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.

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.