Are You Really Free? (1 of 2)

Freedom does not mean doing whatever you want whenever you want and justifying it by telling yourself you are “free” to make whatever choices you wish.

Freedom is defined by the boundaries you set for yourself.

It is what you are unwilling to do that determines what you are free from, and what parts of your Self you are loyal to.

In the matter of “freedom of choice”, remember this: you do not have to keep making bad choices before you start making good ones.

Set yourself free by choosing your values and sticking to them.


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The Truth About Every Body

Download The Truth about EveryBody.

I am offering something very counter-culture in this writing. It is one of the most important insights I have to offer, and I am honored to share it. I hope it transforms your life as fundamentally and immediately as it did mine.

Understand your body is the only REAL property you own.

Your body is the only thing of any REAL value in your world. Gold, money, real estate, jewelry, all material possessions…none of these have actual value; they are not worth anything only by virtue of existing. We are taught gold is valuable because it is gold, but in truth, any material you possess holds only the value you and another person can agree to place on it in a particular moment… An heirloom gold ring is only worth what you and someone else agree it is worth during the moment of negotiation. If you are someone who does not value gold or place emotional value on heirlooms, then the ring is not worth as much to you as it is to the seller.

Your body is the only thing that requires no negotiation of worth. It has all the value in the world to you, because it is the only thing of actual intrinsic value to you. When you die, everything loses all value; there is no value in seeing, smelling, touching, or hearing the world when you are no longer part of it. It is too late, then, to realize the only thing of any importance all along was your body—the very tool by which you experience and interact with the whole universe. In fact, your body is the only thing that really, truly belongs to you. Everything else—your clothes, your car, even the words you speak… everything outside of your body belongs to other people, to creditors, to governments, or the Earth.

Only your body is wholly yours and it is the only thing in the universe that is so.

This means if your body is the only thing you truly own, then it is the ONLY gift you can truly give another person. Everything else given must be borrowed from credit, from factories, from ideas, from the Earth or the Universe.

Do you see? Your body is the only REAL gift you own that is yours to give.

If you understand this, then you understand why you should never give your body casually to others. It must be earned, just as any extraordinary and precious material possession must be earned and treated with care. Honor and treat your body for what it is—the most valuable possession you have, or ever will have.

Understand there will be few, if any, people in the world that will ever deserve the most valuable thing you have…the only gift that is yours, and only yours, to give.

Before giving something so uniquely precious, consider the value of nearly any material gift is measured by a simple formula: the fewer people who have it, the more valuable it is.

An original painting by Rembrandt is virtually priceless because there are so few original Rembrandt paintings available, but a postcard of the same painting is worth virtually nothing because anyone can get one of those. The same principle is seen at most any high school. The most valuable prize to sexually active young boys is a virgin saving herself for “somebody special”. Boys practically trip over themselves hoping to win the virgin’s first sexual encounter. They talk about it lewdly, in hushed tones, and scheme to gain her glory. And what of the girl who has a reputation of giving herself to anybody that pays her attention? She is labeled a slut, a whore, and assumed worthless because of her alleged promiscuity.

The fewer people who have your body, the more valuable a gift your body is. Therefore, it must take an extraordinary person to deserve such an honor. “Extraordinary” means the person that deserves your body will honor your body before all others, will choose it as the most valuable gift he can ever receive, and will treat it as the most valuable thing in the Universe, next to only himself (because it will take someone who knows his own value to recognize the value of another, just as no one appreciates art more than an artist).

If you understand this and you have not, in your life, honored the value of your body as you should, then start now. RIGHT NOW, in this moment.

Understand no man or woman deserves a glimpse of your body if they have not earned it from you. Anyone honored enough to see your body should be in reverence to see all of it. An extraordinary person will look upon your bare figure for the hundredth time as if he were seeing an angel reveal itself to him for the first.

Paying attention to you, showering you with trinkets, and simply telling you things you like, or want to hear, is not enough. Flirting and being nice to you is not enough. He must honor you as he honors himself. He must see you as more than a commodity for a night or a month, or until a prettier product comes along.

If the person you consider sleeping with does not see you with reverence, then know he has not grasped the value of your body and he does not deserve to see your body a moment longer unless (or until) he honors and cherishes it properly, as the gift of highest value he can ever receive from another.

To put it simply, if a man (or woman) does not treat your body better than he treats his most expensive, important, or favored possession—his precious car, his hand-me down gold heirloom, or even his weekly “poker night with the boys”—then understand he puts you beneath something that is of obvious lesser value than you.

If he cheats on you, understand his actions say you have no value. To him, you are not even worth the unscrupulous behavior he chooses in favor of you.

