Monday, August 14, 2017

Divide and Conquer (Revisited)

Terrorism is a psychological warfare. Terrorists (and politicians) try to manipulate us and change our behavior by creating fear, uncertainty, and division in society. - Patrick J. Kennedy (politician reference added)

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The #1206 “fiction” series continues (a variant on an earlier post) …


The coffee shop was busy as it always was, with its typical mix of soccer moms, businessmen and little kids doing what they liked to do in coffee shops.

In a private corner of the coffee shop, two men, overdressed for the hot weather in dark suits and white shirts, quietly observed the activity all around them.

Finally one of them cleared his throat and said tersely but quietly, “It was a lot easier than we anticipated, wasn’t it?”

The other looked at his companion and nodded, saying nothing.

“After all”, the first man continued, “Who would have thought that they could have been manipulated this easily?  It was almost like playing a game.”

The second man looked at him with a frown.  “Do you think it was that easy?”, he asked gruffly.  “Coming up with a list of topics that we knew would resonate with different elements of society was not easy”.

Still, as he thought about it, it was pretty easy. 

Things like creating the United Nations, charge it with maintaining peace and well-being on the planet and then encouraging it to do nothing while having it incessantly make announcements about what they intended to do.

Things like feeding different nations with the knowledge to create weapons of mass destruction and then feeding other countries with enough knowledge to be suspicious of them.

Things like getting everyone wound up about climate change and then introducing enough evidence on both sides of the argument to confuse everyone.

Things like creating structured religion to guide people morally and then have the leadership of some of the same organizations become the largest violators of those principles.

Then there was the idea of terrorism, keeping everyone unsteady on their feet, leading to the brilliant wars in the Middle East and the subsequent economic strain around the world.

The pro gay / anti gay / gender identity debate was tossed in for fun at the last minute at the suggestion of a team member who wanted to see how easily people could be manipulated in light of all the other events already occurring all around them.

Social media was also having its effect, enabling a small minority of people, including their own agents of misinformation, to convey strong messages and evoke strong, polarizing emotions in large groups of followers while lowering the mental resistance of the majority.

There were more things in play to confuse the people than he could even keep up with.

And now people were divided, not just on one issue but each on a multitude of issues, strongly agreeing with some people on some issues while vehemently opposing the same people on others.

A 2000-year plan was nearing its climatic end and the people were almost ready.

One pillar of strength remained that had to be neutralized.

As he thought about the final stages of their plan, he had a momentary thought that perhaps things were going a little too easily.

“We are sure that the divisiveness over politics in the United States was not created by us?”, he asked his colleague.

The first man chuckled and replied, “Don’t I wish?  They are so confused now that they created this one on their own without any help on our part.  Although I have to admit that I would have been proud if it had been my idea.”

The second man grunted and was silent again.  He didn’t like things happening that they hadn’t specifically orchestrated.

The first man, sensing that his partner was over analyzing again, continued his thought.

“The laws we need are in place.  People are confused and fighting for survival.  The separation by class, race, gender identity, financial standing and religious belief is complete.  The Department of Homeland Security ordered 450 million rounds of armor piercing ammunition a few years ago for domestic use and military rehearsals demonstrate that they are in the final preparation stages to combat domestic unrest.  Citizens believe that their President has checked out, is inept, is a racist or is unfeeling towards their plight.  I think this demonstrates that the leadership and the people are in the final place of confusion and imbalance that we need them to be in.”

The second nodded, pursing his lips.

“It is curious”, he said to no one in particular, “that the people of this planet who excel in the concept of divide and conquer to oppress others don’t notice when the same principles are being used against them.”

“Curious indeed”, replied the first, “but useful.”

The second man nodded again as they both resumed their observation of the coffee shop in silence.

To be continued.


© 2017 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Blog Post Background / Supporting Data

Watching two African-American men tear each other apart today over who was “more black” as they argued over President Trump’s reaction to the act of hatred in Charlottesville broke my heart and reminded me of an older blog post which I repost here with some minor modifications.

Instead of being united against racism, they were allowing the evil tool of racism to divide them, keeping the attention on them and not on the people where the energetic conversations should be directed.

United we stand.

Divided we fall.

Are we focused on uniting against that which undermines us or are we so distracted by other things that we allow divisions and the architects of those divisions to tear us apart?

Someone stands to benefit from such division.

Who do you think that is?

How important is it to find out and neutralize their intentions before they neutralize a nation … or a planet?

How important is it that we relearn how to talk (even passionately) and even more, to listen?

How important is it that we focus more on what unites us instead of what separates us?

I guess it depends on what kind of future you want for you, your children, your partner, your loved ones, your friends, your country and the world.

What kind of future do you want?

It doesn’t create itself, you know.

The world is waiting for you.

What are you waiting for?

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 advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) 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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kim Jong-Trump

There is a fine balance between paranoia and preparedness.  Understanding the difference can make all the difference. – Harry Tucker

A guest post by Gwynne Dyer, author, historian and independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.


“I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, Mr President, but I do say not more than ten or twenty million dead, depending on the breaks.” So said General ‘Buck’ Turgidson, urging the US president to carry out a nuclear first strike, in Stanley Kubrick’s 1963 film ‘Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.’

But nobody in Kubrick’s movie talked like Kim Jong-un (“American bastards would be not very happy with this gift sent on the July 4 anniversary,” he crowed, celebrating North Korea’s first successful test of an ICBM). They didn’t talk like Donald Trump either (“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”)

Kubrick’s film came out the year after the Cuban missile crisis, when the world went to the brink of nuclear war after the Soviet Union put nuclear missiles into Cuba to deter an American invasion. It was a terrifying time, but neither US President John F. Kennedy nor the Soviet leaders used violent language. They stayed calm, and carefully backed away from the brink.

So Kubrick’s fictional leaders had to stay sane too; only his generals and civilian strategic ‘experts’ were crazy. Anything else would have been too implausible even for a wild satire like ‘Strangelove’. Whereas now we live in different times.

Trump may not understand what his own words mean, but he is threatening to attack North Korea if it makes any more threats to the United States. That’s certainly how it will be translated into Korean. And Pyongyang will assume that the US attack will be nuclear, since it would be even crazier to attack a nuclear-armed country like North Korea using only conventional weapons.

Maybe the American and North Korean leaders are just two playground bullies yelling at each other, but even in their more grown-up advisers it sets up the the train of thought best described by strategic theorist Thomas Schelling: “He thinks we think he’ll attack; so he thinks we shall; so he will, so we must.” This is how people can talk themselves into launching a ‘pre-emptive’ or ‘preventive’ nuclear attack.

Is this where the world finds itself at the moment? ‘Fraid so. And although a nuclear war with North Korea at this point wouldn’t even muss America’s hair – the few North Korean ICBMs would probably go astray or be shot down before they reached the US – it could kill many millions of Koreans on both sides of the border.

A million or so Japanese might die as well (that would depend on the fallout), and a few tens of thousands of US soldiers in western Pacific bases (from targeted strikes). Indeed, as the scale of the potential disaster comes home to North Korean strategists, you can see them start to play with the idea of a “limited nuclear war.”

North Korean planners have announced that they are “carefully examining” a plan for a missile attack on the big US base on Guam. In that way they could “signal their resolve” in a crisis by only hitting one isolated American military target. Their hope would be that such a limited attack would not unleash an all-out US nuclear counter-attack that would level North Korea.

‘Limited’ nuclear war typically becomes a favourite topic whenever strategists realise that using their cherished nuclear weapons any other way means unimaginable levels of death and destruction. It has never been credible, because it assumes that people will remain severely rational and unemotional while under attack by nuclear weapons.

Thinking about limited nuclear war, while unrealistic, is evidence that the planners are starting to get really scared about an all-out nuclear war, which is just what you want them to be. Nevertheless, we are entering a particularly dangerous phase of the process, not least because the other two major nuclear powers in the world, China and Russia, both have land borders with North Korea. And neither of them loves or trusts the United States.

What “process” are we talking about here? The process of coming to an accommodation that lets North Korea keep a nuclear deterrent, while reassuring it that it will never have to use those weapons. Because that’s what these North Korean missiles and nuclear warheads are about: deterring an American attack aimed at changing the regime.

They couldn’t be about anything else. North Korea can never have enough missiles to attack the US or its local allies and survive: it would be national suicide. But it can have enough of them to carry out a “revenge from the grave” and impose unacceptable losses on the US if it attacks North Korea. Deterrence, as usual, is the name of the game.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefly said that the US was not seeking to change the North Korean regime last week, although he was almost immediately contradicted by President Trump. In the long run, however, that is the unpalatable but acceptable way out of this crisis. In fact, there is no other way out.


