In between my strategic consulting and writing on healthcare, I found myself smack dab in the middle of a lazy Sunday afternoon. I went into our backyard to ‘smell the roses’ and take this pic of Cappy, our 10-month-old Dogue de Bordeaux puppy. (Yes, just like ‘Turner and Hooch‘)
Nearly a 7-year-old dog myself, I’ve trotted around several blocks in my lifetime. Certainly, I haven’t seen all the lessons life has to show me but I’ve had many. Today is a great time for me to sit, wag my tail, and wax philosophically as the thought clouds float up and outside my head.
I remember my childhood. Our 300 lb. television connected to a motorized rooftop antennae. We got five stations—all changed by getting up off the couch and turning the knob. Back then, kids respected parents and teachers, and telling the truth was an expected norm. Dinner meant everyone at the table sharing food, some conversation, and respect for listening to and learning from each other.
The comedians were witty—and didn’t use extreme vulgarity to get us to laugh. Politicians across the aisle would vehemently disagree, but still maintained a healthy respect for each another. A time when you could leave your car door unlocked, handshakes and personal promises meant something, you stuck it out through the tough times, and you recognized that apologizing wasn’t going to make you weak.
Family decisions made autocratically, rather than democratically. Parents didn’t ‘helicopter’ their kids or strive to remain one of their closest ‘besties’. There were winners and losers in a sporting event—and not everyone got trophies. A half of inch of snow didn’t close down school, and a small misstep in an uttered phrase couldn’t cost someone their job.
Is progress always better?
For the last 40+ years, I’ve seen so many great things arrive into American society: increases and vast improvements in technology, efficiency, communication, average standard of living, equality, and the opportunity to succeed.
We moved from long-corded kitchen rotary phones to smartphones, our Ataris for Macs, our cassette tapes for iTunes, our percolators for Starbucks, the Mom & Pops for Walmarts and Home Depots, texting for meeting in person, paper mail for email, and our mall shopping for Amazon.
Faster, bigger, stronger, bolder, smarter, richer…but in so many ways still not better.
Now nearly 50, I see an America with greater opportunity, immense wealth, so many more products and services, exploding technologies, a transformation in corporate business structure, major growth of college education, far more conveniences, significant improvement in cars, and far bigger hospitals.
Yet with so many increases, it is clear that many in society still haven’t learned how to transform themselves. We must get beyond the shortcomings of the emotional, aspirational, and conflicting facets of the human condition. The growing negatives in these areas have come crystal clear as racial, social, economical, political, and financial tensions are at significantly high and growing levels.
My challenge to you
This week, I challenge you to take a good look at many of the interactions that you have with and see in others. Are they honorable? Do they add value? Do people grow and become better because of it?
So many point fingers, seek to find fault, put profits before human suffering, insult those with traditional or progressive values, inject racism and politics into many online comments, emotionally segregate ourselves by political party, name-call, lie, cheat, readily sue, race pimp, race hate, race bait, weaponize political correctness, and subdivide themselves as Americans based on our culture, religion, sexuality, and race.
Many times, we manipulate loophole; speak first, think later; act phony; blame and deflect; run from responsibility; hide from accountability; fear failure and mistakes; ignore the less fortunate; give our attention, respect, and dollars to those who embrace anger and violence; and mock, bully, and shun those who don’t measure up to our financial, intellectual, or physical talents and levels.
For as great as America has become in its accomplishments, I cannot believe that we’ve failed so badly as a society…as human beings. That the last true sign of true patriotism was everyone sticking magnetic American flags and ribbons on their cars for a month after 9/11. Political parties are now at their most polarized levels in perhaps a century.
Do we really believe that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the two best choices to lead our country? Why did they rise to the top? What types of qualities do we see in them that inspire us and our children to be better people?
As I drink further from life’s cup of learning, I feel as though I’ve reached the dregs. Realizing that for humans, the hardest decisions are often those that we cannot find excuses for—when we choose to act poorly in making the wrong decision or to avoid choosing to decide altogether. We do this and its effects are to hold back our own progress, as well as the America we are a part of.
Losing the better part of humanity—the way we treat each other and the actions that come from this—allows our society to ‘steal-it-forward’, robbing our future generations of an America that we should leave better than when we inherited it. What I see is greatness in what we’ve made and earned, but not in who we’ve become as a whole.
Dog day afternoon
I suggest that we take a brief look at the more than 125 million dogs in this country, these 4-legged teachers whose behavior and mannerism we can learn quite a bit from. What attributes do they have, which we can take away and apply to our own lives and interactions with each other?
1. Availability: Dogs are present in good times and bad. They remain loyal and will be by your side when you need them.
2. Great listeners: Like us, dogs have two ears and one mouth—and use them in better proportions than we often do.
3. Non-material: Dogs don’t need expensive, impressive material items to make them happy or feel important. A stick or old tennis ball will often do. They also don’t seek to impress or make friends through material things.
4. Embrace physical fitness: Dogs stretch regularly, enjoy long walks, and playing outside.
5. Fail and forget: Dogs make mistakes, but they don’t feel like failures for very long. Even after being scolded, they don’t take it personally and quickly get on with the enjoyment of their lives.
6. Non-Judgmental: Dogs love their owners and others, despite their looks, personality, job, or financial status. They don’t hold grudges and love us unconditionally.
7. Adaptation: Many dogs who have been adopted came from poor backgrounds. With the right love, care, and training, they often transform into entirely different creatures with different behavior.
This is going to be a great week. We may not be able to fix society’s woes ourselves, but we can make a difference.
Make this week count. Those you love and care about deserve your best. You deserve their best. Society deserves the best from all of us.