ear Friends

Welcome to Two Sides, ONE Coin.

Quote of the Week comes from Albert Einstein

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Leadership: Economy of Thought Part 2

These are times unlike any other time I have witnessed in my life and I’ve been around long enough to bear witness to several decades. Aeon Alliance, my Consulting company, was so named to indicate the ability to see events within the context of time that spans eons rather than measuring time by months or by quarters. Aeons see the world, and themselves in relation to it, through the long term view, as well as the short term view. 

What is the long term, Aeon view? How does life change when we view events from a broader and more expansive context? I’ve specialized in Finance because it tells the story of what has been done over time and quantifies the results. Good results, however, don’t necessarily translate into “good practices” unless we are using a specific yardstick that measures but by one result – the amount of money we made. We have far less capable means of measuring the way we made it and whether we consider the trade-off as “fair”, or as equitable.

Financial reporting is bound by time – weeks, months, quarters and years. Monies in and monies out are tracked, item by item, followed by calculations that determine the difference between them. Each month the numbers totaling money in are analyzed to drive the numbers higher; the numbers totaling money out are also analyzed to drive the numbers lower. The combination of cost-cutting, while concurrently increasing sales, is considered the magic combination to increased profits. This strategy is nothing new – what is new is the attitude and beliefs surrounding cost cutting measures and the apparent “need” to show ever-increasing profits on a month to month basis. (If billions of dollars in profits aren’t enough to satisfy the greedy among us – what is?)

Today our headlines are filled with the news of increasing profits that are made in the billions of dollars; profits that were “earned” through cost-cutting measures that are more accurately described as eliminating the “expense” of the paychecks of millions of workers. We read these numbers daily – billions of dollars and millions of workers. We have grown so accustomed to hearing numbers reported that we tend to forget that one number is in reference to dollars (a thing) while the other number refers to the effects of those numbers on real human lives. The life of someone’s mother, father, son or daughter has been waylaid and thrown into uncertainty- in numbers beyond any the world has ever seen. 

In today’s economic world, people and persons have been reduced to just another commodity in plentiful supply – easily dispensable and easily disposable. How can money and the quest for ever-increasing profits be considered more important than the value we place on the vastly diminished quality of millions of human lives? It can – and it has. This misplaced value, a product of our thoughts, can only sustain as valid or “reasonable” when we economize ( isolate, restrict, and confine) our thinking and fail to see ourselves as belonging to something much larger and greater than ourselves – the whole of human kind.

From an Aeon perspective, we all share the same species identification. All of of our other identifications serve to classify variations within our species and to separately identify one member from the others. Does our thinking about our variations make us separate? No. Our personal identifications are conceptual and convenient but they cannot change what is real – our identifications can only alter our perception of what seems real.

A reduction in time spent on thinking as well as a reduction in the allowable content of thoughts (strictly business, nothing personal) has led us to focus on “individual” variations while overlooking and disregarding that the individual (or shareholder) is contained within the whole of humanity and is not an island unto himself/herself. We have collectively lost sight of the bigger, over-riding picture and no longer consider what is good for All but have limited our thinking to what is good for Me, not We.

The billions of dollars “earned” in profits and their corresponding toll on human lives can hardly be considered of comparative value by anyone with even the smallest sense of conscience. If we pause long enough to consider how the profit numbers and the numbers of unemployed are linked and interdependent, we might wish to re-evaluate the real life consequences of reductionist thinking. The numbers become more than just numbers and we begin to re-associate the symbols of language to the very real things that words merely symbolize, the things that words point to but can never replace . One of these numbers is a cause (cost-cutting as a billion dollar profit making strategy) and the other, it’s effect (millions of people suffering and struggling to survive). There is a direct and interdependent relationship between them.

Ignoring interdependency will not remove it’s existence. It will only ensure that the quality of life will continue to diminish for the vast majority of human beings. We need to more closely examine the relationship between profits and employee layoffs and whether we still wish to continue to view them as isolated economic events. We need to start doing so today.

The (nothing personal) persons that support business need to be factored back in to our economic equations. Not as disposable commodities but in terms of our collective human progress and development. We will see no such progress so long as millions and millions of hard-working people are still being thrown off company payrolls and thrown into despair, consumed with concern for their very survival.

Maybe we would find we have a different and more meaningful view of our world, and a more meaningful view of ourselves and each other, when we are less tied to an economy of thought that is centered on economics, rather than on people. We might find we share a deeper connection, enjoy an enhanced sense of community, or discover the depths of our own compassion and creativity.

There are few among us who cannot find some strength in softness or some softness in strength. There are also few among is who do not find some fear within their confidence or some confidence within their fear. All states of mind, by divine or evolutionary design, are transient and temporary. Fear comes and goes, much like confidence waxes and wanes. The reality is confidence and fear are indivisible and inter-twined, much like our hopes and fears are similarly bound together. What we most hope for is also what we most fear to lose. They are interdependent of each other and can’t be separately “contained” within our person/personality. But that does not seem to stop us from talking and acting about these things (and everything else) as if they could or should be separated. 

Reality is not bound or restricted by our thoughts – only the workings of our individual minds are “boxed in”. What IS reveals the results of boxing ourselves in. We are now experiencing some of the worst economic crises and ecological disasters the world has ever seen. How far will we go and how many millions more lives will be adversely affected before the conflict between what we think and what IS shatters our illusions surrounding the benefits of consistently fast or exclusively focused thinking – our present “economy of thought”?

We, the People of the United States, has evolved into thinking solely of Me and Mine. This represents Exclusivity of thought rather than Inclusivity or expansiveness. Thoughts surrounding We and Ours are gradually being eradicated from our thinking processes. Do we see this evolution in thought as some form of progress or do we see this as regressive, even primitive?

Reading the news one would surmise that we have become a nation of victims all around, with every one pointing fingers, but blameless themselves. Perhaps, in a way, we are all blameless, all victims. Maybe it is the way we have come to think of ourselves and the world around us that gives rise to many of our problems. Maybe we are victims of our own ways of thinking. 