A guest post by Gwynne Dyer, author, historian and independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.  Reproduced with permission from the author.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Feeling the Sting of Discrimination

Too small is our world to allow discrimination, bigotry and intolerance to thrive in any corner of it, let alone in the United States of America. - Eliot Engel

Discrimination is not done by villains. It's done by us. - Vivienne Ming

Today I experienced my first real discrimination that was directed towards me.

As a Caucasian, heterosexual male, standing 6’3”, with an athletic build, with all aspects of my body working as originally designed and with reasonable personal and professional success behind me, I hardly fit the bill of someone who might experience discrimination.

Of course, there is always the ignorance of people who happily tell me “Newfie” jokes when they “discover” my Newfoundland and Labrador heritage but the combination of a person very comfortable in my own skin and my Life track record allows me to not get upset over the ignorance of those who have not been as blessed as I have been.

This is why the events of today surprised me a little … or maybe a lot.

A couple of days ago in my blog post Stop Being Offended and Do Something, I made some observations about people who live in fear of taking action or who run around being offended by the actions of others but who choose not to take any action themselves to address that which offends them.

The blog made reference to a little experiment at our office this week.  In a meeting with my business partner, he happened to notice that I had vivid, pink nail polish on one thumb.  While I was trying to conduct a business meeting, he was quite distracted by my thumbnail.  Here is what ensued.

He looked at it several times with a light smile but said nothing although he was clearly distracted by it.

“You want to ask, don’t you?”, I said to him as I observed him.

“I do”, he said, smiling.

“Then ask”, I replied.

“Ok”, he said, “Why does the President of our company have a pink thumbnail?”

“Great question”, I replied, “Perhaps it is nice to be in touch with a softer side once in a while as we spend inordinate amounts of time being aggressive, assertive, Alpha males pretending to be kings of the universe as we make plans for our next conquest.  What do you think?”

He paused for a moment and then he smiled.

“I like it”, he replied.

“Me too”, I replied, “And besides, since when did I care what others think of what I say or do as long as what I do gets the job done and honors others?”

“I really like it”, he said.

An hour later, my small action was greeted with applause in the boardroom.

And then one of the guys at the office went out to buy a bottle of vivid, bright blue nail polish to give it a try.

After all, blue is our corporate color.

We agreed that we would leave our little experiment in play until the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the public reaction to my thumbnail, as noted in the other blog post, was also interesting.

Some examples:

  • It’s hot (or very hot)
  • It’s cool
  • I wonder how kinky he is
  • It’s neat that he’s in touch with his feminine self
  • It’s weird
  • Normal men don’t do that
  • **stare** / avert eyes when noticed / repeat (the cowardly passive-aggressive model)
  • **stare** / freeze in place (as I held out money to pay for something)
  • He’s probably a pedophile or some other type of sickie (from one mother to another as she moved her child closer to her in a coffee shop)
  • He’s gay
  • He’s “whipped”
  • **snickers / laughter**

That’s a lot of character analysis derived from a single, pink thumbnail.

So when I went to donate blood today (whole blood donation # 136), imagine my surprise when a member of the Canadian Blood Services team looked at my pink thumbnail, frowned, shook her head and said, “I prefer my men to be real men.”

I was shocked.

First of all, I was not “her” man nor do I appreciate being evaluated as a candidate to be one as implied by the comment.

Secondly, there is nothing about the color of a thumbnail that defines the nature of any person, regardless of whether we are measuring character, ethics, morals, values, contribution to society, beliefs, gender or anything else.

However, wearing that one pink thumbnail somehow meant that I had fallen beneath some standard defined by this individual.

I wonder where not being a woman (obviously) but being less than a “real man” left me.

The conversation that ensued is not worth repeating.

However, when it was observed that my blood pressure was a little elevated, I couldn’t help but think, “You are surprised after that conversation?”

Ironically, I was experiencing diminishing, insulting discrimination at the hands of a visible minority.

I could have reminded her that nail polish has been worn by male cultural, religious, business and government leaders for many millennia, including Pharaohs and other people.

I could have reminded her that “male polish” is now an in-thing, worn by business and political leaders, celebrities and many other heterosexual men.

I could have reminded her that at a time when Canadian Blood Services is actively trying to bring more people in to donate blood, insulting dedicated donors like me could cause me to stand up and walk out (possibly never returning).

I could have reminded her that walking out could cause any other donors there with me to walk out as well.

I could have reminded her that as a visible minority herself, receiving respect as a minority includes giving respect to other people.

I could have reminded her that a place to give blood is not the place to have your religious, political or cultural views imparted upon others.  I’m sure if I decided to tell her that I didn’t like her culture or race, I would have been thrown out (as I should have been).

But I was there to give blood, not go toe-to-toe with ignorant people.

I choose when and where to pick my fights and her ignorance will not go unnoticed.

Will going toe-to-toe with her or having her boss read a reprimand to her fix this person’s outlook?

Unlikely.

But if we choose to not step up and respectfully but forcefully defend against discrimination, then we allow it to continue.

And if we allow it to continue in silence, we could be accused of condoning it, supporting it or even spreading it.  Our defense against such accusations would be weak since we didn’t take a stand when we could have.

The Bottom Line

Discrimination in the 21st century, where humanity has allegedly reached the pinnacle of knowledge and insight, is a reflection of ignorance.

If we don’t step up and do something about it when we witness it or receive it, we are part of the problem and not part of the solution.  If we accept that people can be discriminated against, then we also accept that discrimination can be applied against us at some point if someone chooses to use it against us.

To think the world works any other way is a reflection of ignorance and is the ultimate in hypocrisy.

Are you willing to take a real stand against discrimination in any form it arrives?

If so, well done.

If not, you will have to accept it if it ever comes your way - you will have earned the ignorance that is being reflected karmically back in your direction.

Be a force for good and a positive role model for others.

Anything else qualifies you as a member of a group of people described by Lieutenant General David Morrison who noted, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

What do you choose to accept?

In service and servanthood – create a great day, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry

Addendum: What If It Were Someone Else?

I have been reminded by quite a few people that what I experienced could be interpreted as a violation of the hate crime act in Canada.  I don't know the intricate workings of the act but the feedback caused me to wonder what would happen if someone else had been on the receiving end of the comments that I received.  It could create quite a bit of complexity for a lot of people.

At the end of the day, I was there to save lives and I will continue to be a proud blood donor and to collaborate with the great folks at the Blood Center.

I won't allow the ignorance of one miscreant to change my actions moving forward or change my perception of a great bunch of dedicated, professional, friendly staff.


Addendum 2 - A Followup - August 8, 2017

A colleague and friend of mine posted some questions (see comment section) that I believe are worthy of a response in the form of an addendum.  Here are the questions and my response.

The Question:

Thanks for the insightful post, Harry.  I was interested in your experiment from reading about it in your previous post.  You mentioned what other people's negative reactions were.  Were there any positive reactions (other than the one's from your team)? Also, do you think the nail polish had the intended effect of being a counter balance to your "alpha maleness"? Was this beneficial to decisions you made and interactions you had with others? Did your team members have any interesting experiences with it themselves?

My Response:

Thanks for your thoughtful questions, Nathan.  There were some positive reactions from many people although the gender divide was interesting (notwithstanding the fact that my data sample is small).

The majority of men seemed offended by it or rejected it although one praised it and said I should have done both hands completely and I was agressively solicited by a gay male.  While some women seemed offended by it, the vast majority seemed intrigued (even tittilated) by it and many praised it.

I was surprised by the reaction from men because we generally don't care if another man is heavily tattooed, pierced or has unusual hair / beard color but a man with a painted nail created a source of irritation or offense for many of them when it should have been irrelevant to them in their lives.

As for a counterbalance to my alpha maleness, I will offer this observation.  I have often claimed (and believed) that I don't care what people say and think about what I believe and do.  I learned through this experience that I needed to resynch this belief.  Men who do things like "walk a mile in her shoes" (where they wear women's shoes in a walk to raise awareness for women's abuse) do so with like-minded colleagues and so there is comfort in doing something "out of the norm" in the safety of numbers.  Doing it with a small team where one is often alone in public requires a different type of courage that REALLY struck me.

I became aware of people watching me / looking at me / trying to figure me out and I knew it was because of the nail.

I felt firsthand what it was like to be judged and categorized by others who had little if any data about who I was, what I do, how I do it, who I do it for and why I do it.

I actually wondered what they were thinking and as described in this post, I felt the sting of disapproval (which surprised me).

And there is the reality of the scale of such categorization with such an insignificant piece of data.

The sting also opened my eyes to something.  As I noted in my post, I am not a typical demographic for discrimination (although I was bullied in my youth) and while we can claim to defend those who feel discriminated against, we can't really understand it until we have felt it for ourselves.  This experience has humbled me and taught me a valuable lesson in what it feels like to be on the receiving end of something less than positive.

