In Retrospect

“Righteousness is easy in retrospect.” ~Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

How true is that?!? More often than not the right thing to do is the least popular thing to do. Politicians find themselves between a rock and a hard place on this point as reelection concerns are often pitted against the need to support unpopular but clearly necessary legislation.

If you’ve ever had to take an unpopular stand with your family because it was the right thing to do you likely faced chastisement, disdain and perhaps even rejection. For whatever reason, mankind tends to prefer the comfort of the known to the discomfort that often accompanies the road of integrity, which, incidentally, is typically the road less traveled.

“If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” ~Alan Simpson

To that I would add: “…neither friends nor family, worldly possessions nor reputation.” Your value as an individual requires that your character stand above all these. I repeat. Your value as an individual requires that your character stand above all these.

If righteousness requires that you take a stand, then stand! Don’t apologize. Don’t be afraid. Don’t lord it over those around you. If the stand you are taking is the right thing to do, you will feel good about yourself, you will be at peace with yourself. And that, my friends, is the perfect starting point.

I’ve made decisions in my life that took years to come to fruition. You must be careful not to set fixed expectations as to how and when the harvest should appear, for what you send out in righteousness rarely comes back in the size, shape or timing you anticipated.

Many people have nullified what could have been tremendous if not miraculous blessings because they reacted unnecessarily to the time between the planting and the harvest. Reactive proclamations like “Well I didn’t think it would take so long to work out” or “I made the right choice and I have lost so much” turn into attitudes and actions that abort the creative process.

While it is true that righteousness is easy in retrospect, I would be remiss were I not to mention a balancing factor. The French have a proverb which clothes this balancing point nicely: “Une bonne conscience est un doux oreiller(“A good conscience is a soft pillow”). Even if the world turns against you, if you have done the right thing and you know it you will be at rest with yourself, a rare state of being that can only be described as “priceless.”

To William Lloyd Garrison’s question posed over a century-and-a-half ago…”Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependant upon popular opinion?” I reply: absolutely not!

A Converging World

The last two hundred years were particularly transformative for humanity. Dramatic increases in both longevity and wealth swept across the globe, affecting the industrialized nations first and the developing nations second. While a wide gap remains between the richest and the poorest nations, just about every nation is better off no than they were two short centuries ago.

A friend of mine sent this excellent presentation that depicts the statistics of this phenomenon in a creative and understandable way:

It’s no wonder that the largest charities in the world are looking to bring financial prosperity to the nations they serve. With higher incomes comes lower birth rates and improved longevity. Whether or not happiness follows these trends directly or inversely is debatable, but the point is that a nation’s wealth and the longevity of its citizens appear to be directly related.

Longevity and health, on the other hand, do not necessarily go hand in hand. You can be both extremely old and extremely ill. While longevity has improved dramatically, there is much more that we could be doing to improve health and subsequently, quality of life.

Many of the doctors served by the company I work for are finding that toxicity is no longer strictly intercellular. In fact, toxins are moving deeper and deeper into the cells of the modern body, a fact that presents great challenges to anyone seeking optimal health. Eating cleanly, exercising regularly, hydrating sufficiently and getting enough rest can go a long way, but the world – as a result of the industrial development that made the advances in longevity and wealth possible – is becoming increasingly toxic.

The good news is that the body does have the ability to rid itself of these xenobiotic squatters. With the right support, including the presentation of homeopathic sarcodes (which I’ve heard described as a “blueprint for healthy tissue”), the body can come to the point where it is in position to release the toxins that are likely stored so deeply out of self-preservation.

When the flow systems of the body are blocked for whatever reason, the body wisely, but dangerously (as it is a last resort) walls off and hides away that which normally would be expelled under less stressful circumstances. Helping guide a patient through a process of naturally-paced detoxification is an art and a science, and I would highly advise against unmonitored self-detoxification programs. They are often do more harm than anything.

I believe that we can create a world where health, longevity and wealth converge and become the norm rather than the exception. What about you?

Good Policy: Magnanimity

Washington's Farewell Address, Image by Wikipedia

MAGNANIM’ITY, n. [L. magnanimitas; magnus, great, and animus, mind.] Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.

Having read now quite a number of the leaked cables exposing the underbelly of American foreign policy, I cannot help but be shocked at the great distance we’ve travelled from President George Washington‘s vision for American diplomacy to the pusillanimity that dominates the international political arena today. In President Washington’s famous “Farewell Address,” he described the ideal quite succinctly:

Observe good faith and justice toward all Nations; Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period a great Nation to give mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it?

Whatever is said about the rightness or wrongness of Mr. Assange’s disclosures via Wikileaks, we now have over 200,000 more specific reasons to realize that we have a long way to go before we live up to the standard set by President Washington.

