Because then you would actually have to be good

People object to wearing nametags for a variety of reasons.

They feel silly, they want their privacy, it clashes with their clothes, their hair gets caught in it, it offends their obsessive compulsive tendencies, or they simply don’t want strangers using their name in public.

My favorite objection came from a cowboy who once approached me on an airport shuttle years ago.

He moseyed up and asked what the story behind the sticker was. And after giving my spiel, he responded with a smile and a wink and said:

I’d never want to wear a nametag every day, because then I’d actually have to be good.

That’s the kind of moment that makes me want to testify before congress. If we could get a law passed that required all citizens to wear nametags, the crime rate would probably plummet.

Because now there would be no temptation for us to act from a position of anonymity. Nametags would paint people into accountable corners and limit them to only practicing honorable action.

The healthcare industry is actually way ahead of us on this front. Years ago, the state legislature passed something called the badge law. It requires health care practitioners to wear nametags during their shifts. The law reads that when providing care to a patient, the nametag must display in readily visible type the individual’s name and the license, certification, or registration held by that practitioner.

Violation of this section is a ground for disciplinary action against the health care practitioner by the practitioner’s licensing board or other regulatory authority.

The purpose, the law says, is to protect the rights of those being cared for. All patients and their family members have the right to know the name and status of the person providing their care. This ultimately helps their medical concerns to be taken seriously and addressed.

The beauty of this badge law is, it creates accountability through attribution. By directly tying professional actions to personal identity, workers ultimately make better decisions.

Because with the nametag, they’re on the hook.

Whereas some anonymous cog in the corporate machine might be more prone to negligent behavior.

What’s your objection to wearing a nametag? 

Marking the upward surge of mankind

Savvy investors know that financial markets are driven by two powerful emotions, fear and greed.

Fear is the response to threat, and greed is the response to opportunity. Fear seeks to preserve an asset, and greed seeks to expand it. Fascinating economics.

But forgetting about the stock market for a moment, consider how these two emotional states apply to the individual.

Think about how fear and greed affect the marketplace of one.

In my experience, there is a direct relationship between the quality of life and the freedom to make choices that are not based on fear. Once a person gets to the point where they’re not always preserving the self, responding to threats, anticipating dangers, preventing loss, avoiding inconvenience and scoping out the competition, it’s amazing how much time and energy are left to focus on real growth.

On the other hand, imagine somebody who is trapped in a fear state. She would love to take intellectual risks and be more creative and try innovative projects and open her heart to love again, but her daily life is shrouded in anticipation and awareness of danger.

In fact, so scared of further losses, she typically throws her most imaginative plans out the window.

Can’t dream right now, working. Must solely resolve the economic problem of livelihood.

This attitude is very common, completely understandable and quite useful. Fear is fuel. Humans have developed the ability to feel fear because it’s evolutionarily advantageous. And not surprisingly, the majority of the world doesn’t have the luxury of living any other way.

However, if we are so blessed, there comes a point in our journey where we make the transition from fear to greed.

Now, don’t get your prayer beads in a bunch. We’re not talking about anything sinful or illegal or unhealthy here. Because sometimes greed simply means responding to opportunity intensely and quickly. Sometimes greed simply means expanding our assets and taking care of ourselves without guilt or blame.

Is that such a moral trespass?

This concept will be hard for many people to grasp, considering all the religious baggage around greed as the inherently sinful act that underlines all other sins.

But let’s go back to the stock market for a minute. The financial industry built something called the fear and greed index. It’s based on the premise that excessive fear can result in stocks trading well below their intrinsic values.

You might want to read that definition once again. Because it’s exactly what happens to human beings when they get trapped in fear. We trade below our intrinsic value.

Gekko’s famous speech outlined that greed was good. He said that greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

Sounds like a winning stock to me.

Perhaps greed is our ticket to moving from dealing with change to creating it.

How would your life be different if your decisions weren’t made out of fear?

We don’t lose bonding, we throw it away

The tricky thing with workaholics is, most of them are talented, successful, intelligent, inspiring and ambitious.

And that’s why it’s so easy for other people to overlook their fundamental flaw.

They do not form healthy bonds with others.

It’s simply not a priority in their lives. Work is the perfect way to keep them away from any real closeness with another human being.

Think about any workaholic you’ve ever known. You probably had to arrange your schedules around their work, right? Meanwhile, you were resented for even asking that person to stop what they were doing to spend time with you.

