5 Business Values I Learned Via Earlham College

Today I'm sitting on a panel at Earlham College where we'll talk some about the world of business and money-making in the context of an Earlham education.  As a part of preparing for it, I was thinking about how my time at Earlham, and my relationship with the College since, has informed my experience in the business world.

Here's a list of 5 business values that I think I learned via Earlham College:

  1. You can do good and still do well. While it hasn't been as black and white as Mark and I may have thought it would be when we started Summersault, we have found that it is generally possible to make ethical decisions and still make money.  When you do make ethical decisions and still make money as a result, it tends to feel better than other approaches.
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Vacation and Vocation

I'm on a paid vacation right now. For those of you who don't already know, this means my employer, Summersault, is actually paying me to not show up to the office for a while. Ha - suckers! Apparently it's pretty normal for employers around the world to offer some sort of paid "break" from the expectations that normally come with the job - showing up, getting stuff done, etc. - in the name of rejuvenating oneself, catching up, getting rest, exploring the world, spending more time with family, and so on. But I thought I might take a few ironic moments to suggest that this practice of paying people to go on vacation is a rather silly one, at least in the context of the larger effort to create the lives we want for ourselves.
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Why I won't be seeing the new Borat movie

Just one reason of many, I'm sure: Borat film tricked poor village actors. Excerpt:

"Mr Tudorache, a deeply religious grandfather who lost his arm in an accident, was one of those who feels most humiliated. For one scene, a rubber sex toy in the shape of a fist was attached to the stump of his missing arm - but he had no idea what it was.

Only when The Mail on Sunday visited him did he find out. He said he was ashamed, confessing that he only agreed to be filmed because he hoped to top up his £70-a-month salary - although in the end he was paid just £3.

He invited us into his humble home and brought out the best food and drink his family had. Visibly disturbed, he said shakily: 'Someone from the council said these Americans need a man with no arm for some scenes. I said yes but I never imagined the whole country, or even the whole world, will see me in the cinemas ridiculed in this way. This is disgusting.'"

The media seem to be getting a kick out of pretending to debate the question "is this groundbreaking cinema or just over-the-top offensive profiteering?" To me, at least, it's clearly the latter, and I have no reason to spend money on it.

Justifying war, values training for war makers

Hung out to dryIn my eighth grade English class, Mr. Sweeney asked us to write a persuasive essay and then deliver it to the rest of the class convincingly. The United States had just sent its military to the Middle East to expel the Iraqi forces that had invaded Kuwait, and that was a hot topic of discussion and controversy. As a part of these events, the head pastor at my church had recently delivered a sermon on what constitutes a "just war." It was a good sermon - contemplative, balanced, and challenging without being preachy (beyond the normal degree to which a white man adorned in robes standing in an ornate pulpit speaking down to a congregation with an amplified and booming voice is "preachy"). Because I admired this man and trusted my church and had not yet at that point in my life encountered any other theories of war, I found myself thoroughly convinced that the use of force by my government in that case was justified. I thought it was a perfect topic to use for my own persuasive speech.
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Thoughts on global imperatives

It's not really useful to me when someone tells me that they know what will and won't work for my life, the people around me, my community, and so on.

That tends to scale up pretty far: it's not really useful to me when someone tells me what will and won't work for the entire population of planet Earth. There's biology and educated guessing and mathematics, and then there's fortune telling and speculation. I think one of the great wonders of life on this planet is that none of us can know, none of us can grasp the seemingly infinite variables that contribute to what happens from this moment forward.

I don't think we should be blind to data and trends and evidence and probable outcomes, and that we should not incorporate our observations about the world into our decision making. But, I also don't think the human brain was designed to cogitate on the lives and futures of the other 6.5 billion people on the earth, or the other millions of square miles that we don't inhabit. It's a fun exercise and a worthwhile one, but it perplexes me when people insist that they can discern the right way for all of us to live based on what might or might not come out of the billions of interactions happening every second. The magic of the universe seems well beyond the grasp of any one person.

Town Hall meeting with Mike Pence

IMG 0447The "Town Hall meeting" with Congressman Mike Pence this morning at the Leland Residence was fairly well attended (compared to similar such events, not as a function of the district's population) and interesting, I thought. Pence talked about his recent decision not to join the congressional leadership so that he could continue to pursue his ideals and issues (limited government, strong defense, "traditional moral values," etc.), about his two major concerns for the year (deficit reduction and border security) and the "War on Terror." The questions covered giving greater access to passports, whether every child in the country has the right to have healthcare, health insurance costs for small business and how we could change our culture and insurance system, energy concerns and drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, whether being born in the U.S. should give you automatic citizenship, concerns over the abuse of executive privilege related to wiretaps and torture, the federal outlook on highway I-69, and others. As in the past, I appreciated Mr. Pence's time speaking with his constituents, and I admired greatly those who had the initiative to speak and question him. All of my photos from the meeting are here.

Oops, we ALL cut the trees down

I am hesitant to write more about the conversion of Hayes Arboretum land into commercial shopping space - so much has already been said. But I feel compelled to point out my sense that Richmond, as a community, is finding some good in a situation that, for a while, only seemed to have negative feelings and outcomes attached to it all around. Indeed, I am hopeful (perhaps naively so) that it may serve as a turning point in how we shape Richmond's future.
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