Interesting TED Talk: Who Controls The World? By James B. Glattfelder

James Glattfelder studies complexity: how an interconnected system — say, a swarm of birds — is more than the sum of its parts. And complexity theory, it turns out, can reveal a lot about how the economy works. Glattfelder shares a groundbreaking study of how control flows through the global economy, and how concentration of power in the hands of a shockingly small number leaves us all vulnerable. (Filmed at TEDxZurich.)

I do well and you do well.

In the business world today ‘I do well and you do well’ seems like such an alien concept. A lot of businesses appear to be obsessed with gaining more and more money, working longer and longer hours, and all of it in a bid to out-do and beat the competition.

However, more now than ever, people are beginning to realise that the old business methods are harmful, not just to our economy, but the planet, and to our health, and in some cases these methods are failing altogether. We all know about the financial crisis, we hear about big companies, banks and shops, closing up and down the country. We have all heard about the thousands of jobs that have been cut, and we all know about the financial crises happening all over the world.

Our capitalist economy demands that we spend and spend, but all that spending is consuming more and more resources. The government encourage this spending in order to help businesses grow, but is this really going to work for the long term future? It might be a quick fix for the present, but what about the future? What about our great grandchildren?

The bottom line is, in order to have customers, those customers need to be doing financially well themselves. If they’re not doing well, they wont have the money to spend on the products businesses are trying to sell, and if those businesses can’t get enough profit, then it is our jobs that are in danger as a direct result. Every person who has a job no matter what it is, is directly dependent on the success of others around them in order to have their job.

However we have a problem, everything seems to be getting so much more expensive. The price of our items, even chocolate, seems to be growing faster than our own wages. Poorer people seem to be getting poorer and the richer people seem to be getting richer. On top of that, the world’s resources are being used so quickly, we’re faced with the real threat of running out. That means no resources to make everything, clothes, petrol, even our smartphones and laptops. If we can’t make things, especially fuel to run our cars and the wires which give us electricity. Then the capitalist economy will come to a stand still. There simply won’t be anything people can do, and this spend, spend, spend mentality will eventually fail us all.

So what can we do about it? Firstly we can take the time to think about and distinguish between what we truly need and what we want. Can we hold on to our smartphones for five? ten? twenty years? or do we really need to replace them every year? If we could use less things, or make things last longer then this would help the environment. I know what you’re going to say, ‘but if we don’t buy them, then surely those businesses will suffer and jobs will be cut, and thousands of people will end up worse off?’ This could be true, and this is why businesses need to re-address their responsibilities too. It is no longer enough just to push for the biggest profits and beat down the competition. The business owners need to look at how their business affects the world; Where do their products come from? How were they made?  What components are required to be mined in order to make their products? What are the impacts of the mining on the society surrounding and working in those mines? What are the impacts on the environment and world?  How can we improve the conditions for everyone, not for just those who work in the mines, but for everyone every step of the way, from the product being made, to being transported, to arriving at the office and then being sold on to the customers? And finally, how can some of our profits be used to help the people who are not involved in our business? Because at the end of the day, they are our potential new customers.

The human population will continue to grow and there is no need for anyone to suffer. There needs to be a balance between helping all businesses grow and looking after our planet. There is no way we can swing from one extreme to the other, and if we did, it would probably be disastrous if we did it too quickly. Hence there needs to be a combined effort on everyone’s part, big businesses need to stop being so greedy, and all businesses need to re-address their responsibilities. We as the customer need to be more selective and not so compulsive, we do not need to run out the house and spend money needlessly. If we have something that works, it doesn’t need replacing just because the next model happens to be slimmer, or a little bit faster, or it has some variation of wireless technology that our old one doesn’t. Stop and think about what you’re spending and why, do you really need it? Stop and think about where your product comes from, who pulls your food out of the field? who mines the minerals and metals that make up our wires and circuit boards? who pulls up our fuel which heats our homes, cooks our food, and provides us with electricity? Are those people happy? And are there any alternatives, could we save some money aside and use it to be more renewable and reduce our carbon foot print? Could we use our money to help those working in terrible conditions? Could we turn the spot light on those big companies that are exploiting cheap labour? Are we going to stand for it, are we going to allow our fellow human beings to be treated in such ways? Because If they don’t do well, then we won’t do well.

Our society would like to tell you there are no alternatives, but there are. Even planting a tree in your garden (away from houses of course) can help reverse the pollution in our world. Yes you’re only one person, but imagine if hundreds, thousands, no millions of people all did the same? Individually we must change.

There are already businesses out there who are taking small and big measures in order to help people and the world. The shoe company and brand TOMS, ‘each pair of shoes you purchase = a pair of shoes for children in need’. There are many, many more, you can check out some B Corporations here http://www.forbes.com/sites/annefield/2014/03/19/new-list-reveals-92-b-corps-with-the-most-impact/. There really is no excuse, we can all do better, businesses can help the world and make profits at the same time.

