Sunday, August 24, 2014

When We Are Part Of The Problem

That which we tolerate today we embrace tomorrow. – Various attribution

No raindrop believes it is responsible for the flood. – Various attribution

Rather than ask what is wrong with the world, ask what is right with it.  The answer you focus on determines your thoughts, words and deeds. – Harry Tucker

The #1206 “fiction” series continues ….

It was another difficult day on the set of his most recent documentary and Zane sighed with exhaustion as he shuffled into his bedroom.  Without undressing, he fell full-length onto his bed as his mind churned over the events of today and his intentions for tomorrow.

He fell into a much-needed sleep … or thought he had when he suddenly awoke with a start as he found himself sitting in a dark room.

“Do not be afraid”, said a voice in the darkness, “you will not be harmed in any way.”

“Where am I?”, Zane asked, confused and apprehensive about what appeared to be a crazy dream erupting from his over-worked mind.

“Where you are is not important”, came the reply.  “As I indicated, you are safe.  We seek your assistance on an important matter.  Please observe the holo-image around you.”

Before Zane could ask what a holo-image was, the room was suddenly filled with the laughter of thousands of children as they played around a lone chair that sat empty.

As he wondered about the children, the voice suddenly said “You see 24,000 children before you under the age of 5 years.  Observe.”

As he watched, he saw an image of himself struggling against the grip of two large but obscured figures.  They dragged him over to the chair and bound him to it, leaving him struggling against seemingly unbreakable bonds.  The playing children were provided with water by an obscure figure who released the water with the press of a button.  As they thirstily drank it, their faces suddenly contorted and they began to fall all around him.

“What’s happening?”, demanded Zane, horrified with the images he saw as the copy of himself in the chair cursed and swore to be released in order to help the children.

“They are dying from contaminated water”, replied the voice.

“You son of a ….”, yelled Zane but he was interrupted by the voice. 

“Wait”, it intoned.

Suddenly the image around him changed and the children were alive again, happily playing all around him.  The same chair sat amongst them, empty, when he saw an image of himself saunter over and sit down, this time not being forced by the figures who had dragged him to the chair earlier.

As he watched, the scene repeated as before, with the obscure figure releasing water to the thirsty children.  As they convulsed and died again, he was horrified to see the image of himself casually looking around, occasionally interacting with his smartphone but otherwise nonplussed by what was happening around him.

“I don’t understand’, said Zane, “What in the hell is going on here?”

“Wait”, replied the voice.

The image reset again, with the children happily playing and the lone chair sitting empty amongst them.

This time, however, as the obscure figure approached the water release mechanism, Zane realized that the figure was him.  He was horrified as he saw the image of himself release the water that once again poisoned the children.

“Wait a minute”, cried Zane, “What are you doing?  Why are you doing this?”

“Did you know that 24,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from consuming contaminated water on your planet?”, asked the voice.  “Perhaps it seems less painful when you don’t have to watch them die or you can rationalize a belief that you play no role in their death.”

“But that’s not my fault”, cried Zane.  “How can you suggest that I am to blame for this?”

“How do you know that you are not to blame, either directly or indirectly?”, replied the voice.

Zane opened his mouth to speak but before he could, the images around him were replaced by others. In one scenario, he was an executive ordering the use of sweatshops in developing nations to manufacture clothing, expressing delight that he had the power to rule over those whom he felt were worth nothing compared to his success and the success of his company. 

In another, he was one of several men gang-raping a woman, watching his manhood harden because of her screams of pain and fear and the feel of her nails raking across his face and neck.  In another, he was ordering a stock market crash that would wipe out the life savings of millions of middle-class investors as he expressed his indifference over the pleas of colleagues that wiping out the average citizen was not morally or ethically acceptable.  In another, he saw himself feeling the power of revenge as the knife in his hand crunched through the ribs of his victim. 

In another, he saw himself turn his nose up at the pleas for help from the impoverished, the homeless, the refugee and the mentally ill in an expression of superiority or indifference to their needs. 

In the final image, he was entering the launch codes to enable the nuclear arsenal of the United States, feeling the call of God to destroy the Infidel who dared to get in the way of God's plans for the world.

“It appears that you do not like these images”, the voice indicated.  “Perhaps you see yourself more as this person.”

The images were suddenly replaced by happier images, where he was playing the hero rescuing someone from a burning building, donating money that eventually led to a cure for cancer and the final image where he was emerging from a meeting of the United Nations where he was announcing his plan to bring about peace for the world.

