The Power Of Change

David had blood on his hands and he knew it.

He had gotten his friend, Betty Van Patter, a job as a bookkeeper with the Black Panthers. Betty needed work. Although David had heard rumors that the Panthers were rough and violent, that did not dissuade him. He thought the rumors were just meant to discredit the organization; but he was wrong. The Black Panthers murdered Betty Van Patter over discoveries she made regarding the pilfering of funds by certain members of the Black Panther organization.

That murder took place in 1974. It turned David’s world upside down, causing him to rethink everything he had learned and in which he thought he believed. In the end, he discovered that had been driven by a flawed ideology and that ideology that got his friend killed. As a result, David went through a massive personal crisis and completely changed his life.

David Horowitz tells the complete story of his journey in the book “Radical Son.”

Horowitz re-examined all areas of his life. Raised and ideologically infused by his parents, two card carrying Communists, he had to undo his belief system and his sense of self that was tied to that ideology.  He forged a new identity in the Conservative Movement and became known as someone who had “been there” and truly saw the dark side of the Left’s ideology.  The changes he made cost him everything…his job, friends, reputation and all of his contacts. Even after he forged his new identity, his old enemies from the Conservative side looked at him with disdain. They did not believe that such a person could ever change their stripes.

Change is hard.

Not everyone goes through such cataclysmic change in their lives as did David Horowitz. However, each of us in our lives is confronted by change and, if up to the task, embraces it. In my own life, I have had to reinvent myself time and time again. When I was in college I ran a t-shirt company and produced a calendar for my university to help finance my studies.  After college, I spent  four years on active duty as a Marine Officer. I changed tracks again leaving the service and started trading commodities. That led me to brokering bonds followed by trading bonds. Now, full circle, I am again an entrepreneur

Each change required massive effort to learn new skills. Many times I was on my own in a new city or country with no contacts or resources. I had to figure it out all on my own.  In each of those endeavors I was, at first, a failure.

Along the way I learned Aikdio. It taught me the most valuable lesson of all. To get good at anything you first have to be really bad at it.  The only way to get good at Aikido, or anything new for that matter,  is to be able to endure how bad you are going to be in the beginning. I take that lesson everywhere in my life because I know it is part of a process. Most people are not open to being so vulnerable because there is no denying it can be embarrassing.

Even with my children, I notice at an early age that they are scared to try new things because they don’t want to be embarrassed. My youngest daughter plays on a club team and is considered to be quite talented for her age. The coach always likes to play her in only one position as it gives the team the best chance to win. I always battle with him and ask him to play her in a variety of positions because she still needs to learn much more about the game. The coach is always reluctant to play her in other spots because as he puts it “She just is not as good in other positions.” I agree with him. She isn’t as good in other positions. There’s the conundrum: in order to be good at another position you have to first let her be bad for a while. Many coaches nowadays specialize too much and focus too much on winning such that they lose sight of the bigger picture that all things in life take time to flourish.

If we only gravitate to what we are good at then we will never really know what we are capable of. In my own life, in my own small way, I challenge myself with the material I read. I usually have one book that I am reading that is easy and one that is hard so that the material requires real effort on my part. One of the books I finished in the last few years was called The Prize, which is a masterpiece that chronicles the history of oil. It was grueling to read! I was lucky to read ten pages a day. Yet, the book left me with a much deeper appreciation for the history of economics that I never would have had if I had not challenged myself. The result was that this incremental improvement in my understanding of the oil markets has opened up a new business opportunity for me.

So even within the confines of what we do know, there are deeper levels of understanding that one gets only by change and challenge. Frank Shamrock, the legendary fighter, say that his recipe for success is to train with someone better than you so that they can teach you, someone who is at your same skill level so that they can challenge you, and someone beneath you so that you can teach them. This recipe will always be challenging your abilities and changing the way that you fight.

William Pollard, Quaker writer and minister, said “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” Most of the change that I’ve encountered in my life was thrust upon me. However, as I get older, I actively seek out and explore new experiences that will challenge and cause me to grow.  The only real certainty in life is change so its best to embrace it rather than resist it.



An Easter Choice: Love or Fear?

There are no easy solutions to complex problems. Certainly not in times of rapid change.  There are, however, simple solutions that are not necessarily easy to apply.  Perhaps the greatest challenge we face in this moment of our culture’s evolution is that the problems we face are more complex than ever before in human history. This complexity is the result of technological advances which have exposed our undeniable interconnectedness to everyone and everything on the planet. The more interconnectedness there is the more complexity.  That’s the bad news.


The good news is that both humanity and the earth are inherently complex systems. In fact, they are complex adaptive systems. This means that 1) they are inherently complex by design and, 2) adaptability is a built-in characteristic of that complexity. Not only can they change, they are imbued with a process and a mechanism to facilitate change.

What, exactly, are the process and the mechanism?

The process is fixed. Change occurs whenever any single part of the whole system is altered internally or externally. Every action within a complex adaptive system automatically and naturally affects every other part. It’s where the saying comes from that “when a butterfly flaps its wings in Texas, wind patterns change in Tokyo.” If you’re standing near the butterfly you may never experience the wind change in Japan but it none-the-less will occur… no matter how infinitesimally small that change may be.  It’s also why, if you manage a department within a large corporation and make some changes to correct an inner-departmental problem, you can be assured that those changes will affect other departments that will have to adapt or they will eventually manifest their own reactionary problems. Simply put, any single part of a complex adaptive system cannot change without inevitable impact upon the system as a whole.

The process for change is organized chaos. A healthy process is in a continuous dance seeking an equilibrium that is never achieved because true equilibrium is a static state. Remember, the complex adaptive system we call humanity is designed for change, not stasis.

While the process for change is fixed the mechanism for change is not. How change is initiated among humanity is initiated by one of two triggers:  love or fear. Before looking at how this actually occurs, let’s set forth one overriding premise.

All positive emotions are a derivative of love. All negative emotions are a deravitive of fear.

It’s simply a matter of degree. Happiness, joy, gratitude, peacefulness for example, are derivatives of love. They flow from a state of endless possibility. To the contrary, anger, doubt, separation, stress and depression, for example, flow from a state of powerlessness.

Now that we understand that we are designed to change, provided with a process to change, and have a choice about the mechanism we use to trigger the process, we can each select, empower or disempower ourselves, by our choice of mechanism.

That you will change is undeniable and inevitable. How you will change is predetermined. But why you change is your choice to make. If you are frightened, worried, stressed, or feeling victimized it is likely that you will act from fear.  When acting from fear you initiate change that is fear-based. Fear based change is limited and leads to outcomes that are disempowering. Fear-based change by one is an act of desperation that affects the whole. Fear-based choice maintains deceit, disease and dysfuntion.

If, however, you are joyous, hopeful, or happy, for example, then choice is made within a construct of personal empowerment and is seen as endless possibility. Love-based people choose to honor their neighbor as themselves and by so doing optimize wholeness, unity and harmony. Love-based choice maintains the integrity and dance of organized chaos.

So, as we approach a critical choice in 2016 regarding the future of our country and our culture, ask yourself one simple question: “Am I choosing from love or fear?