Tuesday

Five Lessons from Five Astronauts


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In his latest book, astronaut Ron Garan teaches readers about the need for the orbital perspective -- a way of seeing things in the larger scheme where all things are interconnected and no one thing is without the influence of something else no matter how seemingly removed.

Ron is not the first astronaut to have important lessons for mankind. Here are five other lessons from five notable astronauts:

1. Buzz Aldrin: Emotions get in the way sometimes.
Like most astronauts, Buzz Aldrin was a fighter pilot. He famously said "Fighter pilors have ice in their veins. They don't have emotions. They think, anticipate. They know that fear and other concerns cloud your mind from what's going on and what you should be involved in." Aldrin was not advocating for us to be soulless automatons, but when quick actions are required, human emotions can get in the way of rapid responses to pressing situations. Oftentimes, it is a matter of seeing, anticipating, and acting more than anything else. Essentially, it's about moving from a focus on oneself and one's own thoughts to something that serves a purpose not directly related to one's own self-preservation.

2. Neal Armstrong: We should never look at our achievements within their own contexts but in the larger sense of things
Being the first man on the moon is quite the achievement and yet Armstrong never saw his mission and achievement in such narrow terms. He said, "The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited." Achievements are not about themselves but emblematic of greater ideas and opportunities.

3. Linda Godwin: Always be thinking ahead of where you are thinking currently.
We have a tendency to look only for immediate needs and goals, but Godwin once explained the importance of thinking long-term by saying, "It's important to know that we packed right, because it is a safety issue for coming home." Most people think in terms of a goal as just reaching it, but equally important (especially if you're in outer space) is being aware of what comes next and what resources that requires.

4. Shannon Lucid: Always push for what you want no matter what others tell you.
Shannon Lucid has always been candid about her struggles getting into the space program as a woman: "Basically, all my life I'd been told you can't do that because you're female. So I guess I just didn't pay them any attention. I just went ahead..." She also said, "It was just really, really tough getting anything when you were a female. Basically, I just took advantage of everything I could..." Lucid fought every step of the way to make it to where she is despite what others told her.

5. Edgar Mitchell: Develop a global mindset and realize that our differences are petty and that a global consciousness can unite us.
Edgar Mitchell is certainly one of the most spiritual astronauts that ever existed but he said the transformation for him happened in space: "You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics looks so petty." Mitchell has gone on to become a powerful voice in various spiritual communities globally.

The unmistakable lesson that all of these astronauts also endorse is one that Ron Garan is talking about in this book -- the need for a bigger mindset that moves away from immediacy, shot-termism, and narrow, overly-focused thinking and instead moves towards...the orbital perspective.


Wednesday

The Three Pillars of Society

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In his latest book, Henry Mintzberg describes how our society has become imbalanced due to a lack of consistent and equal support from the three crucial pillars of society.

Below, Henry described what each of these pillars does and what happens if it exerts too much or too little influence.


Pillar 1: 
What is it? The Public Sector—governments in all their forms

What is it responsible for? Many things—more than some people care to realize. But mainly protections, for example policing and regulating.

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? That’s called communism (or for some people, government in any form). Governments can be crude: too much government leads to a cold, crude, bureaucratic society.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? People lack protections, private forces run rampant. If you live in America, look around.


Pillar 2: 
What is it? The Private Sector—businesses in all their forms.

What is it responsible for? Providing us with many of out basic goods and some of our necessary services, but not for lobbying, not for bribing politicians with political donations, not for advertising to influence public policies, not for doing what governments have to do—at least not in any society that wishes to call itself democratic..

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? This describes the state that many countries are in today. Businesses can be crude; our societies are becoming increasingly crude.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? That’s what happened under communism: people lacked for many basic goods and services. They craved them, and so were desperate for capitalism. How many of those people have remained so?


Pillar 3: 
What is it? The Plural Sector, better known as civil society, the third sector, the not-for–profit sector, and other inadequate labels. It comprises all associations and organizations that are neither owned by the state nor by private investors. Some, like co-operatives, are owned by their members; many others are owned by no-one—Greenpeace, Harvard, etc. Some are associations but not organizations, namely social movements and social initiatives.

What is it responsible for? This sector serves many of our needs for affiliation, especially in communities. These days I believe that it had better take responsibility for getting us out of the mess that imbalance in favor of the private sector has put us into. For problems like global warming and income disparities, corporate social responsibility will not do it, nor will governments, so many of which are now co-opted or overwhelmed  by private forces. We shall have to rely on social movements and especially social initiatives to bring in new ways of dealing with our problems.

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? It becomes closed, society becomes closed—think of the Taliban, or of the New England witch hunts.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? Then we lack affiliations, and a capacity for the radical renewal that we require. A healthy society balances the power of its public, private, and plural sectors.

