Category: Life Lessons


My New Normal

During a late stifling heat soaked summer day, a therapist friend suggested we get out of the house and drive around, take in a few sights and stop for ice cream at a local creamery hotspot upon our return.  Over the course of several hours, our drive included hills and valleys, wineries and riverbeds.  We blazed into and out of the summer sun, through lean tall trees of a not to distant national forest and rows upon rows of summer corn.

Fifteen minutes from home, she started a conversation that quickly nose-dived the afternoon.

“I have a client in her mid-sixties.” she said. “She loves to play with her granddaughter, but her knees started aching. Fearful she would drop and injure her granddaughter, she stopped playing. She went to a physical therapist who found nothing wrong, finding it all imaginary. The grandmother was scared to play, so she created a way not to play.  In other words, it was in her head. What do you think?”

“Why do I need to think about this? I really have no thoughts on the subject.” I replied.

“Well, I was thinking maybe the pain and issues you’re having are really because your scared, that if you change your thinking, you’ll change your fate.”

“Well…” I paused. “Transposing your client’s situation onto me is remarkably rude.”

Over the years, I’ve learned people don’t like unsolved mysteries. It’s true that my body’s battle, including Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Stenosis and Cardiopulmonary Disease remains unseen to those around me. It’s not that they don’t affect me, I simply choose not to bitch about them while many are completely worse off.

However, my personal choice does not allow one to assume my symptoms are caused by angry spirits, a punishing god, nor like Job who gave up looking for explanations or to be accepted as part of God’s loving plan. Yet without symptoms, without evidence, people tender their thoughts to some undefined psychological problem that is ‘in one’s head‘.

I do believe people can benefit tremendously from psychological counseling and or mental health treatment. I believe people can find tremendous assisting in coping with day-to-day issues, as I have. But patients too often live by too loosely defined subjective and arbitrary judgments of others. It’s an insulting way of saying, “You look healthy, so you must be fine.”

So to all those who arbitrarily decide I am fine, I have a few questions.

What level of proof is adequate to prove my level of pain? How can I make you feel the arbitrariness of life? What will allow you to understand my level of exhaustion? And why should I not feel so sympathetic to others who experience similarly as I?

Contrary to your opinion, many, like me, do not surrender gracefully. We valiantly battle our symptoms and yearn for the days of yesteryear when we lived joyful lives and walking stairs did not seem like an ascent up the Grand Canyon. Some simply long for a good night’s sleep.

To my friend, people like me experience something called a “new normal.” First, it’s not all in our heads. And secondly, my new normal no longer includes assholes.

Into The Streets

All of us are faced with a myriad of decisions. Do this, then that. Do that, then this. Life is full of complicated, often uncharted decisions. How one chooses often makes the difference for so many millions.  This is what the GOP health care bill legislation reminds me of.

As reported by the New York Times, the selected Senators working on the GOP legislation includes Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Thune, and John Barrasso. The group also includes three committee chairmen: Mr. Hatch; Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Michael B. Enzi, Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner, Rob Portman and Patrick J. Toomey. This was an all boys’ club, woman weren’t allowed. No public hearings, no healthcare professionals and zero representation from the insurance industry.

Having worked in healthcare for years, I’m accustomed to seeing an oft-forgotten segment of society, the elderly and ill. Much of this group includes the mentally ill, dementia inflicted, those with Alzheimer’s, cancer patients, and Medicaid/Medicare permanently bound nursing home residents.

As person inflicted with both heart and neck disabilities, I am at peace knowing that for the moment, I’m not on public disability.

For the moment.” For the moment. The words “for the moment” lingers in my soul. I, like nearly sixty-five percent of Americans, will become afflicted by disease so severe that I will be forced to receive care from another. This is not a picture I imagined 30 years ago let alone 5. Like many who experience this, the vitality of life has left for better weather and all that’s left is this old wrinkled soul. It’s a reality almost all I’ve encountered expected.

