Get rid of the birdfeeder: how to really solve the problem of illegal immigrants

I got an email called "Quite an Analogy" forwarded on by somebody I respect and it made me so mad.  It said we should stop providing housing assistance, emergency medical care and free schools.  Because if we did that all the immigrants would go away and life would be better for us.  No crowding, no mess.  (It was comparing it to the fact that if you put on bird feeders, the birds come and make a mess and pester you for food.  Take down the bird feeders, the birds go away and the mess is solved.)

Let me see, if I stopped feeding my kids, they’d probably go away sooner or later and the house would sure be cleaner and quieter.  Or to make the analogy more accurate, that if the neighbor kids started coming over for food, I should stop feeding the neighbor kids and my kids, so that the neighbor kids (never mind what would happen to mine) would go away.  What kind of reasoning is that??  And it obviously resonates with people – someone forwarded it to me. 

If you want the problem to go away, you need to look at why you have the problem.  It’s not because you put out the bird feeder.  If the emergency rooms are crowded, it’s not because you offer emergency care to everyone, it’s because some people had no where else to go.  Figure out why they don’t have family doctors and help them get them.  It has to be easier and cheaper for them and the emergency rooms to provide care for them some other way.  Personally, I like that the courts have constantly up held our right to emergency care regardless of proof of insurance.

I think people that want to get rid of the bird feeder are just plain lazy.  They aren’t willing to really figure out why we have this problem.  This isn’t the immigrants’ problem.  It’s our problem.  We have to fix it.  Getting rid of the bird feeder will just change the problem, not solve it.   

I take that back.  Getting rid of the bird feeder, if it meant lowering our standard of living to that of Mexico, might solve the problem.  If life was as bad here as there, maybe they wouldn’t come.  If I stop feeding my kids, the neighbor kids will stop coming over for dinner. 

How to convince someone they are wrong

You know that it’s hard to change someone’s mind because they’d have to admit they are wrong and nobody likes to be wrong.  Well, anytime you convince someone to use a new product, they are in some sense admitting that their old solution was wrong.  In All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World Seth Godin gives the perfect example with Acumen.  Acumen is a non profit that wants to invest in third world companies that sell affordable products to people in developing countries – it’s the best way to help their economies grow.  However, traditional philanthropists don’t want to hear that the way they’ve been doing it is wrong – and traditional investors don’t care that the company they are investing in is in a developing country as long as it makes them money.  So Acumen had to tell a different story and reach out to a different market: those philanthropists that are not happy with the way things currently work. 

If you want to convince someone to do it your way or buy your product, don’t tell them that the way they are doing it now is wrong.  Sell them a new, exciting story.

A cool coffee shop created by a guy who believes businesses shouldn’t exploit people

My parents have found a really neat coffee shop in Brookings, South Dakota.  They not only serve good coffee and food but they’ve created a welcoming and fun ambiance with local art on the walls, live music and interesting books.  (I stumbled across D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself there and any place that introduces me to an interesting book is a good place!)

The owner Jacob Limmer is featured in this video explaining why he didn’t like businesses – because he thought they exploited people – and how he’s gone about creating his own fun, very successful, not exploitative business.

We listen to what we want to hear

Growing up I had a reputation for being really good.  Because everyone believed I was really good, they would never believe I had done anything wrong.  Honest.  My eighth grade class elected me class delegate (this was Spain) simply because I could deliver the bad news and be the scape goat and I wouldn’t get in trouble for it because everyone believed I was good.  I got to explain all sorts of things that we had done and the teachers would go, yes, yes, I know, and I know you weren’t part of it.  (It only backfired once, when the teacher said she’d dock my grade unless I fessed up some names.  I lived with docked history grades for the rest of the year.)

So I knew intuitively that people hear what they already believe.  (We usually say they hear what they want to hear – but really they hear what they believe.) Seth Godin put it in writing much more clearly in All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. Marketers can tell any story they like, but the only one you are going to hear is the one you already agreed with in the first place.  You hear you need that special cup of coffee because you are special and deserve it.  They didn’t have to convince you that you were special – they just reminded you of the fact.

