Conscious Taxes

It's the year 2036.

It's tax time again, and EVERYONE'S excited about it. You've been looking forward to this for almost 8 months because this is the first year in the history of the world that YOU get to decide where your tax dollars go.

Your decisions will have a direct impact on the immediate world around you, and after many decades of failed politics, poor economic policies, the people have finally wrested control over their communities and ecosystems. Politicians finally serve the people.

The Conscious Tax App

You register and sign into the Conscious Tax App for the first time, and you see all the money you were taxed for the previous year on the welcome screen:

$9,311.00

With this amount, you can invest in any program, policy, or plan you would like, as long as it's given back to the community.  The #1 law regarding taxes is that you CANNOT keep it for yourself, although you can direct it to institutions and programs that serve your interests.

You can give some to the local military or police, infrastructure to keep roads safe, education and schools, healthcare, social security, or even that local politician that works so hard to make sure plans are implemented wisely.

You click a button that leads you to all local proposals, such as a new commuter train system, housing renovations, getting rid of pesky potholes, upgrading local schools and improving agriculture standards.

Every proposal submitted includes:

[icon_list]

[icon_list style="color: green"][icon_list_item type="check"]Purpose (what problem does this solve?)[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]Plan costs[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]Benefits, which includes benefits to local ecosystem and surrounding cities[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]Timeframe[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]Negative outcomes (what negative consequences could result from this?)[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]The current funding progress (plans will be initiated once funding is complete - people vote with their dollars)[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]There's also a list of consequences (some speculative, some based on previous maintenance costs) associated with a plan if it's NOT funded fully. (Such a list might include no electricity for 2 months, projected 12% increase in criminal activity, 8% rise in higher drop out rates in school, etc.)[/icon_list_item]

[/icon_list]

So, what will you do with your tax money?

Responsibility

It's a bigger responsibility, making decisions that not only impact your household, but your entire community. And what if every decision involving every tax dollar was transparent? Others can see where your tax dollars go, and you can see where theirs go. Everybody's values would be on display.

Would you support schools and education, building towards a long term vision of your community? Or do you use your money to fund immediate needs, like road and bridge infrastructure? Should you fund that arts program for youth? Or do you allocate funds to that innovative pure water project that might NOT work?

How do you respond if you're championing a cause that isn't getting the necessary attention (or funding) you think it deserves? Wouldn't you get MORE involved? Wouldn't you attempt to make something happen?

Wouldn't 'conscious taxes' make everybody a de facto politician, making people responsible for swaying and influencing others to vote for the 'best' worldview imaginable?

How would YOU create the best ecosystem humanly possible? A place where all community members have the potential to thrive, without institutional barriers.

I see a world where public debate and discourse would increase. Civic engagement would shoot through the roof. Wall flowers would hit the dance floor.

Reality

The truth is, many people are disengaged from politics and policy making.

The truth is, nobody can pinpoint or know for sure where their tax dollars go - it's all based on what government tells us.

The truth is that a very small percentage of the population is involved in any form of civic engagement, let alone public debate - which is mostly left for the politicians and scholars.

Here, take a look at where your tax dollars are likely to end up:

bvs_taxesgo_1

bvs_taxesgo_2

This doesn't include Wall St. bailouts, senator's salary's and pension plans, nor all the wasteful spending that goes into a bureaucratic behemoth such as Washington D.C.

The question is, where do YOU want your money to go? To the military, and ongoing wars? Despite having the largest military in the WORLD, the United States spends an amount equal to the next closest 8 countries COMBINED.

0053_defense-comparison-crop

Is this really the best use of our money? Maybe you think so, but I don't. I'd be fine if you decided to throw your all your tax dollars at the military. I'd like to choose where my money goes, and focus on taking care of many of the social problems we continue to experience.

Are your tax dollars really in better hands with the government? Wouldn't it be nice to see the connection of YOUR actual dollars to the BENEFITS you're meant to receive?

Instead of having a disengaged populace, don't you think the level of awareness regarding local problems/solutions would raise in communities with tax spending in the hands of people? Perhaps political corruption would cease as a result.

I don't have any answers, just a bunch of questions.

With a little imagination, innovation, and "conscious taxes", I'm sure we can do much, much better even if it's in 2036. I hope much sooner.

Perhaps one day we can log-in to the Conscious Tax App, and start directing the future of our communities and country.

I can dream.

Paul


Let go my Lego: The ultimate Lego productivity hack

"What are you doing?? Just start building. No more talking!"