My team members have expressed similar experiences "in the wild" and one was even drawn into a loud, aggressive argument with someone.  He felt embarrassed afterwards that he allowed himself to be drawn into such an argument over something so unimportant but he felt that he needed to meet an aggressive evaluation with an equally aggressive response (which he acknowledged in hindsight as being incorrect).

We as a team and myself as an individual are still experiencing the lessons of humility and courage that developed out of this experiment.  As colleagues who study human motivation and behavior, this has provided some interesting insight that we may continue to experiment with - that remains to be seen.

I can't say that the experience has altered my alpha maleness in terms of diminishment of assertiveness and the like (which some people might assume from doing something associated with women).  However, it has heightened my sense of humility and courage to the point of needing to re-explore it.  Some of this humility also stems from an awareness of potential vulnerability, something easily lost amongst a group of men "conquering the universe".

It was also a learning experience for people who made comments to me about it.  As I explained to people who commented on it, for 5000 years, MEN of power painted their nails - emperors, pharaohs and the like.  Men in the Roman legion painted their nails red before battle.  Women were surprised to hear that this was a common male activity until recent history and so they learned something also.

This experience has given me some new insight that I will carry with me into my next venture which you are familiar with.

More thoughts to follow as they become coherent and useful.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stop Being Offended and Do Something

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. - Joel A. Barker

Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you. - Thomas Jefferson

Action expresses priorities. - Mahatma Gandhi

At 6am this morning, my local Starbucks was busier than normal.  My Quiet Hour had ended and I was gearing up for another day of orchestrated chaos and the test of mettle that strains under the pressure of closing a complex business deal.

It was a typical day in any major city – people coming and going in haste, on the way to wherever, focused on whatever, as they stared straight ahead with expressionless or strained faces.

There were a couple of women passionately discussing Scripture.

And there was a homeless guy, keeping a watchful eye on his shopping cart outside.

It contains everything he has.

I hadn’t noticed him at first.  What drew my attention to him were the two women discussing Scripture.  Drinking their $5 lattes that stood beside their Michael Kors bags, they discussed how they were glad that being homeless wasn’t something that they needed to worry about.  After discussing it for a few minutes, one followed the lead of the other, bowed her head and they both said a prayer for the homeless guy before returning to their idle chatter, complaining about the lousy nail salon in the area.

Seeing him sitting there, I got up, asked him if I could buy him breakfast (to which he said yes), I asked him what he wanted and brought it back to him.  He said thank-you and proceeded to enjoy it.

It may be the only food he eats today.

As I walked past the two obviously affluent ladies, I stopped, politely interrupted them and said “Did it ever occur to either of you that perhaps instead of praying for him, that you were in fact the answer to someone else’s prayer for him?”

I don’t think they knew what to make of me and stared at me with nothing to say.

In the same coffee shop the day before (yes, my Life revolves mostly in my office, my lawyer’s office and the coffee shop these days with whatever is left over for family), I noticed a guy repairing the coffee machine.  By a strange twist of fate, whether I am in the coffee shop at 6 in the morning or 6 in the evening, he is often there at the same time and he has seen me many times.

I was joking with the barista about being too hard on the machine (to which she laughed) when he turned to me and snapped, “I see you here all the time.  Why don’t you get a job like a real man?”

He had taken an opportunity to speak his truth or what he perceived as his truth, based on the assumption that if I am there when he is there, I must be a “lazy sod” (albeit a well-dressed one) idly passing time there.

And so I took an opportunity to respectfully speak my truth back to him and when I was done, I received a mumbled apology as he stared at the floor.

My colleague was shocked by the repairman’s rude audacity but not at my response – most people get used to me over time.

The same colleague had been with me a few weeks before when two people sitting next to us spilled coffee on their table.  They concluded their business, stood up and started to walk away.

“Excuse me, sir”, I sang out, “Are you going to leave a mess like that?”

One continued out the door without looking back but the other guy looked at me, said “I thought my partner was going to do it” (even though his partner was already ahead of him and out the door), cleaned it up and thanked me for calling him on it.

It was only fair – he was, in fact, the guy who had spilled the coffee in the first place.

Meanwhile, my colleague was shocked that I had spoken up.

“Was it wrong that he was leaving a mess behind?”, I asked.

“Of course it was”, came the reply.

“Were you upset that he was leaving a mess behind?”, I asked.

“I was”, came the reply.

“So why didn’t you speak up instead of merely choosing to be offended?”, I asked.

The light came on.

People in need don’t need your prayers alone.

They also don’t need passive-aggressive discomfort with a situation.

By the same token, problems at-hand or things that bother us are not solved if we just sit there being offended or bothered by them.

If you want to fix your world, then you must be the change you wish to see.

It reminds me of the time I became aware of a woman who had been compromised by a guy who, with his twisted interest in child pornography and other bizarre needs, had managed to secure some compromising photos of her.  He used the photos and the threat of releasing them on the Web to deepen his control over her and it appeared that damaging her family or her company were next on the agenda for him.

I could have offered to say a prayer for her.

I could have given her a hug, whispering encouraging words about how I knew she would overcome this.

I could have done nothing but used it as a conversation topic with friends, waxing on about the scumbags in the world.

There are many things I could have offered or done of little value to her.

Instead, I fixed the problem as I described in the post Answering the Cry For Help.

Deeds and results, unlike words, do not lie nor do they pass the buck, allowing someone else to fix a problem (hopefully) while we focus on how offended we are.

The Bottom Line

When we choose to be offended or surprised and carry that feeling around all day without addressing it, we waste an opportunity to make a difference.  Too many of us spend time wasting brain cycles that could have been used for something else more important, more impactful or more productive.

And then there is the problem of wasting time wondering what the answers / results should be for unasked questions and actions not taken.

This morning, my business partner was surprised to see one of my thumbnails with bright, pink nail polish on it.

He looked at it several times with a light smile but said nothing although he was clearly distracted by it.

“You want to ask, don’t you?”, I said to him as I observed him.

“I do”, he said, smiling.

“Then ask”, I replied.

“Ok”, he said, “Why does the President of our company have a pink thumbnail?”

“Great question”, I replied, “Perhaps it is nice to be in touch with a softer side once in a while as we spend inordinate amounts of time being aggressive, assertive, Alpha males pretending to be kings of the universe as we make plans for our next conquest.  What do you think?”

He paused for a moment and then he smiled.

“I like it”, he replied.

“Me too”, I replied, “And besides, since when did I care what others think of what I say or do as long as what I do gets the job done and honors others?”

“I really like it”, he said.

An hour later, my small action was greeted with applause in the boardroom.

And then one of the guys at the office went out to buy a bottle of vivid, bright blue nail polish to give it a try. 

After all, blue is our corporate color.

I wonder what people on the street will think.

I don’t care.

Neither should you.

Stop being offended by the world, wasting time and energy being upset by the actions (or lack thereof) of others.

Stop leaving questions unanswered, incessantly turning them over in your mind when you could be using the gift of your intellect to solve problems for you, your family, your friends, your colleagues, your country and your planet.

Speak your truth ….

…. dare to defend it …

…. and dare to live it.

The world is waiting for you to take action.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood – create a great day because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry

PS As I wrote this today, a great friend of mine by the name of Leonard Szymczak came to mind.  In powerful books such as The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace, Leonard reminds us all about the importance of living our truth – forcefully and directly but always delivered with peace, love and respect.

If only more people had the courage to do so.

Imagine what a world we could create.

Don’t wait to be asked.

Don’t spin on being offended.

Don’t waste time pondering the answers to unasked questions.

Perhaps consider the following questions I ask myself every day during my Quiet Hour?

  • What do I do?
  • Where do I go?
  • What do I say?
  • …. and to whom?
  • What quality do I seek?
  • What quality do I create?
  • Who should I be?
  • Who am I being?

Do something.

Anything.

Addendum – A Memory From a Friend

A friend contacted me after reading this post and asked if I remembered the time we were in a coffee shop where a table of women were howling with laughter - loudly and rudely.  Everyone around them stared at them, shaking their head and muttering and one person who asked them to quiet down out of respect for others was ignored.

My friend and I went over and sat at the table next to them and howled and laughed louder than they did (over nothing in particular).

The key jester at the other table addressed us sharply and told us that we were being rude.

I told her that I thought that they were being rude in drowning out everyone else in the coffee shop.  She replied that she wasn’t being rude and that she was trying to make an important point to everyone at the table.

I replied, “So am I.”

She got the message.

Oh the memories - I guess I’ve been a nuisance in public longer than I remembered.

Closing Thoughts – Some Reactions to my Thumbnail

After wearing my pink thumbnail for a day, I was intrigued and amused by people’s reactions, either communicated directly to me or from one person to another.