Understand how you treat your body is an exact reflection of your self-esteem. Any time you wish to raise your self-esteem, self-respect, and self-worth, treat your body in kind (perhaps as you should have treated it all along). Care for your body and honor it as the only real property you own, the only item of actual intrinsic value in your life, and the only gift that is truly yours to give another—another who must prove he is absolutely worthy to be bestowed such a holy gift and will put no other gift before it.

It is that valuable.

Your body is the physical extension of your mind, your will, your Self. Taste, touch, scent, sound and vision—the body is the tool by which you are able to interact with the world and connect to another person, matching value for value. When your body is gone, these things are gone—value is gone.

You only own one thing in life and it is the most valuable property in all the world.

Be sure the person in whose hands you place this property is worthy to care for it.

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Servant Leadership is Dumb.

I like to explore popular ideas pushed by thought leaders and accepted as valid, practicable beliefs by many managers. It is important to examine what we accept as true simply because we are told it is so.

One of the most widely held leadership myths I see perpetuated is the concept of “Servant Leadership”. Management gurus like Robert Greenleaf (who coined the phrase), Ken Blanchard, John C. Maxwell, and Stephen Covey speak and write at length about the importance of putting others before yourself.

Being an egoless, selfless leader is a surprisingly popular idea. And it is wrong-headed.

I admire the work and value contributed by the leaders I mentioned, but here is the way I see it… it is important to value talent in others and it is important to help others when and as it serves your own rational self-interests.

Serving the interests of others regardless of whether their goals are aligned with yours not only undermines your effectiveness, but also steals time and energy from your focus. Worse, it subordinates your happiness and goals to the whims of others.

The idea of “servant leadership” is a contradiction-in-terms. A leader who is a servant…is merely a servant who thinks he is a leader. Nothing more. A servant is a servant.

To make clear the lie within the phrase, simply replace the word “servant” with its more proper term, “slave”. Have you heard of “Slave Leadership”? Of course not. You may have heard of a slave who became a leader, but a Leader Slave is as ridiculous as it sounds.

A leader’s ego is the most precious and coveted attribute he or she owns. It is the ego of a great leader that drives him forward, that allows him to trust his own logic and have confidence in himself when others might not. It is also a leader’s ego that others value; it is the very thing others look up to and try to emulate in great leaders (even seemingly “egoless” leaders like Gandhi… or Ken Blanchard).

If you want to be a leader, do what other leaders do. Be egotistical enough to throw out the textbook and choose to believe in the power of your own mind to make the right decisions required to lead others.

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Everything You Need to Know About a Business is in the Toilet.

When I was a teen, I spent a lot of time at our family restaurant, “Mikey’s” (named after my grandfather). I mostly got in the way of my uncle Ahab, who ran the place, but I tried to help out by bussing tables, washing dishes, and generally asking too many questions.

Uncle Ahab was generous and patient, though. He taught me a great deal about business and marketing. One of the great insights he shared with me was this:

“Everything you want to know about a business, you can find out by visiting the bathroom.”

The restroom holds all the secrets of how a business is run. Just by taking a peek at the loo, you can decide if a business is worth your time (and money) inside of fifteen seconds. With no more than a cursory glance:

  • You can see the importance placed on cleanliness and organization. Are there streaks, fingerprints, and soap spots caked on the mirror over the sink? Is the sink dirty or clean? How about the door? Dirty fingerprints over the area by the handle or clean, shiny edges?
  • You know how employees are treated. I am a firm believer if you take care of your employees then they will take care of your customers and the business. Employees who are treated well and trained well have a sense of pride in their work and the company’s mission. You can surely see this in the bathroom… the sink may be clean but how about the faucet and handles, the little things like the soap pump? Same for the light switch and cover plate—smudged with grime? The floor, especially by the urinal (if  a men’s restroom)… is it stained or does it look freshly mopped? What does the bathroom smell like…an outhouse or a clean, inviting area, welcoming customers to relax for a minute?
  • You can tell what the business thinks of its customers. How well the bathroom is cared for indicates what the business thinks of its customers. Are customers a nuisance—nothing more than a necessary source of revenue or does the bathroom seem like a space that respects and honors customers as family or special guests?
  • You know what other customers think of the business. A glimpse of the restroom can also tell you what other customers think about the business. Is there graffiti and profanity etched into the stalls or written on the walls? Does the graffiti look like it has been there a long time (another sign of what employees think about the business)? Patrons who respect a business or have a relationship with its employees will not likely muck up the restroom walls like members of an unruly gang.
  • You see what the business thinks of itself. A business that respects itself will not turn a blind eye to graffiti; they will clean it up as soon as it is noticed and ask themselves why someone thought so little of  the company. A business that has high self-esteem will not stand for dirty walls, floors, door handles, sinks, soap pumps, toilet areas, mirrors, or even toilet seats. Is there enough lighting? Is there dust caking the lights, vents, and tops of mirrors or picture frames?

