Unintended Consequences

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
– F. Scott Fizgerald, The Great Gatsby

I once read somewhere that we gain a pound of weight a year after the age of 20 (at least in the United States). And what, according to the study, was the single biggest contributor to the weight gain? 

Potato Chips.

Potato Chips were the single biggest factor associated with weight gain. There were other different eating and lethargic practices listed. You can find them on this link: http://archive.boston.com/lifestyle/health/articles/2011/06/27/long_term_weight_gain_how_does_it_happen/

I’m not sure how good the study was (you can validate on your own). I’m not writing about health today, but about a topic I shared with a young businessman earlier, which is the Impact of Unintended Consequences.

An unintended consequence is a result that has materialized, good and bad, that was not the originally intended. For example, I doubt anyone intends to become fat. But through unchecked calorie consumption that comes from an intention to feed our hunger, enjoy a good meal with friends, or satisfy a craving, all neutral or even good things, we end up with the unintended consequence of becoming overweight. No one is intending to be poison their body with chemicals and gain weight when snacking on the inanimate potato chip, but it’s contributing, and contributing largely to a very undesirable consequence. No one intends to wake up drowning in debt. But because of other intentions, again, neutral or even good intentions, we purchase too much, we give too much, we don’t save enough, we don’t negotiate enough, we don’t excel enough, and then we find ourselves facing issues we never wanted, such as lack, foreclosure, and debt. 

In my conversation with the young man, I gave a fictitious example of a luxury hotel management team. In the mission, they are told they want to be “top of the top!”, but during a recent management meeting, the boss screams at everyone, “Your teams are all so magastos!” (“Your teams all so costly!”) Maybe he’s saying this in a moment of frustration, maybe he really wants them to cut costs, but it’s possible that HR hears that and starts cutting staff, including maintenance staff, Purchasing hears that and starts buying cheaper materials, Facilities hears that and starts enacting rotating power outages, and Marketing hears that and stops coming up with more value to offer. Before you know it, the once luxury hotel is a badly run and badly maintained organizations, offering a diminished value proposition to its customers, yet with a management team feeling very good about how well they’re managing – because they’ve been able to follow a directive (which may not even been a directive in the first place). I told him, “Bosses don’t wake up in the morning thinking, ‘Let’s make my team’s life a living hell.’ While I’m sure there are truly evil people out there, most of the ills of the world are caused by people like you and me triggering unintended consequences.”

I can easily turn this into a business post, about how management needs to go back to being purpose-driven, principles-led, and performance-oriented NOT compliance run, not HR run, nor finance run, nor communications run, nor legal run, but mission-centered. I can talk about the growing evidence that many of the failed organizations collapsed due to “good managers” implementing “good management” in a new rules world. But instead I want to focus on ourselves, on our own unintended consequences, moving away from policing other people, moving away from the latest rant on Facebook, the latest injustice to be worked-up on, the latest video to be upset about, and truly reflect on this question: What are the consequences of my life?

What are the unintended consequences of how I shop? What are the unintended consequences of how I do the grocery? Of how I talk to my teams? Of how I talk to partners? Of how I spend my money? Of how I wake-up? Of when I sleep? Of how I pray? Of how I write? 

What ripples are caused from my seemingly harmless decisions. A cold sweat just broke through me. I can think of many areas I need to alter for the sake of Elijah. I can think of many “potato chips” 

Many months ago, someone asked me my thoughts on the “cat issue” in BGC, about whether I thought people should be allowed to feed cats in Highstreet, particularly the walkway beside Shangri-La. Characteristically, I answered her question with other questions:

Me: Are animal lives important?

Her: Of course!

Me: I agree. Now, is the concept of Private Property important? Meaning, if you own something, it is up to you what you choose to keep or not keep in your premises?

Her (sensing where she thought I was going): This is different. This is about valuing animal right. Animals have as much right as us? Who will defend their rights. (Notice, she never actually answered my question.)

Me: Wait, just answer yes or no. Does Private Property matter? I already agreed with you that animal lives matter. Is it important that, let’s say in your home, your own private property, no one can just, let’s say, raise pigs there, without your consent?”

