Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Saving Souls Now … Not Later

On Friday past, my client closed early for the Christmas holidays and I suddenly found myself with the gift of a couple of free hours.  As I thought about the best way to spend them, I remembered Jordan Hamilton’s invitation to come down to visit him when I had some time.

Jordan is the Manager of External Relations for the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre (known as the DI), the largest center of its kind in North America.  In a shelter designed to accommodate 500 people, it is not uncommon for this center to provide shelter for as many as 1300 people at once.

I reached out to Jordan, he indicated that he had some time available and I stopped down to pay a visit.  He had promised me that I would be inspired.

He and the DI didn’t disappoint.

I have toured many shelters of this type in my travels but this one blew me away.

The DI doesn’t just provide a shelter for those in need.  They plant the seeds of hope and love in every guest who stays with them. 

While many shelters do the best they can to provide a warm bed and a meal to those in need, the DI goes above and beyond.  The inspiring staff and volunteers at the DI provide those who are down on their luck with the foundation necessary to rediscover their talents and potential and thus the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Many of these people are where they are because they have given up on themselves and therefore assume the rest of the world has given up on them also.  The DI helps reverse this belief system, an important first step to helping these people to help themselves.

Their talent and potential burns bright!  They just need help to bring this light out where everyone can see it.

For example, I happened to view a piece of art by one of the guests, a gentleman whom I will identify as “M'”.  It had a flamenco theme that was good as anything I have seen in some of the best art galleries in the world.  I found out it was for sale and so I asked him what he wanted for it.  “I dunno”, he said, “maybe a couple of hundred bucks?”.

I was stunned.  His talent can command thousands and I told him as such.  His face brightened up and said “Ok, how about $2000?” and he laughed.

Now you’re talking, M!

These people have not lost their pride or potential – it’s just buried under the weight of life experiences that would stagger any of us.

They don’t need us to teach them what their potential is.  They just need help lifting the weight off and to allow their potential to shine.  They need a break like the many we have received; the many we may not be cognizant of or may not be willing to admit we have been blessed with.

We should also be aware that many of us may be closer to being a guest of a place like the DI than we realize.  All it takes is one event too many and we could be there.

There, but for the Grace of God, go I.

Holding on to Hope

In a world of uncertainty, it is easy to lose hope when one sees so many people in need.

However, I see it differently.

When I meet people like Jordan and others, whether it be at the DI or so many other places dedicated to helping those in need, I am reminded of the power of hope that these dedicated, heart-filled people bring to those who feel that hope, light and love have left them behind.

I am often approached by well-intentioned people who appeal to me to help save the souls of others so that those who are downtrodden are prepared when they meet their Creator.

After I see places like the DI, my response to those “soul savers” would be a little different.

Forget about saving people’s souls for when they meet their Creator.  Save these people here and now and let their Creator take care of them when their end-of-times has come.

And in doing so, maybe you will have prepared yourself when it is your turn to meet your Creator.

The world is waiting for you to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of others.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better

I am sitting here taking a breather after a complex few days; a breather to think about the beauty and complexity of Life and Life Purpose.

In times when my brain seeks answers, one of my favorite authors to turn to is Henri Nouwen, specifically books such as “The Return of the Prodigal Son” or “Home Tonight – Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son”. 

I came upon this quote in “Home Tonight” that particularly resonated with me and I wanted to share it.  After I read this, I sought out the creator of this powerful piece.   The originator of this piece, Oriah, can be found here.   Check her out – I think your heart and Spirit will be moved by her.

Here is what I read in Nouwen today.

The Invitation by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

These are deep words that resonate with me on many levels, words that demand answers from me.

I am curious if they touch your heart in the same way.

All I know is, when it comes to describing Life Purpose, I couldn’t have said it any better.

In service and servanthood,


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Appreciating Our Blessings in Challenging Times

Sharing this story has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again.

Some years ago when my oldest son was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  For my son to have so much stuff that he rivaled Toys R Us in inventory still didn't seem enough for some reason.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York to be exact) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started the truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence. 

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it.

The teacher always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions I have at Christmas, there are two that I find to be important.

1. I always listen to this story at least once.

2. I always share it with others and encourage them to listen to it.

The story I am referring to can be found here and in the video below.

When I think about my family, my friends and Life itself, I consider myself to be extremely blessed.

With that, I thank YOU for what you do - for the light and love you bring to so many.

In an uncertain world, every day we are alive is still an incredible gift.

In a world that experiences difficult moments, there are still miracles being created.

In a world that experiences war and hostility, there are still many examples of love and generosity.

In a world that experiences adversity and challenge, there exists unlimited opportunity and potential.

In a world that may seem to embrace greed, there are examples of incredible generosity.

Despite the many challenges we face, we have many reminders that we still live in a beautiful world.  Sometimes the reminders are obvious while at other times we need to dig deep to find them. 

Sometimes we need the help of others to help us find the “breathing room” to see them. 

And many times, other people need our help.

The reminders are there and that is what matters.

As you celebrate this Holiday Season, please remember those who are not as fortunate.  There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule. 

However you celebrate these days, cherish them. 

And help others to find a way to cherish them as well.

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.


For those who can’t find the links on the NPR website to hear the story, they can be found here:

Windows Media Player

Real Media Player

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Gift From the Past

Today was one of those days where few things seemed to come together as hoped or desired.  We all have days like this, try as we might to avoid them.  The events of the day weighed heavily on me as I traveled home, unaware that a gift was waiting for me at home.

The gift was in the form of a message from a friend and client of mine in New Jersey by the name of Lucky P. whom I have not seen in almost 20 years.

What was funny about him calling is that I had been reminiscing a few days earlier about the great clients I have been blessed with over the years and I had named Lucky as one of my top three favorites.  This is no small feat, given that my career spans almost 30 years, covering almost all of the Fortune 50 and includes some of the most powerful and wealthiest people in the world as clients and colleagues.

And yet, several days after I have been praising this man as being extremely influential in my Life, here he is calling me because I am on his mind.  That’s the way my Life has always been – a sequence of serendipitous events that people find hard to believe until they witness it first hand. 

I called Lucky back and had the extreme delight and pleasure of getting “caught up”.  There were the usual niceties – family, career, home location, and such.

But there was an underlying theme in our conversation that took me back 20 years when I worked for Lucky and which made the last 20 years melt away.

When I worked for Lucky back in the early 90s in Neptune, New Jersey, there were a couple of things that struck me about him.

He treated everyone with deep respect.  Not just a cursory, obligatory, professional respect but a deep respect that made you feel like you mattered.

He also lived a life filled with gratitude – gratitude for his family, for his co-workers and for the abundance around him.  It was his deeply ingrained sense of gratitude for everything that opened my awareness to the importance of feeling and expressing gratitude, even in difficult times.

As I spoke to Lucky this evening, we effortlessly switched from one subject to another like it was only yesterday that we worked together.  As we did so, I noticed that the themes of respect and gratitude are still reflected in everything he thinks, says and does.

In fact, they seemed more ingrained now than ever … a true gift to have in the uncertain world that we live in.

When I worked for Lucky, the brunt of my career was still ahead of me - the difficulties, challenges, successes and victories that awaited my discovery.

But much of what guided me through those years to come was heavily influenced by people like Lucky – people who arrived at the right time in my Life and exhibited behaviors worth modeling.

And so as we talked, I was once again filled with gratitude for him and for the influence he had on my Life.

At a moment when I was ruminating over a difficult day, Lucky reappeared and again filled me with gratitude – gratitude that there are people in the world like him who remind the rest of us that respect-filled, gratitude-filled, heart-filled people still exist in the world.

Twenty years later, he is still teaching me but is probably too humble to take credit for it.

His call today reminds me of something else.

Each of us has an opportunity to change someone’s day (and maybe their Life) simply by reaching out and telling them that we are thinking of them.

We may have NO idea about the impact of such a call on the other person.

But they will know.

