Friday, December 10, 2010

Portable Patriot

Upon my recent discovery of the dedicated reading/study task made so simple by the Kindle, I began the process of selling off my hundreds of wonderful books that simply adorn my library but rarely if ever get opened. To facilitate that I had to decide what principles I would incorporate for determining which books I would not sell. That list includes the well marked personal and spiritual growth books that I return to repeatedly for reminders of what I need to be doing next, those books I frequently loan and give out to others, and those relative few that are truly relevant to the areas where I currently focus my time. However, there are some that must be saved for posterity for their primary document value, and Portable Patriot fits that category. Pocket sized and bound with a classical "old" feel, this book includes over 60 18th and 19th century speeches, documents and sermons given by our country's founders.

In a day when history books threaten to be re-written with every new political reign, it gives me security in knowing I have some "absolute" spots to return to for discussions with my grandchildren. The awe in which these great leaders held the awareness of their Creator flows throughout. While pioneering the leaving of the predictable old world for the insecurity of the new, they clearly maintained a semblance of traditional values as they looked to the future. And reading thru repeated themes of patriotism, I can understand how our nation could survive a civil war and come out stronger. For even with the strong differences of opinions over economic foundations, all ultimately had the best of the nation in heart.

This is the kind of stuff that should be required discussions, and many of them, for every generation. It is the kind of stuff I need to insure that I can teach my descendants what it means to be an American.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rational Thinking Options… Worse with Age?

My son Matt recently showed me a video by a gal who runs a comparative cognition lab at Yale (http://www.ted.com/talks/laurie_santos.html ). While I don't agree with all her foundations, it did make me think about what we do and in particular why. It would seem that maturity should make us more rational and hence more able to change when we see ourselves acting irrationally, but in actuality the habits formed with age, even much past 10 years of age and definitely past the teens, make change nearly impossible.

In her research Laurie Santos found that when training monkeys to use a form of money as an exchange for food, they would do irrational things that humans also do … ex: overspend when the price went down and hoard. They also discovered some differences in reactions when something was clearly safe versus when there was risk of loss attached. I saw myself in that behavior – where I had always thought I was someone who could take risks, I realized that what I perceived to be risk taking was really based on perceptions I had of safety. That when I thought I would truly lose something very important to me, perhaps someone's positive opinion, I would not take risks. I thought I had grown to the place where I could accept criticism objectively, but realized I only accepted it in areas where I knew I was absolutely right. In those cases I would smile at the criticizer, but if I was insecure about something, the criticism still threatened.

So I set out on a new study of ancient Hebrew proverbs to see what I could learn about wisdom and rational thinking. Are there principles in this book that, if I truly followed them, would allow me to know I was making intelligent decisions in every area of my life? What are those principles? And how to they apply to business, faith, family? Could I, in fact, find enough courage to change in those areas in which I know have resisted? Nancy Dornan says that when an area of one's life is out of balance, it requires radical change to bring it back in balance. There are areas of my life way out of balance – in particular physical and financial. That is my quest these next 90 days – to discover what I need to do to bring them back, to courageously operate with radical changes of wise thinking, and to close 2010 out knowing it was the year of the biggest change ever in my life. And if I can do that, truly I can help others to do the same.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Obstacles Welcome by Ralph de la Vega

While the content of de la Vega's story is highly inspirational, I would advise anyone reading this book not to give up at the beginning! With this book written by a corporate president (AT&T Mobility), not a writer, I personally found it difficult to make my way thru the somewhat simplistic writing to get to the content, often wondering why a ghost writer or co-writer wasn't employed to tell this story in a more engaging style. I knew the content was valid; I was bored with the reading. However, once I got past the fifth chapter, i found myself eagerly reading, underlining, and finding many applicable challenges to my own life and leadership.

in the end, de la Vega's accounts from the corporate view are applicable for many business minded thinkers. While feeling to me to be borrowed from John Maxwell, his leadership principles are relevant along with his challenges on giving back to the community. Given the global success of the iphone, his final chapter sharing part of that story was a fitting conclusion.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Deepest Confidence

6 months ago when I read Proverbs 23 I wrote, "How I need wisdom, discipline, and understanding. How I need my eyes to keep to the way of the heart God has given me. How I need truth that is not compromised – in order to have that wisdom, discipline, and understanding. How I need wisdom to keep my heart on the right path. How I need for my lips to speak with is right in every area – from meeting strangers and looking for business connections to presentations to building relationships to planting seeds of faith to driving vision and leaders."


 

Today I would come to God with overwhelming gratitude – that in these recent years of so much introspective doubt, there has come a bit of a peak when I can see where i've been and where I'm going. Of course another valley and subsequent climb lies ahead of me to get to the next peak, but what a relief it is for each of us when we can be reassured we are on track and moving in the direction of God's call on our lives.


 

While reading the Psalms can be so affirming in this area, due to David's challenges for his very life and temptation to doubt that anointing as a young man where he believed God called him to be king, but his son Solomon was the benefit of so much inherited wisdom that rarely is defeat expressed in his writing directly. On the other hand, the frequent reminders of those "7 abominations that fill the fool's heart" (Proverbs 26:25) are repeated throughout Proverbs, and that must reflect some of Solomon's own personal temptations and defeats. Knowing he has been blessed with such abundant wisdom, it must have been so difficult for Solomon to see these evidences of the fool in his own life – in his own propensity to perhaps focus on external appearances – wives and women, houses and wealth. Also blessed with the call to build the temple, he knew God was with him – but how he struggled with temptation. And in that way, could recognize those around him who also struggled and gave into defeat.