“We see that you prefer these images”, said the voice.  “That is understandable. Every raindrop believes it brings nourishment while no raindrop believes it is responsible for the flood.

The voice paused before it continued.  “The truth is that you are all of these things, comprised of a complex mix of unlimited potential for evil and hope.”

Zane sat in stunned silence for a few moments before whispering, “My God, what is wrong with us?”

The voice replied, “A better question to ask yourself is ‘What is right with you?’ and formulate an answer to that question.  You have the ability, the talents, the strengths, the gifts and the potential to do anything you wish.  Unfortunately, the will to do what is right is oftentimes lacking.”

“You have arrived at a critical juncture in the development of your species”, continued the voice.  “You have before you the opportunity to flourish or flounder.  The choice is yours.”

“I don’t understand”, stammered Zane.  “What can I do to stop the difficulty that is going on in the world?  I am just one person.”

The room was suddenly filled with images of the potential that the Earth offered, stunning waterfalls, huge rainforests, fields of waving grain, abundant oceans and finally all the images were replaced with that of a single, newly born infant.

The voice spoke again. “You are saying that these things are not worth saving?  Be still for a moment and reflect upon these questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where did I come from?
  • Where am I going?

Then ask the infant before you these four questions:1

  • What do you want me to do?
  • Where do you want me to go?
  • Who do you want me to see?
  • What do you want me to say?

Zane paused for a moment, feeling a wave of foolishness wash over him and then he humored the voice and spoke the questions loudly to the image of the infant.

The baby suddenly stopped moving and looked intently at Zane.  Zane shivered as he felt the infant’s eyes burrow deeply into his soul.

Suddenly, a realization dawned on him and he opened his mouth to speak but before he could say anything, he was interrupted by the voice.

“Do not speak”, said the voice, “What matters now is that you understand.  What matters more is that you do something with this understanding before your time on Earth has ended.  Your end may be much closer than you realize as you approach the point of no return.  In the meantime, you will be connected with many like minds in the coming months.  Recognize them and honor the connection. Farewell for now, Zane.”

Zane awoke with a start, his body covered with a cold sweat.  Looking around apprehensively in his bedroom, he realized that his nose was bleeding, he had an amazing headache and …. there was something he needed to do.

He groped for his cell phone in the dark to make a call.

To be continued.

© 2014 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

1The Four Questions and Other Stuff

The four questions are from the great book The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace by Leonard Szymczak and were used with permission of the author.

Zane is an actual documentary producer with incredible gifts, talents and strengths although I changed his name in this post.  He knows who he is.

And yes, 24,000 children under the age of 5 die from contaminated water on this planet every day but out of sight is out of mind.

Author Note: The following paragraph was originally used but was in fact the standby paragraph to much more graphic paragraphs (the ones now used).  People who matter to me felt that the shock value was important for the message and so the originally planned graphic paragraphs which did not appear in the original release of this blog are the ones that now stand.

Zane opened his mouth to speak but before he could, the images around him were replaced by others.  In one scenario, he was an executive ordering the use of sweatshops in developing nations to manufacture clothing, in another he was raping a woman, in another he was ordering a stock market crash that would wipe out the life savings of millions of middle-class investors, in yet another he was killing someone on the street and in the final image, he was entering the launch codes to enable the nuclear arsenal of the United States.

Series Origin:

This series, a departure from my usual musings,  is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Reaction and Anticipation–Choosing Simplicity Over Complexity

It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it. - Hans Selye

I believe that people make their own luck by great preparation and good strategy. - Jack Canfield

Some years ago when car bumpers were still metal, my uncle’s car engine had died and he needed a “boost” to restart the engine. When he and my father discovered that they had only one wire available instead of the typical two required to boost a vehicle, their initial thought was that boosting the engine was impossible.  My father came up with the idea of pushing the two cars together until their bumpers touched, connecting the one wire they had between the positive leads on the batteries of the two cars and relying on the hope that the cars were both grounded through their chassis (and bumpers). The idea was that this would allow them to coax the dead car battery back to Life.

They were right and my uncle was able to return home without further incident.

Some years before that, my father’s father was asked by a local merchant to build a chimney.  The merchant in question had a reputation for not paying for work delivered and despite the pleas of many of my grandfather’s friends to not perform the work for fear of being taken advantage of, my grandfather built the chimney anyway.

Upon completion of the chimney, the merchant hemmed and hawed about paying for it as he looked for things to point out that he wasn’t happy with.  He then proceeded to light a fire in the fireplace and was startled when smoke from the fire came back into his house instead of being carried up the chimney.  Looking up the chimney, he saw no obvious issues and went to my grandfather to express his dissatisfaction.

