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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Peering Into the Void - Where Religion and Science Meet

People of extreme faith – the kind that believe their religious texts are 100% accurate and that science is a secret ploy by the devil to corrupt mankind – feel like they know something the rest of us don’t.  After all, God’s Word is absolute.  These folk (found in all the world’s major religions) feel they are unassailable in their faith and, essentially, look down on those who don’t share their ideology.  The facts must be understood through the lens of faith to be understood at all.  Those that challenge their beliefs are threats to be contested.
The intelligencia – those who easily connect dots, have a breath of knowledge about science and theories and seek logical, verifiable explanations for natural phenomenon – feel that they have the answers to the physical questions of the world.  After all, there’s nothing else beyond science.  Meaning is irrelevant.  Those who fail to grasp their facts are harmful to society and themselves and must be challenged. 
Both groups stigmatize each other as ignorant of reality.  Both are as right as they are wrong.  They are both looking through a lens, darkly, not realizing that the lens is actually a mirror.
There is nothing but the natural world.  We don’t fully understand this system; we realize it’s something cosmically infinite that we simply don’t have the computational power to fully comprehend (yet).  But, we know we’re a part of it, just as individual cells are a part of our own anatomy.  We continually seek further answers, looking for a Theory of Everything that provides a clear, simple explanation for existence at the macro and mirco levels.  In short, science is looking for meaning, even while telling themselves meaning doesn’t matter.
There is nothing but God – an unfathomable entity of which we are part.  There is a reason certain religious concepts, like The Tree of Life and The Golden Rule, are universal; they make sense in terms of conceptualizing reality and maximizing the evolutionary benefit of social systems.  Just as there’s nothing mystical about gravity, it should come as no surprise that like minds would produce like interpretations.  Great religious leaders have a tendency to speak in parables – metaphors provide easier access points to often complex concepts.  As metaphors for the development of self-awareness,  Adam and Eve share much in common with Prometheus.
The search for meaning is encoded into our DNA; our very genetic makeup and the nature of biological/social evolution serve as their own force of gravity, pulling us together towards a shared centre.
It’s a journey we can try to resist, but will never escape.  Wherever we come from, we all end up in the same place.
Is it not better to be conscious of the journey?

Friday 20 April 2012

There's No Going Back: From Ignorance to Understanding

Barrack Hussein Obama, the President of the United States, is a thoughtful man.  He's articulate, considerate and confident - not in an arrogant, ignorant way, but because he knows how to understand and accepts there is much he still has to learn.

Had he been born even ten years earlier, would his successes have been possible?  The angry, vocal masses would have been significant enough to quash any such dream.  They aren't, now.  What if Stephen Hawking had been born ten years earlier, before technology existed to allow his genius expression?  Just think what dreams will be unlocked for children being born today, all across the world.

Then think about all the potential that wasn't harnessed in the past because society just wasn't there yet.  Note the trajectory.

Yes, there is far too much hatred and ignorance out in the world - it's enough to make anyone doubt.  Taken in the context of history, however, you can see that things are better today than they have ever been before.  It's a trend that will continue, with decreasing blips of tension - like the one we're experiencing now.

I could explain to you why I think this is.  I could make a compelling case on the genetic, behavioural and anthropological level why I see a cohesive, networked society of specialized collaboration in our future.  However, there's nothing I could say that would be fundamentally new.

Pandora's Box.


The Philosopher's Stone.

The Tree of Life.

It's a puzzle that every generation figures out the next piece for, a machine being built one gear at a time.  We all come from different beginnings, but we're all heading to the same place; urbanity, diversity, collaboration, understanding.

Understanding, after all, is where ideas meet - and where innovation happens.

Think the Future

Exactly.  Individual health and responsibility has to, by the nature of society, form within a social context.  You can't have a strong individual without fostering a strong society.

How do we build a positive loop where society empowers individuals who then collectively build a strong individual?

By doing it consciously.

What Democracy Looks Like

Tim Hudak - aggressive, intransigent, working on message-track autopilot - is seeing his public support slip away.  The "shoot first, think later" approach isn't working so well.

Andrea Horwath, whether it's positioning or a reflection of her personality, is trying to keep the conversation going.  She's re-evaluating her individual planks while never losing sight of the house she's trying to build.  The people of Ontario, including the Ontario Liberals, are pretty proud of her for that.