By the way, the picture for this post was taken at a restroom in Chicago’s Midway airport—the only airport I never mind visiting because every time I am there, the restrooms are spotless. Notice the high privacy walls, the generous space, the lack of dust on the vents; you can see your reflection in the floors and the toilet is clean enough to sit on without a paper barrier (but they still provide seat covers). The sinks and mirrors are equally well taken care of and the airport, in general, is clean, organized, and friendly. Other airports should take notes (but many won’t because they don’t care).

It may seem silly, but everything you want to know about a business you can find by visiting the restroom. To me, this is especially true at restaurants and not just because I have worked in the restaurant business. I figure if the restrooms are filthy or unkempt, I can expect the same treatment of my food. Uncle Ahab would only have one thing to say about that: “Check, please…”

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Why Should I Compromise?

“SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO COMPROMISE.”

This was advice from the head of Human Resources where I used to work. I built a reputation for being uncompromising in my values there, and this was his gentle reminder that I had better start toeing the line. I hear variations of this phrase often: “Let’s meet in the middle”, “Nothing is black and white”, “Can’t we all just get along?”.

These phrases share in common the “Lesser of Two Evils” mentality.

As I see it, choosing the “lesser of two evils’” is a cheap way to avoid responsibility… a cop-out to keep from facing challenges to your ideals or facing a fear of standing up for what you know is right. Some people in leadership roles secure their positions due to their ability to compromise, but such people are not necessarily leaders; they are just adept at playing politics, and sometimes bullying.

Exceptional leaders, by contrast, are characteristically uncompromising. Consider what kind of business Apple might be today if Steve Jobs compromised his vision for his products or company. (Actually, we do not have to consider; we know because during the time he was not leading Apple, the company floundered, until Steve Jobs returned and built the monolith the company remains today).

A great example of Jobs’ uncompromising values and vision can be seen in the way he lured Pepsi executive John Sculley into becoming Apple’s CEO with this famous quip: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

That is a boldly uncompromising argument to convince someone to leave one of the biggest brands in the world for one that, at that time, was not.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

When I am logically and morally right, I do not back down to placate someone else’s team or pander to people in powerful positions (and yes, not kissing up to bosses is sometimes to one’s detriment; you must define the relationship between your values and you).

I do not accept “the lesser of two evils” proposition because I understand such compromise attempts to belie the fact that both options are inherently evil, or wrong. I choose not to allow my values to be corrupted, even a little, for the sake of a vague notion of “common good” (which is commonly not good for either side). One of the best bosses I ever worked for put it succinctly, “Eating a little bit of rat poison instead of a lot of it… is not okay.”

HOW CAN I GET AWAY WITH IT?

Here is the dirty secret compromisers try not to acknowledge (even to themselves). Compromising for the “common good”, “finding middle ground”, “meeting half-way”, and other idioms are ways of expressing the same question:

“How can I get away with it?”

How can I get away with doing what I want to do, while making you (or the other person or team) think you are getting away with something as well?

This is the essence of how people strive to conceal immoral intentions under the guise of somehow doing others a favor, even if they strive to do so unwittingly or unconsciously.

Rather than working to compromise, try this: If you are wrong, accept it. Then find a way to support the other option on the table.

However, if you are right, you have no reason to compromise; don’t. The person on the other side is brought into light this way, forced either to demonstrate the vile truth they are attempting to hide (possibly from themselves) or instead nudged into being courageous and doing what is virtuously evident.

When you hear, “Sometimes you just have to compromise”, remember this:

“No, actually I don’t.”

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Do You Want to Make a Better Living or a Better Life?

My FaceBook and ROWE friend, Charles Harrison Baker, once asked a question I sometimes hear repeated by others, in some variation:

“How can I turn my love of reading, writing, exercise, technology, and computers into a six-figure, or multiple six-figure, income?”

I suggested he was asking the wrong question. I asked what he believed a six-figure income would bring him. He thought about it and summed up his response by noting a large income would allow him to do more things he is interested in.

I replied, “Then maybe the question is, ‘How can I do more things I am interested in?’”

“There is some truth to that,” Charles granted, “But my family must eat. Also, I’ve only one year before my oldest starts college. I’m looking for ways to turn what I enjoy into streams of revenue rather than draining expenses.”

Let’s have a conversation about Money (and by “conversation”, I mean I am going to rant and I hope you will read my rant and possibly leave a comment…).

It is easy to believe money will solve problems instead of create them. Who has not, on occasion, said to himself, “If only I had more money, then I could… (insert daydream here)”?

Money is a tool, like a hammer. If you use a hammer properly, you can do fantastic things with it, like build a house. If, however, you use a hammer the wrong way—to drive marshmallows instead of nails, for instance—then the results will be predictably bad. The catch is, Money is a very complex tool that many of us struggle to understand. Unfortunately, our ignorance is, as in many things, our folly.

