Monday, April 27, 2009

Creating A Different Kind of Noise

What a cacophony we are bombarded with these days:

  • increasing issues regarding global warming
  • terrorism
  • the Iraq war
  • the war in Afghanistan
  • coming soon according to some – the war against Pakistan or some other nation that displeases us
  • an energy crisis
  • a health crisis
  • a financial crisis
  • a public wave of murder / suicides related to the financial crisis
  • swine flu (just when you thought you had reached your saturation point of bad news)
  • a level of political correctness so powerful that we can’s say anything that might offend anybody (which means we can say very little)
  • a level of political bullying, such that if you voice specific opinions on certain subjects, you are immediately publically vilified (meanwhile we say – it’s a good thing we aren’t as ignorant to the opinions of others as they were in the 15th century).
  • an increased sense of paranoia that something or someone is ready to kill us at any moment unless we relinquish our freedom in exchange for security.  Interestingly enough, the people we are relinquishing our freedom to are the people who tell us we are in trouble.
  • a litany of misinformation, including the soldiers of Abu Ghraib  prison who were punished as rogues that violated the human rights of Iraqis when we now discover they were acting under orders from the top of the US administration.

Is it any wonder that our minds don’t melt from an overload of such negative information?

I think they have melted somewhat – we just haven’t figured it out yet.  Some people suggest that our minds have melted so badly that we have lost the ability to self diagnose or that we have correctly diagnosed the issues but we are too tired or afraid to do anything.

I don’t believe this to be true – I believe that our passion burns hot and deep.  Many of us just need a little help bringing this burning desire to the surface.

When I write blogs or articles that reference the need to assert our passion more, to love others more, to follow our faith more (however we define it) and to make a greater difference in the world, hundreds of people privately applaud me but most are afraid to do so in public. 

They fear repercussions from family, friends and co-workers.  Some are politicians more focused on being re-elected than doing what they know is the right thing.  As one friend noted – '”Do you realize that your thoughts are needed but not welcome in the circles of authority?”.

How unfortunate.

In a part of the world founded on encouraging an exchange of thoughts (without necessarily having to agree with them), incubating a belief in the “American Dream” (or the Canadian equivalent), being passionate about the things important to us, holding civil and corporate leaders to specific standards of morals and values, and championing rights and freedoms important to our ancestors, it seems to me that we are losing the strength or interest to assert our beliefs, our passions and most importantly, our voice. 

Some of us have become intimidated to the point where many of us (not all, thankfully) fear for our reputation if we publically follow our heart.  Meanwhile, our spirits may feel crushed by the constant bombardment of bad news and we are caught in an internal tug of war, knowing what needs to be done but being afraid to do it.

Sometimes it is difficult to see that in this onslaught of bad news there are passionate people out there making a difference in the areas where we need it most – empowering us to effect positive change for our environment, promoting the health and wellness of people around the planet, building peace within humanity and strengthening the ecological / economical future of our planet.

We should be grateful for these people.

We should find a group that aligns with what we hold to be important for ourselves and our families and join that group.

Groups like Canada’s World, World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Oxfam, the Clinton Foundation and others are leading the way to making a difference.

If you don’t know who to speak to, reach out to someone like me – people like me love to connect passionate people with other passionate people.

If you don’t like these organizations, don’t complain about them.  Use your energy to help them improve their offering and execution.  If you feel that you caught in a trap of excessive complaining without action, reach out to this group, A Complaint Free World.  They’ll help you get back on track.

If existing groups still don’t work for you, create a new group that makes a difference.

Whatever you do, find a way to help contribute to the needs of the world.  Don’t wait – many of the challenges on this planet are accelerating and need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Let’s create a different kind of noise – one built around making a difference instead of focusing on how things are allegedly falling apart.  It would be great if our actions spoke so loudly, that we would not be able to hear each other speak.

Many famous writers and philosophers over the years, going back to biblical times, note that we create what we focus on.

So let’s stop focusing on the end of times and instead, focus on a world filled with people aspiring to make a difference for others.

As the great Louis B. Armstrong sang in “What a Wonderful World”:

The colors of a pretty the sky
Are also on the faces.....of people ..going by
I see friends shaking hands.....sayin’.. how do you do
They’re really sayin’......i love you.

I hear babies cry...... I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more.....than Ill never know
And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world

It is indeed a wonderful world.

If we really love our children and our children’s children, we’ll keep it that way.

For those who follow sports, it’s like being up three games to nothing in a best of seven series.

It’s ours to win or lose.

What side do you prefer to be on?