And that’s what matters.

In service and servanthood,


Friday, November 18, 2011

For Sale: Respect and Courtesy-No Longer Needed

I was intrigued (to say the least) on Thursday when someone suggested that the high levels of respect and courtesy that I show others implied that I “must be up to something” and therefore I should tone it down.

I found this fascinating and disappointing but mostly, after I had gotten over the shock (and, admittedly, a little anger) I found it sad.

I think it is sad that someone perceives a world where respect and courtesy aren’t common and therefore believes that people are only nice to others when they want something.

It is sadder when such people ask that high levels of courtesy and respect be toned down when in fact, the world needs elevated levels of both more than ever.

I guess there is a mistaken belief that toning down courtesy and respect will help the person feel more comfortable since it will confirm for them that people like me are not “up to something”.

Maybe in such situations, I should stop being so courteous and respectful.  Maybe I can sell both on eBay as someone once tried to sell their soul.

In fact, to stop being so courteous and respectful would in essence be selling my soul.  It is how I am wired, it is something I am respected for in turn by others and it is something that I believe needs to be cultivated in the world.

So perhaps the opportunity is not to tone down my courtesy and respect but to pour it on and demonstrate that there are no conditions attached to high levels of both.  It is given as it is intended – no strings attached and no ulterior motives intended.

I give it because I believe that every person should strive to as much as they can.

And I give it because I believe that the other person deserves it.

So on second thought, I’m not going to put them up for sale on eBay.

I’m going to do what I try to do everyday … to give it away as much as possible.

And maybe …. just maybe … I will be able to convince someone else that courtesy and respect doesn’t always mean an ulterior motive is at play.

And if I fail, I will have at least lived by my core values instead of compromising them to satisfy the narrower view of someone else.

“To thine own self be true”.

In service and servanthood,


Friday, November 11, 2011

Lest We Forget … or Have We Forgotten Already?

It’s a damp, cool , overcast day in Fort Saskatchewan, a small town just outside of of Edmonton and I’m listening to the bugler play “The Last Post”.

We have gathered to remember those who have made or will make the ultimate sacrifice so that we may continue to experience the freedoms that we cherish ….. so that we may experience the freedoms we think WE have earned and deserve. 

“We have earned and deserve” - there’s an interesting thought.

And so while the men and women who serve do so without asking anything of us, the least we can do is remember and honor their sacrifice.

Lest we forget.

Lest we forget that as we enjoy the comforts of our lifestyle, there are others who have foregone such comforts. 

These are the men and women who fought in the trenches with nothing to keep them warm in the middle of a bitterly cold winter other than pieces of wool clothing when we complain that our favorite “uber deluxe coat” is not available in that shade of blue we wanted.

These are the people who drive into harm’s way, every mile having the potential to produce the mine or IED that will take their lives in an instant or leave them maimed for life while we sit consumed in anger that traffic is not moving as fast as we would like.  No one is shooting at us as we sit in traffic either.

These are the men and women who suffered through little or no food when supply lines were choked off while we consume in excess quantities or complain that “such and such a meal is not to my liking and I want the restaurant to remake it”, afterwards spending days telling everyone about the lousy experience we had.  The restaurant is also not likely to kill us with typhus, cholera or the plethora of other diseases that these people dealt with daily.

These are the people who stared at the beaches of Normandy as they approached on the morning of June 6, 1944 and realized what was before them or stared at the cliffs of Dieppe and girded their mind in preparation for their assault while we complain that the time-share that we want on some beach in Hawaii is not available on the one weekend that would really make us happy.

In a world of comfort, we sometimes visualize things that make us unhappy and yet all of these things pale in comparison to the things that the men and women who serve and sacrifice have faced and will continue to face.

I can’t help but think that surely they didn’t make these sacrifices so that we would have the freedom to complain about how our Life is lacking. 

It is true that they made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live Life as we choose.  They make no demands or attach stipulations on how we live our lives.  But are our choices the most respectful, honorable ones we could be making as an expression of our gratitude?

Imagine a scenario where your child is standing in the middle of a highway and suddenly you see a large truck bearing down on them.  Your child is transfixed in fear, you are unable to get to them in time and you know you are about to watch your child die.  Suddenly, out of the blue, someone rushes past you, dives towards the child and they both roll to safety just as the truck roars by.  You thank them profusely and the stranger is humble and gracious in receiving your gratitude, insisting that it “was nothing” or it was “the right thing to do”.

You are indebted to that person for the rest of your Life and with great reason.  Every day that you experience the love of your child, you are reminded of the sacrifice a complete stranger was willing to make.  They put themselves on the line for you, did so without asking “what’s in it for me” and without subsequently demanding a “reward”.

By the same token, the men and women who serve do this every day and have done so for generations.  The fact that we don’t necessarily see them in action every day shouldn’t be an excuse to forget the sacrifices they have made.

When I think that someone whom I will never meet is willing to sacrifice their Life so that I may live mine, that is humbling beyond description.

What makes my Life so worthy that they would do this?

I guess it depends on what I do with it, doesn’t it?

Do I make my Life something that says that their sacrifice wasn’t for naught?

It depends on whether I choose to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to make sure that my Life is worthy of that sacrifice.

Because if I don’t remember their sacrifice and don’t do something to honor that sacrifice, then their sacrifice is in vain … and the greatest insult to the men and women who serve.

So when we have something to complain about, maybe we should pause and reflect on what complete strangers were and are willing to do for us.

We haven’t earned a Life of abundance and opportunity.

They earned it for us. 

All they ask is that we use the opportunity to live our Life to its maximum potential and to be grateful for opportunity to do so.  That’s not too much to ask, is it?

And so today, we are called to remember the tremendous gift that they have given us.

But we shouldn’t limit the expression of gratitude to just today.  It is one we should express every day.

Lest we forget.

In service and servanthood.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Consistency of Inconsistency

There is one thing that is consistent about human beings, that being:

“The more we claim to be different than others, the greater the chance that we are just like them”.

The #OWS movement (and all the Occupy movements associated with them) are protesting about a number of things, including the notion that they are tired of being oppressed or having their rights and freedoms infringed upon by others.  Many have talked about the need to stand up against the 1% who for too long have been intimidating the 99%.

To suggest these things is to imply that the protestors are different than others, that somehow they have evolved to a more mature, enlightened level than those they are protesting against.

Despite such assertions, we now have reports of sexual assaults occurring against some protesters at the hands of other protestors, the number of thefts from protestors as a result of the actions of other protestors is on the rise and in places like NYC, a sudden increase in unprotected sex (can we say Woodstock) has caused some protestors to scramble for STD testing.

So …. are the protestors really any different than those they are protesting against?

As I walked out of City Hall in Calgary, Alberta on Monday, I was unaware that inside the Council Chambers, votes were taking place on how the City should deal with the #OccupyCalgary movement.

I left the building to have coffee with a friend and was approached by someone at the entrance to City Hall offering me a leaflet.  Intent on getting to my destination in a timely fashion, I shook my head and proceeded to walk past him.

What followed was a tirade against me and my companion, calling us some unmentionable names that I won’t write here and citing how I was infringing upon his constitutional rights by not taking his brochure. 

A couple of other people entered the discussion and pretty soon, several of us were being lambasted on City Hall property by two individuals who derided and insulted us for oppressing them and denying them their right to push their information upon us.

While I’m always open to an intellectual exchange and my meeting companion also said “I’m in a rare confrontational mood today and ready for anything”, we walked away from them.

As we sat in the coffee shop a few minutes later, I happened to notice that one of them had followed us across the street and was staring at me through the window, wide-eyed and maniacal as he taunted me through the glass.  Eventually, he turned his attention to someone else and began to yell at them instead.

If children or elderly people had been present, they may have been frightened or intimidated by such behavior and I made a note to my companion that if either of them were still there when I went back to City Hall, I would notify security.  After all, don’t I also have a right to walk on a public street in a city in North America without being threatened or intimidated?

