Sunday, November 20, 2016

What Now For The United States?

As the dust begins to settle over what in the words of U.S House speaker (Paul Ryan) was the ‘most incredible political feat of my lifetime,’ Americans and the rest of the world are left asking ‘What now from January 20th when this box office movie eventually goes live?’

While Trump might be saying the politically correct things at the moment, it is important not to be politically na├»ve as to what his values are. It was Trump who wrote in his 2007 book, Think Big And Kick Ass, “When someone intentionally harms you or your reputation, how do you react? I strike back, doing the same thing to them only ten times worse.” In the world of business and even in his popular ‘Apprentice’ show, he was known as a vindictive and vengeful man. Whether he will revisit the subject of deploying a private persecutor on bitter rival, Hilary Clinton, remains to be seen. Yet, one thing is clear – Trump hardly forgets. It is the fear of many that Trump might be his own greatest enemy. Past presidents have simply been restrained by restraint. By a belief that there are certain things one simply cannot try or do. Yet Trump has repeatedly triumphed in circumstances that most predicted were impossible. He operates entirely without shame. Perhaps, the biggest hope to taming a Trump presidency will be the Senate of the Unites States. These are peculiar times and all senators – Republicans and Democrats – must realize that a time bomb waiting to explode currently occupies the White House.

Yet, Trump is not entirely a bag of negatives. It was Barack Obama who noted at his White House Briefing on Monday 14th November that “I don't think he is ideological. I think ultimately he is pragmatic in that way. And that can serve him well as long as he has got good people around him and he has a clear sense of direction.” While the election results might have reflected deep rooted seeds of racism, sexism and religious bigotry, it is also a truism that Trump has made some success in his own personal life that inspired many electorates to vote for him. Translating that success to the murky waters of politics will be a different task but he must be given a chance.

It has been said and not without reason that the biggest loser in the wake of the elections is Barack Obama. His legacies and all he stood for stands in the balance. It is true that realities at the oval office might humble Donald Trump, but it is difficult to see how he will not overhaul the Obama legacies. Top of the list are the Iran deal and the now infamous ‘ObamaCare’. At the core of Trump’s campaign was a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to scrap Obama’s executive actions on immigration and climate change. Trump also has promised to undo the president’s deal to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the biggest foreign policy achievement of Obama’s second term. Trump might moderate his actions on deporting 12 million undocumented immigrants and the likes but he certainly has the power to rip into shreds anything left of the Obama legacy. The early verdict is that the Obama presidency did enough, steadied the ship and delivered an ‘Ok’ nation. The fear however, is that within months of a Trump presidency, all we might remember of Barack Obama is that ‘He was the first black president of the United States,’ with nothing remembered about what he did. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is often remembered for the ingenious framework that was ‘The New Deal’, Obama risk being remembered solely for his skin colour.

And now some political epitaph for the Clintons. The Huffington Post reported after the elections ‘It was arrogance, arrogance that they were going to win. That this was all wrapped up.’ Several theories have been proffered to explain just what went wrong for the Clinton campaign in an election that virtually everyone expected the Democratic nominee to win. But lost in the discussion is a simple explanation - The Clinton campaign was harmed by its own neglect. But this was not all. A school of thought believes that Hilary Clinton just was not popular. She didn’t inspire confidence dating back to the Democratic convention, and even when she brought the Beyonces, Obamas and Lady Gagas to the campaign rallies, it ended up being less about her and more about them. They, rather than herself, were the main event at those rallies. Elections are about popularity and she wasn’t liked (forget what the popular votes tell you). In an era of political change, a vast majority of Americans just concluded that the Clintons have too much baggage of their own.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

10 Hard Truths About Our Relationships No One Wants to Admit

1. Our relationships are filled with unnecessary judgments. – When we judge, we learn nothing. Realize this. Open your mind and heart. Don’t judge people just because they sin differently than you. The world is changed by your example, not by your judgments. Be kind. Ask about people’s stories. Listen. Be humble. Be teachable. Be a good neighbor.

