Don’t fight the beast

The beast that haunts us so much is really just a paper tiger
The beast that haunts us so much is really just a paper tiger

When doing work that matters, in risking something of yourself, a voice stirs inside of you. Some call it the Lizard Brain, some call it the resistance, and there are many other things you can call it.

You can call it the enemy. It comes at you with teeth flashing, ready to attack you. What do you at times like that? You feel that you must resist it. You feel like you must fight it in order to address it, in order to make it go away.

But this is its plan all along.

Start a venture, the beast comes to attack you. “This cannot be done. You will fail and lose everything.”

Express your interest in someone you like. “This person will reject you. You will never get her/him/the role you want.” Also the beast.

Publish something, create something, and put it out there. “No one will want this. You’re wasting your time. Stop dreaming.”

The beast will come and attack you, and want to fight you. It will make you believe that the only way to counter its voice, is to fight it.

Not so. Fighting it is what it wants. When you even touch this beast, its teeth bite into you and makes you rabid. You believe you’re fighting this beast, but actually you’re letting it control you.

Instead, stop fighting the beast. You will at first believe that if you stop fighting it, it will win. It will own you. But that is already happening right now.

Stop fighting it. You will notice that it will have nothing to attack then. It will pass right through you. You will see that you are much bigger than it. You will see that the beast was toothless all along. You will then be able to move on.

The Outward Mindset

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I finished reading this excellent book: The Outward Mindset by The Arbinger Institute. Rarely does a leadership book resound so deeply with me. I found myself highlighting large chunks of the book, and I wanted to share some of the choicest passages from the book with you.

The basic premise of the book tells us that we need to change our mindset and see people as, well, people instead of objects or obstacles to manipulate, push, persuade, or overcome. They are people with their own internal needs, challenges, wants, objectives, hopes and dreams. When we see truly see people for who they are and what they want, make our work about serving them, and constantly adjust to make sure we see people for who they are, we create better families, communities, and organizations.

This is far from a “soft skills” book. Getting this right creates a strategic competitive advantage which cannot be replicated. It creates record breaking profits, low turnover rates, and drives real business results. This set of ideas have been used by SWAT Teams, non-profits, and multinational corporations.

This is similar to the premise of Listen & Lead by Richard Himmer which I wrote about in my two previous posts here and here. This books flows nicely from these other linked articles.

I have seen the power of these ideas in over a decade of my volunteering effort with BAPS, and BAPS Charities. While no one has formalized these ideas in this non-profit organization, I have seen its spirit everyday. The results have been breathtaking as a small organization founded in early 20th century India in a tiny village has grown to become one of the largest international India-based non-profits in the world with a host of activities impacting millions and thousands of centres globally.

I would say that if Arbinger really wants to see how deeply the Outward Mindset is embedded in an organization, they should carefully study BAPS.

Here are the excerpts:

In whatever a person does, his or her mind-set comes through, and others respond to this combination of behavior and mindset. This means that the effectiveness of an individual’s behaviors will depend to some significant degree on that individual’s mindset.


Seeing people as people rather than as objects enables better thinking because such thinking is done in response to the truth: others really are people and not objects.


When my mindset is outward, I am alive to and interested in other people and their objectives and needs. I see others as people whom I am open to helping.


Not caring to notice or be moved by others requires something of me that takes a tremendous personal and social toll: it requires me to feel justified for not caring. I find justification by focusing on others’ faults, real and imagined.


Are there people in your life, either at work or at home, whose needs, objectives, and burdens you resist seeing? How about people that you don’t resist—people with whom you are open, curious, interested, aware?
As you compare these relationships, what differences do you notice in how you feel and act? Can you spot any blame in what you tell yourself about others or any self-justifying narratives that you’ve come to believe


The most troubling areas of our lives will be those in which we resist what the humanity of others invites us to see. This is a hopeful truth.


What is the cost of an inward mindset? When people focus on themselves rather than on their impact, lots of activity and effort get wasted on the wrong things.


Think about the times in your life when you have felt most alive and engaged. Who and what were you focused on in those moments—on yourself or on something bigger that included others?


Real helpfulness can’t be made into a formula. To be outward doesn’t mean that people should adopt this or that prescribed behavior. Rather, it means that when people see the needs, challenges, desires, and humanity of others, the most effective ways to adjust their efforts occur to them in the moment. When they see others as people, they respond in human and helpful ways.


This approach to measuring one’s impact requires nothing but a willingness to stay in regular conversations with others about whether they feel one’s efforts are helping them or not.

While the goal in shifting mindsets is to get everyone turned toward each other, accomplishing this goal is possible only if people are prepared to turn their mindsets toward others with no expectation that others will change their mindsets in return.

For all these reasons—as well as because widespread mindset change happens in large measure in response to those who change first—being able to operate with an outward mind-set when others do not is a critically important ability. It is the most important move.


People misunderstand the most important move we are talking about if they think that working with an outward mindset when others refuse to do the same makes a person blind to reality or soft on bad behavior. It does neither. In fact, what obscures vision and exposes people to more risk is not an outward mindset, which stays fully alive to and aware of others, but an inward one.


If you start with changing mindsets, behavioral transformations can happen quickly.


Whether in rethinking community policing or resolving labor- management disputes, when people see situations that need to change, the temptation is to immediately apply a behavioral solution. That seems like the fast approach. But if mindset is not addressed, it is usually the slow approach to change.


