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(Published: 2009-02-24)

I am on vacation in Maui, Hawaii, as I write this newsletter. I’m trying to take my own advice and practice a little “extreme relaxation.” It’s no surprise, really, but even on vacation I can’t escape contradictions.

Tourism is off dramatically here, despite the fact that Maui was voted “Best Island in the World” for a record 14 times in the 21st annual Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Hotel occupancy rates are down over 50% compared to last year, yet at the same time, Hawaii is enjoying a unique moment in the sun as the vacation spot of our new president, Barack Obama.

Our first day on the island was characterized by opposites. In the morning we drove to the summit of Mt. Haleakala, 10,000 feet above sea level. (Haleakala is Hawaiian for “House of the Sun,” and it’s THE place to be to watch the sun rise.) We ended our day at sea level, taking in a spectacular sunset at the beach.

Maybe I’ve been sitting in the sun too long, but I can find contradictions anywhere: in politics, in human nature, in our leaders, in our values, in our marketing efforts, in our spending habits….even in the sun that shines nearly every day here. This past Sunday I was reading the Letters section of the New York Times Magazine when I came across something called “The Sunshine Conundrum.” A doctor from Oregon wrote in to comment on Peggy Orenstein’s article about how we try to protect/over protect our children (The Way We Live Now, Feb. 8):

“Orenstein is slathering her children with sunscreen, but there is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the United States, perhaps in the entire Northern Hemisphere. Subnormal vitamin D levels have been implicated in a wide range of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease and mental illness.”

In the doctor’s words: “sunburn is to be avoided,” while at the same time “sun as a source of vitamin D is to be cherished.” As a long time sun worshipper, that aroused my curiosity, and on a whim, I Googled “sunshine paradox.” Try it; you’ll be amazed.

It turns out that yes, the sun is good for you, and yes, it’s bad for you. As with most things in life, the situation is seldom black or white. Whether you’re talking business, or politics, or struggling with you own personal life decisions, it takes more than common sense and compromise to deal with contradictions. You have to be willing to let go of pre-conceived ideas, and be open-minded enough to see things differently. That requires creative thinking. You also have to be able to reframe the big picture, and align your decisions with your personal values. That requires perspective and knowing yourself.

I thought about that a lot this past week, sitting on the beach, slathered in SPF, under a beach umbrella, with my hat on.

Maui sunset

Celebrate the sun!

Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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