Elizabeth O’Brien of Time Magazine wrote

When it comes to finding—and financing—long-term care for older loved ones, most families are on their own. And many end up turning to Medicaid when their money runs out. It’s not hard to drain your life savings on nursing home care that runs around $82,000 per year but can go much higher in costlier areas of the country. To qualify for Medicaid for long-term care, applicants need to have depleted most of their resources. Criteria vary by state; in New York, for example, the asset limit is about $14,000, not including a certain amount of home equity.

My healthcare experience included many assisted-living and nursing home facilities. Accordingly, I’ve residents from all walks of life – former professional athletes, teachers, farmers, doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home parents, health aides, stockbrokers, CEOs’, auto mechanics, and laborers. You name a profession, I have seen it. Many entered old age with significant assets but were forced into Medicaid as resources depleted. A combination of longer life spans and spiraling health care costs has left an estimated 64 percent of the Americans in nursing homes dependent on Medicaid.

So what’s the unanswered question? If the GOP bill gets approved, where do all these people go?

To the streets.

IcarusI’ll admit it. Washington’s “Trump-Russia” connection can make engrossing television. Recent disclosures of meetings between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russian backed attorneys reveal the complex world which we live. Media outlets could have focused on the administration’s G20 meetings, healthcare, or any number of items. But the ongoing coverage seems to return to Russian collusion.

I will not overtly condemn Trump Jr. My thoughts are broader and something covered previously. More to the point, in today’s world, there most certainly an electronic copy of our life. And deciding whether to take a suspicious meeting, one must understand who is watching and when will same said information become public.

In 2008, British newspaper The Telegraph noted Britons are recorded approximately 3,000 times a week. In the U.S., license plate readers, public space cameras, store and loyalty cards, phones, television, computer, emails and businesses entered are recorded. Information is complied, stored in some database and retained for years, if not definitely.

Whether the Trump-Russia collusion connection pans out or not. Donald Trump Jr. is not unlike many Americans. Either naivety or the willingness to win at all costs overwhelms the “gut check” common sense demands. I tend to believe the Trump views any all opposition as a perversion that must be pulverized.

And the willingness to pulverize is not unlike the Greek Myth Icarus who flew too close to the sun. It’s the fascination with fire that lead many astray.

Many years ago, I was contacted by a recruiter from a rival nationwide consulting firm. After cursory conversation, the recruiter proposed a well-intentioned employment offer, substantial raise and benefits. Nearing the end of the offer, the recruiter then requested a list of every customer from my current firm and projects being proposed. Stunned for only a minute, I calmly rose, shook the recruiter’s hand and said, “I believe our time has concluded.” Leaving, I was appalled by the recruiter’s audacity and honored by my principles not to engage.

Personally, I chose not to fly that close to the sun. Maybe Trump Jr. accepted the risk. Saint Bernard Clairvaux is attributed to the saying L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs” (hell is full of good wishes or desires). An earlier saying occurs in Virgil’s Aeneid, “facilis descensus averno (the descent to hell is easy).” The commonly used version is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Many fail to understand the concept of “do no harm.” One ancient text states that “non-harming is the distinguishing characteristic of Buddhism.” Let’s modify this to non-harming is a distinguishing characteristic of good men. For unenlightened Buddhists, the commitment of non-harming is carried in the ethical precepts where non-harming becomes integral to their nature and “delight in harmlessness.”

While the principle of non-harming is a noble one, its application in daily life raises many questions about when such a principle is relevant and in which circumstances it might be discarded.  Is harmlessness an absolute precept for Buddhists?  Does it prohibit any use of violence for the purposes of self-defense or when it can prevent a greater harm? Does harm mean only physical violence?

Even if violence is prohibited, the principle of acting out of hatred, anger or envy is. And looking at the current state of politics, the very nature of acting in hatred (regardless of party) is very transparent. Accordingly, acting out of hatred, anger or envy is common in daily events.

Christ stated that one sins simply by thinking. Meaning if one thinks of adultery, then adultery has been committed. As a Buddhist, we are instructed to become better by abstention of evil actions, speech, and intentions. If we don’t, I am sure emails, video and other information will humble even the most arrogant. Maybe that’s the humbling lesson Trump Jr. is learning.

