Love Work? Hate It?

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Many of us consider ourselves fortunate that we find our way to work that is interesting and fulfilling. That doesn’t mean that every day on the job is nirvana, but rather that, in general, we’re happy and engaged in our jobs. That’s why an article in the New York Times entitled, “Why You Hate Work,” spoke to me. Here is part of what the authors said:

The way we’re working isn’t working. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished, amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway. By the time you get home, you’re pretty much running on empty, and yet still answering emails until you fall asleep.

More broadly, just 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work, according to a 2013 report by Gallup. Around the world, across 142 countries, the proportion of employees who feel engaged at work is just 13 percent. For most of us, in short, work is a depleting, dispiriting experience, and in some obvious ways, it’s getting worse.

Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

Want more? Read this intriguing article here.

Happy?

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If there is a universal human longing, it’s to be happy. We all want to be so. But too many of us deny ourselves this happiness by finding reasons to be unhappy: bad genes, bad luck, bad “whatever.”

That’s one of the reasons I found Arthur Brooks’ piece, “A Formula for Happiness so energizing and uplifting. He gets to the heart of the matter and helps us all shed those excuses for being unhappy. Here is part of what he says:

Happiness has traditionally been considered an elusive and evanescent thing. To some, even trying to achieve it is an exercise in futility. It has been said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

Social scientists have caught the butterfly. After 40 years of research, they attribute happiness to three major sources: genes, events and values. Armed with this knowledge and a few simple rules, we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can even construct a system that fulfills our founders’ promises and empowers all Americans to pursue happiness.

Want more happiness? You can read this fascinating article here.

Internet Chains

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I’m not a Luddite. Yes, I used a slide-rule in high school and college and used computer punch-cards in grad school. But now I have all the great “I-devices,” use them frequently, and even work at a U.S. Navy laboratory where hundreds of people come to work every day and write computer code – and they’re my pals.

That said, I found Ross Douthat’s NYT piece, “Resist the Internet” absolutely riveting. He not only hit the nail on the head, he drove it deep into the board. Here’s part of what he said:

“So now it’s time to turn to the real threat to the human future: the one in your pocket or on your desk, the one you might be reading this column on right now.”

“Search your feelings, you know it to be true: You are enslaved to the internet. Definitely if you’re young, increasingly if you’re old, your day-to-day, minute-to-minute existence is dominated by a compulsion to check email and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram with a frequency that bears no relationship to any communicative need.”

“Of course it’s too soon to fully know (and indeed we can never fully know) what online life is doing to us. It certainly delivers some social benefits, some intellectual advantages, and contributes an important share to recent economic growth.”

“But there are also excellent reasons to think that online life breeds narcissism, alienation and depression, that it’s an opiate for the lower classes and an insanity-inducing influence on the politically-engaged, and that it takes more than it gives from creativity and deep thought. Meanwhile the age of the internet has been, thus far, an era of bubbles, stagnation and democratic decay — hardly a golden age whose customs must be left inviolate.”

“I suspect that versions of these ideas will be embraced within my lifetime by a segment of the upper class and a certain kind of religious family. But the masses will still be addicted, and the technology itself will have evolved to hook and immerse — and alienate and sedate — more completely and efficiently.”

“But what if we decided that what’s good for the Silicon Valley overlords who send their kids to a low-tech Waldorf school is also good for everyone else? Our devices we shall always have with us, but we can choose the terms.”

Want more? Read this intriguing article here.

One America?

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What is our American story today? Is there a narrative that unites us, or are many stories competing with one another?

As they say, where you stand depends on where you sit. And while few are willing to take on this huge question, David Brooks is. Here is part of what he shared in, “The Unifying American Story.”

For most of the past 400 years, Americans did have an overarching story. It was the Exodus story. The Puritans came to this continent and felt they were escaping the bondage of their Egypt and building a new Jerusalem.

The Puritans could survive hardship because they knew what kind of cosmic drama they were involved in. Being a chosen people with a sacred mission didn’t make them arrogant, it gave their task dignity and consequence.

The successive immigrant groups saw themselves performing an exodus to a promised land. The waves of mobility — from east to west, from south to north — were also seen as Exodus journeys. These people could endure every hardship because they were serving in a spiritual drama and not just a financial one.

The Exodus narrative has pretty much been dropped from our civic culture. Schools cast off the Puritans as a bunch of religious fundamentalists.

We have a lot of crises in this country, but maybe the foundational one is the Telos Crisis, a crisis of purpose. Many people don’t know what this country is here for, and what we are here for. If you don’t know what your goal is, then every setback sends you into cynicism and selfishness.

It should be possible to revive the Exodus template, to see Americans as a single people trekking through a landscape of broken institutions. What’s needed is an act of imagination, somebody who can tell us what our goal is, and offer an ideal vision of what the country and the world should be.

Want more? You can read this fascinating article here.

Rude?

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Society has a rich history of people seizing on social evolution as an excuse for bad manners. From the Romantic poets to the transcendentalists to the Summer of Love hippies, many have rejected a supposed facade of good behavior in favor of being true to their inner nature. Good manners are mere mannerisms, the argument goes, which serve only to put barriers in the way of deeper connections.

That’s why this article in the New York Times, “Am I Introverted, or Just Rude?” spoke to me, and I think it might speak to you. It explores the benefits – and risks – of being introverted and not trying to “morph” into being even a bit of extrovert. A powerful difference – I think so. It’s no accident that “Introvert-Extrovert” represents the first part of the Myers-Briggs type indicator.

Want more? Read this intriguing article here.

Enlightened America?

