Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Choose to Work

Posted: June 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

Remarks made at Fast Trac Graduation at Midlands Technical College 6/23/2018

It’s a pleasure to be here with you and an honor to speak to you today. I’m sorry I can’t stay for the entire event, I promised my daughter we’d work on her diving and flip turns today.

Choosing to be with her is an important part of my entrepreneurial journey.

When we first moved here from the Upstate in 2012 I had about a half dozen interviews for real jobs. All of which would require I put HB back in daycare. After a summer with her — the longest stretch since maternity leave — I decided I didn’t want to go back to 8 to 5. I chose something else. I chose freelancing. I started Clemson Road Consulting.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So I thought I’d talk today about choice.

Each of you is a capable, educated person. Your talents make you unique. You have something special to offer the world and the world needs what you have to offer.

And you choose to give it. Not just give it, sell it. Recognize the value of what you are doing and demand the rewards for it. And that takes guts.

Being in business is a choice. And it’s not just a single get-out-from-behind-the-cubicle choice, it’s a daily choice. Sometimes it’s an hourly choice. Sometimes it’s a moment-to-moment choice.

Let me give you an example. Yesterday, I met with someone who is a serial entrepreneur, an investor, and a leader. Given the choice of what we could talk about, I shared my vision for where I want to take my company.

He wants to hire me to do some work for him. That would be great. As long as he understands my company comes first.

In the moment, when he’s trying to offer me some kind of stable employment, maybe benefits, maybe advancement, maybe the chance to work on something big, I start talking about being the Biggest Woman-Owned Consultancy in South Carolina.

Ten million dollars a year with fewer than 40 people.

My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that has nothing to do with him. I made a choice, in the moment, to be THAT version of me: Ambitious.

In corporate America, people described me as ambitious with a sneer. With a raised eyebrow. As if they were wondering what I might be capable of doing to get what I wanted. I was told Ambition wasn’t my most flattering trait. Understandably, really, your boss doesn’t want you to take her job, your teammates don’t want you to throw them under the bus, your company doesn’t want you to jump ship for a better offer. Ambition is all those things and more: it’s achievement and results and accountability and drive.

One of my students had the word Ambition tattooed down the inside of his arm in this black script that was so compelling, every time I met with him I just stared at it. I wondered what a hiring manager, an executive, or a client, would think of a woman with AMBITION written so boldly across herself.

The Ambitious version of me has Big Hairy Audacious Goals. The Ambitious version of me doesn’t want to work for someone else and be told where to be, when to be there, what work to do, and when to do it. The Ambitious version of me thinks she can do anything and be anything she wants to be.

As long as she’s willing to work.

And that’s the choice I have to make every day. It’s not enough to say I want it, to plan how to get it, or to tell others that’s what I’m planning. I have to everyday work toward it. I have to everyday work on it. I have to everyday know that’s the engine I’m cranking up.

Early on in my business, the contracts came easy. They were part of my network, people who knew me and needed what I had to offer. I worked four or five hours a day.

When that business dried up and there was no pipeline, I sat on my hands and wondered, “what do I do now?”

That’s when the hustle truly begins. When there’s no work, no clients, no prospects, and no guarantee this experiment you’re running is going to work out.

One of the earliest lessons I learned as a writer was that you just have to put something down on paper. Something. Anything. Get it started or it will never get done. There’s no such thing as waiting for inspiration for a professional writer. You’ll starve.

I hate routines. I don’t even have a shower routine. I work on checklists. Hair, shave, body wash. Check, check, check. So long as everything gets done, it doesn’t matter the order. I work that way, too. I begin each day with a list of my Have to Dos. I don’t stop working until the list is complete. With one exception.

I write best first thing in the morning. When I first wake up. So I have to make that MY writing time if I plan to generate anything at all. I have to put blinders on to everything else — email, phone calls, family — I have to decline meetings scheduled during that time, I have to protect my routine.

I have to write.

Every day.

In your businesses you’ll be offered the choice to do the stuff you love to do — make your art! And do the stuff you hate to do — network, sell, finances. Making your choices every day about how you will spend your time is your primary challenge.

Too much art time and you have too much inventory with no one to sell it to. Too much marketing time and you’re generating demand you cannot keep up with (great problem to have right?). Too much procrastination time and nothing gets done and your business does not grow.