As I thought about this interaction, I thought about how consistent people are with their inconsistency.

In many instances, protestors are claiming that they are being oppressed by others, that they are meeting violence at the hands of the authorities and that their personal freedoms are being negated at the hands of others.

In my situation today, the actions of the people who were attempting to intimidate me or infringe upon my right to personal freedom spoke so loudly, that I couldn’t hear the message that they were hoping to convey.

Which brings me to this point.

Gandhi once said

Be the change you want to see”.

In other words, don’t tell us what you want or attempt to shove it down our throats (sometimes literally).

Lead and teach us through example.  Show us that you know a better way of leading and living and encourage us to live the same way through modeling your behavior.

Until that happens, the only thing you are showing us is that the inconsistency of demanding to be treated with respect while treating others disrespectfully is sadly consistent within the human race.

And as long as that is the case, the strength of the #OWS message is diminished and diluted.

At the end of the day, are the protestors any different than the people that they are protesting against or are they merely feeling oppressed because they are not the oppressor?

The latter would be consistent as far as human thinking is concerned.

Sadly, hopes of real change aren't realistic as long as the consistency of inconsistency persists.

In service and servanthood,


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Conspiracies and the Attraction of Redaction

I happened to make a comment on Facebook this morning along the lines of “let’s start a rumor that #OWS was actually started by the credit unions in order to get people to dump banks and switch to credit unions – it would be the ultimate conspiracy theory, to suggest that the credit unions masterminded #OWS to attract business”.

It seemed amusing until I received this email this evening:

“Harry, I know you are always encouraging people to think for themselves and to be aware of truth disguised as something  that is not obvious. Did you know that there is a rumor on the street that the OccupyWallSt group is being funded by credit unions trying to steal business from the banks?”.

Sad, isn’t it?  All it takes is something that sounds good and resonates with our need to be on guard against the covert and devious-minded and you quickly have created something that is shared as fact.

The average human mind hates gaps and will fill them in an effort to connect the dots.  Sometimes we send someone a message and if we haven’t received a reply in the time we have decided is acceptable, we wonder if the other person has been injured and can’t respond, is angry with us and doesn’t want to respond or has a devious reason for not responding.

The same holds true for information.  I love reading stories about people who spend years trying to get classified information out of the government until they finally receive the declassified version that is so heavily redacted that it is worthless and yet, the existence of the redaction reinforces their belief that they are “on to something”.

There’s even software out there that will help you set up your own redaction scheme, just in case someone chases after you about your knowledge of aliens, the JFK assassination or J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite dress color.  And yes, I’m being facetious – I know there are legitimate reasons for redaction in the public and private sector.

Accepting legitimate reasons for redaction, I believe that a large portion of human potential is being wasted processing conspiracy theories and is contributing to the mess that the world is in, cluttering our minds with a lot of noise and distraction.

However, I do get intrigued by some gaps in knowledge.  For example, there is a government group that approached me in the fall of 2010 to ask for permission to explore some of my work in the use of predictive analytics to predict human behavior.  When I asked if I had an option to decline the request, I was told that I did not.  The work that has resulted in the last year as a result of a review of my work is classified and not available to me, even though it is based on my work.  An intriguing gap, but probably not as exciting as the great stories my brain wants to weave from such gaps.

That being said, when I listen to #OWS people, conspiracy folks or anyone else who loves to convert gaps in time or knowledge into covert plans bent on the suppression of our inalienable rights or the ultimate demise of the human species in general, I am saddened by the misdirection of energy.

I mean, I agree that it wouldn’t surprise me if groups like  ████████████ or █████████████████ had an interest in hiding information about ████████████, █████████ or even ██████████.  However, I think we need to get over the paranoia that arises every time a ██████████████ says that we must ████████████ █████████ ██████ just because █████████ indicates that ██████████████ ███████████ ████████ ██████████ ██████████ ███████.

There are, however,  people and groups that we should pay attention to.  Just as the magician achieves magic through sleight-of-hand and misdirection, sometimes the people or groups that are doing the redaction aren’t the problem.  They are the “misdirection” required by someone else. The “someone else” are the ones that the conspiracy crowd should really go after.

Such people are probably pretty powerful.  I wonder if the average conspiracy person would really want to tackle what would come out of Pandora’s box once the cover has been removed on some conspiracy theories. 

I doubt it.

Until then, it is best that we not assume that every government group has a conspiracy behind it, every mountain has a UFO base underneath it and the two guys in sunglasses driving the late-model Cadillac behind you for the last two days are looking to zap your mind with a neuralizer.

Well … the last part is probably true.  But if that were the case, then ███████████ was right when he said ████████ ██████████   ██████████████ ████ ███████ ███████ ███████.

And if that were true, then we know that ███████ ████ ████████ is also true.

And that’s when I would really be concerned.

Until then, let’s put our energy into impactful things that can make a real difference where it is needed.  We can find a lot of things that require immediate fixing in the world without letting our imaginations get the best of us by creating a ton of stuff that doesn’t exist but which drains our energy all the same. 

And besides, sometimes we have to watch what we wish for – we might just find it.

Now … if only that Cadillac would stop following me around.

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The People in Your Neighborhood

How many of you are old enough to remember the song “Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood” that was on Sesame Street years go?

And how many of you remember a movie from 2001 named K-PAX, in which Kevin Spacey plays the role of Prot, a patient at a mental hospital who claims to be from a distant planet by the name of K-PAX?  When the movie ends, the viewer is not sure if Prot is crazy or an actual extraterrestrial.

Both of these ideas coalesced in an unusual way as I rode a bus into downtown Calgary at 6:45 this morning when a man not dissimilar to Kevin Spacey sat down beside me.

After a few minutes and as a commuter deposited her fare into the fare box, this man looked at her, looked at me and said, quite matter-of-factly, “I am surprised that you still use money”.

In the wee hours of a commute into the city, I wasn’t sure how to respond so I took the most logical choice possible and one typical of a commuter. 

I didn’t say anything.

My choice of playing it safe was met with a question: “Why do you think that is?”

Realizing that being the quiet commuter minding my own business wasn’t going to work, I replied, “Why do I think what is?”.  Ooops .. did that sound too snappy?

“Why are you still using money?”

Not knowing if the guy was pulling my leg, looking to start a fight with a businessman representing “the system” or was experiencing a personal malfunction in some way, I responded with a comment along the lines of “What else would we use?”

What ensued in the next 30 minutes or so was an unusual conversation, freely and easily shifting subjects between money and poverty, faith and faithlessness, abundance and scarcity and love and war.

He was disarmingly easy to engage, informed, logical and insightful and I found the conversation to be intriguing and stimulating.  He had a gaze that was a little unusual – there was a fire burning inside his mind that was compelling to engage with and his eyes were the type that bore right through you.

Of all the subjects we covered, there were two things that stood out in our conversation.

At one point in the conversation, I noticed he used the “royal we” and the “royal you”, seeming to differentiate between two societies, his and mine.  There was a suggestion that “we” had figured it out while “you” would figure it out soon enough but not until “you” were forced to.  But, as he pointed out at one point, “we’re always around to help if you need it”.

Before I could ask what he meant by that, he signalled the bus driver that he wanted to get off at the next stop.  As he stood up, he looked at me and thanked me for the conversation.  He then said “You’ll find Calgary very interesting compared to New York”, wished me a good day and exited the bus.

As he left, I thought, “What made him make the connection between me and my many years in New York?”.  I don’t have a New York accent.  I didn’t mention it once in our interaction nor do I use my cellphone on the bus where someone could glean my background by overhearing a conversation or reading something over my shoulder.

“Weird”, I thought and shrugged it off.

I didn’t give it much thought until returning home on the bus this evening and he came to mind.

As I replayed our conversation in my mind, it seemed that he was suggesting that he was from a superior race to mine but at some point we would have an opportunity to catch up or learn something from them.

Uh huh.

