On Giving Thanks.

Thanksgiving.

Family.

Friends.

Food.

Warmth.

The brisk fall air that reminds you that you are alive.

Whether you choose to celebrate or despise the commercialization of the invented holiday season, Thanksgiving does serve as a subtle reminder of all things that are important. All things that are essential to being:

Family:  The people in our lives who give us the support and love we need to make a difference. The people that teach us how to love. They are the field which we sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

Gratitude: It turns what we have into enough, and more. A meal into a feast. A house into a home. A friend into a stranger. It binds our communities together.

Possibility: Every day offers us the opportunity to make a difference not just in our own lives but in the lives of others. An opportunity that is afforded to us as a result of the connection and the optimism we gain when we know we are in it together.

For a few days, we are reminded of the interdependence of life.

We couldn’t have the meal we share without the sacrifice and labor of others, from farm to table.  The food we share is the gift of the whole universe—the earth, the sky, and much hard work.

This Thanksgiving, instead of measuring your goodness by what you don’t do – by what you deny yourself, what you resist, and what you exclude. Let’s all agree to measure the goodness in us, and in everyone, by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.

Network Effects: They Apply to More Than Facebook

We are all familiar with networks effects. The business principle whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it. The most basic example is the platform that allows me to connect with you – the internet. Initially, there were few users of the internet. It was of relatively little value to anyone outside of the military and a few research scientists. However, as more users gained access to the internet there were more and more websites to visit and more people to communicate with. Therefore, the internet became extremely valuable to its users.

One of the fundamental principles of the concept of network effects is Metcalfe’s Law. The law asserts that a company’s value quadruples when the number of users doubles. Or if the number of users quadrupled, the value grew 16-fold. The rate at which the network grows in value has since been contested, however,  Metcalfe was correct that the value of a network grows faster than its size in linear terms.

Metcalfe and network effects in the traditional sense seek to describe and measure “tangible” actions. Tangible in the sense that we can see the speed at which a platform or network grows through the rate at which its number of average daily users increases.

However, network effects apply to “intangible” things as well. It applies to ideas, generosity, kindness, respect, love, empathy, etc..

We take for granted the size of our social networks. We think that our actions, words, and posture only impact those that we can see: our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. However, the networks that surround each of us are actually very widely interconnected.

Our actions actually ripple through our networks like a pebble in water. An act of generosity has an impact on our friends, our friends’ friends, and even our friends’ friends’ friends, better known as the three degrees of influence rule.

Further, if we are each connected to everyone else by six degrees and we can influence them up to three degrees, then one way to think about ourselves is that each of us can reach about halfway to everyone else on the planet!

Why is this important?

It’s important to remember the power that we have to influence others by our words and actions.

Social networks magnify whatever they are seeded with.

The ubiquity of human connection means that each of us has a much bigger impact on others than we can see.

What we say matters.

What we read matters.

What we eat matters.

What we share matters.

The social networks that we create become public goods. Everyone chooses with whom and how they want to connect with others. In the process, a complex and endless web of interlocked relationships and resources are created. Resources that no one person controls but that impact us all.

To truly know ourselves, we must first understand how and why we are all connected. As a start, we must remember where it all started.

It’s The Thought That Counts…or is it?

The problem with the prevailing view of thoughtfulness is that it doesn’t scale. There are no network effects. No platform exists for the foundation of our actions. Instead of merely being thoughtful, we each have the choice to be generously thoughtful.

There are two ways to be thoughtful: first, there is the prevailing view in which being thoughtful is merely being kind.

It’s holding the door for a stranger.
It’s flashing a brief smile when you walk past someone.
It’s offering a compliment.
It’s sharing what you have, expecting nothing in return.
It’s giving someone a discount.
It’s the card and flower routine you employ every valentines day or birthday.

However, these acts are passive, stemming largely from our subconscious rather than from intentionality.

The problem with the prevailing view of thoughtfulness is that it doesn’t scale. There are no network effects. No platform exists for the foundation of our actions.

Instead of merely being thoughtful, we each have the choice to be generously thoughtful.

Being generously thoughtful is acting with intentionality and openness. 

Being generously thoughtful creates trust.
It creates a platform for each of us to scale our actions, providing benefits to both people, over and over again.

However, being generously thoughtful also requires trust, which is why so few of us go down the path of acting with generous thoughtfulness.

To earn one’s trust is time-consuming.
To earn one’s trust can be draining.
It requires vulnerability.
It takes emotional labor.

However, the emotional costs of being generously thoughtful pale in comparison to its impact.

Each of us longs to connect and be members of generously thoughtful communities.

Being generously thoughtful is self-reinforcing.
It is useful at a large scale.
It is valuable in nearly every circumstance — in every location, with every human being.