What might happen if we lifted a few of our self-imposed restrictions and began to think of the world, and all things in it, in broader terms? What new solutions might we discover if we could expand the boundaries of thought to extend beyond the numbers themselves? Would the world come to a screeching halt around us if we paused long enough to consider that the numbers we use as the primary basis for decision-making are merely dollar signs and that these dollars have become more important symbols than the lives of real people?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leadership: Economy of Thought Part 1

Language as the means of communication can be a powerful tool or a debilitating enemy. We think in pictures as children but are taught to use our words as we grow. Many adults eventually think only in words, while dreaming replaces “thinking in pictures”. When it comes to business affairs, Leaders are often required to think in terms of red or black ink; the bottom line is either positive or negative; decisions are made between this thing or that thing. Apparently, this often required line of thinking has become always required. And required for all things, required for every thing. We fail to see in the full colors of the spectrum nowadays, reducing all we see to shades of black or white. We are compelled by some need to speed up decision making. Have we gone too far with our economy of thought and thinking?

The world at large has followed the mindset and example of our Leaders and subsequently we have all been taught to think in similar decisive and numeric terms that extend well beyond the reach of the military or the stock market. Sons and daughters killed in action are referred to in the news as the number of casualties sustained, so named by willful design. Casualties sounds so, well, casual; like something easy or relaxed, that it’s hard to imagine we are referring to the death and dying of our youths.

The real meaning of what is being said is camouflaged and diluted, intended to breed a sense of complacency.  Casualties invokes a much lesser emotional charge than thoughts of death or dying. We tend to forget the casualties we are talking about were real living, breathing people who sacrificed their very lives for us. We forget that other real people around the world who are just like us are now mourning the loss of a father, mother, sister, brother, or friend. We isolate the pain of war to those who suffer a direct loss rather than sharing the loss between us, even though the sacrifice of life was made for all. Militaries around the world have their reasons for desensitizing us to the numbers of dead and dying, as well as plausible reasoning whereby some swift decisions are clearly essential and necessary.

The prevalent thinking today is that we should use this same restrictive, limited (and often misleading), thriftiness in thought to define ourselves and each other, and further, to allow these thrifty thoughts to govern all of our endeavors - not just wars. (Did we get what we paid for?) The dehumanization of our vocabulary , borrowed from the military and applied to economics (meaning the work place), has brought us daily estrangement from our emotions for most of our waking hours.  Worse yet, this constant estrangement eventually  supplants the voice of our conscience, the heart of our values. It needs to when we are required to kill our enemies in battle.  Does it also need to in our places of work or of leisure? Don't we also stifle creativity, strangle innovation, and diminish all joy, if we lose these vital connections within ourselves?

We are not free to be free-thinkers anymore. We are collectively imprisoned and confined to a very small thinking box consisting largely of active verbs and a hefty measure of numbers. What seems lacking in economic thinking is some evidence of any human virtues - particularly those that might be born of kindness or compassion. The pace at which we operate and move from thing to thing leaves little time to pause or to reflect. The application of Pace and Command leadership styles are also borrowed from the military. Are we, perhaps, causing ourselves greater harm, than greater good, with this militaristic economy of thought applied to the office and our business affairs?

Why would we want an economy of thought about anything we thought was important? Why not an abundance of thinking, expansive thinking, unlimited thinking? And particularly expansive for what is important? Are we so far removed from reality with our present way of thinking that the lost lively-hoods of millions of people now seems unimportant to all but those directly affected? Has our thinking “progressed” so that these hardworking mothers and fathers have merely become nameless and faceless "Ranks of the Unemployed"; our latest “casualties” of war? What is this new civil war and who’s on what side? And why?

Don't we all agree that unrestricted and thoughtful consideration, ensures a lesser likelihood that we have overlooked or disregarded relevant information (that might prove critical to our decisions) as we head on down these roads? Fail safe contingency plans, for example? How many things in life are really so important that the fast choice is better than the right choice, carefully considered, within a broader context? Is the entire world out there a battle-field where instant decisions spell the difference between life and death or are we simply thinking and acting “as if” they do? When should we stop pretending as if and collectively face some truths of the real world results of applying an economy of thought to all things?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Leadership: Fear and Uncertainty in the Headlines Today

We read a lot about fear these days. Fear of the growing deficit. Fear of new regulations. Fear of government interference. Fear of socialist policies. Each day we are introduced to something else that we should fear. Millions of unemployed Americans are told there are no new jobs being created in spite of renewed profitability because Business Leaders are fearful and uncertain. And we are told that the fears of these Leaders should be ours.

From the Main Street point of view, it seems only fitting, maybe karmic, that the perpetrators and perpetuators of widespread fear begin to taste the bitter fruits of their labors, as only they have enjoyed the sweet. Last week, during heated discussions surrounding 10 years of major Business tax cuts (that added billions to the deficit), news headlines across the country threatened that “The last thing we want is for the wealthy to feel fearful!“ Are the headlines true? Is that the last thing, or the first thing, that we want?

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat. Wikipedia describes fear as “ a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger”. What is it that incites fear in the hearts of the wealthy – the millionaires and billionaires? How fearful could, or should, they be when they are sitting on $1.3 trillion dollars in profits to date (an amount that rivals our national deficit)? Are their fears surrounding deficits, new government regulations, an end to estate taxes, or an end to their last 10 years of tax cuts, threatening their personal survival? Definitely not.

Millions of Americans would love to tell these CEO’s and shareholders about the REAL feeling of fear . What it is to live moment to moment, hour by hour , with great uncertainty - about their ability to survive. Beginning with the day they lost their jobs and could not find another.

