I shared a story with a client the other day that he found deeply meaningful. I'd never shared it with anyone before because it felt so shameful. Enough time has passed that I can talk about it, so I'm sharing it here, but I still cringe over it. I shared it to clarify a misunderstanding I hear from many people that somehow things I've done were easier for me than for others, like somehow I got more discipline than others without work. When others share stories they say make them feel shameful, it never sounds as serious to me as it seems to to them, so I hope my story doesn't either. I'm not going to write it here so you have to listen to the episode if you want to hear it, but it starts with girls, or rather lack of relationships with them, and ends with huge life decisions in other areas that I would not have made had I been more open.
Here are the notes I read from for this episode: Stand up comedians Growing up in 70s I thought everyone would want to lead, to give I Have A Dream speech of their generation Felt so natural, though universal So until recently felt others could do better, wouldn't want to compete Dawning on my almost nobody wants to Nobody seems to want to change I expect they'll be happy to change if they don't have to do work After all world has changed. Seems easy to change with it Maybe people are waiting for someone and I can or should be it Crazy for me to think nobody wants it Question I've asked lately: Genie Mandela choice I thought all the people competing to be leadership gurus want to lead Or people competing to reach top of corporate ladder want to lead They want to manage companies and organizations, maybe lead small groups But taking risks, maybe not I'm coming to terms with stepping up, or figuring out what that means Years ago before starting podcast I thought about taking leadership role, realizing success meant challenging Koch brothers. Scary. I could be attacked. King, Gandhi, and others killed. Realized when opportunity to speak on Washington Mall came up, King probably didn't want to give I Have A Dream Speech. Probably thought, “Can anyone else? I guess I have to do it.” Is it crazy for me to think of taking on role like theirs. Does anyone else want to? Still figuring out how, but deciding to act more assertively. If you see ideas or opportunities I don't, please tell me. In the meantime, I see why I'm unique in finding joy in not flying by choice. Still nearly incomprehensible that people can learn how their behavior hurts others and still prefer to justify and imagine their pollution isn't. Is it so outlandish to try, and take my word that you'll be glad you changed? Is it so crazy to imagine that economists all misunderstand what finite planet means and that growth has to end, so their theories don't apply?
Here are the notes I wrote and read this podcast from: It's no secret the tension between police and protesters in this country. I've talked to a lot of protesters in my day, having protested myself many times, especially in college. In grad school a post-doc once worked as auxiliary policeman Recently listened to Jocko Willink on Joe Rogan's podcast. I won't explain who they are because they're both big public figures and you can look them up. Except Jocko is a former Navy SEAL and Joe hosts the world's top podcast. As a martial artist, he speaks Jocko's language and they both talk about cops and uniformed people. I'm going to play about a minute from their conversation that inspired me. <play clip here> After hearing that part, I walked down 10th Street to the 6th precinct to ask if they did drive-alongs. I'd never heard of such a thing and doubted they did, but I knew if I didn't ask the answer was no, if I called or emailed, the answer would be no. But I'm pretty good in person. What will come of it? I don't know. I mentioned it to a friend and he suggested not bringing ID, maybe bringing a witness. People and cops mistrust each other a lot. I want to make a difference. I at least want to understand. Guy there didn't know (wasn't wearing mask). Didn't know if anyone inside would know but suggested attending monthly community meeting. Started checking community feed. One is coming up. Don't know if it will work, but will try. Maybe a few words about jury duty.
Here are the notes I read from: Yesterday two things, I'll start with second because more poignant. Ran into old friend a few weeks ago, clubbing, Submedia. Met at bar, first time since March, ready to walk away, wasn't going to order doof. But distant, outdoor, nearly empty. Talking for about an hour, a lot on how I transitioned. Talking about TV show. As an aside, he remarked knowing my regular background made stewardship more compelling and interesting than just tree hugger. While talking, some guy starts rooting through trash can on street, throwing trash everywhere. I remark, almost act. Then he starts yelling at us, threatening. Dave, fresh from kickboxing stands and advances toward. Guy points at me! throws bottle, shatters, leaves. Five minutes later comes back, hauls off and throws bottle hard, shatters huge, all eyes are on situation. Dave advances, I back him up. Gut yells at Dave, hard to understand since mostly Spanish, threatening, fists up, mostly at Dave, partly me. Guy crosses street, Dave pursues, guy has lost advantage. Dave crosses street, in guy's face, less threatening physically, but aggressive. Through broken Spanish while still threatening Dave and me becomes clear. He felt we were putting him down for having to eat from trash. Instead of resolving or trying to reach understanding, throws bottles, so still crazy but different, not just malevolent or hurtful, defending. Dave and I walk away feeling compassion, sad that he's in that situation, and sad that his resolution involves assaulting us. Coming back workmen curious, cop asks a few questions. You may have heard that I swam across Hudson River two weeks ago today for first time since 2008, twelve years ago. At nearly 50 years old, sort of risky. Major life achievement. Why am I holding back on posting it? Because I wanted the video. Here's that story. Two years ago Last year, friend commits, backs out for reason he could have known. Invite other friend, he loves it, life goal for him too I knew he was swim instructor, life guard too. Says he'll