Monday, October 31, 2016

TheFutureOfGod

I recently read The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times by Deepak Chopra (2014).  



In this book, Chopra attempts to accomplish two objectives.  First, the book is his rebuttal to the attacks from what he describes as Militant Atheists, a group who not only disbelieves the existence of God but also feels compelled to malign and impugn any who do.  Secondly, DC makes a reasoned argument for the existence of God, though perhaps not in the embodiment that has held traditional sway.

Rather than try to summarize DC's points, I'll include here some of his most insightful and challenging assertions:

  • “I like a metaphor I once heard, that faith is like smelling the sea before you see it.”  (p.21)
  • “Knowing God consists of many experiences acquired over a lifetime, a slow-motion epiphany, as it were.”  (p.22) 
  • “It’s particularly strange that skeptics mock anyone who explores supernatural phenomena, since one item on the list – seeing beyond surface appearances and trusting what you see – is a hallmark of science.  Ghost hunters are doing nothing more or less than physicists hunting for quarks.”  (p.70) 
  • “Faith is personal. It doesn’t need to be justified to someone else. Faith is something you must participate in – you can’t judge it from the outside.  Faith is a way of exploring reality, but it doesn’t have to pass scientific testing.  Faith looks beyond physical appearances.  Faith is about meaning.”  (p.73)
  • “You are whatever your faith is...the core ideas and beliefs you live by…the sum of your inner conceptions.”  (p.84-85)  
  • “…the most recent theories of the cosmos propose that only 4 percent of the universe is made up of matter and energy that can be measured – the remaining 96 percent consists of so-called dark matter and energy, which are little understood.  They cannot be seen, only inferred.”  (p.93)  
  • “It [Science] has brilliantly subdivided nature into tiny packets of knowledge while missing the miraculousness of the whole”  (p. 133)   
  • “God’s love doesn’t pick and choose, so it applies to serial killers, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, and all other monsters in history.  It applies to all criminal acts as well as to holy acts.  Therefore divine love is more like a natural force field – gravity, for instance – than a human emotion.  Such love can’t be expressed in human emotional terms.”  (p. 147)  
  • “The issue isn’t how to think about God but how to experience him directly.”  (p. 149)
  • “The whole story is told in a single concept:  God is realized in the highest state of awareness.  Since everyone is aware, God is reachable by all of us.”  (p. 159)  
  • “God is everywhere in the subtle world.  The divine doesn’t appear by glimpses, in peak moments with sudden blinding light.  The divine is constant; it is we who come and go.”  (p. 188) 
  • “As banal as it sounds, finding God depends on regular practice.”  (p. 189)  
  • “Approval is sweet.  Anyone who wants it should avoid writing about God.”  (p. 249)    

 Chopra ALWAYS pushes my thinking.  I'll keep letting him do so. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Peace&Happiness

Peace and Happiness seem to have a symbiotic relationship.  While one doesn't cause the other, they seem to be inextricably connected.  

Many folks believe wealth or power or fame or knowledge will lead them to Peace and Happiness, only to find that none do.

We can get ever closer to Peace and Happiness when we:

  • Connect deeply with, learn to appreciate, and grow to understand ourselves.
  • Connect deeply with, learn to appreciate, and grow to understand those we love.
  • Connect deeply with, learn to appreciate, and grow to understand God.
That connecting and appreciating and understanding all require significant investments of attention, thoughtfulness, and care on our part.  None happen well at high speeds.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

(Re)Fueled

Fuel is the stuff that provides the energy to move forward (both literally and figuratively).  

Literal fuel - like vitamins and gasoline and protein and coal and water - enters the system of the living organism or machine and triggers a train reaction of events that supplies the needed energy for performance.

Figurative fuel is the stuff of consciousness and motivation, the things that push us toward our goals.  Figurative fuel doesn't apply to machines.  Yet, for living organisms it is just as important as the literal fuel.  Figurative fuel looks/feels like purpose and hope and love and loyalty and ambition and meaning.

With both kinds of fuel, quality matters.  Our cars won't run well by putting crappy fuel in the gas tank.  By the same token, our bodies cannot perform optimally by loading them up with junk fuel.  Similarly, if the things of the heart and spirit that motivate us are low quality or absent, we lack the needed fuel for commitment and performance. 

The same goes for organizations (whether they be families, churches, schools, businesses, or nations).

Quality fuel and regular refueling is the stuff of high performance. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

MonkeyBusyness

An oft made mistake of leaders is to saddle ourselves with the "monkeys" of others.  This is the process of taking on the problems (and the commensurate solution crafting) that truly and best belong to those in the organization closest to the problem source.  

The negative effects of engaging in Monkey Busyness (not "business") are threefold:

  • It distracts us from the real focus of our work - the vision - and gets us mired in details that rightly belong to those on the front lines of the work.
  • It sends the wrongful message to others that we either have not empowered them to tackle the problems, or that we don't feel them capable of tackling the problems.
  • It sends the wrongful message that accountability can be offloaded.
Monkey Busyness is both a time and energy drain.  In meaningful work, we all have plenty of monkeys of our own.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Baseline

A baseline is the starting point for making comparisons.  It can also be thought of as the minimum requirement for moving forward.