Her: Of course it’s important! Why would I let anyone raise pigs in my house without my consent?

Me: Because you’re selectively applying the principle of private property. You want it to apply if it benefits you but you don’t want it to apply if it goes against something you want. If someone decided to raise all these cats in your living room, would you say it’s the right thing to do?

Her: But this is different…

Me: This is the problem with un-principled emotional reactions. First, it creates a double-standard. It isn’t based on a principle but our feeling about the principle. Second, without that principle, we will never be able to agree objectively, so it creates division. Third, while the emotional mob moves on to the next issue of the week, the unintended effects of rallying for a cause we don’t really understand linger. This is true for cats, for politicians, and for other issues. And we will always say that the current emotional issue is different. We will always say, it’s more important. But how important is it if just weeks later we’ve already forgotten it? And what about the effects on Private Property? What about the effects on how people interpret that principle? What about the effect of encouraging people that mob rule wins? We have no idea on the damage these snowballs we’re rolling, started by our good intentions, resulting in avalanches of unintended consequences.

Her: Silence.

Me: Let me offer a bridge. It doesn’t have to be a Cats vs. Private Property issue. Both can be satisfied. How about this? Let’s start a “cat fund” specifically for this area. That fund will pay for the responsible care, research, and potential liabilities of having cats here. If anyone gets scratched or gets sick, the hospital bills and court costs can from from that. I’m sure the owners won’t mind having this win-win proposal. How much would you, personally, contribute to that cat fund? How about starting with P250 a month? That’s like two cups of coffee. Sacrifice two cups of coffee to give these cats that you love so much a home, and in a way that satisfies the private property principle, because you gave the owners a beneficial alternative. I’ll contribute myself. I also value animals AND private property.

Her: Why should I pay for it?

Me: I didn’t tell you to pay for all of it. But what you’re asking is for the owners to pay for your ideals. You want them to use their private property for your ideals, and you won’t even give two cups of coffee worth. Wouldn’t your energies and rallying be better used in drumming up support for such a fund?

Her: I still don’t understand why I should pay for it. I’m not doing anything wrong.

To make a long conversation short, there’s still no cat fund.

I wonder about the unintended consequences of overflowing idealism with incredible entitlement. I wonder about the unintended consequences of expecting holiness without allowing sanctification. I wonder about the unintended consequences of watering down personal responsibility in the name of kindness. I wonder about the unintended consequences of not teaching our kids to work hard and suffer because we don’t want them to struggle like we did. I think about the unintended consequences of finding biblical basis for blatantly unbiblical leadership in the name of honoring authority. I think about the unintended consequences of a highly popular yet highly ridiculous “happy wife = happy life” teaching. I think of the unintended consequences of wanting a better world, a better government, a better morality, a better society, a better family, a better life, yet being clueless at the cost of making these a reality. I think about unintended consequences of churches and non profits who feel entitled to donations, to volunteer commitment, simply because they have good intentions – even if they’re incredibly wasteful. I think about unintended consequences of businesses who feel entitled to profits, as long as they’re “legal” without giving thought to the environment or to the effect of their marketing. 

I think about the unintended consequences, and I think about the beloved high priests of these false gospels, and I think about the foolish people who listen with their hearts and don’t know how to filter with their minds. I think about these things…

… And I shudder.

I shudder because I can see the avalanche coming. I shudder because our current leaders won’t admit it. I shudder because I know I’m guilty myself.

#DB

Why You’re Insecure

I remember waking-up in cold sweats thinking about how I was going to manage to pay all the bills that month. Since taking over a company holding large debts, my own personal finances had suffered. The nervousness and cold sweats were symptoms of anxiousness that came from being financially insecure. I was anxious because my financial resources were not sufficient to meet my financial obligations. It wasn’t because the world was unfair, or because Capitalism is a bad system, or because someone was mistreating me, or even because God was testing. I was insecure for the same reason we’re all insecure: when the requirement of the moment is greater than our abilities to meet the requirement. While I would like to blame the circumstances for why I was working in an indebted company in the first place for my worries, the truth is I had accepted the circumstances and was now responsible for either meeting requirements or abandoning them.

