From bigot to activist—my seven steps to altruism

8-year old Jim Hicks on his wonderful horse Buttons outside his home in Greenville, Mississippi

8-year old Jim Hicks on Buttons outside his home in Greenville, Mississippi

First, a few definitions:

Bigotry: Stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own

Activism: The doctrine or practice of vigorous campaigning or action as a means of achieving social or political goals

Altruism: The principle or practice of unselfish concern for, or devotion to, the welfare of others

Starting point. Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1945, I spent my first fifteen years in the Mississippi River delta town of Greenville. I went to all-white schools until my second year of college and got my religious training from the Southern Baptist Church and the Bible Memory Association.

A true southerner, I also lived in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia before finishing college. Best of all, I was blessed with a mother and father who loved me dearly and thought that there was no limitation to what I could achieve in life. Like most Americans, throughout my youth, I was taught that the healthiest diet included some form of meat, dairy, eggs or fish three meals a day.

Step 1. Leaving home. Faced with paying 100% of my expenses after high school, I left home for good during the summer after my freshman year of college. During that year, it was my good fortune to land a co-op student engineering job with Southern Railway–with my first assignment being the railroad HQ–three blocks from The White House. That summer was a real eye-opener for me–my roommate in the boarding house was from India and my best friend was a Massachusetts-born student at Harvard.

My three years in the Coast Guard were spent at USCG Base Honolulu in the shadows of Aloha Tower.

My Coast Guard years were spent at this island base in the shadows of Aloha Tower in Honolulu Harbor.

Step 2. The United States Coast Guard. Although I could’ve probably gotten a draft deferment if I really wanted one, I decided that I actually preferred to serve in the armed forces. As a boy, I had always dreamed of wearing that snappy white uniform and flying jets for a living.

Well, I didn’t get the jets, but I did get the snappy white uniform, shore duty in Hawaii during the Vietnam war and an MBA from the University of Hawaii. I also married the mother of my children–the daughter of an Air Force pilot (a bird colonel) residing three blocks from the “O” Club at Hickam Air Force Base, right next to Pearl Harbor. My parents chose NOT to attend the Catholic wedding for religious reasons.

Step 3. Parenthood. Although I thought I truly loved all of my family, I never experienced the overwhelming, unconditional kind of love that we all hear about–until I became a parent. That first happened in Puerto Rico in 1973, while I was there working as a consulting industrial engineer (at age 28) charged with leading an all Spanish-speaking factory back to profitability. My son, Jason Stanfield, was born about halfway through my one-year stint on that tropical island. Daughter Diana Lorraine arrived six years later in Atlanta.

Rainbows were common on the beaches of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

Step 4. Process improvement consulting. My German boss, who supervised me from afar during the Puerto Rico assignment, instilled in me the confidence that I would succeed there beyond my wildest expectations–a feeling that was non-existent during my first few agonizing weeks of factory-by-day and Berlitz tapes-by-night at the Mayaguez Hilton.

Flush with confidence, I left Puerto Rico a year later for a series of diverse projects at Sears, Holiday Inns, Jockey, ITT and many others. Somewhere along the way, I learned the “secret” for improving ANY process from another former boss, Bill Conway, who used to say, “If you learn enough about a process, almost anyone can improve anything.” He was right, all you have to do is study the process enough–until the solution becomes visible: like a “blinding flash of the obvious.”

Step 5. The greatest process improvement opportunity ever. In college, I learned that “any system can be improved.” In business, I learned that we should always focus our process improvement resources on the areas that deliver the best “bang for the buck.” After fifteen years as an industrial engineer, followed by another fifteen years as a senior corporate executive, I finally stumbled across the greatest process improvement opportunity in the history of humanity–in 2003. That’s when I discovered, after six months of study about diet and health, my own world-changing blinding flash of the obvious—saying to myself, “Oh my God, we’re eating the wrong food.”

The Gorilla, with a DNA almost identical to humans, eats nothing but raw plants.

