A Nation United

Daniel Seddiqui challenged himself to hold fifty jobs in all fifty U.S. states within 50 weeks -- and succeeded! Despite the wide range of culture, jobs, attitudes, and social dynamics he encountered, Daniel noticed five traits of all Americans regardless of location:

Trait One: Pride in One’s Work

It doesn’t matter if they were miners, factory workers, or television reporters – each worker showed great pride and meaning in what he or she was doing. A cheesemaker felt his work contributed just as much, and was just as important as the work of a scientist. Everyone was truly dedicated to their work, and believed they were contributing to a better society.

Trait Two: Kindness to Strangers and Outsiders

Whether you're in the supposedly intolerant bible belt, the economically depressed rust belt, the free-flowing Big Easy or the supposedly rude Big Apple, everyone had the audacity and heart to care for a stranger in need as though I was their own friend. Regardless of where I was, people showed kindness and charity.

Trait Three: An Optimistic Outlook
No matter what predicament they face, Americans stay true to their diligent work ethic by continuing to keep high spirits and hope. Many times I encountered people who were struggling or going through rough patches, but in all cases, it was very evident that they believed firmly that their situation would improve.

Trait Four: Open-Mindedness
There's barely any place left in this nation that does not have an intermingling of several cultures -- either through racial diversity or immigrant populations. In all cases, I noticed that people had learned to live amongst each other and respect each others' practices and beliefs. I lived and worked side by side with African-Americans, Indians, Whites, Latinos, Asians -- even the Amish -- and I rarely heard or saw any judgments being passed on the basis of ethnicity, origin, or beliefs.

Trait Five: Respect for Innovativion
Everywhere I went, I saw people striving to improve, be more productive, and take risks. We consistently reinvent ourselves and use any and all resources to create new ways of living.

Not that different after all, are we?


Five Poor Excuses for Ignoring Your Past

Author John Schuster's new book is all about the power of your past and how it can be an effective learning tool -- in stark contrast to the current trend that dictates that only the "now" is important and the past should be discarded entirely. Why are people so eager to disregard their past? Well there are a number of supposedly good reasons, and here John lists five of them and explains why they really aren't such good reasons after all:

Reason One: Certain memories can be painful to recall.

Good Reason? It would seem so. No one enjoys pain, and if it happened a while back, why rehash it now?

Why It’s Wrong: Like it or not, that pain is with us today even if it’s invisible. Events in our life shape us, painful ones included. We devised strategies to cope with these negatives, and some may have worked well for years but are now in your way. That is why we have to look back at the negatives -— to affirm the good strategies we devised and refine them, and recast the painful memories that lead us into poor strategies. We need to find new lessons, ones that benefit rather than weaken us.

Reason Two: The past is dead. I much prefer to be in the now.

Good Reason? Possibly. The past is irrevocable, and can never be fully sorted out. It’s better just to concentrate on the moment, live your values, and move ahead step by step, knowing that the present is all you ever really have.

Why It’s Wrong:
Being in the now is an excellent practice, but it is just not nearly enough. Remember what Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It is never even past.” The past lives on in ways that are not helpful if we leave unfinished business there. So we cannot discount the past in service to the now. Try as we might to breathe and be present, we can’t even be fully in the now when our many positive gifts from the past stay unclaimed and the negatives remain to still be recast.

Reason Three: I am goal-oriented, progress-motivated, busy person. Reflection is not my strong suit.

Good Reason?: Yep. Having an action-based orientation favors all kinds of outcomes for me -— achieving goals, advancing my career. Slowing down to reflect is not in my make up.

Why it’s Wrong: We all have busy streaks when reflection is not going to happen, nor should it in those times. But in the Excited States of America, one of our cultural flaws is an addiction to speed always, everywhere. Reflecting on our pasts helps us stay goal-oriented, because it gets all of us behind the right goals chosen to match our uniqueness, not parts of us behind goals we acquired because we picked them up somewhere while we were busy being action-oriented.

Reason Four:
I had a great childhood and adolescence. Why dig into it and make more work for myself?

Good Reason? Figures...I'm well-adjusted and I don’t need therapy. I am about the most normal person I know.

Why it’s Wrong:
Many of us had great childhoods, but there is still work to do. Sometimes we flat out forget the gifts of our past, and don’t define ourselves around these gifts and lessons. We can romanticize and sentimentalize our pasts and not see the really difficult fixes that we had to work through. This keeps us on our surface and away from our depth.

Reason Five: I was immature/impulsive in my past, and I had no control over some of the things that happened. I know this now, so what’s to learn?

Good Reason?
Why not? Who hasn’t chalked up a memory to inexperience or immaturity, and since we think that now we’re mature and we survived and even thrived to this point, what’s the reason for going back?

Why It’s Wrong: Sure, we are succeeding in some ways, and we all do things that are immature and later regret it. On top of that, things happened to us beyond our control. But how we acted on impulse when we’re younger actually tells us a lot about our own passions and weaknesses and what is important to us now and what isn’t. Think of these moments as those periods in your life where you were truly honest with yourself and see what you can learn about yourself from them. Also, remember that the things that were out of your control can lead to subtle or not so subtle strategies of victimizing yourself or demonizing others.

Good enough reasons for ya?


This Ain't Your Mama's Green Marketing

Green marketing has certainly changed a lot over the last several years, and Jacquie Ottman knows this because she has been working in this arena since 1989 (when "being green" just meant you lacked experience in a particular field). Jacquie wants businesses and companies to keep in mind five new lessons for green marketing with authenticity and impact:

Lesson One: A single customer can bring down your entire green strategy.

Disgruntled customers don’t patiently write a letter to the CEO these days. We live in a wired world where individual consumers have incredible reach to markets through their blogs and tweets. All it takes is for one influencer to notice a problem or issue and bring it up to others. From there, it spreads virally across firewalls and nations. And remember, greenwashing is a very tough accusation to come back from.

Lesson Two: Green is entirely mainstream now.

At one point it seemed that only a niche market really cared about environmental sustainability and you could usually catch them by looking for Birkenstocks and vegan recipes. But now, everyone — including suburban families, corporate heads, and government departments -- have all gone green. You are no longer selling green to a small cross-section of the public, you are selling green to everyone.

Lesson Three: Price, performance, and convenience no longer guide consumer purchasing.

Nowadays, values guide consumer purchasing. Historically, consumers bought solely on price, performance, and convenience, but today they look at how products are sourced, manufactured, packaged, disposed of. Even such social aspects as how factory and farm workers are treated all matter.

Lesson Four: Companies need to tell the whole story

BP, ExxonMobil, and SIGG learned this lesson the hard way. Today's brands gain trust by practicing radical transparency, disclosing the good and the bad. Consumers are smart enough to know that some waste is inevitable in any production process, they just want companies to be honest about it and constantly be working to reduce it.

Lesson Five: Today's consumers look at the entire life-cycle of a product.

A product's life used to begin the moment it was purchased and end the moment it was consumed, broken, or discarded. However, modern consumers want businesses to have accountability for how a product was created and overseen even before it hits store shelves, and in the case of many non-perishables, how it will be broken down at the end of its life-cycle to minimize waste.

Your thoughts, reactions, or observations?