It's November in San Francisco. I'm in a conference room somewhere in the Twitter building playing with legos with a colleague and other strangers looking to build their businesses.

Why are we playing with legos?

"That's how you're going to develop your business models," says our facilitator.

It may seem strange to you, but I learned a new way to look at developing new (even innovative) business models using legos. It takes practice, of course.

It's not as easy as it looks, but the surprising takeaway comes after our facilitator challenges us through another exercise. My colleague and I are debating a business idea, and we're going back and forth and our facilitator comes over and says emphatically...

"What are you doing?? Just start building. You build yours, and you build yours. No more talking!"

I laugh because I get it. Talking is just another form of procrastination, and overthinking something that doesn't need more thinking. Just do it, and let the answers develop through process.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

-Mark Twain

Lego lessons in action

The other day I wrote Love Improv #1, a freestyle piece that developed in my head organically. I had a blank screen staring at me, and decided to apply lego lesson numero uno. I begin to write, and shortly after, another post is up.

Just begin.

Just build.

Just write.

Don't worry about how it looks. Don't concern yourself with the end.

Just go along for the ride. You'll surprise yourself where you end up sometimes.

Sometimes the best way to begin is to just begin.

Starting is the best productivity hack in the entire universe.

Imagine how much you could accomplish if you started wherever you happened to be, with whatever resources were available?

Finally, if you're worried about making mistakes, then you simply don't understand how anything worthwhile gets built, created, designed, or developed.


During our break, the facilitator offers us some food. As I head around the hallway towards the dining area, I see a big poster on wall that says:

make mistakes

Of course.

Paul


Diamonds Aren't Forever

"Can I have $150?"

Why?

"For a diamond ring. It's healing me."

(I think for a moment, before speaking)

I don't have a $150 to give you right now.

"How much can you give me?"

Whatever's in my wallet.

(I reach in and grab every bill and hand it to her)Here mom.

(She counts it slowly, deliberately.)

"Thank you."

Exit mom. Empty wallet in hand, I think about my mother. Despite her mental illness, she always finds a way to share something valuable with me.


For my mother, at this stage of her life, I'm not surprised that she believes a diamond ring could heal her. I see this kind of thinking from people everyday.

If I had a job, then I'd be good...

If I had a man/woman, then life would be fulfilling again...

If I won the lottery, then I could tell my boss to kiss my [insert body part here] and I can live an awesome life.

And yet, the person who gets the job, loses it months later.

The relationship that begins, soon ends.

The lottery winner squanders it all, and wonders, what happened? -- as they begin looking for another job.

Nothing wrong with this kind of thinking. The person who gets the job IS good - for a moment.

I'm sure the person who wants to be in a relationship badly would experience fulfillment - for a moment.

The lottery winner gets to tell their boss off and live an awesome life gets to experience that - for a moment.

Mom is stubborn and persistent. If she wants a diamond ring, she will have it, despite her physical and mental limitations. Nothing will stand in her way.

And I'm sure, she will experience healing - for a moment - maybe even longer, if the placebo is strong enough - but it won't last.

If there's anything meditation taught me (experientially, not theoretically), is that:

no moment lasts.

It's here and gone, just like that. Through meditation, I got to experience this phenomenon happening throughout my entire body.

Practicing meditation for long periods of time is a transformational experience, perhaps because the meditator gets to experience CHANGE as it happens from moment to moment, so the meditator naturally changes as a result.

Change. It's here, now. You don't have to wait for it. Expect it.

When you get your 'thing', whatever it is, that feeling WILL go away. This too, shall pass.

Nothing in the universe is permanent. Nothing.

So what will you do when your moment is gone? What happens when you get to your mountain top? What will you do then?

Unfortunately, mom will find this out sooner or later: diamonds are NOT forever.

Paul

http://vimeo.com/42382933

...oh yes it will...


Love Improv #1

I love you.

No you don't.

Yes I do.

No, you don't.

Why? Why do you say that??

Because...

Because, WHY?

Because you don't.

How would you know? Do you know what it's like to be loved?

Yes, and you don't love me.

Explain.

Well, if you REALLY loved me, wouldn't you love yourself FIRST?

What does THAT mean?

It's simple: Do you love yourself?

How am I supposed to answer that question?

Just answer.

Well, yeah. I love me some ME.

Sure.

Wait! Now you're saying that I don't love myself? How the hell would you know?

Simple. Just watch yourself.

Meaning?

