All posts by Tom

It’s not about one man. Trump’s election calls for system change.

It’s not about one man.

reallytrumpReeling from the long predicted “surprise”, many are emotional but uncertain.  The victor is magnanimous, the process continues. The winners are joyous, but realising next steps have not been planned or prioritised.  The losers are distraught and fearful that regression will be prioritised over progress.

In this breathing period some signals are clear.

People voted.  A lot of people.  People who rarely vote, voted.  They voted for change.  They voted against a system that seems to keep them down and voted for a symbol of change, a voice of change.  The result came about because of many people voting, not just one man.  On the world stage this is the second time this year.   The emotional voice of Brexit has been amplified in the vote for President of the United States of America.  This is a popular cry for change.

Continue reading It’s not about one man. Trump’s election calls for system change.

The Waterfall and The Rain

The waterfall is heard before you see it.  The thunderous torrent crashing on the rocks resounds about the valley.

niagra03As you approach, the mist becomes visible, as vapour bubbles up from the torrent.  The spray blows far and wide so that when you come close you are soon soaked.  From close up you can barely see the path of the waterfall as the clouds of mist and spray obscure its fall.  Yet you can feel the reverberation through the ground.

The waterfall is mighty! People come from far and wide to see the waterfall. It is celebrity.  People want to be like the waterfall, strong, impressive, powerful.

But strangely the waterfall does little more than make noise and spit before the water passes on calmly through the valley. Continue reading The Waterfall and The Rain

Snack Food Slavery: We’re all enjoying it.

What?  Not me.  No way!  Slavery is bad.

Yeah, but … you’re still part of the problem.  We all are.

Here’s a piece of the big picture puzzle:

Soda and chips … sugars and fats … vegetable oil … palm oil … slaves and rain forest exploitation.palmoilslave

That food chain is run by big companies, big banks and rich owners.  (You might be one without even realising it!)

It’s fuelled by people buying foods made with industrially grown vegetable oils.  That means most products on the supermarket shelves, including all the big brands owned by companies like Nestle, Unilever, Pepsico, Heinz, Cargill, CocaCola, Kraft, P&G, …  And the food chain is financed with money from big banks like Citi, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered, Mizuho, Rabobank, …

Continue reading Snack Food Slavery: We’re all enjoying it.

Investing your portfolio: Where are the customers’ yachts?

The wife of a successful entrepreneur once remarked to me that she had pointed out to her husband that there will always be someone else with a bigger yacht in the marina.  She was hinting that it’s fine to work, but there’s a point at which you ought to stop and spend a bit of time with your family and friends.  She’s since divorced (for him it’s the second time!).

livingoffthepeopleAnother boating analogy was shared by The Economist recently in a comment about the asset management industry entitled Living off the people.  As an asset manager, investing other people’s money, it was pertinent to my profession.  The article offers a synopsis of the fund management industry and the challenges it faces today, the principal one being “Is there any use for fund manager’s at all?”  The evidence has been around for decades, and now is being more actively referenced, that paying someone to beat the index is a fool’s game.

You can’t consistently beat the index, and if you have to pay someone to try, that’s going to cost you even more, so don’t even try.  Just invest in a low fee index fund, like one offered by Vanguard.  The article points out that a quarter of American billionaires work in finance and investment and concludes with a quote from a pre-war Wall Street mogul “Where are all the customers’ yachts?”  Instead pay a computer pennies to put yo u on the efficient frontier.

Continue reading Investing your portfolio: Where are the customers’ yachts?

You can’t outrun a poor diet: Calories Matter

About 70% of calorie consumption is accounted for by metabolism though the absolute number varies little for people of different metabolic rates. So, if you’re an average male whose calorie burn is 2,000 a day (can be 1,500 – 2,500 depending on height), about 1,400 are consumed just being you (brain, breathing etc). For females whose calorie burn rate is 1,600, that would be 1,200 calories. Another 400 (320 for females) or so are consumed by digestion (can be 100-800). And then there’s movin’ and shakin’ aka exercise.

