086: Awareness means nothing. Or less. (transcript)

September 12, 2018 by Joshua
in Podcast

The Leadership and the Environment podcast

I want to start off this episode about awareness with a story about a guy. Well, it’s more of a profile. For those who don’t know, I volunteer with an organization called Generation 180. The purpose of this organization for those who don’t know is to help people reduce their power consumption to reduce pollution. The founder Sandy Reisky, I like this guy a lot. He’s been on this podcast. I visited him down in their headquarters and I like to volunteer with them on their Solar Schools’ program to help put solar cells on top of schools. There are a lot of schools across the country, a lot of place to put these solar cells.

Last night there’s an event at my place. I hosted a dinner. A guy who came over when we were talking about pollution, he said he’s aware, he’s very aware of these things, these things meaning environmental issues. And he didn’t just say it once or twice. Every time we talked about environmental things he kept talking about his awareness, his awareness, his awareness, his awareness. He claimed to be very aware. As we spoke it came out that while he was at my place his air conditioner was on at his home. He was cooling down air that no one could feel, drawing power produced by coal to no one’s benefit. This is a man who claimed himself aware.

There are a lot of people out there who claim awareness. They say you know, “There’s a lot of pollution out there but at least I’m aware of the problem. I’ve become aware of these things. I’m aware.” Everybody is aware of what they are aware of and everybody is unaware of what they are unaware of. Therefore, it means absolutely nothing to say that you are aware. Everybody is aware of what they are aware of. Nobody is aware of what they’re unaware of. So everybody can say, “I am aware” and it means nothing because everyone already is aware of what they are aware of and they’re unaware of what they are unaware of. So it means nothing to say it.

If anything, you’re displaying your ignorance that you don’t know what you don’t know or your lack of humility. It’s like saying, “I’m telling the truth.” If you tell the truth, then you would say, “I’m telling the truth.” If you lie, you’ll also say, “I’m telling the truth.” It means nothing to say, “I’m telling the truth.” Actually, I take it back that it means absolutely nothing because if your goal is something environmental, the environment doesn’t react to your awareness. It reacts to your behavior. And if you stop at awareness which is what most people do. They say, “I want to do X or Y or Z” and then they reach awareness and then they stop there. And if you think that awareness is a goal, if that becomes a goal, then you don’t act and then it becomes an impediment for doing something. In that case it can be worse than nothing because there are a lot of people not doing things that they could do that would make their own lives better, let alone to help the environment. Once you make awareness a goal as opposed to action then in this country you say you know 90 percent of that goal is still N/A. And so they don’t even get full awareness and they call it N/A. And so you have this guy who’s feeling really great about volunteering with his organization while he’s putting on an air conditioner in a room where nobody is, drawing fossil fuel power.

You know who’s aware? Al Gore is aware. He’s very aware. He also pollutes more than virtually anybody in the world. Leonardo DiCaprio is aware. I’ve watched their movies. These guys are flying all over the world. They’re doing all sorts of things that use all sorts of power that they don’t have to do. Yes, they’re achieving goals that I support but they can achieve those goals drawing less power, polluting less, being more of an example for others and people follow them. They don’t follow what they would do or could do. They follow what people actually do. So yes, I’m glad that they’re going on making deals to reduce carbon emissions and things like that. But people follow what they do and they could reduce a lot more. They’re fully aware.

Do you know who’s not aware? Someone off in the middle of nowhere who’s polluting very little because they’re living more in harmony with nature. They’re not particularly aware but they’re polluting a lot less. If your goal is to improve the environment, the environment does not react to your awareness. That is not a place to stop. If you use that as a stopping point, it’s worse than nothing. Action, behavior – that’s what makes a difference. It’s like someone who’s aware that eating sugar causes diabetes and they keep eating it and eating it and eating it and eating it. Awareness doesn’t stop you from getting diabetes if you keep eating sugar. Only with the environment, it’s one, you’re hurting others not just yourself. Typically, people who are less fortunate than you. Two, you’re destroying the cleanliness and purity of the world with pollution. Three, you’re undoing your own self-awareness and if you listen to the Leadership and the Environment podcast, leadership probably means something to you and I’ve never heard a leader say that lowering your self-awareness or keeping yourself unaware is valuable. Self-awareness is one of the most important things. And four, you are not being a steward of the world of your own body. Maybe you don’t care about being a steward but a lot of people do. Being a steward of the world for others, for yourself, for your own body. I don’t know any other way to put it that it’s more than being a steward, you’re being an ignorant slave to your cravings and lying to yourself.

Much more useful than awareness is humility, to be humble. I don’t know if I sound particularly humble right now. I know that there’s a lot of things I could do. Humility is going to get you a lot farther than awareness is. So the self-aware guy who he also claims to be in excellent health also was diabetic and had high blood pressure and from the looks of it he was pretty overweight if not obese. That’s awareness? Actually, I should say that’s awareness. On a personal level I’m not claiming to be any more aware than the sky or anybody else. The point is not awareness. What I’m trying to do is to live by my values and to help myself and you and everybody listening from being a diabetic overweight guy with high blood pressure claiming to have excellent health in the environmental area of being people who are spewing mercury into the groundwater that we’re all going to drink and claiming to be aware of something that they’re not.