Yours in service and servanthood.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Long Distance Dedication

Some of us old-timers probably remember when Kasey Kasem would send out his long distance dedications on American Top-40.  I think he still does them on his current show – I’m not sure.

They would go something like this (with Kasey reading the letter).

“So and so writes.  Dear Kasey, blah blah blah.  So Kasey, could you please play xyz for so and so?  So and so – here’s your long distance dedication”.

Here is how the letter would go if sent on behalf of some of the people on my mind this morning.

“Dear Kasey.

I would like to tell you about my friend, John.  John and I have known each other for a while.  In a hectic, pressure-filled world where the media would have us doubt our own sanity and shake our beliefs that anything good remains on this planet, John stands out.

John is not a typical person.  He speaks his mind openly but always does so with respect.  He invites the opinions of others.

John doesn’t swim with the current because he knows the river is pretty cluttered with junk downstream.  He swims upstream where the waters are crystal clear, inviting and where he can be himself.

John doesn’t wait for friends to ask for help.  John looks for proactive ways to be there for them.  He anticipates your need and just when you think you are falling , you realize he is holding your hand.

John is not consumed with himself.  John puts family and friends first.

John is not perfect.  No one is.  However, John exemplifies a great human being – one built upon and around values, faith, standing up for his beliefs and most importantly, sharing love for everyone and everything.

John sometimes struggles with embracing his values in a world that sometimes suggests that embracing values is a sign of weakness.

So Kasey, could you please play “Thank You For Being A Friend” by Andrew Gold.  I’d like John to know that his unselfishness is greatly appreciated in a world that needs more people committed to the betterment of those around them.

Ok, Harry, here is your long distance dedication”.

When I say John, I am writing to:

Jim G – a long time friend committed to family, friends, personal excellence and recognition of the contributions of everyone (and one of the quickest senses of humor I have ever seen)

Jonathan S – a driven family guy and businessman (and I mean DRIVEN) with one of the largest,most humble hearts I have ever seen (and maybe the only guy who could match Jim G.’s humor)

Roberto L – a friend closer than a brother to me, who constantly seeks ways to maximize his contribution to others before himself and was always there for me

Ray J – a phenomenally talented musician who’s heart embraces his family, his heritage and his culture and whose music kept me company when I was down

Leonard S – a  phenomenal, insightful man, passionate about encouraging those around him to participate in and share a powerful journey towards self realization and growth

I love you guys.  You arrived in my life just when I needed you and I continue to learn from you every day.

I am honored and privileged to know you as my friends.  I grow every day because of you, you bring light to my life and you bring sanity in a world that would love to convince us that sanity is a passing fad.

To the readers of my blog, thank you for your incredible support regarding my musings.

If you were to send out a long distance dedication, who would it be to?

Maybe somebody would really appreciate receiving one.

Maybe that somebody is you.

In service, servanthood, deepest appreciation and love.



If you’ve never heard the Andrew Gold song before, here are the lyrics.

Thank You For Being A Friend – Andrew Gold

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
your heart is true you're a pal and a confidant

I'm not ashamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off, won't you stand up and take a bow

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see, the biggest gift would be for me
and the card attached would say,
Thank you for being a friend

Thank you for being a friend
Thank you for being a friend
Thank you for being a friend

If it's a car you lack
I'd surely buy you a Cadillac
Whatever you need, anytime of the day or night

I'm not ashamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off, won't you stand up and take a bow

And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of gray
Have no fear, even though it's hardly here
I will stand real close and say,
Thank you for being a friend

(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Let me tell you bout a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend

And when we die, and float away
I'll see you there, and once again
Thank you for being a friend
Thank you for being a friend

(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
(I want to thank you)
Thank you for being a friend
Whoa, tell you about a friend
(Thank you right now, for being a friend)
Thank you for being a friend
(I wanna tell you right now, and tell you again)
Thank you for being a friend
(I wanna thank you, thank you, for being a friend)
Thank you for being a friend

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Taking a Break – Recharging to Take Charge

I was recently reading about US military tests in the fifties where they would subject pilots to extreme g-forces to see what humans could endure and to determine what training could improve their endurance.

The tests went like this:

The pilot was strapped into a seat that was mounted on what was essentially a rocket on rails.  When the rockets were ignited, the whole contraption flew down the rails at breakneck speed (it had no brakes) with no guidance necessary as it simply followed the rails it was mounted upon.  At some point, the passenger passed out and was simply along for the ride.

After the motors burned out, the device then coasted for some distance before it came to a halt, the device and its passenger both completely spent.

