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Gun control? Yes.

(Warning: This is long. And I’m sure I’m going to make myself unpopular with this one.)

I favor gun control. Here’s why: guns kill people. “But wait,” you law abiding gun owners cry, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people!”

Denial is More than Just a River in Egypt

Part of why I find the pro-gun arguments so unpersuasive is that many times, the person spouting them is in obvious denial. They argue about the need to protect themselves, but they’ve never been attacked, and crime stats show they are much safer now than 20 years ago. They say they need the guns for protection against wild animals. That makes sense for those who live in rural areas, but the logic falls down when they “need” dozens of guns or assault rifles. You can only fire one gun at a time to protect yourself against animals. Then they talk about the second amendment. See below for a discussion of that argument. They also say that “if we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.” I say GOOD! See below for why.

But what don’t they say? They never say:

  • I like to pretend I’m Rambo. The fantasy of killing things gives me a rush.
  • I like the feeling of power over other people that my gun gives me.
  • I like the idea I can kill people who disagree with me.

When you have motives that you aren’t willing to say out loud, that’s a good sign that you know those motives aren’t defensible. And while talk of overthrowing a tyrannical government sounds vaguely noble (never mind that the intention of the 2nd amendment was to fight the British when we used militias to fight), motives of liking power and violence are anything but noble.

The discussion I’m happy to have:

I feel powerless and weak, and I’m irrationally scared of everything around me, despite living in the safest time period in human history. I want to be able to kill things in order to feel powerful and safe.”

Great! Let’s talk about that. We might be able to come up with some solutions. But arguments that try to come up with weak, intellectual-sounding arguments without addressing the powerful emotional argument strike me as a near admission that the real reason is too shameful to be legitimate.

(It’s like drug education classes that refuse to discuss the fact that drugs feel good and help people escape from lives they hate. As long as those two very real facts remain unaddressed, users will keep using.)

Guns Are For Defense

The one argument that sounds most persuasive is:

I feel powerless to defend myself, and in my fantasies, owning a gun keeps me safe.

If it weren’t for the statistical observation that guns around the house for self-defense more often end up used for suicide, accidental killings, or murders in a moment of rage, this would be persuasive. The fact is that owning a gun makes you less safe on average. Yes, there are a few exceptional, rare, non-representative cases where a gun is successfully used for defense, but those are dwarfed by the cases where guns do the wrong thing. In most cases, the fantasy that a gun will keep you safe just doesn’t jive with reality.

Even if guns purchased for defense could magically never be used by accident, it still doesn’t justify the need to stockpile guns or buy assault rifles. The chances you’ll be holed up in your house and need a dozen AK-47s to defend yourself seem pretty small.

“Guns Don’t Kill People?” Not according to statistics.

Actually, violent people with guns kill people. If you remove the people from the equation, the chances of death fall tremendously. If you remove the guns from the equation, the chances of death fall tremendously (the Chinese attacker whose attack mirrored the CT attack was armed only with a knife and didn’t manage to kill anyone).

Most gun deaths occur from law-abiding, gun-owning citizens acting in a moment of passion against friends and family. It’s actually THAT group that we have to watch out for. But why would that be true?

The answer involves a slightly obscure kind of statistics called Bayesian statistics. While only a tiny fraction of law-abiding citizens commit murder, there are so many more law-abiding citizens than criminals (yay!) that that tiny fraction outnumbers the criminals using guns.

Here’s a simple example. Assume there are 500,000 law-abiding citizens with guns, and 1% of them commit murder (accidentally or in a crime of passion). Assume there are 20,000 criminals with guns, and 20% of them commit murder.

The murders from law-abiding citizens are 5,000. The murders from criminals are 4,000.

Total murders: 9,000
Percentage caused by law-abiding gun owners: 5/9 = ~ 56%
Percentage cause by criminals: 4/9 = ~44%
The majority of killings come from the law-abiding citizens.

But What About the 2nd Amendment?

I think Lt. Junior Grade Josh Foot responded best to this one. I’m reposting a letter by him I read on Facebook.

