Thursday, February 25, 2016

Product Self

An entrepreneur once asked a wealthy and established businessman, “How did you do it? How do you continue to increase your profits year after year? I spend hours each day wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to make money – and I can’t seem to do it.” 
The wise businessman gave the young man a very sage piece of advice. “It has never been and never will it be, my intention to make money,” he told him. “My intention has always been to make a better product.” When we shift the focus from how we can “get” to how we can share, success becomes inevitable. 
Our better product is ourselves.


by John Cheves and Bill Estep from the Lexington Herald Leader June 29, 2013
SASSAFRAS — Knott County protesters blocked bulldozers with their bodies in the 1960s, lying in mud to shut down strip mines for hours. Today, they go to court and tie up everything for years.
Environmental protection laws have grown more powerful, much like the machines used to dismantle mountains, in the half-century since coal operators brought surface mining to southeastern Kentucky.
Now coal cannot legally be ripped from the earth until neighbors are warned about blasting, creeks are tested for existing pollution, post-mining reclamation plans are filed and permits are approved by the state and federal governments.
That's how James River Coal Co. of Richmond, Va., with more than $1 billion in annual sales, found itself thwarted in Knott County by elementary school teacher Pam Maggard and a handful of other activists.
James River Coal announced in 2007 that it wanted to surface-mine 869 acres of mountain on the Knott-Perry county line, just north of the towns of Vicco and Sassafras. The company planned to build six slurry ponds around the site to hold coal sediment waste. It would dump the "overburden" — soil and rocks that it would remove — into six "valley fills," burying 4.2 miles of streams, including Stacy Branch of Carr Creek and Sugar Branch of Yellow Creek, requiring them to be rechannelled.
These small roadside streams make their way into the North Fork of the Kentucky River, which combines with the Middle and South forks to form the Kentucky River itself. A couple hundred miles downstream, this is the drinking water supply for the city of Lexington.
The Sierra Club objected on environmental grounds to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that approves surface-mining permits. The group cited heavy metals and toxic chemicals likely to be released by mine runoff. The Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces the Clean Water Act, then raised its own "significant concerns." The EPA warned the Corps that the proposed mine could worsen water quality in streams already damaged by past mining.
James River Coal sent its engineers back to the drawing board. It returned in 2011 with somewhat reduced plans to mine 756 acres and bury 3.5 miles of streams, using one larger valley fill and one larger slurry pond. It also offered to mitigate the destruction in Knott County with restoration work on damaged streams in Wolfe County and $752,047 in payments to the state for additional repairs to Eastern Kentucky waterways.
This time, the Corps approved the company's permit.
On May 11, 2011, Maggard came home to find a form letter from James River Coal taped to her front door in Sassafras. The letter explained that explosions would rock the mountain 1.1 miles north of where she stood, "sunrise to sunset, Sunday through Saturday." It gave a corporate phone number to call for more information. Maggard called several times and left recorded messages. Nobody returned her calls.
In October 2012, Maggard and two others who live in the area, along with the Sierra Club andKentuckians for the Commonwealth, sued the Corps in U.S. District Court to block the company's permit. They said the Corps failed to consider an emerging body of evidence indicating that people who live near major surface-mining operations are more likely to suffer from cancer, heart disease, birth defects and other serious health problems.
"Coal is not a good neighbor," Maggard, 54, said in a recent interview. "Nobody is rich in my school district. Nobody lives in a fancy house. Eighty (percent) to 90 percent of the kids are on free or reduced lunch. Given the rich resources we're surrounded by, our children should be doing so much better than they are. But the wealth is just taken away. We're left with the mess."
Fifty years ago, Whitesburg lawyer Harry Caudill expressed the same sentiment in his landmark book Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area.
"Approximately 75 percent of the plateau's output is produced by a relative handful of large corporations," Caudill wrote. "These giants of the industry are, in most instances, 'foreign' corporations chartered in other states. Nearly all their stockholders live outside the plateau. This absentee ownership of the operating companies promptly drains some three-quarters of the production profits out of the area."
Today, lawyers in the James River Coal case communicate through a flurry of motions to Senior Judge Thomas Russell.
"The Corps' failure to consider the potential health impacts of the mine is particularly puzzling," the plaintiffs said in a January filing.
"The Corps is not obligated to consider the possible health effects that the entire mining project might have on the surrounding community," the Corps replied in February.
Meanwhile, James River Coal, which did not return calls seeking comment for this story, awaits a resolution that might not come for years. Whichever side loses at this level can take its case to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. And the EPA might choose to weigh in again.
Armed with modern laws, citizens have filed dozens of legal and regulatory challenges like the oneJames River Coal faces, sometimes reducing the size of a mine, forcing more extensive cleanup or even exposing wrongdoing. The Kentucky Coal Association took note of these tactics last year, producing a report for its members that it called Know Thy Enemy: An Update on the Sierra Club.
"The Sierra Club is attacking both coal supply and coal demand. With respect to coal supply, the Sierra Club has turned its resources on filing legal challenges against mining companies," the coal association wrote. It listed several lawsuits that environmentalists have filed in Central Appalachia since 2010 that resulted in court-ordered pollution cleanup, sometimes costing coal companies millions of dollars.
"Our biggest wins come in the courtroom," said Ted Withrow, a retired state Division of Water official in Eastern Kentucky who helps oversee litigation at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a grass-roots social-justice group.
"Direct action tends to bring more attention to you. But the lasting impact comes from the courtroom," Withrow said. "That's where you set precedent and change the law. And changing the law means you're changing people's behavior."