Fear , by biological design, is intended to be a very short term state, sending a powerful stream of signals to our brain, triggering a fight or flight response. Millions of Americans now live in a constant state of fear – an ongoing, never-ending, response to the struggle of the fight for their day to day survival. 4 million people in America lost their only source of income last June (UI) with another 50,000 more people added to their numbers every passing day – the long term unemployed.These numbers represent the previous wage earners(not dead-beats) for their families – mothers and fathers all across America, desperately trying to find ways to feed and shelter their children. Another 10 million previously hard-working Americans are barely scraping by, spending only on life’s necessities through a combination of Unemployment Insurance and the depletion of their life savings. Another 15 million people here find themselves under-employed – earning too much to be eligible for assistance but not enough to pay all their bills.

The real numbers of people affected by the loss of employment stretches far beyond the numbers of the Unemployed. If the average wage earner supports a family of 3, then the 4 million who were cut off from UI last June, has really left 12 million people facing the very real fears of homelessness and starvation.

Businesses have now amassed $1.3 trillion in profits. largely through cost-cutting measures. They appear to have no problem boasting about how they are increasing their incomes by reducing ours - through the conscious and deliberate elimination of the paychecks of millions of Americans.

Downsizing is no longer a necessary response to a poor economy as profits are being reported in billions of dollars and bonuses are paid in the millions. Yet downsizing continues with more planned for upcoming months. Essentially a sizable chunk of the current and projected profits and payouts, then, owe themselves to nothing more than the elimination of some persons, actually millions of persons, former paychecks – maybe our mothers, our brothers, our nieces, our friends or our neighbors . The suicide rate among the long-term unemployed is now reported as showing a 75% increase as more and more people continue to lose hope. Are we all OK with profits becoming just a new form of “blood money” ? Ironically, rather than feeling any shame or remorse concerning their strategies, these Business Leaders tout these lean, mean company machines as an example of the success of “strong Leadership”, one that their smaller competitors are soon likely to follow.

Over the last 10 years, Corporations have successfully slashed and outsourced workforces and have been handsomely rewarded with bulging corporate coffers and exceedingly decadent personal life styles. Officer and executive salaries jumped from 30 times to 300 times that of their average worker. 1500 times is not uncommon. (Whatever happened to piercing the Corporate veil/evil because a company was top-heavy? Is there anything but top-heavy anymore?)

But now the wealthy tell us they are fearful for tomorrow (not today) . They whine that the future is uncertain. They want Main Street to join them in repealing everything that’s new, everything that changes their present way of “doing business”. They sit on their fortunes because they say they are unclear about the direction our nation is moving. Somehow protecting their own asses and a trillion dollars in assets is viewed as the better choice between employing another million persons from the millions they unemployed. That’s the wealthy party line - even as they’re amassing billions more!

So why should our wealthy Business Leaders be spared feeling fear when millions of their former employees live in nothing but constant fear - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no hope in sight? Our Business Leaders do not live in fear as Main Street lives in fear but it is clear that their assets are being threatened. They are threatened because the profits they show today are simply not sustainable and so their future is uncertain too.

A major difference between the wealthy and Main Street however, is that much of their uncertainty comes by their own hands and because of their own strategies. You can only cut a workforce so far before it becomes largely dysfunctional or non-functioning. Like it or not, Business Leaders need employees to run their businesses and we are nearing the end of the line on just how much further they can reduce personnel. Largely diminished quality control (Toyota), diminished attention to safety (BP), and a marked decline in B2B and customer service – (everywhere), are already showing symptoms of the quickened pace, shortened work hours, and the “double duty-nose to the grindstone” now expected from their remaining employees. Cost-cutting strategies are limited in what can be cut and how deeply it can be cut. The strategy of cutting costs to increase profits is only sustainable so long as cost-cutting actively continues. So, what is the next cost-cutting/profit making strategy? Continue to aggressively outsource jobs to foreign countries offering cheaper labor.

Main Street - do you really think these Business Leaders are going to give you back your jobs when you give them carte blanche to do only one thing (make profits) and to do it however they want?
Should we be terribly concerned about this small percentage of people who are, directly or indirectly, busy throwing people off company payrolls and exploiting the remaining workforce just so they can stockpile another trillion dollars in profits? Or should we listen to their self-serving fears and then cast our votes against whatever they favor? And in favor of whatever they fail to support ?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trust in Leadership

A favorite inspirational quote reads, "Be like the Moon. Come out from behind the clouds. And shine." It is hard to shine in the world nowadays when everywhere we turn we are surrounded by clouds of suspicion and mistrust - fear for what tomorrow may bring. Generally in times of fear we turn to our leaders for guidance through the storm but Trust in Leadership is in short supply today, the lowest in decades, and with good reason.

Although true Trust is not a matter of worthiness or unworthiness, the word is loosely used today to more closely describe a process of deductive reasoning that involves a judgment (concerning the truthfulness or honesty of others). We Trust those who are trustworthy. We don't trust those who are not. These labels, of course, are matters of opinion, when the actual meaning of Trust lies closer to that of faith (requiring we believe without real reason to believe). Essentially trusting in another is to have faith in them, to believe in them without relying on material evidence or logical proof. What happens to Trust, however, when material evidence and logical proof dispute what we want to believe?

Should we continue to Trust each other, our colleagues, or our leaders when material evidence indicates they can not be trusted? Is there any realm left within society where what is said and what is done are the same thing - where the "talk is walked"? We have seen cover-ups in the church, in the government, in business, and on Wall Street. "Houston - We seem to have a problem here."

I am deeply disturbed by the changes I have seen over the last 10 years. I feel less hopeful. I feel less hopeful because I have less trust. I don't like the feelings of doubt, suspicion, or mistrust. They make me want to climb outside my skin. How much more beautiful does our world seem when we can approach our neighbors, our colleagues, our spiritual advisers, our elected government officials, or our bosses/(clients) without feeling a need to question their intentions or integrity? A thousand times better, that's how.