I recommend categorizing your work. Make sure you’re doing something in every category every day. Quantify the work so you can articulate the effort. Otherwise you’ll find whole days — weeks even — go by and you were working but not making any progress. How does that happen? Trust me, it happens.

The choice of whether your business will wither or thrive is yours. It comes down to how you spend your time. Think of your business as a garden. Sometimes you’re planting, sometimes you’re grooming, sometimes you’re watering, sometimes you’re weeding. Sometimes you’re sitting back and admiring the flowers. Gardening work is determined by daylight and rain, things that are out of your control. Your business will be affected by things like that, too.

Disruption in your industry. Technical difficulties. A customer’s failure to pay.

People will hijack your time. They will try to make their emergency yours. For example, at the Women’s Business Center we were offered some scholarships to an event — free tickets — and asked to give them to our constituents. Within 24 hours the event person called me wanting to know who those tickets had gone to. 24 hours later he called again. Dude. Your emergency, not mine.

Fun stuff can do the same thing. I love a good happy hour. I love to play golf. I get invited to either and I’m’a say yes. Then I look at my categories and say, “Which category does this fill?” If it’s not part of my “work” then I decline. I need to protect my time. It’s my inventory.

Forces outside of your control will push against the delicate balance you have, the routine you’ve established. Still, you have a choice.

Do the work or don’t do the work. There is no in between. In between and you’re a hobbyist. Nothing wrong with hobbyists. They don’t make much money, but they’re satisfied.

If you can’t afford to be a hobbyist, then you have to choose to work.

I made the choice to be a hobbyist in fiction writing. I wrote when I wanted, I submitted when I thought about it.

Yes, it’s more fulfilling to be working for yourself. It’s also more demanding, more disappointing, and more demeaning. You have to do things you never thought you’d do like accounting and budgeting. And when you don’t know how to do those things, you have to get help.

You chose Fast Trac to jump start, invigorate, or set-right your business. You chose to work on your business instead of in it. You’ve been given the tools here to make more good choices about how you spend your time.

Everyday you make that choice. Every hour, every minute, you’re choosing to be an entrepreneur. Even when it’s scary and not fun and hard and not well-defined. It’s a seven-day-a-week, 14-hours-a-day job. Time is your inventory; choose to spend it wisely.

Congratulations on finishing Fast Trac. I hope we’ll see you around the Women’s Business Center of SC.

 

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It started when someone hijacked a hashtag.

The trending topic was a kid named #AlfieEvans and he’d just died in the UK because doctors had advised no more treatment for a terminal case. Despite the lengths to which Italian doctors and the Italian government were willing to go to admit this small child to further treatment, the UK health system found in the doctors’ favor.

It’s an imperfect system meant to protect children from desperate parental attempts by recognizing the rational and informed decision making of doctors.

I can see both sides, honestly, and my heart just breaks for everyone involved. The key points I made on SwampFox Radio, my friend Shane’s Saturday night program on 100.7 The Point, were:

  • The doctors are not trying to kill the child. Their medical opinion was asked for, given, and upheld in a system that values professional opinion over parental rights.
  • The child was too young to advocate for himself, but what about children who might? Like pre-teen girls? Shouldn’t they be protected from the irrationality of their parents and protected by the medical establishment?

The hashtag hijack came from this article on Vox.com and the quoted tweet by Joe Walsh, an American politician and gun advocate.

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What I said, after introducing the tweet to the SwampFox team was, “Can you explain to me what this means? How is the intervention of the UK medical establishment in this kid’s case an argument for assault rifles?”

My Swampfox friend Shane said, “This is a hostage situation.”

And his co-host said, “If they had my kid in that hospital and wouldn’t let him leave for treatment in Italy…”

And I said, “You’d storm the hospital with an assault weapon and spray bullets taking down innocent bystanders, patients, families, nurses, and doctors in a Hollywood-style rescue attempt?”

Shane then said that the threat of such action – that it should be possible to do so – would deter the state from making these kinds of judgements.

So, if I had the means to overthrow my state, in this case, an AR-15, then the state would be less likely to exercise control?