If I had simply abstained through my walk, I would have been a much better person, in both life and love. But I wasn’t. And like Icarus, I died a thousand deaths in the Sea of Humility.

Hopefully, you will not.

Defining a Winner

By the time the first inning was over, everyone hoped the All-Star was here. In the ten run first, Cubs pitcher Jon Lester managed only two outs before being mercifully pulled. Is there any good news? Yes. Lester still made $781,000 plus change for the day. At season’s halfway point, the Chicago Cubs are 43 – 45, with little chance of repeating anything but mediocrity.

Twenty-five years ago, former Indiana University Coach Bobby Knight told an audience of automotive executives that getting to the top of one’s profession is hard. Staying at the top is extremely hard. At this point, Cub fans count their blessings that players can even find the locker room.

In 2013, Chicago Tribune columnist K.C. Johnson wrote:

“Ask any player or coach who has been part of a repeat championship season — or, to even a greater degree, a three-peat — and this answer is obvious: Getting on top is hard. Staying there is even harder.

Forget the cliché of how once a team wins a title, it always gets the other team’s best shot — although this cliché is somewhat true. It’s more the cumulative wear and tear of playing so many games the previous season and having to do it all over again.

Plus, a first championship season for a talented team often has a feel of inevitability to it. Think Detroit Pistons breaking through the Boston Celtics’ stranglehold or the Chicago Bulls finally solving the Pistons.

But repeating is a different story. It takes continuity on a roster, perseverance through adversity and talent — lots and lots of talent. Repeating has been in fashion since the Lakers did so in 1988. The Pistons, Bulls (twice), Rockets and Lakers (twice more) have accomplished it since.”

The Chicago Cubs look like a vacationing family traveling without Google Maps. They demonstrated an absence of perseverance that propelled their World Series run a season ago. Even Lester appeared unable to muster any amount of urgency, even to pick up the baseball fumbled by Contreras behind home plate.

Yet, from Cubbie misery cometh life lessons.

First, whether one struggles in marriage, experiences poor work situations, declining health, or has a struggling child, you need to remain consistent. Persevering through adversity is the key to continued success. One cannot succeed in life by simply going through the motions.

Secondly, find some level of joy. In his book “The Inner Game of Tennis,” Tim Gallwey wrote “What is the real game? It is a game in which the heart is entertained, the game in which you are entertained. It is the game you will win.” One has to wonder if the Cubs experience entertainment from baseball. Maybe. Then again, their play screams maybe not. More importantly, how are your life experiences?

Third, lose yourself to the “zone.” For me, being a Buddhist meant I had to lose my edge. Intensifying concentration freed limitations and allows the spirit to soar. Soaring created a self-surpassing dimension of human experience recognized by the world, regardless of culture, gender, race, or nationality that promotes highly efficient performance, emotional buoyancy, heightened sense of mastery, lack of self-consciousness, and transcendence. Athletes phrase this as “being in the zone.” Coworkers call it “being in the flow.”

The Cubs misery reiterates that true success is not a one-time event. Winners in daily life do not require salaries of $700,000, yell at one another, or place personal absolution over others. Real winners find the required combination of personal commitment to succeed. This type of effort involves sustained discipline, practice, and energy output day after day, year after year.

As such, in your life are you in your own flow? Or are you simply going through the motions?

As I write, I remember the insightful words provided to my niece and nephew. “In the world of Twitter and blogs, almost everything you do can be tracked. In fact, you are tracked.” Yeah, of course there are methods that help anominity. Incognito web browsers, hidden VPN services, fake email addresses, hidden websites, etc., etc. Still at the end of the day, given the right amount of resources, some blind luck and time, writers, bloggers and others can be identified.

This past week, a CNN reporter used details of user’s Reddit account to crack his real-life identity. After CNN contacted the user using the blog name “HanAssholeSolo,” he became remorseful and published an apology on same site.

Two things of note. First, the apology,

“I am in no way this kind of person. I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction. I love and accept people of all walks of life. I would never support any kind of violence.”

Second, CNN stated they reserved the right to expose the blogger should the blogger begin reposting vile and hatred.

