Jason Atkinson: A Klamath Update

Josh Bowen: 3 Thoughts We Should Stop Having About Fitness

joshI have been traveling the last few days and have had several conversations with people on the planes I’ve been on about fitness. One in particular with my taxi cab driver who picked me up at the airport in Florida.

The lady must have been in here early 40’s and in decent shape but really wanted to be in better shape. After finding out what I did for a living she instantly started probing me for information. And as it is in many cases the person will ask questions or state beliefs only to validate their own beliefs regardless of my opinion on the subject matter.

15 minutes into our ride she had told me how diet X didn’t work for and neither did diet A-R but diet W and Z were the bomb.com. What?! She also referred to anything lifting related as the “man zone” and quickly wanted to tell me how doing an hour of cardio was great but was boring and she wasn’t sure she could tell a difference. You don’t say?

So, as only I can do, I referred her to my book 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom as a step in the right direction for her. Maybe the book could do a better job of explaining the components of fitness than I could do. Either way these random conversations with people boggle my mind. I still cannot understand why we have such a hard time understanding the core principles of fitness. We continually over diet, we look at food as either bad or good and we have no concept of what is too much or not enough.

Let’s set the trend here with the 3 Thoughts We Should Stop Having About Fitness:

Thought 1: Diets Work
If diets work then why is obesity and the number of diet books on sale at an all time? Diets don’t work. Have never worked. Will never work. They are often too stringent and restrict our favorite foods. They are also not nutrient driven and only focus on the amount of calories you eat, forgetting about the nutrient value of protein, carbs and fats.

Thought 2: More Exercise is Better
Using exercise to lose fat is like using a band aid to on a gun shot wound. Thinking you can go workout to eradicate that pizza you just ate or that bottle of wine you just drank is lunacy. The average person cannot eat what they want then go workout and expect to look the way they want. You also can workout TOO much. Your nervous system can only handle so much (this is where the value of rest comes into play) exercise thang it can become fried and will need a break. 3-4 days of vigorous exercise is usually enough for most people, anymore than that and the body will not be able to handle stress (unless nutrition, rest and genetics intervene).

Thought 3: Lifting Weights Makes Women Look Like Men
It doesn’t. Never has. Never will. There are outliers to everything, however those are few and far between. Want to be leaner? Want to have a defined waist, shoulders and back, pick up heavy things. With the help of great nutrition habits, lifting weights will make anyone look great naked. And that’s a great thing!

My hope is I can put these to bed and never have to discuss them again. But the majority of you reading this already know these so if you could forward to friends and family, it would help he education of the exercising public and maybe increase my subscribers! Until next time.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Hidden Value of a Legal Education

jyb_musingsThe headline today in the Courier-Journal reports a sharp–even shocking –decline in law school applications for the three KY law schools: 60% at UL and 40% at UK and NKU over the past 3 years. And this decline follows national trends for law school applicants.

The verdict? A law school education and the debt incurred to complete it is no longer as good an investment as it once was given the current market crunch for new attorneys and the projected income for those who do find legal work.

That is simple math and, frankly, a bursting of the law school bubble, so to speak, has been long overdue.

But for someone who is a graduate of law school myself and works both inside and outside of a law firm, I would like to make a personal and emotional plea to those who are considering law school but for whom the math doesn’t quite add up.

First, it’s not just about the math. To paraphrase former President Clinton’s famous 1992 campaign slogan, “It’s the education, stupid.” I know that is easy to say for someone like me who went to law school over 20 years ago when tuition was a fraction of what it is today. But I contend a legal education shouldn’t be a decision like investing in a stock in a mutual fund. It is about something far more personal; more intangible; more defining. A law school education is stepping up and putting yourself on the line as you attempt to go through one of the most intellectually challenging, invigorating and gratifying rites of passage that exists in the world of higher education. (And, yes, you learn to write long-winded and dense run-on sentences like the one I just wrote.) But there are many other benefits, too.