The chances are much better that I had entertained a delusional or lonely person, perhaps with a prescription that needed to be refilled or a hunger for companionship.

I mean, if we were to be contacted by “someone” from “somewhere else”, wouldn’t it be with fireworks, brass bands and gift exchanges on the White House lawn (assuming they came in peace)?

Isn’t that the way galactic diplomacy is done?

Then I thought about something else.

Whether or not he was who he was implying to be is not important.

What is important is that in that brief 30 minutes, he challenged my way of thinking and my perception of things that we don’t put enough attention into in the course of our busy day-to-day existence.

Which reminds me that the simple and the mundane all around us can provide triggers to higher levels of thinking, thinking that can produce solutions to many of our societal challenges if we allow our minds to go where they need to go.

Or if we allow our minds to be guided as mine was today.

So was I sharing a seat with Prot who beamed back to K-PAX after leaving the bus or was I sharing time with a sad, lonely person trying to fit into our world?

Does it really matter or is it more important to consider the gift of the exchange itself, an exchange that I found enjoyable, thought-provoking and stimulating?

I think it is better to accept the gift that is offered instead of wondering about the motive of the bearer of that gift.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Monday, October 24, 2011

Whose Eyes Do You See the World Through?

I remember a comic strip years ago where a fraudulent evangelist was hosting one of his high-energy church services.  His altar was at the top of 10 or 15 steps and he invited people to climb the steps to be healed by him.

A man who had spent his entire life walking with the aid of crutches came forward and with great struggle, ascended up the stairs to the altar and begged for his legs to be healed.

The phony evangelist spread his hands, yelled “Be healed” at the top of his lungs and kicked the crutches out of the hands of the man.  As the man stumbled, tumbled and fell down the stairs, arms and legs going everywhere, the preacher yelled out “He’s not only walking, he’s dancing” to which the congregation responded with cries of “Praise the Lord”.

The congregation saw what the evangelist wanted them to see - they were seeing the world through his eyes.

The man with the crutches saw a different reality.

The danger of seeing the world through the vision of others

Sadly, many of us spend most of our lives looking through the eyes of others.  We seek to live values as defined by others.  We choose to accept the “knowledge” of others instead of learning it for ourselves.  We allow people to make sure that their needs are met before considering our own.  And then there is the most insidious form of opinion-forming of all; when we allow others to form our opinions of ourselves.

People in the business of manipulating others count on these things, whether they be people like the fraudulent minister described above, a corrupt business person, a politician serving his or her needs instead of the needs of their constituents or any self-serving individual.

They make it look obvious to everyone that what they proclaim is the truth and if we disagree with the truth, then there is something wrong with us.  Even worse, they convince many around us to think the same way such that eventually, many are afraid to think for themselves with the fear that their idea will be alone, defenseless and considered incorrect at best or idiotic (potentially treason-like) at worst.

What triggered this thought was President Obama’s announcement the other day that all the troops in Iraq were coming home by the end of 2011.

He reiterated that he had kept a campaign promise made during the last election to bring the troops home and now Democrat supporters are rallying around the fulfilled promise of the Commander-in-Chief.

The only problem is that this isn’t quite what happened.

The truth is that the US was negotiating with Iraq for American troops to remain in Iraq (counter to the President’s election promise), some of whom to serve as advisors to the Iraqi military and some to serve as a deterrent in case Iran wanted to cast a covetous eye in the direction of Iraq.  With the failure of the negotiations and the demand by Iraq that the soldiers leave practically immediately, the President is spinning the diplomatic defeat into “bringing the troops home as promised”.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan announced this weekend that should the US take a strong stand against Pakistan for perceived “lack of support in the war against terror”, then Afghanistan under President Karzai would immediately side against the US to defend Pakistan.

With friends like these …….

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the US taxpayer an estimated $1.3 trillion with more than 4,00 killed-in-action and 32,000 wounded.

And at the end of the human and financial sacrifice, we are being asked to embrace the positive results that the politicians see.

The only challenge is …. are there really any positive outcomes to see as a result of these actions?

Yes, Osama Bin Laden is dead, something President Obama noted as a victory the other day.

And yet, if this is the primary victory that we cite after all of the sacrifice, surely there has been no more expensive manhunt in world history than this.

Looking through different eyes

If you are a politician, you tell us that Al Qaeda’s ability to wage war has been practically destroyed while asking to be reelected as a protector of the people.

If you are military leader, you tell us that we shouldn’t be so confident, that the enemy is more complex than ever which is why you are asking for permission to build better weapons.

If you are the Department of Homeland Security, you tell us that never before have we been in greater danger at home, thus justifying the need for sweeping changes in personal and physical privacy to assure the safety of the public.

If you are someone on Wall Street making millions each year in salary and bonus, you tell us that bailouts and such are necessary to preserve the American (and in fact the global) system while tightening the screws on the average citizen who can barely survive from one day to the next.

With these and other concepts, many Americans fight each other in coffee shops, the media and lately, with #OWS, in the streets over the truth of these and other statements and their ramifications.

But whose opinions are being used as the basis for the debates?

I find when I discuss these and other issues with people, they often can’t give me their own opinions.  You can usually pick these people out – when they state an opinion and you ask “how do you know?”, they usually get very angry or frustrated and rely on intimidation instead of logic and knowledge to make their point.

In the end, many of them don’t give me their own opinion but rather, they give me someone else’s …. the world as seen through the eyes of the people striving to direct them toward someone else’s preferred outcome.

We can do better – an informed opinion is a powerful one

As long as the best opinion we have is someone else’s, we will never have a chance to create a better world.

If instead, we look through the eyes of the downtrodden, the impoverished, the homeless, the hungry, the abused, the war widow, the fatherless / motherless child whose parent was lost in war, the hardworking person who lost everything through no significant action on their part, etc. , we have an opportunity to see a different world.

Once we truly see it, only then we can change it.

It is true that everyone’s perception is influenced and tainted by their own life experiences.  However, if we are going to allow our opinions to be formed through the eyes of others, then let’s choose the eyes of people whose vision reflects a greater sense of reality for the average person.

And maybe then, even if we insist on not forming our own opinion, we can at least form an opinion of greater value than many of the opinions we are forming or that are being formed for us.

A Great Correction is sweeping through the world, carrying with it a momentum that cannot be stopped.

While it has a life of its own, I believe the result, whether negative or positive, is still within our ability to direct.

Whether we choose to make it a positive or negative result depends on whose eyes we are looking through.

Which in turn determines whether we will truly be dancing at the foot of the stairs or lying at the bottom of the stairs in a crumpled heap when the Great Correction reaches its climactic conclusion.

If nothing else, look through the eyes of our children and then ask ourselves if we are making the right choices.

And then go make them.

In service and servanthood,


Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Secret To Playing Chicken

With the passing of the 15th of October comes the completion of the largest coordinated protests to-date as the Occupy Wall St. (#OWS) movement continues to spread.

There have been some unfortunate incidents, including the riots in Rome and the call by an Occupy LA spokesman for bloodshed and violence and the need to introduce socialism instead of capitalism.

There have been interesting comments from within the government ranks, with political leaders from municipal governments right up to the President, indicating support for the protestors.  What is interesting about this level of support is that many politicians originally were against the protest and now support it, even if they are on record for previously having supported the things that the protestors are fighting against.

There have been loud claims of police abuse and equally loud cries of denial.

But for the most part, the protests have been peaceful.

That being said, we have reached an important juncture with the OWS movement.

In their current implementation, with vague intentions that vary broadly from protests against corporate greed to calls for the US to admit that 9/11  was a home-grown conspiracy, continued protesting will probably not produce much in the way of hoped-for results.

After all, in their current state, they are not disrupting cities, economies or anything else in a significant way.  As they are right now, they may just become another event not considered worthy of reporting by the news media.  Perhaps they will fade from the media’s attention like the sad story of the people of Haiti who have still not recovered from the earthquake of 2010, a story that rarely gets a mention now.