What this tells me is that, despite the flaws in our system and the massive challenges before us, Ontarians (and Canadians) still believe that democracy works.  We want leaders who embrace the public good (fundamentally, our best interests) ahead of their own, partisan ambitions.

I think Horwath struggles with the political dichotomy - it's a fine line to walk between leading a Party and pushing for partisan dominance and true leadership, which means putting the needs of the many ahead of the wants of the few.  It's promising that, when the pressure's on, her default is collaboration.

Stephen Harper has it wrong - Canadians aren't so focused on problems that they're willing to abandon our multicultural democracy to solve them.

Dalton McGuinty has it right - we can only be strong individually when we are willing to work together.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Motivating Innovative Success

Occupy.  Davos.  Goldman Sachs.  ORNGE.  The Knowledge Economy.  Mental Health.  Public Health costs. 

Everyone I talk to is looking at individual, structural problems and wringing their hands in worry about what to do next.  Some of these folk are equally looking ahead at the emerging reality of the Knowledge Economy and wondering how we can get from here to there.

All these pieces are connected.  Like playing three-dimensional chess, we have to stop looking at individual social issues and see how they fit together into a holistic puzzle.  To do that, we need to revisit our understanding of how we can move our pieces and what strategies will help us get past our two-dimensional thought box.

The best place to start is with motivation.

“You eat what you kill” is a standard phrase in consulting land.  For employees in many a field, the rule tends to be that performance is rewarded by bonuses; if your colleagues get bonuses and you don’t, it’s because you’re a failure.  While financial reward might be good for pushing people to produce more, faster, or to be more aggressive in sales, it turns out financial reward is not the best motivator for innovative success. 

Many will say that statement flies in the phase of standard wisdom – money has always been success' reward.  For these people, I leave you two stories to consider; heliocentrism and evolution.  You can keep breaking down a pull door because you can’t push it open, but there might be an easier, more effective and less stressful way to get where you want to go – success in innovation, leadership in the Knowledge Economy.

     - Margaret Atwood


Nothing comes from nothing.  Creative ideas don’t magically pop into people’s heads, fully-formed.  If you want people to innovate, you have to provide them with raw material they can absorb and time to properly synthesize.  This can’t be a one-off affair; it has to be a life-long thing.

Fortunately, there are pretty good models out there to help make this happen in an affordable, accessible and efficient way.


Bring meaning into work.  While we like to differentiate between what we think motivates people at different stages of their life and in different roles, that’s largely a social construction.  What really motivates, say, a volunteer to give 200% is the same thing that motivates employees.  You gotta give them some skin in the game.

Having done a lot of time recruiting and supporting volunteers in my time, there are three things that are proven to keep them coming back for more:

1)      Recognition.  They aren’t tools, they're people.  Engage them as such.  Get to know them, learn about why they're volunteering and what their other interests are.  You never know where a potential for cross-pollination will arise and you’ll surely never find it if you don’t ask.

2)      Food.  Volunteers should always have access to at least snacks and drinks, like juice, coffee and tea.  It’s not hard to add some crackers and fruit to the mix.  The less your team needs to think about what and when to eat, the more cognitive energy (and physical strength) they have to dedicate to your cause.  The same holds true for employees, and the best employers always have a coffee/tea machine, some snacks and definitely a microwave and fridge.

3)      Meaningful work.  People get frustrated when they feel they are digging and filling in holes for no purpose.  They need to understand what the point is.  Having said this, if you’re delivering something with meaning that every volunteer or employee can latch on to, people will spend hours stickering cards in support of that cause.  You still want to mix up the tasks a bit and allow people to be challenged; you also want to set the example by having the people at the top of the food chain sitting down and do the grunt-work with everyone else.

One of my favourite campaign memories involves a long, tired night of stickering U-Vote-Ats for a provincial by-election in the GTA.  The exhausted team was sitting around a table, beavering away when my boss of the time, the former MPP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry came in and sat down to sticker with us.  Jim Brownell sat there for hours, making silly jokes with the rest of us and just stickered.  It’s no wonder that people would travel across the province to support him, too.


Why do we have sex?  To leave progeny behind.  The same holds true for ideas; consciously or unconsciously, people who get engaged want to be leave something behind or be a part of something bigger than themselves that they feel has a good chance of enduring.  It’s the human equivalent, I think, of lekking behaviour.

If we can grasp this concept, consciously, we can build in legacy and meaning into work design.