To the first, we really don’t know if this user actually accepts people from all walks of life. One can always present an outward appearance of love and harmony, yet it is in the shadows of life, where one is unseen, that demonstrates whether life is lived through principles of a higher calling. Are we to believe a principled man would write such vile? At the moment, it appears unverified.

To the second. CNN’s response drew swift condemnation as outright blackmail, in that withholding the user’s identity was a form of blackmail and thus led to further condemnation by various bloggers. Blogger “Weev” wrote that unless CNN staff personnel and reporters resign and denounce the network’s acts of blackmail, both CNN employees and family members are fair game. (Ironically, “Weev” fails to note his own use of blackmail.)

Moving forward, both CNN and the blogger missed an essential lesson. The “Butterfly Effect.” Had the first act (that of the blogger) not occurred, neither would have the second. Yet, just as referees misses flagging an act of unsportsmanlike conduct, the retaliatory offender almost always gets punished while the initiator remains relatively unchallenged. Accordingly, had CNN not responded sophomorically, the third act, CNN’s alleged complicity in potential blackmail and twitter condemnation would not have occurred.

So let’s propose an alternate view. In Buddhism, “ethics” or “morals” generally refer to three components of the eightfold path: “right speech,” “right action” (in which taking life is discouraged), and “right livelihood.” In essence, our actions and non-actions have consequences.

If the blogger had proposed his opposition to the news media in both right speech and right action, CNN would never be accused of blackmail. I agree that all Americans have the right to free speech, even assholes. Accordingly, the blogger has a right to free speech, but in American, does free speech require hidden identities, fake names, and insistence that one’s opinion is not reflective of overall character?

Criticism of both the news media and the government is an American right. However, that criticism should be performed in right speech and action. Political commentators fail to remember that both the government and news is neither completely wrong nor right. Both have positives and negatives.

Accordingly, the free speech we use should propel all people to a new level of honesty and integrity. And that my friends is what CNN and the blogger may have missed.

Family

In a seemingly quiet neighborhood, a feckless man used an assault rifle on unsuspecting Republican GOP colleagues practicing for a fundraiser. Congressman Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer and members of the Capitol police force were wounded. At least five were hospitalized, Scalise remains in critical condition.

In the wake, GOP Senators assisted one another with the injured as the attacker was gunned-down by police officers. They were, as Speaker Paul Ryan mentioned, “a family … brothers and sisters in the line of fire.” Ryan looked unto his political “family” and sought words of impartiality. Must have been a strangely uncommon moment for a “family” rife with anguish, pain, name calling and baseless bigotry. Still, Ryan repeated what many families of gun violence have had to endure – that the best we can do is offer prayers and thoughts.

Thoughts and prayers. That’s all we’ll ever do.

Like others, my own life will remain remarkably unheroic. My thoughts and prayers for shooting victims lived in moments – today as I watched live television, tonight as I’ll watch countless television hosts and political partisans come forth to sing kumbaya and tomorrow over a cup of coffee while reading news. Then poof! Thoughts and prayers slow to a drip and succumb to life’s impediments.

I’ll admit, I find it hard to relate to Ryan’s family? Am I suddenly “family” for simply having witnessed the resultant pain of a madman? Emotions are mixed. Even at this moment I fight to push away this legislative family, for they will likely doom millions through repealing any number of legislative issues? Still, some of this “family” are victims. As such, they need our comfort and love.

Of course, there are other families. They remain in the backdrop. Will the Sanders’ “family” of supporters become the new “deplorables?” And what of the Clinton supporter “family?” Will Clinton’s supporters forever denigrate Sanders’ supporters, not only for the election, but this act of violence? Will the Trump family renew the call to prohibit, racialize and demean? Or will we, for love of God, see even one day of peace?

Ryan told his “family” humanity will win the day. I have bad news. Humanity doesn’t. Many a man has shed much of their humanity eons ago. Me included. I’ve forgotten most of my real family. Having left Chicago at the age of 24, I buried an entire family of brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews in the archives of time. If I had been “family,” would I not have shown? For anything? I did’t have a good reason. There was no “good” cause. I was noted as “the no-show.” If at life’s end from a violent act, could I be reconciled for my own injustice by saying “My thoughts and prayers are with you?