We’re not trying to have a homogenized group of people who work in the same way. Everybody works individually, but they work toward a collective solution. It’s about taking difference and focusing together on results.


Without realizing it, too many leaders assume that the role of leadership is to control.


When I try to impose my ideas on others and thereby refuse to allow them to think, I end up getting in the way more than I end up being helpful. It’s not my job as a leader to have the solution to every problem.

 

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Preventing Disease With Feet, Forks, & Fingers

Preventing Chronic Disease

If anyone you know has ever been affected by heart disease, diabetes, certain forms of cancer, hypertension, etc., the science of these chronic diseases is very clear: you can slash up to 90% of the risk (even if you genetically pre-disposed to it) by changing what you do with your feet, forks, and fingers. So says Dr. David Katz, the Director of Yale’s Prevention-Research Center, and a host of the best doctors across the world.

Feet: your movement; exercise level

Forks: what you eat

Fingers: smoker/non-smoker status

It is laughably simple how easy it is to take control of our health destinies by just taking charge of these 3 things. And it is laughably simple how easy it is to make those small changes.

And yet so few of us do them. How can I change that?

This is the question I feel committed to working on for the next 30-50 years.

During my undergrad years, I had little clarity on where I was going with my career. And indeed, the last few years of my life shows a graph where I developed some very specific skills, but the industry changes do not have a perfectly coherent story.

It felt like I was drifting, and it was frustrating. I am not drawn to the idea of working my way up the corporate ladder. Impact, and the interestingness of the work have been far more motivating factors for me. With a few rare exceptions, such work has been eluding.

I resented myself and others for getting their life paths so much earlier than mine. But now, I am only grateful. If I hadn’t stumbled into the barriers, I wouldn’t have uncovered the work I can do for the rest of my life.

Changing what people do with their feet, forks, and fingers is therefore something I can spent the rest of my life doing. I wish to help others be their best selves by taking control of these 3 things.

But if this is indeed so simple, why don’t people do it already?

The Hidden Reason Why We Don’t Change Our Health and Lives

  1. You don’t have the right information: There is more information out there than ever before. There is also a lot more misinformation, and disinformation out there. People are easily persuaded to do things that aren’t in their best interests long-term. The Paleo Diet, Atkins Diet, etc come to mind. So, people lack the ability to think clearly. This needs to change.
  2. You don’t have the right motivation: jobs, families, errands, a broken car, etc get in the way of someone from truly taking charge. So many people pull at our attention. It’s hard to get motivated when you get home at night when you’re overwhelmed. So, people lack the ability to take charge of their lives.
  3. You think it’s hopeless: What’s the point? I’m always going to be ___ (insert story here). This is also very dangerous because it means that you essentially see yourself as incapable of change. This either means that you’ve tried and failed, or you’ve seen others around you try and fail. Deeper down, it means that people don’t know how simple change can be.

This list can be longer. A simpler way of stating the above can be: You and I have weak, flabby muscles of making deliberate choices and following through. You and I have outsourced our thinking to others and doing it ourselves is scary, uncomfortable, and we’re afraid of failing. As a result of giving away our power, we have become powerless and hopeless. To change our lives, we must change this script.

And so, this is the purpose behind a new project I’m working on. While the website is not developed as of August 2016, I will spend significant efforts developing the type of content that can truly help people throw away the script of powerlessness, and embrace deliberate choice. On this website, I hope to empower others to think for themselves and strengthen their mental muscles (as well as outer muscles) to be their best self.

I predict that making these changes will also have ripple effects in finances, business, relationships, not just health. And occasionally, to reflect on personal matters, I will keep writing here as well.

So, where have you failed to create change so far in life? What is the single most important challenge in your life right now?

I’ve love to hear all about it below in the comments section or via email at dpvtank [at] gmail dot com.

Why Digital Health Apps Won’t Save Us

A Digital Health App Won’t Help You Get Fitter, Live Longer, and Sleep Better

Touted as the ultimate fitness app, the Fitbit is a marriage of digital health with wearable technology. The device and app sold by the millions. Turns out that Fitbit‘s heart rate tracking is dangerously inaccurate.  Fitbit is meant to help you track sleep, measure activity throughout the day, give you notifications to workout, etc.

This is an emerging trend. I closely follow Rock Health, a venture fund dedicated to digital health. Each week, its newsletter mentions funding deals in the digital health space. Massive amounts of capital are allocated to companies where technology trumps common sense.

The premise behind these companies is that digital technologies will help us fix our health. However, I would like to argue that this is not the case. If Peter Thiel were to ask me his contrarian question, “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?“, I would say that the premise behind most digital health companies is misguided. Technology will not help us save ourselves (at least in this case).

Why?

I’ve spent the last 3 years reading hundreds of medical journals in my spare time, and trying to make sense of how we can live longer, healthier, and fuller lives. I’ve spoken with hundreds of doctors, nutritionists, public health officials, and professors in related fields. I started writing in this space late last year, and got a lot more involved in this field by leading the Outreach team at NutritionFacts.org this year.

What has come up repeatedly is the importance of education, and people carefully curating their social, emotional, and mental lives to support their growth. Health is a game of changing the mindset of people, and apps are not designed to change mindsets. They’re designed to be addictive. Tracking sleep is pretty useless unless we address what’s keeping us up at night.