My dad, a retired research historian, told me about a talk he was asked to give to one group or another.  He was asked what his fee was; my dad suggested to me that he didn’t have a fee and that the idea hadn’t occurred to him.  He enjoyed sharing his expertise on the subject; that was his motivation.  I told him he was missing an opportunity.  Iif he doesn’t need the extra cash and believes in his cause, why not has his fee be a donation to a charity or organization of his choice?

At the recent THINK2012 conference hosted by the amazing ORION Network, guest facilitators were paid in donations to causes they believed in.  It’s a good motivator; there’s no reason you can’t apply this in the workplace, too.

I would suggest that you want to give employees what they need to live, comfortably, and make sure salary always fits within that comfortable quality-of-life range.  Particularly if you’re a creative industry, though, tie success to meaning and legacy; give your workers public credit for what they accomplish, plus an opportunity (through donations-as-bonus) to build legacy by giving back to their community.  Remember, quality-of-life isn't about cash, it's about access and interaction.

If we’re all doing this proactively and benefiting from the process, that means government will have to spend less and charities will be able to spend less on marketing.

There’s really nothing new to the idea of proactively motivating your team to do what’s in your/your company’s best interest.  It’s been around since the days of Sun-Tzu.  All we need do now is make sure this wisdom is applied to the 21st Century context:

The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities... It is best to win without fighting.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Diversity on Trial

   - Ron Leech, Wildrose Candidate for Calgary Greenway

In his book Blood and Belonging, Michael Ignatieff discusses how easy it is for brothers and sisters to start viewing each other as opponents, given the right external stresses.  As the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, I know too well how right he is.
The conditions that breed intolerance – economic tension, contentious issues about resource use and of course, a shift in demographic trends – are upon us here in Canada. 
We’re also at a crossroads in the way we plan our society, a challenge unlike any we have faced since Confederation.  As a people, Canadians need to decide what the future is going to look like and how we’re going to get there.  We won’t get there at all if we refuse to acknowledge there is a broader “us” that extends beyond ethnicity, beyond provincial boundaries, beyond faith or political perspective.
The problem is that in our darkest hearts, we’re all bigots.  We have models of understanding that we are comfortable with; we automatically challenge that which is seen to threaten our models and most often ignore those things which we don’t see as having an impact.
Poverty is one of these.  We can decry poverty verbally, but how many of us donate to charitable causes to alleviate poverty?  What of disabilities?  I was at a major conference on Monday with some of Ontario’s brightest minds; despite the cutting edge use of social media technology, nobody thought about accommodating the fellow who was hard-of-hearing in the room with little things like subtitles on videos.  Nobody even thought to ask, “is there something we’re missing?”

Ethnic diversity is another.  When we keep an "us and them" frame in place, the "them" is either a threat to the "us" or not relevant and therefore get no consideration at all.  Women's rights, Civil Rights, Labour Rights are all examples of "didn't think of that" models that held society back until break souls pushed themselves from irrelevant to threat to eventually, integrated.  Mental health is another huge barrier we need to be breaking down to achieve a Knowledge Economy.
The Wildrose folk don’t see themselves as bigots – bigots never do.  They see themselves as understanding the world as it is and probably wonder how the rest of us are missing it.  These folk are living in Plato’s Cave.  The same is true of Team Harper when they focus on natural resources and think they’ve found “the fix” or even in Liberals and NDPers when they figure Conservatives are out to lunch.
Nobody has access to the whole social puzzle.  We all get a little comfortable with our own piece and don’t realize that, if we put those pieces together, we can put together this bigger picture of a United Canada.
We do live in a society where white people, attractive people, connected people have an advantage.  It’s not fair, but it’s reality.  The problem is, when we focus on the status quo of advantage, we miss the latent opportunities in disadvantage.  How many innovations were developed through trying to solve someone else’s problems?  The telephone is just one example.
The more close-minded  we get, as a society (and I do put extra emphasis on the firewall crowd when I talk about limited thinking) the more emerging problems – and emerging solutions – we miss.  We have to think outside of the box if we’re to get through today’s challenges.
I’m confident we will.  We just need to start being conscious in doing so.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Between Rage and Serenity: X Marks the Spot

“I believe that true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.”

   - Professor Charles Xavier

We are dividing the political spectrum in lateral, convenient ways, but they’re not particularly accurate.  Communist regimes and dictatorships aren’t polar opposites – they’re equally oppressive and dominance-focused.  Thoughtful Conservatives, Liberals and NDP can come to the same, logical conclusions – it’s the emotional pieces that shaped their politically-oriented policies that polarize them.