From Lieutenant Junior Grade Josh Foot who is currently serving as an Antisubmarine Warfare Officer on USS John S. McCain, DDG-56, :

“My news feed is flooded with people making all kinds of comments about this school shooting. Many are just expressions of sympathy, but there are a lot that fall into one of two other categories, both of which I initially tried to just ignore. So many people are saying these things, though, that I have to say something in response.

The first is the comment, whether said independently or in response to anyone’s attempt to point out the need for legal change regarding gun laws, that “it’s too soon”, or “it’s poor taste to talk politics right now” and “today is about the victims, we can debate later”. If today is too soon, than when, people? This is the same thing everyone said after Columbine, the same thing people said after Virginia Tech, and the same thing people said after the movie theater. When is it not going to be too soon? How about after the next one? In the interest of protecting the future victims, we need to have this conversation now, and if I was a family member of a victim, I would think I’d want some change affected due to these deaths, so that maybe at least somebody else’s life could be saved by this tragedy, instead of just doing nothing to change things and letting it happen again.

The second comment is the tired old rhetoric that the only thing keeping Americans free from government tyranny is our guns, the argument that somehow it’s the knowledge that the Average Joe out there has a rifle in his garage that keeps congress and the president from turning into evil dictators. The first problem with that is that the Second Amendment was written with the idea of using the people to support and defend the government against outside invasion; that’s why it starts with the militia clause.

The second, bigger problem with that argument is that the Second Amendment was written at a time when there was only a tiny gap between military weapons technology and personal weapons used for hunting. I hate to shatter the illusion, people, but your guns won’t protect you from the government anymore. The United States government has the best tanks ever built, the most powerful precision-guided bombs and missiles, jet fighters, aircraft carriers, attack helicopters, warships that could single-handedly conquer small countries. We live in an age where the government has a monopoly on military weapons technology and an overwhelming advantage in terms of monetary resources. Unlike the 18th century when that gap didn’t exist, if the military might of the US government is ever turned against the people nowadays, your guns wouldn’t protect you from anything.

One poster actually brought up Japanese internment camps in WWII and asked what would have happened if every Japanese-American person had had a gun and stood up to the government. Here’s what would have happened: they would have been labeled as traitors and it would have looked like the government was right to put them away, because it would have appeared that they were fighting for Japan, even though that wasn’t the case. In the end we’d have had a bunch of dead Japanese-Americans.

What keeps us free from tyranny in America is the structure of our government and its continued commitment to that founding ideal of freedom. You can’t have a tyranny without an undue amount of power resting in the hands of a single person or very small, united group. The difficulties encountered over every single issue in the past four years ought to make everybody rest assured that Congress is not a small or united group and the President is in no danger of having too much power. The government’s very design protects us from it; that’s the brilliant move that the founding fathers made to protect us from internal tyranny. The reason they gave us guns was to protect us from an outside invader bringing tyranny to our shores. Now that we have a professional, standing military to do that, guns are making no meaningful contribution to the protection of our freedom.

As a member of that military, willing to give my life if necessary to protect that freedom and protect American lives from the wolves outside the gates, it breaks my heart to see the people inside the gates continually killing each other and doing nothing to stop it, because it’s always “too soon to talk about politics”.

In Summary

In short, I support gun control. I won’t go into details about when I think guns are permissible and useful. Those are details that can be hashed out. But until the pro-gun lobby confronts the facts, it’s hard for me to understand why their opinion should be given much weight (other than because they have lots of money). Guns kill people. Most gun violence is committed by the law-abiding portion of gun owners. Basic, animal, fear-driven urges drive gun ownership as much as (or more than) carefully-considered, data-supported logic. A refusal to discuss those facts shows that someone is arguing from a place of irrational, knee-jerk, emotion-filled, fear-driven responses. And when I think about who we should entrust with guns, irrational, knee-jerk, emotion-filled, fear-driven people are not high on the list.

The Truth Can Be a Good Thing, Even in Marketing

I recently finished reading “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty” by Dan Ariely. It’s a fascinating peek into how pervasive dishonesty is in our culture. Dan was looking largely at cheating, but I’m far more concerned about dishonesty in business. Economies only work when people can enter into agreements and trust the other party will deliver. In countries where the trust doesn’t exist, economies don’t flourish. And it’s quite common in corporate life to lie to customers.