 

More than anyone, Solomon recognized that wisdom was not dichotomous, but most powerful when all the pieces of the whole synergistically worked together – all those 7 pillars set on the right foundation. What I think, what I feel, what I watch, what I listen to, what I do, where I go, where I came from (inheritance) and attention to where I am going (the ultimate fear of the Lord), they all work together to make me into the wise, discerning, loving, child of God. That knows who to listen to and what to watch, that touches people's lives by reaching out with my mouth, my hands and feet – the person I was made to be.

    


 


 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quarreling – Absence of Logic

Solomon talks often about the quarrelsome wife – two references in Proverbs 21 – better to live on the corner of a roof than with a quarrelsome wifek, and second better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome wife. Those are quite some statements for a man who had it all in women, and spoken from the heart of a man which we know typically is much more tolerant with the weaknesses of the woman with whom he lives than the woman of him. The reason why most marriages are broken up by the woman walking away. Unless a man gets involved with another woman, he will rarely walk out of a marriage, though in any culture when a woman can live economically independent of a man, she often will walk away. It may be caused by the man's affair with another woman, but even in that circumstance, there are men who would opt to stay in a marriage and have the outside woman if they could. For them it feels like the best of two worlds.


 

So thinking about the extremes represented by the corner of the roof (poor, no influence, no comfort) and the desert (hot, lonely, thirsty), and then thinking about the woman that makes life for a man worse than these two illustrations, I was struck with the idea that quarreling is just stupid. It results in nothing. I used to think it was an emotional thing, something to do with the heart. It does usually lead to that, but it's start is just the absence of some brain pathways working correctly., No one wins, and when someone thinks they have won, they have really lost. Last night I made a directional comment to Matt, and he disagreed with me on my sense of direction. I argued, sure I must be right. He pulled up google earths on his phone to check his thinking, proceeded to draw out the illustration, and then close with google earths on my computer so I could see my error. I reluctantly said, "well you win." His immediate response, "No it's not about winning. You just confused me when you were pointing in what you said was the direction of the gas station. I would have never found it."


 

Rather than arguing, how much better would my attitude have been to have said, "Really? Are you sure? Show me." If he was wrong, we would have both known it, and if he was right, I would have been the teachable, open mind, looking to learn and discern the truth in every setting, without saying a word encouraging him for right thinking. And then, and only then, does everyone win.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

“Derailed” by Tim Irwin

How is it that some of the best companies, growing companies with ability and resources to pick the best of the best for leadership, still have to fire CEO's? Did they choose the wrong people? What can smaller companies and non-profits learn from this?


 

Dr. Tim Irwin answers these questions and more in Derailed, by taking a case study of 6 highly talented and capable CEO's that did not make it in companies such as Home Depot, HP, and Lehman Brothers. Through a wealth of examples demonstrating the repeating patterns in what caused the falls of great leaders, Irwin gives real solutions for preventing this type of collapse. Leadership at all levels from the smallest non-profit to the largest Fortune 25 companies could benefit from this fresh approach to development of the kind of character that has enough strength to prevent the repeated problem of power that corrupts.


 

While my own leadership positions would be light years removed from the influence held by these case studies, I saw my own weaknesses in some of these CEO's weaknesses. I was challenged to grow in all 4 character traits of authenticity, self management, humility, and courage.


 


 


 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Transparent Thanksgiving

At this Thanksgiving season, we're surrounded with written expressions of thankfulness from many writers, leaders, communicators, friends and acquaintances. Some feel forced, some are preachy, some are light easy reading while a delightful few feel truly transparent. What was it that caused me to react negatively to many that I'm sure were written in the deepest sincerity?


 

First – preachy. While my life thrives based on my relationship with God and what he reveals to me daily from his word as well as his creation, I find that "preachy" sorts of advice are better received audibly than in writing, perhaps in a face to face gathering where affirming feelings are apparent with the relationship being forefront (i.e. unless the reader has been on a particular search for a certain topic). So I need to balance my expressions of God-given gratitude with the struggle the pilgrims and their native American friends and enemies experienced prior to that first celebrative day. Because it's in the struggle that I find God's outpouring into my life to be the most meaningful to someone else.


 

Second – forced. Thankfulness. It's a nice topic. As Jim Hawkinson used to say, this is the kind of thing " like apple pie and motherhood", no one wants to be against it. So we ask the question and we who love to express ourselves are quick to communicate. But the answers feel glib. A teacher in China asked her students and they all responded the same, "I'm thankful for family and friends and country," but when the teacher responded with more specific, perhaps transparent reasons she was thankful, the students gasped with open mouths.


 

Third – light. It's always refreshing to read humor and stories written in a light spirit, but when an article about Thanksgiving is all humor, it too feels contrived – as if the person is covering deeper hurts and vacuums and doesn't want to admit he's really struggling with something for which to be thankful.


 

Fourth – transparent. Those are the ones we all connect to. Because we've all been there, at the edge of the cliff when we weren't sure if the next breeze would just blow us over, when we couldn't imagine how we would ever get to the other side. And at this holiday season, most people have those areas of struggle, perhaps covered by spiritualizing or clich├ęs or comedy but they're there – and it's in hearing those transparent expressions of gratitude from someone else I am inspired to look more carefully at the good things in my life and be grateful – this day and every day.


 

And so I am grateful – for surviving the difficult moments, for God's grace and love that sustains me when I think it's too hard, for the people in my life who reach out when I can't reach. For the memories of the difficult times because they give perspective to the present. For the hope of the future, for knowing that if I am privileged to awake one more day that there is hope, there is life, and that the most oft quoted and favorite proverb of many in Proverbs 3:5,6 is still true … to trust in the Creator, to recognize His place in my life, and to be confident that he has set the path for the next step on the edge of the cliff.