OK, I need your input. I am trying to find a word to describe something. Please read this and give me your feedback in the comments.
Depending on what article I am writing at the moment, I tend to get responses like, “Wow, you are really cynical!” or, “You’re being naive and idealistic.” A couple times people have outright asked me, “Are you an optimist or a pessimist?” Well, I’m not either. I am also not a realist, an idealist, or just about any “ist” you can think of. After giving it some thought, I have come to realize that my worldview can best defined as this: I see the world through the lens of dynamic progressive probability. What is that? Well, let me explain…
The World Isn’t Static
My biggest issue with just about any label out there is that they imply a static worldview. Be it optimist or pessimist, each says “I think the world IS this way.” In truth, the world is always changing. Being a pessimist was a fairly practical point of view if you were a peasant in the Dark Ages. However, being an optimist as a modern day upper-class American entrepreneur will also suit you well. Situations and probabilities are always changing, the likelihood of positive and negative outcomes are always changing as well.
We Can’t Change the Present, but We Can Change the Future
Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t live to see his Dream fulfilled, nor has it even been achieved fully today. However, the probabilities of the various aspects of MLK’s Dream HAVE become more likely. It is now MORE likely that a white and black person will treat each other as equals, even if it doesn’t always happen. It is now MORE likely that a black person will be paid equal to a white person. It is now MORE likely that a black person can hold a position of authority. It still isn’t an equal probability, but it is trending toward equality.
Being an idealist or optimist means that you confuse the way things ARE with the way things SHOULD be. But being a realist or pessimist means that you confuse the way things ARE with the way things CAN be. That is why I don’t have a good “ist” for my worldview. I think things are BETTER than they WERE and WORSE than they WILL be. I believe that our job in life is to keep working to increase the probabilities of a better future, while facing the reality of the present.
I Believe My Actions Matter
People are most likely to think of me as an optimist for the simple fact that I find relevance in my actions. I believe that my choices and actions contribute to increasing (or decreasing as the case may be) probably of positive outcomes in the world. At the heart of most cynicism is a deep-seating belief that one’s actions, thoughts, or behavior doesn’t matter at all. I see this as cowardice, and a rejection of one’s responsibility to be a part of the world around them.
It’s Just Easy, It’s Not Likely, It’s Not Fast, It’s Just Possible
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” - Abraham Lincoln
Changing the world for the better isn’t easy. The outcomes we want are unlikely at the present, and the change we want comes slowly. For those who live to see progress and change in the world, persistence and determination are definately job requirements. If I make any mistake in life, it is thinking that change can come faster than it does. It is my biggest strategic weakness. But I have learned, after years of beating my head against various walls, that change does come indeed.
Why We Need More Super Villains
I don’t advocate for superheroes because do-gooders are the first to give up. Youthful idealists who seek praise and approval for good works are the first to get eaten alive by the reality of the present world. They give up, grow cynical, and become part of the problem. They then join the chorus of doubt toward the next idealist, shouting, “This is just way things are!”
I think we need more super villains. People willing to seek change in the world without approval and adulation. People who act based on an internal conviction, or compass, which guides them through the seas of doubt and popular opinion. Those with the patience and persistence to work for progress a little bit at a time, until the probabilities start changing for the better. These are the ones who change the world. Or take it over… you know… whatever.
I Need Your Input
So I am looking for a word, possibly and “ist,” to describe this worldview. I bet a lot more people would use it if it had a nice simple label. After reading all this, what would you call it?
There is point where the world of C-level executives, business consultants, and investment talking heads form a kind of cult. At this point, business is less about society and economics, and becomes a religion with its own sacraments and dogma. Perhaps you have heard their creed, “Our first responsibility is to the shareholders.” Or maybe, “We are always looking to maximize profitability.” The world is starting to wake-up and realize that profitability may not be the guiding light of Capitalism after all. The real measure of success should be: Sustainability.
What Does It Mean for a Business to Be Sustainable?
Sorry environmental advocates, I am not talking about being “green.” Sustainability means that a business is doing a good job of being stable, durable, and viable throughout external economic changes and upsets. It also means the business processes and culture are so strong they cannot be upset with the slight loss of any leaders, employees, or executives. Of course, business that are sustainable in this manner are often the first to be environmentally friendly as well, but that is more of a correlation than a cause.
“Up and to the Right” Is NOT Sustainable
While a successful business is starting up, it is going to have a few years of pretty solid “up and to the right” growth. This happens for one reason: If an entrepreneur had a good concept for a business, then he has successfully identified a need and matched an effective solution, that means his business will naturally expand until it meets “critical mass” with that need. However, once that need is being met in the mass market, there is no longer room for the business to expand so dramatically. (see chart)
Once a business is supplying to a need at “critical mass,” it will fluctuate along with its market. If the market shrinks, it shrinks, if the market grow, it grows, and so on. Investors, shareholders, and market commentators just can’t help but PANIC when they see their nice little “up and to the right” arrow turn more into a slight slope. This means that perfectly sound and viable businesses are often put under extreme and harmful pressure to continue “up and to the right” which leads to bad decisions. “Critical mass” doesn’t mean a company will never see huge growth again, it just means a new market has to be found.
