Breathe.

Guest Post by: Becca Rowe, Marquette University student

“When you have one foot in the future and the other in the past, you piss on the present.” –Dan Harris, 10% Happier.

Graphic, I agree, but insightful. If you look beyond the shocking visual Harris has so graciously put in our heads, you will get a sense of how you’re doing life completely wrong.

RoweWe wander through life mindlessly – looking far into the future, while simultaneously rooting ourselves in the past. It is nearly impossible for us to live in the present. Not that reflection has no value, nor forward thinking a bad thing, but simply that we overlook our present. Our thoughts blind us from living through our present selves. We don’t notice the sensation of cool air hitting our skin as we step out of the shower because we are already thinking four steps ahead in our routine. We don’t see the myriad of vibrant colors in the cityscape, but you can bet that we will hyper-focus on where we are going, whom we are seeing and what we will be saying. Harris argues to be present is to be mindful, and here’s how he, and now I, figured that out.

Life is hard. It is messy and stressful and busy and intense and difficult and…well you surely get the gist. Life is not easy and nor do I believe it was intended to be. We are handed obstacles that challenge our minds to overcome, but more often than not we succumb to. In the case of Dan Harris it was battles with drug addiction, fame and anxiety that clouded his mind.

Harris’ troubling journey of skeptical self-discovery provides me inspiration. Not because his wit and cynicism speak to my soul, but because Harris’ path seems all too real. A self-help book on mindfulness will not tell you that being mindful is hard. It certainly will not tell you that your hunt for ‘happiness’ will leave you unsatisfied, but Harris does. His intent, I believe, is not to discourage us, but rather to challenge us to realistically see our world for what we can.

Through mindfulness we grasp reality—real reality, not the false realities we create in our heads, but what life is like right here and now. Clear minds produce pure thoughts. Pure thoughts come from feelings. Feelings are sensations of the mind and body’s interconnectedness. Our mental clarity relies on our mindfulness, and what are we doing for our person if we cannot experience our present lives? My answer is that we are doing ourselves a grave injustice.

I am victim of a clouded and mindless life. My battles with depression, anxiety, stress and learning disabilities compiled with increasing financial and personal responsibility flood my head with confusion. I struggle with resonating in the past to planning my life years from now in a continuous cycle of unproductivity. Self admittedly this process has numbed my feelings. I was trapped in self-destructive cycles, which I only realized when I was on the brink of giving up everything. But then I was told to breathe. Not just an average breath, but a full and focused breath. I was told to feel my stomach rising and falling. I was told to not think, but feel and that’s when it hit me. Like a literal burden had been lifted from my shoulders, I sank into the chair. I rose feeling calm and focused, unlike I had ever felt before. And that is how I started my journey of mindfulness.

Harris writes it best when he says, “meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It’s about feeling the way you feel.” And feeling what you feel is a beautiful thing.

10[0]% Happier

Guest Post by: Phil Batzner, Marquette University student

I first picked up the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris and wrote it off negatively. “This is going to be another bullshit book I’m going to despise reading,” I thought. The front cover made me seem like I had a serious issue — “How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works – a true story.”

Cool, I didn’t know I signed up for a self-help class. Was this going to be counseling? It was pretty obvious I was not a fan of this book from the get-go.

I read through the first section assigned and didn’t think much of it. I went through the motions during class — participating in discussion, coming prepared with questions, paying attention, etc.

It wasn’t until I was in the Milwaukee airport, by myself, two carry-ons, miscellaneous items scattered in the corner near my baggage, with a few hours to spare before my trip to San Francisco + Palo Alto for fall break that things resonated with me.

I’ve never been a huge fan of reading or reading for fun, yet alone reading for academia. Tuesday October 14th, something was different. I knew I had time to kill so I figured I would knock out some homework.