When a technology tool helps us reconnect to that old-fashioned sense of curating our lives, then we can change. Otherwise, a Fitbit used to make you fit makes as much sense as a Californian touting their environmentalism by driving an electric car, but using a dryer for their clothes instead of drying it in the sun: a useful illusion.

We tend to use shopping as a means of relieving the anxiety in our lives. For many of us, shopping in a traditional mall has replaced shopping technology products. And if they’re “personal development” oriented, hey, it’s a good thing, right? Sadly not.

Life changes begin with a change in mind-set. There is no gadget or app that will accomplish this for you. There is hard work involved. It means quitting mindless consumption of media designed to keep you complacent. It means taking charge.

Markets and consumers live on the hype and bust cycle (yes, I know it’s called boom-and-bust cycle you Keynesians!). And while technology companies in this space can be highly valued, I do not agree with their worth. They may have the market caps, the sales, etc. But does it change a person’s life, even incrementally? Would the fittest Fitbit users have achieved their level of health even without the device and app? I would argue yes.

I would bet that an infinitesimally small number of companies in the digital health space actually create products that matter. Ginger.io and Omada Health comes to mind. Most on the other hand, are focused on allowing technology to trump common sense. Many will undoubtedly sell well and make their investors a tidy return, but by tapping into the public’s need to consume away their anxiety for health, giving them an illusion of better control.

What’s the alternative? The alternative is to change what we consume (for our bodies and our minds). The return on that investment will be astronomically higher.

This is somewhat ironic for me to write, as a person deeply interested in figuring out how digital health can change the world. In my recent grad school application, I wrote about this in depth. It seems like I’m criticizing an industry which I wish to impact.

Not so. I was mistaken a few years back when I wrote this post. I too fell into the trap of pursuing value from the market’s perspective compared to value in terms of how lives can be affected. Since 2013, my viewpoint has changed substantially. Ideas of space exploration, and rubbing shoulders with billionaires and celebrities had a glamour attached to it, but was far too superficial.

Instead, this decision to work in digital health is much different. I’m in it for the long haul: a lifetime. I see my work as tackling the harder problem of changing mindset, perception, and motivation by using technology. I dare say this work may be less profitable than marketing a “magic” app, but I will be satisfied with the value I create.

A Letter to President Mamau on Climate Change

Re: How To Become a Real Climate Change Activist and Save Your Nation

President Mamau, this is an open letter to talk to you about climate change.

It is heartening to hear about your recent move into a role of real power and responsibility to become the President of the Republic of Kiribati. After 12 years of stagnant affairs, you now have the opportunity to really tackle a lot of the issues that your nation and people are facing.

You now have a global stage to talk about putting a stop to climate change. I previously wrote to your predecessor about this, but I received no response on the public email, nor on the twitter account. I hope under your leadership, you will take REAL effective action.

You have the power to deliver a message of personal action to all those who listen: an action that would do more to slowdown the advance of climate change than anything else. You have the chance to truly empower every person to individually take action to put a stop to climate change.

I do not wish to sell you anything. I do not work for any industry interests. All I wish to do is share an idea that can transform the world significantly and help you save your country. If you approach it with an open mind, you will find that my claims are cited and accurate. While this action is simple, it could be difficult for many to implement. Yet, you will become a force of powerful action to all those with whom you share your message.

Your predecessor tried mostly to “urge” leaders to take action in the form of signing a climate deal, implementing carbon credits, switch to renewables, etc.

If you believe that any one country or any one company pledging to reduce their carbon footprint will matter, you are deceiving yourself, and losing precious time in the process. All these issues are massive and ordinary people cannot rally against them. We must surrender our power in the hands of the powerful. You cannot spread a message of true hope this way.

Here is what you must do: you must encourage individual action because you and I cannot afford to keep waiting and hoping and giving away our power to those that have no interest in changing. You tried that for a lifetime and it has not worked.

For instance, converting to wind and solar power will take 20+ years and roughly $43 trillion.1 Do you have this time? How will you encourage organizations to spend this much money? Even if a hundred of you spoke, action of this scale will take a while to implement.

Natural gas is an intermediary solution. However, hydraulic fracking uses 70-140 billion gallons of water annually, and the emissions are still significant.2

What will you do when your peoples way of life is threatened when the oceans are fishless by 2048?3,4 How can you avoid the fact that 3/4th of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted?5,6 By giving out more licenses as your Republic is doing? Do you give away the last vestiges of your dwindling fortune or will you ask for something more that everyone can do?

How will you stop the 1-2 acres of rainforest that are being cleared every single second?7 How will you reconcile that the hunger for a so called better life is infecting the rising middle class as the population increases and reaches 8 billion? 10 billion?

So what is the most powerful action that everyone can take to stop climate change? What is this thing that causes more greenhouse gases than all of the transportation sector put together? What action could it be that all of us can start taking to halt climate change?

You may laugh at the suggestion I am making. But that would be to your detriment. While you may be applauded by many as you rally against climate change, the actual impact you will make will be minuscule compared to the impact you can make.

The answer is simple: encourage people to stop or limit eating meat, stop consuming dairy and eggs, and yes, stop eating fish.