Some examples (with my thoughts in italics):

  • It’s hot (or very hot) – ahem - thanks
  • It’s cool – sounds good to me
  • I wonder how kinky he is – define kinky
  • He’s in touch with his feminine self – nothing wrong with that
  • It’s weird – by whose definition?
  • Normal men don’t do that – see previous question
  • **stare** / avert eyes when noticed / repeat – passive aggressive behavior never solves anything – be assertive
  • **stare** / freeze in place (as I held out money to pay for something) – is there something wrong?
  • He’s probably a pedophile or some other type of sickie (from one mother to another as she moved her child closer to her) – really?
  • He’s gay – wearing pink nail polish is insufficient qualification criteria
  • He’s “whipped” – you clearly don’t know me very well
  • **snickers / laughter** – courageous and mature

That’s a lot of character analysis derived from a single, pink thumbnail.

No one asked me anything but they came to some interesting conclusions in absence of data.

Some were titillated.

Some were impressed.

Some were frightened.

Some were insulted or offended.

And some questioned my sense of normality based on their standard.

When I see how poorly informed and easily influenced they were, based entirely on insufficient, incomplete and irrelevant data, it’s easy to see why so many people are lost personally, professionally, intellectually, emotionally, financially and relationally.

How do we fix this?

Should we?

Can we?

What happens if we don’t?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Reservoir Dogs in the White House

The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists. - Ernest Hemingway

A guest post by Gwynne Dyer, an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.


Anthony Zurcher, the BBC’s North America correspondent, nailed it in a report on 27 July. “Where Abraham Lincoln had his famous ‘team of rivals’ in his administration, this is something different,” Zurcher wrote. “Trump White House seems more akin to the final scene in Reservoir Dogs, where everyone is yelling and pointing a gun at someone else, and there's a good chance no one is going to come out unscathed.”

Several walking wounded have limped out of the White House since then, including ex-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, but nobody would call them unscathed. And in has come Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director, who appears to have escaped from the same Quentin Tarantino movie. Maybe Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink.

Fun fact: Scaramuccia (literally "little skirmisher"), also known as Scaramouche, is a stock character of the Italian commedia dell'arte. He combines the roles of a clownish servant and a masked assassin carrying out his master’s will. He often ends up decapitated.

Things are falling apart in the White House much faster than even the keenest observers of Donald Trump’s behaviour would have predicted, and the important part is not the dysfunction. The United States would work just fine – in fact, rather better – if Trump never managed to turn his tweets into reality. What matters is that he is cutting his links with the Republican Party.

Trump was never a real Republican. As a genuine populist, he is ideology-free. If Barack Obama had fallen under a bus and Trump had chosen to run for the presidency in 2008, he could just as easily have sought the Democratic nomination.

Senior Republicans knew this, and they tried quite hard to stop him from winning the Republican nomination last year. After that they were stuck with him, and he did win the White House for them, so they have been in an uncomfortable partnership ever since. That is now coming to an end.

Part of the unwritten deal was that establishment Republicans get senior roles in the Trump White House. Reince Priebus, dismissed last Friday, was the most important of those people. He followed deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, communications director Mike Dubke, press secretary Sean Spicer and press aide Michael Short, all of whom had already been pushed out.

What’s left are alt-right white nationalists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, New Yorkers with Democratic leanings like Anthony Scaramucci, Jared Kushner, Dina Powell and Gary Cohn, Trump family members (Donald Jr and Ivanka), ex-businessmen like foreign secretary Rex Tillerson (who may be about to quit), and a triumvirate of generals in high civilian office.

This is a recipe for paralysis, but who cares? Did you really want a White House team that enabled Donald Trump to impose his will (or rather, his whims) on the United States and, to some extent, on the world? Well, no, and neither do senior Republicans – but they do care very much about controlling the White House.

Republicans who think long-term are well aware that the changing demography of the US population is eating away at their core vote. This may be their last chance, with control of both Houses of Congress and (at least in theory) of the presidency, to reshape their image and their policies in ways that will appeal to at least some of the emerging minorities.

They can’t do that if they don’t control the White House, and the only way they could regain control there is for Trump to go and Vice-President Mike Pence (a real Republican) to take over. A successful impeachment could accomplish that.

It would be very hard to engineer such a thing without splitting the Republican Party, even if the current FBI investigation comes up with damning evidence of Trump’s ties with Russia. Nevertheless, the likelihood of an impeachment is rising from almost zero to something quite a bit higher.

It would be a big gamble. The Republicans in Congress couldn’t really get Trump out before November 2018, and the turbulence of an impeachment might cost them their control of Congress in the mid-term elections. In an ideal outcome, however, it would give the Republicans time to go into the the 2020 election with President Pence in charge at the White House and some solid legislative achievements under their belts.

What would Trump do if he faced impeachment? Maybe he would do a kind of plea bargain and resign, but that would be quite out of character. His instinct would be to fight, and he fights mainly by creating diversions. The best diversion is a war, but against whom?

Even Trump would have trouble selling a war against Iran to the American public. Despite all the propaganda, they don’t really feel threatened by Iran. Whereas North Korea says and does things provocative enough to let Trump make a (flimsy) case for attacking it.

If he thought his presidency was at stake, he certainly would.


A guest post by Gwynne Dyer, an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.  Reproduced with permission from the author.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The “Honorable Members” of the Newfoundland and Labrador Government

Character is the only secure foundation of the state. - Calvin Coolidge

The qualities of a great man are vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character. - Dwight Eisenhower

I used to muse a fair bit over the years about the Newfoundland and Labrador political scene but I found that for the most part, while my musings evoked a lot of emotion in people, those same people rarely took action, preferring to complain from the sidelines, on social media or in their local coffee shop. 

My insane work schedule these days further limits my musings but occasionally something comes to my attention that bothers me so much that I need to work it out in a musing of some sort, whether it be in my journal or here in my blog.

I’ve been receiving a lot of communication over the last year or more regarding the activity of the Honorable Members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Government.

I’m not referring to the politicians themselves but rather, their “honorable members”.

It seems that the political world that exists in the Confederation Building has become overrun with predators who have learned at one point or another that one of our most basic primal needs serves as a useful tool to accomplish what they need (often to the detriment of others).

Stories of rampant infidelity trouble me but I’m not a prude, I’m not ignorant of the ways of the world nor do I judge people who prefer to throw their families and relationships under the bus as they (including Ministers of the Crown) roam the hallways of government, using their honorable member to satisfy their primal needs for sex and power (this includes certain female MHAs and their equivalent “portfolio”).

Judgment of their deeds, where appropriate and deserved, comes soon enough at the hands of others or the Ultimate Authority.

I don’t judge the married MHA who was confirmed to have an Ashley Madison account (verified by his own credit card).

I don’t judge the MHA who has a diaper fetish (not a need for adult diapers) and likes to be treated like a baby in private.

I don’t judge the spouses who have made the choice to turn a blind eye to the deeds of their partners in exchange for the benefits they derive from the power and prestige bestowed upon their partners.  I do feel badly for the ones who don’t really understand what is happening – their families will be hurt at some point by the actions of their partners.

It is true that I have been known to make a few digs here and there, such as the time when a minister was honored with new court title and I asked him on Twitter whether he told his girlfriend or his wife first.

And yes, I do judge the senior Liberal bureaucrat who has helped protect a family member from prosecution.  Many years ago, his family member had a paper route and had asked a 7-year-old boy if he would help him.  For curious reasons, the paper route went off into the woods where the family member offered the boy a nickel to be allowed to be shown “what a screw was”.  In the conversation that followed, the boy quickly determined what was happening and fled the scene untouched.  Even at the age of 7, I wasn’t that stupid but I have since learned that the behavior of this individual continued for years unabated.  Unfortunately, what I experienced cannot be used as grounds for charges and others must be willing to step forward.  Speaking in hushed tones or in private confessions of a secret do not bring people to justice and justice would be difficult to obtain when that person is protected by someone with power.

Lifestyle choices, whether I agree with them or not, are the private business of those who choose them.

For the most part.

Where I do take umbrage to someone’s lusty, licentious needs is when such needs are used to intentionally harm others or when they open the door to creating harm for others. 

When male MHAs offer or demand sex from female MHAs in exchange for favors or support of legislation, it opens the door to the female MHA (or the male one, if the female one is the instigator) feeling compromised, potentially threatening their work, their ability to retain their portfolio and their intention to serve the people as they were elected to do.

The fact that for some women, keeping their job (whether elected, appointed or hired) depends on their ability to be “a part of the team” is tremendously disconcerting.  While we in the business world understand the ramifications of being caught making such demands, it seems that those who make the rules find no issue in breaking them.  In one case where I have screen shots of the demands, I was told by police that the victim must come forward herself, which she is very hesitant to do.  Too often the women in such situations are intimidated or humiliated into silence, some fear that their naivety makes them look stupid and yes, some women encouraged or allowed “an exchange” to happen for their own gain before they realized they had gone too far and now they can’t say anything for fear of personal disgrace.