By this light, fundamentalist Christian movements are exactly the same as fundamentalist Islamic movements; they use different language and are trying to protect different models, but their approaches are exactly the same.

It’s not left vs. right – it’s selection-of-the-fittest vs. strengthening the collective.  Put another way, it’s biological evolution vs. social evolution.

The X-Men franchise provides a great example.

“I will bring you hope, old friend – just don’t get in my way.”

Magneto believes in a coming, inevitable war between mutants and humans.  His focus is the differences; only one group can dominate.  Obviously, he feels his tribe is the natural party for this.  Magneto feels so strongly about his beliefs that he’s willing to sacrifice others – including his own kind – to achieve his goals.  For him, peace was never an option.

Magneto’s power?  The ability to manipulate the world (metal, but there’s metal in most of our social trappings) around him through sheer force of will.

“There’s good in you too, and you can harness all that.”

Then there’s Professor X.  He believes in a collaborative future between mutant and human, with a sidebar thought that, through evolution, mutants will likely overcome humanity through natural processes, just as homo sapiens did Neanderthals.  Xavier is a negotiator; he feels there is always room for dialogue and is willing to sacrifice himself to keep the conversation going.
Xavier’s powers are of the mind – control of self and, through that internal control, the ability to control others.  Like Loki, he’s a trickster, but unlike tricksters of old, the tricksters of today are seen as the heroes.  They want to solve through words, not violence.  Killing, says Xavier, won’t bring peace.

If we pay attention, there’s a trend, here – from reactive to proactive, from dominance to manipulation to collaboration.

When you look where we’re headed, it's not away from something, but rather towards a common centre.

Opportunity Knocking: How to Address Our Social Woes

    - Dwight Duncan, Ontario's Finance Minister

I know I’m a broken record on this, but there’s a reason for that – the evidence is pointing us in one direction.  We just need to walk the path leading us to the bright future that lies ahead.

Where We Are

We’re looking to incite more from people – more critical thinking, more innovation, more proactive efforts to think outside the box and work with partners.  We have to, because we can no longer afford to implement familiar half-solutions to expanding social problems.

We have ballooning social service costs – those costs are part of our challenge, why we have to tighten our belts in the first place.  When time was, the latent inefficiencies in our existing systems didn’t matter, because there was enough dough to cover the ground regardless.  That is no longer the case.  History makes it abundantly clear why cutting those services isn’t the answer, either – less access to services means greater social problems, which has a multiplier effect on crime, productivity, etc.

Work isn’t fully harnessing the opportunities emerging through the Knowledge Economy – yet.  Like the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, it’s going to take us a while to find the right balance between work and life to get there.  We need to rethink motivation , how we tease the best out of people, from an evidence-based perspective – which means reforms to work, education, the work/life balance, etc.  That’s a lot to think about; we back off answering the big questions because we’re intimidated by them.

Lastly – the mental health crisis.  Call it what you will; blame it on “weak individuals” or a lack of societal involvement if you must.  The fact is stress, anxiety, depression, etc. are on the rise, and our current model of institutional design is actually exacerbating the problem.  Oh, and there’s still that little-discussed correlation between mental illness and creativity.  The solutions we are looking for loop back nicely to one of the problems we’re uncertain how to address.

Where We Are Headed

When we look at the multitude of challenges and opportunities we face, it’s pretty daunting.  Where does one begin?  

The right place to start is in acknowledging these are all different aspects of the same creature.

Finding efficiencies and addressing the until-now missed systematic duplication, gaps and overlaps means motivating people in different ways – not through carrot and stick, but through meaning, being part of something larger than ourselves and touching legacy through the process.

By empowering people to be more engaged, giving them skin in the game, plus creating opportunities for collaboration – you help them become more self-dependent, or interdependent in a proactive (better workplace design, exercise clubs, volunteer activities, etc.) rather than reactive (social services, health care, legal services, justice system, etc.) way.  That’s what society is all about – we just need to recognize and embrace that concept fully.

The changes everyone says are needed in education, work design, essentially every field – these changes have to embrace technology, empower individuals through training and accommodation and create that level of meaning that incents them to be more than what they are.

