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Posts Tagged ‘people’

“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman.” ~ Mexican Proverb

I read this and had to chuckle as it is either a statement of profound wisdom or a proclamation made by the Mexican Ambassador to the Lollipop Guild upon seeing the legs and red shoes of the Wicked Witch of the East. Seriously, though, I do feel that women play an important role in the development of nest of home and the heart of any successful business.

Sitting by the fire yesterday evening after having put my sons to bed I found myself reminiscing about the days of my youth. I recalled the great challenge faced by young women my age in high school, namely, that it wasn’t “cool” to get good grades or to appear too smart. How tragic! I don’t know if that paradigm persists, but it certainly placed an artificial limitation on what could have been achieved in school by many who subscribed to that policy.

I am equally thankful for the men and women in my life. Father and mother. Aunts and uncles. Girlfriends and guy friends. All of them made important contributions to the rich nest of home that served as an introduction to me of love and truth.

That said, there were and are certain women I have and continue to be privileged to know. My mother. My childhood girlfriends. My teachers, counselors and professors. Co-workers. My mother-in-law. My wife. Truly phenomenal women. Dedicated. Passionate. Intelligent. Beautiful. Diligent. Devoted. Fearless.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Maya Angelou‘s rhythmic verse describing women, you’re in for a real treat.

Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I would love to hear from you as to what makes a woman a phenomenal woman in your eyes!

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“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve been meeting with various members of my team about their plans for 2011 and while the details are unique to each one, a common theme is emerging.

Success follows those who add value.

If you care more about adding value than you do about what you can get out of the world around you, you’ll find that decision-making is cleaner, being free of the sticky tentacles of self-concern.

It’s easy to add value. The process begins with being observant, listening and asking questions on occasion and ends with offering whatever help is within your power to provide. It might be a word, a gesture, lending a hand or making a valuable connection. Help comes in many forms.

Many people fill their days consumed with self-interest, desperately trying to find ways to eek more satisfaction, pleasure, financial reward or fulfillment out of their immediate circumstances while dwelling on how the world makes them feel. Whether robed in gold or bronze at the end of the day, such an approach constrains to emptiness.

As the resolutions of the New Year begin to take shape in the womb of your mind, make a point to base your resolutions in the desire to add value to the world around you. Whether it is a fitness goal, a change of heart, habit or attitude, focus on how you can increase your ability to a blessing.

I am convinced that most diets and fitness plans fail because the individual goes into it hoping to get something out of it for him or herself rather than focusing on how he or she might be able to help others more effectively because of the change. Self-improvement is more sustainable when its focus is outwardly instead of inwardly focused.

2011 is full of promise for my team and for you. I trust that best use will be made of whatever comes our way. Onward and upward!

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve often marveled at the ingenuity of those standouts in history who dedicated their lives to the restoration of goodness and truth to their rightful place at the apex human understanding and function. It hasn’t been easy. Human beings have resisted this restorative process tooth and nail throughout the ages, giving every reason and excuse for not coming to the point of yielding every ounce of their capacity to the expression of goodness.

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.” ~ Albert Einstein

In my estimation, the greatest hindrance to the restoration of sanity on earth is the obsessive pursuit of comfort. Human beings want comfort on their own terms. For each one, it means something a little different, and yet those differences always seem to conflict and contradict rather than complement one another.

Don’t get me wrong. Comfort is not intrinsically bad or evil, but it becomes so when its possession is put ahead of goodness and truth. Comfort achieved at the expense of goodness and truth is fleeting, hence the multitude of comfort-seekers in every corner of the earth.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” ~ C.S. Lewis

What percent of your energies do you devote to the development of a greater understanding of truth? What is truth to you? To me, truth is the pattern of principle, purpose, design and control that govern the expression of life as well as all creative activity.

The principles of truth are eternal, while their application is specific in relation to the need at hand. There is no “your truth and my truth,” for the truth is holistic and more importantly, never in conflict with itself.

The truth is the one thing that will set you free from a life of wishful thinking and despair. Get to know it and you will not be left comfortless! No matter how much the world challenges, criticizes and condemns you, you will be at rest if goodness and truth are your central concern.

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Der Jungbrunnen by Lucas Cranach, Image by Wikipedia

 

“A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Man’s obsession with the discovery of the fountain of youth reaches deep into early history. Whether driven by the desire to overcome his mortality or by the quest to rediscover the key to eternal life, his search spans the written record.

Herodotus, in his “History of Herodotus” written in 440 BCE, tells of Ithyophagi messengers who made their way to Ethiopia to visit the king of the land, where the men were “said to be the tallest and handsomest in the whole world.” Upon their arrival they “questioned the king concerning the term of life” and they were told that most of their people lived to 120 years and some of them well beyond.

Herodotus then added “When the Icthyophagi showed wonder at the number of the years, he led them to a fountain, wherein when they had washed, they found their flesh all glossy and sleek, as if they had bathed in oil- and a scent came from the spring like that of violets.”