Once “the big splash” of a news event has passed, the impact of the event has to be increased, either steadily or sharply, in order to keep the media’s attention.  If not, the media gets bored and moves on.

In addition, the protestors are not offering solutions for anything.  It is easy to complain but much more difficult to offer solutions.

As things stand right now, the entities that the protestors are protesting against can simply outwait them, waiting until the weather gets cold and miserable and the protestors just give up and go home.

Upping the Ante

So it’s clear that the protestors need to up the ante if they wish to continue driving their agenda and if they wish to keep the media engaged.  They in fact need the media to be engaged in order to be successful.  Without the media, their effort dies.

The media expects this and will only give them attention if they raise the stakes, thus encouraging them perhaps even beyond what they would do ordinarily.

Meanwhile, governments, with the backing of police (and potentially military support) will meet the protestors as they up the ante.

Corporations will probably stay quiet unless the government forces their hand.

So in this game of chicken, like all games, there will be winners and losers.

The secret to being victorious when playing chicken is knowing when to blink … or not.

It all comes down to how close to disaster each side is willing to go to win.

The interesting thing is this.

There are no innocent bystanders in this game of chicken.  We will all be affected by the game that is currently in play.

Hopefully the right people will blink early enough and the result will be something that will produce a positive future for everyone.

Because when people don’t blink early enough or choose not to blink at all, a lot of people get hurt.

And then no one wins at all.

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall St.–Good Intention, Wrong Address

As a Wall St. guy for many years, I look at the current Occupy Wall St. movement with a mix of sadness and concern.

I am saddened by the fact that in the most enlightened country in the world where there is more than enough to go around, there is the need for such demonstrations.

As I have often mused, we don’t have a shortage of things in the western world.  We have a shortage of appropriate distribution of the things we have.

There’s a big difference, one not easily changed by yelling at the people who have those things.

But there is something I am concerned about beyond the need for demonstrations.  I am concerned about whom we are directing the demonstrations towards.

Most People Are Not Breaking Any Laws

Despite the existence of the Bernie Madoff’s in the world, most of the people working on Wall St. are not breaking any legal laws.

Yes, it is true that some of them may be guilty of breaches of appropriate moral or ethical behavior (depending on who defines the bar for such behavior).

However, most of them are doing what almost any human being would do.

Many human beings, including many who are protesting on Wall St., would leap at the chance to make obscene amounts of money if given the chance AND the opportunity were within the confines of legality.

So it’s not a question of people and corporations making too much money.

It’s more a case of “they are making the money and I am not”.

When we really examine the root causes of the perceived evil on Wall St., there is something else that is important to consider.

We Could Have Fixed This A Long Time Ago

Many of the things that Wall St. is doing now were being done by the same individuals before the massive bailouts that saved them.  We knew about it then and bailed them out anyway without demanding significant change in how the organizations executed.  It seemed that at best, the changes we asked for in corporate execution were more around managing public perception than controlling human greed.

The bailouts therefore didn’t correct a behavior but in fact rewarded one.  It sent a message that “what you are doing and how you are doing it is fine.  You just got a little unlucky and so we’ll help you.  Carry one with business as usual”.  So when I see a President who helped architect the bailouts now siding with people who are against the bailouts and big company in general, the word hypocrite sadly comes to mind, with all respect due the Office of the President.

Business, like nature, is self-correcting.  In the grand scheme of things, when a company executes poorly or immorally, it goes out of business and others learn from the mistakes.

However, when we bail out companies, we are condoning and reinforcing a behavior.  The notion of “we needed to do this to avoid a larger catastrophe” doesn’t fly with me.  The average American is struggling anyway and the threat of a larger catastrophe hangs over us despite the money invested in the bailouts.  The bailouts didn’t prevent the inevitable – it postponed them so that they could eventually manifest on an even larger scale later.

Meanwhile the corporate behavior of the bailed out companies continues larger and more aggressively than ever.

So Who Should We Be Protesting Against?

Think of this.

Some of the protestors are protesting corporate greed, some are protesting our involvement in wars, some are fighting for better living allowances, etc.  The ones fighting the very existence of corporations don’t get my sympathy when I see them using their iPhones and iPads to get the word out.  How would they get the word out if Apple, one of the most influential corporations in the world, ceased to exist or had never existed?

However, when it comes to corporate greed, the corporate greed was rewarded, condoned and reinforced by government bailouts.

Wars, whether rightly or wrongly, are a government concern.

Living wages, whether realistic or not, are a government issue.

And with that, I would conjecture that the right place to be having a demonstration is not on Wall St. but in front of the Capitol Building, the White House and equivalent buildings across America.

It’s like having a protest on the front lawn of a lottery winner because you think lotteries are immoral.  You’re barking up the wrong tree – you need to go to the people who authorize and control the lotteries in the first place.  After all, anyone offered millions of dollars would happily accept it.

Demonstrators – A Gift From Heaven

But moving the demonstrations won’t happen as long as the President and other leaders now side with the demonstrators, fueling and encouraging their misdirected anger.

After all, if I wanted to distract people from my contribution to a problem (with the bailouts and such) or my inability to solve the current problems in the country, demonstrations against a scapegoat such as Corporate America are a gift from heaven.

In fact, if I was the President right now, I’d be issuing a sigh of relief.

I believe the President does care about solving the country’s challenges.

But if the attention of the protestors can be redirected elsewhere, at least for the time being, that’s one less thing the President needs to worry about …. especially with an election on the horizon.

If you want real change in America, you need to get to the root causes of how we got here.

And that includes holding the right people accountable, even if that means moving your protest from Wall St. to Pennsylvania Avenue.

When the true parties responsible are not held accountable, our dream of solving the difficult problems we face today are just that … dreams.

Dreams that can turn into real nightmares if we don’t solve them quickly and appropriately.

In service and servanthood,


PS I was reading the Declaration of the Occupation of New York and saw some things in there that reinforce my concern.

Looking at a few items in the declaration (quotes in italics) with my comment following each.

“They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give executives exorbitant bonuses.”.

Why would you be angry with the company that accepted the bailouts and not be angry with the group that issued them?

“They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.”

This is more of a matter for governments and educational institutions to solve, not big corporations.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

I admit that the press can be biased one way or the other but I am not aware that the military is preventing freedom of the press.

“They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.”

Uh … what corporations are murdering prisoners?  I missed that headline.

Now to be fair, there are some valid points in there as well.  But one needs to keep everything factual and focused, otherwise people will focus on the stuff that is not, thus discrediting the movement in its entirety and negating the opportunity to fix the stuff that needs to be fixed.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Expressions of Gratitude From Unexpected Sources

As I write this post, both of my feet are relaxing in an Epsom salt bath and I am feeling grateful that my journey of healing from a variety of injuries is nearing an end.

This has been a summer of “one thing after another”, resulting in a series of injuries that has severely impacted my mobility and reduced my personal travel to essential destinations only.

One of the places that I like to visit that has not been on my essential destination list (try as I might to prove otherwise) is the local Starbucks where I am a regular customer.

When it was noticed that I hadn’t been there for a while, I was surprised and grateful to receive emails, tweets, Facebook messages and the like from the staff of Starbucks, expressing concern over my absence and upon learning of my injuries, sending me get-well greetings and promises of “home delivery”.

How many Starbucks do you know that can provide home delivery?

I was also humbled when friends who see me at the same Starbucks noticed that I hadn’t been around for awhile and sent notes of inquiry, concern and subsequent get-well wishes.

However, what surprised me were the number of strangers who sent me similar queries, wondering where I was and expressing wishes that I would be back soon.

Many of these emails opened with lines similar to “You may not know me but … “ or “This may seem weird to you but ….”.

Now they weren’t complete strangers although I didn’t know their names until they wrote me.

They were from people I saw at Starbucks on a regular basis.