All of this means spending more time understanding who we are, as people, how and why we interact and what motivates behaviour.  That leads us back to mental health.  As frightening a concept as it is, we have to break down the silos around mental health/cognitive development and understand our “selves” as being biological expressions impacted by environmental factors. Yes, this means revisiting notions of free will, self-control, etc., but it simply has to be done.  You can’t find a solution if you refuse to correctly identify the problem.

As a society of individuals, like an organism made up of cells, we truly are more than the sum of our parts.  Accepting this doesn’t need to be daunting – it can be empowering.

There really only one way we can get to where we're headed.

Walking the Walk

What do you communicate when you walk?

I know I gauge body language at least as much as words; it's the subtle ticks, gestures and postures that let me know if you're being honest, obfuscating, avoiding, disengaged, etc.

Words have power, but they're only a thin wedge of what makes communication.  Communication is a two-way street, too - what we convey, consciously or unconsciously, sends a message.

Quick little example - you roll your eyes at someone with the intent of indicating you dislike what was said or the person in general.  Your signal out is your point of view, but remember, the recipient is looking to relate that information in their own context.  Therefore, an eye-roll could say that you are a rude, disengaged person; that could be the message that gets shared about you down the road.  If you're shouting to assert authority, the message being received is that you're volatile; not the best brand to have.

Be conscious of your behaviour and its impacts; not just the ones you want to have, but the ones that will actually be picked up on, too.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Pay It Forward: Civic Debt, Public Investment

-          Margaret Atwood

Silo Entrepreneurship

I had just sat down on a subway car in Spadina Station when a woman walked through the open door, holding a piece of cardboard that read “I need money, please help me.”  In a loud, rambling voice, she announced to the train passengers that she was poor, had three children she didn’t know how she was going to feed and wasn’t sure she could go on living, could we please give her some money.  This woman, somewhere in her 20s, proceeded to walk the length of the train and solicit donations from every passenger individually. 

Many were shocked; this is not the kind of behaviour one sees on a regular basis on the TTC.  It was all familiar to me – I’d experienced full-time beggars in third-world countries the world over.  There’s a certain cold professionalism, almost a workman’s pride in the way these beggars present themselves.  When the woman came to me, I told her she didn’t have to beg; we have a great social support network in Ontario that can make sure her kids get fed and help her train for the workforce.  She smiled vacuously, said “thank you, sir” and then moved on to ply the next person in line.

To me, this woman is the embodiment of the competitive, entrepreneurial spirit. 

Say what now?

Some people shill treatments and health supplements that aren’t evidence-based.  Others sell insurance on things that you can’t really ensure (which is, essentially, what indulgences were).  This woman’s particular product offering was guilt.  She writes her signs, she works day long plying her craft and, if she’s hit the right notes (or landed the right mark), she gets paid.  How well and hard she works, with a bit of luck on the side, determines her income.  She knows there are always those out there willing to fork over cash without question, because guilt remains, for some, a powerful motivator.

Remember – this woman wasn’t looking for a social hand-out, nor was she interested in living high off of the public teat.  Was she contributing in any meaningful way to our economy?  People were giving her cash, so that proves there is a market for guilt.  If you truly believe in the free-market, supply-and-demand modality, then yeah, she was doing exactly what capitalist purists would want her to.

Yet, she contributes nothing to the fiscal well-being of the province whatsoever.  At the same time, she doesn’t take anything away from the fiscal well-being of the province, either.  In essence, she lives off of the grid.  Until something goes wrong.

“Money is like blood in that it has to circulate, otherwise it’s meaningless.” 

I would suggest that the hyper-rich live off the grid in exactly the same way.  Yes, there’s an argument to be made that the 1% owe society nothing; they worked hard, broke a few heads where necessary but were successful on their own merits.  To the victors go the spoils, etc.  If the elite want to vacation overseas, buy lavish imports and spend money on expensive trappings that don’t necessarily benefit local economies, that’s their choice.  But what are the consequences of that choice?  If the rich don’t invest locally, what does their wealth contribute to social functioning? 

We don’t have to speculate; history has lots of examples of what happens when economic blood doesn’t circulate.

Civic Debt

Back to the beggar.  I had just started to read an article on debt as this woman entered the subway car.  The POV piece, written by Sarah Keenlyside, is a discussion about Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary film Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, inspired by Margaret Atwood’s 2008 Massey Lecture and book of the same name.  It explores the concept of debt, not just fiscal, but social.  Keenlyside’s article starts with a retelling of a debt of honour faced by an Albanian family in light of a murder by the family’s father, ostensibly in defense of his property.  The family, including the blameless children, are now trapped at home because of the cultural debt racked up by their father. 

