Today I want to talk about the value being a guest on my podcast offers to influential well-known people. I call Oprah and her peers single-named people because everyone knows them by one name. So LeBron, Serena, Sergey, Larry, Barrack, Beyoncé, Jay-Z. I also mean anyone influential or with a big audience. People in politics, accomplished actors, journalists, singers, artists and the like, bestselling writers, public speakers, winning athletes and so on. So anyone who’s listening who is like them or knows them this episode is for you.
I’ll say it bluntly but this is nothing you haven’t heard before. We are in a very difficult situation environmentally speaking. We could potentially lose civilization. If we don’t, it’s because people changed culture. We are at a rare moment in human history. Moments like these come every few thousand years. This is a time when legacies and influence at the level of people like Buddha and Jesus are possible. That type of legacy is available because civilization is possibly at stake. This podcast, the Leadership and the Environment podcast emerged from seeing that we lacked leadership in the area of the environment. Every scientist, every engineer, everyone who knows the subject of what’s going on with the environment and what would take to get out of this mess says, “We have the ability to do it. We can do it. The question is will we?” That’s a question of leadership of human behavior, of changing human behavior.
Many people look to government but government represents the people and in this country and most of the world the people aren’t acting. When Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement he was doing what nearly every American already does since no one, almost no one in this country or in an industrialized country lives within the IPCC recommendations. They criticize him but they break the same principles. In any case, in nearly all great social and cultural changes leadership came from outside government, not inside. Think Gandhi, King, Mandela, Vaclav Havel. I saw that the greatest need was for someone to help people learn and experience what I did that contrary to cultural norms acting by my environmental values improved my life. Things like avoiding packaged food, I already didn’t eat meat, avoiding flying, picking up other people’s garbage, acquiring less stuff, getting rid of stuff, walking to places, cooking my own meals, things like that improved my life. Now it wouldn’t look like that from the beginning. If you’d like to buy stuff, buying less seems like it wouldn’t be as rewarding. As it turns out it’s more so. In the same way that vegetables taste better than fast food. It doesn’t [unintelligible] at the beginning when you’re used to Doritos assaulting your taste buds the subtle flavor of broccoli doesn’t quite cut it but after a while it tastes much better.
But I want to cover a subtle point that motivates why the most important leadership will come not from government, science, engineering, educators, journalists or the usual places where we’ve been looking. I believe that the most important source of change will come from existing well-known cultural figures like the single-named people. Their change is the best way I believe to influence votes, politicians and therefore legislation as well as buying patterns and therefore influencing big companies that is corporations and government where the biggest change will happen the change in them will come fastest if a few well-known people act because that will enable lots and lots of people to act. By contrast, if people like that do not act, the rest of society may continue to go on in circles as we’ve been doing for decades. If these cultural people do act, they’ll enjoy what they do as I did and they’ll create historical legacies about anything like Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King or Bruce Lee, more like Joan of Arc, Galileo or Confucius. This is the opportunity available for cultural leaders today. I’ll explain more.
First I want to explain why it’s not going to come from innovation, technology and markets and the usual places we look. Our culture values growth, externalizing costs, comfort, convenience and acquiring stuff among other values. But these values promote pollution, they promote waste, they promote a lot of the results that we see today. Making a system whose goals result in pollution more efficient like by recycling or reusing make that system pollute more efficiently. I’ll say that again. If we have a system that pollutes, making that system more efficient we’ll make it pollute more efficiently. Recycling continues the path we’re on. It may make us more efficient in the short term but in the long term not likely. This is a pattern that’s been happening for the past few centuries since before Watt steam engine which was… Let’s talk about one of the greatest leaps forward in innovation and efficiency – the Watt steam engine.
The Watt steam engine was not the first steam engine. It was more efficient than any before. People expected that it would result in less coal being used but despite its greater efficiency it resulted in more coal and more waste. If you look at any one particular use, that use was more efficient and use less coal. But by making it cheaper and more available, more people used more steam engines for more different purposes and the total amount of coal use went up. And we have been on a march toward greater efficiency and greater total waste ever since. And actually since before. We can see with widening roads that create more traffic. Uber and Lyft were supposed to reduce congestion but they’ve already been documented to increase congestion. LEDs look like they may be on track to use more electrical power than incandescent overall. Making things more efficient makes them cheaper to use which leads us in the case of LEDs to light more things than ever and we light the same things more than we ever did before. If you look backward, it makes a lot of sense. When we had to light things with whale oil we didn’t light as much and we didn’t use nearly as much energy. I don’t want to take away that having brighter things and having more technology enables lots of things. We live longer today than people did a couple of hundred years ago but today’s big issue but we don’t have to undo progress but we do have to recognize the side effects that are now becoming the main effects. What will make a change is changing the values and goals of our culture and its systems. Then efficiency can help.