Doubtful.

I wonder how long Ryan’s newly minted Congressional “family” will remain family.” As the sun dips below the horizon and rises Thursday, will Congress still be “family?” Will you still have your family? Will I have mine? For a variety of reasons, Buddhism does not seem to spew forth a tremendous wealth of family wisdom. So screw Buddhism. Let’s change that. Today and tomorrow, let’s learn to love. Deweaponize egos. Cast aside hatred and prejudices. Live in love. Abandon with simply “going through the motions.” Put in some effort. Forget anger. Forget skin. Forget brown, tan, white. Forget Irish, European, American, African or Asian. Just forget.

Live in real love. When nothing else is, Love is solid. And though it may give way and dump people into a basement of despair, true love remains dependable. So tomorrow, love your child. Love your neighbor. Love your family. No matter what illogical idiocy swarms about, let love flourish. Love every victim of violence.

And for god-sakes, love yourself.

In the past several weeks Stephen Colbert, Kathy Griffin, Rena Aslan and Bill Maher have wandered into a world where many have ventured, yet few survived. Maher and Colbert have survived. Griffin and Aslan did not. Hate filled speech by comedians and commentator alike appear to be more raw in recent times. Maybe it isn’t more raw as more reported. In a world filled with iPhones and Galaxy whatever, if you spew hatred, you’re likely to be recorded.

Colbert, Griffin, Aslan and Maher should have been fired. And each in their own way will live with the consequences. Do I personally believe Colbert, Griffin and Maher are racists? No. You wouldn’t know that from some of vitriolic words spewed from all sides of the issue. Yet, Americans’ collectively yawn to the broader issues political leaders undermine weekly.

For those that wade into stupidity, public indignation is often swift and severe. However, while that same public and news media endlessly debates such racist diatribe, real life issues are silently condoned. It is within the public squabbling that business elite and politicians alike hope the public remains fixated. And within that fixation, politicians barter American lives as policy decisions are made, deals are cut and riches made.

As the Trump-Comey fight lingered in media headlines, Americans who need the most help in affordable health care will get purged under the Obamacare replacement plan. As Americans were glued to Comey’s testimony on Capital Hill, GOP Senators moved the House GOP healthcare plan toward passage. Hiding details, GOP Senators were making backdoor deals to coerce wavering Senators. With little fanfare, public debate or protests, we silently condone our fate, waiting for the privileged few to determine the fate of millions. It’s a process which has been repeated for thousands of years. We naively think, “Well, this time it’s different.”

It’s not.

The least among us will be detrimentally impacted for decades. As Americans and individuals, we must speak for those who cannot. Yet publicly, and individually, we are more apt to take a hands-off approach, turn our head to the cold wind ahead and silently thank fate that we aren’t affected. Don’t have health care? “Sucks to be you.” Is your marriage experiencing significant turbulence? “Sucks to be you.” Out of a job. “Whew. Sucks to be you.” Are you hungry neighbor? “Sucks to be you.” Have a bad President? “It’s ok. He’s different.”

Yesterday a coworker stated he opened his company assigned email and found a rather short, four line email from Human Resources, stating he was being reclassified from full-time to hourly. “If you want to continue health care insurance, you’ll need to contribute $500.00 on a bi-weekly basis.” No phone call. No Human Resources conference. Just an email. “Sucks to be you.

As a whole, we’ve ditched decency and embraced apathy, racism and hatred as acceptable values. “It’s ok. It’s different,” we’re told. In spite of living in highly racialized times, Americans appear rather indifferent to many social issues, including killing of innocent African-American citizens by police, bigotry towards Latinos, and outright condemnation of Muslims.

The golden rule propounded by Buddha is that you do not do unto others what you do not want others to do to you. We must get back to those values. What’s happening now is not ok.

In a strange way, both the US House American Health Care Act vote and Emmanuel Macron’s French Presidential victory were about rejecting secularism and hatred. Both the US and France experienced moments where some factions of society tried to institutionalize separatism and division within borders. Where America accepted, France rejected.