On hindsight, given the things I have achieved since then, and given the greater odds we have defied, that thing that was causing me so much insecurity was actually not so bad. In that moment I felt like jumping out my apartment window. Today, that idea seems like such a petty reason to commit suicide. I realized that I could prevent that level of anxiousness by budgeting better and prioritizing my income more. Because I had not improved my income nor my savings, I was financially incapable, and because I was financially incapable, I was financially insecure. Because I was financially insecure, I, David, felt generally insecure. That one area in my life made my whole life insecure.

This realization taught me something very important: My insecurities, they’re not simply some abstract unmanageable thing called “insecurities”. They’re the result of not having improved my capabilities in certain important areas of my life. Most of what I was anxious about could have been reduced, and even prevented IF I had developed my abilities better. This is one of the problems of lumping issues into abstract categories instead of calling them out for what they really are – an exercise that our overly-sensitive society finds offensive.

Insecurity is not a condition people suffer from. It’s the result of lack of capability. Very insecure people have simply not developed the necessary capability to handle the requirement of that area.

The sad thing is we aren’t taught this. We believe that insecurity is caused by the conditions around us, the conditions of our childhood, of our relationships, of our work. If only people were more understanding, if our parents were better, if our boss paid more, and our government gave better help, we would fee more secure. By putting the responsibility of our own security on the shoulders of others, we conveniently remove the reality that we have not learned to make wise choices independent of external factors. As long as there is someone out there to blame for our insecurities, we will not single-mindedly deal with the reality of the sources of our insecurity.

Is it any surprise that the most financially insecure people you’ll find are usually those who don’t know how to excel in their jobs nor follow a prepared budget? You’ll find that financially secure people are doing what? Saving, investing, and creating value. That’s not a coincidence.

Is it any surprise that the most physically insecure people are those who have less than ideal physical capabilities due to bad habits? You don’t see too many people who are taking care their health worrying about sicknesses. Why? Because they’re improving their capabilities in that area.

Is it any surprise that the most career insecure people are those who have not found a craft they can truly excel in? In my experiences, I’ve heard more whining from non-performers than performers. Again, that’s not a coincidence.

The good news is this: our insecurity isn’t a curse or demonic attack. It’s the direct result of lack of capability. This may be bad news for those who want an excuse more than a cure. But for those of you who want a cure, we’re given a path towards victory. By being very honest about the source of our insecurity, we can now identify the practices we need to do to improve our capabilities in that area. If you’re financially insecure, get a better job, start saving, sell stuff, stop spending on stuff. If you’re physically insecure, change your diet, stop comparing your looks to others, use sunblock, whatever, develop another identity that’s not based on looks. If you’re insecure about your relationship, look at what you’re doing that’s causing it. If the solution to your insecurity is always someone else changing, then you’ll always be insecure, and insecure people are terrible partners. But if the solution is with you, than you don’t need to wait for someone else. You can change your situation, change your decisions, change your relationships, and do the necessary things for you to succeed.

I forget this a lot and get frustrated. Then I remind myself and just move on. I don’t need others to understand. I just need to do what’s necessary to get the life results I want. I’m not insecure because others make me insecure. I am insecure because I’m not capable in that area. I’m better off working on that area than blaming external things.

So the cure to insecurity isn’t a world where no one criticizes you, nor has no issues, nor has no adversity. The cure isn’t a world of greater self-esteem. The cure is more self-mastery. The most secure people in the world have achieved a level of competence in that area of security. As long as we are incompetent, we will always feel insecure.

As long as we’re bad at handling our money, we will be financially insecure.

As long as we have unhealthy habits, we will have physical insecurities.

As long as we’re not the best at work, we will have career insecurities.

As long as we’re not really humbling ourselves before God, we will have spiritual identity insecurities.

This isn’t a self-esteem or dignity issue as popular advice wants to call it. It’s a maturity issue. It’s a competence issue. It’s a self-mastery issue.