Being generously thoughtful lowers the transaction cost of connecting with one another, allowing us to redirect our energy towards collectively satisfying our higher order human needs.

It allows us to redirect our energy toward living with empathy and vulnerability, which fosters a deeper sense of love and belonginess in our lives.

It gives us the capacity to cultivate self-esteem, freeing us to worry less about what others think of us.

It gives us the capacity to achieve self-actualization in our lives, experiencing the world totally for what it is and finding a meaning to life that is important to each of us individually.

The excess capacity created by being generously thoughtful nurtures both the part and the whole.

The part, in that it frees us to individually explore who we are and what is important to us.

The whole, in that it makes it easier for us to connect, as through self-exploration we each cultivate the capacity for transcendence, or the desire to help others achieve self-actualization.

The value of being generously thoughtful rises with the scale of participation in our community.

In the prevailing view, being thoughtful is more of an action, focused on one person.

Being generously thoughtful is a state of being, not directed at any one person, but at our culture at large.

The Lek Paradox & The Myth of Better

We too, as the female peacock have been socialized to always strive for better. Yet, we run ever faster toward the finish line of “better” to get there and realize that it is merely the start of the next race.

Peacocks have an incredibly unique and intriguing mate selection process. This process of seduction is known as “Lekking”, after the Swedish word, “Lek”, which is the word for play.

During breeding, males gather in Leks, where they cluster together and mark out their territories. Once their territory is marked, the males wait for the females to arrive.

The female peacock is incredibly selective. She spends several days contemplating the goods on offer, with the ultimate goal being to select the best male.

At the core of it, she intends to acquire the best genes for her offspring and as asserted, and since confirmed, by Charles Darwin, the female makes this decision based on the length and ornateness of the tail of the male peacock (they are not actually tails but elongated rump feathers that cover the tail).

Once she has found her match, the male mounts atop the female. Minutes later his job is done.

At the lek, one or a few males achieve most of the matings. A single male may perform half of all mating’s at one lek.

Interestingly, female peacocks display a great degree of choosiness, yet choice matters the least within the species – otherwise known as the Lek Paradox.

The Lek Paradox arises because, if all of the females choose to mate with the same few males – those with the ‘best’ genes, then there will be much less genetic variety in the population in the next generation, and over a number of generations we might expect this to lead to no variety, making it impossible to sustain any choice.

Therefore, for the females, there is no reason to be as choosy, as the males they are choosing among were all fathered by the same few males in the previous generation.

Why does this process continue? Why do female peacocks continue to be choosy in selecting to mate with the few males with the most ornate and longest tails?

It is because the cost of doing otherwise, or mating with a short tail male, are perceived to be too high. Any female who bucks the trend, and chooses a short-tail male, will have a short-tailed son, condemning him to celibacy, given the selection criteria of the rest of the females.

In turn, each female is on a treadmill. They dare not jump off, as it potentially jeopardizes the fate of their offspring. They are constantly running (by being so selective), yet staying in the same place (having no variety to select from).

So, what does this have to be with human beings?

We too, as the female peacock have been socialized to always strive for better.

A better job.
A better salary.
A better title.
A better house.
A better car.
A better school.

Yet, we run ever faster toward the finish line of “better” to get there and realize that it is merely the start of the next race.

The solution is to realize that “better” is, in fact, a myth. You don’t have to run in the race. You can dare to jump off of the treadmill, recognizing that it is, in fact, not a race at all. You can change the narrative.

Instead, it’s about doing things that you care about.
Things that make an impact.
The house you can afford.
The car that merely gets you from point A to point B.
The school that is in your best interest – the one that facilitates the environment in which you will best be set up for success.

While this narrative, as the Myth of Better, doesn’t have a finish line and is just as grueling, it’s sure to be a much more fulfilling journey.

The choice is yours.

Don’t end up like the female peacock.

The Holiday’s Are About More Than Consumption & Gift Giving…

Whether you celebrate or not, the holiday season serves as a not so subtle reminder of a tireless, yet critical idea: friendship.

Friendship is beautiful.

The excitement.

The surprise.

Catching up.

We missed you. We are happy for you. We are so glad that you are here.

The reassurance that what we had still remains and the optimism that it will continue to be sustained.

Friendships are our fuel. They ignite within us, causing mini explosions that satisfy our yearning for safety, belongingness, love, and esteem. When tended to with care and intentionality they aid us in our journey towards self-actualization.

Simply, without them, we wouldn’t exist.

As you enjoy this holiday season, take the time to celebrate your relationships. The connections we have with one another.

They are move valuable, fulfilling, and sustainable than any gift you will receive.