2. We look down on people when we disagree with them. – When someone upsets you, this is often because they aren’t behaving according to your fantasy of how they “should” behave. Take a deep breath. It’s OK to disagree with the opinions of others, but that doesn’t give you the right to deny any sense they might make. Nor does it give you a right to accuse them of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t agree with them. Learn to appreciate different perspectives, lifestyles, and opinions, even if it means overcoming your pride and opening your mind beyond what’s initially comfortable.

3. We have a tendency to dwell on people’s weaknesses. – Be present. Be kind. Compliment people. Magnify their strengths, not their weaknesses. This is how to make a real and lasting difference in your relationships.

4. There’s a whole lot we don’t know about the people in our lives. – It’s impossible to know exactly how another person is feeling or what kind of emotional battles they’re presently fighting. Every smile or sign of strength hides an inner struggle every bit as complex and extraordinary as your own.

5. We carelessly gossip about our relationships. – Don’t give in to the unnecessary negativity, drama and gossip around you. Be positive. Give people a piece of your heart rather than a piece of your mind. And listen carefully to how a person speaks about other people to you – this is precisely how they will speak about you to other people.

6. Our “busy” lives often get in the way of our most important relationships. – The people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow. Never be too busy to make time for the folks who matter most. Truly, the best gift you can give someone today is the purity of your undivided attention. Just be present with them, and pay attention to the little things.

7. We try to hide our flaws, even from those closest to us. – As imperfect as you might be, as small as you sometimes feel, and as out of place as you imagine you are, you don’t have to hide the flawed pieces of yourself. Remember, you attract other people to you by the qualities you show them, but you keep them around based on the qualities you truly possess. Personal flaws are a part of everyone’s life. If you try to hide them, you don’t give the people who care about you a chance to truly know and love the real you.

8. Our relationships aren’t as easy as we want them to be. – Good relationships require work. Good relationships require sacrifice and compromise. They are amazing, but rarely easy. Resisting the hard times and seeing them as immediate evidence that something is wrong or that you’re in the wrong relationship only aggravates the difficulties. By contrast, finding the willingness to view the challenges as opportunities to learn will give you the mindset you need to nurture your relationship to new heights.

9. We try to “fix” the people we care about. – The act of sincerely caring for another person is rooted in love and respect. This means listening to them wholeheartedly and letting them know by your complete presence that they are seen, heard, and valued. It’s not a space where you try to fix them – it’s about being a witness to the totality of who they truly are.

10. We resist change within our relationships. – Healthy, authentic relationships move in the direction of personal growth: for the relationship and for each person in it. Growth and change are a part of life and you must embrace it. Even when you are concerned that a relationship may dissolve if things change, you must embrace the fact that your paths may diverge for all the right reasons.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

5 Ways to Spark Your Motivation (When You’re Feeling Stuck)

1. The Curiosity Spark.

This spark is about the pursuit of a burning question. Is there something you need to know, an answer you feel deeply called to figure out or a solution to a problem that just won’t let you go? Examples of people often fueled by a fierce curiosity spark might include scientists, entrepreneurs and even media producers and authors. As Albert Einstein profoundly said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”

2. The Fascination Spark.

This spark is about a deep fascination or interest in a particular topic, field or idea. It’s not about a specific problem or question; it’s more about some intrinsic connection with something. It often begins in childhood and stays with us for life, but fascination sparks can emerge upon exposure to new experiences or ideas in the blink of an eye. Examples might include art historians, hobbyists and really anyone who loves to read and research on a topic for no other reason beyond the deep gratification that comes from deepening into an interest. Truly, some of the unhappiest, unmotivated people I’ve ever met are those who don’t care deeply about anything at all. Deep fascination and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any bit of happiness or motivation is only fleeting, because there’s nothing substantial to make it last.

3. The Immersion Spark.

This spark is about the feeling of absorption or becoming lost in a task or entire process. It’s what athletes often describe as being “in the zone” and social scientists call “flow.” It’s about being utterly lit-up and consumed by the process of an activity, without regard to the end. Even though the pursuit of this all-immersive experience also often leads to astonishing accomplishment, that’s not the core driver. A couple great examples would be crafters and artists. Sure, they end up creating beautiful things, but for many, that’s just an added bonus. The real thing that lights them up is the ability to get lost in a process. On your average day, immersion sparks are those flashes of intense living when you’re engrossed in a meaningful task that makes you feel more alive. These optimal experiences can happen when you’re engaged in work, paid or unpaid, which move you. Work like this is something you could be pursuing on a daily basis.