I don't think that I'm alone in how I feel. I still have values I believe in. Values that guide my every day thoughts and my every day actions. I also believe that the vast majority of the world's people are no different than me and do their best to live "honestly" in spite of the leadership examples we often see today. Are we simply resistant to a changing world or are we resistant because we seem to be moving in an unstoppable direction that threatens what we truly value and that gives meaning to our lives? I prefer to think it is the latter. I'm wondering just how many of you agree?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leadership: The Practical Power of Philosophy

I began my first entrepreneurial venture in the early 1980’s after having served many others as an employee and the experience I accumulated along the path served more as a guideline to what I would NOT do, than as a guide to what I should do, if I hoped to succeed as an entrepreneur and to create the life I dreamed about.

My initial capital investment in my business was only a few hundred dollars, a phone, a purchase order pad, a sales order pad, a few boxes of assorted industrial safety products, and most importantly, an investment in time beforehand - time to arrive at a well considered Philosophy. Why a Philosophy, you might ask, and not the 5 year business plan that everyone recommends? What is the practical relevancy of Philosophy when it comes to creating a successful business?

Simple observation led me to my conclusion. I had witnessed countless opportunities presented, while in the employ of others, that were often over-looked or disregarded owing to a narrow focus on “keeping with the plan”. Simply stated, most plans lacked flexibility and adaptability; they are concerned with mapping the active dynamic but typically fall short in the arena of effective and appropriate responsiveness. Why? A plan involves a time-line of static concepts that are to be applied within a context (business/economic) that is recognized by all to be at least fluid, and occasionally, even volatile.

The prevailing “locked in to the plan” approach to business ventures made small sense to me (then and now) and so it was that I was determined to pioneer another path that better suited the context and needs of an ever-changing economic and technological “playing field”. I chose the path that considers the fundamentals of human thoughts and actions - Philosophy. I wanted to understand what motivates us to think or to do anything beyond our basic survival needs, and particularly, what motivates us to think about or to do those things that we don't really enjoy?

Although I have said that plans have their flaws,that is not to say I had no plan. I had a relatively clear vision of where I wanted to go and several ideas of how I might get there – specific tasks I could perform that might facilitate “building a business from the ground up” that I had gathered from a variety of books as well as my direct experience from years spent in Management. It was, in fact, my experiences in Management, and particularly WITH Management, that compelled me to strike out my own. I was absolutely certain there were better ways to make fundamental choices and decisions that governed business operations than the statistical analysis many business owners had come to rely on, and to the exclusion of all else. While charts, graphs, and spreadsheets, have their place in business, the weight assigned to numbers had tipped the scales to such an extent that, even though they enjoyed material success, few owners I knew seemed truly happy and their employees seemed even less so. These businesses were soul-less; their employees, more robotic than apparently human.

Why such unhappiness in the workplace when we spend the majority of our lives engaged in earning our livelihoods? Most people, if asked to list the subjects that are of most practical significance to their careers might name computer courses, business science, economics, accounting, and so on. But most people, and particularly business people, tend to overlook that Philosophy is a subject of tremendous Practical Power. It is philosophy that studies the fundamentals of human thoughts and actions and it is human thoughts and actions that will contribute to either the success, or to the demise, of any entrepreneurial venture. I made the decision to focus my planning efforts for my business on the fundamentals of human thoughts and actions and how I might optimize the quality of those thoughts and actions to realize a greater potential, not only for myself, but for everyone involved. (Please note the word I used is quality, not quantity or speed.)

Every aspect of our life and every aspect of our culture are shaped by our philosophic ideas so I focused my Business Plan on outlining a Philosophy of “doing” Business more so than outlining any particular strategic plan. I began by listing the basic grievances I had shared with millions of others as a consumer and I also listed the grievances I shared with those who “served” someone else as an employee and resolved to try some opposite approaches – a turn-around of 180 degrees. Radical? Maybe.

I called this upside down view “backwards thinking” and applied it to many of the business premises that had been handed down to me and that I had accepted as having some factual basis. I had a strong and compelling need to know what was actually True and what was merely “conditioned” belief. Just as importantly, I needed to know if an alternate (or even opposite) approach to my experience could succeed or whether I was simply just another dreamer who was wandering this earth with impractical visions?

What are some of the ideas I experimented with and turned around in shaping a business philosophy? The first idea was that a business should be managed by the numbers (strictly business, nothing personal). I tried the opposite and I managed the business by Managing the people of the business. This too, I approached backwards. I managed the people by viewing myself as in their service rather than operating from the premise that they were there to serve mine (or that of an inanimate entity – the business itself.).

What were the results of this backwards approach? Tremendous and rapid success for everyone involved! The numbers for the business grew by leaps and bounds but not because we focused on the numbers. We focused on People – our customers and each other - and our numbers simply told the story of how well we did that.

What is really true is that Business decisions are not made by the numbers but are made by people (albeit people influenced by the numbers, many of whom have lost touch with their own humanity in the pursuit of material gains). What is also true is that the numbers in our business don’t cause or create our story, they merely reflect the results (or the symptoms) of our thoughts and our actions over time.

All things considered, isn’t it time we rethink our thinking and, at the very least, question some of the basic premises that businesses operate on today? Whether asking an employer or an employee, there are few within any organization who have been able to articulate their company's basic philosophy as well as they can recite last month's sales figures or next month's budget allocations. My own experience shows that we have all been misled by those "at the top"; that the way to sustainable success lies not in charts and numbers but through the embrace of humankind and humanity, itself. Isn't it time we explore the Practical Power of Philosophy?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

21st Century Leadership - Rethinking Our Thinking

There is always an extreme element in society that leans towards greed and selfishness.  There is also always an extreme element in society that leans towards generosity and selflessness.  Most of us fluctuate back and forth between the two, much closer to the middle.  The extremist viewpoint is unbalanced, whether leaning right or left.  Why is this unbalanced? The greedy have small interest in generosity while the selfless seek to eliminate selfishness.  We deny the world as it is - containing both.  Two sides of the same coin.

