods are no longer made here. But the idea that these are too complicated is silly. The truth is that if you want something really complicated made you make it here. Need a Jet engine or some aerospace components? Chances are you'll be shopping for a manufacturer in the US. With less complicated consumer electronics much of it is made in China. But in 2002, every Apple product was still made here and Google just announced they will be making their Google glasses here. Need an example in the more mundane world of cut and sew? American Apparel should suffice.
My wife is used to my going on about some issue or another, but she's rock solid and hard to rattle. She listened to me but in her heart of hearts she believed that most of the things she bought were made here. Then one day she went into her closet to look through the tags on her clothes just to make double sure. At first she was surprised to find that a lot of the tags she first turned over were from exotic locations. Her money had gone, almost exclusively, to support labor practices and environmental policies that were either lax or non-existent. Angry that this fashion industry she loves and is built on being cute was anything but cute in reality. She wasn't willing to give up on the idea of cuteness without a fight. So she did something completely out of character for this incredibly shy person. She started a style blog dedicated to finding American-made fashion and showing how you can rock it every day. It's called Mrs. American Made and the kids and I have been recruited as photographers. We gripe a bit about it when it's picture time and there's a foot of snow on the ground, but the truth is we are super proud and a year later her closet is proof we can all make a difference.
Top reason to use the Made in America "app"
A. To be patriotic.
B. To rebuild the American economy and create jobs.
C. To keep toxins and pollutants out of our water and air.
D. To guarantee nobody died making my stuff.
E. All of the above.
Oh, and if you absolutley need an app to do anything (you know who you are), try this.
We humans are prone to odd behaviors. But there are few as absurd as flicking cigarette butts onto the ground, right where we live, work and play. What the butt?
Fact is, cigarette butts aren't disposed of properly 65 percent of the time, which makes them the most frequently littered item on the planet. And they hold the title for #1 littered item on our beaches and waterways here in the US.
But the worst part is we've all become so used to this visual stain on our environment that we almost accept it. How did tossing these plastic pieces of litter on the ground become such acceptable behavior?
Working with Legacy and Leave No Trace we set out to ignite a cultural shift. A shift that begins with a new brand for cigarette butts. A brand that's poisonous, invasive and has no business being flicked into our public spaces.
Turns out rebranding butts was as simple as telling the rest of their story. According to Tohmas E. Novotny, aprofessor of global health at San Diego State University, littered butts leach measurable amounts of cadmium, arsenic, lead, nicotine and other toxic chemicals. They’re literally toxic waste.
In fact a single cigarette butt in a liter of water containing minnows is toxic enough to kill half of the fish within 96 hours, according to an experiment Professor Novotny helped conduct. Dead fish don’t lie, they float.
So please share this PSA and help us rebrand cigarette butts as the tiny toxic waste sites that they are. It’s time to rethink butts folks – what they are and where they go. If you don't think it's a problem just dare to look under your feet tomorrow.
- Contributed by Adam Butler & Ronny Northrop
The chairs did it. It makes such perfect sense, but it has been so hard to see. We are all suddenly sitting too much because chairs are everywhere. And it's obviously some sort of chair conspiracy to make us fat.
So, stay safe and have a Coke, but for God's sake don't sit down. Because if you do, that chair you're in will probably magically grow your butt. Chairs have been commonplace since the 1500s so this ability to make us rotund must be a recent development in the chair arsenal. Chairs are so sneaky! For over five hundred years the chair has silently waited for the perfect time to strike. Luring us in with new variations. The couch. The La-Z-boy. The Love-seat. And the dreaded Chair-and-half. We lived in harmony for half of a millenium. No obesity epidemic in site. But the chairs were patient in their plan to make us round.
When our diets became swollen with processed sugars the chairs knew the time was right. They could make us fat and everybody would blame totally innocent things like sugary drinks just because they were contributing the largest portion of calories to the average American diet. It was genius on the part of the chairs. But, unfortunately, for those sinister stools, sofas and thrones, the super-sleuths at Coke sniffed out their diabolical plan and cast the unflinching light of truth on it for all the world to see. This recent Coke documentary is an important piece of film-making that anybody who cares about real answers to health needs to see.
In all seriousness, as I sit here I have a great idea for a chair. Coke should take a seat. Take a seat on the whole obesity issue and let society work it out without the corporate meddling and confusion. They are understanably incapable of having an unbiased opinion so they should stop standing up for the overconsumption of sugar. Dear Coke, sit this one out.
Corporations have an incredible influence on the world we live in, and that's given them free reign to pollute, collude and mislead us, but advances in technology are rapidly making them accountable not just to shareholders, but to everyone. We have constant access to the truth about the products we use and the ethics of the companies behind them, and big brands are realizing that looking great isn't enough. It's time to actually be great. The Naked Brand is a story about how corporations can help save the planet one small step at a time. It's an introduction to a bright new future where companies tell the truth and work hard to create better products and a better planet. That’s how I met Alex Bogusky. As the founder of Common, one of his chief initiatives is to implement a comprehensive sense of corporate transparency. In fact, his team at Common broadcasts their board meetings live online, so their customers can follow their discussions point by point, and hopefully turn complaints and customer suggestions into a conversation. Alex was an inspiration throughout the entire production process, and you can find out more about the film and Alex’s goal at Common by visiting www.thenakedbrand.com.
One of my favorite examples of transparency in The Naked Brand is Patagonia. They’ve taken a completely innovative approach to transparency, and it’s paying off big-time. On their homepage, they advocate their beloved Common Threads Initiative, a campaign that strongly urges consumers to buy less and reuse their clothing, promoting responsible, sustainable business. In addition, they’ve introduced The Footprint Chronicles, which itemizes the production process of every Patagonia item, providing customers with a clear view of their product and the effect its production has on the environment. In 2011 they even ran an ad in the New York Times that said “Don’t Buy This Jacket”, demonstrating their passionate commitment to environmental sustainability.
The Naked Brand emphasizes three benefits of running a sustainable, transparent business like Patagonia. First, it offers an immense benefit to the health of our planet, the one all of us share and love so dearly. Second, it provides customers with a more honest representation of corporate America and thus creates an opportunity to make better products that accurately reflect the customer. Third, and most importantly, sustainable and transparent business is hugely profitable. Consumers today have access to tons of information, and corporations are no exception. Customers cannot be fooled anymore, so it’s time to be great. The best businesses – those that are honest to consumers, responsible for the planet and relentlessly transparent – will be rewarded with happy customers and tons and tons of money. And ultimately, businesses like that will most certainly make the world a much better place.
Jeff Rosenblum, www.thenakedbrand.com follow me on twitter @JRQuestus / www.questus.com