So the next time you see someone who seems to be unhappy, ask yourself if there is anything you could do to help them? The next time you go looking for a new smartphone? Ask yourself, who are all those people responsible for getting this phone to you, to this store, right now? Are they happy? If you’re a business owner, I implore you to help people, your employees, the people who bring you your products, and even those people who have nothing to do with your business. If you help people and other businesses, you are helping yourself too. I do well and you do well, make this your motto.

– Thank you for reading.

You Are Lucky!

Yes, you. I’m writing for you. You are lucky.

You don’t believe me do you? Your initial reaction was to laugh humourlessly? shake your head slightly? Roll your eyes? There’s even that small voice at the back of your mind telling you that I’m wrong. That same voice is telling you, ‘you’re not lucky, you’ve never been lucky in your life’.

Well I’m here to tell you that I’m not wrong, that little voice is lying to you.

I’m going to explain it to you as best as I can, it’s a matter of nudging your perspective, are you up for the challenge?

Most people are lucky every single day of their lives, they just don’t realise it. It is how we define luck which is the real problem here. So what is luck? Is the child of a famous person with all their millions, lucky? Is the winner of the lottery jackpot, lucky? Is that friend of yours with the really hot partner, lucky? Is that teenager who gets straight A’s without really trying, lucky? Is that near miss you had in your car last week, lucky?

The dictionary defines luck as ‘success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.’ However, I immediately have to disagree with this statement, luck is a mixture of chance and design. Why? Because all of the decisions we have ever made and all of the decisions our ancestors have ever made, have all led to this moment right now. You. Therefore, success and failure at this moment in time, is not completely chance, it can never be completely chance, and never was.

Our days go by relatively smoothly, sometimes we’re a bit late when we’re dropping the kids off at school, or the traffic is bad going to and from work, or sometimes the boiler breaks, or the car has a problem, or your outfit gets ruined, or you knock your shin on that really annoying corner of the coffee table, or you forget an appointment, miss a deadline, and so on… but even then, we’re still lucky. ‘But… none of those things are lucky’ your inner voice is saying, ‘those things are all unlucky‘. Nope, even if you had a day where all these problems occurred, you would still be lucky, because an unlucky day is when something beyond the norm happens.

An unlucky day, is when something so negative happens that is shocks you from your normal routine. Like all of those negative events you see in the media. An unlucky day for most people would most likely be one of the following things, an unexpected death in the family, an accident where you or someone else is seriously hurt or even killed, a freak fire burning down your home and claiming all of your possessions. Anything so extremely negative, that it has a massive impact on your life, literally throwing you from your normal life for an extended period of time, or even forever. These are truly unlucky events, and any day without such events can be called lucky days.

Our days are relatively ordinary, boring, we don’t really remember these lucky days, but we do remember the unlucky days. You are lucky, because your day to day life is fairly smooth despite the minor hiccups and annoyances. You are lucky because you have friends and family who care and who will support you, whereas some people have no one. You’re lucky if  you are not the person caught up in those negative events shown by the media.

So, when you’re living your day to day life remember, every ordinary, boring, normal day, is a lucky day. You are lucky.

– Thank you for reading.

‘Our Actions & Thoughts Towards Others –

– Speaks Volumes About Ourselves.’

It is often difficult with our busy lifestyles, to stop and consider our thoughts and actions towards others. Sometimes it rarely even crosses our minds. There is so much going on, traveling to work, sorting out finances, doing the laundry, cleaning the house. Some of us even have kids that need dropping off at school, and then there’s dinner to prepare, the family dog to walk, homework, updating social media, and all sorts of things that keep us occupied. We barely have enough time to relax as it is, and when we think about ourselves as a person, in general we seem to be OK, perhaps not perfect but we’re certainly not horrible. We may have the odd joke about a person, or sometimes think things that we shouldn’t, but we certainly don’t mean any harm, do we?

I want to give you an example one of my professor’s gave me. You need to read this and answer honestly and automatically. If your answer is ‘yes’ raise your hand, if your answer is ‘no’ don’t raise your hand. (I know this may look a bit odd, raising your hand in front of a computer screen, so you might want to be alone when you do this, but answer automatically, don’t think about it, just answer with your gut.)

Imagine for a minute that you live on a street, in an average home, with an average family, and you have an average income. Not a lot of money, but enough to get by, to put food on the table, to cover bills, and to go on a family holiday every so often. Most of the other houses on the street have families just like yours, all of them, apart from one house. One house is extravagant, larger than all of the rest, it has a large driveway, manicured lawns, a fountain in its foregrounds and a couple of very expensive cars parked in it’s drive. The family that live there are wealthy, they have more bedrooms in their house than they need, and their bedrooms are bigger than the entire floor plan of your ground floor. They go on holidays often, and their children have massive birthday parties, and receive gifts that are more expensive than your average family car.

One day, one of your average neighbors has a problem with their water pipe. It’s burst and flooded their entire downstairs. They’ve had a lot of problems that month that you know about, an expense on a car, a boiler going bust and now this. They ask the people on the street for help.