bring equipment. I say, so I don't need to bring a camera. No, he has one. Before swimming, I interview Joe De Sena and get invited to Vermont. I invite friend, who is overjoyed, another life achievement. He's marketing his coaching, sees huge benefit to webcasting from Spartan Race farm. Joe and I have hit if off, hence the invitation to an invitation-only event, plus as I've shared, my carrying my rowing machine and kettle bell to roof. I offer to introduce him to Spartan community. As long as I'm there, I intend to share friends with friends. We swim across, I'll share in post about swimming. Ferry approaching us, scary. He jokes, good to have white person in facing authority. After we reach shore, I hold on to his swimming equipment so ferry people don't identify him as swimmer they thought breaking lawn Before Friday, he says he can't drive. Family needs car. I feel disappointed, but contact Spartan Up people. We go into overdrive finding someone I can ride with. Many potential options, but only one works. I have to take train to. Connecticut early next morning, but I make sure space for my friend. Turns out he can't make early ride. After we get back I text him how he would have liked it but next time, and ask him about video. No response. Read text trail. Our mutual friend defends him. Says I'm making a big deal about nothing, but sends twenty texts. What's going on? I give up. Confused about what to do as weeks pass that I can't share about life event without explanation. Finally yesterday he emails me. Read email. My read of situation: I didn't bring camera because he said he would create. Never discussed charging. Now I have huge interest in something he has uniquely and holds it ransom, having said he would take care of it so I didn't try, as I would have. So I figure I'll write him and remind, when I offered, it sounded like major life event. I invited as friend. No thought to charge for conceiving or planning, but what price would he consider fair? No thought of introducing him to Joe and Spartan community, happy to help him make that invitation into making him look great to his community. Now, of course, I see I dodged a bullet as if he started nickel and diming them, it would have made me look bad. But no thought of charging him for introduction. On the contrary, put in extra work to make sure he would be welcome and could get a ride. All he had to do was send a link to a file. Instead he holds it ransom for two weeks, maybe indefinitely, and tries to make money off me. Cheap nickel and dime stuff. I don't make money on my blog. I don't know where he's coming from, but taking advantage of my huge demand and scarcity he created, whether intentional or not, deceptively. When I asked him if I said anything offensive, I knew I hadn't. I was giving him an out from behavior anyone I know would feel embarrassed and ashamed to be doing. Race and gender seemed to play roles in these interactions. Would the guy have thrown a bottle at us if we were female? He was definitely racist toward Dave. Would friend have tried to scam me if female? Comment on race while swimming would have been called micro aggression or macro if reversed. Was I targeted because I am white or male? I can't say because I don't know their hearts and minds. But I know this. When I share how I suffer, people consistently tell me how others suffer more. Nobody ever asks my experience. Do I need for the bottle to hit me and knock me out, for the guy with the knife to cut me for people to stop telling me to put it in perspective? Can you imagine lecturing a woman victim or a black victim about distractions from their experience? All this prelude to what I'm getting at People often send me to articles describing how inequality feels when you have less. When you start the race behind the starting line. Many of these articles describe how you can never escape feeling of being outside, being other, not being understood.That's how I feel. Maybe there's a white male suburban culture blind to suffering, where cash is free and no one hurts. I don't know. It's as foreign to me as every description I've come across. I'm aware of my sex and race every day, all the time, and how people see me as less than human, as fair targets for violence, as fair targets for scamming. Twice in two weeks after deciding to open up on race. Do you think that's coincidence? Sorry, three times. No, it happens all the time, since my entire life. I could tell hundreds of stories like this. I see marches full of whites saying how bad it is for blacks and other people of color. I see videos of white kneeling before blacks asking forgiveness for I guess ancestors' crimes, or system I am not an ally for equality. Nobody wants equality more than I do. People of other skin colors or sexes don't because of their skincolor and sex know racism or sexism or homophobia or pick your stereotype and I don't or can't because I'm white. I know it. I live it. If you can't accept that, I hope you get over your stereotype and see me as a person who feels pain, who is attacked,who started behind the starting line too and then gets beat up along the race but gets told he had a head start and says he caused getting beat up or at best those assaults downplayed or ignored, then told if I really understood I would see my privilege. All these whites and men saying how bad it is for others, are they really not suffering? If so, I'd like to learn what it is to be white and male like them because it is as far from my experience as anyone else described their distance. I think more likely, they aren't comfortable sharing their troubles and are only postponing actual open, honest talk and action about equality. Everything I see seems consistent with white bad, male bad, but we aren't bad. We're just like everyone else. There is racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. The path we are on will lead not to the end of these things, but to putting different groups on top or battling it out. Anybody can see that when one group says the best thing you can do is shut up and listen, while also claiming diversity and inclusion, you can see who has the power in that relationship. Everyone has their story. I'd like to say nobody got a free pass or automatically feels understood. Possibly many whites and males do, which