I was tempted to send a copy of the book to an ex-friend who looked at me like I was an egotistical smartass when I told her I really liked The Business Plan for the Body because it made perfect sense – the book described weightloss just like I thought about weightloss.  Her response was "You liked it because you agreed with it?"  And I was like, "yes!"  And she decided I was full of myself.  But Seth Godin says we all only hear and like what we agree with.  And I knew that from all the way back in eighth grade – I just didn’t know how to explain it.

Ira Glass on Storytelling

CurrentTV has a great video of Ira Glass on story telling.  (Ira Glass is the creator and producer of This American Life.)  In the video Ira talks about telling stories, finding good stories and "good taste."  It was the good taste section that I found really interesting.  You get into something because you enjoy it and appreciate it – you have good taste and you can tell what’s good and what’s bad.  Unfortunately, your taste is good enough for you to realize that what you are producing is not great.  Ira says you have to work through that – keep producing – and eventually you’ll get better.  He says most people quit at that point because their taste is good enough to realize that their product is terrible.  He then shared a radio segment he made eight years after he got into radio and he explained how terrible it was.  And yet he stuck with it and now he’s one of the most famous radio story tellers of our time.

Wow! We’re fat! Lose weight for your friends!

A couple of blogs I read pointed me to this article.  They focused on the fact that by 2015, 75% of Americans will be obese or overweight.  What I noticed is that two thirds of us already are!  66% of Americans are overweight or obese.  It’s already normal to be overweight.  And since a recent study found that you are more likely to be overweight if your friends are overweight, the more of us that are overweight, the more of us that will become overweight.  So not only are most of us fat, but if we’re not, we’re likely to be fat soon. 

And fat’s not healthy, so let’s all work on reaching our ideal weight.  If not for yourself, for your friends!

Flying with small children

I just read an excellent article about flying with small children.  Here’s a few tips from How to Fly with Kids

  1. Book a bulkhead row to prevent your child from kicking the seat in front of her.
  2. Reserve a window seat for your child. Most children enjoy looking out the window during flights.
  3. Use a backpack as a diaper bag; this will leave your hands free for other things.
  4. Pack empty bottles or sippy cups. Once you go through security, you can
    buy water and juice to fill them. You can also ask the flight
    attendants to fill them with water or juice.

There are lots more in the article!  One I would add from personal experience is explain ahead of time how security works and what happens if they select your bag for additional screening.  Jacob still thinks those security guys are mean for taking his backpack!

Do you like graphic novels and movies?

Graphic novels are like comic books.  Graphic movies look like comic books – they are real actors in black and white with digitally created backgrounds usually with a little color added.  300, the graphic movie about a Grecian king who is greatly outnumbered by the Persians, is the number one best seller on Amazon and it just released on DVD the day before yesterday.  (And we owned our copy the day before yesterday.) 

Personally, I like any movie that’s well done with a good story line.  However, the "graphic" effect doesn’t do anything for me.  The movie Sin City wasn’t bad because it looked like a comic but it wasn’t any better because it looked like a comic.

(I haven’t watched 300 yet but Frank says it’s good – he watched it after I went to bed and it was good enough to keep him up!)

Book review: Learn to Swim

Learn to Swim: Step-by-Step Water Confidence and Safety Skills for Babies and Young Children is a beautiful book about teaching kids to swim.  It has great pictures, step by step instructions, and games and techniques for teaching your children how to swim.  I especially liked the fact that it very clearly stated what children can learn at each stage.  So Caleb is now old enough to be learning how to hold his breath.  (He’s 11 months old.)  They not only said he can learn how to hold his breath, but explained how to teach him and what to watch for to see if he’s comfortable with it or we need to take some more time.  I now have a very clear guide of what I can work on with him and what I might want to wait a bit on. 

As a side note, my problem with Caleb is not making sure he’s comfortable or getting his face wet – it’s teaching him that he’s not a fish – he can’t just walk in water over his head!  He was quite happy to be in the water and immediately went walking towards his dad and didn’t seem to mind at all that it meant he inhaled a couple of lungfuls of water in the process!