Here’s why:

As per the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation modes.9 As for carbon dioxide, livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of it annually, or 51% of all worldwide emissions.10

Cows raised for their meat produce 150 billion gallons of methane every single day.11 Methane is 25-100x more destructive than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period to the environment.12, 13

Beyond that, raising animals for food is responsible for 65% of all nitrous-oxide emissions – a greenhouse gas 296x more potent than carbon dioxide which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years as per the United Nations.14

Are we really going to ask industry to stop polluting when most of the pollution and inaction is due to the willful ignorance on our plates?

Even if we were to stop using fossil fuels, we would exceed 565 gigatonnes limit by 2030, all from raising animals.15 Instead, if we worked to reduce methane emissions, we would create tangible benefits immediately!16

We are also failing to look at the tremendous amount of resources used to eat meat, dairy, fish, and eggs.

1,800 litres of water are used to produce 1 lb of eggs, and 3,406 litres of water are used to produce 1 lb of cheese.17 As for red meat such as beef, it takes 5,678 litres of water to raise 1 lb of beef.30 Indeed, animal agriculture uses between 20%-33% of all fresh water in the world today.18

Animals used to produce food take up a third of the earth’s ice free land.19 Animal agriculture has created more than 500 nitrogen flooded deadzones around the world in our oceans making it the leading cause of ocean dead zones, water pollution, and species extinction in the world.20,21

Why is this?

Because every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement is produced by animals raised for food in the United States alone.22 Because 130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the US alone – 1.4 billion tonnes from the meat industry annually.23

Indeed, the leading cause of rainforest destruction is livestock and raising feed for livestock.24 We could push for them to not cut the rainforest, or find other practices. Or we could stop people from wanting to eat meat and tackle the issue at the root.

What about world hunger? How will we feed such a growing number of people? Well, the fact is that we are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people, yet the vast majority of the land and resources are used to raise animals and their feed instead.25

On any given area of land, plants can produce 15x more protein than animals.26 We can feed the world.

If you advocated people to take personal action by cutting the animal foods, you would make each person contribute 50% less carbon dioxide.28 Each person you inspire would help save 4,100 litres of water, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions every day!29, 30

President Mamau, changing the world begins with changing ourselves. You can be a true messenger of peace. It is not difficult, nor do you sacrifice your health for it. The science on this is indisputable: when people stop eating meat, dairy, eggs, and fish, and get their nutrition from whole plant based foods, their health improves for the better. I invite you to spend time watching Forks Over Knives, and reading the credible non-industry funded research such as The China Study.

All it requires is a small change every day to eat less animal foods and eat more plant foods. Like with everything, we can get used to this. There is incredible variety, deliciousness, and abundance to be found in this way of life. Whatever discomfort you face initially will go away as people adapt to the rich flavours of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and spices.

Will you take this simple action that can save you, your people, and your country? Will you keep speak into the deaf ears of faceless bureaucracies powered by financial interests and power structures? Will you spread the message that can make a difference?

Will you inspire people to take action or will we spend another decade talking more about “awareness”?

The choice is yours.

In writing this, it has been my hope that you look at this issues afresh. I hope it changes your thinking and gives you a sense of real hope. You now have a message of personal action to give everyone. If you wish to speak further, feel free to reach out to me. In my own small way, I have been taking action to work on the same problem that you have been. We are allies ultimately.

You have more to gain from spreading this message than anyone. Don’t let the will of the tongue get in the way of the life of the planet.

I wish you all the best in your new role!

Sincerely,

Dhawal Tank

Canada

The following is a list of citations for all of my claims:

  1. The Cost Of Going Green Globally
  2. “Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.” EPA Office of Research and Development. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2011.
  3. “Overfishing: A Threat to Marine Biodiversity.” UN News Center.
  4. “General Situation of World Fish Stocks.” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  5. Science, “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services”.
  6. National Geographic, article Nov. 2006
  7. World Resources Institute, “Keeping Options Alive”.
  8. World Population Data Sheet
  9. Fao.org. Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment.
  10. WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.
  11. Ross, Philip. “Cow farts have ‘larger greenhouse gas impact’ than previously thought; methane pushes climate change.” International Business Times. 2013.
  12. “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions.” Science Magazine.
  13. Ibid.
  14. “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.
  15. Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. . Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.
  16. U.N. Press Release, Climate Summit 2014.
  17. “Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change & Health.” Environmental Working Group.
  18. 27%-30%+ of global water consummation is for animal agriculture. 
  19. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Livestock a major threat to environment”
  20. NOAA News, 2014.
  21. “Risk Assessment Evaluation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Research and Development. 2004. ; “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.
  22. 335 million tons of “dry matter” is produced annually by livestock in the US.“FY-2005 Annual Report Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program 206.” USDA Agricultural Research Service. 2008.
  23. Animal agriculture: waste management practices. United States General Accounting Office.
  24. “Livestock impacts on the environment.” Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (fao). 2006. ; World Bank. “Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon”
  25. Cornell Chronicle, “U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists”.
  26. “Soy Benefits”. National Soybean Research Laboratory. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
  27. Oil, water: “Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003.
  28. “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.” Climactic change, 2014.
  29. “Water Footprint Assessment.” University of Twente, the Netherlands.
  30. Journal of Animal Science. “Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States.” 

An Open Letter to President Anote Tong from the Republic of Kiribati

The following is a letter I wrote to President Anote Tong from the Republic of Kiribati. It was inspired by a conversation he had with Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED Conference.