I concluded the most important missing piece to environmental change was leadership. Someone to help people see and experience that these new values when you act on them will bring about joy and happiness internally and cleanliness and purity externally. What values? Well, the opposite of growth and more stuff is enjoying what you have. The opposite of externalizing cost is taking responsibility for how you and your actions affect others, not just the effects you like, but all of them. So yes, travel lets you learn and grow but the jet fuel for one flight can exceed IPCC recommendations on emissions for an entire year. Flying New York – L.A. roundtrip coach uses up three quarters of the IPCC recommendation so if on top of that you eat food or heat your apartment or take hot showers, you’re over the IPCC limits. An alternative to comfort and convenience would be personal growth which often requires challenge.
In other words, I saw a need for a Mandela of the environment. To be clear, I support more science, education and even some reporting of doom and gloom though not so much guilt and blame. As essential as these things are they stopped influencing people. I think the people that they were going to influence they have influenced. But the remaining 99 percent of the world they haven’t. I thought that’s a tall order. As much as I teach and want to lead I could fail if I tried to become the Mandela of the environment even though that’s what I thought was most important. If I didn’t succeed, I’d feel like I failed. If I did succeed, people would oppose me, others would attack me. So it was a big gut check but I thought if that’s what’s most important and no one else is doing it, I’ll do my best to become the Mandela of the environment, not because I want to but because that’s what I feel is necessary. But most importantly, I know that what I’m sharing is joy, discovery, growth, meaning, value, importance and purpose, not the deprivation sacrifice and distraction that the old system portrays living by your environmental values as.
So I started this podcast, then it didn’t take me long to realize that if I change, I may influence a few people but not the system. Same with even major podcasters and the renowned guest that I’ve had. I’ve had a lot of number one bestselling authors, TED speakers with tens of millions of views, a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner athletes and so on. One way to change a system is through its leverage points and some people are at those leverage points already. They set culture. That’s the single-named people because when they act, people follow. There’s a headline that I once saw. It said that the top three executives at Google have eight airplanes between them. They can try to make Google carbon neutral but as long as they as individuals do that they help set cultural norms of growth, externalizing costs, having stuff, all the stuff resulting in pollution and craving and such. So the people can say, “Yeah, sure. I’ll use straws whatever but I want a plane. These guys when they’re successful, they get planes. I want a plane.” And government will follow the people and we’ll continue our world of pollution and craving.
I realize I’m not likely to catch up to Oprah within my lifetime and her influence. More people know her than me or almost anyone. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention one last piece that a guest of mine Sandy Reisky who helps build wind and solar farms he said that the number one predictor of people installing solar in their homes is not how much money they have, nor how much money they make, nor what kind of government discounts there are, nor their politics. It’s how many people in their zip code already have solar installed. What that tells me, and there is a lot of interpretations for that, but what that tells me is that community motivates people more than facts, figures, coercion, doom gloom, guilt, blame and all the rest of the techniques that I see have reached their limit. And the single-named people are in more people’s communities than nearly everyone. I’m not looking for people to be celebrities. I’m looking for people to be in lots of people’s communities.
As it stands, people like Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio telling people to act on certain values that they don’t act on themselves leads people also to abandon their values. The next generation of leadership that works will come from people acting consistently with their values. Non-genuine behavior isn’t working, has never worked and it won’t work in the future. The opportunity is here for people who set cultural norms to set new cultural norms to get us out of the environmental mess that we’re in. As I said, the legacies of whoever acts first will endure for centuries, maybe millennia because they will be the ones that set the new course for culture. Yes, these people are rich. They don’t have to do this but I point you to Buddha. Buddha was a prince. He was rich too. He didn’t have to do anything. He could have lived a very comfortable life. He then practiced asceticism and found out that that wasn’t necessary. What made him big? He lived happily and he shared that happiness with others enabling them to become happy. And he didn’t need all that money.