As I read I became mesmerized. Every word seemed to make sense and I understood this whole mindfulness thing. Before I knew it I lost track of time, in the pages of a book I practically wrote off, with a sense of satisfaction. I didn’t care about the random passengers passing my gate, who was texting me or even how much I had left to finish in the reading.

Batzner 10October 14th was the day I accepted mindfulness as a friend, thanks to Harris, and tried incorporating it purposely.

I hoped mindfulness could help me with self-love, considering we could all use a few pointers every now and then with such a tough topic. Harris points out a remark Mark Epstein, his idol, made at an event in the Sheraton Towers in Midtown Manhattan. “People come to me a lot feeling like they ought to be loving themselves…Mindfulness gives us a way to examine our self-hatred without trying to make it go away.” (p. 111)

So instead of trying to make it go away, if I was mindful of this self-hatred things could improve, even the tiniest bit. Maybe 10% even. I tried out mindfulness and noticed improvements in my life. One of the largest successes was that my self-hatred started diminishing.

Another astonishing anecdote Harris makes is with the Bible. He notes, “St. Paul, the notorious murderer of Christians, had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus…Mine came in a stolen moment on the floor of a beach house.” (p. 99)

This conversion is something I am yet to experience, but I eagerly wait. I believe with mindfulness this conversion can occur, to anyone, regardless of their past, because I will be present in that moment. It won’t have to be on the road to Damascus or the floor of a beach house, but can happen at any time. With mindfulness, I would be able to examine the conversion and fully experience it.

Mindfulness and 10% Happier taught me more than what I imagined back in August when I first received the book. For Harris it made him 10% happier, but for me it cannot be explained in one blog post. Rather, mindfulness improved my life and made me 100% happier. 10% Happier by Dan Harris provides invaluable insights and thoughtful tips for all.

Volkswagen: A Globally Responsible Company

Guest Post by: Katie Gibbons: Marquette University, Corporate Communication Major, Public Relations Minor

When thinking about Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR what companies come to mind? The obvious answer is to think of an American company because we hear so much about what company is doing what to give back to the community. However, many companies based in other countries also have CSR initiatives that are worth noting. A great example of this is Volkswagen in Germany, which focuses on sustainability initiatives. Volkswagen does not only have CSR initiatives in Germany, but has other CSR plans in other countries, such as a major environmental initiative in China.

What is CSR, anyway?

Corporate social responsibility is how a company gives back to a community in some way to someone in need. This can include anything from helping a nation in need of clean water to education. Often, CSR initiatives have some type of relation to the company. Companies try to relate CRS initiatives to some aspect of the company. If a company is criticized for having products that negatively effect the environment, then the CSR initiative can include an aspect of environmental efforts and sustainability to make things right.

CSR at Home

Volkswagen’s headquarters are in Wolfsburg, Germany. One of Volkswagen’s initiatives involves recycling old cell phones for a cause—to restore Lower Havel river valley, which is home to many different types of endangered species of plants and animals. It is important for brands like this to take pride in the home country and help solve a problem. Often, large companies establish CSR initiatives in its own country first to help out on a local scale. Over 3,000 phones were donated, so this was considered a success, and many people were also educated on how to properly dispose of their phones in addition to helping restore the river valley.

Environmental Education in China

Volkswagen does not stop in Germany. Volkswagen has partnered with the Chinese Center of Environmental Education and Communication and the Green Future Environmental Education Initiative (GFEEI). This CSR initiative includes environmental education for Chinese students. Volkswagen’s project partner NAJU gives hands on training sessions to teachers and educates students. The initiative has been deemed successful and has educated about 20,000 Chinese students in 30 different schools in 19 provinces between 2007-2011, and the initiative continues. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 5.53.02 PMDoes Volkswagen exhibit global CSR?