TRUST is the baseline for meaningful and fulfilling human interaction.  Without a baseline of trust, either or both parties withhold, hedge, shield, and evade.  Substantive accomplishment cannot fluidly ensue when those factors are in play.

What are some things that foster trust?

  • Do what we say we will do.
  • Listen intently when others speak.
  • Express empathy, often and many ways.
  • Be truly interested in the "stories" of others.
  • Serve - relentlessly, without expectation of return.
  • Seek always the collective good over the personal.
No price tag is attached to anything on that list.

We can start today.

Monday, October 17, 2016

SlowSpreadSink

Moe (my lovely bride of 39 years) and I have become students of an ontological approach called "permaculture."  In short, it's a way of living and interacting based on three foundational principles:  1) Care of people, 2) Care of the Earth, and 3) Return of surplus.

One of the fundamentals of permaculture thinking is the management of water, the medium that makes life and the exchange of life supporting nutrients possible.  Managing water is centered on a triadic strategy of slowing water flow down, spreading it over a wide surface area, and sinking it slowly into the ground.  The effect is a rehydration of soil, which promotes the energetic propagation of a diverse and robust ecosystem.  Health and abundance follow.

In thinking about organizations, it seems to me the same principle of slowing, spreading, and sinking of the fundamental life-sustaining medium works in this realm as well.  What would that life-sustaining medium be in an organization, you ask?  I believe it to be LEARNING (both individual and collective).  Health and abundance will follow.

Something to think about.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Justified

From my upbringing in the Christian faith I remember a frequently espoused layman's definition of the word "justified."  Here it is:  Justified means "it's just as if I'd never done..."  The proponents of that definition used it to describe the concept of grace, the fact that God would be willing to overlook our transgressions if we were appropriately remorseful.  It was sort of like getting a (mostly undeserved) free pass.

We often claim to be "justified" in our daily interactions, faith not withstanding.  We frequently us the word "justified" to defend our behaviors/thinking along these lines:  revenge, recrimination, hurtful language, retribution, reprisals, and retaliation.  We like to "cleanse" these nefarious acts and ways of thinking by claiming we have some justification for engaging therein.

Are we really justified for such?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm not sure.  

BUT (there's always a "but"), does our engaging in those acts make us or the situation or the future any better?  Almost never.  

We get to choose.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

TheGirlOnTheTrain

I recently read The Girl on the Train, a novel by Paula Hawkins (2015). 


The story is that of the intertwined lives of three women and two men.  The tale weaves a tapestry of the messiness of life, including love, infidelity, chemical dependency, deceit, the need for family, murder, revenge, and more.  

Set in the United Kingdom, the entire story unfolds within a single neighborhood, with much of the narrative provided from the perspective of one of the women, who daily rides the commuter train just out the backdoor of the houses.  

A great story, which provided some twists I was not expecting. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Empowered

Some leaders, teachers, and parents mentor others through the process of empowerment.

Here are some words associated with empowerment:  
Entrust          Grant          Commission          
          Invest          License          Sanction          
                    Warrant          Delegate          Legitimize

A different kind of leader, teacher, and parent marshals the learning of their mentees by disempowering them.  

Words that describe this methodology include:
Deny              Refuse             Disenfranchise
          Disallow          Revoke              Withhold
                          Veto            Reject           Disapprove                

Who ya wanna work with?  Who ya wanna be?          

Friday, October 7, 2016

LieRepellant

Leaders hear a disproportionate number of lies.  More often than not, it's because they have created the conditions by which being lied to is advantageous to the liar.

Sometimes leaders have oversized egos that feed on bogus flattery.  Thus, the lies.  Sometimes leaders use their power to punish those who speak inconvenient or painful truth.  Thus, the lies.  Sometimes leaders so desperately want to hear only good news, or never hear bad news, that "rewards" flow toward those who fashion their reporting accordingly.  Thus, the lies.  Sometimes leaders build false and impregnable images of themselves, which require persistent fortification.  Thus, the lies.

The wisest leaders I know engage in two practices that mitigate the need for lies:  Transparency and Vulnerability.  They actively seek truth from all quarters, and they make it safe for truth speakers to report freely.  

Oddly, the lies create an illusion of prosperity and sustainability while the (often painful) truth arms us with the needed information to correct wrongs and perpetuate right thinking/practices/behavior.  

Like so many other elements of leadership, this paradox is best deciphered by those who are unafraid to LISTEN and LEARN. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

TeamOfRivals

I recently read Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005).  

While very familiar with the history and biography of Lincoln, this book provided for me a much deeper understanding of his mindset.  Most of us have heard the tales of Lincoln's poverty-to-presidency pathway, but DKG gave me a glimpse of the man's heart and mind that no previous work I've encountered has.

In particular, DKG details how Lincoln recruited, invited, and embraced a cabinet that was made up of a broad diversity of thinkers and skill sets.  Even more remarkable is the fact that several of those Lincoln invited to serve in his cabinet were previous political rivals, quite bitter ones at that.  Lincoln masterfully navigated their differences, winning their loyalty and affection. 

I am completely awed by Lincoln's capacity for forgiveness, his unwavering ability to show compassion, and his disciplined refusal to engage in vindictiveness or recrimination.  What remarkable attributes for a leader!  

Perhaps General William Tecumseh Sherman summed it best:  “Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other.” (p. 713)