I want to end with this idea: Feelings of insecurity is a wonderful indicator of that which we need to grow in. Just like a headache makes us focus on our head, insecurity points out areas that we need to heal, need to develop, and need to master. When we address insecurity issues with “self-esteem cures”, it’s like trying to cure a diarrhoea with a pain reliever. Nice try, but you’re still going to crap like nuts – on everyone around you. The problem isn’t the pain. The problem is reason behind the pain. That reason is inside us. That’s what we need to be dealing with. The pain is a gift to point that out to us before it hurts us and others even more.

**Bonus Section: Beyond You**
When thinking about this issue, I asked a few people, live and online, about their thoughts on insecurity. They were helpful in helping me write this post. One thing I noticed is this:

In general, we are so caught up in our own financial, physical, emotional, and relational requirements, that our days go by simply responding to these requirements. Very few, and I mean very very very few, are truly diligently working on a life that’s bigger than himself or herself. When you live a small existence, why be surprised that you feel small and insecure? Of course you feel small. You are small.

Here’s my advice: Live your days beyond you. Make it a point that each day is building towards a greater impact in the lives of others. When you’re busy with things much bigger than yourself you’re forced to grow, to mature, and to expand. You’re forced to be bigger so that you can meet the requirements of your big goal. What happens when you continuously grow towards a grand purpose? You develop more and more mastery. That’s where confidence comes from. Confidence doesn’t come from someone nicely lying to you, telling you you’re a good person when you’re really inconsequential. Confidence comes from know you are consequential. Your existence makes a big difference. The lives of others won’t be the same without you.

If you want self-esteem go for self-mastery. If you do you’ll have both. But if you seek self-esteem before the mastery, chances are you’ll never have either.

Note:

Feel free to interact with me on my Telegram Channel. I would love to hear your thoughts.

#DB

Uncommon Sense: A Framework for Life

On Ideas
There are a lot of ideas floating around.

There are a lot of compelling ideas, some good, some bad, and for some the verdict is still out. Choosing which ideas to accept and practice can be quite confusing. In this information age, you’d think that having more data should help us make better and “more informed” decisions. Instead, despite still being more informed, we can’t say our decisions are better. I find, at least in my experience, “more informed” many times leads to analysis paralysis or information overload.

From Ideas to Life
Since too little information can lead to ignorance and too much information can lead to confusion, it’s important to know how to navigate through all the different ideas and pieces of information, be able to come to useful conclusions, and make the right decisions. This is how one succeeds in life: To discover one’s own life purpose and make free wise decisions that its accomplishment. It’s not about knowing more, being more efficient, or having more experiences. It’s about committing to a great picture in your head and making that picture a reality. That great picture can be for one’s family, nation, business, industry, or whatever area. Success is turning your vision into a reality. So don’t get caught up in trying to read every new must-read, or doing every new life hack, or experiencing every new must-experience. Much of those are distractions. Instead focus on these three things:

  1. Understand What Is
  2. Practice What You Ought
  3. Create What Will Be
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A Framework for Life

These are what lead to success in life.

To Understand What Is means to understand Purpose (what it is and what your’s is), understand Principles (what they are and which govern your purpose), and understand People (who they are, what they do, and why they do what they do).

To Practice What You Ought means to Do That Which is Purposeful, meaning to be deliberate about working towards that which you want to achieve. It also means to Do That Which is Right. And what is right? That which satisfies the Principles that govern your Purpose. Lastly, it also means to Do That Which is Loving, meaning, do things that are honouring to God and improves the lives of others.

Finally, focus on Creating What Will be, which I’ve simplified to Build (construct things into existence), Bear (incubate things into existence), and Bridge (connect things into existence).

I hope you find the following articles useful but I don’t mean this framework to be comprehensive. This is a personal guide that I’m sharing, a guide I’m fleshing out mostly for my son, Elijah. Don’t place your faith in it but use it to inform you in formulating your own framework for living. The responsibility of learning how to live is your own, no one else’s, because the responsibility of the results (or lack of results) is your own.

Now that we’re done with the introduction, let’s go into more detail, starting with Understanding What Is. #DB