The rocket motors were reloaded, the passenger rested and the process was repeated the next day.

I wonder if many people today feel like that person sitting upon this rocket on rails – flying pell mell down the rails at the start of the day, with no means to change the speed or direction and being exhausted by the end of the day.

Think of some of the challenges we are experiencing that create pressure in our lives today:

  • We have a booming economy one minute (supposedly) and then it collapses the next minute (with some exaggeration, of course).   The people who either architected it or didn’t see it coming now tell us to trust their ability to fix it. 
  • Ben Bernanke, top man at the Federal Reserve, tells us a couple of weeks ago that all the numbers look great and he sees the end of the recession in sight.  Two hours later, statistics regarding consumer spending, unemployment and such are released and suggest the complete opposite and that the end is nowhere in sight.
  • Governments such as Canada have changed their strategy from economy stimulation to making sure that the employment insurance system can hold up under the strain.  This suggests that they have given up trying to fix it and perhaps want to hold on and hope everything works out. 
  • Billions are spent on airline safety annually while some insiders suggest that this is a facade to make you feel comfortable about travel since weapons still routinely get onto commercial aircraft.  How about the armed hijacker who stormed onto a Canjet aircraft with 170+ people on it yesterday and held them all hostage before local authorities took the plane back?
  • Billions are spent on the drug problem in the US while the flow of guns south and drugs north continues largely unabated.
  • Unemployment and foreclosures are running neck and neck to establish new records of despair.
  • War, pestilence and disease continues in the world.  We have it within our power to fix a lot of this but we don’t make as much progress as we could or should.
  • Global warming is coming with a vengeance despite our meetings and conferences.  Here’s a thought – maybe just talking about something doesn’t fix it.  Action must begin with dialog. Dialog must result in action or it is just that - dialog.

Tough stuff.  Positive thinking experts say that we shouldn’t think about it because it will bring us down.  I think we’re already pretty low.

I wonder if sometimes we need to be brought down, to be grabbed by the throat, so that we can look some of this stuff in the eye, know it and understand it and then take responsibility for wrestling it to the ground.

Not thinking about it doesn’t necessarily make it go away.

Maybe we need to absorb all of this stuff and let it touch our holy discontent as Bill Hybels notes in his powerful book by the same name.  After it has percolated internally for a bit and really gotten us stirred up, maybe we can shake off the apathy we feel as we expect someone else to fix it.  Bodie Thoene noted “Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand”.

Maybe we can all work together to fix things instead of waiting for someone else or believing that we have the solution that no one else has, thus preferring to be a one-man-band rather than a collaborator.

I wonder if many of us would take more responsibility if we could only catch our breath from the wild ride that we call Life.

I think we would.  I believe that the average person would love to make a greater contribution to the greater good.

With that in mind ……

We need to recharge to take charge

Many of us say we can’t take any time off because we are needed for this, that and the other thing.  People who believe this who are forced for one reason or another to take some time off discover when they return that the Earth is still here and it is still running as well as it was before.

Perhaps our belief that the world won’t carry on without us is more ego-based – the hope or belief that being essential for the great machine of Life helps us to feel better about ourselves.

The truth is that each of us has an important role to play – none of us have the ONE role that keeps everything moving.

Maybe we need to take more breaks during the turmoil of the day to stop and ask, “How am I doing”?

How about asking this question.

What legacy am I contributing towards for the children of tomorrow and for their children?

I like to take a break several times a day and record observations in my journal about how I am doing in the following areas:

Faith – how am I doing in regards to my faith in God and my faith in the goodness and intelligence of people to create positive, long-lasting, sustainable impact on Earth?

Virtue – how well am I doing today in regards to adhering towards moral excellence (however I define it)?

Knowledge – have I learned something new today that I can apply towards improving my life and the life of others?

Self Control – how much self control am I exercising towards not being distracted by things that don’t bring myself and others closer to our purpose and passion?

Perseverance – am I still driving towards that which is important for my purpose and passion or am I just coasting along, wasting time that can never be recovered?

Godliness – do my thoughts reflect what I think God would think about?  In other words, if one thinks of the Great Compassion as those things that would make God cry or be angry, what am I doing to address them?

Kindness – what am I doing to grow my understanding of others and their actions and do my actions exemplify my belief in compassion and sharing?

Love – what have I done to share love today?  What have I done to welcome love today?  What have I done to encourage this in others today?

In other words, if I don’t stop a few times a day and perform this checkpoint, how do I know if I am on track or if I need to make a few corrections or improvements?

It is easy to allow the day to slip away in activity instead of productivity.

