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America is afraid...of us. Let's end that together.

So right now, we’re the scariest thing in America. By “we”, I mean government.

Chapman University does a study every year looking into the fears of average Americans using a random sampling of 1,200 adults across the country. And, corruption of government officials is the top fear…for the third year in a row. In fact, 75% of Americans are afraid of government corruption, topping the list by far.

Americans are more afraid of government corruption than they are of dying in a terrorist attack. More afraid of government than a loved one becoming seriously ill or dying. Yet, the odds of being killed in terrorist attacks are 1 in 20 million, and the odds of a loved one becoming seriously ill or dying is 1 in 1 over a long enough timeline. Which reminds us that fear isn’t rational.

Did you know we are born with fears—but not with phobias? That’s because fears serve a useful purpose. Fear focuses our energies and attention in a way designed for our survival and can sharpen our minds. But when our mind is distracted by irrational fears, a great deal of critical energy can be extended to pursuing or protecting against the wrong thing. And, we all have irrational fears.

For example, I have a deep-seeded fear of sharks. Many people do. But mine works not just when I’m in the ocean, but also when I’m in the swimming pool. I actually check from time to time to make sure one didn’t happen to find its way through the drain in some dramatic resurgence of the Jaws family bloodline into my hotel pool. Rational? No way. Embarrassing? Heck yeah.

The fact is I’m 3,300 times more likely to die from drowning than by being attacked by a shark. But, my irrational fear of swimming-pool-shark attacks prevents me from fully enjoying the experience of swimming, and leaves me focused on something that’s not the real danger. And that’s why the fear of government corruption topping the list should be so concerning. The hard truth is our residents are afraid of us. And because they are afraid of us, they don’t want to interact with us. And in many cases, we’re more than happy to oblige. We design systems so our residents don’t have to interact with us. We usually do this with best intent, but it may be having an unintended consequence.

In my opinion, the real enemy of government is apathy. And yet we spend time designing systems to minimize interactions with our citizens, instead of working to interact with our citizens in the right ways. We need more positive interactions and more positive touch points with our residents to lessen the fear. We need to go from apathy to engagement. But how?

Clarity. We are seeking clarity.

And clarity is not transparency, but that is the best we usually do—if that. “Let them see the data and they can draw their own conclusions.” Even our language creates unintentional separation between us and our communities. But, transparency is not enough. Not nearly enough. Transparency, just making data available, breeds apathy, because who wants to interact with something they are afraid of? And transparency is not clarity. We want clarity.

Let me demonstrate the difference: “Causa latet vis est notissima.”

Am I saying a good thing or a bad thing? Is this something I should be afraid of? Translated from Latin, this means “the cause is hidden, the results are well known.” A great quote by Ovid. But, if you just read it in Latin, you likely don’t know what to make of it.

What I wrote was completely transparent, but it wasn’t clear. Once it became clear, you can make a decision about whether you’re okay with what I wrote, or whether you disagree. But since you likely don’t read Latin fluently, I wasn’t writing in a language you understand. And we do this all the time, which discourages our citizens from engaging with us. We speak government to our residents. And this creates two groups: those who speak government (us) and those who don’t (them), which is counter to our goal of engagement.

I call this bureaucracide. It’s death by 10,000 paper cuts or drowning in a sea of three-letter acronyms. It’s making it hard to be a part of your community. We use our own language, our own acronyms, our own jargon to service our customers, and we expect our residents to know how to “speak government.” No wonder there is no interest in interacting.

So we have to fix this to end the apathy. But how? We have to start with finding the facts to tell a story. What is the goal? What story is worth knowing? Always begin with the goal so the team knows where they are going, and then we can begin seeking clarity:

  • Collect. It all begins with collecting good data that measures success towards a specific goal. Data must be accurate and actionable. Measure those things that can answer an important question and don’t “overmeasure." Start small when collecting data and grow into it.
  • Convert. Take it from data to information is where we empower our leaders. Now we can make informed decisions. Use graphs, graphics, visuals or infographics that tell the story from the data accurately. Clean up the data so you can learn from it, and focus on the lessons not the noise.
  • Candor. Speak truthfully about what the facts show with passion, but without pride or prejudice. Because the facts matter. So be passionate about the facts. This will allow you to tell a compelling story.
  • Connect. Put the dots together and tell the story. A story connects emotion and fact together to weave a compelling story, because the story is where we engage.
  • Communicate. Speak plain. No acronyms. No “insider” talk. Talk human with the goal of having a dialogue with your residents.
  • Captivate. Get people’s attention and hold it with a compelling story. Be bright. Be brief. Be gone.