How Much is Enough?

Consider the NBA (National Basketball Association) or any other major sports organization. There are athletes who make 6 million dollars per year but leave their winning team to play for a team offering 7 million dollars per year.  Why would an athlete do that, dismissing his loyalty to his home team and his established fans? The answer is because the other team offered 7 million—and that is 1 more than 6. And more means better. Even when you are making 6 million dollars per year—an amount that seems absurdly sufficient for most of us—it does not matter. It is not enough money; the athlete believes since 6 million has not fulfilled him, another million will make a difference, will somehow make him happier or more content.

More money is never a solution, but our social training commands us to believe it is.

Employees live in the same broken paradigm. They believe more money will make their jobs more tolerable. They are right; it will. A salary increase will make an employee feel better about his job for about (and let’s be generous here) six months. Then he will steadily realize he has the same job he did before and the job is as misery-inducing as it ever was.

The reward of money tapers off, so like crack-addicts, we scrabble for the next high; we need more and we need it now. A bigger influx, we think, will do the trick; a larger raise, or a different company offering more cash (but the same miserable job in the same miserable career).

Money can be a fine reward, but it can only be a temporary one. Companies that realize this, win. Companies that do not, fail. They get stuck in the trap of believing the best way to fix a problem is to throw more money at it. Because employees share the same ignorance about money, the system feeds itself, and we have… well, what we have today.

More! More! Less…?

If more money is not the answer, then what is?

I think we should start by asking, “What do I believe money brings me? For what do I secretly think more money is the solution?”

Sometimes I find myself pining for things I believe wealthy people have (that I do not). I really want to own a mansion instead of my 848 square foot home; I also want a couple expensive, fast cars instead of my 2006 pick-up truck, and a winter home in Savannah, Georgia. I want my parents and in-laws to have second homes, too, and to travel internationally as much as they want. That is how my family taught me to know I am doing good in life—by how much excess I have and how much I can pay for other people.

If all those things were true, though—if I had the fast cars, the big house, and the winter getaway—the truth is I would be no happier. In fact, I know I would be more miserable. Does that seem counter-intuitive?

Consider this. When I was 18, I lived with my parents and thought a quarter-pounder combo from McDonalds was about as good a meal as it gets. I owned a beat-up, rusty, very used 1987 Chevy Astro Mini-van. I know… total chick-magnet, right? I would have done anything—anything—to have had the money to move into my own place and own a car I would not have been embarrassed to show up for a date with, and been able to afford to take a date to a restaurant that actually had a  wait staff.

20 years later, at 38, I was a homeowner, my car was less than five years old, I ate only vegan, organic food, dined at nice restaurants, and guess what? I thought my house was too tiny, I didn’t like my neighborhood, I wished I had a Tesla Roadster instead of a Nissan Titan, and every winter I dreamt of visiting my imaginary house in Savannah. Incidentally, if I had the fancy cars and bigger house, no doubt I would have wanted another car, a yacht, and a housekeeper.

It is easy to imagine there is a point at which I would be content, but all I need to do is look around. Even the wealthiest people I know, who seem, to me, to live in a fantasy land… they want MORE. And more. And more. It is never enough. You might be thinking it would be enough for you, but the truth is you have enough already… and it is not enough. If you are an average middle-class American, you live better than nearly 90% of the world. You have clean water—you even have the wealth to buy bottled water in addition to your clean tap water—you  literally have a roof over your head when you sleep, your homestead is likely larger than a 10 x 10 foot room, you have access to medical care, you have enough food that you can casually throw some away, and you have a means of transportation, even if it is a bus or a bicycle.

Tragically, though, we have been conditioned nearly all our lives to keep consuming and disposing. We want things we never even dreamed would exist only 10 years ago. Remember cassette tapes? When you had a cassette player, you wanted a CD Player even though you didn’t know what a CD Player really was, but you knew you had to have one because sound does not get better than with a CD Player. Until MP3 players came out. Then you had to have one of those. Then you needed a phone with an MP3 player built in. Now you need a phone that costs as much as a desktop computer.

The reason lottery winners almost never have happy endings to their stories is because the system is a con. It is designed to train us to be consumers and disposers, and to feed that cycle continuously.

Again, it is never enough… until we say it is.

Beating the System

Here is an idea. Instead of continually scaling up, put your efforts into trying to scale down. Accept that you are wealthy (because you are extraordinarily wealthy compared to the tomato pickers working for Burger King, Taco Bell, and most grocery chains). Rather than trying to accumulate more junk goods, work toward minimizing your consumerism.