When I was an undergraduate student I went to see a movie with a couple of older students and a newly minted attorney. After the movie I asked the attorney what law school was like and how he liked being a lawyer. He said practicing law wasn’t that enjoyable but “being a lawyer” was great. He added, “You just don’t get intimidated by others or put people on pedestals.” He pointed to a TV with President Reagan speaking and added, “I wouldn’t even be intimidated if I were in a small group of people talking to President Reagan.”

That conversation obviously left an impression on me. And it wasn’t from the comment about not enjoying practicing law. I wanted to be able to have a conversation with a President and not be reduced to mush. That happened to me 3 years after I graduated law school and I got to meet President Bill Clinton while he was campaigning in KY for re-election. He was still the President but he was also now–to me—just “a law school graduate.” Like me. And I stood confidently and initiated a short, pleasant and sensible exchange.

But these benefits are only some of the, shall we say, shallower benefits of going to law school. Law school, after tearing you down, does eventually build you back up and boost your confidence. Somewhere late in my first year of law school, I decided, “I had what it takes to be a lawyer.” I had completed a long and difficult assignment and was recognized with an award for my work. I felt catapulted to a whole new level. I went from being a successful college student with a liberal arts degree to someone who was capable of doing important things in the grown-up world.

The day I was offered my first summer internship at a top Kentucky law firm, I cheered alone in my apartment as wildly as I did when UK’s men’s basketball team nearly made the Final Four two years later. Except mine was a victory. A voice inside me —one quieted by the rejection letters from several top law firms earlier that week—roared, a little that day. Or maybe was born. And that inner voice has stayed with me and served me well in periods of self-doubt.

Still and all, attending law school is a very personal and tumultuous life decision. How does one know how to make this decision? I can’t offer a clear-cut guide. I suspect the decision is akin to the decision made by a mountain climber when staring at the highest mountain he or she has ever faced. In the end, they climb it because it is there and that’s what mountain climbers feel compelled to do. This statement, I suspect, will spark a good deal of disagreement. But I will stand by it in the broadest sense.

Put another way, if you are intellectually curious and interested in institutions like government, business, economics, and community and drawn to ideals like justice and fairness, truth and reason –then you are likely an intellectual mountain climber. And need a mountain to climb that’s worth climbing. And law school, I believe, is a worthy mountain to climb.

Legal education is a process that stretches all your intellectual faculties and then hones them in a forceful and focused manner. It may suffocate some creativity but when you are finished, you’ll feel the three years in the legal laboratory helped you be, intellectually, “All you can be.,” as the Army used to promise. Students get whipped into shape through a form of intellectual boot camp. And that process provides an intangible value that can’t be easily quantified or measured on a spreadsheet alongside an entry level banking or finance position that pays the same as the average attorney, including law school, over a 10 year period. Some things just aren’t made to fit into a spreadsheet cell. But they still matter. Maybe a lot. Possibly even a whole lot.

A legal education, I contend, is the best educational preparation for most any profession outside of a technical or scientific specialty. I also have an MBA and am grateful for that education. My business education, if I had to describe it quickly, was “informative” but my legal education was “transformative.” And legal training has been useful to me in all my different and varied occupations–from start up businesses to corporate executive to elected official to practicing attorney to consultant and lobbyist and to adjunct college professor and whatever else may lie ahead. Whatever I am doing in 20 years, if I am still alive, I will owe To some extent,  to my legal education. Even if I am a professional fly fisherman. I will at least be an orderly and logical one who is trying to be better than the fly fisherman down river–who didn’t go to law school. (Yes, you will be forever competitive about even the most trivial things thanks to law school. But you were already wired up that way. Law school just ran the electricity through your wiring and lit up your competitiveness more than you ever wanted others to see.

