Simple Sabotage

How many of the things that we do sabotage our ability to do anything, and everything

My son and a friend were exploring the Internet a few days ago and came across a US Government manual from World War II called Simple Sabotage. The book is written to teach ordinary citizens in the occupied territories how to do simple things to impede the operations of the Nazi war machine. The Chinese form of torture and execution, Death by a Thousand Cuts, is a related idea. By inflicting a thousand delays, confusions, frustrations, and small obstacles, the common folk in the occupied territories could help drive out the Germans.

Workers and bosses today use “The Manual” in every organization in America, and the bigger the worse, without even knowing it. People are afraid to do anything without authorization from the Boss, and no one will take responsibility for their words or actions. Continue reading “Simple Sabotage”

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Notes on Negotiation

Tips on getting what you want, and getting what everyone wants, in negotiations.

Tips on getting what you want, and getting what everyone wants, in negotiations.

When Eisenhower became President, Truman was rumored to have said, “Ike can’t just tell people what to do like he could in the Army. When you are president, you only get what you can negotiate.” Whether this story actually happened is irrelevant. In life, you only get what you negotiate.

Tactics

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Externalities and Internalities

Gibbons grooming each other - small

A Christian look at unintended ways that our lives affect others, and what to do.

The Cat House Café at the Memphis Zoo sits beside the gibbon exhibit, where Ringo and Talulah entertain guests with their funny faces and their acrobatics. When we eat there, my family and I get a table as close as we can to the picture windows overlooking their home, and yesterday the closest table was next to some loud, rambunctious little boys. Valuing Ringo and Talulah more than a quiet table, knowing that it is senseless to expect little boys to be quiet at the zoo, and being loud sometimes ourselves, we sat down and enjoyed a cheeseburger, waffle fries, and chicken strips for lunch.

Being a business and economics-minded person, I could not help but think about how the various people in the café were affecting each other; the costs and benefits of each interaction. The direct and intentional interactions were between workers preparing and selling food and drinks, and customers eating and drinking. There were indirect and unintentional actions as well. These can be thought of as externalities, which Investopedia defines as “A consequence of an economic activity that is experienced by unrelated third parties.” Typically, the costs or benefits of the goods or services being bought and sold do not reflect the costs or benefits of the externality. A classic example of a negative externality is a factory generating air pollution that its workers and nearby residents breathe. A classic example of a positive externality is that same factory cleaning up its exhaust and planting a park for its employees. The surrounding neighborhood would also benefit.

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Robust Thrift

Thrift doesn’t start with seeking sales and clipping coupons, but with a character of contentment.

Disasters strike, both in nations and in families. Hurricanes happen, jobs are lost, and terrorists crash airliners into buildings. Our first reaction is disbelief and disorientation. On 9/11/2001 many Americans spent the day staring at the television, unable to accept that such an attack happened in the USA and uncertain of what the attack meant for our future. On any day, when a family member is diagnosed with terminal cancer, a friend dies in an accident, or a husband loses his job, our normal reaction is stunned silence, fear, sadness, and stunned silence again.

Our second reaction depends on the individual. Some people sink into despair, others begin frenzied work, and still others lash out at whoever or whatever they think is responsible for their pain. Over time, those who are psychologically healthy transform their hardship into a new way of looking at the world, adjust their actions, and resume a normal if inexorably altered life. Those who cannot end up getting help from health care providers and ministers to help them reassemble the pieces of their shattered soul.

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Communication Conflicts

Assumptions, Emotions, Perceptions, Conditions, and Facts color our communication with ourselves and others. We must learn to manage them.

A wise man once said that the hardest thing about communication is the illusion that it has occurred. I have been involved in hundreds of medical, military, and public safety operations, and the after-action reviews of each one cite communication as a problem. Whether in business, relationships, or anywhere else, avalanches of academic papers and mountains of media articles bemoan our inability to effectively talk to each other, and propose ways of fixing it.

Several factors are present in every communication event, including assumptions, emotions, perceptions, conditions, and facts. They change the communication, often without the participants realizing it.

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Health Care Foibles – A Personal Tale

An example of the stupid things even doctors do when it comes to health care. 

In March of 2013 I wrote Healing the Health Care Cost Conundrum. Four years later, in March of 2017, I have retired from the US Army and am practicing medicine in Memphis, TN. My practice is in the inner city, and our focus is serving the Medicaid population. Our patients are impoverished and often very sick, with chronic diseases frequently showing up 20 years earlier than in their more affluent counterparts. Many live in dangerous communities, have no reliable transportation, and have unhealthy food. Obesity is the norm, violence is taken for granted, and serious mental illness is widespread. It comes as no surprise that many patients abuse drugs, citing chronic pain that may or may not be real. Some come to the clinic for no other reason than to feed their drug habit, and try to get narcotics to generate a little extra income. It is the toughest medical environment I have encountered since my combat tour in Iraq.

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Why We Buy

We often buy not to enjoy our purchase or meet a physical need, but to fill a hole in our hearts, a lack in who we are. 

The Christmas season has just ended, and people worldwide have been evaluating the effects of the holiday. Some people do not celebrate Christmas, and so whatever effect the holiday has on them is indirect. A Buddhist in China, for example, may not believe in Jesus Christ, but may be employed manufacturing toys or clothes given as gifts by those who do believe. A Muslim in the Islamic State may hate the very idea of Jesus Christ, but realize that his American and Western foes are less likely to attack him on December 25th. A Western secularist may scoff at Christianity, but still take advantage of Black Friday shopping bargains and deal with holiday traffic. For many in the West, and in other parts of the world, Christmas is a social rather than a religious holiday.

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Consumer Product Safety

In my grandfather’s childhood in rural Arkansas, most of the food that he ate and the clothes that he wore were produced at home. His ancestors had built their own houses and furniture for generations, and store-bought goods were rare and expensive. While people knew little about foodborne illnesses and other hazards, they knew where the food and other products in their lives came from.

Such is not the case today. Our plates are filled with Indian rice, Honduran bananas, Japanese fish, or American wheat. We buy shirts from Mexico, cars from Germany, shoes from Italy, or electronics from China. Imported consumer goods are only as safe as the governments and producers in their country of origin require. A report in the New York Times stated,

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