'What do we do?'

Maggard's family has been torn over coal for generations.
Her father-in-law was a radical strip-mine opponent who fired a rifle at coal operators to chase them away from his friends' homes. Her father went underground to dig for South East Coal Co.
Knott County's transformation from an agricultural community before World War II to a mining stronghold caused great unease and, for a time, passionate direct-action protests. In 1978,University of Kentucky researchers working for the EPAconducted interviews about surface mining across a six-county region that included Knott.
"These people have a very strong perception that surface mining is causing irreversible damage to the mountain environment," the researchers told the EPA in their report. "However, it is apparent that many respondents feel a deep sense of helplessness due to their economic dependence on an industry of whose negative impacts they are very conscious."
Maggard said she doesn't hold a knee-jerk opposition to coal, but the sheer destructive power of surface mining disturbs her. You can't build a healthy local economy on wrecking the environment, she said recently.
"The public relations people for the coal industry have everyone driving around with this bumper sticker that says, 'Don't like coal? Don't use electricity,'" Maggard said. "I want one that says, 'Don't like trees? Don't breathe oxygen.'"
Maggard said her grandparents were forced to abandon their home in the 1970s because blasting from a nearby strip mine shattered its windows, knocked it off its foundation and sent boulders crashing down the mountain.
"The sad thing is, they were elderly when they had to move," she said. "My grandfather used to go back to their old home and camp out there because he just couldn't bear to be gone. They had to keep going back for him." Maggard joined Kentuckians for the Commonwealth in 2006 in response to massive coal trucks barrelling down her narrow street, using it as a shortcut between state highways. The trucks kicked up thick, choking dust clouds, forced children indoors and destroyed sidewalks and water lines that ran parallel to the road.
KFTC taught Maggard's neighborhood how to organize as a collective to demand justice. This sounded good on paper. In reality, after months of lobbying coal companies and local and state officials, the neighbors were given a "Children at play" sign and occasional street sweeping. Nothing stopped the trucks until the coal industry hit its next slump, at which point the trucks mostly disappeared, she said.
When Maggard learned about James River Coal's plans to strip-mine above her home, with explosions, valley fills and slurry ponds, she decided to join forces with KFTC again. Maggard said her in-laws remember when that same site was mined in the 1960s and '70s, and "rivers of mud poured down the mountain and through everyone's yards."

The Wisdom of Harry Caudill

"Coal has always cursed the land in which it lies...It mars but never beautifies. It corrupts but never purifies."--Night Comes to the Cumberlands, Harry Monroe Caudill 1963