And I believe that those who believe the intrinsic value of a legal education is actually quantifiable are the same  people who believe everything is quantifiable (and probably would have been better off taking more liberal arts courses in college). The intrinsic value of a legal education isn’t something with clear contours and can’t even be articulated clearly. But this intrinsic value does become part of a completeness you feel about yourself when you are sitting alone and wonder if you have asked enough of yourself. Sound hokey? Perhaps a little. But “hokey” matters more than we want to admit when we are young–especially when we are trying to seem together but don’t quite feel it yet inside

And then there is the practical benefit of networking that law school provides. If you attend a Kentucky law school you will be in a class with many of Kentucky’s future leaders in their legal, business and political community. You are exposed not only to your class but the two classes ahead of you and behind you. And within 5-10 years you’ll find yourself with “friends” (former classmates) who are now serving as judges and law partners and heads of local organizations or corporate executives and business people as well as elected officials all across our 120 county state. The guy you sat next to in Torts I  and wouldn’t dare ask to  borrow notes from now has his own courtoom. And his older sister two years ahead of you in law school is now in the state legislature.  And you all will belong to the same club they do: Law school graduate

The club or fraternity (or sorority), exists as the result of successfully enduring a common endeavor that at first seems like an overwhelming challenge. But proves not to be. And along the way, you learn your limits –and capabilities. You learn the extraordinary capabilities of others. You face yourself as you really are. And you surprise yourself with what you are capable of doing. I remember during my second year of law school asking a fellow law student I worked with the summer before, John Roach, “How can we possibly finish these assignments? There is no way we can complete all these projects in the short time we have!” I waited anxiously for John to provide a reassuring strategy as he always seemed to do. But this time he didn’t. He just shrugged and answered, “We have to do it. We don’t have any choice.” That is law school in a nutshell. And you somehow get it all done. Because you have to and don’t have a choice.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are deep friendships that develop. My first summer internship I worked in a narrow corridor of carrels that was closed off to the rest of the law firm. We were a bunch of nervous and hard working ambitious young people whose private grandiose plans were counter balanced by our secret fear that we would eventually not amount to much of anything. But we were impressed enough with each other that we started to figure maybe we had more going for us than we thought. And the more we got to know each other the better it made each of us.

That summer I sat next to Robert Weir, who later was one of the best men in my wedding, and is now a U.S Magistrate Judge and finished first in our law school class. Behind me was John Roach, who was general counsel to a governor and served on Kentucky’s Supreme Court and who now has his own thriving private law practice. Next to Robert was Matt Nelson, who ranked among the top 5 in our class and seemed to plow through writing legal briefs like a champion swimmer swims through the water in a meet. Next to Matt was Will Montague, a trusted and long-time friend who has been a successful partner at several of the state’s top law firms and now has his own firm. And across from Will was John Butler, a lovable guy from Green Co, Kentucky who left the law to coach high school basketball instead, breaking the long family tradition of practicing law but boldly and bravely choosing the life he wanted instead —and with all of our blessings and full personal support. And there were other extraordinary people, classmates, who filled up those remaining nondescript but hallowed (to me anyway) carrels making up that narrow corridor of law school interns.

The next summer my closest friend was David Hale, who became Kentucky’s U.S Attorney and is now the nominee for US District Court Judge. And Ben Fultz, who now has his own thriving law firm starting with his last name. And I have had an interesting, rewarding and diverse career myself and have many of these individuals to thank for helping me along the way, personally and professionally. And each of these individuals are, I dare say, friends for life. Even if we go long periods without seeing or talking to one another. And the same can be said with most every other law student in our class who I sidled up next to as we slogged together through the arduous law school mountain climb.

This Sunday afternoon before last I was out driving with my family and got a call from an old and dear law school friend. The call was to tell me of the members or our “corridor group” from the summer of 1990, had taken his life. Although our group hadn’t spoken in weeks or months –or in some cases even years– we quickly lined up as though it were late August in 1990. With our spouses and graying and thinning hair and paunchier midsections, we stood together on a hillside in the rain and watched one of our dear friends be laid to rest.

I hadn’t seen Robert Wier since his investiture ceremony several years earlier. I patted him on the back and hugged him and he hugged me back. He was from Benham, Kentucky and told me shortly after we met, “I thought I wouldn’t like you at all, John. I assumed you’d be a spoiled entitled jerk. But you turned out to be just the opposite. After getting to know you, I now think of you as one of the very best people I’ve ever known.” I consider that passing comment from Robert many years ago, perhaps the highest compliment I’ve ever received in my life. But we were now back in the present and it was nice to be standing next to my friend again after far too many years. I whispered, “I figured they’d have a special seat for you today, Judge.” Robert’s eye’s gleamed as they always had as he smiled warmly, “I’m just hoping to stay balanced on the side of this hill like everybody else.”