They were curious where the guy went who always had a nice word to say to their kids when standing in line, who answered occasional business advice questions they dared to ask, who always had an inspiring quotation or a word of advice when people struggled, who always sat there with his laptop and stack of books on the table and who always concluded an exchange with “create a great day”.

When the guy disappeared, they asked others in the coffee shop what the guy’s name was, looked him up on the web, found his email address and emailed him.

They wanted to reach out to say hi, to see how he was doing (or even if he was still in the area) and to express thanks in case the opportunity to meet again had passed.

And I was grateful, humbled and honored to receive their gratitude and to finally put some names with the faces.

Many of you have similar relationships with people that you don’t really know.  Maybe it’s the person you sit next to on the bus or subway for years on your way to work, the person who hands you breakfast in a drive thru window every day or the parent you see dropping off a child at a bus stop every morning.

They are the people you see, speak to and share a common experience with every day without REALLY getting to know them.

We don’t bother building deep relationships with all of them because we assume that if we were to do so, our lives would be overwhelmed with so many relationships.  Our lives are busy enough, we reason.

And besides, why bother building these relationships?  We aren’t really influencing each other anyway so why bother spending time to really get to know each other.

Not influencing each other at all … can we be so sure of that?

As I read emails from strangers expressing gratitude, I am reminded of how the little things we say or do have a larger impact on others than we realize.

Gratitude is an interesting thing.

Many of us claim to feel grateful for all the things we own, all the events we have experienced, our families,or friends, etc.

But too many of us keep our gratitude within, expressing it silently to ourselves in our thoughts, prayers or journals.  Sometimes we express it to others and then feel a little silly and make a joke about “a mushy moment”.  We may wait until an event like a birthday or other event where we can express our gratitude under the guise of the “I had to give them a gift because it was ____day”.

Gratitude kept within is all well and good.

But it has its greatest potential to make a difference in the world when it is freely shared, whether it be a kind word, a small act or some other token of appreciation.

It could be something as simple as an email from a stranger that says “thank you for your influence”.

It is not the size of the gift that is important.

It is the expression itself that matters.

William Arthur Ward once wrote:

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Take a moment and reach out to someone, even a complete stranger you see on a regular basis, and thank them for their influence on your Life.

At that moment, you will both be changed for the better.

In service and servanthood,


PS For my many friends and family in Canada, may you create a Blessed Thanksgiving this weekend, surrounded by the people who matter to you.  For my many friends and family in the US whose Thanksgiving is more than a month away, you still have much to be thankful for in a world filled with uncertainty.  Embrace it – gratitude expressed can form the foundation upon which better things can be built.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Addressing the ‘moral crisis’ of poverty

I was intrigued by a newspaper article I read this week in The Telegram regarding the need to address the “moral crisis’ of poverty.

A coalition of religious leaders in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Eastern Canada, made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus, made an intriguing claim.

They indicated at a recent news conference that “Ending poverty is not that complicated if the political will is there”.

I agree with them that the poverty felt by people all around the world is truly a crisis.  I believe that one of the key indicators of how “empowered” a society is is based on how well the people at the bottom of the economic scale are doing.

However, there is an interesting conflict in what groups like this one are suggesting.

They say that that poverty is a “moral crisis” (which is true) but look to governments to legislate a solution (oftentimes using higher taxes, increased minimum wages, subsidized housing, food allowances, etc).

However, there is a strategic flaw when one assumes that legislation can cure moral woes.

In many governments, when taxes go up, the increased revenue is directed towards many programs.  Anti-poverty programs are just one of many areas fighting for the same tax revenue in governments that struggle with competing priories as well as wasted spending.

If increased taxes, increased subsidies for the poor and increased minimum wage legislation could fix poverty, we would see advances in our fight against poverty.

Unfortunately, those who are living in a state of poverty continue to grow in ranks, far beyond our ability to address with a legislative magic wand.

So ending poverty is a LOT more complicated than merely having the political will to do so.

There is also the reality that a moral compass cannot be altered by legislation.

And besides, if someone said to me that everything else is figured out and that we just needed to change the will of people, I’d say “Great – you saved the most difficult task of all until the end”.

Most of us know that war is not the solution to the world’s problems but we have war anyway.

We know that love trumps anger but anger exists in the world.

We know that giving is better than getting but greed exists in the world.

We know that collaborating is better than one-man-band syndrome but there are a lot of people who would rather fail than share the glory.

Many people struggle with alcohol abuse, drug addition or other similar challenges and know they should do something about it but then struggle to actually find a way to escape the clutches of that which grips them.

Many religions espouse the need to love their fellow man and then use their religion as a hammer to oppress others.

Many people in poverty don’t want to live that way – but they do so because of many reasons, including lack of education, lack of self esteem because of a lifetime of not believing in themselves, mental illness, multi-generational welfare situations, excessive healthcare costs and a bazillion other reasons.  The studies that have been done are too numerous to count.

Yes, all things are easy if we only had the will.

But therein lies the rub – the will is not so easily tamed or directed.

When I hear people call on the need to have yet another study to find the cure for poverty, they don’t realize (or don’t want to admit) that this has been studied to death.

It’s like receiving a diagnosis of having a bad heart and being told you need to exercise more.  You don’t like the diagnosis and so you see another doctor, and another and another, hoping to find one that can give you a pill that will fix it for you as you ignore the elephant in the room.

The elephant being the notion that external fixes oftentimes don’t exist – many times we are the person who must fix a problem.

As these well-intentioned people indicate, poverty is a moral crisis.

And solving a moral crisis doesn’t start with expecting lawmakers to legislate it away.

It starts within each one of us.

And therein lies the greatest challenge of all.

Forget about whether lawmakers have the will.

The question I have is ….

…. do we?

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Leaders in Difficult Times–The Great Correction

Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. - Harry S. Truman

For the last few years, I have been publicly predicting what I refer to as the Great Correction, a time when many errors and omissions (intentional or accidental) in regulation, intention and execution within society, government and business will all come together in the perfect storm.

This perfect storm will, I believe, stagger societies around the world and will change forever how society is structured.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to have seen these things developing. 

People who study economic long wave theories have been predicting that the current cycle of abundance will end between 2012 and 2015 and will end in chaos before the next cycle engages.  Unfortunately, people who don’t like bad news refer to these economists as pessimists, uber-bears or dreamers.

News of disruption around the world, in the form of things like Arab Spring and economic spirals in Europe and the US pound our psyche every day.  Again, people decide it is better to tune out “bad news” rather than try to understand what all of these events are telling us.

Then there are people who believe that the best way to live a better life is to act as if there are no problems, thus guaranteeing that all problems will disappear.  Unfortunately for these people, reality has a way of interfering with dreams.

The fact of the matter is that we are on the cusp of significant change in the world, change that will be painful for many.  Try as we might to avoid it, it is already well underway.

In times such as these, how our government, business and society leaders respond will play a key role in how painful (or not) this change will be and how well-poised we are to emerge from the chaos to build a better world.

History is filled with stories of great victories where leaders rose to the occasion, rallied their people around a vision that inspired and established a plan to guide people out of the maelstrom they found themselves in.

History is also filled with tales of great defeats, where leaders hid from the people or chose to take care of their own needs before the needs of the people, guiding organizations and even entire civilizations into ruin.

When great challenge was before Winston Churchill’s government during World War II, he had no doubt that they would do whatever they had to to push the Germans back.  In his speech of June 18th, 1940, he concluded his vision for the future by saying:

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'

We need leaders now who will bring a similar, powerful, inspiring vision to everyone around the world.

We need people to step up with plans to carry out this vision.

And we need everyone to do their part to build others up instead of tearing them down as we carry out this plan.

The Great Correction is upon us.

With it is our chance to define and live “our finest hour”.

Do we have the will and the courage to create it?

I hope so.  Our potential indicates that we do.  However, our historic track record is less optimistic.

It’s time for our government and business leaders to stop business-as-usual and inspire us with a vision to carry us through the Great Correction or help us avoid as much of it as we can.

