Purpose Statement

Exploration -> Experience -> Feeling -> Transformation -> Understanding

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The General Welfare

A Thai Buddhist monk once led me in meditation. We started with inner peace and calm, which we visualized as a glowing sphere internal to my torso. The boundary of this sphere slowly expanded until it encompassed my entire body, but then expanded even further to include the person next to me, then everyone in the room, then everyone in the building, the city, the state, the country, the continent, the earth, and ultimately all sentient beings in the universe.

One of my favorite Zen Buddhist prayers is called Great Vows For All:

The many beings are numberless, I vow to save them;
Greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them;
Dharma gates are countless, I vow to wake to them;
The Buddha's way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully.

So the Buddhist notion of the general welfare includes all sentient beings in the universe. The Buddhists notably begin within themselves and plan to spend numerous lifetimes.

Now consider corporate America. CEOs. Enron. Bear Stearns. Adelphia. Worldcom. Etc. The general welfare is for me and my posse and the goal is as much as possible as quickly as possible.

So what would it look like if a Buddhist was running a company?

American business is preoccupied with net profit, return on investment, cash flow.

Buddhists are preoccupied with ending suffering, which comes from ego attachment to image (status), people, places, things, comfort, security, etc.

Buddhist wisdom: Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. So what you do for a living, chopping wood and carrying water, is just a fact of life; you have to feed yourself, put a roof over your head, insulate yourself from the cold.

A Buddhist would not see the point in accumulating wealth beyond food, shelter and security. For that matter, neither would a Christian:

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.”

What is American capitalism/business/materialism/consumerism good for? What do we have that most other people do not have?

Hygiene. Comfort. Opportunity. Technology. Prosperity.

What has American capitalism/business/materialism/consumerism been unable to deliver?

Meaning. Fulfillment. Peace. Justice. Community.

Corporate Culture

So I have been thinking about leadership and vision and what sort of culture I want to develop at the office. My employees are, for the most part, wonderful people, but they are timid. They are afraid of making mistakes, unsure what to do; they are products of the corporate cultures they come from.

So I am trying to communicate to them that they are in a completely different situation now. I want them to think like they are the owners of the company. I want them to make decisions and take action. I know they will make mistakes. They will not be punished for their mistakes. We will fix whatever we screw up, learn our lessons and move on, wiser for the experience.

Of course, it really doesn't matter what I say or they consciously believe. Their behavior will only be transformed once they have experienced the consequences of risk and failure. I hope, when the time comes, my reflexive response is appropriate.

So I started gathering quotations that convey the corporate culture I want to establish, perhaps to publish in our monthly newsletter:

epic
NOUN:
An extended narrative poem in elevated or dignified language, celebrating the feats of a legendary or traditional hero.
A literary or dramatic composition that resembles an extended narrative poem celebrating heroic feats.
A series of events considered appropriate to an epic.
ADJECTIVE:
Of, constituting, having to do with, or suggestive of a literary epic.
Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size.
Heroic and impressive in quality.
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A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces
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... but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!
- William Hutchinson Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951)
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It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier." - Theodore Roosevelt, Citizenship In A Republic, Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910
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The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants them to do, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. - Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Leadership and Management

I used to work for a big, political, bureaucratic corporation. The most political bureaucrats in the corporation instituted a Leadership Development Program governed by a Leadership Development Committee, but it was a ship without a rudder, so they formed a Leadership Steering Committee. Somehow I wound up on the Leadership Steering Committee and I think I was the only member that pondered the question - What is Leadership?

And now I find myself leading and managing a small business and I have again been contemplating - What is leadership? And what is management?

My present thinking is as follows:

Leadership

I have a dream.
I follow my bliss.
Will you help me along the way?
If so, I will help you along the way.

Management

Take measurements.
What is underperforming?
What is the improvement?
How will we implement the improvement?
Implement.
Repeat ad infinitum.

So the big question is: What is the dream?

At the top of most corporate entities, the dream is "to make money," presumably for the corporate collective, but in practice it is for the politically ambitious egocentric individuals who are trying to "advance their careers."

I find this most unsatisfying.

Walter Wink says that corporations exist to serve values beyond themselves; "Adam Smith himself acknowledged this when he wrote that the ultimate goal of a business is not to make a profit. Profit is just the means. The goal is the general welfare." The Powers, page 68.

Adam Smith (Scotsman, the father of economics) The Wealth of Nations, book 5, chapter 1, part 3; "The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interests should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular society - that the interests of this order of society be sacrificed to the greater interests of the state. He should therefore be equally willing that all those inferior interests should be sacrificed to the greater society of all sensible and intelligent beings ..."

So what is my dream, if not to make money?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

For Dad and Grandpa


The Weight of Sweetness by Li-Young Lee

No easy thing to bear, the weight of sweetness.

Song, wisdom, sadness, joy: sweetness
equals three of any of these gravities.

See a peach bend
the branch and strain the stem until
it snaps.
Hold the peach, try the weight, sweetness
and death so round and snug
in your palm.
And, so, there is
the weight of memory:

Windblown, a rain-soaked
bough shakes, showering
the man and the boy.
They shiver in delight,
and the father lifts from his son's cheek
one green leaf
fallen like a kiss.

The good boy hugs a bag of peaches
his father has entrusted
to him.
Now he follows
his father, who carries a bagful in each arm.
See the look on the boy's face
as his father moves
faster and farther ahead, while his own steps
flag, and his arms grow weak, as he labors
under the weight
of peaches.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Backyard Patrol

Bindi figured out the doggie door in 10 minutes. April hasn't gone through it yet. April spends her days keeping the lizards (on top of the wall near the hose) out of her yard.
The new gate from the outside looking in.
One of the man gates.
Angel in the construction zone.
Spiral stair up to the sunset patio.