Respect, Compassion and Mercy

To my mind the three most important qualities any team concerned with building a firm foundation can posses are these: respect, compassion and mercy. These qualities of character are signs of strength, not weakness, and they provide “oil” necessary to lubricate the areas of friction between departments, between people and within the individual himself.

Building an organization free of the uglier elements of human nature takes time, patience and ingenuity. You must, as a leader, establish a beachhead of excellence and then invite others one by one into your camp. The genuine concern for purposeful living establishes the trajectory toward refinement, while integrity unlocks the door to the gate which leads to the camp. Both are necessary and both must be nourished if there is any hope of having people with you on the basis I am describing.

Nothing to Stop Them

My sons and I take a few minutes every evening before bedtime to sanctify our hearts. My youngest made an interesting observation after we spoke about the importance of universal respect and while I don’t recall the exact words, he said something to the effect that “Grown ups are better than kids at everything except for one thing: friendship.”

He told me that kids can make friends with anyone because there is nothing to stop them. He didn’t elaborate but I thought the point was brilliant for its simplicity and poignancy. Later last night I asked myself: “What stops me?” It’s a valuable question, one that forces you to take an honest inventory of your attitudes, beliefs, motivations and history of action (or inaction), as I’ve learned over the years that if anything can stop you, it will.

Take time today to consider what has tended to stop you until now – don’t underestimate the value of putting it in those terms – and list specifically how you can reorient your heart in relation to that element of frustration, constriction or restriction so that you can overcome it once and for all.

The Answer

At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.

– Lao Tzu

One of my greatest joys as an entrepreneur is having the privilege to set the stage upon which those within my sphere of influence can enter into self-discovery. The workplace can be so much more than just a place where work gets done. In fact, it’s hard to find a better environment for coming into one’s own.

The default corporate environment is cold, unfriendly, competitive and utterly stifling to creative self-expression. As such, to create a different type of environment requires deliberate planning and constant care. I’ve realized over the years that there are several fundamental qualities which must be universally upheld if there is to be a corporate environment which facilitates rather than frustrates self-awareness.

Those qualities are:

  1. Respect
  2. Appreciation
  3. Honesty
  4. Compassion
  5. Resolve
  6. Adaptability
  7. Resourcefulness
  8. Persistence
  9. Cooperation

Condition the soil of your company, division or department with these qualities and you will not be disappointed with what grows!

Impeccable Living

No accurate thinker will judge another person by that which the other person’s enemies say about him.” ~ Napoleon Hill

One of the challenges I face as a manager is to deal with the occasional tiffs that come up between people in relation to details at work. While “enemy” is a strong term in this context (co-workers are rarely true enemies), tempers can flare in relation to the smallest of details…even between those who would call themselves friends.

Dealing with these quarrels over time has taught me an important lesson, namely, that it is never wise to judge a person based on what his enemies say about him. Such an approach is no different than the one taken by those who frivolously form their opinions on celebrities by reading the tabloids at the supermarket. It is a decidedly superficial approach to living, one that substitutes hearsay for the truth and ignorant prejudice for the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve found that it is much better to treat others with honest skepticism, to get to know them for myself, than to blindly trust the opinions of others. I would hope that they would accord me the same respect, wouldn’t you?

Ironically, you can tell a lot about a person by the enemies he has made. Some of the most influential people who have ever lived had some of the fiercest enemies and bitterest critics. If you think of the treatment accorded Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet Muhammad, Galileo Galilei or even Martin Luther King, Jr., it is clear that representing a higher standard and devoting your life to the pursuit if, not the revelation, of truth is a sure way to make vociferous and at times violent enemies in the world the way it is (and has been for some time).

Impeccable living has a way of drawing the line in the sand. It causes those wedded to mediocrity to either renew their vows or petition for a divorce, depending on their state of mind and heart. It intensifies the discomfort of sitting on the fence and makes those who serve two masters realize that they must give themselves fully to either the one they love or the one they hate. The choice is never forced; it is made according to the tenets of free will.

You have a choice.

I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” ~ Franklin Roosevelt

Where I grew up we didn’t…

You’ve no doubt heard conversations in which people define themselves, defend their positions and deride others with the statement “Where I grew up we didn’t…” What follows is usually some anecdote that serves to make a point which carries the weight of precedent and by extension, history.