Al-Khadir and Alexander the Great, Image by Wikipedia

Islamic tradition also tells an intriguing tale of a prophet named al-Khadir (The Green Man), who was the only person to have discovered the secret to immortality by drinking once from the fabled Ma’ul Hayat (Fountain of Life). Eastern versions of the Alexander Romance describe the tale of Alexander the Great and his servant crossing the Land of Darkness in search of the fountain of life. The servant, incidentally derives from the Arabic tales of al-Khadir!

The archetypal idea that there could be a magical place where restorative waters flow freely is tantalizing, but I have to wonder if we are looking at the record too literally, as children often do when told a story. Could it be instead that the fountain of life is figurative and not literal, a state of being instead of a geographic location or a physical spring?

The stories of great men and women through history who lived phenomenally influential lives are appealing to anyone who has not yet given up on life. They lived life fully and in some cases they found a way to do so without being used up in the process. Was it serendipity, the right combination of genetic material or did they tap into the source of life itself, deep within their bosom?

I imagine that all three of these explanations had some part in it, though good luck and the right genes were likely secondary to the strong sense of self that comes only to those who tap into the wellspring of life within themselves. This connection, I suspect, is not something that can be “gotten” or “possessed,” instead, it is something that manifests as it is given into expression through body, mind and heart.

I am a firm believer in the idea that you cannot give what you do not possess, and I believe in this case that we must add, “…what you do not possess or do not know that you possess.” I believe that the fountain of life is present in each and every person on earth. Whether or not you tap into it is a matter of choice.

Education, religion, spirituality, inspirational and motivational tools that line the self-help shelves and so on are a means to an end in the sense that they provide (in varying degrees) the guidance necessary to reestablish this connection between inner resource and outer expression. When taken as an end, they quickly become a dead end rather than a living one. When viewed as the key to “getting” life rather than giving it, the well-paved road to enlightenment morphs into the road to a hellish life, paved with good intentions.

I would love to hear what lights your fire, what inspires you to push where others crumble and fade away. Don’t be shy…the world needs your vision!

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Manessische Liederhandschrift, Image by Wikipedia

“Though the practice of chivalry fell even more sadly short of its theoretic standard than practice generally falls below theory, it remains one of the most precious monuments of the moral history of our race, as a remarkable instance of a concerted and organized attempt by a most disorganized and distracted society, to raise up and carry into practice a moral ideal greatly in advance of its social condition and institutions; so much so as to have been completely frustrated in the main object, yet never entirely inefficacious, and which has left a most sensible, and for the most part a highly valuable impress on the ideas and feelings of all subsequent times.” ~ John Stuart Mill

 

I once inadvertently upset a young woman by holding the door open for her. She took offence to my gesture, interpreting it as a chauvinistic power play rather than a gesture of respect. I wrote it off as a poorly executed sign of the times, where young women are eager to assert themselves in a show of equality. I must admit, though, that I continue to hold the door open for women of all ages to this day.

The incident did stick with me over the years (hence this post!), and I think that part of the tension that surrounded the young lady’s heart in the matter is rooted in a misunderstanding of equality. Equality is not sameness. Men and women are different from one another and I believe that it is healthier to respect those differences than to smother them through political correctness.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are women who are smarter, stronger and wittier than me. Stereotypes based purely on anatomical differences are foolhardy. Women are no more the “lesser of the species” than they are from a different planet.

Men and women, when comfortable in their own skins, complement one another wonderfully. They exist along a spectrum – from “girly-girl” to “manly-man” with significant overlap in the middle. That said, some of the most masculine men I’ve known possessed a surprisingly sensitive side while some of the most feminine women have proven to be the toughest and meanest creatures I’ve known.

Whether you believe that men and women are the product of evolutionary forces or the crowning achievement of a divinely designed world, it is clear that we’re both here for a reason. A friend of mine in high school used to joke about women being “obsolete fertile vessels” when he read about test tube babies and oddly enough the young lady who was most offended by his poking ended up marrying him several years later. Obsolete? I highly doubt it. Pigs will fly first.

We need one another. The line, “You complete me,” made famous by the movie “Jerry Maguire” (or was it Austin Powers?) is a great way to look at it. We are two parts of a whole, not opposites, and our differences are what makes the union so powerful, meaningful and creative.

The principles of chivalry also apply to generational differences, in fact, many of the principles of chivalry can and should be exemplified and taught to children at a very young age. Giving up a seat for an adult or not talking balk, for instance, are perfect symbols to children of how the different sexes can and should relate later in life. Respect is a fundamental building block of chivalry.

There are many implications to the continued practice of chivalry that I hope to investigate further with you in future posts and I hope that you take no offense to me holding the door open for you as you take steps to develop a deeper understanding of the topic.