The shape of things to come (already here).Standing instead of sitting can burn an extra 50 calories an hour (10-80). So if you stand instead of sit at the desk you’ll burn maybe an extra 300 calories a day. Jogging for an hour can burn 700 calories. And running burns about twice te calories per minute of walking. Simply fidgeting will raise your metabolic rate and make a difference. If you have a physically demanding day, like cleaning, digging, building etc, you’ll be burning more calories than a desk-worker, but that doesn’t mean a bit of a workout isn’t going to help the parts of your body the daily routine doesn’t reach, like your tummy! And it’s good to breathe.

Continue reading You can’t outrun a poor diet: Calories Matter

Global perspectives: Technology, Growth, Money, Politics and what to invest in

The Long Termworld-300px

We’re talking 20 years or so here.

In 20  years we’ll be facing Big Stuff.  Climate change, weather volatility, species loss, clean air, clean water, … that whole environment thing will be getting much more serious and everyone will be dealing with it in some way or another.  I’m hoping it’ll make Ireland a bit more like the south of France, and it might, but whatever else, it’s going to make the simple things in life more difficult.  For most of humanity that will include feeding themselves and getting clean water.

So that will make food and land more important.

In 20 years we may well have passed “The Singularity“.  That’s a term coined by futurists, often with a trans-humanist bent, which denotes the inevitable point at which technology development starts happening “by itself”.  This occurs as humanity’s understanding of physics and biology enable the creation of thinking machines (computers) that emulate the brain, and then androids and cyborgs begin to be used in place of people.

Certainly in 20 years technology will have changed our world even more than in the past 20.   Do not imagine The Singularity to be fantasy.  We are close already.  The mobile phone/computer in your pocket is old technology compared with neuro-computers being tested in laboratories.  Robots are already becoming remarkably similar to C-3PO in looks and mobility at least.  Today the consequences are being felt in most professions as AI (artificial intelligence) takes jobs away from humans.  This is what we all wanted – automatic checkout, automatic cashier, automatic accountant, automatic lawyer, automatic vehicle … The challenge now being solved is automatic creativity.

Continue reading Global perspectives: Technology, Growth, Money, Politics and what to invest in

The dangers of committees and what they signal.

The article below by Dr Schori and Mr Garee is quoted wholesale because it’s amusing, anthropomorphic, so easy to relate to, and accurate.

deathbycommitteeCommittees have a tendency to be inefficient and ineffective, consuming resources and delaying results.  Consensus is necessary, but usually that’s at strategic or policy level.  If it’s necessary for daily or tactical decisions committees tend to be unwieldy.  Far better to achieve a balance of responsibility  and competence wherein people rely upon and trust one another.  As with so many aspects of “management” there are exceptions and the challenge in this case is to be one.  Be exceptional, as an enterprise, by maintaining your nimble physique as you grow and mature.

‘Management by committee’ signals final stages of company ‘life cycle.’

By Thomas R. Schori, Ph.D., and Michael L. Garee, Principals,  Millennium Marketing Research, 808 E. Ironwood, Normal, IL 61761-5239. Tel. 309-532-8466 –

http://tomschori.com/35800.HTM

Having spent a large part of our professional lives in corporate environments, not surprisingly, we’ve also spent a fair amount of time in meetings of one committee or another. In fact, many are the days in which we’ve spent the whole blasted day in some such meeting! We’d like to say that it was time well spent, but in most cases that simply was not the case. Our experience, of course, is not at all unique. In many companies, it appears that virtually every decision, large or small, momentous or trivial, is made by a committee.

Without question, it’s good management practice for a chief executive officer (or members of his or her senior management staff) to seek the advice and counsel of internal experts before making certain key decisions. But seeking advice and counsel is far different from managing by committee, a subtle distinction that’s seemingly lost on many companies. In the former, regardless of whom the CEO consults, it is he or she who makes the final decision, not a consensus of those who were consulted, as would be the case in a company managed by committee.

How pervasive is the practice of managing by committee? Very. Almost anyone working in a medium to large business today observes at least some of this practice on a daily basis. This practice, i.e., managing by committee, is characteristic of organizations that have entered the last two stages of the phenomenon which we previously have dubbed the Company Life Cycle [Described by us in our December 22, 1997, column, entitled, “Like products, companies also have a life cycle”].