The argument being made by Joe Walsh and gun advocates is that, yes, possession of an assault weapon would give individual citizens more authority – power – to prevent the kind of state intervention that sentenced poor #AlfieEvans to death.

Fucking stupid.

I’m not a gun person. I don’t understand why you want them, I don’t think you actually need them, and I think there are better things to spend your time and money on.

I don’t buy the argument that if citizens were armed, they would exert authority in places where they are legislated into submission. I don’t think Alfie Evans’ parents could have brought their weapon to the hospital and done anything but exacerbate the situation.

In truth, I don’t know the extent of physical stand-off in this case, I didn’t follow it that closely. I won’t dispute the term “hostage situation” because when a child is being held against his parents’ will, it falls in the definition of hostage.

But making this a gun rights conversation is hijacking the debate. Joe Walsh took the #AlfieEvans hashtag because it was trending and made a ridiculous claim with it.

I’m not a gun person but I’m not in favor of legislating them out of your life either. This is where the debate goes, inevitably, when I say Joe Walsh was wrong. My SwampFox Radio friends think I must be part of the binary debate surrounding guns: ban them or not.

I don’t understand why people keep iguanas and snakes as pets. But I don’t think they need to be banned. I wouldn’t want one. I wouldn’t want my daughter to have one or date someone who did. I think there’s a certain kind of person who keeps snakes indoors and I’m skeptical of those people.

Like I’m skeptical of polygamists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I didn’t say “ban AR-15s” I said, that tweet doesn’t belong in this debate. Guns are a debate for another time. This debate was about healthcare and the rights of the child versus the parents and who makes the decision in a case where the child is unable to decide for himself.

In the UK. Remember? In the UK this happened.

What I said was, the hospital and the doctors were not acting with malicious intent. They truly thought they were doing what was best for the child. This is not a case of kidnapping with intent to murder. This case is about compassion. And guns have no place in it.

I am not a gun person, but I am a Libertarian and I did enjoy visiting with my SwampFox Radio friends. I hope we’ll get a chance to take up the debate over guns another time.

Sillouette and Other Faceplants

Posted: January 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

Mistakes are like celebrity deaths. They often come in threes.

In what turned out to be a ridiculous failure, I competed in a spelling bee for charity recently. My teammates are good friends, their daughter and I were at Clemson together and we see them frequently during football season. We have another common friend who runs a children’s theatre in town. He asked them to field a team for the fundraising event and they invited me to be on it.

Back in fourth grade when we got to pick our own spelling words, I was reading a book on spy planes and I chose “reconnaissance” as one of mine. I failed that test several times. While driving around town on the day of the Bee, I thought about that word and how it had auto-corrected itself in my life ever since I was nine.

First word of the Spelling Bee? Reconnaissance.

Not fucking making that up. The.First.Damn.Word.

What are the odds?

As with so many things that turn out to be mistakes, this was a harbinger – a sign of things to come.

After missing that word, we got the second word right and the third word, silhouette, was what brought us down. The actual spelling is ‘silhouette’ (gotta love autocorrect) but the version we used is in the title of this blog.

Okay, so was the mistake the second misspelled word? The first? Or participating in the first place? Hard to pinpoint. Suffice it to say the night gets lumped in the “mistake” pile.

A couple of years ago, I read Whitney Johnson’s career-making book Disrupt Yourself in which she has readers do an exercise listing their professional faceplants. It’s meant to allow you to gain perspective on them, identify what you learned, and put the incidents behind you.

Or something.

What it did for me was make me aware of mistakes as they are happening in a desperate, sometimes futile attempt to diffuse them.

In the Spelling Bee, when offered the chance to buy back in for $50, I advised our team to just sit down. The buy-back was not a good investment, really, even if it was for charity. The Gods had sent us reconnaissance, so we’d likely be playing against the other 10 teams and some meddlesome celestial beings.

Another time when I’m sure the Gods had it in for me: caught in conversation at an Oscars party with the one woman who loved, absolutely loved, all three Fifty Shades of Grey books.

(face palm)

Professional faceplants are tough. They’re usually the result of exuberance, inexperience, or arrogance.

