Insight into post-Communist Russia

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder

This book was hard to put down, for sure. Bill Browder gives fascinating insight into the crime & injustice of post-Communist Russia and is a hero for becoming a human rights activist. Below are just a few quotes from the book that give insight to the state of Russia after the fall of Communism. I hope these pique your interest, as I highly recommend this book!

Seventy years of communism had destroyed the work ethic of an entire nation. Millions of Russians had been sent to the gulags for showing the slightest hint of personal initiative. The Soviets severely penalized independent thinkers, so the natural self-preservation reaction was to do as little as possible and hope that nobody would notice you. This had been fed into the psyches of ordinary Russians from the moment they were on their mothers’ breasts.

Instead of 150 million Russians sharing the spoils of mass privatization, Russia wound up with twenty-two oligarchs owning 39 percent of the economy and everyone else living in poverty.

…by the year 2000 the richest person had become 250,000 times richer than the poorest person. This wealth disparity was created in such a short period of time that it poisoned the psychology of the nation. People were so angry that they were ready to spill their guts to anyone who wanted to talk about it.

Going after information in Russia was like hurtling down the rabbit hole. Ask a question, get a riddle. Track a lead, hit a wall. Nothing was self-evident or clear. After seventy years of KGB-instilled paranoia, Russians were careful to guard their information. Even inquiring after a person’s health could feel like asking someone to reveal a state secret, and I knew that asking about the condition of a company would prove exponentially more difficult.

Also, I love details on spy techniques. Browder describes meeting an informant while wired. When listening to the playback, “we heard a burst of white noise that drowned out everything.” They estimate they were in the presence of some kind of high-pitched jamming equipment. Truth is stranger than fiction.

His final thought on the dangers of becoming a human rights activist, and therefore an enemy of Putin:

But what I’ve discovered about fear is that no matter how scared I am at any particular moment, the feeling doesn’t last. After a time it subsides. As anyone who lives in a war zone or who has a dangerous job will tell you, your body doesn’t have the capacity to feel fear for an extended period. The more incidents you encounter, the more inured you become to them.

There’s a monster in my head!

Inc said it perfectly in their recent article How to Tame the Negative Talk in Your Mind:

It’s one of the most destructive forces you’ll ever have to face, and it’s inside your own head.

You might not realize it, but you’re “talking” to yourself all day long.  And for most of us, a lot of it is negative.  One thing I’ve learned is that the brain is obsessive – you feed it one thing, it wants more of it.  Negative thoughts can compound upon each other, sending you into a stinky state of being in no time.

Here are a couple of my favorite points:

1. Listen to what you’re telling yourself as if you were telling it to other people.

In response to my negative talk, a therapist once asked me, “Imagine you are talking to a younger version of yourself – you as a child. Would you say all those things? Or would you be more understanding, more patient, positive?”

7. Distract yourself to reboot your mind.  Stop thinking and start doing.

This can work. If you can remove yourself from the current situation and take a step forward! That first step is the hardest part, but worth it. Put the Nike swish in front of you if you have to and Just Do It!

‘The Fonz’ helps children of the world!

A lot of us have disadvantages.  These are a gift when we can use what we’ve learned in our struggle to help others.  Henry “the Fonz” Winkler is an excellent example of this!

He talks with The Rotarian in their latest issue about his struggle through school, and eventual dyslexia diagnosis at 31 years old.  Winkler by no means has swept his challenge under the jukebox, but instead has become an advocate for kids that learn differently all over the world.

Not only is he the author of a series of over 2 dozen books about Hank Zipser, a child with dyslexia, I was surprised to learn when he auditioned for Happy Days, he advocated for showing the Fonz’s emotional side, in addition to his cool exterior.

After the Happy Days episode aired where the Fonz got a library card and checked out his first book, it’s reported library card registration by youth went up 500%!

He has spoken to thousands of students the world over, and hears the same experience he had as a child.

Now, there are incredible teachers who understand about learning differences and teaching the child who learns differently. It’s about looking at the student as a whole, teaching children how they learn, not how we think they should learn.

Thank you Henry Winkler, for being an outstanding citizen and role model for our children!