Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Accountability and Authenticity

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version, please click here.

As I dressed this morning, I donned a pair of jeans and a yellow polo shirt and prepared to meet the day - nothing significant to report there.

However, to a small band of entrepreneurs in New York in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, Tuesday was Yellow Shirt Day.

I had forgotten about it until this morning.

The origins of Yellow Shirt Day were innocent enough.  One Tuesday, a member of my team, Narender and I wore a yellow shirt on the same day.  We laughed about it and said every Tuesday should be Yellow Shirt Day and dismissed the joke.

To my surprise on the next Tuesday, the entire team wore a yellow shirt.  Guys who didn’t own a yellow shirt went out and bought one just for the day.

The tradition being born, we embraced it every Tuesday.  On Tuesday, we would go for a walk during our lunch break and compliment other people who wore yellow shirts.  The reaction from strangers on the streets of New York covered a broad spectrum, ranging from humorous to angry.

The co-founder of Yellow Shirt Day, Narender Nath, was killed in the World Trade Center less than a year later during the horror of 9/11.

Narender came to mind this morning as I realized I was wearing a yellow shirt on Tuesday.

Narender was as close to a perfect human being as I have been able to find on this planet. 

He preferred humor over anger.

He chose directness instead of misdirection. 

He selected honesty over dishonesty.

He embraced transparency instead of being opaque. 

He wished people to be accountable for their actions and was quite direct about it.

He preferred to be proactive and to embrace his passion instead of being apathetic and indifferent.

He avoided being a one-man-band – he was a collaborator by nature.

He didn’t reinvent what someone else had already created.  He recognized the value of leveraging what someone else had worked hard to create.

He asked nothing of anyone.  He led by example.

As I thought about Narender this morning, I was wondering if we have learned anything as a society since he died.

Greed, apathy, indifference and corruption appear to be around us more than ever.

Deception seems to be the way the game is played in many levels of society.  The model of “say one thing and do another” seems to be commonly practiced by leaders and those who are led.

Senseless wars against “this and that” appear to be the preferred model of solving anything.  We have a war against terror, a war against global warming and a war against extinction.  We appear to always be fighting what we don’t like instead of embracing the solution we should be striving for.

Headlines of failure in the housing market, the financial market and the employment market hammer us daily.

The starving, impoverished, diseased and destitute continue to cry out for help.

The media encourages us to focus on the disaster all around us under the guise of informing us.

Many of us who are hammered by the media do the best we can, all the while struggling with our need to be more authentic to ourselves and to others.

If only we could get some breathing room, we reason, then we could be more true to ourselves.

We could then shake off the negative messaging from the media and truly discover the world for its beauty and potential.

Narender looked at this challenge differently.

He didn’t wait for the breathing space in order to create authenticity within himself.

He knew that if he waited for the opportunity to be authentic with himself and with others, he would wait forever and would be incredibly frustrated as he waited.

If you were to ask Narender what he saw in the world, you would swear he lived on a different planet.  In a world allegedly filled with collapse, Narender saw growth.

In a world of war and hate, Narender saw love and nurturing.

In a world of indifference and apathy, Narender saw the opportunities that lay before those who followed their passion to make a positive impact.

Our world is what we believe it to be.

The media wants us to believe it is all coming apart.

Narender believed it to be one of unlimited opportunity for living, loving, learning and leaving a legacy.

I know you believe this also.

However, when you find yourself in the structural tension between what you believe and what you manifest, remember this:

Each of us owns the responsibility for changing our own world and subsequently the world around us.

If we wait for the world to give us the opportunity to become self-enabled to the point where we can finally start living an impactful life we will never get there.

And that makes for a pretty depressing journey of wasted, unrealized potential

Don’t let this happen to you.

As many experts say and as Narender practiced:

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Yes, it is an overused statement.

But perhaps it is overused because we still haven’t learned the truth within it and so we need to keep hearing it.

How do you see the world today?  How badly would you like to see it in a different light?

Look around you – there are many people who are ready to collaborate with you to create that world.

Yours in service and servanthood.


PS – A guy by the name of Mike walked into the coffee shop as I was writing this.  He was wearing a yellow shirt also and so I couldn’t resist introducing myself and telling him the story of Narender and Yellow Shirt Day.  As he left, he laughed and said “maybe we can start Yellow Shirt Day where I work”.  That would be cool, Mike!

It sometimes doesn’t take much to influence someone else in a positive way.

Simple actions touch hearts and in turn influence minds.  Whose heart are you touching today?

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version, please click here.


  1. Harry,

    As I sat here this morning, drinking my tea, emailing, and thinking. I opened facebook and here was an answer to one of the questions on my mind. Accountability is something I have been focused on for a very long time. I want to thank you again for another musing that has filled in a blank in my quest to finish my software for accountability. I appreciate getting your musings and look forward to one day meeting you (maybe on a Tuesday with a Yellow Shirt).



  2. Hi Peter,

    Thank you for your kind response. I'm glad the post resonated with you.

    We are all on an interesting quest for authenticity, whether we realize it or not.

    We all have much to learn from each other and share with each other when it comes to authenticity and accountability.

    That's why I enjoy sharing musings like this - it creates great dialog for sharing, for learning and for recognizing that we are all in this together!

    Take care and create a great day!