After the funeral, many of those from our original summer group and many other former fellow law students, huddled together and talked, and laughed, and talked some more. it was never said, but clear that we were grateful to have each other.. We tried to put together an impromptu lunch but everyone seemed too busy to make it work on the spur of the moment. We promised to get together for lunch sometime soon but probably won’t. But in law school I was taught the perils of ever assuming anything. So maybe we will get together for lunch soon. I hope so.

I hugged John Roach goodbye and thanked him for always “stepping up” in our group. I told him, “If my car broke ever down at 3am and I had only one phone call to make, I would call you. Because I know you’d be there as quickly as you could. There would be a long lecture for me to endure and you would make some good points. But mostly, you would just be there. And I thank you for that.”

I hugged and shook hands with others and waived goodbye and within minutes I was on a conference call and whisked back into my old and own little world. But as I drove away I felt a familiar rush. But not the rush that I could do anything or was finally good enough. But the mature rush of feeling grateful to be part of a special group of special people and honored to call each of them my friend—22 years after law school.

Was that feeling –and all the experiences I just tried to relate— worth the tuition? Were they worth the time and toil? Were they worth all the debt incurred?

Hell yes they were! Every penny. Every moment. Everything.

Perhaps, you might think, this is my conclusion because I believe that the decision of whether to go to law school isn’t mostly about the math. And if you think it mostly a decision about the math, you probably shouldn’t go law school.

But if you see value in the law school experience beyond merely the questionable spreadsheet analysis of “investment dollars” versus “future projected income,” then pack your mountain climbing gear and head up to the base of the mountain. They will be holding a place for you. But sign in quickly so you don’t lose your place. And get ready for an experience of a lifetime that you will be glad you didn’t miss—and one day not be able to imagine your life without.

Am I an idealist? I suppose I am. At least a little bit. And I hope I always will have that small flickering flame of idealism. Idealists never let a little fuzzy math get in the way of a greater cause. And if I  can look back on my life and feel that I have succeeded in keeping that flame alive, I will  have my law school education, in large part, to thank.

Lauren Mayer: The Sound of Marriage Equality

Whatever you thought of the live ‘Sound of Music’ starring Carrie Underwood, it was still commendable for a number of reasons, including exposing country fans to musical theatre, and showing people who’d only seen the movie the numbers & scenes that were cut from it. (Not that Julie Andrews wasn’t adorable, but in the movie the Captain dumps Baroness Schraeder just because of one dance with his employee, which is sort of creepy.  In the actual musical, Schraeder turns out to be a Nazi appeaser, and possibly a sympathizer, which is a slightly better reason . . .)
I was reminded of this song by Louie Gohmert (and a few other wingnuts) remarking that the spreading tide of marriage equality was just like the spread of Nazism . . .

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Dear God

jyb_musingsDear God,

When you invented shaving every morning for men, what were You thinking? I know it was a long time ago and there was a good reason for it at the time. Just help me to understand.

P.S. I have lost 29 lbs this year. Since you don’t follow me on Facebook, you probably hadn’t heard. Pretty good, huh?

Hope the shaving question didn’t make You mad. Not questioning you. I am just curious. I think losing weight has given me more confidence and allowed me to be more assertive. And ask questions I wouldn’t have asked last year when I was heavier.

Let me know on the shaving thing.

And good job on most everything else.

P.P.S. I noticed in pictures of you at church you are carrying a few extra pounds than you probably should at your age. Do you know your BMI? I know we are all very busy, especially You, but we still have to take time to take care of our health. And that goes for You too. Since you don’t shave, maybe you could take those 5 minutes every morning the rest of us guys spend shaving and try running in place. Or doing jumping jacks. You will notice a difference pretty quickly.

Not judging. Just notice others wieght issues more than I used to. A more slimming and darker colored robe might help too. Just a thought.

Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Saying Goodbye to China

Three months, 11,000 miles of travel and visiting more than 20 cities, we are leaving China.  After all this, what do we think of China?

HE SAID:

China brings to mind one word: wow.  I knew very little of China prior to coming here.  All I knew was that we had three months, where we would go and what we would do was completely unknown.  Wow, how time flew, we did so many things, traveled to so many places.  Wow, the people I met.  Wow, this country is beautiful.  Wow, the trains.  Wow, the people.  Wow, the history.  Wow, China, wow.

Some big, eye-opening wows I am not going to miss: etiquette and hygiene.  I found that no matter what, I can’t stand it when people chew with their mouth open.  I can’t eat when lips are being smacked together and half-chewed pieces of food are falling from people’s lips.  I can’t believe that children are expected to do their business on the sidewalk, when there are public bathrooms everywhere.  It is not that the infrastructure for cleanliness doesn’t exist, they have made an honorable effort, but etiquette and hygiene just doesn’t seem to be the cultural norm.  Wow, I look forward to being in a place where people are not spitting on bus floors and I have to dodge human feces on the sidewalk.

As good a place as any?
A father holds his child while it defecates in the middle of the Forbidden City, one of China’s largest tourist attractions.  A bathroom was less than 100 meters away.

The good, no great, wow, surpass my gripes.  My biggest wow was the honesty of the people.  I have traveled all around the world, dealt with people of all cultures, yet I have seen few as honest as the Chinese people I dealt with.  There was no foreigner pricing, what the locals pay, you pay.  I didn’t have to negotiate for a bowl of noodles like in Hanoi, worry about getting overcharged for entrance tickets like in Thailand, or worry about being robbed like on buses in Cambodia.  Sure, prices at markets are quoted to be negotiated, but the daily transactions, complete with posted prices, was amazing.  A few times I tried to round up my bill to not have a pocketful of change, but was forcedto take my change.  Wow, thank you China, for your honest people.  Clearly they exported all their shady people to the world’s Chinatowns.

Wow, the infrastructure.  China is pumping money into its roads, trains and national infrastructure.  It is clear that not very long ago this infrastructure was pretty bad.  We rode on many unpaved streets, riddled with holes, but were happy to see that brand new highways and streets are being built almost everywhere.  We rode every type of China’s trains and were amazed by their quality and service to everywhere.  It is true, you need to buy your tickets early or you end up in the “cattle class” of hard seats, but any higher class and “wow”, what a nice, affordable way to travel.  We rode the trains almost 10,000 miles and have no complaints.  Wow.

China is an amazing country.  If you haven’t been, add it to your future travel plans.  In the future, with all the changes, travel here will only get better.  I assure you communication will be a problem, but the people will work with you to help you.  The storekeepers will help you get what you need.  The trains will take you where you want to go.  Wow, I’m going to miss traveling in China.

SHE SAID:

Saying ‘goodbye’ to China will be like saying goodbye to a close friend, she has treated me so well and provided so many amazing memories.  I have to admit I was nervous about what people were saying about her before I came and how it might affect my relationship with her.  But, China has far exceeded any expectations I had and while not everything was perfect it wasn’t the horrible experience everyone warns you about, like when you room with your best friend in college.  Regardless about what people say about my new friend behind her back I will always defend her, because until you get to know her you have no right to comment.

Yes, there are the glaring examples of poor hygiene and bad table manners, but past that the other issues regarding travel in China are surmountable.  The vast distances to travel are combated with nice, clean trains even if you do have to plan ahead.  There is a considerable language barrier, but the people are surprisingly helpful in trying to understand you.  Best of all they won’t rip you off just because you don’t speak their language.  I was always shocked by the low prices of things and that it was the same price as the locals paid.

What I will miss most about China is the scenery, which never failed to amaze me.  Around every corner was a new panorama of breathtaking beauty.  The sights in China are so unique as well, no other country has a 5,500 mile wall, five holy mountains, including the best view of the world’s tallest mountain and countless awe-inspiring temples, monasteries and Buddhas.  The amount of things to see in China could keep you busy for years.  It certainly kept us running at a frenetic pace to see over 20 cities in the past three months, but it was more than worth it.  From back alleyways in Pingyao and the rice terraces of Yuanyang to the majestic mountains of Tibet, China’s superlatives will be hard to beat.