The idea that we must choose between one or the other of any two opposing sides can only arise from the idea that the back side  is somehow separate from the front side.  Speaking about two sides of a coin is merely a mental conception - the physical (what we consider real) front side cannot exist without the physical backside. The "reality" of a coin is that it cannot be separated, irrespective of what words we choose to describe it's appearance.  We are constantly fooled and deceived by our own descriptions - our conceptualizations of reality appear to take on greater reality than that which we are describing. 

It is time we rethink our thinking.  The near financial collapse is a clear indicator that we have made some choices and decisions that are based on flawed premises regarding our viewpoints .  Rather than adding more and more information to our knowledge bases, it is time that we return to the basics and examine the foundations of our mental constructions in order to correct our misguided flaws and to adjust for our errors.  The heat is on for solutions but if we continue to build upon a flawed foundation and the branches of particular schools of thought without examining the basic premises upon which they were founded, we are doomed to repeat our very recent history.

Do the distinctions we imagine or conceive exist or are they simply ideological?  Can liberal or conservative politicians fulfill their responsibilities as public servants so long as they continue to debate every difference between them?  Would the people they serve be better served if these public servants focused their attention more on what they have in common and rebuild, restructure, and reform our government  from the premise of a common good?

Can employers succeed in their objectives without the contributions and the labor of their employees?  Each depends on the other but do we recognize, acknowledge, and strategize according to the common good of all or are actions centered around that of a  (typically top-heavy) business entity's profit margin ?  Why are people and profits thought to be mutually exclusive?  Common sense and observation would seem to say that personally caring for the good of all people is also caring for the company's profits while the more mechanistic and impersonal caring for the company's (non-living) profits seems to ignore the people and the common good.

Can any institutional or organizational leader advance a cause without the support and cooperation of followers?  To paraphrase an often heard saying from the 1960's - Could our leaders wage war if nobody showed up? Can our businesses run if all employees are on strike?  Can our cause sustain if our donors cease to fund us?

The answer to the questions above is that the foundations that fail to acknowledge the inherent interdependence of All things will produce mixed results.  Why mixed results?  Because the basic premise from which all  the other premises arise is flawed.  The extremist pendulum cannot swing and be held in only one direction but must swing right AND left. 
Most of us are caught in the middle between extremist points of view.  We find ourselves fluctuating between two considered opposites, swayed by emotional rhetoric, conflicted and confused about why things appear to us as other than what they are and what we know them to be.  The description of the appearance of a coin as two-sided has given rise to the subsequent idea that the two sides are separate and that a coin is divisible.  We have taken this simple concept and expanded it to everything that exists in the "real" world - separating one thing from another, ad infinitum.

Individual greed is now merely disguised, impersonally renamed as profit and revenue.  Selfishness is similarly hidden, cloaked behind the "actions" of a non-living entity. Behind the windfall profits and beyond the corporate decisions, are people - people with extremist views.  Neither side of an extreme view can sustain in the "real" world because neither is real beyond our conceptions.  No matter how hard we try to separate the selfish from the selfless, the greedy from the generous, the world will always contain both. Our attempts to choose and to force one side over another can only give rise to more volatile fluctuations.

We shall never fulfill the common good so long as those of us in the middle remain conflicted and confused by the rhetoric of the extremists.  Between ourselves, it is time we rethink our thinking.  The two sides of a coin are only useful in the description of a coin but we must always remember that it is the whole coin that we use.

Friday, April 30, 2010

People Centered Management

I read the news and it's hard not to become depressed about the state of human affairs.   While our technology has advanced, it is unclear whether the same could be said of human psychology.   Do we consider ourselves to be independent of each other or  are we interdependent?  How does our view influence our experience? The Persian poet, Rumi, is quoted as saying, " This two-way way, duality, feels like a fight.  This Oneness path feels more like a banquet."

The conceptualization of all things broken down into smaller and smaller components is only useful to an extent.  When individual parts are considered more important than the whole, we have created a distortion in perception that results in an enterprise that fails to consider the people that comprise the enterprise.  The same distortion in perception occurs whether we are describing religious, political, or educational institutions.  We cannot turn to today's leaders of these institutions to improve the state of human affairs as they profit from the  prevailing school of  thought that relies only on  numbers and discounts the human.  Isn't this backward thinking?  When should any "thing" be considered more important than a living, breathing being?  What results might another approach yield? What if we switched our focus of attention from a philosophy and practice of Strictly Business, Nothing Personal to a philosophy and practice of People Centered Management?

I borrowed today's topic of People Centered Management from another blogger, Gregory Gull, who writes a blog entitled For Progress Not Growth.  The  objective of FPNG is written as "facilitating critical thinking about the business of business".  These are not the words I would  have chosen in conjunction with the subject of People Centered Management and yet that was the title of a recent post.  Much to my surprise, I found many of the thoughts I have surrounding Business and Business Leadership woven throughout the contents on every page.  Rather than say what that is in this One Coin blog, please visit For Progress, Not Growth and read the words for yourself.

Also worth exploring on the topic of People Centered Management are the words of William Edwards Deming, author of  "The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education" .    A video from 1984 shows  Dr.Deming as a "Prophet Unheard" who foresaw our current economic crises as well as the cure.  Borrowing again from an Amazon reviewer, "Describing prevailing management style as a prison, Deming shows how a style based on cooperation rather than competition can help people develop joy in work and learning at the same time that it brings about long-term success in the market."

People Centered Management.  Not a new idea. But one that works.  I tried it myself over 20 years ago, long before I knew there was a name for it.  My philosophy arose from the simple daily practice of The Golden Rule, also known as The Rule of Reciprocity.  What is wise is always wise or it isn't wise at all.  People Centered Management - A  key to success in the 21st century.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Business Philosophy: Wanted AND Unwanted Results

We have, as individuals, the potential to be our own greatest work of art, our greatest creation.  Following the path that is outlined by another rarely mirrors the results for it's followers as it produced for the Leader, the original pioneer of an idea. 