This story made me think of a Globe and Mail piece on the tussle between teachers and the Ontario government:

Positioning aside, the basic message here is a different angle on the same debt theme; it is suggested that teachers are fostering a contractual debt that will get paid through alternative means.  The teachers can argue that government has a debt with them, not just for campaign assistance in the past but because something they see as necessary for the conduct of their work (a sufficient number of sick days and manageable class sizes) is being deducted from their social payment.    Who will that cost trickle down to? 

Both sides will argue they are in the right; that they have, in essence, paid their dues.  They can both make compelling arguments to that effect in the court of public opinion.  Those arguments will do nothing to alter the terms being handed down to students. 

Does this process make sense in terms of payment and payback?  Maybe.  Does it make sense in terms of social development?  Not really.

You can look at Canadian politics through the same lens.  The Harper government is adding heavily to our democratic deficit by disregarding Parliament, the law and the truth.  They might think they’re getting away with it, but history tells us they’re really just adding to the public trust debt.  That’s a debt the public will eventually seek payment for, one way or another.  The same holds true with our ecological deficit.  You can make a mint off of natural resources, if you have them, but when you focus on that you neglect the need to diversify your economic ability (remember pulp and paper?).  Oh, yeah – then there’s this word “aquifer” that doesn’t get as much attention as it should.  Plus hewing wood doesn’t pay as well as selling finished products.  But I digress.

Public Investment

There’s the accumulation and trading off of debt; essentially, borrowing from tomorrow to pay for today.  Then, there’s investing in the future – the busker model of interaction, also known as strategic thinking.  When you bring an umbrella in case it might rain, that’s investing in the future; you have to carry the thing and might not use it, but you know you won’t end up getting wet.  There’s public health care; you pay for services when you don’t need them so they’re there when you do.  At the same time, you ensure that other people aren’t getting sick, leaving you with reduced risk in suffering from exposure to epidemics.

Continuing with the health care example, there’s another benefit – when health care professionals can focus on working rather than how to earn money, they can proactively refine their craft rather than waste time building in cosmetic frills that contribute little but pay well. 

Public education works this way too – we train kids today so that they’ll be able to find or generate work later, rather than be unemployed, disengaged and potentially criminal.  Even people without kids benefit, when they look at the big picture – investing in someone else’s children means those kids will offer the services you need when you need them down the road.

This, in a nutshell, is what society is all about – planning ahead, giving a bit to gain more down the road.  This isn’t a uniquely human thing to do – altruism is proven to give an evolutionary advantage in other species as well.

The Public Good

I recently heard Gerard Kennedy chat about the concept of the public good.  Kennedy talked about things I believe in strongly – not trying to skirt the rules to see what you can get away with or disenfranchising others; pushing boundaries and challenging people to do more pro-socially to see what we can achieve, collectively.  It’s this mutual challenge – to do better, not be better than – which results in greater success, better outcomes and innovation. 

Competition is about doing better than the other guy, which means at least some of your energy is going to be wasted on bringing the other guy down.  It’s challenge – not competition – that propels us forward and results in stronger individuals for a stronger society.

What's really cool is that organizations like Lawyers for Fair Taxation and Doctors for Fair Taxation understand this as well.  They're willing to put their long-term interests ahead of short-term gain, to the benefit of all of us.   
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty gets the idea, too.  When he created the Ministry of Infrastructure Renewal, he told then-Minister David Caplan “you’re job is to play the very long game” by looking at tomorrow’s needs and paying for them incrementally, starting today.  The HST was another example of this, as is Full Day Kindergarten.  There can be challenges with the implementation (challenges that deserved to be recognized and discussed) but again, it’s better to pay a smaller price today for benefit tomorrow.
This is exactly the opposite approach of what the Harper Government is doing.  They are drying up sources of information, reducing pension benefits for tomorrow’s seniors, atrophying public services and public trust, putting all their eggs in the natural resources basket.  They are piling on to the public deficit while theoretically managing the financial deficit.
Putting off until tomorrow is easy, but it’s not leadership.  The reason we, as the public, invest in government in the first place is so that they can strategically invest in tomorrow.
When government refuses to pay forward, it’s each one of us who is left holding the debt.