2016, a year in (reluctant) review

You’ve already read a lot of ‘year-in-review’ for 2016. Why else would you be here? Perhaps for some reason you need another one. Ok, here it is. But be prepared to be disappointed. Or, at the very least, discomforted.

2016 was indeed a year of change. I remember repeating this like mantra for my team at our weekly scrum meetings. Things will change, projects will move faster, objectives will increase. Moving targets, contingencies, work-back schedules, risk, etc. Some of it – technical jargon, and some – surprisingly common knowledge. Looking back at it – turns out I had no idea just how much of my life would change, and just how much of it will stay exactly the same, only amplified.

If you’re still wringing your arms over sudden deaths of celebrities, please stop it. People die. Older ones – die in larger numbers. It’s a process of aging, you cannot change it. Also, if you got a history of substance abuse of a bit of cancer in your family, the odds are against you. Yes, it sucks that Bowie is gone, Prince has left and Leia is in a galaxy far away – but can we perhaps bring the mass mourning down a notch? They all left amazing, massive legacies. They have been our role models for so long. Why the hysteria? Let them do, and let’s find new role models. Maybe we’re in such emotional disarray because the younger actors/singers/creators are a pale comparison? Or maybe our social platforms are so much better at amplifying pain and grief than joy and happiness. How quickly we learned to dismiss people’s positive moments as ‘showing off’. “Oh, look at that guy’s feet on the beach, what a jerk.” Perhaps that “jerk” has worked most of the year to afford that beach vacation, and just outside of the photo frame is his happy family and kids, all enjoying their time together. Damn, even without kids and family, it’s a great moment – so let it be what it is.

And what’s with re-playing the results of the US election? Drumpf won “fair and square” – by manipulating the rotten electoral system, and only going for the states/districts he knew he could sell to. We knew it, we dismissed him (especially painful for us Torontonians, because we KNOW EXACTLY what this populist garbage leads to – it will take years to undo the damage RoFo has done). We knew he was a cheat – why are we shocked by the outcome? Worst of all, we failed to see the other side – his supporters – to truly see them. The poor, the frustrated, the misinformed. You know, the people in this world who regularly vote against their interests? Yes, technically the term is ‘low-information-voter’. There are more insulting ways to describe those people, but the point is, they came out and voted. In droves. Love decided not to trump anything, and took a day off. Love was blind. Irony is too big here. But it’s done. The child is in charge, and we need to move on. Work with him, or around him. Stop pretending it *CAN* be another way. It *WILL* be this way. Look at all the opportunists already surrounding him. So what are YOU going to do?

First, make better choices. What you read, what you eat, how late you go to bed, and what you binge-watch. Actually, the less you binge-watch, the better. Less binge-eating would help, too. There are so many choices in our lives – for news, entertainment, food, pastime – why are we choosing so poorly?

Or more accurately, why are enough of us choosing so poorly that it affects a lot more of us? (pause here for a second, read this question again, I think it will be a lot more illuminating for you, if you just give it a second to sink in)

Choose better, educate yourself, and make informed choices. It’s not always the most convenient choice. Surprise, sometimes it’s the hardest choice that’s the correct one. And once you make the choice, please live with the consequences. Drunk driving, walk-texting, fast food – these are all choices – without any regard for consequences. So is drunk-tweeting by the way, but to a lesser degree. I think I can cause minimal harm if I drunk-tweet tomorrow.

Second, educate others. Constantly. There was this immediate reaction from journalists, right after the election: “how do we move forward, if nothing we do matters?” Oh, what an egotistical worldview. Shut up. What you do matters – you’re just doing it wrong, or you’re preaching to the converted. You kept leaping from headline to headline, rushing to be FIRST, being fooled by convenient fakery and sheer propaganda (the stuff that works on low-information-voters), and meanwhile the bigger stories kept falling through the cracks. Big kudos to the guy who started counting the # of lies Drumpf told every day. Nice gimmick. Numbers sell. Congrats. But that wasn’t enough. Why weren’t those lies confronted? Objected? Vehemently denied? Loudly, on front-pages? It wasn’t enough. So it fell through the cracks. Worse, people are still not sure of what is actually true – and unless journos (and publishers) change their ways, things will get worse. So educate. Your family members, your readers, your subscribers. Don’t wait for the dreaded Thanksgiving Dinner – do it regularly. It doesn’t have to be fights, or family scandals. If your clan is really in such disagreements over which direction the country needs to go – where were you the last 7.5 years? Educate, just don’t preach. Find commonalities, and points of agreement, and build from there. Know the difference.

And final advice: get used to being uncomfortable. Comfort leads to laziness – you have no idea how quickly that happens. Challenge yourself, give yourself goals out of reach, strive better, and don’t be shy about showing that to others. You won’t get everyone, but you also won’t be a passive element in this changing world. Things will be moving even faster, technologies and automation will evolve and your choices will multiply. I know it’s tempting to make an easy choice, when you’re running out of time, and it’s tempting to destroy and build anew, when you’re running out of resources – but those usually the wrong choices. Some things are worth repairing (like Democracy, and Infrastructure), and some tough choices will bear fruit long-term – like self-education and sharing of knowledge with others.

Retreating into ‘good old ways’ is a mistake. Familiar but wrong. Some have already done it, and more will follow suit. Don’t be tempted. You’re better than this. You have more potential than this. You also have a lot more role models than you think – they just don’t make all the headlines yet.

One small comment about those counting down the year. Stop it – 2016 was rough, but you’re deluding yourself if you think January 1st the sun will come out. It’s not a zodiac thing, and it’s not a Chinese calendar thing. Bad stuff happens – we were just not prepared for a lot of it in 2016, so it kept pounding at us. So be prepared. Be aware, and make better choices.

Let’s have more progress than disruption. Genuine, committed progress. It won’t be easy, but it’s a path worth taking.

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