So where do we start? Schools are a good place. Children, like nations, interact, form friendships, develop trading partners, experience conflict and so on, so the microcosm they live in provides a complete and relatively safe representation of what they will likely encounter later in life and on a larger scale.

The workplace is another field of tremendous opportunity. Pettiness only thrives in soil devoid of magnanimity. Pettiness needn’t be stamped out, rather, it must be displaced by a culture of peace, harmony, good faith and justice. Most importantly, there must be consistent representation of magnanimity by those in leadership positions.

What can you do to be more magnanimous? The more you are, the more those around you will be sorted out naturally (and without the need for judgment) as to who is with you and who is against you. It is that simple. A true friend responds favorably to your magnanimity, while those who are repelled by it are better off left to their own devices at whatever distant orbital they end up occupying in your atmosphere.

Let your life be one that is led by exalted justice and benevolence as you aim to achieve useful and noble objects. Anything less is not worthy of you. Anything less is not consistent with who you are at the core of your being.

The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring so greatly that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

If ever there was a recipe for a creative life, it is this: to engage unabashedly with whatever comes your way. The world is full of talkers, naysayers, spectators, critics, crybabies and cynics and relatively short on motivators, those who can galvanize and doers. The difference between the two is found in the level of engagement with your field of responsibility.

Your world, that is, your sphere of influence, should rightly grow as you age. Some people never grow up. They remain as children, lacking sufficient maturity and sensitivity to radiate the unmistakeable quality of character that says “the buck stops here.” The quality of character of which I speak is granted only to those who consistently assume full responsibility for the little things in life, such as tidiness, timeliness, follow-through and creative problem-solving, again, in the little things in preparation for the large.

Take care that you do not go through life cutting corners, inattentive to the small things that matter in your world and sitting on the sidelines wishing you had a different set of circumstances. Instead, embrace it with passion, enthusiasm, devotion, determination and good cheer. Yes, I said it, good cheer.

Have a great day!

The Power of the Master Mind

I’ve been giving a good deal of consideration to what makes our company such a dynamic and enjoyable place to work and I came across a wonderful post on the Art of Manliness that described in a variety of well-researched ways one of the central keys to building an uncommonly appealing corporate culture: the power of the master mind.

What follows below is an excerpt of Brett and Kate McKay’s excellent post: “Iron Sharpens Iron: The Power of Master Minds”:

The Tennis Cabinet

Theodore Roosevelt and the Tennis Cabinet

When Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency, he became at age 42 the youngest president in the country’s history and brought an unprecedented zest and vitality to the White House. A man who placed a premium on living the strenuous life, he liked to get a couple hours of physical exercise in the afternoons. Accompanying him for these excursions of “vigorous play” were a group of men TR referred to as his “Tennis Cabinet.” As Roosevelt often butted heads with the old curmudgeonly men who filled government office, he preferred to spend time with younger gents and those who brought a fresh enthusiasm to Washington. The Tennis Cabinet included friends from his days in the West, diplomats, comrades in arms like Major-General Leonard Wood, fellow conservationist Gifford Pinchot, Maine guide and Badlands pal Bill Sewell, and young military aides like the grandsons of Generals Lee and Grant. TR and the Tennis Cabinet hiked, climbed cliffs, rode horses, skinny dipped in the Potomac River (even in early spring when there was still ice floating in the water!), and, of course, played tennis. The men exercised their minds as they worked their bodies, discussing and debating the pressing issues of the day and planning out the best way to proceed. As a friend of Roosevelt remembered, “For that once in our history, we had an American salon.”

This group of men was just as beloved to TR as his Rough Riders, and he told Pinchot they were much closer to him than his official cabinet. Roosevelt bid farewell to his time as President by holding a luncheon for members of his Tennis Cabinet. He addressed these indispensable advisers by saying:

“I do not believe this country has ever had an abler or more devoted set of public servants. It is through you and those like you that I have done the major part of what has been accomplished under this administration…The credit has come to me, to the chief of the administration. For exactly as men like to symbolize a battle by the name of the commander, so they like to symbolize an administration by the man at the head, forgetting that the immense majority of his acts can be done only through others and that a really successful administration, successful from the standpoint of advancing the honor and the interests of the country, must be managed as ours has been, in a spirit of the most loyal association and partnership.”

Many members of the audience, overcome with gratitude to have served by TR’s side, openly wept at the dissolution of this one of a kind Master Mind.

To read the full post:

I admire President Roosevelt’s appreciation for and recognition of those who served with him in the accomplishment of the purpose that united them. In my experience, having served on both sides of the equation – responsible to and responsible for – there is little in life that is more gratifying than knowing that your contributions count and matter.