If your company doesn’t manage by committee, you’re indeed fortunate. It means that your company is either still in the “toddler” (new company, very nimble) stage or the “adolescent” (company experiencing rapid growth) stage. Either way, your organization still has at its helm someone who continues to manage with visionary zeal, and is not afraid of making decisions. On the other hand, if your organization is one of the management by committee variety, of which there are far too many, watch out! If you’re not in a position to change it, you might want to “spruce” up your résumé because your company has already progressed to the “aging athlete” (established company merely “running in place”) or “old geezer” (company characterized by turgidity, headed for imminent decline) stage of its life cycle. Such a company probably is not long for this world.

Continue reading The dangers of committees and what they signal.

How to change the world: Change your mind, body and spirit.

Joe Dispenza has been elucidating the science of mind for decades.  In this talk (embedded below) he gives a clear, easy to follow description of how the mind works and how a person can change themselves by, literally, changing their mind.

To summarise: The brain is constantly changing – the growth, decay, connection and disconnection of neurons is the electro-chemical, physical manifestation of mind.  Recognising one’s own thoughts allows you to manage them in a positive way, rather than allowing them to propagate chaotically.  (This is why cognitive behavioural therapy works, even to the extent of being a go to treatment for clinical depression.) So, when faced with stress or challenge, you pause, take a breath, consider the situation and look for positive aspects, which includes taking a different approach.  Taking a positive approach lowers stress (good), and allows the mind to think more critically to find solutions (good) instead of resorting to primitive, knee-jerk responses.

People who are seeking change in the world or themselves will appreciate the scientific foundation of these ideas, which have been practices for centuries by yogis, monks and ascetics.  The technique is also used, whether consciously or not, by successful people who control their behaviour – this includes academics,  athletes and sportspeople, musicians, thespians, entrepreneurs and organisation leaders.

As well as using your mind as a simple tool for changing yourself, recognising your biological nature allows you to choose a path which yields happiness and health.  This happens when you manage stress to allow your physical body to move to equanimity.

These ideas are very relevant for those of us who are seeking  system change.  Often our efforts are blocked by intransigence in  incumbent institutions, systems and leaders – and that is frustrating and exhausting.  Getting stressed is not a solution.  Stepping back, letting go and moving forward in the right way is the only way to effect positive change.  We are changing the system by changing ourselves.  To change the world, we must change ourselves.  It is not easy because the system is designed for dysfunction, but changing for good works, gets easier as you do it more and yields a fulfilling life.  Think about it!  And be the change you want to see in the world.

Enjoy the show:

The sun stood still, and it all began again …

Solstice moon at Ballin Temple.
Solstice moon at Ballin Temple.

The solstice passed today at 4 in the morning (UTC).

For most people, it is ignored or unknown, while for a few it is recognised as the event that gives rise to all the other seasonal holidays at this time of year – Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Saturnalia, and the calendar new years like Hogmany and New Year …  I used to be in the former group, but now, living closer to nature, find that recognising the solar cycle helps me stay in touch with the reality of our world.

While you celebrate the traditions of your culture it is fun to recognise the foundation for them.  Solstice, Yule, saturnalia and so on might be labelled pagan, but that is not as bad as it sounds.  It merely means “of the countryside”.  Well, isn’t that just nature?

If you’re fond of Christmas, this year is a good one to recognise our connection to nature because Pope Frank’s encyclical, Laudato Si (Praise be to Him), is all about respecting nature and treating the gift of nature with appropriate Christian humility.  Spare a prayer for nature which is so squashed by humanity that even cynics are now admitting the fact of human induced climate change.  (Even state media reported that 2015 temperatures are 3° above normal and the manager of the largest state nursery is startled by rain intensity he hasn’t experienced in 40 years.)

In nature there is no beginning or end.  At least not practically speaking.  The cycle continues around and around.  When we have the shortest day (today), with the sun directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, our antipodean friends have the longest.  As our days begin to lengthen, theirs begin to shorten.  The date is an illusion but the perspective of the sun on our planet is not.  The sun is the timepiece of nature and one of the signals for plant life to regrow.  Other signals, like cold weather, also tell plants when to regrow, and they are changing, but the solar cycle does not.   The sun stands still (sol stice) and then bounces back in the other direction (of course it is Earth that is tilted as it spins around the sun which is stationary relative to Earth, making one circuit every year).