So let me point out. There were a lot of princes in his time. Everybody knows Buddha, nobody knows them and that’s the opportunity for the next round of leadership to set a legacy to last potentially for thousands of years. All it takes is a first name person living by his or her environmental values publicly, sharing them and then acting on them so that people can also look at their own values and act on theirs as well. Whoever does it first or actually everyone who does it, they will find that the new behavior, the new patterns they will like more because that’s what living by your values means. Value, evaluate is better, worse. If you choose to act on your values, that means you’re living a better life.
If any of this rings true, listen to my podcast. Here are the patterns. I’ve developed techniques to make guests feel comfortable sharing their environmental values and acting on them. However famous and accomplished someone may be anyone is as vulnerable as anyone else and people attack people for not doing enough or not understanding and things like that. People are vulnerable and people don’t like to make themselves more vulnerable. But not me, not on this podcast. On this podcast I support people. I recognize it’s not the magnitude of the first change someone goes through. Leadership means starting where the other person is, not where you are, not where I am, not where someone else is, not where someone else thinks they should be. What’s important is starting and developing skills. It’s like playing piano. If you felt the magnitude of the first change mattered, you’d conclude that playing scale would never get you to play Carnegie Hall. But that’s exactly where everyone begins and that’s what I do on this podcast is I give people scales to practice. Yes, it’s public and they may make some mistakes but they’re genuine and authentic and I enable that so that they will get support. I help guests play scales. I help you start from where you are, not where others are or think you should be or want you to be and I support you taking first steps so others will support you, not attack you. You don’t have to get to the finish line right away. Just to show that you are authentically and genuinely acting as best you can. That’s what people support. If you don’t start with what you can, no matter how small, you’ll never get to the bigger things. And if you do start with the small things, the bigger things will seem small after you’ve done the little things. Doing small things gets you to big things.
If you’re listening to this and you have lots of money and power and access to whatever you want. you might think, “I don’t have to do this.” I fantasize of living in a world where we don’t have to care how our actions affect others. Generations before didn’t have to. They couldn’t have predicted that we choke our land and sea with plastic and mercury or our air with soot and warm the planet. Our understanding of our world changed and it’s time we changed our values to match these times. We can’t change the past. None of us caused the world we were born into. Leadership means acting where we are now. From this perspective, we have a tremendous opportunity. We didn’t create the world that we were born into. Especially people at leverage points can change the values at a cultural level. This is the single-named people.
If you are a famous person, a very influential person or you know one, please put them in touch with me. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s my first name at my last name .net. You can go to my web page and click in the upper right corner to connect with me. Help me help them create an environmental legacy to endure millennia. Help me help them provide the leadership that billions crave. Billions of people believe things like, “If I act but no one else does, then what I do doesn’t matter or others should fix it or these little things are too little. These big things are too big.” These beliefs drive our environmental situation, not carbon dioxide, mercury or plastic. Elements and molecules have no volition. We people do. Chemicals and so forth they react to our behavior. Our behavior results from our beliefs. Famous people helped set our cultural norms and beliefs.
Is it so crazy to think that people who can afford multiple jets will still like spending time with family, cooking, visiting farms, polluting less and sharing their new lifestyles with their fans when they don’t have to? I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s so crazy to think and I expect that they will experience the same human results as my other podcast guests, that they will find that they like living by their values and sharing them. Vegetables taste better than Doritos after your taste buds recover from assaulting them and I mean that at a life level. Spending time with family at home beats flying Learjets. Digging carrots from the ground beats takeout and all that plastic that comes with it. The whole lifestyle is more deeply rewarding than how people live now. The lifestyle of the new values.
As an aside, I expect that those who don’t change will be eclipsed by those who do, that people who are up and coming and living publicly by their environmental values that they will eclipse the people who are not no matter how famous they are now. I want to help those who do, who live by their values. I’ve lived that way for years and I’m not slowing down. I only want to do this more. I’ve helped hundreds others navigate their challenges publicly to joy, growth, meaning, value, importance, purpose, passion, community, all these things. So Oprah, Barack, all these people or people who know these globally renowned people put us in touch. Let’s provide the leadership that billions crave. This podcast makes it easy for you. All you have to do is show up and be a guest. These billions they don’t want to say, “If I act but others don’t and what I do doesn’t matter.” No one wants to feel that what they do doesn’t matter under any circumstances. Few people want to blaze new trails though when others might not follow. They want to know their communities acting so that they can too. You can help them feel like they’re swimming downstream. Come on my show. Let’s set the tone of the next stage in human history. Let’s create one of the most enduring legacies that humans have created.
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