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Project 8: Failure is Not An Option

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Episode 19: Planning for the Future - A Conversation with Reid Prinzo

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Failure Is Not An Option

At this point I suspect that everyone reading this post is feeling the effects of the corona virus.  For some of you your income may have fallen off a cliff.  Others are working from home.  If you have children, their schools are no doubt closed.  We’ve all been to the grocery stores and seen the empty shelves.  Hopefully you haven’t yet known anyone who has the virus, or worse yet lost anyone to it. 

Every day there are more more travel bans, more closures, more news of the virus spreading.

You can’t turn the news on without thinking you have somehow found yourself inside an apocalypse movie.  The corona virus is testing us with a dress rehearsal for the worst case scenarios people are predicting as the effects of climate change intensify.  We are seeing what we thought was a secure, stable, normal way of life unravel in our globally connected world.  How we respond to this crisis will set the stage for how we behave when the next disaster crashes on our shores.  

I’m going to sound now like someone who spends way too much time in the company of behavior analysts.  This is what they have been teaching me.  Under stress we revert back to previously learned behaviors. Here’s a real world example to explain what this means.

Dr Jesus Rosales-Ruiz tells this story about getting a flat time.  His young son was in the car with him.  Jesús caught himself getting angry.  That’s the response that had been modeled for him when he was young.  Get mad at the car.  Blame somebody else.  Fuss and fume and make a big show of your displeasure.  

But his son was with him.  This was the first time anything like this had happened to him.  Jesús knew that whatever experience his son had, whatever he saw his father doing, would become part of the behavioral repertoire he would draw on later in life.  

So Jesús stopped himself from fuming about the inconvenience of a flat tire.  Instead he taught his son how to fix a flat tire.  His son learned a useful skill, and so much more.  He learned to be resourceful.  He learned to stay calm in the face of a crisis, and to find a solution.

That’s what we all need to do.  We need to be resourceful.  We need to carry on, even if carrying on means staying put in our houses.  

We need to be part of the solution.  That means more than just staying six feet away from everyone you meet.  It means reaching out through the internet and the telephone to check on friends and neighbors.  It means sharing scarce resources.  It means enjoying the extra time you get to spend with your children.  

We’re all washing our hands more than ever.  Instead of saying the alphabet, or some other mindless ditty, one suggestion I heard recently was to spend the time in gratitude, thanking all the first responders, the hospital workers, the grocery store clerks, and everyone else in the front lines working to get ahead of this virus and to get our lives back to normal as quickly as possible.

It means creating a sense of connection even when we can’t meet up directly.  We are, after all, a social species.  Isolation can have some terrible and unintended consequences.  That’s what today’s “Horses for Future” podcast is about - isolation and its fallout.

I said earlier that I have been spending time with behavior analysts.  Back in February I presented at the Art and Science of Animal Training conference.  That seems like an ocean of time ago given all that has been happening over the last couple of weeks.  We could actually hold a conference and the corona virus was still just a side topic.

Dr Joe Layng gave two talks, one during the conference itself, and a second talk on Monday for the presenters and Jesús’ graduate students.  Dr. Layng’s topic was degrees of freedom and the fallout that occurs when restricted choices create isolation and coercion.  They were fascinating talks, at the same time both profoundly disturbing and very hopeful.  I not only wanted to hear them again, I wanted to share what Joe was saying with the “Horses for Future” audience.  Joe very kindly agreed to record a podcast in which he went over his two presentations.

“Horses for Future” is concerned about climate change so at the end we brought all the many threads together, and you will see why I so wanted to share this information.  Understanding the rich nuggets of his arguments will help us create the kind of connections we need now and for the future.  We must find ways not to isolate ourselves one group from another with all the fallout and negative consequences that generates.  Joe shows us how to create a path forward - together.

What this current crisis is teaching us so clearly is failure is not an option.  The stakes are too high.  So do please listen to the podcast, and then share it with others.  I’ve divided the conversation into two episodes because Joe gives us a lot to think about.  You’ll see at the end of Part 2 why this is such an important podcast to listen to and to share.

You can listen to the podcast at or subscribe to the “Horses for Future” podcast through your normal podcast provider.  While you are there, please leave a five star review.  It helps google find the podcast so we can spread the word.  

It’s not only horse people who can make a difference in the climate change crisis.  We all can, and what’s more, this virus is showing us that we all really need to.  We are indeed all part of a globally connected community.

I hope you stay well.

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Our focus now is so completely on the corona virus, concerns about climate change have been pushed to the side.  It seems to me they are really one and the same.  When I recorded the interview with Joe Layng, the corona virus was impacting a nursing home in Washington State.  We had begun to see cases in New York, but it was still remote.   The freight train that is the corona virus rumbled down on us with incredible speed.  We are now in the midst of a global pandemic.  