When I make a conscious step to assess how I am tracking and make corrections along the way, I feel like I have made a better difference to myself and others.

This brings a greater sense of fulfillment towards my purpose and with this, a reduction in stress – I feel like I am controlling my Life instead of my Life controlling me.

It helps me feel like I am making a difference for the children.

People criticized President Bush towards the end of his second term, claiming that his actions were digging a hole that President Obama couldn’t get out of.  Whether this is true or not is not the point.

Let’s make sure we don’t do this to our children.

In service and servanthood.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Embracing Each Other

I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room a couple of days ago and was observing some children playing.  The children were of mixed gender, race, language and potentially religious background.  Here is how their interaction went:

My name is yyy – what’s yours?

My name is zzz – let’s play.

It was as simple as that – authenticity in its purest form.  Once they had some context by which they could name each other, that was all that was important to having an authentic relationship.

As I have been consumed by authenticity lately, I have started a detailed review of my social network, the hundreds of emails I receive daily from this network, the hundreds of invites I receive to participate in events, etc.  While I am grateful for all of this, my recent focus on authenticity has caused me to examine much of this traffic in a closer manner.

Here are some exaggerated snippets:

I am an 18-year old student and life coach.  I believe my 18 years of life have been invaluable and I would like to share this supreme knowledge with you at a discounted monthly rate of $xxxx.  <<yes – some 18-year olds have lived a full live – however ……>>

I am an enlightened life guru with no job or life experience but I would like to show you how the Law of Attraction can earn tons of money for you.  <<meanwhile a background check on the person shows they are bankrupt and the only thing the Law of Attraction is helping them with is making money promoting the Law of Attraction>>

I am an expert on collaboration and believe that we all need to work together to make this world a better place for all.  By the way,  let me tell  you that so and so has a chance to steal some of our market so if we can find any way to discredit or sue him, there’s more money in it for us.  <<I’m sorry, tell me again how this is collaboration>>

I need your help promoting product xyz.  It’s not MLM of any type but you’re at the bottom, I’m at the top and if you put in 80 hours a week, I will get rich.  <<now there’s an incentive>>

How about gems like these?

I serve on the board for corporation xyz and I know the CEO is stealing money, but if I rat on her, people will not hire me for other boards because I will not be perceived as a team player.  <<meanwhile, that person gets paid to make public presentations about the need for transparency, honesty and accountability>>

“We provide a high quality product to the consumer”, quotes a senior executive of a major frozen food manufacturer to me on a plane one afternoon two years ago.  “That being said, I don’t let my kids eat it”. “Why not?”, I ask.  “Because I know what is in that stuff”, is the reply, the speaker oblivious to the disconnect of that statement from his assertion of the high quality of their product.


I wonder:

  • if the fear of being perceived as not being as in control as the next person causes some people to be less than authentic, since we don’t want to be perceived as weak amongst our peers.
  • if the fear of expressing our real selves causes us to repackage our knowledge, beliefs and passions into something the masses will agree with (even if this is not in congruence with what is important to us).
  • if the fear of appearing to be too normal causes people to elevate their status so as to be far beyond normal (ah, so you’re just an accountant; well, I am Master of the Galaxy – Well, I’m not just an accountant, I am really the Accountant Guru of the Universe – Oh yeah?  Well I am ……).
  • if the fear of appearing to not be able to stay caught up (whether it be in knowledge, money, gadgets or other toys) causes us to overspend our resources while lack of authenticity with ourselves prevents us from putting the brakes on this self-destructive behavior.  Don’t forget – whoever dies with the most toys …… is dead.
  • if the notion of exposing our heart, mind and spirit to others may also allow others to see our pain and our weaknesses, allowing them to see that we are in fact human.  Since this demonstrates that we are less than perfect, we present a false persona where we never fret, get angry or cry.
  • if the fear of exposing others to our personal belief structure, including our belief in God (or other deity important to us), is so strong that we are ashamed to live by the values of our belief structure, fearing ridicule or fearing being ostracized from our peers, clients and others.
  • if the fear of failure paralyzes us and prevents us from trying anything, forcing us to rely on someone else to solve our problems (which then creates frustration because they are not doing it fast enough for us).
  • if our desire to climb to the top of whatever mountain we are climbing is so strong (probably to beat someone else climbing the same mountain), that we are willing to portray ourselves as something we are not just so that we can accomplish the journey as fast as we can.

I do notice one thing with these fears.  The more inauthentic someone is with themselves and others, the more they resist even discussing stuff like this.  They will even get quite angry!

I wonder why.