Next to the scenery the best part of China is the food, the sheer variety and incredible tastes of this vast country were delicious to explore.  I loved the skewers of meat hot off the grill and pitchers of beer for just a dollar in our first China stop: Qingdao.  Since then the Peking duck in Beijing, spicy Sichuan food in Chengdu and the interesting yak options in Tibet made for some of my best food memories thus far.  With meals costing between 50 cents and fifteen dollars you can’t go wrong.

The only thing that can make great views and delicious food better is sharing it with amazing people and China delivers on this front as well.  We met some of the most intelligent, interesting and well traveled people on the road in China.  From English teachers in Qingdao to fellow travelers on the hiking trail in Tiger Leaping Gorge the people we met in China will remain one of the highlights of China.  It was always fun to get to a new hostel and run into an old friend, many a times this caused us to be up until all hours of the night catching up on each others travels.  I will miss all of our diverse China friends.

I will try not to cry, but I won’t say “goodbye,” instead I will say “see you soon” because I will most definitely be back.  I know there will be a lot of changes between now and then so; “keep in touch, will ‘ya?”

Beth Gamulka: Worrying About Mom

Beth GamulkaDinner conversation topics in my home can vary from the serious to the mundane. My kids (all pre-teens and teenagers) still communicate with me in more than a series of grunts. They acknowledge each other’s existence. It’s fantastic. Imagine my chagrin when we spent a whole meal discussing their fears for my well-being. My kids are pretty aware of the world around them. They listen to and read the news. They also have a clear understanding of what I do every day. So, when they hear about health care workers who have contracted Ebola in Texas, it is no giant leap for them to worry about and for me. As a hospital-based health care worker in a city rich with citizens who hail from hundreds of countries, it is likely that there will be many Ebola scares close to home in the near future. I practice in a hospital that was at the epicenter of the SARS outbreak in Toronto in 2003. While my children were too young at the time to remember it, they have heard about it and have even seen the movies-of-the-week that were based on it.

I remember the first child who had contracted SARS from family members who had already succumbed to the disease. When that child was admitted to hospital, my colleagues and I (all young professionals with young children, except for one single guy) looked at one another and tried to decide who would don the N-95 mask, gown, face-shield and gloves and care for the patient. Those early days in the outbreak were filled with many questions but few answers. We were faced every day with new instructions and new rules about how we were supposed to be screened, to protect ourselves and to care for our patients.   One of my colleagues, the unmarried physician in our group, selflessly volunteered to expose himself to that first patient so that the rest of us could minimize our risk to ourselves and to our young families. We all remained healthy throughout the SARS outbreak, which lasted for several months but the memories of working in those conditions are still quite vivid.

Now, my children are old enough to understand what might happen with Ebola. They are concerned for me, and for the fallibility of PPE (personal protective equipment). They ask me about resource allocation, too. What will happen if there are not enough ventilators or ICU beds for all the sick patients? Who will decide who receives intensive care and how will those decisions be made? Are all states and provinces approaching preparedness in a consistent fashion?

These are all excellent questions. Unfortunately, no one yet has those answers. The real risk of an Ebola outbreak in North America is low. However, past experience suggests that we will have to be prepared so that if there is an outbreak, we will have the answers to my kids’ questions before we need them.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My Monday Morning

jyb_musingsMy Monday morning

My world

My way

My terms

My bed

Master of my universe

Then the alarm goes off

And all that’s left is

My alarm clock

Saul Kaplan: Something Is Wrong With the Way We Aspire to Success

Saul KaplanThis is the third of a 10-article series of conversations published on the Time website, authored by myself and Nicha Ratana, with transformational leaders who will be storytellers at the BIF10 Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI.

“If you’re in business today, you’re running for office every day.” So says Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company magazine and a progressive Democrat who recently conceded his bid for governor of New Mexico.