The purpose of building and managing teams is to leverage the experience, knowledge and talents of each individual in the accomplishment of an aim. It follows, then, that each team member should be given stage at the appropriate time. It is unlikely that every person will have equal say and if the teams are managed correctly, the same people won’t do all the thinking, talking or doing all of the time.

I love the idea of exercising the mind while exercising the body and I find that the combination of the two – whether I am on the back of a horse, gliding back and forth on a Pilates Reformer or walking through the woods with my hawk and a group of friends – facilitates creative thought that in turn lead to dynamic solutions.

I look forward to the McKay’s next post on the subject and I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts on the matter. I look forward to hearing yours!

How to Put an End to our Nation’s Health Crisis

The other day someone mentioned to me that America’s health crisis could be largely resolved if people would avoid everything in the middle of the grocery store and only buy items currently on the outer walls.

I had to think about the statement for a moment, but once the picture of the last grocery store I visited filled the screen in my mind it occurred to me that he was on to something. Perishables – vegetables, fruit, juices, milk, eggs, fresh meats, fresh breads and so on – line the perimeter of just about every big-box grocery store. The middle of the store, conversely, showcases heavily processed, sugared, salted, chemically-enhanced conveniently packaged whole and fresh food substitutes.

My brother-in-law and I were chatting the other day about how few people have a chance to see their food in its original, live state before it is butchered, harvested or processed. Chickens to most children nowadays are slabs of clean, skin-free meat enclosed in styrofoam and shrink-wrap. Cows, pigs, lamb and fish suffer the same misunderstanding. There is hardly any connection between the original plant or animal and its eventual consumer anymore.

In my mind this creates a situation where healthy food choices are more difficult to make. Everything in the grocery store is put on equal footing, the primary difference typically has little to do with the item’s provenance and everything to do with its price to the average consumer. Fair enough, but I have to wonder if we are missing something by accepting the “big-box” distribution system which is backed by industrial agriculture as the only possible solution.

I came across a courageous talk given by an 11 year old, Birke Baehr, at the recently held TEDxNextGenerationAsheville. Sometimes children put it best, despite their lack of life experience.

Wasn’t that wonderful? Don’t you love the fact that he wants to be an organic farmer when he grows up? I wish Birke well. What an inspiring story.

Is our present system sustainable? It’s hard to see how it could be. If we are to escape from the downward spiral we are presently on relative to the health of our nation, we need to take Birke’s advice and learn about ways to get back in touch with real, wholesome and nourishing food. Believe me, there’s more to it than getting sufficient macronutrients.

I’d love to hear what resources you use to help you make healthy food choices as well as any success stories you’ve come across…

On Maturity and Priority

One of the most valuable lessons I learned as an adolescent was to take care of what needed to be done before I undertook what I wanted to do. Sometimes the two coincided but more often than not something I wanted to do had to wait.

The ability to prioritize in this way requires a level of maturity that extends only slightly beyond that of the common teenager. While children and early teens are rightly self-centered, the failure to launch into adulthood is caused more often than not by the young adult refusing to let his or her world grow to the point that it includes others. This refusal may be caused by insecurities, insufficiently cured character or an improperly managed balance between responsibility and privilege during the child’s upbringing.

Learning to care for others beyond oneself is an important step in the process of maturation. The cultivation of that care can be primed by learning to take care of personal possessions or perhaps animals, but ultimately the individual has to come to the point in his or herself that he puts the needs of others ahead of his own, when the situation warrants it (which incidentally is most of the time).

Strangely enough, as soon as you do put the needs of others ahead of your own you find that others help to fill your needs. There is a natural quid pro quo that works out most of the time (you win some and you lose some) and the net result is that many more needs are met all around than could have been had everyone been acting selfishly.

Should you fail along the way, don’t crumble, beat yourself up or hide from the embarrassment. Instead, redouble your efforts by channeling the terrible feeling you have into making sure that you handle the next situation rightly. This fact alone would save a great many people from spinning their wheels in the mud of self-deception, rationalization and denial. Remember, you’re not fooling anyone when you indulge in self-deprecation. It’s a trick that everyone knows and that most can see right through.

If you have to play catchup, don’t despair. Progress comes quickly to those who truly apply themselves. If you are feeling pressed to do something for yourself, take a quick scan of your world to make sure that there are not more pressing needs. It is easy to lose perspective and this can be an important time to check yourself.

When your priorities are in balance you’ll find that there is plenty of time to take care of your personal concerns.

“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and importance, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.” ~ Margaret Thatcher