My grandfather indicated that if he was paid for the work he had performed, he would fix the chimney immediately and the merchant grudgingly complied with the request.  Upon accepting the money, my grandfather climbed up onto the roof with a large, flat beach rock in his hand.  Centering the rock over the top of the chimney, he released it and as it fell through the chimney, it smashed the thin pane of glass that my grandfather had intentionally placed across the chimney about halfway down when he had built it.

Both stories remind me of the beauty of simplicity in either solving a problem spontaneously or anticipating a simple solution to a problem perceived to be difficult by others.

The Bottom Line

We live in a world that seems to be filled with complexity and as a result, we either respond to problems with the assumption that such problems always require complex solutions or we go through Life ignoring the importance of being prepared for problems by having simple solutions at hand.

The belief that every problem requires a complex solution or that the anticipation of a problem forces us to avoid preparation because we don’t want to be bothered with embracing additional complexity in fact creates the very complexity that we are attempting to avoid.

As a long-time Wall St / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect guy, I can state with certainty that even the most complex of things are nothing more than a combination of many simple things which can be more easily resolved on their individual merit.

The question around simplicity versus complexity becomes:

Why would we willingly embrace complexity in our Lives when better Paths to simplicity exist and why would we allow others to create complexity for us or convince us that complexity is necessary?

Each of us has an answer to this question.

Hopefully it is not more complicated than it needs to be.

How would you answer the question?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


PS For many of my clients, I recommend the process of backcasting to translate complex intentions into simple solutions.  An example of how backcasting is used can be found here and here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

True Confessions: I Don’t Know Why I Am Telling You This But …

If we knew each other's secrets, what comforts we should find. - John Churton Collins

Secrets are things we give to others to keep for us. - Elbert Hubbard

In the last 24 hours, I passed two milestones that for some reason I found to be curiously connected.

Yesterday I received my 50,000th email from a complete stranger around the theme of “I don’t know why I am telling you this but ….”.  Yes – I count them.  I put them in a special folder and marvel over their rawness, their honesty and the courage it took to write them.  For many, I say a silent prayer for the darkness that the writer faces or I am amazed as I read about the trials and tribulations that they have overcome.

Today I started the journey into my 50th year on this planet and was humbled as my phone exploded with greetings via SMS, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email and any other way that people could find me.

Now in truth, 50,000 such emails from complete strangers is nothing unusual if you’re in the business of self-help, psychology and the like or if you are Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey or some other public figure.

But I am a ruthless, cold, heartless Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect and so I’m not supposed to receive such emails.  Well, maybe I’m not that cold and heartless but don’t tell anyone – I’ve got a reputation to protect. Smile

However ….

When I reflect upon my humble beginnings in this house in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada ….

Early house

…. and then I think about the abundance of birthday greetings coming to me today that serve as a reminder of where a Blessed Life well-lived has taken me ….

…. and then I think about the people who wrote me these powerful emails confessing their innermost secrets, fears and desires, it reminds me of these questions posed by Dr. Owen Phelps in his powerful book The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus: Introducing S3 Leadership: Servant, Steward, Shepherd.

  • Why am I here?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Who or what makes my life worth living?
  • Who or what can I trust to help me?
  • Who or what will I trust with my life?
  • Who or what matters most to me?
  • For whom or what might I die or kill?
  • For whom or what will I live?

…. and then I think of this quote from the same book:

Love – which opens us up to the possibility of a truly large Life purpose – is the source of Life.  It is the creative force by which God brings us into existence.

…. I can’t help but wonder something.

My level of perfection

As a person who has been blessed with success in many things far beyond anything I could have hoped for when I was younger, I acknowledge that I have also made my share of mistakes in my Life.  While I have made some doozies (some public and some private), if I could take them back, I would not be the person that I am today.  In many ways, I would much more incomplete as a person had I not committed those mistakes.

When I think about my Life Journey, the successes and the failures, the victories and the defeats and the gratitude that overwhelms me every waking moment of my Life, it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, these courageous people write to me not because they think that I hold the keys to Life, the Universe and everything but that in fact, they see me as I truly am – a fellow pilgrim who is not afraid to admit that I have been where they are.

And that maybe in that realization, they see hope for their own situation.

The Bottom Line

In the imperfection that is your Life (and mine) and in all the mistakes and victories that you have experienced, has it ever occurred to you that you are the perfect embodiment of something that someone else looks up, admires and needs to speak to right now?

