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 pilots 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 accomplishment 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.


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.


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


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?


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.


Three Ways to Fight Poverty That Don't

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Jeffrey Ashe's latest book delves into how savings groups are the answer for impoverished regions to get back in control of their own finances and expenditures and therefore become truly independent.

But do we really need another poverty alleviation method? Don't the ones we have already work? Unfortunately, no, they don't. Below, Jeffrey highlights the three most popular methods currently in use, and why they are so ineffective:

1. Donations and Charities: In principle these are good things -- money with "no strings attached" that is given to those in need so that they can secure food and shelter and other necessities. The problem, however, is that donations only secure an environment of dependability where people are not self-sufficient but completely dependent on the support of others. Given how charities boom and bust these days, there is no guarantee that money will always flow to those needy hands, and the consequences can be dire.

2. Microfinance: Another idea that in principle was actually quite brilliant but in practice was not as effective. Micro lenders need to make a profit on their loans and when they are loaning such small amounts, the profit margins are even thinner unless they charge a heftier interest. (A 10% interest on a $5000 loan is appealing, but a 10% interest on a $50 loan is a lot less so.) So interest rates are higher and lenders can often be ruthless about collecting payment or penalizing people for delays, and all this does is put borrowers in debt to the tune of many times more than the amount they initially borrowed.

3. Business Enterprise/Entrepreneurial Ventures: Introducing entrepreneurial techniques to those in need is certainly one way to make them self-sufficient and in control of their own financial destiny but there are two problems with such programs: (a) Entrepreneurial ventures fail more often than they succeed -- even in the developed nations the failure rate for new enterprises is over 70% within the first two years, but in this case, you are dealing with a demographic who stand to lose a lot more if their startup fails; and (b) resources are limited as are potential revenue-generators in many rural areas, which means one person could generate a decent income producing handicrafts and beads for export, but given the lack of other options, now twenty or thirty people will also have to compete with one another to sell handicrafts to the same markets. This benefits no one.

With savings groups, the money is kept within the group, and all stakeholders have an equal share and equal responsibility and reason for maintaining the savings, so there is no competition and no outsider trying to collect. That is why savings groups triumph where others have failed.


Five Methods of Motivation That Don't Work

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Susan Fowler's latest book is all about how to do motivation right. The problem, as Susan points out, is that we've been going about motivation entirely the wrong way with the carrot-and-stick metaphor when in fact research has shown us that there are far more effective methodologies.

Susan describes below five "traditional" methods of motivation that are still widely used today -- and why they are deeply ineffective.

1    1. Verbal  Cheerleading. "You can do it! Keep up the effort! Give me just one more!" Recent research finds that coaches who verbally encourage people in training sessions are significantly less effective than quiet coaches. The verbal encouragement generates external pressure, diminishing people's sense of autonomy and internal fortitude. Whether coaching athletes or individuals in the workplace, your cheerleading may be undermining your good intentions.

2     2. Competitions. Setting up a competitive situation to “motivate” people begs the question—why are people competing?  People’s creativity, innovation, and long-term productivity suffer when they are competing to beat someone else, gain power and status, win an award, or receive an incentive compared to competing as a means to learn, gain experience, and obtain insight into development needs. Most competitions generate external pressure that ultimately defeats people and undermines long-term skill building and sustained high performance.

3    3. Imposing values. The most well-intentioned and values-based leaders often do this: Through their own sense of purpose and passion, they unwittingly impose their values on others. It doesn't matter how noble your values may be, if you impose them on people you run the risk of eroding people’s sense of autonomy and the opportunity for them to explore their own reasons for acting.

4    4. Incentivizing. Despite compelling research on the undermining effects of rewards and incentives to positively affect and sustain behavior, leaders and organizations still use this technique as a way of motivating people. Here's the problem: People are always motivated. The question is why. Giving people an incentive to motivate them is akin to feeding them junk food. The initial energy spike quickly falls and so does the quality of people’s motivation.

5    5. Praising. It may seem counter-intuitive, but when you praise people as a means of “motivating” them, it often has the same implications as an incentive or a reward—externalizing the reason people take action (to please you)! Focus on providing pure informational feedback, trusting people to evaluate their own performance. (Don’t confuse praising with sharing your gratitude. A heartfelt expression of thanks is always appropriate.)


Three Good Reasons Not to Be Selfless (and Three Better Reasons to Be Selfless Anyway)

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In Seth Adam Smith's latest book, he talks about the value of selflessness in a world that is focused on pleasing only the self. There are other books like this but none with the humor and frank confessions found in Seth's writing (not to mention his thoroughly imperfect and anything but holier -than-thou persona).