What disturbs me equally are the many women who know this is going on but accept it and say nothing.  They may express pain, concern or disgust over it in private but publicly they say nothing.  They are the embodiment of Martin Luther King when he said, “One who condones evil is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it.” or Lieutenant General David Morrison who noted, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

And as I noted previously, some are active, willful participants, harvesting their own benefits from such actions.

In addition to creating a toxic environment that would sink most businesses or business people who dared to partake in such miscreant behavior, there is also the potential that people who participate in such things open themselves up to extortion.

For example, If news of the MHA with the diaper fetish came out (or, God forbid, a photo of him), that MHA could be leveraged, with the person on the other end of the lever demanding cash or some sort of government gift in exchange for silence.

When MHAs, employees or consultants have been intimidated to put out or get out in order to accomplish their own work or when they could be compromised through extortion, government ceases to be of and for the people but rather, of and for the people who hold the secrets.

While this is not unusual for governments in general (to be at the whim of those on the other end of a secret), use of behavior that intimidates people or makes use of tactics that are illegal everywhere else should be considered unacceptable.

Shouldn’t it?

The Bottom Line

Secrets have always been a part of government and business and those who have been compromised regret the impact when those secrets are revealed.

But when those secrets hurt innocent people such as family members unaware of what is going on, MHAs being coerced into compromising situations in order to get their own work done, workers being intimidated into submission to keep their own job or similar evil acts, we have a problem.

When those secrets can be used to compromise a Minister into performing any task at the request of a master of extortion, we have a problem.

When people who observe it do nothing to fix it, we have a problem.

When people who believe they are a guiding post of ethics, character and morals and are a role model for young people demonstrate behavior that doesn’t portray any of these attributes, we have a problem.

The dilemma with problems is that they continue to grow in scale, frequency and impact unless we choose to do something to solve them.  We may think these problems do not affect us but eventually our analysis is proven to be flawed and we claim surprise or indignation as a result.

The other dilemma is that there are many good people inside the Legislature, whether elected, appointed or hired, whose efforts and intentions are being bent, interfered with or thwarted entirely while people use their primal wiring of lust to satisfy their primal need for power.

Where is the courage for people to stand up and demand better, both inside or outside the Legislature or the courage of others to support those who would do so?

When do we demand better so that the people inside who are capable of doing better and who want to do better are free to execute without fear of intimidation or compromise?

What happens if the list of things I have seen, also in the possession of other people who are more motivated by personal power than I am, decide they want to take down a government unless they get what they want?

Where does it end?

With us, of course.

But that all depends on whether people have the courage, the strength, the wisdom and the will to stand up for what they believe in and to take a stand against behaviors that we are taught to be unethical, immoral and in many cases, illegal.

Or we can make this fodder for social media or coffee house chatter, marveling or being disgusted with it but doing nothing else until something happens that affects us directly.

Doing the latter doesn’t change anything.

In fact, finding a reason to justify why we can’t do something only becomes an excuse, an excuse that translate into ignoring the activity, then condoning it and then supporting it …. making us part of the problem despite our vehement protests to the contrary.

What does change things depends on whether people care and demand better.

Do you?

Be the change you wish to see or stop complaining about it.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS Don’t bother asking me for the list of licentious behaviors and the names attached to them.  There are plenty of people who have this information.  Unfortunately, when such deeds are so rampant, there is no shortage of sources of information.  However, my tweets in recent days referencing this behavior have produced calls, texts and emails from MHAs demanding to know who “their evil colleagues” are. Weakly disguised efforts to see if “I am on the list” only make the whole situation more comical and more pathetic.

I wonder what minor event becomes the tipping point that takes out an entire government, only to be replaced by another one that suffers from the same complexities.


Addendum – The Initial Reaction – July 20, 2017

After my blog was posted, I was contacted by four MHAs, two men and two women.

The men were outraged at the content and the idea that I had publicly identified them. The curious thing was that I not only didn’t name anyone in this post, I wasn’t even thinking of these two in particular.  When I tried to convince them of this, they didn’t believe me. 

Awkward.

The two women provided curious responses also.

First of all, in an attempt to identify the people I was referring to, they named other people (consistent across both of them) that again, I was not thinking of.  The plot thickens in an environment filled with rumor, conjecture and malfeasance.

The other thing is that they both found the environment incredibly difficult to survive in.  They used words like intimidation, bullying and the like to describe actions directed towards them and other women.  They freely named women who were targeted victims of intimidation and manipulation.  They both identified women who “played the game” with multiple MHAs.  They both admitted to having been offered sex by Ministers in exchange for “whatever”.  They also admitted to having acts of jealousy directed towards them when, having refused the advances of someone, were then accused of doing so only because “they must be sleeping with x”.

They both agreed with me that women should never accept abuse in the workplace or anywhere else.

All good.

However, they both admitted that they were willing to accept all of this in order to retain their seat and to continue doing the work that they do.  They also admitted that they had an acceptable tolerance level of abuse, “a price” as both named it, that allowed them to keep quiet.

Hmmmm …. didn’t they say that abuse was unacceptable?

Both had complained to someone else known to be an active participant in the environment.  Their words won’t create change and they know it but they take solace in knowing that they did talk to someone about it.

Neither is willing to take a public stand against it.

I asked them both to consider the quotes from King and Morrison in regards to saying and doing nothing while acknowledging the toxic environment.  I asked them also to consider how they would feel if they had a daughter, sister or mother caught up in such a situation. 

They are not stupid people but their willful inability to see themselves in the quotes speaks volumes.  I’m not sure either of them agree with my position – that to not take a stand outside of complaining privately makes them part of the problem. 

That’s what we are told in the private sector!

I wonder if they have read the following Government-issued documents:

I assume HR does nothing because they see elected officials as “their boss”.  It’s a curious thing to me, working in an industry where HR heavyweights will sometimes lay into someone for looking at another person the wrong way.

In regards to accepting abuse in order to get work done, I wonder what would happen if one of my executive team were caught behaving as these people behave and when the police and legislators show up, I used the excuse, “You can’t arrest him – do you realize how much work he gets done?”

My team member would still be arrested and I would be humiliated and vilified - rightfully so for demonstrating such ignorance.

As I look at the SMS messages on my phone early this morning, I wonder if they could be used to establish a precedence whereby abuse was allowed in the workplace.

After all, if the legislators embrace it as status quo, why shouldn’t we?

Such thinking is dangerous, destructive and regressive.

Which makes me wonder why it is tolerated (and even embraced) within the highest authority in the Province.

Where are the public outcries amongst women’s groups who likely know this is happening?

Perhaps it serves their interests to stay quiet rather than risk offending “useful friends”.

And how do women expect to create respect in the workplace (whether in Government or elsewhere) when they are unwilling to stand up and demand it?

How indeed?


Closing Thoughts (almost - I changed my mind later)

I know from my contacts within the Government and from feedback that some MHAs have sent me to directly that once again, I have stirred up a hornet’s nest.  I have been accused of being immoral or unethical (by the people who committed the acts) for making these observations while they fail to see that had they not committed the acts in the first place, there would be no observations to make.  So in their mind, performing or accepting nefarious acts is not immoral – reporting them is.

I made some observations on social media about naming names, which was met by cries of foul from some who say that such actions will hurt the innocent.  My response to this is that the innocent are already being hurt and that the number of people who are being hurt will continue to grow as long as miscreant behavior is not addressed.

I find the ultimate message here to be confusing – the contradictory rule that certain behavior is considered unacceptable except in the areas where it is considered acceptable (based on nebulous, fluid rule interpretations and damaged rationalization).

Perhaps someone smarter than I am can enlighten me.

Perhaps.


Addendum – Are You Really Surprised? Who Wants to Bell the Cat? – July 23, 2017

When people act surprised about something, it’s always an interesting exercise to see if they are truly surprised or just feigning surprise.

A few people brought the story of Valerie Penton to my attention, a woman who was being sexually harassed by a fellow employee of the Government and who felt that Human Resources within the Government did little if anything to help her. 

She eventually settled a  harassment suit out of court and moved on to other opportunities.  One writer writing about her story noted that the man who harassed her (and used access to DMV records to examine her personal records including her address) was still working there.  I don’t know if that is still the case but most of us get fired immediately for such indiscretion.

Interestingly enough, many of the stories written about Ms. Penton by the local media have been deleted (although some are still available in different web cache locations).

There are at least four articles that remain that don’t require exploring the web cache (at the time I write this):

The people who came forward telling similar stories after Valerie Penton’s story became public indicated that HR did little if anything for them when their harassment was reported.

Those same people indicated that Ministers were slow to respond to their concerns and needed to be prompted multiple times to take action.