4. The Mastery Spark.

This spark is all about the devoted pursuit of improvement. You may not be obsessed with having to become the best in the world at something, but the feeling of progress – the ability to check growth markers off along a journey – is what keeps you committed to the experience. It often doesn’t really even matter what the subject matter is, as along as there is a well-defined path to excellence and an ability to measure progress along the way. Martial arts is a great example, with it’s clearly demarked “belt” system, where you can progress down a path to mastery and always know what it takes to get to the next level. Perhaps Winston Churchill said it best: “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”

5. The Service Spark

This final spark is all about helping others. For many, knowing that, in some way, you’ve made a difference in the lives of others is the single biggest driver. It’s the thing that makes you feel most lit-up and motivated. Interestingly, a service spark may be connected to a particular person or group, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, that “other” doesn’t even have to be human. It could be animals, plants or even the bigger concept of the environment or planet. Members of clergy and volunteers are often fueled by profound service sparks. What kind of service motivates you? Think about it. In the long run, real love only intensifies by sharing. You can only have more of what motivates you by giving it away to others.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Humanism and The Emergence of Trumpism

Long after the verdict of the November 8 polls fizzles away, there is no gainsaying that America and to an extent, the political world, will never remain the same. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign might currently be on life support after a barrage of self-destructive revelations from his dirty past and theatrics of his present life, but the legacy has been birthed and American politics has now been redefined going forward and the inquest of ‘What were we doing when this man emerged’ will long continue. Donald Trump prides himself as an outlier and makes everyone believe that he is an institutional outsider as a way to cloak the menace that he truly is. Indeed, he is an unconventional politician but he is worse than that. He is the embodiment of crass racism, a poster boy for male chauvinism, a religious bigot, a spoilt rich kid, and an enemy of humanity.

The United States has long been spared a truly authoritarian element in her politics. What Trump has succeeded in doing is to show something different, something that less fortunate countries know all too well: how authoritarianism works, how it seduces, and ultimately how it wins. It is not uncommon to have politicians with radical and outlandish views, however, in every true democracy, these radicals are always on the fringes; carefully guarded to scream from the outside. What has emerged with Donald Trump on the verge of the most important job in the world is the full assimilation of the fringes into mainstream politics. He hasn’t just given a voice to his kind, he has given them a renewed hope to dare; the kind that gave Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini the guts to carry out their heinous fascist and totalitarian tendencies. Trumpism thrives on the innate evil in man. The notion that you can do whatever you want and get away with it, that you can spit vitriol on the face of the not-so-privileged and take no blemish and that you can evade taxes for years and still tell the ‘little guy’ to go to hell. It all comes down to an irritatingly simple but unresolved question about his supporters: How much do they support Trump because they like his views, and how much do they support his views because they like Trump? We just don’t yet fully know, but one thing you can be sure of is that in him, some of his supporters see themselves; they might have never believed that their kind can be on the threshold of the plum job at the oval office. And even if he loses, the point has been made.

Trump might be the natural end result of a GOP that has leaned toward violent rhetoric and racial divisiveness for years, but his legacy is to be dreaded by all. Some part of Trump may even recognize this about himself, and that may be the reason he refuses to look inward. “When you start studying yourself too deeply, you start seeing things that maybe you don’t want to see,” he said in an interview with Time magazine some years back. “And if there’s a rhyme and reason people can figure you out,” Trump added, “and once they can figure you out, you’re in big trouble.”

Ultimately, Trump’s fire might have been contained from consuming the White House with all its flourishing history, but that fire now burns in the hearts of millions of Americans and non-Americans around the world. The United States will eternally do an inquest of how its glorious democracy birthed the monster that was Donald Trump, how unconventional vinegar was brought to the mainstream with many tasting the venom that might never leave their system. The conclusion of the matter is that while there is plenty of reason to fear a President Trump, even citizen Trump is a real and present danger to society.