NPR opened my eyes this morning. I always knew obesity was an issue in the west. From Australia to the US (we are duking it out for who is the fattest nation per capita) obesity is an epidemic with massive implications for our future.
But this piece this morning re-dimensionalised it for me. It's an audio file so throw on the headphones.
Some snippets from what I heard:
"We have framed obesity as, "those people over there" who are heavy. What is missing is the recognition that the population as a whole is heavier and getting heavier".
"Weight, not just population size, should be taken into account when planning how to deal with increasing pressure on resources."
"The US makes up 6% of the global population but 30% of the world's weight"
"If you took the BMI (Body Mass Index) of America and applied it to the world's population, there would be an extra billion peoples worth of weight"
This is not a crack at America. We Aussies are just as fat. Interestingly the data shown here said that Arab countries were way up there too on the obesity scale. The research showed a correlation between cheap oil and obesity. Hopefully the text of the interview will also be published.
I have alluded to some significant disruptive innovation work we are doing at g as we set our course for the next 3 - 5 years. I will lay out the work in a future post but an article in today's New York Times speaks to some of it. Check it out here.
We see that as a thinkers, we are using one tool. The detached, analytic approach championed by Galileo and taught from kindergarten to University. And we see the limitations of that approach if it is used all the time. But there were different ways of thinking prior to this and Rousseau, who turns 300 today was clear about the power of them. Rather than externalize, dissect and analyse, the view within is just as valuable. As it relates to happiness for example, he says “nothing external to ourselves, nothing if not ourselves and our own existence.” So happiness in this case is from within not without.
However, today we know too well that the search for happiness appears to be an "out there" activity. The article continues :
"In 2010, two Harvard psychologists, Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, performed a study that used an iPhone app to ask volunteers, at random moments, what they were doing and how happy they were. They discovered that we spend most of our lives not thinking about what we are doing at that moment, whether it’s shopping, eating or, in particular, working. No matter how enjoyable or unenjoyable the activity we’re engaged in is, this gift for distraction comes at a psychic cost: “a wandering mind,” they wrote in the journal Science, “is an unhappy mind.
No one seemed to remark on the incongruity of scientists’ using a technology that, in studying their subjects’ inability to focus, interrupted their focus.
The paradox would not have been lost on Rousseau, who believed we were happy only in our original state of nature — before the advent of technology and society. It was not that our thoughts did not yet wander but rather that there simply were no thoughts, wandering or otherwise, knocking about inside our heads. Our soul, “agitated by nothing,” gave itself up entirely to “the sentiment of its present existence without any idea of the future.” Our first ancestors stood Descartes’s axiom on its head: I don’t think, thus I truly am".
Rousseau saw the distractions of theater as a driver of the wandering mind and a source of unhappiness.
"Staged productions representing life, he believed, distracted us from one another, and from ourselves. Theater replaces lived experience with vicarious experience and condemned participants to wander the sea of the non-present. “Nothing appears good or desirable to individuals that the public has not judged to be such,” he observed, “and the only happiness that most men know is to be esteemed happy.” Status updates and emoticons: Rousseau saw it all".
As I reflect on the Facebook phenomenon and talking with our manny Mike who has just come back from a back packing trip through Europe, we discussed the ludicrous situation of travellers who don't know whether to simply experience the awe of sitting in the Colosseum (yes, do that) or rush to update their Facebook status (really?). If we are honest with ourselves, each of us have 4 -5 really good friends we can pour your hearts out to. So who are our other 200 "friends" on Facebook? And what does it say about us that we have to telegraph every waking moment of our lives to a group of near strangers (yes, the guy you met at Uni 20 years ago who has friended you on Facebook is more of a stranger than a friend)? I see Rousseau was right back then and he would be right today. Facebook is the perfect place for the wandering mind and generated from that derives the opposite of happiness.
This then leads me to our amazing gMums and their desire to really meet one another in person. I see they are tapping in to the very thing Rousseau speaks of. Is it possible that Facebook is distracting ourselves from the one thing we truly want and that is to connect with others live and in person?
The article closes with this:
"the Harvard psychologists noted that, after sex, the two activities during which we are most fully in the present are conversation and exercise. Rousseau saw this as well, but forget the treadmill: he lost himself in mountains and valleys and, while walking, conversed with himself. Indeed, “Reveries of the Solitary Walker” is a manifesto on the benefits of wondering while wandering.
At all times, the Harvard psychologists invite us to click onto their Web site, Trackyourhappiness.org, in order to know how happy — or at one with ourselves — we are at any given moment in the day.
Rousseau, though, would say that happiness lies not in clicking, but in being. Bon anniversaire, Jean-Jacques: may our gift to you be recapturing the present you gave us."
We spent Friday afternoon, reworking the office. I am looking forward to getting in there tomorrow and seeing how the space works. I am very excited. Here are some pics of some of the crew at work. Note Kate blowdrying Dodge's hair with a drill.
Today's New York Times had a great piece about how we can rearrange the way we work each day to maximise our effectiveness. Check it out here. If a click away is a bridge too far, here are some excerpts:
Employees generally need to detach from their work and their work space to recharge their internal resources, he says. Options include walking, reading a book in another room or taking the all-important lunch break, which provides both nutritional and cognitive recharging.
It’s shortsighted not to take this time, or for managers to discourage employees from taking it, he says.
Try to take a break before reaching the absolute bottom of your mental barrel, Professor Trougakos says. Symptoms of needing time to recharge include drifting and daydreaming.
There is no need to take a break if you’re on a roll, Professor Trougakos advises. Working over an extended period can be invigorating — if it’s your choice. What drains your energy reserves most is forcing yourself to go on, he says.
So tomorrow we enjoy the new space and test drive this theory.
For the 7 years we have been in the US getting our "g" thing on, I have been so keen to see the home composting / commercial composting worlds get on board with our product.
And then, out of the Twitterverse of all places, emerged Miriam, the Queen of Compost (she's actually a writer by trade by she does great compost). Check out her post here or just read below about her journey into making a very valuable resource out of her kids gDiapers.
Imagine a world where this was the every day. I want to go there. I never thought dirt would make me so excited.
I just had an epiphany. For all you non-Aussies, beware the humility you may see in us people from the Antipodes. I suspect it is often fraudulent. Because in Australia we have to deal with a very insidious character trait (other than the fact we are all thieves).
We are trapped in an odd fixation about what it means to achieve. It seems we can't delineate between self-confidence and arrogance. So we avoid both and throw up humility. It is the perfect survival strategy against the dreaded Tall Poppy Syndrome (people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.) that has deeply hurt Australia's ability to innovate and compete internationally. We would rather offer a good dose of "humility" than say with pride that we did something great and risk being chopped down (like a tall poppy) by our peers. It is comical watching Olympic champions and successful business people dodging and weaving a genuine compliment. "I was in the right place at the right time", "my opposition wasn't on their game", "we were lucky with timing".
I hate arrogance like anyone but the opposite of that: humility as a way to avoid this syndrome is kind of more twisted really.
Humility from a genuine place is the answer.