Webber promoted an education-focused, pro-jobs campaign platform that leveraged his background in social business. The only candidate in the race not formerly involved in the state’s government, his supporters valued his outsider perspective and resistance to local political cynicism.

Running for office may seem to be a tricky venture for a media entrepreneur with a blunt, provocative journalistic record. But to Webber, running for governor was a natural culmination of his career-long mission to understand and transform broken systems.

Webber’s talk at BIF9, last year’s Collaborative Innovation Summit, articulated the broken place he sees now in both business and politics. In both systems, he claimed, “something is wrong about the way we’re aspiring to success.”

In his talk, Webber recounted an article by entrepreneur Mark Fuller, published in Fast Company’s first issue. “It asked, ‘How did the United States manage to win every battle in Vietnam, and lose the War?’— because they lost track of the point of the exercise.”

To Webber, the same is true for American business and politics. “Every 10 years, we drive the economic car into the ditch,” Webber said, “It keeps happening because our systems are designed to create this outcome.”

At the BIF9 Summit, Webber’s ideas were welcomed. “Some conferences give you a feeling that all the talks were written by the same person, memorized, and then delivered as a Forrest Gump-ian box of chocolates,” he reflects. “The BIF Summit is different. The design specs are human-centric. With BIF storytellers, you get the feeling that there’s actual alignment between who they are and what they’re doing.”

Webber and fellow Fast Company co-founder Bill Taylor used their magazine to rally for a major cultural shift in business, a phenomenon that Webber referred to in his BIF talk as “the disappearance of the man in the grey flannel suit.” The concept of the company man who put himself aside so that he could put food on the table was no longer sustainable.

“Work is too important to be alienated from your sense of self,” Webber maintained.

Fast Company used the conceit of the worker drone to criticize America’s toxic work culture. The magazine aligned itself against an economy built upon principles of pure financial return at the expense of sound business practices.

Fast Company wasn’t a business magazine,” Webber notes. “We had a business model, but we also had a philosophical agenda and a political sensibility about what makes for a good life. It wasn’t articles; it was a curriculum.”

Alan Webber is tough to interview.

He refuses set questions. “Let’s have a conversation,” he insists. He openly shares what he’s struggling with and compels the same. He compliments generously, but does not endorse. He has deep laughter lines.

Yet, when prompted to talk about his new home state, his eyes light up. He tells many stories: of what he learned from meeting an education specialist at the local coffee shop, of listening to the stories of struggle of 16th generation Acequia stewards, of the privilege of having an audience with Pueblo heads of state.

He talks about his state’s resilience and cultural richness. “Santa Fe’s the oldest state capital in the United States, but you rarely hear about the history of Spanish exploration living at Plymouth Rock,” says the former Boston resident.

Webber claims he has no plans to disengage from public service. In his letter of concession he maintained, “It was not only a campaign to elect a candidate — it was a campaign to make an argument about New Mexico.”

The state, under the administration of Republican governor Susana Martínez, ranks 50th in the country in overall child well-being and job growth.

“When you’re number 50, you have no time to waste,” Webber says. To him, it doesn’t matter whether the case for New Mexico is made from the business, political or ethical angle “because today, they are increasingly the same.”

“Politics is not something you’d wish on your worst enemy,” Webber jokes. Yet, he also says, “I think running for governor was the right thing to do. I have met an amazing group of people through the campaign, people who’ve asked me to help them with their projects.”

He adds, “It’s a real a blessing when people think you can help them.”

The BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit combines 30 brilliant storytellers with more than 400 innovation junkies in a two-day storytelling jam, featuring tales of personal discovery and transformation that spark real connection and “random collisions of unusual suspects.”

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Weird Pleasantries

jyb_musingsI just spoke to the guy who is helping us install a new shower in our hone and, after giving him the credit card number and paying, I thanked him for all his time and assistance.

He thanked me and said to keep him posted and let him know how the installation goes and if we are happy with everything.

I thanked him again and said, “When we get everything finished we’d love to have you come over to see it and take a shower in it yourself.”

I love being an over-friendly Southerner –and joking around with people.

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