Too few of us can remember our original self in order to have a truly "original thought". Much to our dismay, most of what we think was something we heard or read.  The same thoughts go round and round within our minds (and some of us have a large collection to draw on) but, wounded egos aside, we seldom think something that has not already been thought by someone, somewhere, sometime. It has also been suggested that "There is nothing new under the Sun."

I've done a lot of web surfing this week, reading Leadership blogs and articles primarily.  There is a tremendous amount of duplication in content and much of what I read can be found through searches in at least a dozen places or more. There is very little original thought, little original thinking, although there's a vast abundance of recycled words and ideas. I remember as a child, my dad would often say, "Don't believe everything you read.  Simply because it appears in print, doesn't make it so."

We can't fault authors for their regurgitation of ideas.  Unless you are writing as an independent blogger, most established blog sites have pre-determined criteria and guidelines for subject content. The words written for existing blogs afford small ability to "customize, alter, modify or adjust" how the material is presented or what material is presented. Our words are poured onto paper and then sent in for review. The subject matter is generally confined to what is considered "safe", restricted to what is "non-controversial". A number of additional sources must be cited that support our propositions and assertions of "The Way" we recommend (i.e - there must be a wide consensus of opinions).

The sheer volume of information we are required to know in order to stay "competitive" in today's market is astounding.  The amount of time we devote to the endeavor of absorbing that information and then applying what we've learned, has left little or no time to reflect on the truth of what we apply. More to the point, we have little time to truly examine our results.

We look for the wanted measurements (typically an increase in profits) but we seldom take time to look at what arose with them - the unwanted "side effects".  The pace today is prohibitive to real reflection so the clock just keeps ticking, time just keeps marching, and business keeps rolling  along.  

Real results are considered found in the "tangibles" - what can be measured or quantified. This is, however, only half of the picture.  It's time we all learn to think for ourselves when it comes to the other half, the "other side" of the proverbial coin.  It is highly unlikely that you will find much material that speaks to the "intangibles" - the real and hidden human costs we pay for the acceptance and implementation of many of these ideas. 

Examples of widespread ideas with under-examined results must include the phrase, "Strictly Business, Nothing Personal". Please note that this is NOT a new idea or an original thought, it is merely the hatcheting of an old one.  Web Definitions defines Business as "a commercial or industrial enterprise and the People that comprise it". In the Strictly Business paradigm, What happened to the other half, the AND of ....and the People?

According to the Web Definition, would it seem more accurate to say that Business Leaders and the Captains of Industry simply chose to dispense with  thinking of People as vital to their business? Has the Business entity taken on greater importance than the living entities that comprise it? Since "the people" are inherent within the definition of Business itself, does it seem likely that the decision might have been made simply because People are problematic to their goals and to their bottom line thinking? 

I sincerely doubt, if polled, that the majority of People comprising a Business want to spend the bulk of their waking hours in an Impersonal environment - devoid of personality, devoid of human characteristics and traits.

I need to ask again, Does the repetition of an untruth (or partial truth) make the assertion true?
Where has the Strictly Business view led us?  What are some of the side effects or unwanted results? Business environments have become largely "soul-less"  while the phrase itself has become little more than self-justification for cold-hearted action.Do we really believe there is no better way?

This self-justification seems particularly true for many self-described "performance-driven" companies who wear the words like a badge of honor, some "thing" they can be proud of.  Interestingly enough, many of these companies that ascribe to the belief that Business can be "Strictly Business, Nothing Personal" are the same companies that claim to follow a Relational Management Philosophy.  I submit that it is unlikely that they truly understand what it is that they say. 

The "Strictly Business" philosophy disregards the human element and the idea of "Relational Management" is still viewed within that partial and narrowed context.  The sphere of consideration has expanded slightly although it is often taken to mean, and is therefore limited to, the inclusion of those who are thought to have a direct "relationship" to the Strictly Business bottom line. The "Nothing Personal" view of Business treats the The People of Business  as Impersonal objects (devoid of personality); all "others" are still seen as merely the means to their ends.

Eliminating the human factor from human endeavors can only lead to soul-less results.  Success arrived at by these means can only bring us short-term pleasure, the long-term result is that our success feels empty and hollow of meaning.

The next time someone points to the benefits of following a particular Business philosophy, I would suggest you experiment before you implement the idea.  Measure your quantifiable results but use common sense and also take a good, long look at the other side of the coin to see what “unwanted” results that philosophy yielded, too.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ancient Wisdom & Life Success

Some of you are probably wondering why it is that I sometimes quote  from Ancient Wisdom and  how it's relevant to 21st century success? There is a distinction between knowledge and wisdom and it has been my life's burden that I feel compelled to acquire both, as if I could actually own either.  I operate under the pretense, much like everybody else, because it's what we do.

So, what is the relevance of Ancient Teachings to a life of success?  We all know many knowledgeable people and their  knowledge is thought to be a thing.  Is wisdom also a thing that someone has or someone doesn't?  Can wisdom be bought, taught, or acquired somehow, where-ever it is thought lacking?

It is said that knowledge is more temporary and more transient than Wisdom. Wisdom sustains through centuries while knowledge changes with the times.  What we know  of the world today and what was known in 1490 are very different things.  Could we say that what has endured, is what many think of as wise?

What we need to know has changed.  The ways we come to know it have changed too.

Most of what we think we know, we're taught.  We learn. 
The amount of information we now think we need seems staggering compared to those of us who can remember what was needed just 20 years ago.
We have vast wealth - perhaps an over-abundance of conventional knowledge. 
But are we living wisely?

How happy are we?  How joyful, how peaceful, how loving, how caring?
If what we know brings us nothing of these, then where is this knowing's  real value?

Or , looked at another way - Just what is "it", then, we value?

The path to life success is found in the teachings that also teach us to live wisely.
The teachings that bring more joy, that bring more peace, that bring more love, into our everyday experience.
More accurately, they teach us to be open to these experiences.