Tuesday

Why Be Happy? Here Are Five Reasons

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The book Sustainable Happiness shows what makes us truly happy are the depth of our relationships, the quality of our communities, the contribution we make through the work we do, and the renewal we receive from a thriving natural world.

But is there reason to be happy about what is going in the world? Are there signs that our communities and the work we are doing is really helping?

Yes, there are, and here are just five of these signs:

1. We use Social Media Better
While older generations may bicker and complain that the millennials are not "connected" to the world and aware, research published by the New York Times actually shows that millennials are more likely to use social media -- specifically Facebook and Twitter -- for news than any other generation of users. This means we are getting smarter quicker.


















2. Medicine and health standards are improving very quickly.
Infant mortality is down about 50% since 1990 and we have significantly reduced the number of deaths from treatable diseases like measles and tuberculosis as well.














3.  There's a rapid decline in poverty worldwide.
Since 1981, the proportion of people living under the poverty line ($1.25 a day) has decreased by 65%. 721 million fewer people were living in poverty in 2010 than in 1981.














4.  There is a decrease in war.
We seem to think that violence is present everywhere and that we are constantly embroiled in one conflict or another, but the facts are that overall, war is almost non-existent when compared to previous decades, and it is in further decline.













5. Violent crime is also down.
We see reports of gang violence and gun violence every day but the truth is that violent crime and murders have been on their way down in terms of rates since 2001.

Five Moving Statements About Prison


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In Maya Schenwar's latest book, she discusses how prisons in the U.S. do incredible damage not just to prisoners but also to society due to the inhumane way in which prisoners are treated which leads to them being released back into a society where they are neither welcome nor familiar with, leading to high recidivism rates.

While the facts and figures speak for themselves, here are five strong literary statements by well-known historical figures and writers about the nature of prisons and what they do to people:


1. "It had long been true, and prisoners knew this better than anyone, that the poorer you were the more likely you were to end up in jail. This was not just because the poor committed more crimes. In fact, they did. The rich did not have to commit crimes to get what they wanted; the laws were on their side. But when the rich did commit crimes, they often were not prosecuted, and if they were they could get out on bail, hire clever lawyers, get better treatment from judges. Somehow, the jails ended up full of poor black people."


-- Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States


2. "How feeble is all language to describe the horrors we inflict upon these wretches, whom we mason up in the cells of our prisons, and condemn to perpetual solitude in the very heart of our population."
                                                                       
 -- Herman Melville, Typee


3. "To live in prison is to live without mirrors. To live without mirrors is to live without the self."

-- Margaret Atwood, Marrying the Hangman


4. "No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones."

--Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom


5. "There are worse prisons than words."

-- Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind

Monday

Five Pieces of Evidence Proving That Women Make Better Business Leaders and Partners


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Betsy Polk and Maggie Ellis Chotas' latest book argues for the need for more female partnerships in business. They dig deep to show how unfounded myths and shoddy social science has kept women from collaborating together for greater success.

Of course, there are bound to be many who may want to dismiss this sort of argument as "compensatory" or  being too "Yay! for women!" but not have any real substance, but the evidence speaks otherwise. So why not tackle this argument in the most male-centric corner of the economy: the entrepreneurial world? Here are five darn good (evidence-backed) reasons why women are taking the leading roles in independent and entrepreneurial business environments:

1. Women are better leaders. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman conducted extensive research on women in business and their findings are quite impressive: women build better teams; garner higher respect as leaders and managers and demonstrate better awareness of their actions and thinking. Two of the traits where women outscored men in the highest degree were in taking initiative and driving for results -- both of which have long been thought of as particularly male strengths.

2. Women deliver better company performance. A recent Dow Jones VentureSource report concluded that venture-backed companies with female senior executives were more likely to succeed than those companies with only men in charge. This finding was echoed by the SBA Office of Advocacy which reported that VC firms that invested in women-led businesses performed better than all men-led businesses.

3. Women are better money managers in the most volatile marketplace:tech. Female-led private tech companies achieve on average a 35% higher return on investment, and when venture-backed, bring in on an average a 12% higher revenue than male-owned tech companies according to research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation. Illuminate Ventures recently concluded their research showing that high-tech companies built by women are more capital-efficient than the norm and could achieve comparable early-year revenues as those companies run by men but using on average one-third less committed capital.

4. Women are becoming more prominent not just as builders but as wealthy investors.  Women angel investors account for just 22% of all investors but that's still a 50% jump ftp, 2011. Mary Quist-Newin's research at the The American College of Financial Services shows that not only that women represent more than 40% of all Americans with gross investable assets above $600,000 but also that 60% of high-net-worth women earned their own fortunes versus inheriting it and the rate of wealth-growth among women in the US is at twice the pace it is for men.

