Let’s be Rad!

Remember when to call something “Rad” was hip slang? Back in the early 90s, when I was in senior high-school just about everything we said or did was met in some way with the assertion of being “rad”.

“Let’s skip school and go to the beach.” “That’ll be so Rad!”


We declared things “rad” so much that the term lost almost all meaning.

“Are you ready for the math test?”, “Yah it’ll be Rad!”

Today on his blog (here) Seth Godin reminded his readers of the need to (re)Radical their lives. He’s talking about institutions and companies that used to stand for something but are now so mainstream that they have lost almost all of their cultural influence. Godin is calling his readers to remember their radical roots.

It used to be that to be called Radical meant something.

Webster defines Radical as an adjective meaning:

  • Very new and different from what is traditional and ordinary
  • Very basic and important
  • Having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people


I hate to break it to my 17 year old self but skipping school to go the beach with your buddies might be rebellious but it’s not in the least bit “rad”.

Radical thinking is new, it’s different, it is usually quite simple while at the time carrying significant weight. Being radical means going against the grain and influencing change. But radical thinking has also been confused with anarchy which I must be quick to point out – it is not.

The first Christians were radicals. So were the first Protestants and the first Reformationists. Democracy was at one time radical. So was electricity, indoor plumbing and the horseless carriage. The internet, while in many ways has become mainstream, in many other ways it is still radical.

Peace, social-justice and pacifism in the face of violence and oppression? Now that’s radical!

peaceful protest

Radicals change the world. Not just because their views are different or extreme but because they are basic and of great importance.

Radicals build tribes of like minded followers and then something shifts. What was once radical becomes common place. As Godin puts it:

“The question each of us has to answer about the institution we care about is: Does this place exist to maintain and perpetuate the status quo, or am I here to do the work that the radical founder had in mind when we started?”

One of my favorite radicals was a man named Saul Alinsky. Alinsky is widely recognized as the founder of the modern community organization. Throughout the 1950s and 60s he lead the organization of grass roots movements to improve the lives of the inner city poor in his home town of Chicago and then moved on to Los Angeles, Detroit and New York City. Alinsky was a radical in every sense of the term. His ideas were new and different, to some they were extreme but most importantly they were simple and they addressed the important issues of the day.

In 1971, one year before he died, Saul Alinsky published what has become a manifesto of sorts for those of us who wish to change the world. The opening lines of “Rules for Radicals” reads:

What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.

But my favorite line from that book is far more subtle and speaks of a different kind of radical, the quite humble kind that I promote and strive to be.

The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe in complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.


You see, radicals don’t have to be arrogant, violent, loud or even certain. Doubt in the mind of the radical leads to humility and openness. It leads to democracy and eventually change.


If you want to change the world you must be radical, but also humble and hold your vision of a better future in an open hand so that others can come along side you a help shape it, direct it and when the time is right, even take it from you and make it better than anything you could have ever imagined.


A world run by people like that sounds pretty Rad if you ask me.


Some Brief Thoughts About Fear

It’s Saturday, rather than write a big long post I just wanted to take a minute to give my readers some encouragement.  We all face fears and uncertainty every day, it’s what we do with that fear that makes us the people we become.

Here are some quotes I’ve run across over the years that have help me deal with my own fears.  I hope they do the same for you…

Be encouraged…

What would you do today if you had no fear?  – Mark Zuckerberg

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. [2 Timothy 1:7]

We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason – Edward R. Murrow

Anxiety is needless and imaginary.  It’s fear about fear, fear that means nothing.  – Seth Godin; Linchpin, Are you Indispensible?

The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is “Do not fear.”  It’s in there over two hundred times.  That means a couple of things, if you think about it.  It means we are going to be afraid, and it means we shouldn’t let fear boss us around.  – Donald Miller; A Million Miles in A Thousand Years

I’ve come to believe that fear of the dark isn’t really fear of the dark.  It’s more basic than that.  What my kids are really afraid of is what most people are afraid of.  What they really fear is the unknown. – Pete Wilson; Plan B, What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would?

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. [Isaiah 41:10]

Have a great weekend and remember…

F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real – author unknown

Greed, Hubris and Downright Nasty @#$%

So this morning, like every other morning I got up and scrolled through my twitter and facebook pages to see what’s going on the world.  As you can well imagine the internet is full of some pretty interesting stuff, some if it uplifting, most of it fairly innocuous but today one thing jumped off the screen at me as downright nasty. 

That was the story that author and marketing guru Seth Godin published today on the birthday of Thomas Midgeley.  You can read Seth’s take on the man here – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ but here are the cliff notes. 

Thomas Midgeley was the chemist who discovered that if you add lead to gasoline it makes your car engine run quieter.  Psychologically if a car engine is quiet people assume that it is efficient.  Midgeley knew that wasn’t really the case, he also knew that even brief exposure to lead vapor could lead to lead poisoning and he knew that to really get the results people wanted the best way would be to add grain alcohol to gasoline instead. 

Midgeley’s bosses knew that grain alcohol is expensive and lead is cheap.  And the rest, as they say, is history…

If that was the end of the story we could forgive Midgeley for his role in what, to this day has amounted to countless deaths and billions of dollars in environmental damage.  We could put him in the same category as hundreds of other scientists who made discoveries that seemed like a good idea at the time but ended up having unfortunate and unintended consequences.  We could call him a brilliant man who’s genius was exploited by greedy business men.  But unfortunately, for history and the legacy of an undoubtedly brilliant scientist the story doesn’t end there. 

You see Midgeley not only allowed his discovery to be used by deceptive and greedy business men, he actively participated in it.  At a press conference designed to show the safety of the stuff he sniffed and washed his hands in leaded gasoline, even though he knew the risks and as a result ended up contracting lead poisoning himself.  Shortly after that press conference he had to take six months off of work to recover! 

Greed can make people do stupid things!  Blinded by greed people tend to; deny the truth, distort the facts, take unnecessary risks and force unsafe products and practices on people who don’t know any better, even if they won’t use the product themselves.  It reminds me of the story I posted here last fall about Canada’s export of Asbestos to developing countries, all the while having banned the product for domestic use over 30 years ago.     

Thomas Midgeley was just one in a long line of scientists and lobbyists who became blinded by greed and are thus complacent in the deaths of millions of people and the destruction of the planet.  It’s time to wake up and stop letting greed overrule good science. 

Remember, if four out of five dentists agree that brushing with fluoride twice a day helps to reduce tooth decay, the fifth one doesn’t know a secret he’s just crazy!  Think about that the next time someone tries to deny global warming or the health risks of smoking cigarettes.