Here's what I see. You never go for what you want. For example, you could've asked for a raise or almost anything from work, and you don't. Why?

...I don't know. Doesn't feel like it's time.

Time?

Yeah. The timing isn't right.

When will it be right?

When it feels right?

Don't you think you deserve more? Don't you think you need to grow as a person? Do you think you're growing professionally?

What does this have to do with me loving YOU?

Everything.

How?

Because. If you're unwilling to fight and be courageous for you, then to what extent are you willing to fight and be courageous for me?

Don't you see? However you treat yourself is how you'll treat me - maybe not NOW, but someday. You say you care about other people, but you don't pay enough attention to your own needs.

You say you want ME to be my best physically, but YOU don't even care for your own body. You eat just about anything and exercise a few times a month. Your health suffers, then you complain about how you FEEL lousy all the time.

You say you want me to learn and grow, but here you are playing video games after you get home from work. And when you're NOT doing THAT, you're too busy watching TV.

You say you'd love me to make more money where I work, but you won't ask for what you deserve at your own job.

You say you'd love to live in a better place, but you spend all your money on clothes. How do you expect to move up in life if you can't save ANYTHING?

The other day, that waitress dropped a few dishes on the floor and you laughed. Anybody who's half aware could see she was embarrassed. How can you love me when you can't feel empathy for others?

So, what are you saying? What do you want me to do?

It's simple. Stop asking me what I want. What do YOU want?

Say what?

Look. The most important question you can ask in a relationship is, "What do I want?"

That seems backwards. But...wait a minute.

Just think about it. I'm going to head home. Can we meet tomorrow for dinner?

Wait a second. I want you to stay. That's what I want. Soooo....what do you want?

I want to stay, too, but I have some work that I want to get finished.

Gotcha. It's nice to know where we stand. This has me thinking about our conversation earlier about love.

Dinner tomorrow?

I'd love that.


50:30:20

[nectar_dropcap color=””]M [/nectar_dropcap]exico City. Chicago. Two researchers digging into how emotion gets expressed in human language. They interviewed young (people in their 20’s) and old (people in their 60’s). Robert Schrauf, associate professor of applied linguistics and an anthropologist at Penn State, found something unusual in his study, despite the age and cultural differences of his participants.

“I found this surprising result,” Schrauf says. “Half of all the words that people produce from their working vocabulary to express emotion are negative. And 30 percent are positive and 20 percent are neutral.”

“And every single one of these groups, young Mexicans and old Mexicans, young Anglos and old Anglos, had the same proportions, 50 percent negative, 30 percent positive and 20 percent neutral.”

What does it mean?

According to Schrauf’s research (albeit limited in scope), the language that we use to express emotion comprises a 50:30:20 ratio (negative:positive:neutral). Obviously, this is a gross generalization, but still eye-opening.

Does this mean that we experience more negative and neutral experiences (on average) in our daily lives than positive ones? Maybe you can take note of your daily experiences.

Are these experiences regional or cultural? Are they a product of evolution or progress?

If humans do experience more “negativity” on average, is that by intelligent or biological design or is it a product of the environment that we created, perhaps haphazardly?

The world is meaningless

The outside world you experience is inherently meaningless. There must be meaning-makers to give the world, and everything in it, meaning.

A slap on the face could mean anything, depending on whether you’re on the receiving end or not. A slap could make you laugh (Youtube the Three Stooges), angry, or even shame (“I deserved that.”)

But SOMEBODY must give the world meaning or none of us would survive – and here’s where it gets interesting.

Somebody gives an event meaning. We’ll call this person the authority. People watch the authority “react” to an event, and depending on his or her reaction, others mirror that reaction.

We have the original meaning-maker, the authority. Then we have the “followers” mimicing what they see.

One person is using their imagination. The other is just observing their authority and following suit.

50:30:20 – a ratio that transcends age and culture.

Questions

Are you aware that you’re giving events meaning?

Are you CHOOSING the meaning you’re giving incidents/events or are you following/mirroring what somebody else has shown you?

And if you are aware that you’re consciously giving meaning to everyday life, and YOU ALONE have that power, why in the world would you choose to experience a 50:30:20 ratio? Why not a 10:80:10 ratio?

Put another way, if language has an impact on a person’s direct experience of the world, why would you purposely choose to have more negative or neutral experiences than positive ones? Wouldn’t you switch out so-called negative words for positive words to enhance your life experience AS SOON AS POSSIBLE??

I’m interested.

More on this later.