Then engage.

When you have achieved clarity, you can engage citizens and create a truly high-performance government. When you first engage, some will be upset. It’s normal. We must accept our residents have been afraid of us, push beyond, and continue to engage. It will take some time to heal, but when we tell the story and are honest and passionate about the facts, we will win over our communities. We will win over our residents and build community champions, creating a spiraling up effect of engagement, results and connection.

So I invite you to join us and commit to telling one story well. You know the one that needs telling in your organization. Measure data. Translate it into information. Be honest. Tell the story. Be human. Get people’s attention and engage. Then do it all over again. Create clarity one story and one step at a time.

This mission takes all of us. From the leader setting the goals, to the people doing the great work in the field (and collecting good data), to the tech team, the analyst, the manager, director and all the employees who speak the truth and make the story relatable. It takes every single one of us to tell the story in a way our community can understand and we have the tools and the ability to do it.

And if we achieve clarity, we will engage our citizens and start our communities on a path of spiraling up. We will fulfill the promise we’ve made to be stewards of our fellow humankind, by ending the apathy and erasing the fear. But it takes all of us to make it happen, so I hope you will join in this epic journey, and start your community’s first clarity initiative right now.

End the fear. The path is clear. Team Us.



40 Life Lessons at 40


Categories: October

40 Life Lessons at 40

As I reflect on the first 40 years of my life, I thought I’d share these pearls of wisdom....I hope you can relate to at least one of these....

1. Girls grow faster than boys, so if you are young and have a younger sister who is close in age, be kind, because chances are she can beat you up in a year or two.

2. Changing your life is about 20 seconds of insane courage.

3. Lead. Whether they want you to or not.

4. Consider the source.

5. Age is measured in years. Life isn’t.

6. The best way to sell anything is “Be Bright. Be Brief. Be Gone.”

7. Doing 21 shots on your 21st birthday is a bad idea. Letting your friends choose the shots is a worse one.

8. Be grateful. It is the key to true happiness.

9. Drive-by humanity is real. Your words can change someone’s life. For good or bad.

10. Live the life you love and love the life you live.-Yaga t-shirt circa 1994

11. Love is love. No matter what. No matter who.

12. Be aware of the world around you.

13. Make up your own words. “Snigletize” your life. It’s more fun.

14. If a girl dumps your books in middle school, she’s got a crush on you. Don’t trip her to show you like her back.

15. “Why” isn’t a four-letter word.

16. Start every conversation with finding a way to get to yes.

17. Team Us. That which unites us is greater than that which divides us. Which is an especially good reminder right now.

18. You’re on my planet. And I’m on yours. It’s my “ride” through the universe, so if you litter or treat my ride with disrespect, I’m going to have something to say about it.

19. Watch as many sunrises and sunsets as you can and take 5 minutes to appreciate your life, good and bad.

20. Everything deserves its day; even the hard things. Feeling is part of living.

21. Appreciate and love your family and friends while you can.

22. If you end up in a fraternity or a sorority, having a smart mouth will also help you learn a lesson in humility.

23. If your mom or dad pushes you, it’s because they care.

24. If your brothers or sisters push you down, it’s because they don’t.

25. Be passionate. And help others find their passion.

26. Inspire yourself. Inspire others.

27. Be eccentric. The world remembers eccentric people.

28. Hug your mom and say thanks for bringing you into this world at least once a year.

29. I’m terrible with gifts. It’s a thing. I also have no fashion sense. I’ve come to terms with it.

30. I believe in Pockets of Positivity and our responsibility to stop the Energy Vampires in this world.

31. Approach the world with childlike wonder.

32. I am a Scorpio, fire sign with Mars rising and born in the year of the dragon. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a choice.

33. Say sorry. Apologizing is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign you care.

34. Validation is for parking.

35. Have the courage of your convictions. Step up to bullies. Speak your mind. Intervene. Stand strong. Be willing to look foolish for what you believe.

36. Ask forgiveness, not permission.

37. I died five years ago and it will forever change how I live. I am grateful for every moment that led up to that, and every moment that has come after. I hope everyone is as lucky-minus the dying.

38. People who say “I’m looking at this from 30,000 feet” should be immediately ignored. That just means they can’t see shit on a cloudy day.

39. Get arrested at least once. Not all laws make sense. For example it’s illegal in Oakland to throw a bowling ball down an alleyway at an alligator…come on people…

40. Make sure your children know how much you love them. Embarrass them with it. Then do it again.

What’s your favorite life lesson? Please share it with me.



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