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

7 Things...

Credit: Marcandangel
About 15 years ago, I had an intervention with myself.  I sat down at the local library on a Saturday morning and read through hundreds of archived entries in my journal.  Specifically, I was looking for all the unfulfilled goals and visions for the future that I had jotted down over the years.  And it didn’t take long before I realized that the entire course my life had taken up to that point had been the product of other people’s opinions and decisions.  Every day I was just going through the motions, and doing what I was “supposed” to do, instead of what was right for ME.
Fast forward to today, and as I awoke this morning, I marveled at my life.  Where once I woke with dread at the thought of a new day, now I wake with excitement to begin – grateful to be doing what I’m doing with my life.  I’m so happy I did what I had to do, and struggled through the tough times and fears, and realigned my life with the activities and ideals that make me feel alive.
I tell you this because I know life can get pretty crazy at times.  Sometimes it gets so busy that we forget how important it is to actually listen to ourselves, instead of others.  But I’m happy to tell you that things can change if you want them to, at any age.
Just as I’ve turned things around for myself, I know hundreds of other people who have done the same.  Through a decade of life, relationship, and small business coaching, I’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages – 48-year olds starting families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth.
How did we do it?  We insisted upon making changes, and we followed through.
Above all, what you need to remember is happiness is dependent upon ourselves, and there are some things in life you have to insist on doing, no matter what others say about it.  For instance, you have to…
1. Insist on making your life your own. – Most of us are not raised to actively seek our calling.  We may not even know that we have one.  As kids, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone.  Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others – that we should find our happiness exactly as they have found theirs.  Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are trained to ask others for permission.  We are, in effect, schooled to live other people’s versions of our lives.  Every day is designed and developed as told to us by someone else!  And then one day when we break free to survey our dreams, seeking to fulfill ourselves, we see that most of our dreams have gone unfulfilled because we believed, and those around us believed, that what we wanted for ourselves was somehow beyond our reach.  It’s time to unlearn these lies and make changes.  It takes courage to grow wiser and become who you really are.  And today is the first day of the rest of your life.
2. Insist on subtracting what doesn’t belong in your life. – There’s so much you can let go of in life without losing a thing.  It’s called growth.  Letting go of the old makes way for the new.   Letting go of what isn’t working makes way for what will.  When the pain of holding on is worse than the pain of letting go, it’s time to let go and grow.  In other words, start subtracting… the habits, routines and circumstances that are holding you back.  You cannot discover new oceans unless you build up enough courage to lose sight of the old, familiar shoreline.  Be brave.  Follow your values.  Make changes.  Dare to be different.  And don’t be afraid to like it.
3. Insist on making passion a priority. – Purpose is the reason you journey.  Passion is the fire that lights your way.  Without passion, it’s impossible to progress.  The heart of human excellence begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning.   Some resist this fact and think passion is just fluff.  Well that’s nonsense!  Honestly, the saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t have a deep passion about anything at all.  Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there’s nothing meaningful behind it to make it last.  So remember, if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.  Only passions – great passions – can elevate the soul to great heights.  If there was ever a moment to follow your heart and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
4. Insist on working hard for what you want most. – Sometimes you’ve got to create what you want to be a part of from the ground up – you’ve got to work harder than ever before to get more than you ever dreamed of.  Be a dreamer.  Be a doer.  Know what is truly important to you and why.  Then act on it with all your might.  Dreams don’t just magically become realities; it takes a lot of determination, sweat, and hard work.  And remember, tough circumstances don’t last; tough people do.  Most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds to march boldly through them.  If you have a strong commitment to your goals and dreams, and wake up every morning with a burning passion to work toward them, anything is possible.  So dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself.  Go forward and make your dreams a working reality.
5. Insist on saying what you need to say. – Dr. Seuss once said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”  There’s a lot of truth in that statement.  Be cordial and reasonable, of course, but don’t tread carefully on every word you say.  Push your concerns of what others might think aside and say what you need to say.  Let the consequences of doing so unravel naturally.  What you’ll find is that most of the time no one will be offended or irritated at all.  And if they do get upset, it’s likely only because you’ve brought something important to their attention that forces them to think differently.  Bottom line: When you don’t speak up, there’s a lot of important stuff that never gets said.  And in the end, there’s no greater sadness than holding on to the words you never had the courage to speak.
6. Insist on leaving other people’s judgmental opinions alone. – When I first started writing on this blog, I’d agonize over whether people would think what I was writing was good enough.  I desperately hoped they’d like it, and oftentimes I’d catch myself imagining they didn’t.  Then one day I realized how much energy I was wasting worrying about it.  So I’ve gradually learned to relax with simply not knowing.  Some problems in life, such as not knowing what others think of you, are not really meant to be resolved.  How people perceive you may have more to do with them than you anyway.  They may even like or dislike you simply because you’ve triggered an association in their minds by reminding them of someone they liked or disliked from their past, which has absolutely nothing to do with you.  So here’s a new mantra for you – say it, and then say it again: “This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons.  As long as I’m not hurting people, I need not worry what they think of me.”
7. Insist on being as weird as you are. – It’s human nature to attempt to mimic other humans we look up to – perhaps a parental figure or a celebrity – especially when we are feeling insecure in our own skin.  But attempting to be someone else will always leave us feeling empty inside.  Why?  Because what we appreciate about the people we admire is their individuality – the qualities that make them unique.  To really copy them, we need to develop our own individuality, and in that way, we would actually be less like them and more like our true selves.  We all have quirks and a weirdness about us.  The more relaxed you become with your own differences, the more comfortable you will start to feel just being YOU.  Celebrate being different, off the beaten path, a little on the weird side… your own special creation.  If you find yourself feeling like a fish out of water, by all means find a new river to swim in.  But DO NOT change who you are; BE who you are.


Most of our problems in life are because of two reasons: 1. We act without thinking.
             2. We think without acting.

Air America USArmy(RA) Somewhere Overseas...circa 1975

Monday, February 22, 2016

What You Really Want

In the pursuit of a better life, it helps to be clear on what you want more of – and what you want less of! For example, it’s as important to know that you want more money, a healthier body, or better relationships, as it is to know that you don’t want any more panic attacks, depression, or partners who are emotionally unavailable.To create the life you want, know what you really want out of it. 

Not all who wander are lost

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