Volkswagen definitely exhibits global corporate social responsibility. Of course companies want to focus on the country that it is headquartered in, but Volkswagen goes beyond this. Instead of just focusing on Germany, Volkswagen looks at what needs to be done elsewhere. They are giving back to a community that is in need of environmental education. China is affected by growing urbanization causing the need to better the environment. Education on this topic is so important because this initiative is not just planting trees, which would be a short-term fix. Education on the topic has a deeper effect because it teaches people how to change habits. Now 20,000 Chinese children have the power to change their habits and have knowledge on how to be more environmentally friendly. Leaders at Volkswagen realize the negative effects that their cars have on the environment. Since China is so heavily populated, Volkswagen realizes the negative aspects of this and that the car pollution can cause bigger problems in China than in some other areas.

“Responsibility Knows No Boundaries”

As the image above from the Volkswagen Group states, responsibility has no boundaries for this company. Just because it is a German company does not mean that it cannot help others in need. This is a powerful statement for Volkswagen to live by and shows its dedication to global responsibility. Volkswagen does not discriminate based on country lines. Volkswagen is willing to support sustainability efforts across boundaries.

Corporate Social Responsibility & Kinder Bueno

Guest Post by: Claire Kelly

While studying abroad in Italy last spring, I learned a lot outside of the classroom. I also enjoyed exploring the different corners of Italy and all of the culture that came with it. One treat that my roommates and I in Rome enjoyed far too often, were Kinder products. It was a chocolate candy that came in many varieties and was placed in the impulse section of the grocery store. These treats became our favorite desert throughout the semester, next to gelato of course. Throughout our travels in Europe we continued to see Kinder in every grocery store we came across. We found them in Budapest, Hungry; Barcelona, Spain; Brussels, Belgium and many other cities. Kinder was a product I had never been exposed to before living in Europe. Little did I know, the company has quite a story.

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Kinder products fall under a company called Ferrero. Ferrero has been an Italian family business, passed down generation to generation since the 1940’s. The company is currently run by Giovanni Ferrero. Giovanni’s grandfather, Michael Fererro was the founder and the first Italian manufacturer to open confectionary stores, sites and offices abroad after World War II. This was a monumental start for the company. Ferrero products include Kinder Bueno, Kinder Pingui, Nutella, Ferrero Rocher, Tic Tacs and Raffaelo. The products reach countries all throughout Europe, America, Asia and have made their way to Australia and New Zealand. In the Mission statement on their website, Ferrero states that they strive to be “glocal”, to at globally but think locally. The Ferrero group credits being “glocal” to their international success.

Corporate Social Responsibility is the responsibility that every company has to contribute to society in a healthy and positive way. Whether a company works to be sustainable, environmentally friendly, or contribute to another cause, bettering society is the main goal. The Ferrero group motto for Corporate Social Responsibility is “Sharing Values, to Create Value”. They laid out a plan for being socially responsible for the coming years 2013-2020.

Ferrero divides their goals for Corporate Social Responsibility into several categories:

  • For Human Rights
  • For The Environment
  • For Raw Materials
  • For a Healthy Lifestyle

Within the context of each category, they outline how they plan to better the world through these outlets in association with their products and company. I’ll provide an example of an action that falls under each category. The rest of the plans can be found online. For Human Rights, The Ferrero group created an organization called Ferrero Foundation of Alba. This organization was designed to embrace the human condition and increase the importance of social life after retirement. This program offers assistance socially and health wise to former employees. The goal in this outline was to extend and enhance the program further. For the Environment, they made it a goal to use 20% less water consumption per unit of a product and work to use packaging from renewable sources before 2020. For Raw Materials, Ferrero is striving to make 100% cocoa, 100% coffee and 100% cane sugar is certifiably sustainable. For a Healthy Lifestyle, the company wants to continue, achieve and extend their program Kinder + Sports, encouraging activity along with products on the sweeter side.

The Ferrero Group motto “Sharing Values, to Create Value” is a great way to explain what Corporate Social Responsibility is. Ferrero is looking at weaknesses in society and finding ways that they, as a successful company, can contribute to the cause. Having positive thoughts behind actions, makes a company stand out amongst companies more focused on money than on their impact. The Ferrero group takes their Corporate Social Responsibility seriously; as they succeed as a company they are striving to better society.

