Moments That Move You

Have you ever thought about keeping some sort of record of the moments that move you?

Want to take it to the next level?

Next time you feel a rush of emotion come over you – for the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly – take a minute to write.

What are you feeling?

What was the trigger?

How did those feelings/emotions manifest themselves?

Now what?

So what do these moments that move us actually mean?

How do we understand and figure this out?

Then what?

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Trust – What Do You Believe?

Trust is one of the most important elements of any relationship, if not the most important element in any relationship.

Would you agree?

I was shocked when I first heard this question about trust.

Is trust where I believe you will do the right thing?

Or where I believe you will act as I expect you to act?

It’s a powerful question.

And what makes it so interesting is that there are varying perceptions of what it means to “do the right thing.”

It’s been almost two years since I first heard this question. It still makes me go, “hm.”

What do you think?

Take Your Shot

Before this year’s edition of March Madness, the last time I watched this much basketball was sometime close to the turn of the millennium. College basketball has its reputation for bringing out more emotion than the average sporting event. The emotion and the energy of it all is incredible – and I’ve loved every minute of it.

I knew I’d love the games, and likely be moved by the games going down to the wire with teams with incredible chemistry and seniors out there trying to fulfill their collegiate basketball dreams.

But I did not expect to be moved by commentary about players on the court that is equally applicable to many of us athletes in the game of life.

The comment I took away today was about a player who was no longer just taking shots, he was taking shots that were right for him. It’s not just about making shots, but about taking shots one is capable of making. And what a difference that made in the way he played the game – his game.

What shots are you just taking? And what shots are you meant to make? What’s your shot? What’s your game?

Bound-AIR-ies

I streamed an interesting radio show yesterday morning on Connecticut’s WNPR – Where We Live – hosted by John Dankosky. The topic: How Clean Is Our Air?

Here in the US, I thought I was far away from such issues of the air. Does America have an air pollution problem?

Having followed Dr. Angel Hsu’s work for quite some time now, I’ve been involved in more than a handful of conversations around air quality and measures like PM2.5. After a number of years living in China, last spring I was lucky to join the class she co-taught at Yale with Dr. Karen Seto, From Dongguan to Delhi: Urbanization and the Environment in China and India. It was my first chance to experience a first-hand comparison between Beijing and New Delhi.

Like many others, I was interested in the competitive conversation sparked back in January by this article around air quality between Beijing and New Delhi. The primary catalyst to this conversation, the 2014 version of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), uses measured approaches (indicators) to articulate how countries are doing across a range of issues.

Last week, team EPI wrote a post that appeared on Scientific American to further contribute to this conversation around the tale of two cities, China-India Smog Rivalry a Sign of Global Menace. The post is worth perusing, not only for the beautiful infographic that illustrates several data points in the discussion around Beijing and New Delhi air, but to share a new estimate that one in eight people in the world each year die as a result of air pollution exposure [this is according to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO)].

But even more interesting? 3.87 billion people worldwide – almost half of the global population – live in areas that exceed the threshold deemed “safe” by the WHO.

Beyond the numbers there are stories of severe air pollution from places like Paris and Seoul. Apparently air pollution is not just a problem of the developing world, it’s everybody’s problem.

And then the conversation turned to a place even closer to home.

After almost a year back in America, this morning was the first time I heard a conversation around air pollution that did not cite China or elsewhere in Asia. Rather, the state with the most air pollution in the Northeast (Connecticut), aside from one last coal-guzzling energy plant, is influenced by pollution coming from the Midwest.

A conversation about air pollution in Connecticut was about the furthest thing from my mind before I listened to this show. And, for many of us, air pollution has probably felt far away for a long time – reserved mostly for places with factories abroad since leaving America many years ago.

It seems like countries like China and India have pressure from the media and citizens to make a change. While neighbors like South Korea have a strong interest in keeping their air clean. It will be a collective effort to make these improvements and for everyone to benefit.

What about America? How are folks in America working between States and other international boundaries to keep its skies clean, clear, and under control?

Make-Believe is Make Believe

I recognize Kurt Vonnegut as the name of a great writer. Unfortunately I have yet to read one of his works.

Today I took a step away from hearsay, and one step closer to Kurt’s work, when I was introduced to this letter written in response to the students from Xavier High School who invited him for a visit.

I particularly liked this following suggestion, “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”

As a bonus, I also found a gem in the comments sections from Jay Raskin (aka Jay Philosopher), who summed up a memorable moral-of-the-story from “Mother Night”: “Be careful who you pretend to be, because you are who you pretend to be.”

Who are you pretending to be? What are you currently practicing? And what does your practice and pretending say about who you are becoming?