What does the coming year hold?  The trends of weather volatility and climate change will continue, so now we plan for a different growing cycle, a more Mediterranean one.  The impacts of civilisation continue to increase and the future of current economic, industrial and social systems is limited – they will change by force or choice because there are limits to the capacity of nature to absorb pollution and limits to the capacity of people to be cheated.

People are becoming more thoughtful as social media spreads memes and as access to education grows so the brainwashing of traditional mores becomes less persuasive and the natural curiosity of people to ask “does it have to be like that” is enlivened.  That is evidenced by the popularity of conservative politicians around the world, like Trump, who express people’s dissatisfactions.  (Sadly their solutions are ignorant and ineffective but since more moderate leaders are not supporting enlightened system change, the radical populists are drowning out all others.)

For our part we will continue to explore new, whole systems.  Ways of living that engage body, mind and spirit.  Lifestyles that give us the delights of human culture and the bounties of nature, as one.  It is not always easy to retrain the cynic, but even I have started to do yoga regularly (5 minutes a day) so there is hope even for the most egregious suits among us.

Happy new year to all!

System change, social media and your choices.

drowningworldcarCOP21 comes to a close as the wind howls and Jaspar’s rugby game is cancelled because so much water fell on the pitch last night.  Climate change is great, but it’s not good.  I love the warmer weather so here in Ireland it’s almost as warm as Hong Kong in the winter; you can go jogging and enjoy the breeze.  But the volatility of weather is a symptom of broken systems.  Both civilisation and nature.

The consequences for the breakdown of nature and civilisation will be different.  Nature will change – once nature was a burning ball in space, now it’s a paradise become decadent and failing.  Civilisation will simply disappear – and might never come back.

For some the idea that the human systems are dysfunctional and the weight of humanity is crushing nature is familiar.  For many of them, it is a new realisation and the response reflects where they come from: community driven people tend to activism, strategic operators tend to business solutions, organisers tend to regulation, and so on. For a few the notion of integral solutions is a dawning awareness.

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.All of these people are connected by social organisation and media.  We all communicate with each other and ideas circulate quickly as nuggets of information on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, journals, TV shows,  … We tend to communicate with like minded people.  It is not easy to cross over.  But the filtering of from one group to another happens because in each of our circle of family and friends there are always a few “strange ones” who bring unfamiliar concepts to the conversation.  (I might fit that description for many of my family and peers!)

Social media allows this cross-fertilisation of ideas and it reveals the homogeneity of your group of friends.  Who shares ideas about politics, art, religion, business, .. and so on?

COP21marchWhile there has been a great deal of activity related to COP21, it has been predominantly among the same people:  People who want to see system change, or people who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.

The outcome of COP21 is not going to be remarkable.  Sadly, the depth and breadth of understanding among leaders, and followers, is shallow and narrow.  For example, even I was a little stunned, on the way back from picking Richard up from the airport, to calculate that we had released a quarter of  his body weight of 60 odd kilos in CO2.

gas_balloon_scaleA litre of fuel releases between 0.6 and 0.7 kg of carbon, which grabs another two molecules of oxygen to make carbon di-oxide, bringing the weight to around 1.8 kg.  So for a 150 km round trip at 45 mpg (15.8 km/litre) we needed 150/15.8 or 9.5 litres which create 17 kilos of CO2.  Just that one event produced nearly the same weight of CO2 as you find in a bag of cement.  It’s heavy!  And it’s just one event on one day.

So even people like me can be stunned by the challenges we face.

The problem nature faces has much to do with energy and our gratuitous use of fossil fuels.  The reality is that humanity must live within the laws of nature, including not consuming more energy in a year than that captured by photosynthesis in a year.

unethicalCivilisation is breaking down because the systems we have in place are unethical.  Every crisis comes about because of moral failure.  Corruption insinuates business, politics and religion.  There are cries for change and some who show the way, but the establishment finds it hard to give up power.  If evolution is not chosen, revolution erupts.

So while you are part of the establishment, spare a moment for the alternative view that is shared by the fringes of your social circle.  It’s not about equality it’s about equity.  Be open to finding a way for systems to evolve.  The system is a result of everybody’s choices.  We must all choose better.  We must aim to do the right thing the right way.