Yum! Brands on Corporate Social Responsibility

Guest Post by: Emily Flake

When creating a global brand, it is important to maintain a positive image worldwide. Many companies do this through corporate social responsibility tactics. This can be defined as a company making strides to be ethical and promote fair practices. However, it does not stop there. Corporate social responsibility also includes reaching out through philanthropic efforts that positively impact both environmental and social causes. Yum! Brands is one such company that employs corporate social responsibility tactics to do good around the world and help to improve its image as a leading company.

Yum! is the conglomerate of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, and it is based in Louisville, Kentucky. It has over 40,000 restaurants in over 125 countries worldwide. Because of its extensive reach, Yum! has needed to relate to the cultures that it has expanded into. It strives to appeal to the consumers by emphasizing its ability to give back. Key points that the company attends to include the health and nutritional needs of customers, feeding the world’s hungry, and being responsible and intentional in actions toward the sustainability of the environment and agricultural resources on which the business depends.

One program that Yum! has paired with is World Hunger Relief. This is an annual initiative that uses the resources and power of a global company to address and bring awareness to the issue of hunger. This is done through volunteerism and fundraising. World Hunger Relief benefits the United Nations World Food Programme, which feeds more than 90 million people in over 70 countries yearly. The initiative depends on donations. Through an extensive advertising campaign with Christina Aguilera as the spokesperson, the program continues to grow. One of the great things about this initiative is that it searches for areas that have the greatest need. These locations then receive more food and resources than others. Because of this, the program ensures that those that are starving will be cared for. Furthermore, Yum! donates two million dollars annually to this program, aside from the money that is received through external donations.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 5.46.16 PMAlong with the World Hunger Relief program, Yum! works to attain high environmental standards. The company continues to build new locations that are considered “green buildings.” They are energy saving and water conserving buildings that are built with sustainable materials. In 2013, Yum! was able to conserve more energy in 97% of stores worldwide. This resulted in the elimination of over 835,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The company continues to implement water saving projects and with a savings of 355 million gallons, they have only reached 20% of their goal. This points to the fact that while Yum! continues to look for ways to improve the environment and community worldwide, just like anyone else, it deals with daily challenges that it must overcome.

KFC Malaysia, owned by Yum!, is one such example of the company practicing corporate social responsibility. It pushes for progress in environmental standards with the electric scooter delivery system. Instead of the traditional car delivery program we see here in the United States, KFC Malaysia delivery people ride scooters that emit zero carbon dioxide, smoke, or noise. They are recharged for continual use. Aside from cutting down air pollution, this delivery service also lowers costs for the company. Because of the success of the program, the company plans to extend the service to Pizza Hut locations as well. Such a service can be seen worldwide as a great way to cut back on pollution. I would not be surprised to see many other countries following in Malaysia’s footsteps.

The examples listed above are just a few of the ways that Yum! Brands gives back to the community and environment through corporate social responsibility. If other global brands can look to this brand leader and take anything away from its methods, we can look forward to a more socially and environmentally conscious world. Large corporations do not have to be the enemy. They, too, can work to make the world a better place.

Political Junk Food

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Guest Post by, Marcia Kreifels

