Let's do big great things now!

Good day and happy Summer!  


And welcome. If this is your first issue of my monthly e-letter, The Eleven, welcome aboard. It's generally words about my life - festivals I've visited, activism undertaken, lessons learned and thoughts for action.  If you have a reaction to something, I'm always open to feedback - and to unsubscribe, there's a button at the bottom called SafeUnsubscribe.  There's also the opportunity to forward this on to someone or to share it on social media.

OCF 11
OCF 2011 - Dr. Dan, Jeff Eichen

Since the last Eleven, things have been busy.  Eecole and I traveled to the Oregon Country Fair (if we're FOFB , you can see some very fun pics) and then we Amtraked to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival the following weekend.  We've got a new housemate, Michele Brooks, who has graced our house with so much goodness - her systems thinking has helped open up pathways that were either dusty or that we didn't see. And her hugs - YES! The house is getting a makeover!  I'm also gearing up for Portland Sunday Parkways on July 24th and a visit by the Seattle group, Undriving who will be visiting Portland for the first time and helping people get their undriver licenses.  I'm seeking volunteers to help in this effort - two shifts are available - 10:45-1:30 and 1:30-4.  Contact me for more info.  This leads me to the bigger topic for this month's The Eleven - Doing Big Great Things Now.

My Undriver License

I get feedback a lot that "Albert, you're always doing great things". Thank you. I'm not sure exactly the source of my urge to activate, possibly growing up in the Labor Zionist Youth Movement, having a very political best friend who I used to play chess with/listen to Bob Dylan with/learn guitar from/discuss politics with/thanks, Lee Livney!  Or, perhaps it was studying politics at NYU in the 80s during the Reagan years and having another very political best friend who I bantered around the issues of the day with. Maybe it was my involvement for the last 20 years in Re-Evaluation Counseling and the support activists get in that world - that when you bump up against a block, you discharge on the place that's hard and move forward, building alliances as you go and to always Decide, Act, Discharge - repeat :)  Then there were the Beacon Hill, Seattle years of intense neighborhood coalition building and pushing back against big powerful forces - FAA/VA/Sound Transit/fellow neighbors who were being racist and wanting to turn a Latino community center into anything but.  So, yes, there's history there, and a book, too, I know - I've got 12 chapters in mind.  All that said, my best thinking tells me that all of us could be doing great things all the time - and the best time to start is right now.  


Why now? Well, why wait? The issue will still be there needing to be dealt with 5 years from now. None of us know how long we'll be here on the Earth.  We all know that the world is in a large bit of hurt right now - pick an area - the environment, social services, food, relationships?  Wherever you look there is need for all of us to stand up, reach out and make a difference. Yes, you have a great idea to - build a community garden, plant fruit trees, close off a street to make your neighborhood more livable, take a class, make a new friend, support someone who's down on their luck, etc. By putting off getting started, you're putting off the possibility that whatever great thing you're wanting to happen in the world will ever happen.  Take a small step.  What's the first small step towards your goal?  Who can help you manifest it? Can I?  I'm a great sounding board for ideas, and a great networker - send me your idea and perhaps I'll help inspire you to action.  If you get stuck you'll be surprised to find that there may already be people working on the issue you care about who have resources to share.

Jericho Beach
Jericho Beach, Vancouver, BC, Canada

A couple years ago I decided to take on getting rid of phonebooks. I see them as wasteful and outdated and though a small percentage of our population still needs them, the large majority of us can and do do without them and have for years.  So, I'm pushing in my corner of the universe - Oregon.  I started with Portland - made a little headway and watched as the City made a move to receive less of them at the City Government level. I then realized I needed to go to the State level.  Meanwhile, I started connecting with other individuals and groups on the West Coast (Seattle and SF) and also with a national organization, the Product Stewardship Institute, and have since watched as the city of SF has completely banned phonebooks and the city of Seattle has switched to an opt-out system which the City monitors and has led to hundreds of thousands of Emerald Citizens to opt-out of receiving phonebooks.  We're not done - the legislation I suggested in Oregon died in a committee this year without getting a hearing.  It would be a huge move forward to even have it discussed at that level and perhaps someday that will happen.  The point is, you take a step, and then another.  


Here are some things that make taking action easier and possibly more effective:

  • Balancing your efforts with play
  • not getting isolated
  • asking for help
  • asking for more help
  • taking care of yourself - rest/exercize/eating well

What to do when things get hard?  Ok, you've taken the first, second or third step towards your goal.  You get frustrated, bored, fed up, disappointed, defeated. What to do?  Here are some moves:

  • Put the project down
  • Get your feelings out on paper - anger, frustration, whatever
  • Talk to someone who's not involved in the project and ask for their thoughts
  • Find and cultivate a mentor who can support you 
  • Take a break and do something else - for a day, month, year - however long it takes until you can see things with a fresh perspective
  • Ask for help
  • Admit defeat, sell everything you own and move to India for a couple of years.

Thanks for reading and for considering becoming an activist (or, more of an activist :). It's made my life richer - to get out of passive-mode where life is happening to you, and to try to shape things. Plant a tree here. Trying to stop cars from idling there. Shutting down a medical waste incinerator here. Helping people think about driving less there.  Join me!


The Birthday Garden at 3rd and Hancock is producing well - we're harvesting a lot of kale, collards, spinach, beans and other goodness and learning a lot in the process - aphids, who knew.  Bring on the ladybugs!


I hope you're having a great Summer - filled with sunshine, friends, cool drinks, great music, lively conversation, health and happiness!




Albert Kaufman


AK and Eecole 2011
Eecole and Albert 2011