Some people inside and outside of Government said, after reading my post, that they have never heard of any type of harassment inside Government before I posted my piece.

And yet an external review was undertaken to review this very subject after Valerie Penton’s case became public.

So where is the surprise regarding any of this?

Maybe the answer can be found in a personal experience of mine.

Some years ago, I was on the board for an international charity when some significant indiscretions by staff members were discovered.  When I reported them to fellow board members, I found out that they already knew.

When they discovered that I now knew also, they demanded to know what I was going to do about it.

When I asked them why they hadn’t already done something about it, they replied that they didn’t want to jeopardize their other board postings.

Ah yes … courage only when convenient and risk-free.

We need to find a way to encourage those who are victims to know that they have our support in ferreting out miscreants.

And we need to find a way to pressure those with authority to stand up for them.

Many of the latter have been coming to me demanding to know what I am doing about this.

I am asking them in return,“What are you doing about it?”

It reminds me of this story:

A group of mice were arguing in a mouse hole one day about a cat that had been terrorizing them.  With every passing day, the cat would sneak up on one of them without warning and would make off with the unsuspecting victim.  The mice were now tired of this and were arguing about what to do about the villain.

One mouse suggested that if they put a bell on the cat’s neck, then he would no longer be able to creep up on them unawares.

Recognizing the brilliance of the solution, the mice spent considerable time congratulating themselves on how they had solved the problem when their celebration was interrupted by a lone voice in the back of the mouse hole.

“The solution may be brilliant”, observed a wise old mouse, “but who will bell the cat?”

Silence filled the mouse hole and eventually the mice went about their business, realizing that there is a big difference between being full of ideas and having the courage to carry them out.

So … who wants to bell the cat?

Monday, July 10, 2017

When the Little Things Become the Big Things

It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen. - John Wooden

A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts. And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are far-reaching. - Swami Sivananda

I drive my teams crazy regarding the small details of our projects.  While many self-described experts tell you not to worry about the small things, I have found over the years that the small things add up to the big things and can prove to be catastrophic in potential and impact if ignored.  Sometimes the item believed to be small, insignificant or statistically unlikely becomes the thing with the greatest impact as I mused about in Statistics: The Mathematical Theory of Ignorance.

I recently declined an opportunity to work with a not-for-profit because they ignored the importance of the small things, creating documents with legal errors, leaving board members with little or no liability coverage should something go awry and allowing board members to sign documents that they knew contained legal issues.  The board members didn’t seem to have an issue with this either so they had no interest in pushing back, demanding higher standards.

In my polite declining of the opportunity to work with them, they cited the mistakes as minor things falling through the cracks.

The problem is that they are not minor at all.  Creating documents with legal mistakes in them and having board members who have no issue signing them, knowing that there are legal mistakes and loopholes in them, is a recipe for a disaster down the road.

And when the disaster comes, everyone will act surprised as is often the case.

Unfortunately in such situations, the innocent as well as the guilty are hurt and that is the greatest crime of all.

The little things do matter.

Take this example.

This is an airport at an undisclosed location – the photo was taken a few days ago.

Note the excellent security, including cameras, multiple keypads, barbed wire – this entry point is secure within reasonable definition.

Go 100 yards down the street and you come across a second gate.  Everything looks good (again within reasonable definition of security).

Go another 100 yards down the street and you find this – no gate, no fence, no signs – nothing.

Some people will argue that there are likely hidden cameras in place to prevent miscreants from performing an evil deed.  I would argue that if this were the case, you wouldn’t need the excellent security at the other gates either – just a camera and hope.

But if anything should happen at this airport, everyone will act surprised.

And hope is never a strategy.

The Bottom Line

The little things do matter.

The art and science of knowing what is a little thing with great potential versus the little thing that is trivial in potential is worthy of learning.

Otherwise, when you claim that something fell through the cracks or you were caught by surprise as the little droplet of water developed into an overwhelming tsunami, you will have no one else to blame.

They won’t believe you anyway, especially when the details are revealed.

Do you allow the little things to go unnoticed or ignored in terms of potential?

Are you willing to take a chance that they are not as small and insignificant as you think?

Are you sure?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Small things ....

When I wrote this, I was reminded of these "small" experiences in airport security, noted in my musing Terror: Vulnerability Through Decent Acts.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Character, Values and the Price of Success

Knowledge will give you power, but character, respect. - Bruce Lee

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character. - Albert Einstein

No amount of technical administrative skill in laboring for the masses can make up for lack of nobility of personal character in developing relationships. - Stephen Covey

In the middle of a large deal, my team and I had the opportunity today to meet with one of the top lawyers in the mergers and acquisition space.  With only a few minor minefields left to navigate, we were told that this person would be one of the best people to represent us in bringing our “little baby” in for a soft landing.

As is always the case, I always perform significant due diligence before such meetings and I was cautioned by more than one person to be careful of a peculiarity that this person had and so I went to the meeting as prepared as I possibly could be.

Sure enough, part way through the meeting and in the middle of his song and dance about why he was the best person to represent us, he suddenly started speaking with a fake Australian accent, telling us about how his clients had lived in fear and terror in such deals until he came along and “saved the day”.

The accent threw me off and I thought perhaps he was having a stroke but then the moment I had been warned about materialized.  He reached into his bag and said “And when the other side brings a knife to the negotiating table, I say ‘That’s not a knife, this is a knife’” and he laid a large, Crocodile Dundee-like knife on the boardroom table.

No one said anything for a moment before I leaned over the table and said, “This is a friendly acquisition.  Why do I need you to bring a knife, even if only symbolically, to the table?”

“You missed my point”, he said, somewhat aloofly, “I help people to get over their fear by showing that I have their back.”

“Really?”, I asked, “Why do you think I should accept the insult that you believe we would be shaking in fear without you or that intimidation is the best way to complete a friendly business deal?”

He said nothing and then I picked up his knife and asked him, “Would you put this knife up to your throat and shave yourself with it?”

“Of course not”, he replied, “That would be crazy.”

I nodded and laid his knife on the table.  I had been warned of his presentation style and props and so I reached down into my bag and retrieved something specifically for the moment.

I laid my straight razor on the table beside his knife, its viciously sharp, unforgiving blade gleaming in the boardroom light. 

“I shaved with this blade this morning”, I said, “Now tell me why I should be afraid of whatever it is I’m supposed to be afraid of and how you are going to guide me past this fear.  And when you are done explaining that, I want you to tell us how intimidation trumps respectful dialog.”

I paused before continuing.  “My point’, I said, “Is that suggestions of fear or intimidation becoming part of our team and how we interact with others are not welcome here.  If you have anything else to offer, let’s continue otherwise the meeting is over.”

The meeting continued for an hour or so before we decided to take a break.

Everyone left the room except for one of his team who stayed behind.

As I caught up on my emails, she started some idle chatter about the need for the team to be at the airport before evening but as luck would have it, she was staying overnight.

I made a perfunctory response but she pressed the point, indicating that perhaps we could get together for dinner and drinks to smooth over any misunderstandings between myself and her boss.

I focused on my emails and she went for broke.

The offer, which I won’t get into here was direct and specific.  The only thing I didn’t know was whether I would be allowed to stay in her hotel room for the rest of the night or if I would be dismissed after “the smoothing of misunderstandings” process had been completed.  I also wasn't sure what complexity the wedding band on her finger would offer, if any.  It didn't seem to get in her way.

Plan B was in progress, given that the meeting itself was not going well.

I took out my phone, Googled some of the sex shops in the area and showed her the search results.

“Here’s what you need”, I said, directly, “The stuff they have in these stores is more in alignment with what you need.  They don’t have any character or values either – they just exist.”

She was very angry and said that she would take this up with her boss.

“Go ahead”, I replied, pointing to the device in the center of the conference room table, “You forgot that we are recording this session today.  I will play your offer to the team and invite you to explain it.”

She left the room without a sound but returned a few minutes later with “Crocodile Dundee”.

In the confrontation that ensued, it turned out that he wasn’t unhappy with what I said to her.  However, he was VERY unhappy with the fact that I had turned her down.

“I get it”, I said, feeling my blood pressure rising, “You’re both deal closers.  She closes the deal with me and then you close the larger deal for me.”

“Whatever it takes”, he replied.

I leaned in towards him, close enough to smell his cheap cologne.

“I don’t do whatever it takes”, I said, staring him in the eye, “I do whatever my values, ethics and character call me to do to deliver the best result possible for everyone around me.”

At the moment, the team began returning to the conference room.

I turned to the team and announced that we had decided that it was in our best interests to not work together and that he and his entourage would be returning to the airport ahead of schedule.

There were a few cries of surprise and as he left, he held out his hand.

“Sorry”, I replied, “I only shake the hand of people I respect.”

He left and I explained to the team what had happened, replaying the recording of both her offer and the lawyer’s subsequent challenge to me.

