An Argumentative Advantage

Those who know me best are well aware that I don’t shy away from conflict. Though I don’t seek out arguments, I’m not put off by them, and I don’t back away from them. In fact, I think sometimes arguments and disagreements are some of the most healthy conversations we can have. They make us better. They give us new perspective. If we’re truly listening and engaging in the conversation, they can persuade us to change our minds, or they can help us solidify our point of view.

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TED Talk Tuesday: Africa’s Next Boom


As you probably know by now, I’m a sucker for a good African story – especially one that inspires hope in the future. In this talk, economist Charles Robertson explains how Africa could be on the verge of the kind of explosive growth seen in India and Asia over the past century. His theory is that we are seeing the birth of a new boom in Africa that will change the economy of the entire continent and even of the world.

Having witnessed a dramatic shift in even the past few years in the cities of Nairobi and Nakuru, Kenya, I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Robertson. The growing middle class in Kenya is propelling innovation in the country. Education rates are up, mortality rates are down and the entrepreneurial spirit of the African people is strong. As one economist told me last week, “Kenyans see business not as risk, but as stability – and businesses here rarely fail.”

As my family begins our journey eastward toward Kenya, it’s amazing to think that 10 or 20 years from now, we could be telling stories about the “old” Africa – the poor, third world, developing continent. Here’s to hoping that in a generation or two, that version of Africa will be a distant memory.

TED Talk Tuesday: Finding the Next Einstein in Africa


Hat tip to Megan Roddie for bringing this talk to my attention.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences is the product of a big dream by one man, physicist Neil Turok. He believes that within the people of Africa lies untapped potential to create significant change for Africa and for the world. I share Turok’s belief.

One visit with a group of Kenyan students was all it took for me to realize that there are brilliant young minds out there who are simply starving for opportunity. And what I have seen, (which Turok doesn’t mention) is that when these young students have their physical needs cared for, they often excel in school. Once they no longer have to spend their time, energy and mental resources trying to figure out where they are going to find shelter or food or clothing, suddenly, they are able to devote more time to their studies and more energy to thinking about their future.

One of the great lies that has been perpetrated by Africans and non-Africans alike is that the western world has, is or needs to fix Africa. As Turok says and a good Kenyan friend of mine also says, “If Africa is going to be fixed, it’s going to be fixed by Africans.” Our greatest contributions, then, can be those of education, training, early intervention and a mentality that seeks not to help Africans survive, but seeks to give them the tools they need to excel no a global level.

Could the next Einstein come from Africa? Absolutely! Let’s do what we can to turn this dream into a reality.

TED Talk Tuesday: Lessons from Death Row Inmates


After a short hiatus (months fly by when you have an infant!), TED Talk Tuesdays are back.

Regarding the death penalty, everyone seems to have an opinion. Some are well-informed. Many are not. Most are well-intentioned, though some seem to be something else entirely. In his talk at TEDx in Austin, Texas, attorney David R. Row attempts to find common ground – a “corner of the debate” as he calls it – where those of varying opinions can coalesce and agree.

Row is an unabashed “abolitionist” when it comes to the death penalty, but he seeks to shift the talk away from a debate about the death penalty itself and more toward how we can stop the one thing everyone agrees is tragic – the murder of an innocent person.

Row’s challenge to our government, social and (though he doesn’t mention is) religious sectors is simple: We need to intervene in the lives of at-risk children sooner and with more intentionality. As a pastor and father of adopted children, I’ve heard stories like Row tells time and time again. Without intervention, many of these stories will repeat generation after generation.

But there are ways of breaking the cycle. They cost money. They take time. Most importantly, they take a population dedicated to doing more than just punishing bad people. We must step up and take responsibility as a society to care for those children who are the most at-risk.

The question I would ask after watching this talk is this: How much is a life worth? If time spent with a troubled kid today could mean saving the life of an innocent person 15 years from now, isn’t it worth whatever it takes? What if the life saved is your own or the life of someone you love? Would it be worth it then?

Whatever your take on the death penalty, I hope you are challenged by Row’s talk. I certainly am.

TED Talk Tuesday: The Hidden Power of Smiling

Smile. Smile! SMILE!! Come on, you know it’s contagious, don’t you? It’s hard to look at someone smiling or even think about smiling without seeing the corners of your mouth start to turn upward. Ron Gutman gives us a look into the incredible superpower of smiling. From health benefits to social and career advantages, those who smile just seem to do better. So, take a listen to what he has to say. It will make you smile. 🙂

TED Talk Tuesday: The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown thought she had it all figured out. Then her own research proved her wrong. In this talk, she reveals how a lack of vulnerability has the potential to not only ruin our lives, but also the lives of others and our society as a whole. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Let this talk encourage you to be more vulnerable in your interactions with people.

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