Here’s a quick list of some of those favorites, too: sending a great workshop proposal on writing GenX characters to a fantasy fiction conference; believing a potential client’s moron marketing person’s claim that my writing sample had grammar errors (tail tucked, deal rejected); knowing a full-time professor gig at the school I’d adjuncted for was mine (I was the perfect fit) only to see the job re-advertised after I’d interviewed (what the ever-loving fuck? Not a better candidate, just not me. Awesome).

Doing the Whitney Johnson exercise had me flipping the page over to add more. I was racking them up. I think I counted two dozen or-so times I’d simply been an idiot.

And what’s awesome about that is, now I’m an entrepreneur and I’m kind of expected to be an idiot about all kinds of things. I usually just admit, “I don’t know anything about that,” and someone offers to teach me. Brilliant!

So maybe I finally found the right place for my stumbling and bumbling and doubling-down on the wrong things.

I’m not risk averse which means I make mistakes. A lot of them, as it turns out. And what’s beautiful about that is that I’m also really, really good at recovering from them. That’s a skill that no degree program in the world can teach.

Last month I attended two literary festivals. This month, armed with the arrogance those festivals bestowed upon me, I took on #NaNoWriMo. Again.

I’d started this short story back in the spring about a kid who goes back to Neverland after having been on the loose in London. He’s grown up some, maybe he’s a teenager now, and the Lost Boys don’t recognize him. Peter doesn’t want him to stay. There’s some mystery around how he left in the first place. At the end of the story, Peter ejects (rejects?) Noah again.

The story had about 6000 words. I’d added a kind young candy striper at the hospital where Noah ended up. I’d let him drag his favorite Lost Boy, Hickory, out of Neverland with him. And I’d decided they had to accompany the Mulligan family to Boston and fall in with the Sons of Liberty. Call it the Hamilton (the musical) influence.

I like the dichotomy of Sons of Liberty and Lost Boys. It’s a theme that I thought I could get a lot of mileage from. I also like the possibility that the seditious writings published by John Gill and John Adams ahead of the Boston Tea Party might be satires — Neverland stories that paint Peter Pan as a tyrant, draw parallels to King George, and are being used by the author in one way and the published in a very different way.

The frenzy of #NaNoWriMo means that I have written dozens of scenes which will never make the final manuscript. I’ve been exploring the characters and their relationships and trying to see exactly how to grow my Lost Boy with experience on the streets of London into a ruffian revolutionary eventually called Hercules. There’s also a ton of research I need to do to get the names, dates, and intersections right. But the story is humming.

I’ve been working these great vignettes in that are Neverland legends about the moon and death and all the other ways the Lost Boys might have explained the world around them to one another. The legends are so whimsical and fresh that they’re currently my favorite parts of the book.

And, of course, there’s a love story. Our mysterious candy striper is Samuel Adams’s ward, a refugee from Neverland, and the key to helping Noah become the man he’s meant to be. That’s got a book jacket or query letter trio to it, doesn’t it?

The best part of #NaNoWriMo is that it’s a gluttony of creation. Just put NEW STUFF on the page. It’s invigorating and frustrating and exciting and daunting all at once. Kind of like taking on Neverland.

More on the Literary Festivals here and here.

I have been known to confess my aversion to group work. In undergrad, I intentionally registered for more credits than I needed so that I could drop the two worst courses as determined by 1) attendance policy and 2) group project.

Throughout my career, I’ve maintained three tenants about group work:

Know your AORs

Areas of Responsibility, or AORs, should be the first thing defined in any group or team work experience. When people know what’s expected of them, then they can determine whether or not they can expect it of themselves.

Help your team identify who does what. Make that the very first thing you do. Keep a clear list and verify the list with everyone.

Work the Milestones

All projects have deadlines or a date for expected completion. The deadline could be totally arbitrary. In undergrad, it usually coincided with some kind of break so the professor had time to grade all the assignments. In implementation projects, the deadline is “Go Live” or the day the end users expect to be using the new application.

Working backward from a deadline enables planners to identify the volume of work. My favorite running app Run Trainer does this. It asks for the date and distance of the race you plan to run then it builds the workouts back to where you are today so that you can prepare.

Working the milestones means checking in at turning points during a project. Don’t wait for Go Live to recognize problems. At various points, ask where the work is and whether it can still be completed on time. If you’re three weeks out from a 13-mile race and you’ve only ever run 8 miles, you’re not likely to be ready.

