Give the Gift of Empathy

As 2016 comes to a close and the holiday season is in full steam, one cannot help but reflect on a year that has us on a path of global uncertainty.  Terrorism and religious conflict preoccupies us, and waves of nationalism follow in its wake.  Globally, the election of Trump, vote for Brexit, and rise of anti-immigration movements seem to be dividing the world more than uniting it.

I had a fulfilling year giving keynotes to incredible audiences, mostly in education leadership.  Cultural divides was a recurring theme which I centered around my most rewarding project of 2016: I created a twelve day songwriting camp in Jakarta, Indonesia for Millennial singer-songwriters from ASEAN nations (Cambodia, Indonesia, Phillipines, etc.).  Sponsored by the US Department of State and in collaboration with American Voices YES Academy, I invited fifteen musically compatible participants who in some cases come from communities that are religiously and culturally incompatible.  My goal was to prove that music truly could transcend such volatile barriers, and we certainly did.  Using a combination of live workshops and my video course 1-2-3 Songwriting, we wrote twelve new songs, performed four high-profile concerts, and created sixteen new cross-cultural friendships that continue to this day to collaborate and compose new music together.  I plan to launch more of these programs globally in 2017.

There is nothing like the arts as a means to teach and foster empathy, and the Millennials and Gen Z are naturally inclined to collaborate across cultural barriers (religious, racial, and sexual identity).  Our job driven economy, fear driving politicians, and self-serving corporations continuously distract Baby Boomers and Silents from seeing what may very well be the true path to world peace.  If we can recognize this as individuals and think globally, every one of us can act locally to establish artistic forums for talented local multicultural youth to create art and co-exist harmoniously. It can be once a week or once a month, and it can take place at a community center, private home, school, or any non-denominational facility.  As American public education faces significant challenges from a new administration, we can assume that arts programs will become even less of a priority.  An absence of arts is an absence of empathy. What will you do about it?

This holiday season, give the gift of empathy by creating an opportunity for people to come together in artistic ways.

Entrepreneurship, a weapon against radicalism?

This week’s horrific events in Brussels (following the November attacks in Paris–my home away from home) reinforces my belief that cultural diplomacy with a message of entrepreneurship can be a strong weapon against radicalism.  Entrepreneurship is a pillar of democracy.  Inspiring a dream and providing the tools to live that dream offers an attractive alternative and counter identity to jihadism.  The growing disaffected youth population around the world needs to hear and recognize this message.  We must plant the seeds that inspire a positive identity within each of them, and most essential, follow through by teaching them how to turn their passions into professions.

It is incumbent on every artist, teacher, and entrepreneur to use “business as a force for good” (borrowed from Richard Branson).  We can complain about our leaders’ political and economic motivations, or we can use our skills and talents to change the world despite political and economic motivations.  The military must not be the only boots on the ground.

Politicians – Experienced or Not Experienced, that is the question

Why is it that the inexperienced politician is as or more desirable than the career politician? Imagine going to your doctor and having him tell you that he wants to perform heart surgery because it is what you need.  He goes on to promote that he is confident about it because he has never done it before and isn’t even a career doctor but understands the mechanics of medicine (and plumbing) with an objective view and can therefore do it differently and better? Would you sign the consent?

As a society we have become so skeptical of expertise that we seem to think a lack of it is beneficial. This skepticism is especially true among millennials who value Amazon customer reviews over Consumer Reports expert analysis.

Of course there is corruption in Washington like there is on Wall Street, and plenty of waste. But to think that someone with no experience in the environment can (or should) bully his or her way into getting things done is disconcerting. Navigating politics and fellow politicians is a skill. There is culture that must be understood and respected, whether one likes that culture or not. Running a country is not simply a business; it is also an art…the art of diplomacy.

Is the Asian Dream the new American Dream?

The “Asian Dream” is the new “American Dream.” I gave lectures to young entrepreneurs in China last year and their thirst for information and motivation was obvious. I did the same a couple of years earlier in India and found the entrepreneurial spirit amongst the millennial dominant demographic inspiring. But even slow emerging markets like Russia present a curiosity about entrepreneurship that while more difficult to implement, are ripening–I spoke there twice in the last year, once before the Ruble collapsed and once after, and found the worsening economy to be more of a motivator than a detractor.

The world is becoming fertile for the millennial entrepreneur and a global perspective is the answer, especially for today’s American entrepreneur. The American Dream is alive, and the opportunity to share it around the world is better than ever.

Should government meddle with the pilot shortage?

One of the most thought provoking yet simple solutions to the pilot shortage is something I read buried in the comments of a post sometime ago. Instead of mandatory retirement for pilots (many of whom lost their pensions and need to work), why not give them the option to move into the right seat? There would be a whole lot of experience on that flight deck. Experience is always a good thing and for that reason alone the 1500 hour ATP rule is positive, but of course the ATP economic reality is catastrophic.

While a common argument from aviation leaders is to let the market work its magic, I don’t necessarily agree that market forces alone will fix this issue. Arguably, much of our problem was created by the opposite, deregulation. Market forces have put the industry in a position where passengers have been conditioned to bottom dollar fares and CEOs have been conditioned to absurd bonus structures and golden parachutes. This is not only an economic imbalance, but a psychological and sociological imbalance that butts heads with millennial ideology.