Being selfless is a pain. Why do it? Seth presents below three good reasons why you shouldn't bother being selfless. Then he goes and ruins his own arguments by saying why there are three better reasons to be selfless:

#1 - Nobody Notices Selflessness: Turn on the television or surf through the internet and it’s painfully obvious that the world cares WAAAAY more about selfish, egotistical people than people who are trying to make a positive difference in the world. (Small example, Justin Bieber has fifty-four MILLION Twitter followers. Whereas the Twitter account for Malala Yousafzai’s Fund to help girls go to school has just a fraction of that).

A Better Reason to Do It Anyway: But are we in it for the glory and praise? Or are we in it to make a positive difference? Acts of selflessness might fly under the radar of the public eye, but they often change lives for the better. And anyway, the idea of being "selfless" kinda argues against the need for recognition and adoration (otherwise it wouldn't be selfless, would it?) Besides, within a few short years, the name and fame of selfish celebrities will fade. In contrast, the light and influence of truly selfless people will continue to grow stronger and brighter with time.

#2 - I’m An Introvert: Selflessness requires you to, you know, deal with people and being around...others. I hear ya. I’m a pretty serious introvert myself and social events often drain me of energy. Whenever I’m approached by extroverts (who always seem to have really, really big teeth) they seem to believe that it is their mission in life to rescue me from my solitary (yet voluntary) confinement.

A Better Reason to Do It Anyway: But I’ve learned that being selfless doesn’t mean ignoring my natural need for space and introspection. It simply means that I consciously allow room in my heart for others, because true happiness is found with others. I've learned that our joy in life is inexorably determined by the degree to which we love, so it's not a matter of losing your own space, just creating more space for others.

#3: Selflessness is a Loss - Self-sacrifice and giving is very draining -- both physically and mentally (not to mention emotionally). When you keep giving selflessly, the result is often a jaded soul that can be cynical and depressed with all it has seen.

A Better Reason to Do It Anyway: Actually, there's another side to this argument. Have you noticed that some of the best things in your life come to you because of your willingness to give time and energy to others (love, marriage, family, friends)? In a paradoxical way, selflessness—giving healthy levels of time and energy to others— is the best way to serve yourself.

And now, a message from my dear friend Ron Swanson on how to give to others.


Five Terrible Names for Products (and What They Could Have Named Them Instead)

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In Alexandra Watkins' latest book, Hello My Name Is Awesome, she talks about the various qualities that good product and business names should have and also what pitfalls to avoid.

Every year, corporations and individuals spend a lot of time and money creating names for themselves and their products, and every year, despite their best efforts, many of them arrive at names that are, well, terrible.

Of course, some products and companies have become successful despite having a troublesome name. (But to Watkins’ point, why would you want to start there?) Here are five awful product names and what Alexandra would have named them instead.

1. Iams
Named after its founder, Paul Iams, the uninviting name of this super premium pet food fails to evoke anything about caring for our beloved pets. It’s difficult to pronounce and hardly cute and cuddly. Plus it sounds like it tastes terrible. Thank goodness pets can’t read.

Better Name: VET’S PET
Iams products are distributed through veterinarians. When you’re at the vet, you want to know what he feeds his or her pet. That’s why a simple name like Vet’s Pet works. It evokes “this is the doctor’s choice for your dog or cat,” in a friendly and approachable way.

2. e.p.t.
When it was introduced in 1978, e.p.t. was the first early pregnancy test. Now 38 years later, competitors abound. While the brand is well-known thanks to quality products and millions spent on advertising, the name is makes no emotional connection with most women in their child-bearing years.

Better Name: MAYBE, BABY
The uncertainty of not knowing if you’re pregnant is a nail biter. A friendly, love-at-first-sight name like “Maybe, Baby,” makes a woman smile, and reduces her anxiety level. The name is lyrical, fun to say, and would incite “just in case” impulse purchases and wedding shower gifts.

3. Salonpas
This name sounds more like a fancy French hair salon than a pain relief patch. Like many bad names, it’s a loose amalgamation of two words (Salicylate + pass), which is completely lost on us. Plus, for a powerful product, the name is way too feminine and could turn off the tough guys who need it most.

Better Name: SMACKDOWN
You smack on the patch and it smacks down your pain. This name brings a smile, which is a pain reliever in itself. Big companies are terrified of names like this because they (pardon the pun) are outside the comfort zone. Yet fun names are the ones we love to Instagram.