Sustainability is Ultimately About Employee Well-Being
Profitability comes from loyalty, productivity, and having a character base from which to work.
- Zig Ziglar
Most of the bad decisions which come from “up and to the right” obsession is toward employees. Once a business has hit “critical mass,” the only way to boost profit in a hurry is to squeeze employees. This works for a period of time long enough for whatever jack-ass who suggested it to look like a business wizard. However, after a little more time has passed, turn-over shoots up, high-quality workers avoid you like the plague, and the quality if your products and services sink like a bodybuilder in a pool.
Business is About Making the World a Better Place
Power and politics can keep bad businesses in place for a certain period of time, which can give the illusion that Capitalism supports corruption. However, as time passes, and as history shows, the business which stick around are those which did a good job of making our lives better, and improving the lives of their employees. Hopefully, investors, shareholders, and board members will learn sooner-rather-than-later that they should prop up leader capable of making sustainable businesses which can endure, not profit bubbles that are here today and *pop* tomorrow.
We Need Better Financial Incentives
As a final note, we need a better form of investment. The other problem is that the current stock market actually rewards business drama, the quick rise and fall of companies, and incentivizes extremes. Thanks to the ability to short a stock, hedge funds, and other little tricks-of-the-trade people make more money on the quick rise and sudden destruction of companies. Of course, these people are not the majority of people, so the rest of us don’t benefit from this tradition of playing with fire. We need to change the rules to match the best interests of the economy and reward sustainability over quick profit and dramatic collapse.
Capitalism: You’re Doing It Right!
Here is an article on how Chipotle is making their business sustainable for profit and employees: http://www.foodtechconnect.com/2014/06/24/chipotle-vision-for-future-sustainable-restaurant-design-operations/
Here is a video of the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, talking about sustainability and employee interests at his company:
Super heroes are as popular as ever, including my childhood favorite: Batman. Batman evolved out of our need for a more “complex” super hero. The black and white representation of the “good society’ and the “bad criminals” in the golden age gave way to a kind of of heroic cynicism. So enters Batman. A hero who fights against the corruption of institutions as well as the violence on the street. However, even Batman is an avatar of our misunderstandings of the nature of real society and justice. More than just Batman, the idea of dedicated vigilantes with virtue of any kind is pretty much a fairy tale.
There Will Never Be A Joker
Like many others I LOVED Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. I loved him because he played the villain the world has never known, nor will. You see, the human psyche is not capable of doing something “evil” while being aware of it at the same time. Murderers, psychopaths, rapists, and thieves all act out of a perverted sense of justice or rationalization. The Joker, however, was completely clear-minded about his actions, which is why he was so dangerous.
If there was ever a human being capable of being completely self-aware of their actions, while still acting as intentionally “evil” they would truly be unstoppable. However, even mafia and mob leaders have seemingly contradictory values of family, loyalty, and honor. The idea of a Joker is a phantom in the human psyche, something we all fear but is ultimately non-existent.
What Society Calls “Crime” Is Only Half the Picture
On that line of thinking, people only commit crime when they feel they can no longer trust or rely on society to help them or have their best interests in hand. Thieves feel society hasn’t given them a fair chance at success. Gangs are full of people who are looking for family and acceptance. I am not saying their actions are justified, just again pointing out they don’t see themselves the way we do.
To be a “Batman” or superhero requires a kind of pure conviction. You have to believe, whole heartedly, you are fighting evil to justify the sacrifice and stress of the job. Even soldiers struggle to maintain that kind of blind conviction. More and more, society is learning that crime is really just a symptom of greater issues in our social systems and institutions.
You Can’t Fight Crime and NOT Kill People
It makes for good TV, and keeps Saturday morning cartoons running, but idea of a vigilante never killing people is just silly. Even if you never TRIED to kill anyone, people are going to die just by the natural violence of fighting. People die today in boxing areas, MMA, and even regular sports’ accidents. There is an old Samurai code, “Do not draw your sword until you are ready to kill.” This is the true nature of conflict and violence. On that note, I think even our real police draw guns too flippantly.
“Us vs. Them” is a Mental Disorder
The infamous MMPI (or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) test lead to the common misunderstand that police and criminals have “the same psychology.” What the test really showed was that VIOLENT police, the kind we now catch on camera beating people, have the same psychology as many VIOLENT criminals. That psychology? The belief of “us vs. them” and good guys vs. bad guys.
Violent criminals have often come to believe that society is against them. While violent cops often believe that they are here to fight evil criminals. Either way, “us vs. them” is a mental disorder as the very root of all violence. Sadly, our history of super-hero stories have fed our appetites for this simple black-and-white conflict.
The Kind of Heroes We Really Need
The best police officers, and they are out there, are the ones who appreciate the complexities of society. They don’t see their job as “good vs. evil” but a job of trying to protect people, often even from themselves. Anytime we think we are truly the “heroes” of a story or situation, we are at the greatest risk of creating evil ourselves. We need less stories about “good vs. evil” and more stories about people working to overcome their own evils together.
Now, I am still going to watch any and every Batman movie out and yet to come, because Batman awesome. I am just going to keep in mind the story is fiction. Besides, Superman is the real “good vs. evil” tool anyway.