The Washington Post noted, “Depending on your interpretation, President Trump either endorsed far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen or suggested that her stock was rising because of a pre-election terrorist attack in Paris.” In an Associated Press interview, Trump added, “She’s (Le Pen) the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France. Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders will do well in the election.”

Yet in the United States, the US House of Representatives voted for the American Health Care Act which, if it becomes law in its current form, will repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act, change the rules for subsidies, and make major cuts to the Medicaid program, which funds care for the poor and disabled. A whole lot of people will lose coverage.

Looking for a lesson? I find the following scene from the television show “Kung Fu” illuminating.

Looking into a pool of fish, Master Kan said to young Caine, “Look at the world you live in and this pool of fish. There are twelve fish, twelve worlds.”

“But only one pool.” Young Caine replied.

“Many. The one you see, the one I see, and the world of each. Ten million living things have as many worlds. Do not see yourself as the center of the universe, wise and good and beautiful. Seek, rather, wisdom, goodness, and beauty, that you may honor them everywhere.”

The history of own life and society ripple through us from generation to generation. Most of us are unaware of our own thoughts, attitudes and emotions; where those thoughts and emotions originated.  As American’s, as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and as citizens of the world, we need to work to recognize and transform fear and anger so such emotions do not dictate our life, our own inaction or own acceptance of injustice.

Desmond Tutu observed that in order to free the blacks from Apartheid, Mandela realized he had to free the whites from their fears – this kind of analysis and related strategy is necessary for all of us. In a similar way, Marcon stated the same.

The National Front, our main opponent, is attacking us on all sides. Never boo them. Fight them.”

In everything, do not see yourself as the center of the universe. Seek only that which honors people everywhere.

Ivanka and JaredThe growing impact of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in America’s governance is perplexing. Ivanka Trump has a clothing, shoe and handbag line in her name. Ivanka hosted the Miss Teen USA pageant and worked on the TV show, “Born Rich,” among others. But she has never held a public-service position, nor is she a scholar of politics, government or history. Kushner is an unelected person with absolutely no governmental experience.

This is the Trump identity. And the Trump identity will have profound impact upon America and American families, including how we find meaning, satisfaction, and support. I am surprised to see how much experience molded me. Accordingly, experiences have obviously molded the Trump family as well. Yet I cannot understand how the Trump world intertwines with real America.

Ivanka Trump’s 2009 self-help book, “The Trump Card,” is a good example of missing interconnectedness. The Trump Card opens with an implausibly:

In business, as in life, nothing is ever handed to you.” Ivanka quickly adds, “Yes, I’ve had the great good fortune to be born into a life of wealth and privilege, with a name to match,” she writes. “Yes, I’ve had every opportunity, every advantage. And yes, I’ve chosen to build my career on a foundation built by my father and grandfather.”

Still, she insists, she and her brothers didn’t attain their positions in their father’s company “by any kind of birthright or foregone conclusion.”

Right. Several pages later …

Did I have an edge, getting started in business? No question. But get over it. And read on.”

The essential element of the “Trump” identity is missing. I cannot name one Trump family member who professed and succeeded with a “can do attitude.” There’s not been one Trump family member ever discussing of having to work their way from the bottom up. Has Ivanka ever had to choose between eating and medicine, going to work or losing a day’s pay caring for a sick child? When the average American gets sick, we either have to heal ourselves, or more often than not, friends and colleagues guilt us by exclaiming we should not have gotten sick.

After nearly 100 days in office, it is clear the Trump identity will not support any of us. Prior to donating $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families, in the 15 years prior to the veterans’ gift, public records show that Trump donated about $2.8 million through a foundation set up to give his money away — less than a third of the pledged amount — and nothing since 2009. Records show Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008. Compare that to Bill and Melinda Gates who’ve donated $28 billion via their charitable foundation, more than $8 billion to improve global health.

One might claim that using Trump’s foundation was waterboarded during the campaign, that I’m crying over spilt milk. Yeah, the election is over. Got it. These thoughts are presented to neither bitch nor whine, but to reiterate how Trump’s lack of communal roots will impact our world.