Once upon a time, I worked with a rental service that rented widgets to customers. The going rental price for a widget was $10/month. The rental service advertised $3/month rental, far and wide. There was a mandatory $7 “processing fee” with every payment, however. At the end of the day, they were charging $10, just like everybody else. They were just calling 70% of it a “processing fee” instead of “rent.”

My bank used to charge 18% yearly interest for an accidental overdraft on my checking account. Then they started calling it an “overdraft fee,” and hiked it to $35-per-incident. In interest rate terms, for a $20 overdraft that I pay back a month later, this is equivalent to a yearly overdraft loan rate of 2,100%. Yes, that’s two thousand, one hundred percent. If they stated it like that, they would be lynched. But they’ve managed to reword loan interest (which is money you pay for the privilege of borrowing money) as a “fee” instead, thus allowing them to charge unbelievably high interest rates.

And just this week, I ordered a custom birthday present for a friend. I wanted it by Saturday, but the soonest the website said they could get it to me was by next Tuesday, for a $18 expedited shipping fee. Well, it turns out that the Tuesday before, they helpfully sent me the tracking number so I can watch my package travel by ground service to arrive at my doorstep next Tuesday. They produced it in two days, and sent it regular ground shipping. If they’d actually applied the $18 to shipping, the package could have been here overnight by US Express Mail or a Fedex overnight envelope. But they charged me for the overnight shipping and pocketed the difference.

I’m still getting my package on the date I agreed to, so I can’t complain. But the paper trail left by the tracking and order status information makes it clear they were simply padding the calendar time so they could charge me a lot more for shipping, ship it regular mail, and boost their profits.

When you do stuff like this and a customer finds out, they typically do not think, “well, they have to do it because it’s the only way they can have a competitive business model.” Being a very generous man who likes to think the best of people, *I* think that, of course, but my emotions don’t. They say, “I’m never going to trust these people again because they’re trying to rip me off.” Next time I’m deciding who to buy from, guess which reaction will win out?

Don’t be these losers. If you say “I’m not lying exactly. It really is a processing fee,” that’s how you know you’re lying. Denial is the tool you use to do what’s dishonest and feel good about yourself anyway.

Once upon a time, you could get away with pulling the wool over your customers’ eyes. But in these days of greater transparency, and paper trails that reveal how you work, your customers can find out what’s really going on. And when you lie, it’s very hard to regain trust. So think hard before you lie. If you get caught, it can totally backfire. And besides, I was raised to believe that lying was wrong. If you can only succeed by lowering your moral and ethical standards, that sounds like a very narrow definition of success.

Tell your customers the truth. They may surprise you. And if you’re in a business where the truth drives them away, maybe you should find another line of work.

Want to Change a Habit? Enlist People!

As much as you can adopt systems to help point your life and job in the direction you want, systems fail if you don’t use them. And if you’re like me, that promise to work out 3 days a week has a way of taking back seat to dinner invitations, long hours at work, and dessert-eating contests. Good intentions aren’t enough.

The only thing I have found that consistently helps me change behavior is to set up accountability structures that involve other people. As much as I’m sacrifice my promises to myself on an altar of Oreo ice cream cake, I am much better at keeping promises to others.

Right now I am helping a client make daily progress on an important project just by calling daily to hear one to-do item a day. He feels compelled to choose an item that he can tell me, and our talk is the trigger to get him to take the action.

Do-It-Days are another example–they use group accountability every hour to keep you moving on a single productive day.

If you want to change a behavior, develop a skill, or change a habit, enlist someone else–a co-worker, family member, or friend–to be your accountability partner. Share your goals and progress with them, and have established regular contact around your goals. You’ll find that, in the words of the Beatles, you’ll get by with a little help from your friends.

In Business and Life, Understand *Their* Needs

I ordered a book from Amazon, gift wrapped for a friend’s birthday. It arrived complete with the little card that had my special message in it. And … Amazon’s logo on the outside. Really? Amazon feels the need to piggyback their branding on my gift? If they offer the service of gift-wrapping, that’s great. That’s wonderful. I even paid $4 for that! But if they want me to provide them with free advertising, piggy-backing on the emotional warmth of my relationship with my friend, they should be paying me. A lot. Because there are some things in life that just aren’t meant to be a business opportunity.