It’s time for President Obama and other world leaders to show us that they can guide us through the minefields that we find all around us.

Leadership in good times is all well and good.

However, it is during the difficult times that real leaders show us what they are made of.

And in turn, help us discover what we are made of.

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?



I just had the most intriguing interaction with a Twitter user by the name of @Donna_West that reminds me why we have so many problems in this world.

It’s because we are so busy trying to prove we are right that we don’t even bother listening to the other side.

In fact, we are so busy trying to prove we are right that we don’t even have time to respect the other side and understand their intentions before we slam them for something.

I had noted on Twitter that Senate Majority Leader Reid blocked the vote on President Obama’s Jobs Bill and within a few minutes, the White House issued an email asking people to demand that their Republican reps do the right thing and vote for the bill.

My tweet read:

Truth: Dem Senator Reid blocks vote on Obama jobs bill and then email blames GOP - tsk tsk tsk. http://t.co/lhz1g1Wa

Within seconds, @Donna_West replied:

@HarryTucker you are really so stupid you don't understand what happened and why?

Now … I hadn’t actually commented on who was telling the truth and who wasn’t.  I had merely made an observation.

The exchange with Ms. West developed into a full-on confrontational exchange where I was accused of not understanding government, not understanding how to tweet, not “getting it” in general, having an alleged ignorance of how government works, etc.  Her tweets flowed freely and venomously.

I tried to interrupt her emotional tirade with a couple of tweets, one referencing her Twitter profile where she describes herself as a “peace lover”:

@Donna_West I am always impressed when self-proclaimed "peace lovers" use intimidation to accomplish their means. #fail

@Donna_West Please find another direction to send your misguided, uber-aggressive, confrontational attitude. :-)

After a few more insulting tweets, this confrontational individual decided to report me to Twitter as a spam generator who was threatening her.  Meanwhile, I am receiving the brunt of the intimidation from this person’s network, including this gentle tweet from @good2bgreene.

@HarryTucker So you're just some schmuchk who invented the term "leadership incubation" to have purpose? And you think @Donna_West is spam?

Ahhhhhh …. what it is to experience intimidation from people who need to get a hobby.

Or attempted intimidation anyway.

The funny thing is that as I write this blog, a couple of these people are still wound up about me and continue to issue one tweet after another insulting me.  There is an incredible level of anger in them aching to escape.

Anger that is now directed at me because I posted a single tweet, disappointed that Republicans and Democrats can’t get along and solve the problems that need to be solved.

The response from a couple of people in the twitterverse doesn’t really matter.  There are lots of people in the world who won’t agree with everything I say.  If I needed 100% acceptance of every thought I ever had, I’d be waiting for the rest of my life.

What does bother me is how aggressive people will be in defending their position against someone else BEFORE they even know what the other person’s position is.

They make an assumption, the anger rises within them and they are off to the races.

Of course, what aids them in expressing their aggression is the anonymity they feel by targeting someone 1000 miles away.  If they stood toe-to-toe with my 6’3” frame, I don’t think they would necessarily be as aggressive.

Then again, I could be wrong.

The funny, sad, predictable thing is that many of these people, after insulting the living daylights out of someone, will turn around and play the victim when the person defends themselves.

Many bullies like to play the victim – it somehow helps them rationalize their actions, forgetting that often they are the instigator and not the victim.

They do it with a misplaced desire to “win” the confrontation, even if the other side is not even arguing.

But in the end, when such interactions occur, no one wins.

When such interactions occur, the opportunity to collaborate dies and with it, the opportunity to really produce a solution dies as well.

When someone uses anger, intimidation or misrepresentation to assert themselves without understanding the ideas or intentions of the other person, everyone loses.

As long as this continues to happen, whether it be in social media or on Capitol Hill or anywhere else for that matter, we will never solve our problems nor meet our true potential as individuals or as a society.

Hopefully, we are not yet ready to write an epitaph that reads “Civility – RIP”.

If that day ever comes, that and the result it produces will be the greatest disappointment we as a species will have ever created.

We can do better … in fact … we must do better.

Our future depends on it.

In service and servanthood,


PS I took a quick look at @Donna_West and @good2bgreene to see what they are posting as I published this post.  They have moved on to aggressively intimidating other people now.  Whew … I thought it was just me. :-)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Occupy Wall Street–The Wrong Approach

I have been watching with some concern about the growing number of “Occupy __Insert Name Here___” organizations that have sprung up in recent days in the US, whether it’s “Occupy Wall Street” in my old stomping grounds, Occupy Chicago or any of the other groups.

I am not surprised that people are protesting.  With the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in America, a lot of people are becoming angry at certain establishments, whether it be large corporations or governments.  They are also becoming afraid of their inability to provide long-term sustenance for themselves and their families.

What worries me is the lack of understanding of how we came to be in this mess and how we will get out of it.

It is true that a number of people in the upper echelons of organizations had greed as their primary motivator as they manipulated a system for their own advantage.  Some, like the Bernie Madoffs in the world, did make their wealth illegally. 

However, many play completely within the rules to build their wealth and so if you want to protest against someone, you need to protest against the people who make the rules and not against the ones who benefit from the rules. 

In addition, there are many wealthy people out there who earned their wealth.  They didn’t step back and wait for a hand-out.  Many put everything on the line to get what they have, all the while playing within the rules.

So people can’t protest based on some “moral” grounds.  Morals are as much open to interpretation today as someone describing to a blind person what the color blue looks like.  There are many protestors who, if handed a million dollars, would suddenly “understand” and would stop protesting.  It is an interesting side of human nature that very few who benefit from the rules have an issue with the rules.

The other concern I have is that there are no actual leaders of these protests.  There are no real stated intentions outside of protesting against “the man” for the reasons of fighting their greed or their alleged intentional oppression of certain classes.

There is no strategy outside of “let’s try to tear the whole system down and see what we can come up with”.

The problem with this lack of a coordinated plan is that it is very similar to the strategy currently in place by many government officials as we wrestle with the current economic crisis.

The current random strategies being deployed, whether it’s the latest flavor of quantitative easing that didn’t work, a hastily concocted round of spending cuts and tax increases that will magically create a bazillion jobs or something else all show that hurried execution without long term strategic planning and smart tactical execution produces a big, complicated mess.

Such a big complicated mess requires careful correction and not additional hasty, random measures, otherwise it produces a larger mess that will continue to grow until it’s too large to fix.

But economics, like nature, is self correcting.  It will eventually correct itself, whether by our hand or by natural evolution.  This correction, which I have often referred to as the Great Correction, will be the great equalizer and will sharply narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this occurs within the next 9-12 months, with a few worrisome warnings along the way.

So when I look at the “Occupy XYZ” groups springing up, I have one observation for them.

If you want to be the change you wish to see, then do it intelligently, strategically and tactically.

Otherwise your non-strategic, leaderless, random execution is no better than the system you are protesting against and is not going to produce much of any substance.

In fact, if you get too disruptive, you will probably draw the military in to establish law and order and by then, your claims regarding the lack of freedoms or excessive amounts of chaos in one of the greatest nations on earth will actually manifest.

The only difference is that you will have created it.

And by then, your opportunity to influence change will really be diminished.

So I respect the passion and intention of the Occupy Wall Street group.  Once the passion is focused strategically, tactically and collaboratively with an eye towards real solutions, only then are real solutions possible.

Otherwise, we slip deeper into the mess we are in.

And that doesn’t help anyone.

In service and servanthood,


PS - A Conspiracy Spin

For those that like a good conspiracy theory (and the Occupy Wall Street group probably has people who embrace conspiracy theories), think of this.  Mayor Bloomberg predicted a couple of weeks back that if we weren’t careful, we would start to have demonstrations and / or riots in the streets.

Did Mayor Bloomberg or a colleague:

a. Predict the current situation using his years of political and business experience?

b. Accidentally inspire someone to actually start the demonstrations?

c. Plant some organizers amongst the rioters in order to start the demonstrations, with intention to create trouble for some reason?  (See my blog “Reading the Fine Print” for one suggestion).