Most of us intuit as children that what we are being taught is only true in a relative sense.
Were it not for external pressure, much teaching would quickly be abandoned as garbage in and garbage out.
(I think of all the machines I learned to operate over the years that no longer exist and how that knowledge was only useful for a time.)

The wisdom of Ancient Teachings is as relevant to a life of success today as when they were first spoken if we truly value what it is we claim we value.

Leadership :Simple or Complicated?

I am always amazed at how we complicate everything in our minds.  I belong to a number of Business Groups and Networks and am a voracious reader of books, blogs, forums, and websites. There is a staggering amount of conflicting information available today on any given subject.

Discussions that center on Leadership inevitably give rise to a collection of associative words that are woven throughout their pages. Organization, structure, management, performance, efficiency, productivity, culture, name but a few of those typically found.

Recently I was pointed towards the book "Managing Leadership" and so I looked it up and began with the table of contents.  Leadership has been dissected into 8 or 9 chapters and at least 30 or 40 subheadings.  I admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of wading through another collection of ideas with so many words to talk about one thing.

Nonetheless,  I read these books to see and understand what others are thinking, asserting, advocating, and promoting as "The Way".   What I generally find is that more imaginary divisions are created between this thing and that thing, with each thing further subdivided into smaller and smaller compartments.  How easy it becomes to lose sight of the bigger picture when we dive into the details and engage in what Native Americans refer to as "mouse vision"!

Please don't get me wrong - mouse vision has some usefulness.  Limited usefulness, I should add.  But have we gone overboard whereby everything we see and do need be broken into smaller and smaller components or are we simply pretending to know and understand more than we really do?

Leadership is a concept, and in that sense, has no reality of it's own.  There are some who say they are self-led although I prefer to think of the words as relational, describing the relationship between Leaders and Followers.  One defines the other.  If self-led, then I must also self-follow, and this diminishes the usefulness of both words in the communication of the "concept".

Although books abound on Leadership - Managing Leadership, Leadership Principles, Leadership and Self-Deception - the concept could be made far more simple and easy to grasp.  I simplify it as meaning this: Enlightened  Leadership involves seeing those you lead as people rather than objects, no different than yourself, and in treating them as you would wish to be treated if  you traded positions and walked the proverbial "mile in their shoes".

Monday, April 12, 2010

Life Success - Living the Dream

I began my first entrepreneurial venture in the early 1980's with my husband of 10 years and our 2 small daughters, just 4 and 5 years old then. Three years later, we were selling over $5 million in product annually - a good return for the times and for a new venture.  And yet, the greater our success, the more I found it to be hollow and lacking in meaning.  I often wondered if there was more to life than this?  There had to be more than the setting of goals and their achievement followed by the setting of more goals and more achievements.  We lived a pampered life.  What was enough or would we forever be  chasing bigger and better brass rings; bigger houses, cars, and titles?  When did the goal-setting end and the living of life begin?

To my dismay, I realized that my life had been lived all along but where was I in all of that doing and what really mattered to me?  Was what mattered, in fact, the accumulation of wealth, or the prestige of success, the pleasure of accomplishment, or the power and authority I could exert over others?  The  question  I wanted answered was this: What gives meaning to life?  I could tell you what did not, according to my experience, but I could not say what would. 

My interest in success as a goal unto itself began to wane considerably over the next few years.  I found it ever more difficult to live a life of excess while driving my Mercedes by a homeless family that was living on the sidewalk.   I had to stop pretending not to see all the people in this Land of Opportunity that were hungry, thirsty, broken,  and poor.  The more I opened my eyes to those around me, the less I came to enjoy our abundant success.

Success in any endeavor is much like a dual-edged sword. Whatever is gained, we stand to lose.  Amassing the fruits of success, we have that much more to protect and to safeguard and soon, what we own, owns us. Where is the wisdom in that?

Is it really success that we're after? All  the riches in the world won't help us feel successful until we discover for ourselves what it is that holds real meaning.  It may not be what  you think.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tired of Pretending

A year ago yesterday my dad passed away and I spent the day alone, with myself.  The death of a loved one is often life-changing for those left behind.  Reflecting on these past 12 months, that was certainly true for me.  And true for the rest of my family. Our priorities have shifted and the allocation of our time is engaged in very different endeavors.

I read a book many, many years ago called I Got Tired of Pretending.  Although 20 years have passed since then and I don't remember the content, the title stayed with me as I moved through my days, my weeks, and my years.  I question how much or how little I betray myself by pretense, by pretending that what I see,  think, and feel is what I really see, think, and feel?   I marvel at how often life asks me to pretend that what is real, is not; and that what is "not real" is what matters and holds meaning. 

I would guess this is why many refer to life as merely another game.

"Fear not, what is not real never was and never will be.
What is real, always was, and cannot be destroyed."

These lines from the Bhagavad Gita are my answer to the need for pretending according to my roles, my self-identifications, self-justifications, the expectations of others, and all the other rules of the game that we collectively perpetuate among ourselves.  We are a most curious creation. Arising from nowhere and nothingness, breathing life we begin to see, think, and feel. As we grow we are taught who and what we are according to how we differ from others. The basic premise is that we are separate, divisible, objects surrounded by a universe of other separate, divisible, objects that we must learn to function with, around, and between.  That we survive among others in a predatory world becomes the prime directive.

What if this basic premise is flawed? What if we are not as we were told and have come to believe?

The world we have constructed within our minds is reflected in the world we see outside.  More than 20 years ago I embarked on a journey in search of myself.  I always knew I was not who or what people said, regardless of what nouns or adjectives they chose.  Some words stuck, other words changed, but none satisfied the need to know my self.  I became an explorer of many realms and my searching  led me around the world.  I investigated science, delved heavily into philosophy, and read volumes absorbing the teachings of the world's major religions.  I can more easily say what I am not then to tell you who I am.  I am not separate from you.