Manage Yourself

You cannot manage time. Time is the same for everyone. 60 minutes. 24 hours. 7 days. 12 months. Time is a standard we all experience.

Managing yourself means making the right choices about how you spend that time.

I like to front-load: get as much done early in the week, early in the day, early in the month as possible. That way I have cushion if shit hits the fan and delays occur. Waiting until Thursday to work on a project due Friday will backfire 99% of the time. Thursday will get hijacked by some unforeseen circumstance like a sick kid, a broken printer, or a car that refuses to start.

You cannot plan for chaos. But you can manage yourself through it.

There is a generational argument to be made here, I think. With two decades-worth of collaborative, experiential learning, the Millennials and current college students are much more likely to feel comfortable with team projects and group work. GenXers tend toward my skepticism. We know from experience that if others can do what I can do then I can be replaced. So, we are more furtive in offering assistance and more protective of our domains.

I’m trying to let that go. I’m trying to Be Like the Chefs and share what I know and do with as many people as possible knowing they can’t do it as well as me and so eventually they’ll hire me to do it with them or for them.

I’m also becoming more assertive, emboldened by the knowledge that if I don’t lead, no one else will. Or, worse, someone else will try to lead and fuck it all up. With confidence in my experience and abilities, I take the initiative and invite others to participate. I’m at a turning point in my career and it’s scary as hell but I believe the other side will be rewarding. Maybe some teammates will surprise me with their proficiency and intellect. Maybe I’ll learn new ideas from their various perspectives. Maybe I’ll come out on the other side even better than I went it.

What’s with the ‘maybe’? Of course that will happen. Of course I’ll grow and learn and change and a willingness to change has been my governing principle for ever.

So let’s do this. Let’s group work the shit out of this. Whatever it is. Let’s collaborate and participate and congratulate and all the other –ates. I’m in. Let’s just make sure it doesn’t suck.

Crossfit. Beast mode. Warrior Series. Mud Runs. Iron Man triathlons.

We’re a generation of Pain is Glory. Of pushing limits, many of which are totally arbitrary. Just about everyone I know has run some kind of road race. Many of my friends are multi-time ½ and full marathoners.

Our X Games legacy. Our desire to prove ourselves. Our escape from the cubicle of life.

It’s inspiring, really, to think so many of my contemporaries aren’t afraid of the hard work it takes to bike 100 miles or run 26. I feel gratified that somewhere out there some group of adrenaline junkies is sitting around thinking up the next great challenge.

American Ninja Warrior. Yesssssssss.

When I present my work models – the autonomous, asynchronous, results-oriented approach I think is the next evolution of the time card – I’m often rebuffed by traditionalists who claim the structure we have – the Industrial Standard – is so deeply imbedded that we cannot break free.

It’s just too hard to imagine change.

Too hard.

My father told me to disassemble the hourly-based work environment would “open a whole can of worms.”

Fucking open it.

We have significant problems in this country. Immigration, security, education, healthcare, and the widening gap between rich and poor. Add to that systemic racism, homophobia, fear disguised as nationalism and misogyny and we’re a hot mess around here.

We need to rethink just about everything.

Siri? What does it mean when everything is wacky and we need help?

Here are the results I found for ‘everything is wacky…’

Hard work. We need to put in some hard work. Some 25 reps of 90 lb squats kind of hard work. Some run until your legs are numb and then run five more miles hard work.

So why don’t we? Why do we keep looking for the cheap and easy solution to these deep and complex problems? Why do we keep pacifying and placating when we should be dissecting and solving?

Our generation (Xers, I mean you) has never had it “easy.” We grew up fearing nuclear war and drugs (Just say no!). We grunge-era’d our way through our own addictions, depression, and suicides. We graduated college into a recession. We’ve sat behind Baby Boomer managers for our entire careers, waiting for them to give up and go home.

Some of us are entrepreneurs. Some of us are scrappy and hungry. Some of us are still playing by someone else’s rules.

It’s our time. We cannot shirk this responsibility, we cannot wait for the millennials to pick up the slack. For fuck’s sake, they want a Universal Wage. WTH? (side note, don’t label them, cuz ya know, they’re all special.)

We have to recreate what balanced looks like. We need hard questions and complex answers. We have to Do or Do Not. There is no Try.