Here is my 3-step plan to live happily, wealthily, and wisely:

1. Free yourself from debt.

The bad news is it will probably take four times as long to get out of debt as it did to fall into it (because we are paying for everything four times over, or more), but there are ways to accumulate victories and speed up the process. For example, pay the minimum due on all credit cards except one (the one with the highest interest rate or lowest balance—your pick). On that one card, pay as much as you possibly can each month until it is paid off. Then pretend you are still paying on it and add that amount to the next card with the highest interest or lowest balance, while paying the minimum on the rest, and so on…

2. Stop accumulating.

You do not need more things but no doubt you want them anyway (I know I do). We can make a deal with ourselves, though. For every new item we buy (aside from groceries), something must go. In other words, if I buy a new pair of jeans, I must get rid of a pair of jeans—either to charity or on Ebay, or just in the trash, but something equivalent must go. If you want to be really aggressive, remove two things for every new purchase or gift. For your groceries, shop at smaller, local stores. You will find the prices quite comparable to the big box stores (like Kroger, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, etc.), but they will have a smaller selection, which will help you scale down. When I shop at a big box store like Target, I find even if I am just there to pick up a roll of toilet paper, I walk out having spent a hundred dollars. When I shop at Trader Joe’s, however, I still buy a week’s worth of groceries but I save about $30 on each trip, because Trader Joe’s does not have everything I want; they just have everything I need. Same for my local hardware store instead of Home Depot or Lowe’s, and same for local or used clothing stores instead of the big chains.

3. Buy experiences instead of products.

This has been the hardest lesson for me because I love gadgets. Instead of spending $4,000 on a new television, though, why not buy the cheapest one that meets your needs (say, for $500)? Save up or use the extra $3,500 to go on a vacation. The feeling you get from the latest episode of Desperate Housewives lasts until the next episode. The feelings and memories from a vacation in the tropics, however, will last your whole life. Which is the better return on investment? This does not apply only to big purchases. Angela and I learned the movie “Inception” was a $42 waste of time, even in 3D, and even at the Imax theater. Not that it was a bad movie, but it was $42 and 2 and a half hours we will never get back. For the same price, we could have spent the entire day at the Science Center, a museum, an amusement park, or just having a wonderful picnic under the shade. What a waste that we didn’t.

There you have it. I focused on money here, but the same principle applies almost anywhere in your life. When you find yourself answering problems with, “If only I had more… (money, time, authority, etc.)”, stop yourself and ask, “How can I apply LESS to solve this problem?” More is rarely the answer.

So Charles, if you are reading it, this one was for you. I hope you reconsider that your love of reading, writing, exercise, technology, and computers is not about creating an income stream from doing those things. If money is the goal, there are lots of ways to make money, but you do the things you love because you have a passion for the experiences they bring.

Concentrate on increasing the experiences, and the money will come. Or not. But what does it matter if you are making a better life, instead of trying to make a better living?

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The 10 Commandments of Leadership

 

 

What is it about religion that produces such a profound and lasting effect on followers, and commands a level of loyalty and dedication any leader would  dream of aspiring to? I say there are 10 things, and if leaders internalize them, we will have a strong foundation for moving ourselves, our peers, our team, and our organization forward. Check them out.

The 10 (Leadership) Commandments


1. Religion has a unifying message with broad appeal that people rally around (indeed, the message is so appealing wars are fought over it). What is your personal message (or your organizational message)? What is inspiring about it? What are the priorities you (or your company) stand behind? What is the vision you and your followers should be striving for?

2. Religion advocates a clear reward for effort and conformity. If you live a good life, you go to Heaven. The reward is commensurate to the effort required to achieve it (if you live your whole life in conformance to the rules of the religion, then you get keys to the Pearly Gates and experience infinite joy). If your company believes the reward for work done well is you get to keep your job, you lose. If your organization believes the reward for work done well is more work (that probably belongs to someone else who was not pulling their weight), guess what? You lose. If your organization believes the reward for work done well over two decades is dinner and a nice watch… you lose. If this sounds like your company, I hope your leaders wake up because you are having your ass handed to you by companies who understand the reward for work done well is not more work. It is, instead, more freedom and greater autonomy (after all, what is Heaven all about? The gold streets are nice but not so important; the freedom to live forever in peace is what really counts…).

3. Religion provides simple, clearly stated, immutable rules to govern behavior and actions. These rules, or commandments, are minimal (there are only 10), not convoluted, and not filled with sub-clauses or exceptions. How do your company’s Human Resources policies compare? Do you need to fit them on more than 1 page? Is your dress code more than one sentence (“Dress sensibly.”)? HR representatives may be losing their minds as they read this, but here is the quick and dirty version to treating people like Humans and leveraging them as Resources: if you treat employees like adults, by and large they will act like adults. If you manage to the exceptions instead of the rule, you lose. If you do not believe this, it is simply because you have not tried it. How do I know? Somehow you and every other employee muddle through the rest of your lives outside of the office without needing a 40-page manual of policies, codes, guidelines, and other infantilizing documents. Consider that. 10 commandments are plenty. More than 10 is silly.