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Are we Americans enlightened? David Brooks gave us something to think about in a recent piece in the New York Times. Here is part of what he shared:

“When anti-Enlightenment movements arose in the past, Enlightenment heroes rose to combat them. The Enlightenment included thinkers like John Locke and Immanuel Kant who argued that people should stop deferring blindly to authority for how to live. Instead, they should think things through from the ground up, respect facts and skeptically re-examine their own assumptions and convictions.”

“De Tocqueville came along and said that if a rules-based democratic government was going to work anywhere it was going to be the United States. America became the test case for the entire Enlightenment project. With his distrust of mob rule and his reverence for law, Abraham Lincoln was a classic Enlightenment man. His success in the Civil War seemed to vindicate faith in democracy and the entire Enlightenment cause.”

The forces of the Enlightenment have always defeated the anti-Enlightenment threats. When the Cold War ended, the Enlightenment project seemed utterly triumphant. But now we’re living in the wake of another set of failures: the financial crisis, the slow collapse of the European project, Iraq. What’s interesting, Hill noted, is that the anti-Enlightenment traditions are somehow back. Nietzschean thinking is back in the form of Vladimir Putin. Marxian thinking is back in the form of an aggressive China. Both Russia and China are trying to harvest the benefits of the Enlightenment order, but they also want to break the rules when they feel like it. They incorporate deep strains of anti-Enlightenment thinking and undermine the post-Enlightenment world order.

Want more? You can read this fascinating article here.

It’s the Economy Stupid

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It has been a quarter-century since Bill Clinton’s campaign manager, James Carville, coined the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid” as a focusing metaphor for Clinton’s campaign workers as the campaign sought to unseat a sitting president, George H.W. Bush. It worked, and Clinton became our 42nd president by driving home the message that he could fix America’s economy.

Most agree that he did, but since then, the U.S. economy has been on roller coaster ride of boom and bust. Many of us feel that the nation is moving forward from the depths of the 2008 recession.

But are we really making progress? David Brooks asks this question in his op-ed piece, “This Century is Broken.” Brooks suggests that the 21st century is looking much nastier and bumpier: rising ethnic nationalism, falling faith in democracy, a dissolving world order. Then he points out that at the bottom of all this, perhaps, is declining economic growth. His thoughts are chilling:

Read this intriguing, and troubling, article here.

America and the Oscars

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I suspect many of you watched the Academy Awards show Sunday night – all four-hours worth – closer to eight if you count the Red Carpet warm-up.

Many of us think that art imitates life and that the kind of movies nominated for the Oscar represent us – American writ large.

That’s why I found this article “America as Told by the Oscars,” so riveting and eye-opening. It spoke to me, and I think it will speak to you. Here is part of what the writer said:

“For years, the Academy Awards reliably recognized movies that attempted to capture the sweep of the American idea — in earnest films like “Forrest Gump” and “Saving Private Ryan” as well as more scorching efforts like “There Will Be Blood” — that seemed to want to define the country, and its people, all at once. If you wanted a shot at a best-picture Oscar in that era, an ambitious statement film that tried to tell Americans who they really are was a good bet.”

“The narrow, personal focus of this year’s top Oscar nominees suggests how tough it may be for Americans, or Hollywood, to settle on a single unifying vision of what America means, or what it means to be an American. It may never again be possible for one movie to fully answer those questions. More likely, it never was.”

“Yet this year’s best-picture crop may have provided an answer — in the notion that there is no one American story, but a variety of specific and unique American stories, and in the idea that America is a nation of both individualism and pluralism. You might think of the movies in the best-picture category as a kind of expanded cinematic universe — not of superheroes, but of ordinary, extraordinary lives, overlapping and intersecting in a sprawling national epic too big for any one film.”

“Of course, that means the task is more difficult for moviegoers as well: If you really want to find out what America looks like, you have to watch all of them.”

You can read this fascinating article here.

What in the World?

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We have access to so much information, we should always be able to find precisely what we want to. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Sadly, this isn’t the case. We are bombarded with information on multiple fronts and for most of us, separating the wheat from the chaff is difficult, often extraordinarily so.

That’s why a recent report from the non-partisan World Economic Forum is so refreshing. In a few hard-hitting charts we learn important facts ranging from: The top ten global economies, to what countries are rising fastest, to global risks we need to be concerned about, to so much more.

Thought provoking? You can read the full report here.

Now What?

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Few writers can dissect an issue as well as The New York Times David Brooks. It’s no surprise then that he recently took to the op-ed page to discuss the woman’s march on Washington. Here is part of what he shared:

“The women’s marches were a phenomenal success and an important cultural moment. Most everybody came back uplifted and empowered. Many said they felt hopeful for the first time since Election Day. But these marches can never be an effective opposition to Donald Trump.

In the first place, this movement focuses on the wrong issues. Of course, many marchers came with broad anti-Trump agendas, but they were marching under the conventional structure in which the central issues were clear. As The Washington Post reported, they were “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change.”

These are all important matters, and they tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities. But this is 2017. Ethnic populism is rising around the world. The crucial problems today concern the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing the social fabric; the way migration is redefining nation-states; the way the post-World War II order is increasingly being rejected as a means to keep the peace.

All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life.”

Here is where his message is compelling:

“Sometimes social change happens through grass-roots movements — the civil rights movement. But most of the time change happens through political parties: The New Deal, the Great Society, and the Reagan Revolution. Change happens when people run for office, amass coalitions of interest groups, engage in the messy practice of politics.

Without the discipline of party politics, social movements devolve into mere feeling, especially in our age of expressive individualism. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. They have a social experience with a lot of people and fool themselves into thinking they are members of a coherent and demanding community. Such movements descend to the language of mass therapy.”

Thought provoking? You can read the full article here.