Here in the US businesses are closed.  Schools are closed.  In New York there is a desperate hunt for ventilators as hospitals prepare for the coming surge of patients.  I live in New York - upstate not in the City, but there are cases now in my area.


Every morning I have been listening to Governor Cuomo’s press briefing.  You can find videos of them on YouTube.  Even if you live far away from New York in an area that is very little effected by the virus, they are worth listening to.  Watch one and you will understand why I say this.  Cuomo is a superb presenter.  He gives us the data.  He presents the problem.  He tells us what he is doing to prepare for what is coming, and he connects with people.  He is the statesman we need at a time like this.  


The corona virus is a practice run.  If the climate change models are correct there will be more disasters coming at us with freight train force.  Some like the fires in Australia will be regional.  Others will spill over man-made borders to create more global impacts.  


We need to learn from this current crisis.  The main thing we need to learn is how to behave.  How do we rise to the occasion when whole populations are under extreme pressure?  We need to support each other.  We need to protect not just our own community. We need to reach out to include everyone as Cuomo does every day in his press briefings.  


That’s why I so wanted to share Joe Layng’s presentation on degrees of freedom.  If you want to expand a field, you don’t do it from within.  You do it by bringing in ideas from the outside.   As you listen to the podcast, you may be thinking: “This is fascinating, but I don’t understand the connection to the current crisis or to climate change.”  Be patient.  Joe will get us there in in the end, and it will be well worth the journey.


I’m publishing this at a time when everything is being shut down because of the corona virus.  We are living the experience of having our degrees of freedom reduced.  Let’s hope by summer, this crisis will have passed, and we will be returning to something that resembles a normal way of life.  But let’s also hope we learn from this experience because it’s just a preview of what may happen as the effects of climate change become more pronounced.  The concepts Joe is sharing with us become all the more relevant as these events add more pressure to our lives.

You can listen to the podcast at or subscribe to the “Horses for Future” podcast through your normal podcast provider.  While you are there, please leave a five star review.  It helps google find the podcast so we can spread the word.  


It’s not only horse people who can make a difference in the climate change crisis.  We all can, and what’s more, this virus is showing us that we all really need to.  We are indeed all part of a globally connected community.


I hope you stay well.


P.S. We had huge technical problems recording this podcast.  The sound quality for Joe is not what I hoped for.  Please bear with this.  The content is worth the annoyance of the background noise.

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Episode 18: Possibilities - A Conversation In The Midst Of Crisis With Manda Scott

The world is in crisis. I don’t need to tell anyone that all our lives are being impacted by the corona virus. Schools are closed, businesses shuttered. Many of us have lost our incomes. People are getting sick. People are dying. This is not news to any of us. We are hunkered down, keeping physical distance from one another, washing our hands, waiting, worrying.

When Manda and I got together for a catch-up we weren’t focused on climate change (though that sits always in the background). We talked about the corona virus. How will this experience change us? We’re all experiencing an abrupt transformation in our lives. What can we do to influence the change for the better?

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Horses for Future Episode 19: Planning for the Future - A Conversation with Reid Prinzo

When I recorded this podcast at the beginning of April, in New York State where I live we were very much caught up in the planning for the peak of the corvid-19 hospitalizations.  Today as I publish this, it is beginning to look as though the curve may be plateauing out.  That’s good news indeed.  It still doesn’t tell us what lies ahead.  How long will this pause in our lives continue.  How much time do we have to build new habits, to make choices about how we want to continue on?  Do we really want to go back to what we were doing as a community or can we use this time to plan for a better future.

Planning for the future is what this podcast is about.  I’ve asked Reid Prinzo to talk to us about investing in our values.  Reid is a financial advisor.  He’s a member of Bryant Asset Management. One of the areas he’s particularly interested in is ESG and sustainable investing.  In this podcast I ask him what that means.  This may seem like an odd topic when we’re in the midst of the corona crisis.   People are out of work.  Businesses are struggling.  In March the stock market went on a wild roller coaster ride.  For many of us our income has dropped off a steep cliff and we’re talking about investments!

It actually seems like a good time to talk about investments.  There are lots of reasons why people may be thinking about what they should be doing with their savings.  If they can hold on through this current crisis, what changes, if any, should they be making?  All that cash someone may have been stuffing into a mattress - are people ever going to want to touch cash again!  Maybe they should be investing it somewhere instead.  

There are all kinds of reasons why you might be looking at making some changes in your savings.  If that’s the case, you can invest in companies that are aligned with your personal ethics. You can invest in your values through sustainable investing.  The podcast will explain what that means.

If you want to learn more about this kind of investing, you can contact Reid Prinzo at:


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