Come on, folks. We’re not afraid of hard work. Let’s get out there and get the job done.

Young, Scrappy, & Hungry

Posted: June 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

Sometimes I wish my handwriting, my voice, or my laughter could precede me into a room. These are the stylistic traits of myself with which I am the most free. I will gladly pen something, speak up, or let loose a chortle without second-guessing myself.

My wardrobe is a different story.

Recently I’ve taken to wearing what I call my “writer gear” to 1 Million Cups, a business networking event I co-organize every Wednesday.

Writer gear consists of my U2 concert t-shirt and a slim skirt. My Hamilton “Young, Scrappy, and Hungry” t-shirt and a jean skirt. My First Amendment shirt and a pair of denim capris. I wrap my bracelets up my wrist, put rings in every earlobe hole (5 total), and wear my Chuck Taylors without socks. My Achilles’ tendon tattoo is on full display.

This is me and I want to be ME in all things.

Professionally, I wear dresses or slacks, high heels, and sleeveless shirts. These are me as well. They’re client-facing me, not quite interview-ready me, but a step up from business casual and two steps away from Hamilton tees.

When looking professional and being myself are not the same thing, I am deeply uncomfortable. I feel like I’m pretending to be something I’m not. I worry that my credibility isn’t really showing. That my costume is doing the work my voice ought to be doing.

A 1 Million Cups co-organizer said to me today, “You don’t have to prove you’re smart. The minute you start speaking, it’s undeniable.”

So, if I show my tattoos and wear concert t-shirts, and let my Jeep hair and piercings – the style I dig – represent me, do I have to work harder when I speak to get past that first impression?

Or does my “smart” voice fit my writer persona?

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How much am I sacrificing if I decide to be me instead of conforming to the business norms?

The older I get the less inclined I am to accept “norms” of any kind. Just because it’s never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There’s a rebel in me that’s hitting pay dirt. I let others influence a good bit of my career. Now it’s my turn to lead.

I’m reluctant to don the costume, the cape and mask. I’m reluctant to perpetuate the myth of “business” in the traditional, industrial sense. Rather, I feel revolutionary in a creative and energetic way. I feel like I’m making something new over here and it’s worth paying attention to, dammit.

I am unwilling to wrap what I do and believe in the words someone else would say or in the costume someone else would like to see.

These are my words and I believe them even if others aren’t convinced. Even if others think I’m opening a can of worms. Even if others think people might listen more to me if I were wearing a suit. I know people who say others might be more willing to listen if I were working under a major university’s label or if I looked more like Sheryl Sandberg or Sallie Krawcheck.

I’ll just keep writing and speaking and pushing what I know to be true into the universe. Let my words precede me into the room and my wardrobe simply round out the vision of Revolutionary.

 

I learned a new term this weekend. It’s the term being applied to the enemy. It’s the nom de guerre for those asshats who plan to sell us down the river and ruin our nation.

Globalists.

Apparently, Globalists are more interested in raising up the poor, impoverished nations of the world than they are in providing for our citizens here in America. Apparently, the only way to do that is to shift our resources – primarily financial – to those countries. Apparently, the Globalists think it’s okay to put us at a disadvantage in order to provide advantages to those countries who can’t help themselves.

Assholes.

Except, in our nation we have resources going to waste because citizens won’t use them, don’t know about them, or can’t qualify to receive them.

And, in our nation we have an embarrassment of riches like clean running water, public education, roads and law enforcement, and waste disposal. We have infrastructure and we are way ahead of a lot of other nations.

When those evil “Globalists” talk about diverting our resources to raise up second- and third-world nations, are they considering that providing a Chik-Fil-A and a Starbucks may not be the best place to start?

I have a friend who worked for a year in Liberia building the legal infrastructure to prosecute sex crimes. Legal infrastructure. That’s a good place to start.

I have another friend who sat as the US representative to the World Bank in Southeast Asia. Financial resources for nations like Cambodia including entrepreneur loans, roads, and healthcare services. That’s a good place to start.

There are three ways to civilize the world: 1) export everything that’s good about America like MTV, Nikes, and Zest body wash and let the free market do its work; 2) develop strategies that work through a global governing body to protect human rights and educate citizenry and let bureaucracy do its work; and 3) wait for time to elapse and let Darwinism do its work.