Even in rare event that they were having dinner or watching the school play or just sitting around doing nothing with you, they were only there physically. A distant husk of their true self. Most of the time they were either thinking about work, talking about work, or using some device to do work while feigning attention on what was right in front of them.

It’s a sobering reminder to workaholics and civilians alike that we don’t lose bonding, we throw it away. That’s a choice we make. If we find ourselves alienated from the connections that nurture, medicated against the possibility of human closeness, nobody did that to us.

We wanted it that way. Which is terribly sad, because the world doesn’t need more bestselling widgets, it needs more healthy intimacy.

What’s missing is not another piece of innovative technology that will convince people to click on advertisements, but the emotional ability to tolerate closeness.

Blanton wrote in his bestselling book about radical honesty that when we are most aware of relating to another being, we are most in touch with god. He writes that the divine is the collective involuntary nervous systems of people. The ineffable experience of awareness of being related to another.

No wonder human bonding is so damn terrifying.

Through our closeness to someone, we might be confronted by a new awareness of ourselves, or even an awareness of something much larger than ourselves.

If it keeps you numb to the possibilities for love that may exist, if it keeps you away from any real closeness with another human being, it’s probably an addiction. 

How do you medicate your fears of healthy intimacy?

Giving the priceless gift of security

Approachability reduces the distance between people.

The word derives from the term apropriare, which means to come nearer to.

In our increasingly disconnected world, we should be taking it wherever we can get it.

That’s why nametags are so useful.

When you don’t know someone’s name, you might be hesitant to interact with them. And if you don’t interact with them, you might never get to know them. And then you both lose.

But when both people are willing to stick themselves out there, taking the simple but significant social risk of transparency and accountability, then the dynamic changes.

Walmart pioneered the retail nametag. Years ago, when they only had a few stores in a few southern states, their founder sought that very sense of approachability for his company. He famously said that he wanted his customers to get to know the people they bought from. Because he knew it was his associates who made the real difference for the organization.

That was the great edge that his company had. Not just the products, but the people behind them.

As legend has it, he reached out to a local badge manufacturer and asked if they could produce custom tags for his team members. Walton even requested the red, white and blue design to personify his patriotism. And over sixty years later, those badges have now become iconic.

How approachable is your company? Is the purpose of your nametags to enable customers to tattle on employees when they don’t give good service, or to provide customers with the priceless gift of security by letting them know who they’re buying from?

My theory is, the purpose of employee nametags is to help you become better friends with customers so better service happens naturally.

Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds joy. People treat their friends better than they treat strangers, so doesn’t it make sense to just not be strangers anymore?

Look, the world isn’t getting any smaller anytime soon. May as well reduce the distance between each other while we can.

Just not less than six feet.

What’s your nametag?

They might as well have protested at the dust

If people put half the energy of their protests into actually taking care of themselves, then there would be a disproportionate rise in our collective happiness.

It’s simple math. Basic energy economics. When we strain ourselves for something that is a waste of our life and energy, nobody wins.

When we invest our time and attention flooding our minds with outrage porn, patting ourselves on the back for being offended and congratulating each other on how upset we are, nobody wins.

However, when we shift our focus from the quantity of our complaining to the quality of our creating, everything changes.

Castaneda, the distinguished anthropologist and author, explained that we can either make ourselves miserable, or we can make ourselves strong, but the amount of work is the same.

His words are invitation for each of us to take responsibility for the energy we bring to the world. Because regardless of what kind of energy it is, there are numerous ways to channel it that are healthy and unhealthy, productive and wasteful, joyful and disappointing.

It’s a choice. Maybe the biggest one we make.

My former coworker used to complain on an hourly basis about how bogged down she was with her role at our company. She never shut up about how there was too much work, too little time and not enough money to do her job.

Meanwhile, the rest of us in the office thought, um, yeah, welcome to startup life. You’re not special.

Imagine if she reinvested that energy into launching new internal team projects? Imagine if she alchemized that anger into initiating new business partnerships? Imagine if she stopped weighing herself down trying to protest reality and started attending to what she could actually change with our customers?

Maybe she wouldn’t have been laid off a year later.

Schwartz said it best in his book about the power of full engagement:

Use as little conscious energy as possible where it is not absolutely necessary, and leave yourself free to strategically focus the energy available to you in creative and enriching ways.

