What did you learn from this election?

This election season has taught me a lot. It has made me see the ideology that can take over reason. It has shown me the emotion that can drive us to our beliefs, or help drive us apart, and give ourselves meaning.

And my emotions sit inside me, the sadness that realities exist unknown by many. That people suffer, and costs mount, youths remain uneducated, and bets are being made by our bankers (albeit less recklessly than before). But then I see the researchers that continue their work, driven by human curiosity. The development of science and technology that is exploding to a future I can’t even imagine. The businessmen and engineers who rebuild, making things better, more efficient, faster, and cheaper. The resiliency in those who are just working to pay bills. And those overseas who are going through the dirty work of murder in order to be free of dictators. I see all of this. And I smile.

Although hope can be blind, it is also our greatest asset, because whatever happens, we will persevere through the changes that this country and the world is going through. And it’s not anyone’s fault that things happen this way, because this is the way that it should happen.

As much we try to control things, the only thing we have control over, the most valuable thing, is our own work, and our own happiness. If I don’t like where I’m at, that is on me. And if you don’t like where you are, that is on you. And no one can change that… no partner, no friends, no parents, no government program… no matter what they do… because we have a choice, we still have freedoms… especially in the United State of America.

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Remove the money gag

How would you rate the following in importance?

-Tax breaks for gay and straight married couples
-Wall Street banks paying fines a fraction of the $30 trillion the government loaned them to keep their collapse from taking down our economy.
-Government money to cover contraception

What do we need to focus on? All of these involve controlling money. Is that the problem?

The money isn’t the problem. It’s how the government is engineering the country as if money is our only motivator.

Good leaders trust the human spirit, not carrots and sticks

Good leaders don’t use regulations and incentives. But our leaders are doing so today. They’re trying to regulate Wall St bankers to prevent their recklessness from hurting us again in the future. But regulations restrict us and push us to find a way around them. That is why three times since 1990, the banks have almost collapsed and why the government bailed them out each time. If you knew you were going to get your money back, would you be more or less careless when spending it?

And incentives? Incentives bribe us. Research shows that when you start giving rewards, people are pretty predictable. They stop doing for the sake of doing, and shift to doing for the reward. When you start going to work so that you can get money to buy stuff, the stuff becomes the reward and the job becomes less of a choice.

We’re not animals. But if you use carrots and sticks on us, we will tune our motivations to that type of environment

How can these two things be the foundation of leadership, of government, of a community?

They can’t.

Are there any leaders today that inspire you? Most leaders of today aren’t going to be the people in government. Those who seek power in a system that has been compromised have compromised themselves. Granted, they may change some things. They may nibble at the fringes. But that cancer still grows inside.

Despite what media and culture tells us, leaders aren’t special. They aren’t chosen by divine providence or fate. They don’t have abilities different than you and me. Do you empower others? Ask people what they think? Do you encourage people? Then you’re probably a leader, or you can become one now that you see what it takes.

Leaders make things happen, yes. But:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”

This Taoist quote tells us it’s about us doing something. It’s always been about us. And I think we can do this. It’s going to require us to remove the gag of money that has both silenced and motivated us. It’s going to require looking past the “I want to get mine if they’re getting theirs”. It’s going to require stopping the consumer train, and looking at what we’re feeding the engine. It’s going to require putting our heads together and not letting party or social class or emotions divide us and distract us from doing the right thing.

Let’s kill the noise and start listening to reality

Elections are where we can flex our muscle. But we’ve got to do our homework before then. Listen to what’s being reported. Do you think it’s important? We’ve got to talk to people and not be afraid to ask them why they believe what they do. Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy, and neither are you. Politics isn’t personal. It’s what a community depends on for its survival! And if we think one party or one person can fix this country, we’ve missed the point. This country is here because people had the courage of their convictions to join together and risk everything for what they believed in.

I think we can step up and be leaders again.

The most difficult decision of my life

There are some actions that are not right, but context defines our decisions. Sometimes we must do the wrong thing at the right time. Me walking away from a medical degree, for instance. It was what needed to be done at the time, much to people’s disbelief. But I wasn’t living my life. My life was living me.

What is indisputable is that we’re here to do something worthwhile. And who is the one that’s going to tell you what that thing is?

Well, that’s going to be you. Not society. Not your parents. Not your neighbors, and not your partner.

The how and the why is answered by you, and you alone.

Your values are what make your actions your own.