4. Massage Envy
I’ve had massages in Bali, Fiji and Thailand. Now that’s something to envy. But an “affordable massage” in a shopping mall? Not so much. Massage Envy sounds awkward and would have made more sense as Envy Massage. I suspect the domain name was available for $9.95, which is never a good reason to pounce on a name.

A gentle transition from the current name (often recommended for a name change), Massage Well is a much deeper name. “Well” has a double meaning – “we massage well,” and “we’re committed to your wellness.” Plus men wouldn’t be embarrassed to go there.

5. Planter’s NUT-rition
This silly and misleading name drives me nuts. They have wrecked a perfectly good word to make a perfectly bad word. Worse, the name (and green packaging) evoke that nuts are good for you. Sure, in small quantities. But even a single serving packet has a whopping 17 grams of fat, 6 more than a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

Better Name: GO NUTS
Planters is trying to align their brand with a healthy lifestyle. So for people on the move looking for energy sustaining snacks, Go Nuts, makes sense. The name is fun, doesn’t make claims or trick consumers into thinking this is something healthy you should eat by the handful in front of the TV.    


Five Fascinating Historical Meetings

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In their latest book, Dick and Emily Axelrod tackle the topic of meetings and how to make them meaningful and productive instead of the time-wasting, soul-sucking chores they can become.

In celebration of meetings that had great impact, here are five such events that stand out in modern history:

1. Pope John Paul II and Mehmet Ali Agca: the meeting that demonstrated the power of forgiveness.
In 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca, a member of the Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves group shot and wounded Pope John Paul II. On Decenber 27, 1983, the Pope visited Agca in prison and they became friends. The Pope also connected with Agca's family. In 2005, when Pope John Paul II died, Agca begged and pleaded to be given leave to attend the Pope's funeral but was refused. This friendship that resulted from this meeting best demonstrates the healing power of forgiveness and faith. Agca's brother reported that when the Pope died, the entire family remained in mourning.

2. Douglas MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito: the meeting that demonstrated how full personal accountability can change the course of a nation.
On December 27, 1945, MacArthur met with Japan's emperor in Tokyo following Japan's surrender. MacArthur thought that the emperor may deny wrongdoing but instead, Hirohito stated that he took full responsibility for all actions and decisions made by Japanese forces during the war and that he would readily accept whatever judgment given to him by the allied forces with no debate. MacArthur, who at that point had been under pressure from the Russians and the British to punish Hirohito severely for war crimes, decided that the emperor was a man of honor and that rebuilding Japan would be much easier if they let him remain as ruler (but not a Shinto deity). Hirohito was a man of science and took this opportunity of clemency to help Japan rebuild by focusing the nation on modernization and technology.

3. Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant: the meeting that demonstrated how even opponents  should always be treated with respect.
On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee met with General Grant  at Appotomattox Court House in Virgina to formally surrender and put an end to the bloodiest conflict in US history. During their conversation, they realized that they had met previously -- when fighting for the same side in Mexico. Lee informed Grant that his men owned their horses and asked that they be allowed to keep them, which Grant agreed to. After signing the surrender letter and as Lee began to leave the courthouse, Grant -- the victor -- raised his hat and formally saluted Lee (a salute which Lee dutifully returned). Grant then sent thousands of pounds of rations for Lee's men who had not eaten in several days.

4. Thomas Stafford and Alexei Leonov: the meeting that demonstrated how we can overcome political and idealogical borders.
On July 17, 1975, astronauts Thomas Stafford of the United States Apollo mission and Alexei Leonov of the (then) USSR Space Program met and shook hands through the open hatch of the Soyuz space station and then linked with one another for almost two whole days. During this time, crew members visited each other's ships, ate together, and spoke at length. When they parted, they gifted one another seeds of indigenous plants from their individual countries. This may just seem like a sweet story now, but at that time with the Cold War paranoia that had each nation fearing an immediate nuclear strike from the other at any moment, this was considered outright crazy.

5. Edwin Booth and Abraham Lincoln: the meeting that demonstrated that our lives operate by sheer random chaos or that there is an ominous pattern to everything well beyond our comprehension.
Everyone knows that John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln on April 14, 1865. What is less known but is still a fact is that John's brother, Edwin, saved Lincoln's eldest son's life just one year before. Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was waiting at a train platform to buy passage on sleeping cars. As the train began to move unexpectedly, Lincoln lost his footing and started slipping on to the rails. Edwin Booth immediately reached out and grabbed Lincoln by the collar and pulled him to safety. Edwin Booth was a very well-known Shakespearan actor and so Lincoln recognized him immediately. Booth had no idea of the identity of the man he had just saved,