Simple math. Basic energy economics.

If you find yourself wearing the ravaged face of human protest, remember this.

Creating hell and creating heaven require the same amount of effort.

May as well put that energy to good use.

Isn’t there a part of you that wants deliverance from this problem?

Hurl me into the beating heart of humanity

During a recent standup show, one of the comedians made a fascinating point about money.

He was complaining about the bus and fantasizing about the day when he would never have to take public transportation again. His punchline was, being rich means you don’t have to deal with people if you don’t want to.

Which kind of makes sense. The dominant benefit of riding the bus or the subway is savings. People spend time to save money.

But when you’re filthy rich, it’s the other way around. You spend money to save time. Which means you probably favor black cars and private drivers. And the only person you interact with is your chauffeur.

Sounds lonely as hell to me.

In my opinion, the comedian’s point is less about an abundance of commerce and more about a lack of connection. He reminds us that can’t survive this life alone. Even if we could, we wouldn’t want to.

Turkel was right when she said that loneliness was the most common ailment of the modern world. But the real punchline is, loneliness is also the most curable ailment of the modern world. And the joke is on us.

Because we are the ones who perpetuate our own disconnection. We are the ones who forget that that we live in a world with other people.

Sounds like my first two years of college. Spent way too much time watching sitcoms and far too little time interacting with other humans. In fact, my original motivation for wearing a nametag came from a place of loneliness. There was a deep hunger for simple contact with people and the everyday experience of feeling connected, alive and part of something larger than myself.

Interestingly enough, twenty years later, my nametag still snaps me out of my feelings of isolation on a daily basis. Which can be jarring at times. Especially while on, you guessed it, public transportation.

I remember last year a fellow commuter interrupted my daily subway karaoke ritual to ask me about my memory problem. What the hell?

And yet, that kind of interaction has never really gotten old. Not even after all these years. Nametags keep my life surprising, connected and textured. They hurl me into the beating heart of humanity, irrespective of mood.

Now, you may be wondering to yourself, good lord, how lonely is this guy that even a joke about a nametag brightens up his day?

Hey, we all do what we need to do to stay sane.

Millions of dollars won’t keep us from feeling unsatisfied with a life of estrangement and isolation. 

How are you catalyzing your disconnection?

We got a guy for that

Years ago, a producer from the biggest morning show in the country sent me an email.

She was shooting a segment about wearing nametags, and seeking an expert to offer commentary on the topic. Initially, nobody came to mind. And since she was on deadline, they almost abandoned the piece.

But then the producer did some quick googling on the phrase nametag expert, and only one person came up. Yours truly. Which made for a pretty straightforward negotiation.

In the end, the segment went live the next week with great fanfare.

Looking back, the experience felt like the human version of the annoying but truthful technology cliché, there’s an app for that.

Somebody thinks to themselves, okay, we have this very specific problem, but in this amazing world that we live in, there is an accessible solution.

Seinfeld would say something like, yeah, we got a guy for that.

This transaction is a simple but profound lesson in brand equity. Whether you’re a person, a smartphone app, or an organization, each of these questions point to the same thing.

What are you known for? What are you known for knowing? What are you known as? What is everybody always asking you about?

Gitomer calls this value attraction. Weiss calls this market gravity. Godin calls this word ownership.

My name for it is approachability.

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, it matters that people call. And that you’re ready to answer.

Which, by the way, may not be for another decade.

That’s the part nobody talks about. The one that requires patience and continuity and resilience.

Because it will probably be a long time before what you’re known for finally catches on.

Question is, how long are you willing to do it before the right people notice?

Hopefully you’ll still be around when the world is finally ready for you. 

What is the thing that happens every time somebody touches your brand?

He loved cigarettes, but he loved her more

Love is the greatest performance improvement strategy on the planet.

It’s an emotional forcing function and the ultimate behavior shaping constraint. Under the influence of love, we positively redirect our actions through the conscious consideration of another person.

Because they see the good in us, and that inspires us to let that goodness grow.

A coworker of mine used to be a smoker. Like most addicts, he knew it was terrible for his health, and he did it anyway. But once he met the woman who stole his heart and softened it like a meat tenderizer, he quit smoking cold turkey.

Which is surprising, considering smoking is basically the most addictive habit known to mankind.

And yet, one day, he just stopped. Jason said it came down to simple math.

He loved cigarettes, but he loved her more.