The Gorilla, with a DNA almost identical to humans, eats nothing but raw plants.

Step 6. Harnessing my unique background for the cause. For the next ten years, I searched for how I could best leverage my background, skills and knowledge to help move humanity from the highly popular western diet of meat, dairy, eggs and/or fish three meals a day to a health-promoting, ecosystem-saving, whole food, plant-based diet.

My first idea was to help CEOs of large corporations improve profits while helping their employees enjoy the most precious gift of all—vibrant health. During this time, I also wrote a book, published over 800 blogs, appeared on radio, sought speaking engagements, and joined the board of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

Step 7. Addressing the all-important BIG PICTURE. In September of 2012 and 2013 respectively, I read two books about the most important topic for every person on Earth: SUSTAINABILITY–of our ecosystem, our civilization and ultimately our species.

Slide18These are the two books. Both describe the grossly unsustainable way in which humans have been living in the last one hundred years. But neither describe a workable plan for solving our almost hopeless situation. That’s what this story is all about–finding my passion and discovering my major definite purpose: doing my best to develop and promote that “workable plan” throughout the world.

My father once told me that he doubted that I would ever be truly successful in business—because I was “too honest.” My mother used to tell me that God gave me a brain and that I must use it. She also told me that she knew that I would be successful, because I was born on Success Road (2200 Success Road to be exact). Now was the time to draw upon all that inspiration, my work experience, my education and my good fortune to learn the “big picture” truth about our food choices during the period from 2002 to 2013.

In developing that “workable” plan,  I took a close look at the problem–basically a planet that has been overrun by the human species and a global economy based on the maximization of the consumption of STUFF in a world of finite resources. Even a third grader can understand that you cannot have unlimited consumption forever in a finite world. So what’s the problem? In my opinion, it consists of four elements:

  1. Overpopulation. It took the human species almost 200,000 years to reach a population of one billion. In just 200 years, we added another six billion, and we’re still adding 240,000 every single day.
  2. Over-consumption. The way we live, work, play, and trade—our entire economy is built on maximizing the consumption of STUFF in a world of finite resources.
  3. Over-dependence on fossil fuels. Primarily driven by the first two issues, this element is another huge driver of climate change.
  4. Eating the wrong food. The most affluent two billion people in the world are eating the wrong food. Not only is it making us sick, but it is the leading cause of virtually ALL of our most urgent environmental problems, beginning with water scarcity and climate change. As more of the other five billion people follow our lead, we’ll soon need another one or two planet Earths just to feed us all—but we only have one.

    From beginning to end, their thriving civilization lasted about 1,000 years. Then it collapsed after they used up too much of their finite resources.

    From beginning to end, their thriving civilization lasted about 1,000 years. Then it collapsed after they depleted their finite resources. Like us, just before their civilization collapsed, the citizens all agreed that life had never been better.

A tough situation. It will take many decades, if not centuries to solve the first three problems. But solving #4 can be done in less than ten years–and just might buy us enough to solve the other three.

There is no doubt that #4 can be solved, but if we don’t mount an URGENT, global initiative real soon, I am afraid that I will have to join Jacques Cousteau, Stephen Emmott and others. They all concluded that, while our planet will continue on, nature may not have a plan for the human species in her future.

Now, the good news. I totally believe that it is possible, albeit difficult, to solve #4 in less than ten years. It will definitely be worth the effort–whatever the cost. And in so doing, we’d eliminate the leading driver of water scarcity, chronic disease, soil erosion, deforestation, world hunger, species extinction and climate change. Given the right information, almost any meat-eater can change what they eat overnight. So how do we influence billions of people to quickly begin changing what they eat?

Developing my workable plan. In coming up with my plan, I have drawn upon the three stages of my career: industrial engineer, corporate executive AND executive recruiter. I refer to the latter as my fifteen years in the leadership business.