11 January 2016

Re: Climate Change and Kiribati: The way we can all make a difference!

Dear Mr. President Tong,

It saddened me greatly to hear about the struggles that the people of Kiribati are facing. Climate change has become a very real problem for you, and sadly far too many world leaders are not reacting strongly enough to the threat it poses.

Listening to your recent conversation with Chris Anderson, I was left humbled and inspired by the courage of you and your people to face this challenges as you adapt to deal with this threat.

At the same time, I can understand your deep frustration in working with large organizations (governments and industry) to take this issue seriously, and take drastic action to curtail this catastrophe.

The status-quo is too profitable, easy, and comfortable for the powerful interests at bay. In the face of such odds, it is easy to get discouraged.

However, you hold a position of incredible respect in front of the people who come to listen to you speak. You have the power to deliver a message of personal action to all those who listen: an action that would do more to slowdown the advance of climate change than the laborious and unfruitful lobbying you have experienced in dealing with industry and governments.

I do not wish to sell you anything. I do not work for any industry interests. All I wish to do is share an idea that can transform the world significantly and help you save your country. If you approach it with an open mind, you will find that my claims are cited and accurate. While this action is simple, it could be difficult for many to implement. Yet, you will become a force of powerful action to all those with whom you share your message.

First let’s look at what the status quo solutions are: switch to renewable energy sources; recycle more; use more public transit; switch to electric vehicles and stop polluting as much.

These are all good solutions but the impact of them is limited.

For instance, converting to wind and solar power will take 20+ years and roughly $43 trillion.1 Do you have this time? How will you encourage organizations to spend this much money? Even if a hundred of you spoke, action of this scale will take a while to implement.

Natural gas is an intermediary solution. However, hydraulic fracking uses 70-140 billion gallons of water annually, and the emissions are still significant.2

What will you do when your peoples way of life is threatened when the oceans are fishless by 2048?3,4 How can you avoid the fact that 3/4th of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted?5,6 By giving out more licenses as you are doing? Do you give away the last vestiges of your dwindling fortune or will you ask for something more that everyone can do?

How will you stop the 1-2 acres of rainforest that are being cleared every single second?7 How will you reconcile that the hunger for a so called better life is infecting the rising middle class as the population increases and reaches 8 billion? 10 billion? The world population grows by 228,000 people every single day.8

In all honesty, you are either being deceived, or have resigned your power into the hands of larger players to solve this problem. If you believe that any one country or any one company pledging to reduce their carbon footprint will matter, you are deceiving yourself, and losing precious time in the process. All these issues are massive and ordinary people cannot rally against them. We must surrender our power in the hands of the powerful. You cannot spread a message of true hope this way.

Here is what you must do: you must encourage individual action because you and I cannot afford to keep waiting and hoping and giving away our power to those that have no interest in changing. You tried that for a lifetime and it has not worked.

So what is the most powerful action that everyone can take to stop climate change? What is this thing that causes more greenhouse gases than all of the transportation sector put together? What action could it be that all of us can start taking to halt climate change?

You may laugh at the suggestion I am making. But that would be to your detriment. While you may be applauded by many as you rally against climate change, the actual impact you will make will be minuscule compared to the impact you can make.

The answer is simple: stop eating meat, stop consuming dairy and eggs, and yes, stop eating fish.

Here’s why:

As per the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation modes.9 As for carbon dioxide, livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of it annually, or 51% of all worldwide emissions.10

Cows raised for their meat produce 150 billion gallons of methane every single day.11 Methane is 25-100x more destructive than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period to the environment.12, 13

Beyond that, raising animals for food is responsible for 65% of all nitrous-oxide emissions – a greenhouse gas 296x more potent than carbon dioxide which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years as per the United Nations.14

Are we really going to ask industry to stop polluting when most of the pollution and inaction is due to the willful ignorance on our plates?

Even if we were to stop using fossil fuels, we would exceed 565 gigatonnes limit by 2030, all from raising animals.15 Instead, if we worked to reduce methane emissions, we would create tangible benefits immediately!16

We are also failing to look at the tremendous amount of resources used to eat meat, dairy, fish, and eggs.

1,800 litres of water are used to produce 1 lb of eggs, and 3,406 litres of water are used to produce 1 lb of cheese.17 As for red meat such as beef, it takes 5,678 litres of water to raise 1 lb of beef.30 Indeed, animal agriculture uses between 20%-33% of all fresh water in the world today.18

Animals used to produce food take up a third of the earth’s ice free land.19 Animal agriculture has created more than 500 nitrogen flooded deadzones around the world in our oceans making it the leading cause of ocean dead zones, water pollution, and species extinction in the world.20,21

Why is this?

Because every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement is produced by animals raised for food in the United States alone.22 Because 130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the US alone – 1.4 billion tonnes from the meat industry annually.23

Indeed, the leading cause of rainforest destruction is livestock and raising feed for livestock.24 We could push for them to not cut the rainforest, or find other practices. Or we could stop people from wanting to eat meat and tackle the issue at the root.

What about world hunger? How will we feed such a growing number of people? Well, the fact is that we are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people, yet the vast majority of the land and resources are used to raise animals and their feed instead.25

On any given area of land, plants can produce 15x more protein than animals.26 We can feed the world.