Talk of political advertising has been abuzz with the recent midterm election. When it comes to ethics in political media, attack ads often take the topics spotlight. Blaring attack ads, shaky news coverage, super PAC agendas and more mix together to create a muddled mess of ingredients in the American political media. But is this a healthy stew of media coverage, or a disastrous cocktail of misinformation and negativity? Similar to how our bodies need nutritious, healthy food to function at its best, our country’s democracy needs a healthy amount of informative political media to operate efficiently. Consuming too much political media “junk food,” such as attack ads or fear mongering, is going to have a sluggish affect on our voting population that, over time, could lead to more weaknesses throughout our country’s government. Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 10.39.14 PMIn recent presidential elections news sources suggest that only 60 percent of the eligible voters will make it to the polls. Alongside this, anecdotal evidence indicates that people feel overwhelmed and frustrated with the political media. After a while, election season becomes a time that people dread because the aggressive campaigns are too negative. The voting population is getting junk food media shoved down their throats discouraging them from thinking positively about elections or their civic duty. Too much political media junk food can cause the consumer to become sluggish and apathetic, but just like real junk food, our country just can’t seem to quit it, no matter how unhealthy it may be. There’s a certain “sugar rush” to being part of the winning party in a campaign season, but the crash looms in the distance as our politics cyclically flip-flop between political parties. Still, healthy political media won’t solve all our country’s problems, but it’s a good step towards a stronger government. If we could feed the politically hungry with accurate, fact-checked content, quality policy information and clear reports on candidates’ standings in key issues without all that negative junk, we would be creating a healthier political environment for voters to strive toward. Like eating a healthy diet, an unhealthy splurge here or there won’t destroy everything. Just like a few bad ads won’t destroy democracy, but the country needs to be actively working towards healthier options. As voters, Americans need to take a closer look at their political media diet to reduce the mindless consumption. Coincidentally, tips for dieting with food can be tweaked to create dieting tips for political media.

  • Check the labels: Know what source the news is coming from. Is it from the candidate, a news source with a liberal or conservative slant or a super PAC?
  • Consume a variety: Make sure to get as many perspectives as possible when researching a candidate.
  • Don’t overindulge: Consuming too many political ads or sources may be hard to digest. Find the right amount to consume based on personal needs.
  • Eat locally: Pay close attention to local politics and how political decisions may influence you personally.

Photos of Homeless People Aren’t Art

Guest Post by: Nora DiSanto, Junior Marquette University

Throughout the progression of photojournalism, mostly due to technological advancements, the time between the occurrence of a news event and the release of photos or videos to the public has shortened drastically. Photos that once first premiered on the cover of the morning newspaper, now surface instantly on the web, and videos that are highlighted on the nightly news are now old news after being shared on YouTube. Because of these developments the ethical questions married to photojournalism also went through dramatic adjustments. “Once, the most instantaneous ethical decision in photography was: ‘Shoot or don’t shoot?’ Today the question has added layers: ‘Post or don’t post?’ Or: ‘Go live or not?’ Or: ‘Do we use this ammeter video?’…Making the right decision can be the difference in being applauded for integrity or being criticized for insensitivity” (Patterson & Wilkins, 188). All of these factors add up to what has now coined the phrase, “the citizen as a photojournalist.” While this can be a really great tool in getting news out quickly and more efficiently, it also may cause many ethical issues because of ignorance towards what is ethical or not.

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Photo by: Eric Kim

One example of this that really has an effect on me is the photos of homeless people such as the one above. Photos of homeless people aren’t art. The homeless are individuals with a right to respect and privacy just as much as you or I am. However, this is not saying that all of these photos are bad. Sometimes they are an important and necessary step to show people the reality of conditions people live in. Yet, if it is just for an “artsy shot,” clearly ethical ideals were not thought about. Imagine you, yourself, sitting against a building looking for rest. Would you want a camera pointed at you?

Yet again, there is right and ethical way to do this. According to Eric Kim, a street photographer in Berkley, California, “If you decide to take photos/portraits of homeless people, try to get to know them as human beings. Don’t look at them as “different” or strange, but someone equal to you. Have a conversation with them and lend an ear to them. I have had many conversations with homeless people on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. And, many homeless people just have made some poor life choices or lost their lives due to health problems, family issues, or even mental problems.” I think this is solid and ethically sound advice, if the decision to shoot is mutual with the subject and they are treated as an equal individual rather than just a street-snapshot, the photo is not only ethical, but much more powerful.