Do you help? yes or no?

The following week, the wealthy family has a problem with their water pipe. It’s bust and flooded their entire downstairs. They’ve probably had some other problems but you don’t really know anything about them. They ask the people on the street for help…

Do you help? yes or no?

Now answer truthfully, did you hesitate with your second answer? Was there some part of your brain telling you that ‘the wealthy family are rich, they don’t need help?’ Or did you think ‘I don’t have as much as they do, surely they don’t need my help?’

To be totally honest with you, when my professor posed this question to my year group (a class of 60+ students), everyone raised their hand immediately, to help the average neighbor. However, only a handful, after a moment’s hesitation, raised their hand to help the wealthy family. I was amongst one of the few that did raise my hand for the wealthy family, but it wasn’t an automatic response, I hesitated, I had to think about it. It won’t surprise me at all if these results echo for everyone out there, but it’s not about how you answered that matters at this moment, it is why? Why do we feel no hesitation towards others who we perceive as similar, or less fortunate than ourselves, but when it comes to someone who we perceive as more fortunate than ourselves, we hesitate. I’m not saying that everyone will answer this way, there will be some anomalies out there I’m sure, and I only have the results from a class of students to work with, buts let’s say they are accurate, and that they do echo for the rest of the world. My question is, why?

Here are some more examples…

I think most of us have been on the motorway in our car, it’s a a few years old, we bought it second hand and it’s had a couple of issues already but it still runs, it still works. There’s a dent on the side, and it’s a bit noisy on the road, but we can live with it, it’s not a problem. Then we see that one person who zooms by in the third lane, they have an Aston Martin, or a Ferrari, or a Porsche, and it gives us a weird thrill to secretly hope that they get pulled over by the police.

There’s also those times when we’ve been on a plane, we’ve queued up for hours at the airport, gone through all the rig-moral and when we are finally called on to the plane, we have to walk past first class, which is virtually empty apart from a couple of people. Their seats are bigger, more spaced out, have funky little gadgets, but we can’t help but think ‘posh snobs’ or some other variation of those words, as we shake our heads, and even look down at them. But why? Why do we react this way? yes it’s true that not everyone reacts this way, but a lot of people do, and a few years ago, I certainly wasn’t innocent of these types of thoughts. So why? and what changed?

If we take money out of the equation, there is no difference between the wealthy person and the not so wealthy person. They just become people. In reality, the wealthy person has problems too, they may be different from the average person, but they still have problems, bills to pay, appointments to make, and probably businesses to run. You have no idea what a stranger has been through in their life, no matter how they dress, or where they live, or how wealthy they are, and if we are totally honest, most of us don’t even know our neighbors well enough to call them friends. Troubles fall on everyone, problems arise everywhere, and traumatic events can happen to anyone at any time.

By not helping the wealthy person who asked for our help, what does that say about ourselves? We’re willing to help one but not another? Even though without the money that person is just another human being, like you and me. They have emotions, thoughts, their brains are wired like ours, and they have a human skeleton. Their wealth is just a secondary level difference, it can be easily wiped away like wiping lipstick off our faces. We become bias, and unfair, if we treat the wealthy person differently from our average neighbor, but we don’t want to be seen as horrible, because we’re not, are we? We are good people, we are not bias or unfair. We would like to treat those in a way we would also like to be treated, no matter what our secondary differences might be, right?

If you’re like me, and realize that yes, sometimes you can have some mean thoughts, or sometimes you are unwilling to help, but you’re not sure what you can do about it. Well, recognizing and realizing what you think and do is the first step. Next time you have a negative thought about someone because of the way they look, dress, whatever it may be. Try asking yourself in your own mind ‘What is it that’s bothering me?’, ‘What am I really feeling right now?’, ‘And how would I feel if someone else had these thoughts about me?’ Asking yourself these simple questions can help you to clarify what you’re actually feeling, whilst stamping out negative thoughts and emotions as soon as they start to appear. In time, you will hopefully find that you feel much better about the world and life in general, and the next time someone asks for help, you won’t even need to think about it.(That’s not to say that you should just say ‘yes’ to everyone all the time, that wouldn’t be good for your health and not everyone out there is honest about their problems. So be careful please, but also, don’t hold back when you know someone genuinely needs help.) This type of compassion towards others, will be repaid if you are ever in need, not by everyone sadly, no, but a lot of people will remember your compassion and return it with their own, it’s natural.

When your children, family, or friends look at you, what do you want them to see? Do you want them to see someone who cares about every person, no matter who they are. Or do you want them to see someone who only cares about certain people? Our actions and thoughts towards others, speaks volumes about ourselves, i invite you to take a moment to think about this, and to think about the sort of person you want to be.

Thank you for reading.

Note From The Author:

  • Please be careful when helping strangers, never go off alone to help someone you do not know.
  • Use your common sense when faced with a problem, and never endanger yourself or others.
  • Only do what you can, when you can, and don’t feel guilty if you can’t do more.