If you advocated people to take personal action by cutting the animal foods, you would make each person contribute 50% less carbon dioxide.28 Each person you inspire would help save 4,100 litres of water, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions every day!29, 30

President Tong, changing the world begins with changing ourselves. You can be a true messenger of peace as you explain to audiences worldwide that they too can change the world if they change their lifestyle. It is not difficult, nor do you sacrifice your health for it. The science on this is indisputable: when people stop eating meat, dairy, eggs, and fish, and get their nutrition from whole plant based foods, their health improves for the better.

All it requires is a small change every day to eat less animal foods and eat more plant foods. Like with everything, we can get used to this. There is incredible variety, deliciousness, and abundance to be found in this way of life. Whatever discomfort you face initially will go away as people adapt to the rich flavours of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and spices.

Will you take this simple action that can save you, your people, and your country or will you keep spreading the message of false hope? Will you keep labouring into the deaf ears of faceless bureaucracies powered by financial interests and power structures or will you spread the message that can make a difference?

Will you inspire people to take action or will we spend another decade talking more about “awareness”?

The choice is yours.

In writing this, it has been my hope that you look at this issues afresh. I hope it changes your thinking and gives us all real hope. You now have a message of personal action to give everyone. If you wish to speak further, feel free to reach out to me. In my own small way, I have been taking action to work on the same problem that you have been. We are allies ultimately.

You have more to gain from spreading this message than anyone. Don’t let the will of the tongue get in the way of the life of the planet.

Sincerely,

Dhawal Tank

Canada

 

The following is a list of citations for all of my claims:

  1. The Cost Of Going Green Globally
  2. “Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.” EPA Office of Research and Development. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2011.
  3. “Overfishing: A Threat to Marine Biodiversity.” UN News Center.
  4. “General Situation of World Fish Stocks.” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  5. Science, “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services”.
  6. National Geographic, article Nov. 2006
  7. World Resources Institute, “Keeping Options Alive”.
  8. World Population Data Sheet
  9. Fao.org. Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment.
  10. WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.
  11. Ross, Philip. “Cow farts have ‘larger greenhouse gas impact’ than previously thought; methane pushes climate change.” International Business Times. 2013.
  12. “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions.” Science Magazine.
  13. Ibid.
  14. “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.
  15. Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. . Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.
  16. U.N. Press Release, Climate Summit 2014.
  17. “Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change & Health.” Environmental Working Group.
  18. 27%-30%+ of global water consummation is for animal agriculture. 
  19. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Livestock a major threat to environment”
  20. NOAA News, 2014.
  21. “Risk Assessment Evaluation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Research and Development. 2004. ; “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.
  22. 335 million tons of “dry matter” is produced annually by livestock in the US.“FY-2005 Annual Report Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program 206.” USDA Agricultural Research Service. 2008.
  23. Animal agriculture: waste management practices. United States General Accounting Office.
  24. “Livestock impacts on the environment.” Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (fao). 2006. ; World Bank. “Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon”
  25. Cornell Chronicle, “U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists”.
  26. “Soy Benefits”. National Soybean Research Laboratory. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
  27. Oil, water: “Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003.
  28. “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.” Climactic change, 2014.
  29. “Water Footprint Assessment.” University of Twente, the Netherlands.
  30. Journal of Animal Science. “Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States.” 

 

Ideas in 2015

I had originally decided to write this as a post with the best books I read in 2015, but ideas are a lot more general and books are not always the best place to get ideas. I hope these ideas serve you as well:

1. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

This book was a game-changer for me. Everywhere around us, the stories that rise to the top are stories of people who had massive success. We hear about stories of Zuckerberg, Gates, Warren Buffet, et al. We hear about companies such as Instagram and Uber which are creating or transforming entire industries. Seeing all this, I used to get down on myself. I would wonder why others were succeeding while I was not. Perhaps something was wrong with me. The ones who made it are just more special or more worthy than me to have made such quantum jumps.

Not so. The Slight Edge talks about the incredible power of changing the definition of success to taking any action towards a worthwhile ideal. The book also has the idea that success is easy if the practice of success happens over time.

Consider the idea of losing weight. You know that drinking soda will not help you in that area. However, if you’re with friends you realize that drinking that can of soda in that moment will not make you gain weight. But you also know that NOT drinking that can of soda will not help you lose weight. And that’s where we fail. It is easy to say no at that moment to that soda, but it also easy to say yes. Yet, compound decisions like that over a long enough period of time and we are not able to succeed with our weight goals.

You can apply this to all areas of your life: schooling, fitness, relationships, business, etc. In fact, I ended up listening to this book 3-4 times this year. I found it to be absolutely powerful and I highly recommend it. The book helps you really understand the idea of the slight edge and how it can be applied to all parts of your life. It really is the secret between success and failure in life.

As a result of this, I ended up taking and following through on an online course by the University of Berkeley and edx: The Beauty and Joy of Computing.

While it may not have an immediate benefit in my life, I understand that getting more skills under my belt that interest me will undoubtedly pay off in the long run. [for more on that, read Scott Adams’ highly fun book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.] There were more areas that I applied the slight edge in, which I will get into below.

2. Giving > Getting

This idea was profound and was inspiring by a few books: The Go-Giver by Bob Burg, Become An Idea Machine by Claudia Altucher, and Choose Yourself by James Altucher, Charlie Hoehn (whom you should definitely follow), and the work I’ve done with BAPS Charities.

