Leadership and the Environment

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358: Bald Versus Plastic

Ep. 358

Here are the notes I read this episode from:

People keep acting like I'm different, that they have to balance things that I don't when acting on the environment.

So I'll share a recent decision I made. People I tell have sounded intrigued and delighted to hear it so I'll share with you.

First sensed hairline retreating at 19.

Not much for maybe a decade following, I don't remember.

Maybe 10 years ago started using minoxidil.

Don't know if works or not, but used as insurance. Not insanely expensive.

Tested on thinning in back, so even less sure if it works.

Over the past few years noticed it becoming my greatest plastic consumption.

Thought more about stopping.

Even stopping flying was reversible. Never decided to stop forever, just kept finding that it improved my life not to fly. Constraints breed creativity.

Stopping minoxidil not reversible. Might not do anything. Might go bald. I don't want to go bald. I like my hair.

But I'm pitting purely my vanity against reducing plastic pollution.

Last bottle of last 3 month supply was running low. Kept thinking about it. Risk balding, but maybe no difference.

Last American president elected bald was Eisenhower. Have to beat Hitler to get elected. Women complain they get judged by appearance, but men do too.

Felt helpless, yet also recognize the alternative is simply to live with my genes. What chemical shitstorm is in that stuff anyway?

But the bottom line was every time I've chosen to live by my environmental values, it's improved my life. I used to have faith, but faith is belief without evidence. Between avoiding packaged food, avoiding flying, picking up garbage daily, plogging, all of which I thought would worsen my life, they've all improved it.

So I made a deal with myself to flip a coin. Heads I'd keep it. If every 3 months I flipped, eventually I'd have to end.

I started making deals with myself -- just get to 50 years old. It's so little plastic compared to everyone else. Just one more time. I found out you can buy the raw ingredients on Alibaba. What if I found a great price? Rite Aid had almost half off online. Another place even lower prices, but then more packaging.

So I flipped the coin. Tails on the first try. I made a rule only flip a coin when I can't decide any other way, then never reverse that decision or it undoes the value of coin toss's decisiveness. Still I started bargaining with myself.

Are you getting how hard I found this decision? I was deciding in the moment a choice to affect me possibly for the remaining several decades of my life.

I didn't refill. I still went to Rite Aid intending to buy another box, against the coin toss, but the low price was only online. I was going to break my rule, but didn't because of circumstance.

Within a day I could feel new breeze on my forehead. Maybe coincidence, but maybe I'll end up bald in a few months. Maybe it will recede a bit and stop. Who knows?

I don't see a path to this choice improving my life, but I'm going with it. Talk about your first-world problems, right? But everyone goes through similar decisions too. Should I buy the coffee on the way to work in the disposable cup? Should I take a subway or shared ride?

We all do mental gymnastics to rationalize behavior we know is against our principles. I do. My difference today versus me years ago is that I've moved my balance toward stewardship. Each time I do, I find it improves my life. Before long I find role models beyond where I am. I learn from them, for example Bea Johnson, whose family of four produces collectively less trash than I do.

The world will see the results.

Some relevant posts of mine:


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8/4/2020

368: Chester Elton, part 1: Asking and listening across color lines

Ep. 368
You're about to hear a conversation post-George Floyd by two leadership writers. Normally we write for mostly business audiences. this conversation felt more personal.Normally when a friend introduces a potential podcast guest, we start by talking each other's work and figure out scheduling. With Chester---maybe given his openness and, I think, mine, as well as the protests raging---we jumped into talking about race and our interactions with people of different color. We spoke for a couple hours about a topic that polite conversation often avoids, let alone makes it the first thing two people meeting for the first time discuss.Those past conversations set the tone for the conversation you're about to hear, also the continued protests, media discussion, and our growing friendship to keep speaking more openly.I posted last week, 2020 in 9 words: “Everybody wants to be heard and nobody is listening.” I think my conversations with Chester helped prompt that insight. By contrast, he listens. I'm trying to learn from him.Do you know of people in authority showing the world that they are listening and making others feel understood? In fairness, can someone with a national voice, with all the protests from different angles, make a group or bunch of groups feel understood? . . . or even feel listened to?When I teach leading groups, I use Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail as an example of someone making others feel understood, where his sharing his vulnerability as a father probably made his audience of protesters feel more understood and listened to than the ministers whose letter to the editor he responded to. It's the best historical example I can think of and I don't see renowned leaders following or matching him.