For those who haven’t given this much thought, maybe if you were more cognizant of it, you would be more open to the Universe sending people in your direction to confess their innermost fears and desires.

And maybe, just maybe, as you feel overwhelmed with amazement as you read their confessions and innermost secrets, you will also have an opportunity to feel overwhelmed with gratitude for who you are, what you have accomplished (and survived) and where you are going.

In the course of being awash in such gratitude, it is possible that you will find a new or better Path before you for your remaining years.

And maybe you will help others find a better, brighter Path as well.

The world is waiting for you.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


PS Here is a long distance dedication that some of you need to hear right now – Pilgrim by Enya.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What Does Sacrifice Really Mean To You?

True love is selfless. It is prepared to sacrifice. - Sadhu Vaswani

Love is not a feeling of happiness. Love is a willingness to sacrifice. - Michael Novak

This blog post is a slight departure from my typical blog style and content.  There is, as always, a method to my madness …..

On a hot summer evening in Calgary, Alberta, Sam and his wife prepared for bed.  They had been having conversations earlier about her struggles living in small towns in Western Canada, the difficulty growing up with few real friends and the emotional scars left from wounds long since inflicted during an oftentimes difficult childhood.

Sam paused for a moment before looking into her eyes and saying “If someone could invent a way where I could go back in time and take those hurts from you, I would do it.  I would do anything and sacrifice anything to change your past and give you a better future, even if it meant losing you in the process.”

His wife looked at him and her eyes misted over.  “That is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me”, she said, “Now you see why I tell you so many times how blessed I am by your love.”

They hugged for a moment, kissed and then Sam turned out the lights.  He looked over sleepily at the clock radio and made sure that it was set to turn on his favorite Calgary radio station at 7am.  Moments later, sleep overtook him.

Or he thought it had.  He suddenly awoke with a start in a room that he didn’t recognize with three figures standing before him.  “It’s ok”, the tallest of the three assured him, “You are safe and will not be harmed.”

“Where am I?”, asked Sam, “Am I awake or dreaming?”

“How do you differentiate between the two ordinarily?”, asked the same figure as he smiled oddly.

“Why, I’m not sure what you mean”, stammered Sam, “I ….”

The tall figure held up his right hand and interrupted him.  “We understand that you expressed a strong desire to help your wife release her difficult past.  Is that so?”, he asked.

“How do you know that”, asked Sam suspiciously, his sense of alertness returning as the fog of sleep lifted from his brain.

“That is of no concern to you”, replied the figure as his colleagues took up positions behind Sam.

“What I offer you”, continued the figure, “is the ability to make your wife’s pain go away.  Her Life will become the very Life you desire for her.  You indicated that you would do anything to make this happen.  Do you still feel this way?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes, even if it means that you create a different past and thus likely a different present for both of you?  After all, changing the past oftentimes produces unpredictable results.”

“I would do anything”, replied Sam.  “I would do anything to release her from the demons from her past that have tormented her so that we can create a new future together without the weight of that past.”

“As I said”, continued the figure, “There are no guarantees regarding what is produced in her present when we change her past.  However, we can assure you that her demons will be erased from her past just as you requested.  Is that what you wish?”

Sam suddenly felt afraid but even as he felt his fear of these men growing, he found himself nodding his head silently.

“Even if it changes your present in ways that cannot be predicted?”, asked the figure forcefully as he leaned in and looked into Sam’s eyes intently.

Sam swallowed hard and heard himself say “Yes” quietly.

“Very well”, said the figure.  Nodding to his colleagues, he looked Sam in the eye again and said “We shall proceed”.

The room was suddenly filled with a blinding light ….

…. and Sam found himself blinking at the sunlight pouring in through his bedroom window as the radio suddenly came on at the preappointed 7am.

Rubbing his eyes blearily and shaking his head as he replayed in his mind the craziest of dreams, he suddenly frowned as he listened to the voice on the radio.

You are listening to WNYC in New York.  The forecast for New York City today will be …..

“New York?”, he thought.  “What the heck’s going on here?”

Rolling over to ask his wife, he suddenly stopped cold in utter confusion.

This wasn’t his normal bed.

And he was alone in it.

This story came to mind today as I discussed with someone the importance of sacrifice for others and most specifically:

When we say we would do anything for someone or something, do we really mean it?

Are we prepared for what the Universe might deliver in answering such a pledge?

Do we understand the ramifications of what such a statement could produce if someone could make it come true?

The Bottom Line

When you say you would do anything in order for your business, your relationships or your Life to produce the results that you desire, do you really mean it?

How badly do you want the same to come true for others who are important to you?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,