We tried mass exportation. I remember being in Ukraine in 1997 and the only splashes of color were Marlboro and Coca-Cola signs. A Chik-Fil-A might prevent suicide bombers from walking into a Middle Eastern market but we can’t say with any certainty that “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich” translates to Farsi.

The United Nations, funded by the US, has worked to implement secular strategies that will address infrastructure and try to establish rule of law. But the UN is rife with corruption and nations like Ghana have been razed by sanctioned bullying. Aid organizations frequently evangelize religion in return for meeting basic needs. These are unprecedented times. We do not know the extent to which strategies and cooperation will suffice. Never before have we attempted to civilize the globe with intention and compassion. Are we shocked we haven’t been immediately successful?

So, that leaves option 3: do nothing.

Nationalists claim that we must protect our borders (which are arbitrary, by the way), and protect our resources (read: horde), and take care of our own legitimate citizens before we divert resources to others.

Except our citizens, for the most part, aren’t committing terrorist atrocities out of desperation. One approach to ending terrorism is to provide security and prosperity for as many global citizens as we can. It’s the humane thing to do, the Christian thing to do, and we’ve been doing it.

Until now.

Now we’re being directed to look out for our own first. Like feudalism, this approach is guaranteed to fail. We cannot build a Utopia of prosperity and safety while denying that the security and satisfaction of the world directly impact our own stabilization. What’s more, we’ve destabilized other countries for decades in pursuit of resources and labor. When we “divert resources” (read: fund) for prosperity elsewhere, we are paying reparations for when we took approach 1 above.

Above all, the urgency is what worries me the most. When we rush to give or rush to take, we risk not examining the long-term effects of our actions. Many Globalists suffer from the arrogance of self-actualization; they assume other nations are ready for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when, in fact, they still need clean water, roads, and stable legal infrastructure.

So who’s right? The Globalists know security is fickle and that no matter how many positive initiatives we fund, corruption and desperation are difficult opponents. The Nationalists know that we’re stronger when our own citizens are healthy and protected, and that no matter how much we try to isolate ourselves, we are a global economy.

I suggested to my debate partner (Happy Father’s Day, dad!) that we seek to improve cooperation, reduce predatory practices, and encourage other nations to take up the responsibility of funding international organizations. More than anything, we must recognize the vision we all have of a stable, secure, and healthy, world is a luxury. We’re a long way from global equity and prosperity. That doesn’t mean we stop working on it.

 

Healthcare is NOT a right. It’s too expensive to be guaranteed.

Medical professionals have extensive schooling and loans to pay back. They have malpractice insurance to pay for. And they self-select what specialties they’ll pursue and some specialties are more abundant than others.

Litigators drive up insurance rates with malpractice lawsuits that hold medical professionals responsible for mistakes and negligence as if they were the same thing.

Insurance companies have negotiated rates with care providers and facilities. They set the budgets for care with algorithms and balance sheets, not compassion and logic. Health insurance companies are legalized gambling. They’re betting you won’t get sick and you’re betting you will. You both put money on the board and wait for the dealer to distribute the cards. The companies have done everything they can to hedge their bets: pre-existing conditions, a network of providers, lifetime caps. Not only did they rig the game in their favor, they have lobbied congress and state lawmakers to enable them to do so.

How can regular citizens get affordable care when insurance companies are unwilling to sell affordable insurance?

As long as the insurance companies are hedging their bets and rigging the game, there will be no insurance reform. As long as they can pay lobbyists to influence congress and policy wonks to write bills that protect their interests, there will be no insurance reform.

To frame the insurance reform debate around healthcare was a gross miscalculation by the Democrats as long ago as Bill Clinton’s first term. Healthcare means people are sick and can’t afford treatment. It means they need rescuing and the government is the only entity big enough to do it.

But healthcare is not a right. It’s a business and the care providers deserve to get paid for the professionalism, experience, and compassion they bring to the equation. Insurance companies do not provide care. They provide financing. Like bankers, their role is to take on the risk. Why should they be allowed to minimize their risk at the cost to the common good?