is hard for me to grasp, but if so, their story is not my story, nor the story of many other whites or many other men and to paint me with their brush further beats me up on this privilege race track analogy I didn't make up but that people keep imposing on me. People who know me increasingly tell me that my story and experience are different, implying that maybe I do know suffering more than the average white or male. Most haven't felt such lifelong repeated assault from women and people of color. Either I'm a special case, in which case it would seem my voice has value and people should listen more to me. Or I'm not, in which case we should recognize that all whites and all men suffer too and the starting line analogy starts falling apart. Or maybe you say I haven't really suffered, in which case what more do you need? How many more women need sexually assault me, what some would call rape, how many men do I need to know sexually assaulted and raped, how many whites victimized? What does it take? I believe everyone has known this pain. If not, maybe my voice can help illuminate what by any definition except white bad male bad heterosexual bad is exclusionary, non-diverse, sexist, racist, and all the other stereotypes exactly when claiming the opposite and trying to achieve the opposite. I believe it doesn't take much to pursue seeing equality of humanity in each person, but we aren't doing it. At least I don't see it in the protests nor the counter protests. My issue is the environment. I believe working together on what ties us together and transcends skin color, sex, orientation, age, etc -- project-based learning -- can solve these problems more than marches. Yes, there's police brutality, unequal access to resources, and more. If you want to see suffering, as an American, look at what your system no matter your color or anything does to people everywhere for your comfort and convenience, to ourselves. It's not litter, it's sterilized, cancer, birth defects, war, famine on scales greater than the whole population of this country, and not just this country, even within the countries suffering most, people there contributing to this system. Even greater suffering, look at future generations to make today look like a walk in the park IF WE DON'T ACT TOGETHER TODAY TO STOP POLLUTING and reverse this system that relies on pollution and treating others as inhuman independent of their skin color or anything else. Beneath everything else, we breath the same air, drink the same water, and eat the same food from the same land and seas. Focusing on those things, I believe, can bring us together in common humanity more than anything else. In the past, sports, military, arts, science, and other cultural activity has helped us overcome stereotypes. I think of Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Ping Pong diplomacy, Zora Neale Hurston, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, Marie Curie, countless men sharing the same foxhole in battle who learned to love each other I believe that stewardship, loving nature, battling the systems that pollute, impoverish, and separate us will bring us together like nothing before. Beneath skin color, beneath genitals, beneath it all, we breath air, drink water, and eat food. Frankly I see almost no one seeing that starting point, nor fighting the systems taking away even that. But I am. If you see me as a white who doesn't understand non-white or a male who doesn't understand non-male or heterosexual who doesn't understand the rest of that rainbow, then you don't understand me either. Now let's restore the nature we all need to live together.
Here are the notes I read from for this episode. Following pattern of effective speeches and leadership to lead people to love doing things not obviously personally benefiting. If you've seen movie Patton, George C Scott delivers a shorter, cleaner, but better acted version. Compare what he's asking his men to do with what it takes to pollute less What is required of us in environmental stewardship is almost nothing in comparison. I'll read it, but translate while I'm reading it. The language is obviously of the time and would cause him to be canceled today except that he helped defeat Rommel and Hitler and save the free world from the Nazis taking over, which probably even the most offended person would value. Some parallels: Germans - pollution, so when he talks of attacking Germans, think of reducing pollution. He leads his men to love attacking Nazis. Could you love reducing pollution? You won't risk your life. Fighting - reducing consumption, but less risky Going home - living without thinking about stewardship Learning to fight - training to pollute less. Nobody can start perfect. Every little thing you do trains you to do more Brave - active, acting with integrity Surrendering - acting for yourself ignoring how your pollution hurts others, especially those helpless to defend themselves. What's the same: the emotions that hold you back, the training that overcomes the fear, the reward in the moment of the physical challenge, and the reward after of satisfaction. Different: zero risk to your health. On the contrary, improvement. The risk comes if you don't ask. Okay, enough explanation. Time for the speech. I'll let you translate in your mind to motivate yourself to help your country, family, world, and self. Listen through to the end, because the last analogy is what motivated those men most, I believe, and it applies to us as much as to any human. We are free in part because of them. Can we honor their defending us from Hitler by doing some tiny fraction of what they did?
The actions we can take to preserve the environment are so simple anyone can do them. They improve our lives, connecting us to each other, freeing us from distraction of craving and separation. Role models help. Nelson Mandela worked harder and faced risks greater than any of us need to---if we even face any, since eating more fruits and vegetables and spending time with people close to us improve our lives. I bring to you the closing words of his speech at the close of his trial that led to the Apartheid government imprisoning him for 27 years: I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all people will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.