Citizenship: Conscientious Consumption
If the tone of my blog leans toward the confessional from time to time, that's probably the intent. I've made no secret, in promoting my book, that it's the manifestation not of my perceived superiority in any of the 8 pillar competencies discussed, but rather MY ongoing efforts at "being better at being human". And so today, I continue in this tempo, acknowledging my own flaws and failures, with a focus upon citizenship, the "for people and planet competency" as I call it in the book.
As I advised a client earlier this month, he should have some content at the ready for Earth Day, April 22. I knew, as I uttered those words how hypocritical they were, coming from a guy who'd just published a book about daily actions over mere words (or pictures). I knew also, and said as much in our conversation, that by chiming in on the Earth Day chorus, with millions of other companies, and billions of people, there would be no distinguishing him from anyone else. "The only way to truly stand out would be to say nothing", I quipped cynically about a world so deeply obsessed in likes, tags and follows. But saying nothing on Earth Day is to suggest, of course, that you’re a climate change denier. Hence, secretly, I was thinking that I too should have something to say on my blogpost for "earth week".
And so, here it is. I think it's a bandwagon worth jumping on, but I also want to prove there's a shred of authenticity to my message.
As mentioned, I think I wrote my book, "The Daily Undoing: Being Better at Being Human" more for my own sense of gaining self-awareness, and eventually purpose, than for mass consumption. Which is probably a good measure to manage even the most distant "what-if" delusional expectations. Giving my little 60 second jolts of competencies matched with actions each day over my podcast in 2020 was most definitely a passion play, but it wasn't until I actually started to read the book, in its hard copy, finished form, in my hands, that I realized that I was really trying to tell myself something. And something was, "you gotta do better, dude." That's what literally sprung forth the subtitle. My wife said, "Dave, what do you want people to take away from this?" Stumbling and stammering as if my beloved was now Kevin O'Leary, I finally spat out, "just to be better at being human". "That's it!" she jolted, "that's your pitch". Secretly, I can admit now, it was I who sought this yearning of true, full self improvement.
Let me get back to the point of this blog and how it ties to my own behaviour. There are 8 pillar competencies I trot out for display in equal portions throughout the book, spread across 366 episodes, as the podcast ran every day of the leap year that was 2020. So, roughly 45 occasions for me to contemplate each competency, view them from slightly different points of view, and suggest an action to drive home their applicability to us humans. I can honestly say, there's not a single one of these actions that I have not, or do not do as situations crop up in my life, but the Citizenship competency pages always tested me. Reflecting on how much I was taking as opposed to giving to the planet, often left me feeling I wasn't doing enough.
The "for people and planet competency" is a nod to the popular, though somewhat over-played and under-performed "triple bottom line" business concept: profit being the actual "bottom line" of an income statement; paired with environmental (planet) and social (people) outcomes. And so I attempt to divide my takes on the citizenship competency equally between those two latter categories. I'll talk about where I fall short in the "giving back to society" component another day. For now, let me share one of my favorite "episodes" from the book, and one that has been cathartic to me. It was episode number 272 – I’ve used a screenshot of the page for this blogpost.
If you listen to the actual podcast episode from which this page was hatched, you'll hear me, quite sheepishly admit I was ready to toss a perfectly good shirt into the TRASH CAN, of all places, because it was missing a button! I'm happy to say the shirt was salvaged, along with my own self-respect for a crime against the planet I prevented myself from committing...but sadly had committed countless times prior to adopting this “undoing” mindset.
Look, the voicing of the podcast, and the writing of this blog have by no means made me a saint. But these activities have made me more aware of what I, me, myself, can and should be doing more of. And here's the added moment of clarity to me - there is no limit to being better. You never reach mastery in these things. That's actually why they're called "competencies" rather than "masteries". You are always in pursuit of simply being better.
Sometimes you get the sense you haven't even moved your own competency needle. Last weekend, for example, I ignorantly patted myself on the back after having saved an electric countertop kitchen appliance from the landfill by selling it on Kijiji. It was a win-win-win. Someone got a cheap blender, the blender stayed out of the landfill, and I got 20 bucks. But as the faint glow of my savvy business acumen faded, I admitted to myself that I had simply pushed the faulty contraption out of my sightline, and actually profited for this deck-chair shuffle. I thought of all those times I'd cursed under my breath having seen a microwave abandoned beside a Salvation Army bin in a shopping centre parking lot, and thought to myself I was not much better. But, once again, as every step forward seems met with a step or two back, I resolved to do better next time I had to decide what to do with an unwanted item. To really, fully consume as much as I could from purchased items before sending them to an unknown destination where they would cause damage to the earth. To consume-fully.
Again, this is not yours truly on any kind of high horse. The opposite in fact. As I say in the book's opening pages, count me in not as your guru, but as your willing tour guide to work on myself in the same way the book attempts to help you work on you. And one of the things this little everyday happenstance taught me about myself was that if I’m going to seek the dual satisfaction of cleaning my conscience while cleaning my home, it had better be a deep clean. A thorough clean. A cleaning for which I can take accountability. Otherwise my conscience will advise me of the scam I have fallen for, at the hands of my not-so noble intent.