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When I go to thinking about make-believe and make believe, I looked around to see the ways others described them. The following, written by Joy Bullen, “Moving on From Make-Believe,” caught my eye in the search results. It was moving and worth a read.

The Best Thing Before Sliced Bread

I have loved bread ever since I was a little one. All kinds of bread. Almost any kind of bread.

Have you ever had a piece of bread with an incredible crust? The exterior is a bit hard and often gives way to a wonderfully soft inside.

Have you ever met a person who was a bit ‘hard’ on the outside? Take that however you like – be it the way they do things, interact with others, or even look. Do you appreciate them for how they are different? Do you enjoy this part of them? Do you ever get to their wonderfully soft inside that may perfectly compliment their crust?

Bran(d)ing Food

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It took me awhile to get into cereal, as a kid. It just didn’t excite me. And we had plenty of bread products around. Also, oatmeal.

When I finally came around, one of the great bonuses, I thought, were the health benefits. And it only got better when I started sampling – and more regularly consuming – these cereals that I thought were meant for grandparents. Fiber One was one of those cereals. And I put cereals like this in the same category as prunes – great for you and great to ensure your system runs smoothly on all cylinders.

I find marketing and branding infinitely interesting. What do you choose to – or not to – share about what you have and what it does? What do people choose to – or not to – listen to and what do they choose to care about, reflected through the decisions they make with their actions, their time, and their currency of choice?

Every situation is a bit different. Different people have different perceptions, which are influenced by a whole host of things that ultimately boils down to what they have experienced and what people tell them.

This morning I was looking at a box of Fiber One, and read what you see in the photo above, “With Whole Grain First Ingredient.” My first thought: what a funny thing to put on a box.

As I thought back to my experience as a cereal consumer, a consumer of information about cereal and of food in general, and my interest in marketing and communications, the next logical place to go? The ingredients.

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And there it was, Whole Grain Wheat (first ingredient). Then, Corn Bran, Modified Wheat Starch, Xanthan Gum, Color Added, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Baking Soda, Aspartame, and then a whole slew of vitamins and minerals.

I could not have told you (before I looked each of them up), what most of these ingredients are or mean. And now that I do, they are fillers, but mostly harmless.

To contrast, while snooping around a farmer’s market the other day in New Haven, I came across an interesting breakfast product: quinoa oatmeal strawberry cereal [made by Garden Fresh Baby in Westport, CT]. An appropriately named product in that what’s-in-the-name is the same as what’s-in-the-package.

What does the marketing, communications, and branding of food look like in the future? Will whole food products have names that are greater than the sum of their parts? Or do people just need a reminder of what’s inside straight away once they are in the space of certain brands they trust?

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Addendum: Admittedly, I have never done much reading into various ingredients in processed foods. Here are several articles I found of interest for corn bran, modified food starch, xanthan gum, and aspartame. The article on aspartame is particularly good food for thought given how studied and talked about this food sweetener has been over the years.

Letting the Light In

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I was looking out the window today. I look out the window most days. Many windows look back at me.

Have you ever wondered when the window was invented or by whom? I also wonder how one might invent a hole in a wall. Or be bold enough to claim oneself as the inventor.

Windows are wonderful as things and wonderful as metaphors. Either way, they have the potential to let in great light.

I was curious about the origin of the word. One version says ‘window’ originates from Old Norse vindauga, that is vindr for wind and auga for eye, i.e., ‘wind-eye’. Some say window made it to the English language when it replaced the Old English eagþyrl (‘eye-hole’) and eagduru (‘eye-door’).

Looking at some basic history, after humble beginnings as holes in walls, windows first upgraded to include shutters that could open and close. As time went on, windows were designed to protect those inside from the elements as well as to transmit light. It took more than 1,000 years for windows to evolve into something similar to the transparent portals we see in and out of today.

What type of windows do you have? Do you choose to keep them opened or closed? What do you see in them? What do you choose to let in?

Why Are We Friends?

You’re so weird. And I’m so glad we’re friends.

Do you have at least one person in your life that is so different from you, you can hardly believe you are friends? How did you meet them? What have they meant to you through the course of your relationship? How and why have you stayed friends? What do they mean to you today?

And what do you mean to them?

Recommitting to Why I’m Here

Finding My Voice Here started when I chose love over location. After nine years of China – living among hutongs and highrises in Beijing and a countryside community in rural Yunnan – I’m currently spending a bulk of my time in the US and I’ve challenged myself to publish a post a day from now until the end of 2014.

While I’ve stumbled a few times since the first now, I’m lucky that “now” has a flexible definition based on the day you read this. I’m happy to announce that the new now begins today (March 6th). I’m curious where this much concentrated writing might take me. And I hope you’ll join me in the journey.

Before we both go, I wonder what question you might offer today – be it to me or to another – to move a discussion forward on this blog or elsewhere?