Like it or not, America’s future is being crafted by two mid thirty-something adults. Just as the President himself, history will judge both Jared and Ivanka equally as responsible for selling the President’s agenda, including cuts to childhood education, health and safety enforcement; healthcare repeal; immigration isolation; elimination of funds for family planning and maternal and child health in more than 150 countries; and foreign policy.

It is unclear if the current Trump identity, as presented, will be successful for long-term growth. Accordingly, our sustainability defaults to the adults. America’s survival and ability to prosper is dependent upon the thousands of ordinary Americans, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, who can work to end partisanship while simultaneously forging connections in the community in which they reside.

The question is whether we’re up to the challenge.

MSNBC’s Brian Williams opened his Friday’s show with an interesting comment, “… both Trump and Ryan saved the Affordable Care Act.”  To be fair, Williams claimed the quote wasn’t original, that he acquired the verbiage from the Associated Press or another news media organization. Regardless, the statement was perfect.

Regardless of political view, there are many wonderful lessons for all project managers.

First failure was the lack of vision. All projects require vision and the Project Sponsor must be able to effectively communicate that project. Anti-Affordable Care Act (ACA) proponents had nearly seven years to prepare for and repeal the ACA. Estimates vary on the exact number of repeal efforts, but the current count is well over 60. So one would figure the American Health Care Act (TrumpCare) would have a solid foundation, with critical review and bipartisan support across both political and healthcare professions.

Unfortunately, TrumpCare was conceived in weeks, created from a high-level 6 page outline. TrumpCare was hidden, where one could neither read nor contribute to policy discussion. The White House failed to sell TrumpCare and Americans rejected the plan. Various news reports indicated the lead Project Sponsor (i.e.,the President and shelf promoted dealmaker) failed to break through Washington’s gridlock in his first major policy initiative. There was no education as to how TrumpCare was better than the ACA. In the end, not many thought it was better.

Second failure has to be project staff and advisors vacationing during project delivery. Prseident’s Trump’s key advisors, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were vacationing while TrumpCare flopped. I simply can’t fathom key leadership would allow their principle advisors to leave during implementation week. Of course one could speculate Kushner and Ivanka Trump knew TrumpCare was destined to die and said “Screw it babe! Let’s get outta Dodge.” If you’re part of management, you have to be present during both good and bad.

Third failure. Where was Ivanka Trump during TrumpCare’s development. In January, Ivanka Trump professed a wanton desire to push policies benefiting women and girls. Accordingly, she sought the advice of female executives and media stars and the transition team supposedly courted congressional staff on childcare policies. This was an area Ivanka urged President-elect Donald Trump to prioritize. However, did we read of any single contribution from Ms. Trump during TrumpCare’s formation? Did we hear Ms. Trump promoting the positive benefits of TrumpCare for the working poor, single mothers and children? Maybe Ivanka worked behind the scenes. Still, TrumpCare’s key components were never publicly promoted by either Ryan’s team nor the White House.

Fourth failure. Borrowing Stephen Covey’s second principle from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,”  it’s unclear if anyone began with the end in mind. Did they really understand 20+ million could lose health care as end? Accordingly, TrumpCare would have hit millions of Trump supporters the hardest. And who are those supporters? Older people. People in the west, Midwest, and Appalachia. Technically speaking, political projects are supposed to reward supporters and stick it to enemies — not the other way round.

So what’s the end result? What’s our takeaway?

As someone whose worked in healthcare industry for years, health care policy is extremely complicated. Politicians and project managers over simplifying complexities via grandiose vision fail. There’s always a significant gap between solution and implementation. How well the solution positively impacts your customers is dependent upon the planning. TrumpCare suffered from faulty planning.

Maybe America will benefit in the wake TrumpCare’s failure. Sure the ACA is flawed. Like everything, maintenance is critical. Hopefully leaders from all spectrum of health care will come together and add a little Obama, add smidgen of Ryan, a dab of professional ethics, the heart of clinicians everywhere and the will of all constituents and create something beautiful and wonderful.

We must begin with the end in mind.

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