My engineering work enabled me to grasp the “big picture”  problem. My executive background enabled me to develop a workable solution, and my executive recruiting career has made it possible for me to understand the special type of leadership that is needed—and how to recruit that rare talent.

These two guys have the combined capability to

These two guys have the combined capability to “get it done,” but with Hillary running for president, this dream team probably won’t happen.

Here’s the 3-part plan—based on my knowledge that nothing big can happen quickly without committed and competent leadership equipped with the necessary resources.

  • Leadership. Identify and recruit the internationally-recognized leaders required.
  • Money. Focus on billionaires who seem to care about life more than money and assemble a group that can easily come up with 100 billion dollars or more.
  • Promote awareness. Focusing on the world’s most affluent two billion people, launch a MASSIVE global awareness campaign to encourage everyone to quickly replace as many of their meat, dairy, egg and fish calories as possible—with health-promoting, ecosystem saving, whole, plant-based foods.

By focusing this campaign on the end consumer, we bypass the highly complex, intertwined, money-driven “system” that controls the process of producing our food. When consumer demand begins to shift quickly in the direction of plant-based over animal-based foods, the markets will respond.

The Bottom Line. By simply shifting to a whole food, plant-based diet—we can all take charge of our health while averting the worst effects of climate change, easing the water crisis & soil erosion, ending world hunger, and buying us enough time to work on our other primary sustainability issues that future generations must address:

    • Solving our overpopulation dilemma
    • Creating a new economic model that enables us to live in harmony with nature
    • Switching our global energy system from fossil fuels to renewables
This blog is dedicated to all the children of the world, particularly my six grands. Our generation has made a real mess on this planet---and we must now do our best to fix it before it's too late.

This blog is dedicated to all the children of the world, particularly all my grands. Our generation has made a real mess on this planet—and we must now do our best to fix it before it’s too late.

Is there another way to avoid the collapse of civilization? I don’t believe there is. Like Dr. Emmott, I don’t see ANY urgent action toward moving our species back to living in harmony with nature. It’s still business as usual all over the world–every country looking out for themselves. But if there is a better “workable” plan, I would really like to hear about it.

Back to activism and altruism. Now in the final trimester of my life, I realize more than ever that NOTHING is more important than SUSTAINABILITY. As such, I will continue to focus ALL of my efforts on making that workable, big picture plan a reality. It’s what my mother and father would have expected me to do.

For your convenience, a few of my recent blogs on this subject:

The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.

Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth

  1. Healthy Eating, Healthy WorldThe “big picture” about food (our book)
  2. A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD 
  3. An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
  4. What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
  5. A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
  6. Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unawareby Richard Oppenlander.

Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes 2 or 3 minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf page and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info:

Nutrition Certificate

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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6 Responses to From bigot to activist—my seven steps to altruism

  1. I love your web site and visit it frequently. I am now on completely plant-based diet and feel that my health has never been better!

  2. soxfan4 says:

    good stuff bud – love, J

    On Sun, May 4, 2014 at 10:20 AM, J. Morris Hicks, writer. speaker.

  3. Jim: I just posted this
 on your 4-min video 
on YouTube:
    “Get on Jim Hicks list to get email of his Blogs. Today, Cinco de Mayo 2014 — here is a hyperlink to his blog that lets you work from the links in the article to many of his previous great educational blog:

    Bottom line — eat the diet for all good reasons: WFPB — Whole Foods, Plant-Based Nutrition!”

  4. Hey Jim, after making your “acquaintance” about a year ago..I commend you for all your efforts you are trying to do for the world. I am proud to support those willing to stand in the light despite all of the darkness. I think you being raised on 2200 Success Road was no coincidence, lol. Take care, my best from all the way over in the Emerald City 🙂

  5. Jim – I appreciate your summarizing your path in life that led you to being a very effective “Activist”! I’ll post your link on my Facebook page. Thanks.
    Oh – why no voting on STARS is available for this blog today?

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Thanks Bill. The voting on “stars” function has been moved to the beginning of all of my blogs.

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