The goal of the list above isn’t to name drop, but to share the tremendous commonality of this idea to success and happiness that people have found again and again in all walks of life.

The idea is simple: the best way to have a fulfilling career, relationships, health, etc is to give first. James and Claudia Altucher propose the idea of giving out great ideas to people and companies. Coding, production, etc can all be outsourced, but good ideas cannot. The goal is to exercise the idea muscle (which is a muscle like any other part of your body) and give give and give the best away to people who can use it. This leads to conversations and conversations lead to opportunities to contribute. I have literally emailed founders at companies with ideas and gotten a positive reaction.

Textbooks for Change, Akira.MD, Ginger.io, and OpenCare  have been a few companies I’ve done this with in the last 2 months alone and have been blown away by how much I have learned about them, but also how appreciate they have been with my insights and ideas. In one instance, I have had a chance to become an adviser to the company.

Bob Burg and Charlie Hoehn mention that giving out ideas, but also connections, and opportunities will lead to more exciting career fulfillment. This is something that I plan to dive very deeply into in 2016. I find this method of forging a career to be a lot more rewarding than the apply via a cover letter and CV to jobs and move ahead. By giving with any expectation of getting anything back before any real tangible opportunity, we are much more likely to get a positive response back.

This technique above helped me make new friends as I’ve reached out to people I’ve admired and shared ideas that they may like.

3. Education != Schooling

 

John Taylor Gatto is a revelation. I first stumbled across his 5 hour interview titled The Ultimate History Lesson. As New York State’s teacher of the year, and New York City’s teacher of the year many times over, he had had enough and had to quit.

Gatto goes deep into the history of schooling and goes on to outline with startling clarity how modern schools are not designed to educate citizens, but rather designed to create a class of workers. These workers are conditioned over at least 12,000 hours of forced schooling to base their intellectual and emotional value and worth in external approval, have others set the agenda for their lives. The system is designed to enforce hierarchy and class structure so that most do not deviate from it.

He goes on to highlight alternative methods of education, which should develop the…

  1. Ability to define problems without a guide.
  2. Ability to ask questions that challenge common assumptions.
  3. Ability to work without guidance.
  4. Ability to work absolutely alone.
  5. Ability to persuade others that yours is the right course.
  6. Ability to debate issues and techniques in public.
  7. Ability to re-organize information into new patterns.
  8. Ability to discard irrelevant information.
  9. Ability to think dialectically.
  10. Ability to think inductively, deductively, and heuristically.

If you are short on time, at least carve out 1 hour to listen to his lecture titled “The Seven Lesson School Teacher: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

If you are more interested, there are many interesting ways to follow-up. Gatto’s book titled Weapons of Mass Instruction come to mind. There is also a massive open-sourced learning community that untethers education from schooling and encourage people of all ages to take control of their education. These ideas make it very clear that fixing schools won’t do it. For a real revolution, we must learn to educate ourselves. We must learn to take control of our own lives and not wait for the power-that-be to grant us the golden ticket of our destiny.

I know this all sounds very conspiratorial, but after doing your own independent reading and listening to the story that’s laid out, you cannot help but get how true the story presented above is.

Understanding these ideas helped me understand many of the feelings of general helplessness, loneliness, and poor self-image I have often experienced (or keep experiencing at times). Understanding the role of schooling in my life has given me such a large portion of my power back. It has helped me be bolder in my thinking in actions, fear less, and find happiness and self-worth in my own self.

4. Move!

Spark! The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey at the Harvard Medical School convinced me beyond a shred of doubt that daily exercise is a great lifetime practice not just for my body but also for my brain. As a nerd, it was the brain talk that convinced me to start exercising daily.

Aerobic exercise changes the brain completely and significantly impacts its ability to learn, manage stress, ward off and treat ADHD, depression, and addiction. The opening chapter alone is worth the price of admission as Dr. Ratey highlights the impact of exercise on a school population with an absolutely staggering impact.

I’ve been almost pretty disciplined since this summer to have kept a regular exercise habit going. Exercise has become a mainstay in my life and without it, I have a hard time thinking and functioning well. My body gets antsy after a while if I haven’t exercised. I highly recommend this book for those who do not take exercise seriously because it presents ideas on how the brain itself is impacted.

Credit goes to the incredible Special Ops trainer Mark Lauren for writing You Are Your Own Gym to help me devise a High-Intensity Interval Training program.

That was 2015 in a set of ideas. I’ve tried to present the most life-changing ideas above. I hope some of them were useful to you. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or clarifications you would like and I would be happy to go into them.

70% of New Businesses Fail…so what?

You may have heard the statistic that 70-80% of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years. This statistic is meant to act is a deterrent for you to venture out and experiment on your own.

The unstated fact remains that while 70% of new businesses may fail within the first five years, but do 70% of business owners fail? The answer is: no.

For most business owners, the failure of the business is not tied to their own personal failure. From my own personal experience running small experiments and a small start-up subscription box company a little over a year back, I can definitely say that while those business ideas failed to take off, I learned more about how business is done from those few experiments than I had from my 4 years of undergrad. It also cost me significantly less.

From talking with hundreds of entrepreneurs in my current role, I can confidently say that while many of them have had businesses that have failed, none of them have taken it personally. The lessons have been invaluable in growing their next venture.