To make a difference i’s not awareness that matters but skills to start simple. A lot of people don’t want to start because they feel like they’re going to be measured by, “Oh, someone else is doing a lot. I’m not doing enough.” So they don’t want to start because they think little things don’t count and big things are too hard. On the contrary, if you think of your environmental actions as skills that you practice, skills – how do you get skills? You start with the basics. If you want to play at Carnegie Hall stage, you don’t jump on a Carnegie Hall stage. You start by playing skills. You start by playing skills by yourself, then maybe for a teacher, then maybe some recitals for people around you. Likewise, if you want to be LeBron James, you are going to play in the NBA finals. You don’t start in the NBA finals. You start with some dribbling exercises, you start with some drills, you start with the basics and you practice, and you practice and you practice. If you want to play at Wimbledon, you want to play like Serena. You don’t start at Wimbledon. You start with groundstrokes. You start with practice and you practice and you practice.

And if you to have a zero-waste lifestyle, if you don’t want to produce a lot of plastic, start by avoiding buying one thing. Go without plastic or go without packaged food for a day, for a meal, for a week, then maybe for two weeks, then for longer. If you want to have a cleaner environment, pick up some litter, pick up one piece of litter per day or think of one thing that you do that creates litter and avoid doing what it does that creates that litter. Maybe that’s bringing a coffee mug with you or maybe it’s drinking from the water fountain or filling up a mug instead of buying a plastic water bottle and then you build and you build and you build and the next thing you know you’re LeBron or Serena or your equivalent of it. You’re living by your values, you’re living how you want to live. Living by your values means you are living a better life by your values. The issue is not that it’s hard to live that way. I can tell you from my own experience. Now that I eat whole foods and don’t get packaged foods there’s no going back and I spent years of my life where there was always a carton of ice cream in my freezer and there was always chips and pretzels in my cupboard. I couldn’t stop myself. I was a slave to my cravings. I was aware. I was fully aware. I was aware of what I was doing. I didn’t like what I was doing. I was unhappy with myself. I was aware while I was unaware of what I was unaware of just like this guy. Now I can’t go back.

I know and you know that if you get from A where you are now to B where you pollute a lot less, if you’re an American most of the world pollutes less than you. We are all in the 21st century for all of time people polluted less than we do now. And they found ways to be happy. If you get from A to B, where B is polluting less, you will not want to go back to A. The challenge is not living with polluting less. That’s easy, it’s fun. It’s more rewarding. It’s more community. It’s more… I guarantee you’ll like it. The challenge is crossing the chasm that takes humility that takes practice but that’s all it takes. It is a matter of time.

If you say that you’re aware, it tends to keep you from practicing. Actually, you know I read some study some time ago that when parents call their kids smart they don’t try because they don’t want to make people think that they’re not smart. They end up wanting to maintain this identity that gets some social approval. You know I also read that when people go on social media or tell their community that they’re going to get more healthy and change their lifestyle in some way, they get a lot of social approval. Oeople say, “Oh, that’s so good of you to do that.” And once they get that approval they don’t act because they want to maintain that approval and if they act, they could fail. But stopping actually it doesn’t make them more healthy. It just makes them feel better in the moment. It’s more effective to praise people’s work habits because then people do things. So if you claim that you’re aware, you may get social approval but I think that it’s going to be like calling your kid smart. It keeps you from trying to do things.

In front of you is an opportunity to lead, to be an example for others, to be an example that others follow. You will like being that way. You’ll enjoy it. It’s rewarding. Instead of being a bundle of excuses that other people listen to only because they want to excuse themselves and if you make excuses, then they can buy their own excuses as well. You can cross that chasm of ignorance from craving to living by your values to cleanliness, to purity, to a place where you’ll never want to come back. So that’s my talk about saying that you’re aware. It means nothing any more than saying, “I’m telling the truth.” People who tell the truth say it. People who lie say it. People who are aware say that they are aware, people who are unaware say that they’re aware. Meanwhile we’re overweight diabetic, high blood pressure, full of social approval and not doing anything about it.

Everybody is aware of what they are aware of. Everybody is unaware of what they’re unaware of. What works – action, it’s skills. Start with the basics, start with what simple, start with what you can do, start with humility and build and build and build. And the flip side is if you’re claiming awareness here and stopping action here, what other areas of your life could you be acting on that you’re claiming awareness and stopping there? If you act here environmentally, you’ll develop the skills and you’ll start doing it in other areas of your life and you’ll improve your life, improve your life, improve your life in other areas. It takes work crossing that chasm, social and emotional work, humility, anxiety, things like that but once you do, you’ll never want to come back.

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