What Amazon is missing here is understanding my needs. I want to create a special, two-way emotional connection between me and a friend. They help by providing the book I’m buying, and wrapping it beautifully. And that’s where their involvement should end. Then when I think of Amazon, I think of them as facilitating what’s really important to me—that connection.

Consider Their Needs, not Yours

When you’re doing something nice for someone, be it providing a solution to a customer, a favor to a friend, or a surprise to a loved one, take a few moments to consider their needs. What do they want in the moment? If your goal is to strengthen your relationship with them, put their needs first. If you’re going to surprise your partner for Valentine’s Day, ask what they would consider romantic. Not what you consider romantic. My idea of romantic music is Blink-182. But if the person I’m romancing prefers a Wagnerian opera, that’s what will be romantic.

Just as considering their needs will create the tighter relationship, ignoring their needs can destroy it. A client wanted to acknowledge a summer intern for a job well done. The intern simply wanted to be in the team photo that was going out to clients at the end of the month. The boss thought an intern didn’t belong in a company photo, and instead gave a beautiful Thank You card. Unfortunately, to the intern, inclusion in the picture meant appreciation. Without that inclusion, the Thank You came across as an empty gesture. Rewarding someone means choosing a reward that they value.

Take a moment now to think about the important people in your work and life. What kind of relationship do you want with them? How do you want them to feel about you? What have you done to engender those feelings? Satisfy their needs and you’re on your way to a long, loyal relationship.

Products Be Gone

One of the keys to business (and to life!) is putting your time, money, and attention where it gives the greatest return. The return needn’t be money—it can be meaning, legacy, or achievement—but it has to justify the investment.

I recently reviewed my business and realized that the fancy e-commerce platform I’m using costs more than I’ve made on the products I sell using that platform. So, as a good businessman, I will be switching to a new, less expensive platform.


It will take time and money to move my existing products over to the new platform. Plus, I’m changing the direction of my business and the old products won’t be a good fit. (I’ll write more about this soon.) So I’ve decided to stop selling my existing suite of products.

Effective March 31, 2012, the current products in my online store will no longer be available for purchase.

The Time Control programs will be going away forever; moving their automated parts to a new platfom is too much work. My other products may not be gone for good, but I currently have no intention of bringing them back.

If you want to check out what’s available, visit my online product page for products including:
Time Control – personal productivity accountability programs
You Are Not Your Inbox – mastering email overload
It Takes a Lot More than Attitude to Lead a Stellar Organization leadership essays
Social Survival Skills for Geniuses how to master the non-logical part of business

Remember: these products will only be available until March 31st, 2012, after which time they will no longer be offered. This is your last chance! Click here to buy!

Thank you for your support so far, and I hope we have a long future together. But it will be in a somewhat different direction 🙂


What do *you* think would make a good workshop?

By “Building Our Best Lives” day was designed to give people an accountability structure for working through a year planning and alignment exercise. In my mind, the value was in the structure of helping people complete the day.

One of the attendees was dissatisfied, however. She wrote saying she would rather have spent the time together going deeper into people’s answers and doing the “real” work in the phone calls.

She suggested I ask everyone to fill out the worksheet packet in advance. Then we’ll spend the day debriefing answers & going deeper. The design makes sense to me at a high level, but I don’t quite know how to pull it off in practice.

In particular, there are a couple of big questions in my mind:

  1. Will people fill out 24 pages of worksheets thoughtfully, in advance?
  2. Is it possible to go deeper with 20 people live on a teleconference?
    … how?

What do you think?

“I could never do that…”

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my doing a reading of my one-man musical in New York City. A friend of mine said, “That sounds incredible! I could never do something like that.” I agree! I think so, too. The last two years have been spent thinking the same thing. It’s been scary! I’ve felt like a total fake. I can’t reliably find my starting note, and I was working with people who perform, act, and write professional musical theater. People half my age have five times my talent, and already are establishing themselves on Broadway.

Indeed, the thought came often, “I could never do something like that.” But oddly, I didn’t let it stop me. It wasn’t courage. It wasn’t determination. It wasn’t drive. It was the simple realizing that it didn’t matter. If I truly couldn’t do it, I’d fail, and I’d have the perfect excuse: no reasonable person would have expected me to succeed. And if I could, then I’d have learned something.