I wonder how many more out there are like him …

… or who don’t have the courage or the willpower to turn people like him away.

Meanwhile …. related and not ….

I had two interesting conversations with colleagues in the last week regarding similar subjects.

In one, a Government Minister whom I have the HIGHEST regard for in regards to character, values, ethics, Life purpose, service to others and other noble attributes, lamented that their results were being compromised because of the fine line they walk, where the balancing act of accomplishing great things for their constituents while towing the party line was difficult to manage, with the latter being complicated by the skullduggery, backstabbing and yes, adultery going on all around the Minister.

I challenged the Minister to live by their character and values (which far outshine the Minister’s colleagues).  I will be curious to see what happens next - courage requires small steps at first.  However, I was encouraged today when I received an SMS from the Minister, quoting Ruth Gordon:

Courage is very important  Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use.

In the other conversation, a friend of mine, a subject matter expert on guiding organizations through change and transition, suddenly found herself being talked around in a meeting otherwise attended by only men.  Even though SHE was the subject matter expert in the room, they talked around her as if she didn’t exist.

She reached out to me for advice on how to deal with such ignorance in the 21st century and this is what I told her.

“Go to a local adult store and buy the largest phallus you can find.  Bring it to the meeting but leave it put away.  If the same level of disrespect occurs and you can’t get yourself inserted into the conversation, take it out, place it on the table and express gratitude that you brought yours to the meeting also and thus deserve to be heard.”

“Or”, I continued, “buy the smallest one you can find, take it out during the meeting and make an observation that having presented the largest one in the room, you now have a right to speak and to be heard.”

After she expressed gratitude that I used comedy to give her the best laugh she had had all day, I replied that I wasn’t joking.

We must always take a stand against the ignorant and those who choose to limit the result of others who champion character, values, ethics, respect and higher standards.

We must do it directly and respectfully.

But we must do it.

The price we pay for not doing it is too high and grows every time we choose not to take a stand.

The Bottom Line

In thinking through my event today, I wonder how many people would have taken the lawyer’s assistant up on her less than generous offer, especially if they thought they could do it without anyone knowing about it.

I could have accomplished that easily and no one would have been the wiser.

But I would have known - how could I demand that others live to a higher standard if I chose to live to the contrary?.

And an Authority that judges me would have known.

I wonder how many people may have turned down the original offer but then succumbed to the pressure that her boss attempted to exert under the confident “whatever it takes” banner.

Success is a tempting mistress and human frailty has undermined many a good human being.

The point is that when people collaborate with us or represent us, their character becomes a projection of ours.  So when they sit before others at the boardroom table, no matter how much I try to live by a higher standard, the only thing the other people in the boardroom would remember me for would be this person’s character and values …. or lack thereof.

We are the company that we keep or whom we allow to speak on our behalf.

This lawyer’s projection on my behalf wouldn’t be acceptable to me.

Would it be acceptable to you that someone else would do “whatever it takes” in order to get something done?

Are you willing to literally do “whatever it takes”?

Are you willing to reap the harvest or pay the price for how you live your character and values (or how someone else represents them)?

Are you sure?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

I looked up her husband and discovered that he has a successful practice in Toronto.  I wonder what would happen if I sent him a copy of the recording of his wife "in action".  Would he be offended, hurt or would he respond with a "So?  What's your point?"?

The young lady was also potentially setting herself up.  What if I had agreed to the rendezvous just to use her and then turn down their offer to represent us?  What if I was a nut who caught her by surprise and hurt her?

Then there's the possibility that if I had succumbed to such an offer, a recording of the event could have placed me (or them) in a professionally compromising position.

And finally, what if we had agreed to team up with this bunch of miscreants and the same tactics were used with the people we were negotiating with, potentially costing me a sale, a friendship or both?

The sad reality is that they likely had enough previous experience with some sense of success to believe that this was going to be a successful option today.   What does this say about the people they collaborated with in the past?

So many possibilities, all of them wrong, but the possibilities having been created with the first terrible choice.

Coal miners often had a canary in the mines with them and if the canary died, it would be a warning that the air was unsafe and so they had to evacuate immediately.  As a colleague said to me today, events such as this one are a "canary in the coal mine" in regards to how society is evolving (or devolving).

What do you think?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Things I Wonder About–”Make Believe” Surveillance Oversight, Porn Extortion and Other Stuff

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. – Ryunosuke Satoro

By popular demand, I offer round 2 of “Things I Wonder About” (continued from Things I Wonder About).

In between selling a large tech company and starting up a Foundation that will “help NPO’s “do good better” through fact-based decision-making and evidence-based outcome assessments” (quoting friend and colleague, Doug P.), I often have other distractions that cross my mind that I feel merit some attention.

As a long-time Wall St. strategy guy, unsolved problems are always a conundrum for me, especially when the problems are significant in impact and are far / wide reaching in society.  Problems in society affect us all at some point, even if we don’t feel the affect directly (or believe we don’t).

However, I can’t tackle all these thoughts, nor should I (no individual is tagged as the “savior” of the world).  That being said, they are worthy of thought and action and so, with the encouragement of very nice colleagues who kindly never lose patience with me when I muse about other concerns in the world, I’m going to occasionally toss some ideas out with the idea that someone else may feel inspired to own some of them.

This is not a typical blog post for me such as can be found in the #1206 series, the Abigail / Gabriel series or any general post.  It is a grab bag of thoughts that pass through my brain in the course of leading a busy Life.

If you want to own one, I would be glad to help!

A subset of my random thoughts this week:

  1. Winning (Losing) on Principle: How do we help people such as the person who contacted me this week, telling me an unfortunate story of how she has had compromising video / audio taken of her but she can’t report it to police?  The information is such that her personal and professional reputation would be destroyed if it was made public but she has been informed that any action by the police against the miscreant will cause the information to be released to the public.  After contacting the police, I was told that she needed to come forward and file official charges (of course).  But the moment she does so, her Life is destroyed.  The police say “but we will still arrest him”.  The counter, that her Life is still destroyed while she “wins on principle”, doesn’t seem to matter much.
  2. Bureaucrats Who Don’t Think Things Through:  The Liberal Government in Canada is planning sweeping legislative changes to curtail the surveillance authority of various law enforcement groups as provided by the previous government.  Unfortunately, all of the laws can be circumvented, providing unlimited power to surveillance authorities.  For information on how that is accomplished, observe how the NSA has dealt with similar “restrictions”.
  3. Our Over-Spend on Anti-Terror: Over dinner with Gwynne Dyer last week, I explained to him how billions of dollars spent annually on surveillance and decryption technology can be undermined using $100 worth of technology (I wrote about it in National Security – Arming Both Sides).  He just shook his head.  Why are we still pretending (outside of the fact that it keeps people “fat, dumb and happy”)?  The money spent on this could be better spent on …. just about anything.
  4. Our Overstated Fear of ISIS: While random attacks using vehicles as weapons draw great press and create fear that can be used as leverage for various purposes, consider this the next time a “”frightening event” occurs.  You are:
    • 6 times more likely to die from a shark attack (one of the rarest forms of death on Earth)
    • 29 times more likely to die from a regional asteroid strike
    • 260 times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning
    • 4,700 times more likely to die in an airplane or spaceship accident
    • 129,000 times more likely to die in a gun assault
    • 407,000 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle incident
    • 6.9 million times more likely to die from cancer or heart disease (source).
  5. The Disabling Effect of a Good Story: Someone used the story of the fisherman and the starfish on the beach (where the fisherman insists he can’t save all of them but he saves one by throwing it back into the ocean) to explain how every little bit helps.  Many of these feel-good stories can also be used to justify minimal effort under the guise of making a difference when much more could be done.
  6. The Lack of Strategy In People’s Lives: Most people would never set out on a long drive wearing a blindfold, without a working gas gauge, without knowing how much gas they have in the tank and not knowing where they were going.  However, if you look at how much effort goes into planning their Life, they don’t follow the same safety guidelines for their own Life.  It matters – we all reap the reward and pay the penalty for each person’s brilliance, greed and ignorance.  If you don’t believe me, ask your insurance company how your premium is calculated or how many stupid people it takes to get all of us to take our shoes off in airport security (the answer to the latter question is one).
  7. Realistic Use of Strategy: While many people generally accept the importance of strategy, many of those same people prefer to build plans in ignorance of where they are at the moment because where they are reminds them of some failure or shortcoming.  This myopic, over-optimistic view causes them to not realize that knowing where you are going depends entirely on where you are starting from.  If I call you and ask for directions to Penn Station in NYC because I need to be there in an hour, it matters if I am calling you from Chinatown (NYC), Seattle or Moscow.
  8. Failure to Use Data: Many people make choices regarding important things that involve risk (e.g. in investment, buying insurance, extended warranties, implementing new business strategies and the like) based on how they feel at the moment.  Unfortunately, doing so using “your gut” instead of using data may cause you to be too risk averse if you just experienced a bad moment or not risk averse enough if Life is going swimmingly at the moment.  Data doesn’t care how you feel, is not so easily biased and can prevent you from over/under reacting to a specific risk mitigation requirement or being coerced / influenced by someone else who tells you to do something “just because”.
  9. Be Proactive: Stephen Covey was right when he said Habit 1 is to be proactive.  Look around you and ask yourself how often we apply this rule.  Do you?  Don’t forget – we all reap the reward and pay the penalty for compliance / non-compliance.
  10. Awareness of Psychology: Why do so many people have the ability to explain every nuance about how Facebook works but can’t explain the psychology of how people use emotion (particularly anger, fear, envy or greed) to manipulate them or how someone can debate them repeatedly into no-win choices that always benefit the other person?
  11. Multidirectional Respect: Why do people who insist that we all be respectful of one other tend to be the ones who least like counter ideas and opinions and shout the loudest to diminish the ideas of others?  When the Voice of Fire was purchased by the National Art Gallery in Ottawa some years ago (containing three equally sized vertical stripes, with the outer two painted blue and the center painted red), many people stood in front of it and marveled at its insight, brilliance and creativity. I observed to the person next to me, quietly, that it looked like the artist had run out of paint.  Apparently I wasn’t quiet enough because a security guard who had been marveling with the others came over and told me to keep my uninformed opinion to myself or I would be asked to leave the Gallery.
  12. Hyper-Analysis of Zer, Zim et al:  If you don’t know what these mean, you have learned how to tune out the news (which can be a good thing) or you are living under a rock.  We must be careful that we don’t get so distracted by the tail wagging the dog that other things in society (appropriate governance, health care, education, infrastructure, safety and security of society, etc.) are not forgotten.  We thrive or die together.  Focus and priorities will determine which way we are going.  When politicians tell you that they are balancing everything well, ask them about unsustainable budgets, infrastructure security, health care waiting lines, failing grades for education performance …. well …. you get it.  I find that when I use social media to ask (not accuse) a politician how things are going, they block me without trying to answer. Some in the meantime, will then tweet all day about someone’s cat that looks very cute.
  13. Airport Security: A cell phone battery and a glass of water can create a potentially dangerous situation on an aircraft (I won’t say how).  People examining this situation are considering bans of laptops, tablets and potentially cell phones as well as potentially requiring you to submit them for safe transport (and obviously, examination).  Don’t act surprised if this happens …. soon.
  14. And More Airport Security: I explained to someone today how a $60 drone purchased at Walmart can imperil everyone on a large aircraft at an airport.  Bureaucrats who legislate against drone use close to airports ignore the reality that those of us with common sense don’t need to be told this and people who don’t care won’t be told this, so the legislation impacts very few people.  We have avoided a disaster because people have chosen not to do something stupid but unfortunately, hope is not a strategy.  And if something happens, we will still have excellent laws to charge the miscreant but as in the first point in this list, we will win in principle only.