4. Religion has simple, clearly stated, repercussions for choosing not to follow the rules. I hear Hell is pretty warm this time of year… Notice the Bible, Qu’Ran, and Tora do not have progressive disciplinary policies. Company rules should be equally simple. If you produce results, you are part of the team. If you spend your time instead trying to derail the company’s mission or kissing up to the boss, you can be part of another company’s team. Face time and presence at a desk or in an office do not equal results. The new rule is this: move the team forward or get out.

5. Religion is filled with charismatic leaders who believe in their mission more than anyone else, and model the rules of behavior perfectly (for example, Jesus, Moses, Jim Bakker…). Does your company preach jargon like empowerment, trust, and innovation… but then reject new ideas, punish employees who buck the status quo, and force management into a role of permission-granting and law enforcement? That is the equivalent of being a Jim Bakker, of holding up a facade that looks like leadership. Looking like you are leading is not the same as leading. Jesus talked a good game, sure, but what set him apart from others is he did not stop at the words.

6. Religious leaders are visionary and approachable. They are also revolutionary. Perhaps in contrast to the number two leadership commandment (clear rewards for effort and conformity), great leaders provide clear rewards for conforming to their vision, but themselves are not seen as conformist. This is an important distinction. If the executives at your company are perceived as mouthpieces for the CEO or ownership, then they are not leading; they are following. Religious leaders believe fully in the message from their leader and they enroll others in their mission, but they are also seen as individual, autonomous thinkers by their own right. They are seen as people who strive to set the status quo where it is misaligned, not as (sometimes frustrated but ultimately powerless) enforcers of the status quo.

7. Religious leaders often heal, but never harm or directly punish their followers and supporters. Jesus was unbelievably forgiving; He even forgave the people committed to killing him, modeling to the end, the proper behavior he wished to see perpetuated. HR departments are sorely dysfunctional at many companies because (among other reasons) HR is intended to be the place employees go to find support and address their concerns, yet it is often also the entity that designs the methods and severity of punishment for wrongdoings. Human Resources, in effect, has become the abusive husband who beats his family, but lets them know it is for their own good and that he would not hit them if he did not love them. Choose NOT to be the leader who walks around carrying a big stick. Choose, instead, to be the proverbial old master—the Mr. Miyagi—who allows students to learn lessons on their own, but instructs them wisely and guides them to their goals.

8. In Religion, empowerment occurs through “free-will”, rather than “command-and-conquer”. Leaders that employ “I lead; you follow” or caste-system ideologies always lose in the Holy script (consider the Pharaohs…). By contrast, leaders that offer great vision and encourage participation, without punishing those who choose to walk away, always win (consider Moses, Jesus, and Saint Thomas Aquinas). The more freedom to be adults you offer employees, the more likely they are to follow you. Some executives have a hard time accepting this, but it is really no more complicated than stated here. Try it. It works.

9. Religious leaders achieve success through positive reinforcement, praise, and by rewarding perseverance. The “Land of Milk and Honey” came only after the hardship of crossing the desert—again, a reward commensurate to the effort. Leaders achieve success by also asking their firmest supporters to spread the vision and message, thus enrolling others (as Jesus enrolled the Disciples and they, in turn, spread His message by enrolling others). Jesus gave regular sermons speaking of Peace and Heaven (positive reinforcement for hardships faced in the present). Jesus gave praise to both his “Leader” (God) and his followers (the Apostles). Jesus healed the sick, thus rewarding perseverance and dedication to His cause. How does your company reward perseverance, success, and longevity? Are the rewards commensurate to the effort?

10. Religious leaders share, and regularly reaffirm the mission, vision, and goals-to-focus-on now. Religious leaders do this regularly—at least every Sunday. In some companies, the leader gives a quarterly status update. I do not know if there is a magic number for the right amount of vocally re-committing to your (or your company’s) goals. Hourly is clearly over the top and I suspect quarterly is not enough. My advice here is this needs to be an ongoing conversation, and it needs to start every time a new employee, team member, or follower, joins the team or movement.

Praying for Your Success

Being placed in a leadership position without proper leadership training is unfair to both the leader and the team he or she is charged with. A leader in that predicament is short-changed because he does not have the requisite skills or understanding of how his decisions affect the lives, attitudes, and livelihoods of the people being led. The team suffers by feeling lost (personally or professionally) and having little or no desire to drive the leader’s goals.

The result is a company in constant struggle, caught in a malaise of indifference toward work. There is ambivalence when results are achieved because goals in a dysfunctional company are won through abuse of power rather than through individual passion and collaboration.To succeed as an organization, you must create your personal “leadership religion” (or your “organizational religion”, or both) and figure out how best to preach it to your “masses”. BUT, all 10 things must be in place to be effective (the “9” commandments would not have worked if, say, “Thou shalt not kill” was left out).