Only hindsight will tell us for sure. :-)

PPS – CNN Speaks to Protestors

This was an interesting bit on CNN.  Yes, I know the conspiracy people will say that the media is part of this …. but this is an interesting piece worth watching.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reading the Fine Print

Having been in business for more years than I care to admit, I have seen more than my fair share of contracts, NDAs and other binding covenants.

As someone who is known as Literal Man in some circles, I am fascinated and surprised by the number of people who circumvent their own legal guidance, glossing over the fine print and going it alone in creating, changing or signing such binding documents.

Too many people still sign these documents with the belief that the protection it offers to each party will never be needed.  There is an assumption that neither party will ever renege on the promises and commitments made to the other.   After all, there is an all-too-common reasoning that “why would one even enter into a professional relationship in the first place if one expected bad things to happen, therefore it must be safe”.

Pete Seeger once said

“Do you know the difference between education and experience?  Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.”

If only human nature allowed us to execute every relationship so innocently and so perfectly with the notion that any disagreement could be easily resolved over a cup of coffee.

That’s why I have been watching President Obama with some curiosity lately as he struggles to bring the economic woes of the US under control.

Many US citizens are unaware of a little-known directive that could prove to be interesting as the next election draws closer.

Specifically ….

The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive (National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51/Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-20, sometimes called simply "Executive Directive 51" for short), created and signed by United States President George W. Bush on May 4, 2007, is a Presidential Directive which claims power to execute procedures for continuity of the federal government in the event of a "catastrophic emergency". Such an emergency is construed as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions."

The presidential directive says that, when the president considers an emergency to have occurred, an "Enduring Constitutional Government" comprising "a cooperative effort among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government, coordinated by the President," will take the place of the nation's regular government.

There are a few other fascinating components to this directive as well, namely:

  1. The powers bequeathed to the “Enduring Constitutional Government” allow the government to forego elections to maintain leadership continuity as the nation moves out of crisis.
  2. The process for cancelling the directive should it be invoked are not publically defined.
  3. The person(s) with the authority to revoke the directive are not publically defined.
  4. The majority of the contents of the directive (as with most presidential directives) including the rights of the people and the powers bequeathed to the acting government are considered classified under the auspices of “national security” and cannot be viewed by most people, including members of Congress.

I added the underline for emphasis.  I believe that we are already in an extraordinary situation with an economic crisis that is disrupting the nation and in fact, the entire world.  The President of the United States is in a position to execute this directive right now should he be so inclined.

I wouldn’t have given it much thought until I heard this comment from North Caroline Governor Purdue today when she was discussing the economy:

This is what she said:

"You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It's a little bit more contentious now but it's not impossible to try to do what's right in this state. You want people who don't worry about the next election."

Her handlers later claimed she was making a joke or intentionally overhyping this scenario to highlight how voters perceive our legislators.

Sadly, she wasn’t laughing when she delivered it, neither was anyone who heard it and the function she was speaking at wasn’t a stand-up comedy competition.

In fact, I find the remark quite intriguing and leads me to believe that it may have been discussed in private (whether seriously or half-heartedly is another matter), which suggests that the option has been explored.  Perhaps someone was testing the waters to see how the comment would be received.

In a world of ever-increasing complexity, challenge, paranoia and over-analysis by the media, one has to be very careful citing an option that many Americans would not like but which is legally within the President’s right to use.

Which brings me back to understanding the fine print.

Any time a business or individual is in difficulty in a contractual relationship, it is normal to review any binding covenants to review one’s options in order to bring about the best solution possible from the standpoint of the party reviewing the covenants.

As President Obama looks at what is happening in the economic world, how the economic engines haven’t responded to classic adjustments and a Republican stance that he is very unhappy with, he is looking at all his options with an eye towards solving the problems in the best way that he can visualize.

Executive Directive 51 is within his right to use, whether we like it or not.

Frankly, many normal people out there would look at this option and would use it.

I would if I thought that my ideas were the best ones available and I thought that the options of my opponent would spin the country deeper into catastrophe.  You might also if you were the President. 

Over the years, as politicians have gently (and sometimes not so gently) changed the laws that govern the land, many citizens never bothered to read the fine print of the legislation, assuming that “the details” weren’t important.

And now even if we wanted to get to the fine print, we are not permitted.

As Andy Rooney once said:

“Nothing in fine print is ever good news”.

What the directive would mean to the country, the freedoms and rights within the country and the future of the world’s greatest democracy is unknown.

But as always, that’s what we get for ignoring the fine print for too long.  It puts us into interesting territory.

Derek Bok once said:

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.

It is highly likely that the coming months will teach us just how much our ignorance of the evolution of our government and economic models have and will cost us.

Thinking back to Seeger and Bok, let’s hope our education is not too painful an experience and that the final experience is a positive one.

In service and servanthood,


PS I was curious to see, as I watched Chris Wallace interview Rep Mike Simpson (R – ID) on Fox News Sunday on the morning of Nov. 6 / 11 when Rep. Simpson said, and I quote “"We've got to put aside our elections to solve this problem” when referring to the challenges facing the nation.  Very interesting. Smile

Friday, September 23, 2011

Truly Understanding Cause and Effect

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on September 22, 2011 that growth is the main challenge faced by the world.

In making such a statement, I believe Secretary Geithner is either willfully or innocently ignoring the true primary challenge facing the world.

Yes, it is true that we are in very difficult financial times all around the world.

However, to cite growth as the problem is to be ignorant of the laws of cause and effect and only by studying the laws of cause and effect can we get down to solving the real challenges that are facing all of us.

Wikipedia defines cause and effect as:

…. an action or event will produce a certain response to the action in the form of another event.

When we analyze a problem, many times what we perceive as “the problem” is in fact a symptom to a more deeply-rooted issue – the true problem.

This problem may be many levels deep, lost in a web of data, over or under analysis or be intentionally hidden by someone protecting themselves or a personal agenda.

However, until we get to root causes and significant contributing factors we have no hope of solving the issues at-hand.

For example, if we look at the scourges of cancer, heart attack and stroke, many doctors and experts tell us that many of them (not all) are caused or exacerbated by lifestyle – excessive or inappropriate food intake, poor exercise habits or concerns with the environment: poor air quality, soil contamination, inappropriate food additives, excessive stress, etc.

That being what it is, we look to scientists to find the white pill to cure us and save us from the terrible diseases that “take us out of nowhere”.  We know many of the contributing factors.  We just don’t want to have to face up to our responsibility in addressing them.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the financial crisis, I see a different problem. 

Think of it this way:

1. The powers-to-be have implemented fiscal policy over the years that have finally culminated in the difficulties we are living in today.  These are not problems that developed overnight – they were many decades in the making.

2. When the financial tsunami was rolling toward us, the experts didn’t see it coming (or claim they didn’t).

3. Despite many of their efforts, the economy has not responded positively to classic corrective efforts that have been successful in the past.

4. Some of these people, such as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, admitted in the spring of 2011 that they have no idea what’s wrong or what it will take to fix it.

So it becomes apparent to me that the greatest challenge in the world is not the fiscal one that some people are referring to.  The fiscal concerns are a symptom of a much larger problem.

If I architect a large-scale IT system for a client and it performs miserably, I would expect that I would be compelled to fix it.  If after many attempts, I tell my client that I have no idea what’s wrong with it, it becomes clear to the client where the real problem lies.

It’s not the poorly performing system.

It’s me, the guy who created it, can’t fix it and admits that he can’t fix it.

And frankly, I shouldn’t act surprised when I am asked to leave.

By the same token, I think if we TRULY look at the problems facing the world, we will recognize that what are promoted as problems are in fact merely symptoms.

Symptoms that point to the true causes, ones that need to be addressed if we are to see any true progress in the world.

In service and servanthood,