Do these things matter or am I just over-sensitive?

Should we care that these represent symptoms of a society that is not ticking over as well as claimed by politicians or do we ignore them, saving our complaints and intention for action only when we are directly affected as opposed to when our neighbor is being pummeled instead of us?

If they matter, what can we do about them?

The Bottom Line

I’m a big believer in sharing thoughts and encouraging people to dialog about things with an eye towards taking measurable action.  Good intentions and thoughts are worthless without measurable results.

However, we can’t own everything that comes before us, even when it impacts us deeply.  Some of us who work hard to make a difference in the world need others to share the responsibility, especially when many who put little into society want to reap the harvest that comes from a better world.

It’s time for more people to be concerned about society and where it’s going …

… while it’s still a going concern.

In service and servanthood, create a great day because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry

Monday, June 5, 2017

Why I’ll Never Accept Your Apology

Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past. - Tryon Edwards

The only correct actions are those that demand no explanation and no apology. - Red Auerbach

Mainstream and social media (is there even a difference anymore?), ever-hungry for blood, battery, humiliation and sensationalism, continue to carry news about Kathy Griffin’s act of stupidity in posing with a replica of the severed head of the POTUS.

Much has been made of her apology-turned-attack, where she has tried to turn an ignorant act into an act of self-defense, claiming she is the victim from the backlash when the original act itself has no excuse.  Unfortunately, failure to recognize cause-and-effect has doomed many a career.

Many people have asked my opinion on the matter because of what they believe to be my curious stand on apologies.

I never accept apologies.

Over-sensitive people are often quick to criticize me for this but here is how I look at apologies.

Rule 1 – The Good Person

If you are a good person and you have done wrong by me with an honest mistake, then you have demonstrated your imperfection as a human being.  As an imperfect human being myself, I also make mistakes so who am I to judge you for making one with me.  For this reason, apologies are not necessary in such situations.  Many relationships have been saved because of this approach.

Rule 2 – The Bad Person

If you are a bad person who got caught committing a heinous act and you are apologizing merely because you got caught, then likely the apology carries little if any weight (and likely doesn’t prevent similar incidents from happening again).  If the apology carries little if any weight, then it is also unnecessary since it’s either a time-waster, an insult or a set-up to commit similar acts in the future.  Much abuse has been avoided because of this approach.

Rule 3 – The Rare “Come-To-Jesus” Person

Very rarely, the bad person committing a heinous act has an epiphany, realizes where they have gone wrong and makes an authentic commitment to doing better.  While people claim we should always accept any apology from anyone for any level of miscreant behavior on the off-chance that they will turn the corner, those same people haven’t studied history or human behavior to see the likelihood of such things occurring. While there are some success stories, a lot of people get used and abused repeatedly for this belief.

Rule 4 – Past Behavior Demonstrates Apology Authenticity

If you really want to know how authentic someone’s apology is, examine how they have been living their Life up to the moment the act requiring apology occurred.  Past performance often predicts future behavior and provides deep insight into the reason and motivation for an apology.  It will help you identify a good person, a person having an epiphany or someone who interprets you as an idiot to be played.

Too Harsh?

Many people who do not know me think that this is too cut-and-dried, too objective, too cold and the like.  Later, I have to listen to them complain how someone keeps hurting them over and over.

The reality is that I don’t judge people because I accept that good people make honest mistakes and that bad people who make poor choices will eventually have to account to “Someone” for their deeds.  I don’t have the time, the interest, the moral authority or the level of perfection required to judge them and so if I don’t judge them, there is nothing that requires an apology from them either.

The Bottom Line – Our Actions Reveal Our Authenticity

While intentions are wonderful and words are easily produced for any situation, the reality is that our actions reveal the dialogue taking place in our brain and often speak so loudly that others can’t hear what we are saying.

When I see someone like Griffin with her latest stunt, or her previous stunt where she pretended to give Anderson Cooper oral sex on live TV during the 2013 New Year’s Eve Countdown, or when someone makes a derogatory comment about women, people of faith, gender choice, people of other nationalities, etc. and then quickly apologizes, they are usually thinking about their career and the ramifications of being caught.  Rarely do they believe that the act itself was wrong.  For them, the only thing that was wrong was being exposed.

There is a deeper issue when people commit heinous acts that require an apology. The fact is that they wouldn’t have committed the act if it weren’t already a seed in their mind.

Do you know why I could never insult an LGBTQ person, a person from another nationality, a person of a different faith, an indigenous person, a woman, a minority or pose in a photo pretending to hold the severed head of the POTUS?

It’s because such things don’t exist in my mind and if they are not in my mind, you won’t see them in my words or my actions either.  If heinous thoughts are not in one’s mind, then one is less likely to experience the overused “lapse of judgment”, which in reality is less a lapse and more an x-ray into someone’s mind.

For those who keep surprising, disappointing and offending us and then promptly asking for (or demanding) forgiveness, they have revealed what is in their mind and having done so, it is up to us to decide how to interact with them and respond to them. In those situations, only we are to blame if we continue to be surprised, disappointed or angered by their actions.

As for the good people in our lives, they have made a mistake.

Perhaps it is one of many.

But are we so perfect that we haven’t any mistakes either?

Our actions, past and future, matter much more than trite, perfunctory apologies or fake ones meant to relieve us of the responsibility of acting like a proper human being.

Remember that the next time someone begs for forgiveness from you.

Or you beg for it from someone else.

In service and servanthood, create a great day for yourself and others because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry

Addendum - Who is the Injured Party?

Within minutes of this post coming out, someone wrote me and condemned me, saying that by refusing an apology, I was denying someone the right to feel better about a situation.  When I replied that I thought the purpose of the apology was more to heal the injured and not just to remove the guilt, they never replied.  I guess they wanted an apology from me and were disappointed to not receive one.

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