What are you not doing because you believe “I could never do something like that?” How can you take the first step anyway, knowing it’s foolish, and a waste of time and effort? If you fail, big deal, you find out you were right. But what would it be worth to you to succeed?

There’s only one way to find out…

Fear + Excitement: A Powerful Combination

As those of you who follow me on Facebook or Google Plus know, this week I went to New York to perform a reading of the one-man musical I have been co-writing. Being the main character, this meant my singing and acting was to be the center of attention for about an hour. By the way, I’ve only once sung a solo as part of a performance, and it was part of a cabaret theater class, where I was just one of many. As the date approached, I found myself getting increasingly scared and excited.

Scared all by itself is rarely a sign that you should run into a situation with open arms. We fear things when they are unknown and we believe there’s a chance we will get hurt physically, emotionally, or socially if we move forward. We might be wrong, but we might also be right. Listening to your fear is a Good Thing.

Excitement by itself just means we want to do something. We think it will nurture us or be fun or do something good for us. It is easy to fall into a habit of doing the same things over and over, just for the excitement. As the ladies who lunch might put it, “Sky-diving _again_? Really, Bernice, you’re getting so predictable.”

The combination of fear and excitement is a golden opportunity. The excitement tells you there’s something compelling. The fear tells you you’re moving outside your comfort zone. You’re growing and stretching yourself.

When you find this combination, take note! Use the fear to find possible pitfalls and start taking action to minimize them. If you’re afraid you can’t sing, that’s a sign that a few voice lessons may be in order.

And this is where the excitement comes in. It’s easy to say “too much trouble” or “I’m tone deaf. It’s genetic.” Tap into your excitement to take the voice lessons anyway. And keep with it until you start going for the thing that inspires you with such fear-citement.

The day before my reading, I came down with a nasty stomach flu that would have been a perfect excuse to give in to my fear and back down. After all, my friends in the audience would surely understand.

But even as I was contemplating it, I knew it wouldn’t happen. Because my excitement was saying “once you’ve done this, you’ll have performed in a show that you friggin’ co-wrote! How fabulous is that?!?!”

The show went on. And I sang. And for the most part, I sang well (apparently the couple of grimace-worthy moments went largely unnoticed except for *my* grimaces!). And it didn’t hurt! In fact, it felt good.

And now that I’ve taken that step, I can take another. Next reading, I want to step up and give a grimace-free performance. I want to nail all the harmonies, bring the character to life, and … Well, take over the world with my zombie army. Because otherwise, how will I get all the Oreo ice cream cake?

What’s your one-man show? What’s the thing you’ve been excited about, but perhaps not quite excited enough I overcome your fear? Consider this a nudge. Take the first step. Listen to the fear, address its concerns as best you can, and take the first step. Excitement plus fear–it’s your key to getting the most out of life.

Don’t Read This!

Hey! I told you not to read this! You expect real content during the holidays? Regardless of your religion, this time of year is a great excuse to spend time with people you love. Go work less and do more. And by “do,” I mean play, love live, laugh. If you love your family, go hang out with them. If you love your friends, give them a call and invite them over to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000. Or if you like solitude, hang out and read a good book.

I’m going to be kicking off 2012 by returning more closely to my coaching roots. You’ll hear more as the time approaches.

See you in 2012,


Are your customers buying your product, or the experience of you?

I can’t quite believe how much I was just willing to shell out for an unlocked iPhone 4S. I’m wracking my brain for rationalizations. The “T-Mobile is cheaper and it will pay for itself” rationalization is actually true, but it will still take almost two years to pay for itself. [Though during that 2 years, I’ll get better service than I would from AT&T or others.] Also, I can switch carriers at will, so that’s potentially a valuable benefit.

Then there’s the warranty and service plans. I just wrote about this in a recent Get-it-Done Guy episode. I’ll also have both the superb service experience of T-Mobile and the superb service experience of Apple. (Both of which I’ve used extensively with great results.) YAY!

The real rationalization? I feel happy every time I use my iPod touch, and I feel frustrated every time I use my Blackberry. I will feel happy when I use my iPhone. And what’s that worth?

There’s a REAL business lesson here: People don’t just buy your product. They also buy the experience of using your product.