Period, amen, end of story.

This is the relentless potency of love. It opens us to the necessity of finding beauty elsewhere. Contrary to popular conditioning, love is not about lowering our standards, surrendering our needs, giving up our integrity, compromising our values or losing our identity.

Those are all contractions. Love is an expansion.

Love makes us want to be the best and highest version of ourselves. Love is the one thing that gives us permission to be more of who we are, but also gives us motivation to be less of who we don’t want to be.

Think of it this way.

When your sweetheart travels out of town for the weekend, how does your behavior change? Do you wake up early, go to the gym, cook fresh vegetables, meditate twice a day and go volunteer at the local soup kitchen?

Or do you sleep until noon, avoid the dishes, abuse electricity and then eat like a teenager and binge watch four seasons of an awful reality show until you fall asleep with a pile of laundry on the bed?

The verdict is in.

Love is the tide that raises all boats.

By virtue of making us care more about some other person, we can’t help but care more about ourselves.

How can you help yourself choose love instead?

Chasing your little parcel of immortality

Historically, men have been particularly infatuated with the idea of legacy.

Which makes sense, since our primitive instinct and biological imperative is to reproduce. To spread our seed and make our mark and leave behind a part of ourselves.

That’s the fundamental premise of human evolution, right? It’s not about quality of life, but quantity of its replication.

But let’s get real for a minute.

Isn’t legacy just another word for ego? Isn’t it just a futile attempt to cast an anchor of permanence in a bottomless ocean of change? And isn’t this whole idea of legacy just another an archaic, narcissistic, macho narrative that men are too terrified and insecure to let go of?

Fact is, we’re all mortal beings who get one turn on this speeding mud ball, and not one of us will live beyond this planet. Why put so much pressure on ourselves trying to immortalize our identity along the way?

My theory is, the more we accept this inevitability and reality of death, the less motivated we will feel to obsess over our precious legacy, and the more we can just get on with being alive, right now.

Computer scientists actually use the term legacy in a slightly different context. They talk about legacy systems, which are old technologies and programs that are out of date or in need of replacement.

Bisbal conducted the premiere case study on the topic, proving that legacy systems are considered to be potentially problematic by many software engineers for several reasons. The cost is too high, the maintenance is too labor intensive, the operating systems are too vulnerable, the technology is too complicated to integrate.

What is your infatuation with your own legacy costing you?

Does your obsession about what people will say at your funeral sap your joy in this moment?

Are you so busy planning and protecting your reputation in the future that you have a dysfunctional relationship with the present?

That’s why men are afraid to call legacy on bullshit.

Because we’re afraid of not being men. 

Are you still chasing your little parcel of immortality, or accepting the reality that nothing lasts?

Staggering under the trance of delight

Joy is a skill. It’s a daily practice. It may be free and ubiquitous, but it does require some emotional effort.

It requires faith, the core belief that the things we love are legitimately good and worthy of our appreciation.

Maisel writes in his groundbreaking book about rethinking depression how there are familial, cultural, and religious injunctions against enjoying pleasure.

We have come to think that joy is too low a thing to honor, writes. And as a result, there are too many of us who reject joy as a significant meaning opportunity.

It saddens me. Joy is one of the rare things in this world that is literally a return with no investment. It’s ours for the taking, anytime we want, forever. What’s not to like?

Personally, joy has become a primary currency of value for me. It’s my unit of measurement. The sacred economy between myself and the world. My relationship with joy is stubborn and territorial in the best way possible.

Hell, if something brings me joy, and it’s not hurting someone else, then you better believe that thing will be pursued and experienced and expressed and appreciated.

If that sounds selfish, you’re right. That’s the point. Joy is the engine of wellbeing and self care. It’s a physiological imperative. And unlike most things in this chaotic and meaningless world, joy is something over which we can actually have agency.

Something we can create from whole cloth, from inside out, from the ground up. Thank god.

Gilbert, the great poet, said it best:

We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.

And so, joy requires patience, meaning taking considerable time to learn what our emotional currency actually is. It requires resilience, since we need to take sufficient time to explore our own sense of delight.

It demands humility, as joy is a substantive encounter of something much bigger than us. It suggests negotiation, since each of us must evaluate joy’s proper place in the economy of our life.

Indeed, the ruthless furnace of the world doesn’t stand a chance. 

Do you find delight where few would dare to look?

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