Steve Pavlina puts it another way:

While a business or a job may cease to endure after a certain number of years, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. You’re still going to learn and grow and create value along the way, regardless of the outcome. Just as a job can be a stepping stone, so can a business, and there’s no reason you can’t start a new business with the expectation that it’s only temporary. Jobs and businesses come and go. Your own personal growth is what endures. (source)

Do not let statistics deter your desire to experiment and try out new things. The failure of an idea or process is not the failure of the person. It is most likely a massive success in growth.

 

How to Switch & Final Thoughts

Note: this is the final post in my series on “Why I Went Vegan”. I recommend you start from the beginning to get a better idea of what this is all about. 

Water Hyacinth

In this final post in the series, I will go over 3 main ideas that can help you transition to a whole foods plant based lifestyle.

Finding a few good meals:

This part is critical. Changing everything up completely might be too drastic (although recommended). What you need are a few good dishes you can resort to time and time again that are whole foods and plant based.

For me, breakfast is always steel-cut hot oatmeal along with a large fruit and vegetable smoothie (remember, no need to put in nut butters).

I sip on my smoothie as I drive off to work, and I keep sipping it throughout the day that I usually don’t even need a lunch. Dinner is also a staple for me: a bean based soup along with flatbread (roti). At times, I might have a baked potato or a sweet yam with a few spices on them. No oil, no margarine, no sour cream.

Finding simplicity in your diet is big because it removes the guesswork. When you feel more creative, you can loop up some more recipes. However, a few staple should be good enough to get started.

You may think that this reduces your ability as you travel. This is not true. I spend a lot of time on the road due to my work. I have since resorted to reading both the nutritional information of foods at fast food joints as well as the ingredient lists. This has given me a good idea of what I can/cannot eat if I really need to eat outside food. I recommend spending some time researching this if you find yourself needing to eat out more often.

McDonald’s for example, has Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, which although does not have the best ingredients (maltodextrin or corn syrup comes to mind), is adequate enough when I’m on the road and absolutely must eat.

Tim Horton’s also has Oatmeal I can eat (with bagels coming second).

At work events, people may go to Swiss Chalet (and other sit down type restaurants). Restaurants are typically okay to serve up a baked potato (without the sour cream and butter and oils) and a side of some vegetables. That seems to keep me going.

Remember, switching to this diet is not meant to restrict your social life. You will find that it may spark a discussion, but you certainly won’t be the person who has nothing in front of yourself at social events.

Social Support

This is easier and easier these days. Making the change can be hard. You must surround yourself with people and inspiration that direct you on this path. Reinforcement is everything. Otherwise, you may feel tempted. Whether it be online forums, watching videos on youtube, looking at posts on Instagram or Pinterest, find your tribe of people who are following this lifestyle and stick with them. If people in your immediate family and friend circle do not get this, be patient, but find your own tribe.

Otherwise you will end up being resentful, and ultimately tired from doing this on your own. Meetup.com is a great place to find other vegan people in your community.  This will make it easier for you to stick with a lifestyle change, and be persistent, patient, and loving to those who do not get it.

Be Easy On Yourself

Like with any lifestyle change, there will be times you relapse. But remember to keep showing up because the effect does add up. Beating yourself up will not do anything.

You should also not expect results overnight. You will not see them. However, with time, they will accumulate.

The metaphor of the water hyacinth comes to mind (pictured above):

On a pond’s surface, on the first day you will barely be able to make out this plant. For the first few weeks you will have a hard time spotting it. On day 15, it may end up covering one square foot of the entire pond surface. On day 20, you may notice it take up the place of a small dense little mattress. On day 29, half the pond will be covered, and on day 30, the entire pond will be covered by this plant.

That’s the way of change. On day 1, whether you eat the wrong things or the right things won’t make a difference. One day in and of itself does not make a difference. However, the accumulation of choices ends up making a huge difference. So, stick with it and be easy on yourself if you mess up. Change will happen because you will see it impact your energy, your weight, your mood, your pocketbook (as it is more economical to eat this way), and your life as a whole.

Final Thoughts

Now more than ever we need to switch to a whole foods plant based diet. We need to do it for the planet (eating meat, dairy, poultry is the most environmentally destructive thing you can do), for our conscience (the cruelty that these animals suffer on our behalf needs to stop), and for our health (the science is unanimous: a whole foods plant based diet is the best for living a long, healthy, full, and rich life).

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the only argument that people have against this is this: ìt tastes too good too switch.

We need to be evangelists in showing what it means to live this lifestyle. We need to show how vibrant, energetic, fun, and delicious this lifestyle is.

That has been the purpose behind me writing about this. I hope it has helped you see things differently.

 

Why I Went Vegan – The Environmental Responsibility

Note: Consider starting this series from the first post here which sets this decision in a larger context. 

Global Warming. The Earth became the newest Waterworld.

I have been a lifelong environmentalist. I remember back when I was a kid, I would be endlessly fascinating by nature. I would revolt when adults around me would litter, and I would be horrified by noxious black smoke erupting outwards from the tailpipes of vehicles clearly not following any regulations when I lived in India. Back then, I did not have any answers. But now I do. And everyone needs to know now more than ever.

Continue reading “Why I Went Vegan – The Environmental Responsibility”