Time to pay it forward

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”

John F. Kennedy

Don’t ask why no one is helping you, or not taking a chance on you or not believing in you.

Instead, ask why you aren’t helping someone, or giving someone a leg up, or taking a bet on someone even when they still have a lot to prove.

Think back on your own career. Can you name somebody who took a chance on you? Hired you, introduced you, invested time in you, taught you, believed in you?

Pay it forward.

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Time for some overdue change

It is time to make some changes. It’s time to make some big changes that won’t wait any longer.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week about the opening to a Robert F Kennedy speech.

Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation Address (known as the “Ripple of Hope” Speech) was given to National Union of South African Students members at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, on June 6, 1966 during the middle of Apartheid.

My father attended the University of Cape Town and listened to the speech in person in Jameson Hall on the university campus. He still talks about it 56 years later.

DAY OF AFFIRMATION ADDRESS

Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Vice Chancellor, Professor Robertson, Mr. Diamond, Mr. Daniel, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I come here this evening because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which was once the importer of slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America.

Robert F. Kennedy , University of Cape Town, South Africa, June 6, 1966

Please read the or listen to the full speech here

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Today’s exercise

Giving is way more energising than taking.

Here’s a suggestion for today: Say something kind and complimentary behind someone’s back.

Pay it forward. That’s it.

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Indelible moments of encouragement

The right teacher at the right time can change your life.

I still remember words of encouragement from when I was a kid at school. Whether it was in the classroom or on the sports field. Those moments matter, and they are indelible.

Someone believing in you is a huge motivator, and it’s the place you go when things get dark. For some people, it makes a world of difference. It can be the difference between quitting or persevering.

One of the best things you can do in life is to marry someone who believes in you and sees the good in you.

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Believe in someone

Imagine this clip wasn’t about sport. Imagine it was about academics and encouraging a young kid at school. It’s a little hazy now but I can’t recall ever hearing a teacher talking like this to me or anyone else when I was at school.

Marry someone who believes in you, work for people who believe in you. Then pay it forward and make sure your kids or young people in particular hear that you believe in their potential.

Talk to the pioneers

The elders of the 21st century are pioneers. This generation is going where no man or women has gone before. They are living longer than any other age before them. It’s like they’ve visited a new planet in the solar system and are right here to tell us about it. They have a perspective that nobody else has in life. Living into their nineties or even over one hundred years old is not something the previous generation was able to do.

Treat the knowledge and wisdom they hold as sacred and learn what you can. There’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Google contains a lot of knowledge, but wisdom is something is a combination understanding, data, experience, education, and judgment. These explorers are have visited lands that most of us don’t know about yet, and have not recorded.

Core principles, morality, and character don’t age. Start listening to your tribal elders.

Advise your younger self

The saying goes that the days are long and the years are short. Five years goes by in a flash.

Take a moment to look back on the last five years and ask yourself what advice you would give your younger self if you could travel back in time and share a meal together. Think about the experience and guidance you would provide. Do the same exercise with a ten-year look back. As a 30-year-old what advice would you give your 20-year-old self? If you are 40 what information would you provide your 30-year-old self?

A couple of insights bubbled up for me when I played this out in my head:

* * *

Take more risks.

Be patient, but don’t hold on too long. Have the guts to know when to leave. Knowing is the easy part. Saying it out loud is the hard part.

Back yourself more. Everyone is making it up as they go.

Learn by doing. Over-analysis will paralyze you.

Travel more.

Don’t be in such a hurry to start a career. The career will find you when you are ready.

Be kind to your body.

Don’t stress so much. There’s only now. Most of the time you land on your feet, and most of the things you worry about are in your head.

Small contributions compound over time. Small acts of kindness, small investments, small tweaks add up.

* * *

Try it. It’s an enlightening exercise

Urban communities will be family

If you want to make new friends or nurture existing relationships, then find shared interests. Shared interests create shared experiences and shared memories. Find communities that work and play together.

Suburban America is compartmentalized into McMansions, high fences, and car friendly neighborhoods. Suburban America is not a healthy garden to grow a community. People have everything they want at their fingertips but are still isolated and lonely. When last did you have a conversation with your neighbors or fellow tenants?

The good news is that concentrated urbanization is trending and housing legislation is adapting. Sadly tech hubs like San Francisco have been slow to adjust and will see an exodus of young people and families looking for more affordable living arrangements and better public services.

Individually owned cars will be a legacy mode of transporting and will be surpassed by communal ownership and various forms of public transport. Public transportation like trains is a leading indicator of growth in new companies. More trains in cities equate to more successful startups. Sci-fi novels are pretty good at telling the future, and most of them envisage dense cityscapes, and that is full of skyscrapers.

We see the same trend in farming. We will do more with less space as people urbanized. The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the US, which has 270 times its landmass.

Healthy communities depend on each other, are compassionate and look out for their neighbors. More and more people will migrate to these megacities and sadly away from family. The community will become their family over time…any immigrant knows this from personal experience. Compartmentalized America is in for a nasty surprise as these trends start to accelerate. Adapt now and start exercising your community muscle.

Flee from them

If you have a gambling problem, then don’t go to Las Vegas even if the best show in the world is playing on the strip.

If you can’t say no to that last drink, then stay away from bars.

If you are addicted to nicotine, then don’t hang out in the smoking lounge.

If you are trying to kick caffeine, then stay away from coffee shops.

If you are addicted to the endorphin kick from social media, then delete the apps like Facebook or Instagram that suck you in. Turn off push notifications and opt out of the email. There are brilliant people at these companies whose sole job, compensation and bonuses are centered on getting you to spend more time scrolling through the feed. Sadly a lot of them could be applying that same expertise to nobler causes, but money talks and principles walk out the door.

If there are people you follow on Twitter who spew negativity, hate, and decisiveness and in the process make you feel pretty shitty then unfollow them.

Don’t try to control these vices; you need to flee from them. Keep away from the hooks, and you won’t get sucked in. Addictive vices are seductive, so to counter the gravitational pull you have to engineer your life and habits to avoid them. Associate with people that reinforce good habits and keep you on track. Sometimes the best way to beat something is to run away.

Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.

When the going gets tough

Take one day at a time. The sun always comes up the next day.

You can only connect the dots looking backward. There will be time for retrospectives later. Now is the time for action.

Over-communicate, don’t bottle it up. Sometimes verbalizing a fear is like slaying the imaginary dragon. Other people will also give you perspective and shared experiences.

Ask yourself how you will feel about this two years from now. It’ll put things in perspective.

Separate what’s out of your control but don’t ignore it.

Worry and stress about things that are certain. Don’t spend energy on worrying.

Ask for help and share the load. Family, friends, co-workers will surprise you.

Stick to your principles and maintain integrity. People will know, and more importantly, you’ll know that when the pressure was on, you dared to be true to yourself.

Take a few deep breaths and check out for a bit. Try to get some sleep and exercise. Sleep and exercise compounds and is a magic stress reliever.

Stay off the coffee and booze.

Keep moving forward and don’t put your head in the sand.

It could be worse.