All of these fears seem to be creating a lot of baggage in our lives and puts us on an ever-increasingly slippery slope that leaves us exhausted financially, spiritually, physically and emotionally.  Analyze the events that have led up to any significant negative event in world history and somewhere along the way, you will find one or more events that perhaps have been tied to lack of authenticity.

I’m not suggesting that life is so simple that we can easily strip a lot of these layers away and expect to be as authentic as children.  If it were only that simple.

However, I am suggesting that the number of layers of obfuscation and complexity that we have added are not commensurate with the beauty and simplicity of life.

I wonder if we have made life too complicated and then, being inauthentic with ourselves and others, refuse to take any credit for this complexity.

How about a return to some base levels of authenticity?

Hi – my name is Harry.  I don’t want you to know me as a Wall Streeter, a business strategy guy, a networker, a writer, a speaker (or however else you know me).

I am a human being who believes in God, who is awash in gratitude for his family, friends and life experiences, who marvels at the things we do right in the world, weeps at the things we do poorly, marvels at the complexity and simplicity of nature, is amazed by the power of love, aspires to be more patient and wonders when we will finally realize our true gifts and purpose.

That’s all that is important.  That is the real me – the rest are man-made constructs that are not important.

That being said, perhaps that is not important either.  What is important is that I am a human being with unlimited capacity for loving and sharing.

So are you.

My name is Harry. 

What’s your name? 

Let’s play.

Yours in service and servanthood.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Bread Recipe Rule

Imagine making enough bread dough for ten loaves of bread.  The first nine loaves come out perfectly.  As you go to remove the last loaf from the oven, you exclaim “Wait a minute – these aren’t bran muffins” and then proceed to defend your assumption that it’s quite normal to have expected something different for the tenth result.

You would be violating the Bread Recipe Rule, a rule I first read about in a Gerald Weinberg book more than 25 years ago.

Simply stated, the bread recipe rule is this:

If I use the same baker, ingredients and recipe I will always get the same bread.

Others know it as Einstein’s definition of insanity:

I will expect different results from doing the same thing over and over and when I do the same thing over and over, I will be surprised or angered that the results aren’t different.

While this appears to be common sense, perhaps common sense itself has abandoned us.

Look at the financial dilemma we have manufactured in the world. Yes, we manufactured it – it didn’t sneak up on us during the night and spring upon us.  If someone tries to convince you of that, fire them – competence is as much proactive observation and avoidance as it is not contributing to the creation of a problem in the first place.

Despite this, we take the same people who either helped create the challenges or in the very least, didn’t see them coming and we give them lots more cash to fix it.  When they make mistakes, we get angry very quickly.

However, the bread recipe rule dictates that the loaf they produce will probably not look very different than previously baked loaves.  They did the best they could with their life experiences and genetics.  Cold comfort to many but that is life.  We have disappointed people in our lifetimes also.

If I look at my home province of Newfoundland, Canada where they recently had a commission of inquiry into a number of botched cancer screenings within the Eastern Health Care Corporate, it appears that they continue to have struggles of authenticity, honesty and competence (and possibly have condemned some people to die in the process).

The people there were told to “act better and smarter and with greater transparency”.  We don’t act smarter or better because we are told to – we either have it in us or we don’t.  It’s not our fault – again it’s the way we are wired based on our life experiences and genetics.

Yet we act surprised and angered when they continue to bake the same loaf of whatever it is they are baking.

How many of the things in our own lives do we expect to be different, even though we keep using the same recipe, ingredients and baker?

If we are authentic with ourselves and with others, we should realize that if we want to bake something different, we need to mix things up a little.

We can’t always choose the ingredients – sometimes Life calls upon us to use what is at hand and adjust our expectations accordingly.  If I have eggs, lemons, flour and a few other things, maybe I need to adjust my expectation and realize that I have a better chance at success with a lemon meringue pie than a roast chicken.

We can’t always choose the recipe either.  Sometimes Life calls upon us to be flexible with the processes we use to create the intended result.  Maybe the result will be different but at least we know this in advance.

However, we often have a choice of the baker.  If the baker consistently produces an undesired result despite quality ingredients and a great recipe, then perhaps we should find another baker.

Do we really know what we are baking?  Is our expectation of intended result in alignment with what we are putting into the process?

If not, maybe we should take a closer a look at the bread recipe rule.  What should we do differently if we sincerely expect a different result? 

If we don’t change anything in the bread recipe rule, let’s not embarrass ourselves or others by acting surprised anyway.

What loaf are you baking today?

Yours in service and servanthood.