While it is certainly true that you are defined in large measure by your childhood experiences, you needn’t let the days of your youth define the years of your adulthood. Every child has the opportunity to rise above the strictures of personal and familial precedent. The idea that you don’t, that is, that you have a station in life and that you are better off respecting the envelope of possibility you were born into is outdated, outmoded and utterly false.

Your life expression rightly emerges from the inside out and is radiant in nature. Just as you had your start in the confines of your mother’s womb, when you continue to cooperate with life rather than struggling against it you will go through successive periods of rebirth into a larger sphere of living and influence. Life’s inclination is to move upward and outward, not downward and inward.

Adolescence is one of those critical periods of rebirth. Teenagers, full of the spirit of life, are typically hellbent on defining themselves. The longing to know who they are and what they are here to do burns in their hearts and minds, but they typically lack the tools and discipline necessary to navigate the pressures of labor and birth present in this important phase of life. As such they need a doula or a team of advisors (typically other than their parents) to help keep them on the path to self-revelation.

Parents who do not allow the lives of their children to expand do a tremendous disservice to the child. They create an artificially self-limiting environment that is deficient in critical nutrients as no parent or parents are so complete in and of themselves that they can provide everything their children need. Most parents who do this to their children feel well-justified, typically on the argument that they don’t want to miss the child’s youth, which, dear readers, is fundamentally selfish reasoning that is ignorant of the process by which individuality is nourished into being.

In an imperfect world it is highly unlikely that any child will have a perfect childhood. There will be deficiencies, mistakes made and imbalances that become more obvious as the child grows older. You are wise, then, to recognize that your childhood experiences should not limit or define those of your children. This is not to say that your children will be “better” than you, neither does it mean that their purpose is to beat your records. True individual expression is not relative, it is absolute.

Parents would be wise to provide the safe and controlled growing room by means of which their children can see beyond the blinders imposed by immediate family, relatives, societal norms and cultural mores. Individuality loses its unique and original character whenever life expression is stuffed into a preformed box.

As you can imagine, there are implications for parenting, education, business organizational theory and more to this notion of personal development. We, in all of our human brilliance, have elected the familiarity and comfort that dribbles from the status quo over the newness and richness that flow abundantly from a more dynamic, organic approach to living. Life is never static. Neither should we be.

On Parenting and Falconry

While I am inclined to favor the cultivation of personal responsibility over the imposition of regulation, I cannot help but note the irony of the fact that to practice the sport of falconry you must first obtain a license that comes only on the completion of a challenging and comprehensive written examination and a two year apprenticeship, while no test of fitness is ever imposed on prospective parents in the interest of the child.

Although those with ornithophobia might take exception to the following claim, raising children is more dangerous, demanding and complicated than caring for a raptor. And while I risk offending the sensibilities of my fellow falconers, I am fairly confident that a well-raised, well-rounded child is more important to the future of our planet than a well-manned bird.

That said, I would love for there to be an abundance of both well-mannered children and well-manned birds on this planet and I do not believe that the two are mutually exclusive. As one of roughly 4,000 falconers in a country of 307,000,000 people, it is my great pleasure to share a few of the many valuable lessons I’ve learned while practicing this remarkable sport, lessons that have influenced and hopefully enhanced my approach to parenting:

  1. Raptors are highly sensitive creatures. In my observation, raptors meet calmness with stoicism and agitation with frenzy. Only a falconer who has mastered himself is capable of subduing the intensity of a wild bird of prey. Lesson learned: when you are concerned to extend control, never act out of reaction. Exerting a radiant influence compels lasting agreement while forcing the matter secures only temporary acquiescence.
  2. Raptors recognize patterns that you might otherwise miss. Raptors live and die by pattern recognition and falconers must take great care in the patterns they establish with their birds. Lesson learned: children are always watching, listening to and learning from their parents, whether they acknowledge them or not. There is no “off-camera” or “off-the-record” when it comes to raising children. You are always live and you must, therefore, take great care with your thoughts, words and actions.
  3. Raptors are never fully tame and are therefore always potentially dangerous. The relationship between falconer and bird is largely based on food, though some falconers, myself included, suspect a deeper bond. Lesson learned: while children can learn the art of civility, parents are wise to always leave room for the occasional irrational outburst. Take care not to allow flat spots to develop in the child’s character and when weaknesses are detected, don’t always go straight at them. Character flaws are not permanent and they can be back-filled with careful and thoughtful intervention.
  4. No two raptors are the same – physically, mentally or in personality. Every bird must be approached a little differently. Similarly, each species has its stereotypical traits, thought there appear to be more exceptions to the rule than followers. Lesson learned: The same strategies and tactics used with one child, say a first child, may not work on the next. Parents must be light on their feet, capable of tailoring their approach to the necessities of the child and of the moment. The failure to do so results in a parent seeming arbitrary, ineffective and out of touch.
  5. Raptors respond to respect. A falconer must be firm, but gentle with his bird in every interaction. Remember, these are highly perceptive creatures. Lesson learned: Respect is more than a mental concept; it is an non-threatening acknowledgement that carries a gentle, complementary energy. Respect should be the cornerstone of any and every relationship and consistent respect bequeaths the spirit of reverence in a way that no other combination of words or actions can.
  6. Raptors smell fear. Well, maybe not, but they do seem to pick up on timidity and fearfulness. When they do, they tend to exploit the openings provided thereby. Lesson learned: never end a command or exclamation directed at a child with the word “okay” (typically punctuated with a question mark). For example, “Go to bed, okay?” not only exposes your expectation and fear of an argument, it is the grammatical equivalent of a “kick me” sign with an arrow pointed to your derriere. You know what is best for the child. Deliver it with assurance so that you are not already behind the eight ball when you make an inevitable, yet less obvious mistake later on.

I hope that we can continue to refine our approach to educating future parents so as to obviate the need for regulations designed to protect or promote “family values.” Regulations are the coarsest form of managing human affairs, for regulation is the formal acknowledgement that we have temporarily given up on the idea that collective internal governance is possible within that sphere of activity.

Parenting is a sacred trust and there are many lessons which can be translated from other activities in your life if you are observant and keen to connect the dots. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Hidden Resources

What a man believes may be ascertained, not from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

My management and sales team and I invested an hour of increasingly precious time discussing the limiting assumptions that were preventing our company, Energetix Corporation, from becoming the best place to work in America. We looked at the fact that limiting assumptions prevent the full expression of that which you are capable in any given moment and considered the idea that great companies don’t just happen, they are constructed deliberately, carefully and over time.

I was impressed by the honesty and willingness to be vulnerable of my team, and I must say that good people who devote themselves to continuous self-improvement are the perfect starting point for anyone interested in building a great company. We have taken great care to attract and hire people who are not just looking for jobs, but for a career, who are not looking to keep their heads low and follow established norms, but to innovate, refine, and lead, no matter what their position within the organization.

Many excellent points came out, though one in particular caught my fancy, namely, that limiting assumptions can at times be difficult to identify (as they often masquerade as sound beliefs), although they typically are the root cause of the unrelieved tension in your life. They are the proverbial wrinkle in the carpet, those areas in your belief system that disrupt an otherwise smooth flow of consciousness.

We have found in our organization that great advantage can be had when every team member operates first and foremost on a basis of deep respect for everyone else in the office. Sure we all have our quirks and flat spots, but when respect is put first, those areas of potential friction are put into perspective. More importantly, the atmosphere generated amongst a group of people who commit themselves to an underlying pattern of respect provides an uncommonly safe environment in which creativity can be expressed without judgment, where egos can be checked at the door, where personal defenses can be relaxed and where walls can come down between individuals and departments.

Respect is a powerful solvent. It dissolves even the most hardened of hearts if given sufficient time. And when hearts soften, limiting assumptions naturally rise to the surface in relation to the pressures of daily work and living. They may be well hidden at first, but as the heart and mind relax, they begin to stand out and it actually becomes quite easy to deal with them when they do.

Every time a limiting assumption is released the energy and resources that were trapped beneath it are immediately freed up. I believe that the majority of what is known as scarcity is caused by limiting assumptions rather than by an actual, factual shortage of resources in relation to the challenges we face from day to day. There are hidden resources available everywhere.

Finally, I believe that ingenuity is not the product of trying harder, but of releasing more deeply.

Releasing what?

Limiting assumptions.