One last thing to note, which should be obvious now, is that no less than 5 of the 10 Commandments to Success center around Leadership. If you are not on board already, it is time to see the Light and repent your former ways.

What do you need to do, to bring a “religion of success” to your organization? For extra credit, review the Leadership Commandments for your personal life, as well.

 

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Source and Motive: Irena Sendler, Al Gore, and the Nobel Peace Prize

I received a chain e-mail about Irena Sendler, an unacknowledged heroine of World War II. Ms. Sendler saved the lives of more than 2,500 Jews (mostly children) until she was caught and tortured by Nazis. Even after WWII, she tried to reunite the children with their families.

Hers is a touching story that was destined to make its way to Hollywood, but the gist of the e-mail was this: Irena Sendler was looked over for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 in favor of Al Gore who won for… “a slide show on Global Warming”.

As you may know, I am not a fan of chain e-mails and I approach them with great incredulity. The friend who forwarded this message was smart and kind enough to provide a link to the Snopes.com page confirming the story as true.

True, the story may be, but it bothers me when people accept statements as fact, or stories as truth, without questioning the Source or the Motive. I spoke to the outraged friend who sent the chain e-mail, explaining:

“I am unclear as to why the anonymous author is attacking Al Gore for winning the Nobel Peace Prize instead of attacking the Nobel Prize Committee for not nominating Irena Sendler. And nominating her sooner…say, at any time since the 60 years after World War II ended.

“Mahatma Gandhi and Pope John Paul II did not win the Peace Prize either, though both were nominated several times. No offense to Ms. Sendler, but it seems like they should be a little higher on the fake ‘moral outrage’ list.”

To me, this is a key difference between “People” and “Sheeple”.

“Sheeple” read a compelling story like Ms. Sendler’s and accept it all-inclusively. They are (as the author of the chain-email intended) outraged by the injustice of it. They immediately forward it to their friends without a second thought, perpetuating a chain of ignorance.

“People”, on the other hand (unlike Sheeple), pause and are inquisitive about what others ignore. “Why is the author anonymous?”, People ask. “What is the motive behind this message?” I was unable to find answers to those questions with the Irena Sendler chain, but rather than add more links, I did the proper thing with this circa 2007 message still making its rounds: I deleted it.

If I had to venture a guess, it would be this:

The author is part of a political agenda to smear Democrats. I am not a fan of either Democrats or Republicans (to me, they are the same Party), but I have no tolerance for even slimier people running their slimy under-handed campaigns. Whatever outrage there is over Ms. Sendler’s Nobel snub, it is clearly phony.

There is no correlation between Al Gore winning the Peace Prize and Irena Sendler being nominated.

A quick search on the history of the Nobel Peace Prize will point out that Ms. Sendler, despite her humanitarian efforts and moving life story, probably should not have qualified to be voted for the prize in the first place.

Alfred Nobel, the creator of the prize, stated in his will, the Peace Prize should go to the party who:

“…shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

I think Irena Sendler deserves recognition and perhaps a larger place in the footnotes of history, since neither I nor probably you, had ever heard of her before now, but I do not think Ms. Sendler met Nobel’s criteria for the Peace Prize.

More to the point, it can not be confirmed that she was, indeed, nominated, as the nominations are held secret for fifty years after the prize is awarded. There is only an allegation that a nominator revealed her inclusion to the public (at least, as far as I could tell, it is only an allegation).

I made a modicum of effort to look into this. The author did not make any effort, or hoped you wouldn’t. I’m sure that is the way they would like to keep it, too. It is much easier to prey on the ignorance of Sheeple than to try to sway real-life thinking People.

What I want you to take-away from this post is:

  • Question what you are told.
  • Question what you feel.
  • Question what you believe.
  • Question the source.
  • Question the motive.
  • Question your questions.

See a pattern there?

Please do not forward chain-mails.

If you agree or disagree with something you read and think it is important enough to interrupt the lives of others with, then do your research, formulate your own thoughts about it, and send that out. Even if you are not an elegant writer or speaker, at least the thoughts you forward will be yours, a product of YOUR mind and YOUR effort, and YOUR intellect, not someone else’s.

Think about that.


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Why Be Respectful?

 

Master Peterson (foreground) and Me (in mirror) guest-teaching an Escrima (stick fighting) class

 

An important tenet of Martial Arts is the principle of Respect. Guests in the dojo are sometimes amused or befuddled by the amount of bowing and training traditions to which students adhere.

Students bow when walking on or off the training mat, they bow to their instructors, to other students, and at the beginning and end of class. They line up by order of rank (indicated by the color and striping of their belts). Exercises are typically performed with the highest ranking student leading, and meditation begins by allowing senior students to kneel first.