5. Many prominent men think women are the answer. There are many men who are looked up to as the business gurus to emulate but not many realize that these men have publicly stated that the nation's economic future rests mainly with women being at the helm. Warren Buffett feels women are the key to national prosperity while Vivek Wadhwa continues to argue that women entrepreneurs are the future of tech. Prominent male entrepreneurs and researchers such as John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio, or male-led firms such as Zenger/Folkman weren't seeking to do research to support the effectiveness of women in business, it's just where the data took them.

Is that enough "hard" evidence for you?

Thursday

Five Reasons for Optimism

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Everywhere you look, there is calamity and tragedy, and that is mostly because the media likes to focus on negatives. However, as Jurriaan Kamp shows in his latest book, there are plenty of reasons to actually be optimistic about the future. This is not foolish, blind optimism that overlooks the real concerns of our current situation, but the intelligent optimism that sees greater potential for good than bad in the long run.

To illustrate the point, here are five negative statements you probably considered to be facts but which are in direct opposition to the positive truth:

1. The global population is not growing out of control.
There have been cataclysmic prophecies and even books dedicated to how current population growth is out of control. Actually, this is not true at all. The average number of children per woman has been declining rapidly for decades. According to official UN data, the average number of children per woman worldwide for the period 1965 to 1970 was 4.85. Yet 40 years later, for the period of 2005 to 2010, that number dropped nearly 50% to 2.52. And the numbers continue to decline. Most experts predict that global population will level out by about 2100 at around 10 billion and may even decrease after that. And if we use our resources wisely, we can easily support that number of people.

2. Our dependence on coal, gas, and oil will destroy us (and the planet).
it certainly seems this way but only because major business interests and corporations rely on fossil fuels for their profit margins. However, as new trends become increasingly difficult to ignore, alternatives are popping up on the horizon. There are already many ways in which solar energy has been made cheaper. In Europe, solar energy is as cheap as grid electricity, and it is only going to get cheaper. Plus, there are many other resources we have not even begun to explore that hold a lot of promise. We have more resources than we think (or know).

3. Electronic media and mediums are detaching us from "the real world."
It's easy to assume that because we see people walking down the street staring into their phones that we are growing detached from people, but we are in fact connecting more meaningfully and more widely than ever before. Instant communication at almost no cost regardless of geographic location or time means that everyone is connected to everyone else and ideas and conversations move freely between continents in real time. Think about how connected you were to your family and friends before email and the internet took off (unless you were lucky enough to be born within the last two decades), and how connected you are now. Case closed.

4. Power is being centralized and growing larger in the hands of the elite.
Power has always been in the hands of the elite, and yes, it has grown, but a big part of the argument is what constitutes power? Is it material or economic clout or is it knowledge and information? The most powerful people and organizations can be taken down by a single person with a cheap cel phone. We live in an age where almost everyone has access to the technology that makes them a citizen journalist. This means that things that could once be hidden or kept in secret can no longer be and revolutions and injustices can be recorded and displayed to the world in color, with sound, and in real time. It's not that power and injustice is growing, it's just that now, we are more aware of it than ever before because of our access to information.

5. Violence and crime continues to grow globally.
Violent crime rates have been dropping dramatically for 20 years. Official U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that violent crime rates of 2010 were 1/3 the rates of 1994. Other countries are experiencing a similar decline. Consider also that just centuries ago, rape and pillaging were considered the natural spoils of war. War atrocities were once the norm, where today they are prosecuted in international courts. We are not only becoming less violent, we are stating unequivocally that we will not tolerate it, either.

Eight Reasons Why B Corps Are Superior to Other More Traditional Sustainable Businesses


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The B Corp Handbook lays out the plan for how anyone can create a better company that serves everyone (and the environment) with the highest levels of ethics and integrity -- a recipe for true profitability in every sense for every entity.

But what makes B Corps better than even other sustainability-touting businesses? Extensive research across the world into B Corp practices (and requirements) resulted in the following eight findings which prove the benefits that B Corps create for their communities and themselves over other such businesses:

1. B Corps are 68% more likely to donate at least 10% of their profits to charity.

2. More than half (55%) of all B Corps are more likely to cover at least a part of their employees' health insurance plans.

3. One-site renewable energy is more likely to be used by 47% of all B Corps.

4. B Corps are 45% more likely to give bonuses to non-executive employees.

5. B Corps favor suppliers from low-income communities and 18% of them are more likely to use such suppliers.

6.  Women and minorities are 28% more likely to be in management positions in B Corps.

7.  B Corps are four times more likely to afford professional development opportunities for their employees.

8. B Corps are over twice as likely to give employees at least 20 hours per year paid time off to volunteer in their communities.

Keep in mind that these differentiations are not between B Corps and "regular" companies, but B Corps and other businesses that self-identify as sustainable or socially conscious. It's a higher standard within the higher standard.