When Paul Ryan said healthcare is complicated, what he meant was that everyone in the debate has a valid position and it’s difficult to broker compromise. What he should have said was the citizens have leverage over the politicians, the insurance companies have leverage over the politicians, and what they want is diametrically opposed.

How can we convince insurance companies that offering coverage to the most expensive, at-risk population is in their best interest?

Saying “it’s the right thing to do,” doesn’t work.

Forcing them to compete in a government-sponsored exchange doesn’t work; many just opted out.

We could tell them that if they don’t participate in the exchange, they will not be allowed to sell insurance in our state at all. We could tell them that if they don’t offer coverage for the least among us, then they can’t offer coverage to anyone else.

But we also have to tell our citizens they should expect to pay for coverage. They should expect to spend some of their money betting they’ll get sick and need coverage. Because taxing people on what they make to fund a healthcare system for people who pay nothing is the worst kind of unsustainable Robin Hood economics.

I don’t think anyone really disagrees with Make America Great. I was raised in the Cold War 80s and we were fed patriotism like fluoride-laced water. To a one, my GenX friends are all fiercely patriotic.

We’ve dutifully served in the military, thanked soldiers for their service, and gotten teary-eyed at post-deployment reunions. We’ve given to the Wounded Warriors and demanded reform at the VA. We think military service is patriotic.

Every two years we anxiously anticipate the Olympics. We learn the athletes’ names, discuss their achievements and uniforms, debate the rules and procedures. We produced the most decorated Olympian of all time. We think the Olympics are patriotic.

We vote. Our Facebook feeds are full of political debate and passive activism. We Rocked the Vote for Clinton and W and we elected the first black President. We carried our babies in chest pouches like kangaroo citizens, waited in line at over-crowded precincts, and thanked poll workers for their patriotic efforts. We think participating in government is patriotic.

I don’t think we disagree with Make America Great.

We’ve been building businesses, volunteering in schools, having birthday parties at fire stations, and teaching our kids to stand still during the National Anthem since they started televising it again after 9/11. We think jobs, volunteering, civil service, and respect are patriotic.

It’s the Again that gets stuck when we say the phrase President Trump trademarked in 2012, the one he used to climb the disorganized Republican ranks.

It’s the Again that made Bill Clinton say the phrase had a racist bend to it.

Let’s unpack “Again.”

Again means to repeat a condition. It means to return to previous circumstances. That condition, in this phrase, is “great”ness. And the real question, when we add “Again” to Make America Great is exactly when was America “great”?

There is not a time in our history during which Great meant prosperity, safety, and opportunity for all Americans. There have been times when some Americans had those things but not all Americans.

So “Again” indicates an intention to return to an era during which African American citizens were in the back of the bus and not welcome at lunch counters. When women were relegated to secretarial work and sexual harassment in the corporate world. When homosexuals and transgender persons were shamed into hiding. Think Mad Men only for real.

When asked if we want to return to that era, the compassionate, literate, and moderate among us would say, “Fuck no.” And so we reject the phrase, the candidate who uses it, and the supporters who rally behind it.

It’s the Again that alienates so many of us.

It’s a nostalgic Babyboomer fantasy. Greatness is so subjective it could be referring to any version of patriotic orgy cooked up for us by the politicians.

Is the intention to return to military greatness? Because we don’t have a Cold War foe to encourage proliferation of arms. Also it’s expensive. Also our military is saturated with incompetent bureaucracy and staggering inefficiencies no amount of funding can fix.

Is the intention to return to economic greatness? Because global enterprise has made us so interdependent that we cannot compete without other nations. The global economic crisis of 2008 made that abundantly clear.

Is the intention to return to a peaceful, pastoral greatness? Because the John Trumball painting depiction of the Founding Fathers is the same idealization as Jefferson’s yeoman farmer economic fantasy and Whitman’s pastoral daydreams. And they’re all bull shit.

Life is messy and the American experiment is, too. It’s full of contradictions and challenges, injustices and disruptions. There can be no “Again” because there was never a Great. There have only ever been the attempts at greatness that each generation constructs.

We get some things right and we get other things so totally fucking wrong.

And then we try again. Not just every four years, but every two years, every season, every day. We try to get better. We try to do better. We renew our commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When we remain committed of securing these inalienable rights for all Americans, our effort is what makes us Great.