Spoke regarding clarity of purpose, for a Lions club

On December 11, 2007, I spoke regarding “Think Well. Do Great. – Revitalizing America, Business, and Oneself” for the West San Jose – Campbell Lions Club. [1]

I noted the value of choosing a clear purpose or focus. Doing so helps people to evaluate possible future scenarios. Not doing so leads potentially to confusion.

For example, contrast “reversing depletion of high-atmosphere ozone near Antarctica” with “combatting global warming.”

Regarding the “ozone hole,” I recounted working during the 1970s at the Lawrence Livermore (National) Laboratory, on the same floor as two people who had key roles regarding such ozone. Depletion was measurable, observed, and known to be increasing. People could debate impacts of further depletion and of a potentially restored ozone layer. The two people at Livermore had a computer model through which people estimated the effects of (the refrigerant) freon and other human-made chemicals that deplete ozone. Mankind took action – for example, by banning production of freon.

In contrast, people debated for some time whether “global warming” was real.

Perhaps a better formulation of “global warming” or “climate change” focuses on “concentrations, in the atmosphere, of ‘greenhouse gases’.” People estimate, for example, that the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are now perhaps 50% greater than they were 400 years ago. By focusing first on measurable quantities, people can – in parallel with behavior regarding the “ozone hole” – estimate and debate consequences and benefits of various courses of action.

I conjectured that sub-optimal ‘issue formulation’ – “global warming,” not “greenhouse gas concentrations” – may have led to a loss of one or two decades in addressing a potentially serious problem.

I discussed other seemingly ‘good’ ‘opportunity statements’ that led to timely success and seemingly ‘bad’ ‘problem statements’ that seem to contribute toward dither. Examples of recent sub-optimal foci include …

  • “Provide prescription drug benefits” – Perhaps comprehensive thinking about governmental and others’ roles in American healthcare would be better and “wellness” would be yet better.

  • “Improve education” – Perhaps such could start with more emphasis on “what do people need to learn?”

I would like to thank Art Low for inviting me to speak with this Lions Club.

[1] http://www.wsjclions.org/

Click for information about Thomas J. Buckholtz.

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