These uniformed rules and practices are more than relics from ancient times. Martial arts training is designed to reinforce the values of the art–such as the value of placing Respect above Combat–before, during, and even after battle. In a fight, adhering to your values can be the difference between succeeding with honor, knowing you have earned your victory, or cheating to win but knowing you really lost (not only the fight but also part of what makes you human–your intellect and self-esteem).

To excel at martial arts is not easy. I remember the effort I made to attain my rank. It is difficult to forget how hard (and rewarding) it was to ascend with each stripe from White Belt.

It is with my own experience and hard work in mind that I honor the students and masters ahead of me for the efforts they made to earn their status and rank. I show respect by keeping such traditions as bowing, following rank order, not interrupting the master instructor, etc. because one day I may be the master instructor. I hope my students will demonstrate and internalize the values I uphold (whether in martial arts or in their lives) as I did before them.

Showing respect is a way of honoring the highest values in people.

Every student’s effort is different and private, but regardless of the level of each person’s achievement, I keep in mind that every student has had to overcome the best and worst of themselves, and their own previous efforts, to get where they are.

I start with Respect because respect gives deference to Effort, Ability, Willpower, and Success. It shows how you value your work and the work of others. Showing respect honors your commitments to yourself, as well…to your own Effort, Ability, Willpower, and Success.

Lastly, having respect for martial arts also ensures you do not use your skills indiscriminately. A serious martial artist does not consider his skills something to play with or for use when "horsing around" or having fun with his friends. That is the purpose of training at the Dojo.

Martial Arts are ultimately designed for combat; a human weapon can be as dangerous and as damaging as a loaded gun. The warrior who respects himself, his art, his dojo, his teachers, and others always keeps this in mind. A fighter with no respect is only a talented bully. A fighter who respects and honors himself, his challengers, and the challenges he faces… earns the title of Martial Artist.

 


It is my honor to train with Shihan (Master) Montise Peterson at his highly esteemed school, Mizudo Academy of Martial Arts in Dearborn, Michigan.

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You Think You Love Food?

I love food. I mean, I love it in a way that extends beyond emotion. Good food can soothe the soul, tame a temper, or intoxicate a lover. There is nothing so satisfying as engrossing conversation between deep friends over a grand meal.

Adopting a vegan lifestyle, however, can seem to limit food options. In fact, some people I know (even within my family) think the only type of person that can give up eating anything that is, or comes from, any animal must be the kind of person that hates food. After all, how can I say I love food but ban all meat, cheese, milk, butter, ranch dressing, and nearly every type of candy bar made by Hershey, Nestle, Mars, or Cadbury?

Was I born with malformed taste buds or something? How can I resist such yummy treats and barbecued meats?

Here’s the deal. In my opinion, vegans are the REAL foodies; everyone else just likes food.

The way I see it, most people eat indiscriminately. We stuff our faces with anything that says “tastes great!” on the label. (If you were just now protesting that you do not stuff your face with most anything marketed to you, consider reading the listed ingredients on the last hot dog you enjoyed.)

Vegans (and even more so, raw foodists) do not eat unconsciously. Instead, we discriminate, and sometimes with ardor. We choose to eat only the best food available, the most nourishing, and the most healthful. It is because of our deep love of food and the pleasure it brings our bodies that we typically choose organic over genetically modified, natural over highly processed, real over chemical, and healthy over fatty.

Where unconscious eaters see healthful diets as akin to being eternally damned to eating only grass and tasteless tofu the rest of their lives, my experience of being vegan is completely opposite. Going vegan taught me to appreciate more types and flavors of food than I ever knew existed before. When I was a “meatie”, I ate basically the same thing wherever I went. Regardless of the restaurant or time of day, every meal consisted of meat, cheese, and carbohydrates. Breakfast- omelet, sausage, biscuit. Lunch- burger, fries. Dinner- pizza.

Being vegan forced me into options I never would have considered before: tofu, tempeh, seitan, tomato kibbee, lychee, carrot juice, lentil soups, brown rice, vegetable sushi, and much, much, much, much more… Every meal is different now, each one offering a new experience, a new adventure. Traveling to other towns and finding their organic/vegan hotspots is always a rewarding journey with many pleasant surprises. 

 

You see, you have to really love food to choose a vegan or raw lifestyle. You have to be willing to pay a little more for the finer things. And what is a more important expense than the fuel that runs your body? Don’t be afraid to throw a few extra bucks into the grocery bill and eat right; it is the best use of your money by far, against almost any other expense. To be vegan, you have to want the very best for your body and your health. You have to be discriminate, educated, and conscious about what you put in and on your body.

You have to want the best because you deserve it and you have to love food enough to say “No” to bad food. You think you love food? Maybe you do. But ask a vegan about her favorite dish and watch her zeal as she describes something that sounds more like a vacation than a meal.

Now, that’s someone who loves food.

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