Good day!

 

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“All meaningful and lasting change starts first in your imagination and then works its way out. Imagination is more important than knowledge.” ~ Albert Einstein

It’s a little ironic to me that my company’s product line is based in part on a manufacturing method developed in the Middle Ages while at the same time we have identified the ability to change and adapt as being more important than our strength or intelligence. As CEO I prize employees who display nimbleness, a passion for ongoing refinement and an unwavering commitment to making the world a better place.

Many people possess those qualities but more often than not they withhold them and wait for others around them to initiate any shift from the status quo. Rather than stick their necks out and consequently stand out in the crowd, they prefer the relative comfort of anonymity and mediocrity.

Anyone who has embraced change in life can tell you that a commitment to change must be back by persistence and specific action. Pronouncements of change such as “I’ll be different this time” and “We can’t make the same mistake again” must be met with a deliberate clearing out of the old pattern and a careful induction of the new.

“The hardest part of gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea that occupies that niche.” ~ Robert Heinlein

It is said that “old habits die hard” for good reason. Habitual thoughts, actions and patterns of reaction wear grooves in the body, mind and heart that can be difficult to avoid when a change is initiated. That said, change has the remarkable ability to be both a process and instantaneous. Most changes take a while to become the new “normal” yet many changes happen in an instant and last forever.

The former are obviously the greater challenge for they require persistence, constant readjustment and a realignment of the factors that found their balance based on the former state. I’ve watched a number of changes in my organization revert to “how we always used to do it” faster than you can say “I thought we agreed to approach this differently.”

Charting a new course can be particularly difficult when the previous way of doing things was well entrenched or long-standing. In my estimation people invest far too much of their sense of stability in external factors (other people, their surroundings, etc.) and they miss the opportunity to cultivate an unflappable sense of stability and tranquility that only comes from a deep connection to their inner selves, their true character.

When you are at rest with yourself, being yourself and aware of your connection to a greater sense of purpose, you are at peace no matter what is going on around you. My company is filled with such people and they never cease to amaze me. No matter how busy they are, how pressured they feel, they continue to display, as I mentioned earlier, nimbleness, a passion for ongoing refinement and an unwavering commitment to making the world a better place.

What do you see as the larger purpose for the work you do? Whether you are employed or retired, you are involved in creative activity. When you are clear about your purpose you stop working against yourself. When you are clear about your purpose distractions are less likely to draw you from your desired course. When you are clear about your purpose you are no longer at risk of being tossed by the winds and waves of circumstance.

 

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New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman used an interesting quote yesterday from Lewis Mumford‘s book “The Condition of Man,” about the development of civilization. Reflecting on the American nation in 1944, Mumford drew a chilling parallel to the decline of the mighty Roman Empire:

Everyone aimed at security: no one accepted responsibility. What was plainly lacking, long before the barbarian invasions had done their work, long before economic dislocations became serious, was an inner go. Rome’s life was now an imitation of life: a mere holding on. Security was the watchword — as if life knew any other stability than through constant change, or any form of security except through a constant willingness to take risks.

Every great civilization that has come and gone through history collapsed first internally before it was vanquished by a foreign power. The collapse, as with the Roman Empire, was slow and hardly noticeable to its citizens. Once complete, however, the people were left stunned and amazed at how a civilization as great and mighty as theirs could collapse so suddenly and so completely.

The same is true with corporations. Many a great and purposeful organization has come and gone according to this progression and industries, like the American automotive industry, are struggling with the intense gravitational pull that builds up beneath years of complacency, self-satisfaction and unrealistic practices.

Where expansion and progress stop, decay begins. Imperceptible at first, the decay, as with dental caries, eventually breaks through to the surface. Early warning systems may raise a few heads in an otherwise oblivious herd, but in most cases the alert is overlooked by people who insist that all is well and that neither introspection nor change is needed.

When life becomes as Mumford wrote: “…an imitation of life, a mere holding on,” something is amiss. The economic dislocations of late can be nothing more than a wake-up call if we take the steps necessary to reawaken the “inner go” of our people. If we ignore the alarm, however, I cannot imagine that we will come out the other end without any game-changing consequences.

As such, I am committed to doing my part with the resources – both inner and outer – that I have at my command. There is but one way to embrace life when it has gotten away from you: reach out and grab it by the horns. Mediocrity cannot overcome lethargy; vivacity and the spirit of service can.

Take time to cultivate and nurture what Mr. Mumford called your “inner life.” Who are you at the root of yourself? What are your deepest convictions, your greatest hopes and your highest goals? How consistent is your “outside life” with your “inner life”? Where there are inconsistencies, there will be tension. And unfortunately for us, unrelieved tension is the precursor to most disease.

Take note, for most people’s lives are destroyed from the inside out. While I hesitate to call this a law, it does work out this way with alarming regularity. The moral of this story? Rediscover your inner go!

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