And yet, even knowing this, I miss my dad.  I miss entertaining the idea of one day being held within his big, strong arms again.  His transition from form to formlessness still brings a tear or ten, and yet, I also feel his presence more today than when he lived and breathed.  What is real is the Love we felt for "the other", and that can never be destroyed. 

We love you dad. Forever and always. 


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An Open Mind is Under-Rated as a Key to Success

I read a blog this morning where the author asserted that  Being Open-minded is Overrated.
I disagree with the  premise that to have an open-mind is over-rated in the 21st century and, in fact, would advocate the  opposite. I think  some of the primary aspects of what it means to have an open-mind were overlooked or simply not understood by the author.  We need not agree (or disagree) with the beliefs or opinions of others to experience an open mind.
We do, however, need to set aside our own ideas and beliefs. (This does not mean we can't reclaim them if  we are attached to them although they are less needed than we might think. Just think about the thousands of thoughts we think each day and the  uselessness of most.)

Open-mindedness is not something we possess or lack but simply describes a state of receptivity to the consideration  of ideas that lie outside our own. The words denote our willingness to favorably entertain or receive the ideas or  opinions of  others. (Please notice the keywords here are Willingness and Favorably).  Most of us are seldom in a truly open-minded state.

The opposite of an open-mind is to be narrow-minded, opinionated, judgmental, prejudiced, biased, etc., etc.
I don't believe these are attributes Christ, Buddha, or any Enlightened Leader would advocate we embody or personify.
(We also know that the path we are advised to take is not the easy road but a thing easier said than done. )

Why are we so advised to keep an open mind? The ability to (at least temporarily) suspend our own ideas and beliefs is critical to really listening to what another person is saying.  There is little room to pour something new or different into a cup that is already full. Unless we think we already know all there is to know then the full cup of a closed mind is probably not our wisest choice in life.

 Where we "stand" on an issue colors and filters everything that flows in and out of that position and creates numerous "blind spots."  In order to see the whole picture, we need cultivate  an "open mind" state of mind and look as favorably upon the other side of the coin as the side we chose to"stand on" and have adopted as our own. We do this because we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but also because we hope to continue to learn and to grow within ourselves.

Once we take a stand, there should be small surprise if our subsequent experiences hold small potential to be life-changing. We have succeeded in limiting them to a narrowed context  before we even embark on our journeys .  It appears to an observer  that our lifelong quest is really a search for certainty, a degree of security. We do not really wish  to have an open mind as much as to solidify aspects of what we already believe to be true. 

In the same blog, a reader echoes the assertion that open-mindedness to different ideas is over-rated by responding,  "To wedge them in would do violence to our narrative of faith and compromise the character of the story. "

Where does Truth enter in? To associate the search for  Truth with violence merely incites fear and perpetuates ignorance. How solid is the foundation of  faith that it cannot sustain inquiry or investigation? 

And what of Trust?  Do we have so little in our God and/or our fellow beings that we cannot suspend our own beliefs long enough to give favorable consideration to those of another? There are two sides to every coin.  The world might be a better place if we could all learn to see both sides, with an open mind.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Today's the Day - Official Launch!

Hello friends.  Today's the day of the official launch of my second website, www.twosidesonecoin.com and I hope you'll stop in and visit, browse, and comment.  I welcome all suggestions!  Although still in the early stages of development, I have big plans for the future and will keep you advised as the site continues to grow. 

Twosides is a weaving of the personal that underlies the professional although "underlies" is not entirely accurate.  More so, the so-called personal (me, the person) strongly influences all that I do and think and the idea that any business is strictly business, nothing personal, strikes me as both ludicrous and absurd.  What a concept!

Bearing in mind that the idea of strictly business is merely a concept, a mental construction,  I can't help but wonder how it is we came to accept the idea as acceptable?  Although widespread, does anyone really believe it?  More importantly, what are the results of pretending we are two separate entities or that we can impose some sort of split in our  personality between personal and professional conduct, values, ethics, or guiding principles?  Does this imaginary split really lead to our best course of action or do we often find ourselves in conflict?

The idea of business as nothing personal will continue to be explored in Enlightened Leadership upcoming posts so please stay tuned!  And thanks to all who assisted in getting twosidesonecoin.com launched today!  Best wishes, j

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Change of Heart, Change of Mind

Welcome to TwoSides, ONE Coin.  My original vision was to confine myself to the topic of Enlightened Leadership although once I began to create content I came to resent the self-imposed restriction on my freedom of expression.  Although the topic of Enlightened Leadership is very close to my heart, I will be weaving it throughout these blog postings as the muse strikes. I  hope to provide you with an interesting variety of topics that will include a potpourri of inspirational quotes, philosophical musings, intuitive insights and observations, and those things that arise in the heart before they come to mind.

Meanwhile, please visit our new website at www.twosidesonecoin.com for a peek at upcoming topics and more information on the TwoSides, One Coin works in progress. We hope to sponsor another series of articles on Intuition: Outside the Thinking Box as well as create an online community for those interested in supporting new forms of Enlightened Leadership around the world. 

Until Tomorrow and the official launch!

Monday, March 29, 2010

An April Fool

April Fool's Day seems appropriate to launch the website for TwoSidesOneCoin.com  A project that began many months ago has now gone through countless mutations whereby my original vision is scarcely recognizable. Countless pages were created and then abandoned as life carved out some alternate paths I had but small choice to follow.

The original vision I had for Two Sides was to explore the concept of  Enlightened Leadership as the key to sustainable success in the 21st Century.  Clearly much of America is disenchanted with the models of leadership we have been asked to follow whether we are discussing business leaders, political leaders, spiritual leaders or civic/community leaders.
Trust is in short supply as we recognize our interests are often overlooked when compared to their own self-service.

Rather than recount the obvious costs of Unenlightened Leadership, I had hoped to explore the potential we might fulfill under the guidance of Enlightened Leaders. The best description of Enlightened Leadership was that given by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in a speech at MIT.  An Enlightened Leader is one who also serves those who serve him.