Paul


Cheaters, greed, and stacking the deck

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ill Belichick is coach of the New England Patriots. He is considered one of the best coaches in the HISTORY of the league and his teams over the years have won 3 Superbowls, and they're on the verge of earning another. Belichick is also known for bending the rules in his team's favor, and has been caught cheating on one occasion. He's currently under investigation for deflating balls in the AFC Championship game this past Sunday, although it's a moot point. The Patriots beat the Colts 45-7.

If you go beyond surface reports, and look a little deeper, it becomes easy to speculate that others may be involved in more subtle ways, including Patriots' owner Robert Kraft and NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. During Spygate, Goodell reviewed and notoriously destroyed the tapes Belichick illegally made of other teams prior to games, prompting criticism from Senator Arlen Specter. Why would you do that, Commish?

In the end, who knows who's involved. Whether cheating is only happening on the coaching level or in NFL front offices, visiting teams that enter the Patriots' home stadium will be using extra precautions. Is that red light a camera? Are there microphones in this room? It's enough to drive a coach crazy, but many coaches are paranoid anyway.

Ok, enough about the Patriots, what's the point??

The point is, why cheat when you have more than one Lombardi trophy in the trophy case? Why cheat when you're three championships ahead of most teams? Why cheat when you're wildly successful, year in and year out?

The answer is simple. Greed, a lust for more and more power. And power has a funny way of going to somebody's head. Take a look...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vvl46PmCfE

Where's the empathy?

Unfortunately, greed plays out with much greater consequences in everyday life. In politics, government bureaucrats have the opportunity to make policy decisions that impact millions of people's lives. Do you really think that the senator of Kansas can have empathy for somebody he's never even met? How about somebody whom he can't even culturally relate to?

It's hard for anybody to relate to strangers and unknown cultures, but what about people who have been misunderstood and misrepresented? Not exactly a recipe for empathy, either.

Is it any wonder that politics and policy is driven by the wealthy among us? How can the poor have a voice if they cannot be heard? If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?

Five years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to allow unlimited amounts of corporate spending in political campaigns, we have witnessed the wealthiest among us, the teams with the most trophies in their closet, cheat their way out of costly company decisions. With government and big corporations feeding into each other, it's no wonder that the wealth inequality gap increases day by day.

Here's an excerpt from an article from the New York Review of Books, titled:

The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake

According to the Brennan Center report super PACs have spent more than one billion dollars on federal election campaigns. And because these organizations are free of any limits, they have proved to be magnets for those who have the resources to spend lavishly to further their interests. About 60 percent of that billion dollars has come from just 195 people. Those 195 individuals have only one vote each, but does anyone believe that their combined expenditure of over $600 million does not give them disproportionate influence on the politicians they have supported? The average contributions of those who give more than $200 to such super PACs are in the five- and six-figure range. The average donation over $200 to the ironically named Ending Spending, a conservative PAC, was $502,188. This is a game played by, and for, the wealthy.

How can you come to any other conclusion other than, elections are bought? And if you think politicians decisions only affect the rich and the poor, don't forget that skin color plays a major factor, too. How many wealthy Native American billionaires do you know of? Conversely, how is the average Native family living, day to day?

Politics infiltrates prisons and jails taking campaign dollars from privatized prison companies. A 2012 Associated Press review found that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), The GEO Group, and a third privately-held company Management and Training Corp. spent at least $45 million in combined lobbying and campaign contributions at the federal and state levels in the previous decade.

People of color have been disproportionately imprisoned for much longer terms than their white counterparts for similar crimes. Policies here in California have led to an over-crowding in prisons, which leads to more privatized companies negotiating contracts with the state. How out-of-control is our prison system? According to a case study (found here) titled:

PRIVATE PRISONS AND INCARCERATION

The Problem and Its Impact on People of Color

The United States puts more people in prisons and jails than any other country in the world. The number of people incarcerated here has increased by 500 percent over the past three decades to 2.2 million.157 This striking change has not been a reaction to increasing crime. In fact, the current rate of serious crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and assault is at its lowest level since 1963.158 Instead, the rise in incarceration is due to policy changes in the criminal justice system, including dramatic increases in the length of sentences for similar crimes caused by mandatory sentencing and three-strikes policies as well as the “war on drugs.”159 The incarceration rate of people sentenced to more than a year of prison has more than tripled over the past 30 years—from 139 to 502 people per 100,000 in the general population.160

Private prisons are HUGE business, and as long as policy drives "human resources" through the door, a corporation can pay labor .10 cents an hour and get away with it. Why outsource to China when you can get cheaper labor right in your hometown?

