Do Evil People Exist?

I always have a hard time when people are deemed “evil.” Even when used against people who have committed huge atrocities, such as Hitler or the Vegas shooter. It’s a way of othering them, to turn them into monsters instead of people, and to deny the evil impulses inside of us. It feels that the persons’ being evil was inevitable, that they were just an evil person and so evil things happened.

The fact is that they are people. And to label them as unequivocally “evil,” to disassociate them from regular people and move on, prevents us from understanding the psychology, circumstances, and series of choices that led them down this path. It prevents us from facing the reality that we all have the capacity to make evil choices. Continue reading “Do Evil People Exist?”


The Key to Progress? Calmness

Earlier this week I read an amazing interview that really helped crystalize a lot of my thoughts on the importance of peace during times of conflict.

In the article, the reporter interviewed Phap Dung, a Buddhist monk who is senior disciple under renowned leader of mindfulness Thich Nhat Hanh. Phap is an immense believer in the power of compassion, empathy, mindfulness, and calmness to make positive change in the world.

Not surrendering to your emotions of anger and vengeance takes a massive amount of self discipline and humility. But, I firmly believe that it is the only way to come together and move forward in a meaningful way. Continue reading “The Key to Progress? Calmness”

Why “Resisting” Hurts Everyone

People like to feel like the underdogs. The Harrys against the Voldemorts. The Frodos against the Saurons. It provides a sense of virtue to our struggles, a reason for our complaints, and sparks a justification in taking on those we feel are above us (or those we feel believe they are above us).

This helps explain why there’s been an increase in white men casting themselves as underdogs. But it also helps explain the “Resist” movement.

The Resist movement implies a level of “…no matter what.” No matter what those damn Republicans do or say, we must speak out against it—vehemently. Continue reading “Why “Resisting” Hurts Everyone”

Curiosity over Conviction to Change Minds

This week, I had a great conversation with colleagues about managing strong convictions while talking to someone who disagrees.

Often, the fervent polarization we see is due to those convictions not being managed, and instead being the sole driver of response.

How do you keep yourself from being unreasonable? How do you stay open to other perspectives and ideas, especially when you are so sure that you are right?

Continue reading “Curiosity over Conviction to Change Minds”

Question Everything, Even What’s Right

The biggest clue that something should be questioned is when it’s not. Or, when questioning it in itself is looked poorly upon.

I recently was listening to a speaker on white privilege. At the beginning of that discussion, she said that we weren’t allowed to question anything that she was saying (because of our privilege). Mind you, this speaker was white.

The fastest way to get me to distrust you or your cause is to put yourself beyond questioning. If your line of reasoning doesn’t hold up to questioning, you need to absorb what went wrong and go back to the drawing board. Continue reading “Question Everything, Even What’s Right”

As Immense Force, Business is Best Positioned to Improve Lives

When people think about businesses, they may be likely to think of something impersonal, possibly even corrupt, and out for its own gain.

But businesses are made up of people, and their purpose is to serve other people. There is no other force in the world that commands so much of our time and resources or is so cross-cutting.

So imagine harnessing all of that time, energy, and capital for positive social progress.

This week, Fortune launched their 3rd annual “Change the World” list—a list that my firm helps to create. This list highlights businesses who are addressing social issues by making it a key component of their business. This isn’t a case of charity, but true business potential. And because of the value this brings to the business itself, the company is much more likely to continue along that path.

I am a huge fan of the concept of shared value. As much as we like to rail against businesses and blame them for much of the issues we face, the truth is that only in their reconsidering the purpose of business will we see true, considerable progress on many social issues. Check out our cool motiongraphic that describes how shared value works.

So check out the list, and think about how the place you work can do well by doing good!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Punching Nazis? Spreading Hate

Full disclosure: I don’t think that punching neo-Nazis is a helpful exercise.

I have been accused many times in the last month of being a Nazi sympathizer because I disagree with violence when not in self defense against physical harm. Somehow we as a culture have decided that if you don’t approve the pure unbridled murder of white nationalists then you are just as complicit in their hateful message. (I also don’t think that punching an antifa member, an ISIS member, or any other extremist is helpful, but this all gets conveniently swept under the rug by those trying to throw around labels.)

The world I’m working toward is one of understanding and collaboration—including with those who used to be extremists. The world those labeling others as Nazi sympathizers are working toward is one without the existence of an idea—an impossible goal to achieve.

I think most of us grew up knowing that the one sure way to get a book read is to ban it. You can’t stop ideas by force. Imagine a plastic sandwich bag filled with a liquid. The liquid is an idea, and the plastic bag is those who hold that idea. Without an external impetus, the idea stays contained in that bag. But try removing that liquid by force—maybe it’s a poisonous liquid that could cause massive harm. Throw a brick on that bag and the liquid no longer stays contained. The bag pops, and the liquid/idea spreads, making a hell of a mess. Continue reading “Punching Nazis? Spreading Hate”

Those Who Are Right Are Just as Wrong

There is a reason the “good guy beats bad guy” stories are so prevalent. Authors are experts at tapping into human psychology to make their stories resonate. Good vs. evil speaks to our most basic instincts of how to make sense of the world and how to stay safe.

But as we grow older, we tend to realize that “good vs evil” is a simplistic, boiled down view of the world. People don’t nicely fit into these labels—there is nuance involved, and perspective, and cultures. There are our own biases and judgments. We realize that antagonists are not always evil incarnate, but often people who are also doing what they think is right.

Instincts are powerful, and in times of heightened emotions we draw heavily from them in order to see us safely and easily through a situation. If someone is attacking you with a knife, you don’t have the luxury of considering that person’s history or thought process, or what is motivating them to do what they’re doing. You can only react and hope to escape unscathed.

But when you are not in a life or death situation, it’s so important to take a step back and make those considerations. We’ve been seeing more lately that people don’t just think they’re right and others are wrong, people think they’re RIGHT and others are WRONG. And those wrong people are antagonists who must be fought against. Continue reading “Those Who Are Right Are Just as Wrong”

The Impoverished Need Us (to Get Out of the Way)

I was really encouraged by this piece on the New York Times earlier this week highlighting the Family Independence Initiative.

The Initiative works to provide families living in poverty with their own means of improving their lives. This is a deviation from the norm of the social sector, which involves providing programs or direct services to these families.

From the Initiative’s “About Us” page:

The fifty-year war on poverty has made living in poverty more tolerable but it has not made it more escapable.

Census data shows that within four years, 75% of families living below the poverty line move above it, yet 50% of these families slip back into poverty in five years.



After tracking hundreds of families over the past 15 years, the Family Independence Initiative (FII) has discovered that cycling in and out of poverty is not due to a lack of family initiative. Instead, this cycle can be traced to well-intentioned but inadequate governmental and charitable policies and practices that have:

Lack of Information: A lack of reliable information on the creative ways in which families achieve economic and social mobility

Resource Gap: Limited access to affordable capital which fuels families’ efforts to achieve their goals and dreams

Individual Focus: A misplaced focus on individual achievement that overlooks the power of communities to lift people into the middle class, just as communities have done for hundreds of years

It’s clear that current approaches to lifting people out of poverty aren’t working. How often have we heard the phrase: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” And yet so many of our services for the impoverished are plugs in a sinking ship, trying to merely mitigate the damage that has already been done. Continue reading “The Impoverished Need Us (to Get Out of the Way)”

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