So what, Paul??

Not enough people know the game is rigged, but thanks to the internet, some researchers who give a f***, and a few courageous souls, we can watch the tyrants a little more closely. But it's about more than watching and understanding HOW they cheat, it's about what YOU and I are ultimately going to do about it.

Washington is a lost cause as long as local politics is a lost cause. We can only change Washington D.C. on a local level. The Washington machine is made to serve the wealthy elite, break families apart, miseducate children, and build more wealth for the obscenely wealthy. Most politicians are bought, the question is, by whom? This isn't about Democrats or Republicans. Corruption is corruption.

The key is awareness. The key is understanding how a decision or policy is affecting your bank account, your family's health, your economic mobility, and your happiness.

Happiness. How about that?

Listen. I'm not saying that the "powers that be" are controlling your life, how you see the world, or whether you believe in yourself enough or not. But to deny their everyday influence through schooling, media, and other "cultural" managers is utter ignorance.

We have to regain control over the one thing that gives us a fighting chance. An opportunity to really change things, and hopefully, one day, experience true transformation.

Our body. Our mind. Our spirit. The power lies within us all. Don't let that go. Ever.

True power is WITH, not OVER people.

Paul

People-feel-like-the-system


Superhuman

The following post is written by me (obviously), for me (not so obvious), but you know the old saying: if the shoe fits....

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] wonder what it's like to be superhuman. Does that mean I can do incredible things with my body? Strength and flexibility, along with deft skill applied to any physical challenge?

Is it supreme mental ability, the power to compute large algorithms in minutes? The ability to simplify the most complex problems into their most essential parts, so any moron can digest them in seconds?

Is it the ability to understand and empathize with people so well that it causes them to think you're a mind reader? Is it the ability give a speech or talk to a group and somehow, some way, everybody in the room thinks that you MUST be talking to them?

Or is it using the power of imagination to create new worlds, generate solutions to long standing problems, and to create great works of art?

A few blog posts back, I wrote that everything's made up, and guess who's making it up?

Who knows? But one thing's for sure - If you're NOT, somebody IS.

As Steve Jobs once said:

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact:

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you - and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. 

Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.

The choice

Sometimes we have to be reminded of our greatness.

Sometimes the reminder has to be stated very bluntly, but once it sinks in, we have to make a decision.

Do we go back to sleep, live in the cloud of mediocrity, and consistently settle for short-term gratification?

OR

Do we challenge ourselves to be better humans each day? Do we aspire to greatness beyond what our own imagination is telling us? Do we go for being superhuman, which is far beyond what we intend to be as we walk out  into the world each day?

You have to want such things as progress and evolution. You have to want to sacrifice short-term gratification (short-term, NOT instant, because a pay check comes steadily every two weeks). You have to want something so bad that you take moon-shots (risks) instead of the standard and conventional.

Desire is key to this entire equation. Your "why?" will drive you to great heights or settle for the short mound that's right in front of you.

Whatever you do each day is driven by a reason, some overarching (or perhaps subtle) purpose.

1.) What do you consistently do each and every day?

2.) Why do you do THAT?

If you are satisfied with your reasons, then you're on course. If NOT, then you know what to do.

The best YOU does NOT exist...yet

Superhuman, the best YOU that could possibly exist, is NOT a myth, but it doesn't exist right now. Your best you is in the realm of the unknown, and asks you to leave the known behind and risk insecurity, doubt, and confusion. Your best self is undiscovered, and requires courage and perseverance to reach him or her.

It doesn't mean death-defying feats of strength or ability. It's not pushing the limits of your mind by making objects move through telekinesis. It's not going out and making 30 million dollars in two years, either.

It means you must be the best you in every moment of your existence. It means accepting pain (physical or psychological) as a growing tool. It means sacrificing comfort for productivity. It means doing one more set, one more rep, taking one more call, writing one more blog post, and making one more offer to somebody that can benefit from your products and services.

It ultimately means living the kind of life and lifestyle that makes you say, "I'm so fortunate to be alive today."

The question is, how long will it take you to get on YOUR path, and leave the conditioned, tried-and-true one behind?

It's not like you have 20, 10, 5, or even 1 more year of life guaranteed to you.

Time to make it happen NOW.

Let's push ourselves in 2015. We can do better than this.

Paul

Martin-Luther-King-Quote