Bernard Palissy’s Quote

A family member sent me the following quote attributed to Bernard Palissy, Fourteenth Century artist, engineer and writer. 

“Even if used a thousand reams of paper to write down all the accidents that have happened to me in learning this art, you must be assured that however good a brain you may have, you will still make a thousand mistakes, which cannot be learned from writing, and even if you had them in writing you wouldn’t believe them until practice has given you a thousand afflictions.”

Who amongst us has not experienced the difference between listening to what others say, reading what others have written compared to our own full immersion in the issue or project we read and hear others discuss? It’s why I contend and have written time and again of the importance of our own experiences, whether planned or accidental and how vital it is that we learn from what we do as well as the errors, omissions and successes of others. This is ultimately how people arrive at that “aha” moment. It is where “I Know!” results from endless head, heart and hands involvement. 

How many times in a day do we hear someone say “I know” when really they are parroting the words spoken and written by others? People say they “know” even if they have not actually experienced what it is they say they know so they don’t know, but think they know and too often this means beings closed off to knowing. For thousands of years people depended on pictures on cave walls, word of mouth, story tellers and balladeers for information. The data instantly available today is almost overwhelming. But whether the picture on a wall or the unlimited information on the internet none of this is knowing when compared to knowing from personal experience. And to complicate the issue of experiential knowing, our personal experiences are never without bias. 

Have you ever played the game of “telephone” where someone whispers to the person next to them and the next person whispers what they heard to the next one and so on until all the people in the circle had a story relayed to them? It’s a laugher as to how quickly a story is changed from one person to the next. Is it that we hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see?

We humans are limited in our ability to be objective. As long as we have feelings and history we also have influences playing on our thought processes and behavior. So nothing is crystal clear and pure when it comes to humans as reporters, story tellers, leaders and teachers even if they have “been there and done that.” So the “knower” never conveys an exact truth. People are not cameras. No, our subjectivity is pervasive and is part of everyone’s experience. That being said, I strongly hold to the quote at the beginning of this paper that in order to really know something one must experience it. The message is clear: Don’t deny or resent your experiences. Learn from them.   Being a student is a never ending drive for some and all students are to be commended. But being a student to others written and spoken words does not lead to knowing it leads to a”between the ears” understanding. This is a good thing, but limited to answering questions not solving problems. The true problem solver is similar to the true entrepreneur. They will be knocked down, maybe bloodied, face failure time and again, but continue their particular journey because they are driven to know and to know must be experienced.

What does it mean to be “vulnerable?”

I intend it to mean strength, courage and a willingness to be open to those closest to us and to ourselves. It is where growth takes root and moves out into the world we live in and with those with whom we live and work. It is honest, respectful, nurturing and accepting. Most importantly those who are vulnerable listen and work to understand the other. In the process being who they are, but because of events, people and being vulnerable are also in a state of becoming.

In truth, all humans are born open and vulnerable, but too soon begin the process of closing up to being and becoming what others (in power) influences them to be. And, therefore, to a considerable degree we learn to be what others choose for us to be and this may be harmful or loving.

If loving, nurturing and accepting we remain ourselves still growing, being and becoming, but always our unique self and not what others would have us be.

If harmful to us and unconscious or intentional to the perpetrators (those who hold power over us) we become what we must in order to survive. But this is learned behavior and regardless of how deep, it is still learned. And what humans learn can be unlearned. Much difference between what we inherit and what we learn. The former is permanent and the latter may be changed.

Not without courage to be open and vulnerable are people able to change. All of us can appear to be open, but “appearance” is an act. It is the wearing of an exterior that we believe hides us and therefore fools the other, but in truth, those closest to us are not fooled. They know much of the truth of whom and what we really are. Others are, after all, relatively objective of us as we are of them, but we are all too subjective of ourselves. We rarely look in, but spend most of our time looking out and believing the mirror.

And this is what being vulnerable means and why it takes courage. Being open to the objectivity of those close to us is never easy to experience. First, of course, it is fear of our weaknesses being exposed. And secondly, it means giving up one’s power to significant others if even temporarily.  

Finally, if just for now, the most powerful amongst us are the people who most need to be vulnerable and invite those important to them to communicate what they “know” of the one in power. Dangerous grounds to stand on without a knowledgeable mentor to facilitate the interaction and any hope of mutuality and true dialogue.

True growth and change begins deep within each self and happens only when what is outside is allowed in.    Sy

Season’s greeting to all

The world is in a difficult place. We in our own country are in a difficult place. Too many families and individuals are in a difficult place. Politically, we are split down the middle as a country with issues that appear to be intransigent. Is there one possible way out to all of this that might just be common to all of us? In my own very insignificant opinion I believe buried somewhere in most, if not all of these issues is the problem of communication.  Not news, radio, TV, cell phones and the thousands of app communications, but old fashioned face to face dialogue. And which includes listening, actually trying hard to understand what the other is saying, and confirming them, not necessarily agreeing, but actually understanding from whence they come with some modicum of empathy? 

The data from our technologies (yesterdays and today’s) is unbelievable, and certainly has value in terms of information constantly accumulating and available to one and all. But information and data are not necessarily truths, and most certainly have nothing to do with one’s own personal “hands on experiences.”

Hearsay, by any means, including the avowed experiences of others is not our own experience. How weak and helpless are those that make the words and supposed experiences of others their own truths. It is not “I was told or read” but becomes “I know“ when in fact nobody knows what they have not personally experienced. 

We as a culture and society are in deep trouble, and I strongly believe this has much to do with our dearth of time to seriously be with each other, to touch, to see, to hear and to understand each other. Many do not eat together, meet together to share the day and their thoughts and feelings. How and in what way are we together e-mailing, texting, talking on our cell phones to each other? And finally how can we miss our evening favorite and absolutely essential TV programs depicting life as we ourselves are not living it?

Family is held up as the strength and heart of our country. Are those who believe this today serious? How many families sit down at the kitchen table together for dinner intent on hearing and understanding the words and stories each has to tell, and want to tell? And this without TV and cell phone interference? Work is such that we become so busy that meetings do not take place because they are wasted not on dialogue which is never a waste, but on firm agendas. And where and when are the spontaneous and creative interactions between people? Those of us that know genuine dialogue with our significant others are truly the blessed ones. 

Have a wonderful and loving holiday season, and may the New Year bring some peace to all. Sy

Some End of the Year thoughts

Have not written a paper for some time; it seems like my writing a book has taken precedence over my one pager’s? 

So far I have about 7 chapters written. The one I’m locked in at this time seems to be the core of what this book is supposed to be about. It’s the “power” chapter that everything else seems to be circling around. In any case, I’ve developed a philosophy about my writing, and that is to allow it to go where “it” wants to go as against my having a predetermined course or outline. Also, I’m enjoying so who cares.

Both Lenette and I feel great considering that the years pile up, and each day is that much more wonderful. I guess this has much to do with how one’s mind and body are functioning? I believe that our having been around the young for so much of our life has something to do with this. We’ve never felt different or apart from those we worked and lived with. The older ones we did know seemed old and we so much younger, even if our years were similar. It certainly has something to do with attitude as well as remaining active. It’s a package.

Back to the book: Having honed my style as a teacher, and one that nurtured spontaneous feedback, writing only to satisfy some inner voice within me is a totally new experience. As stated, I enjoy this dialogue with this “inner voice,” and have no desire to impede its influence on my fingers. 

 I hope to have the book finished by the end of this summer (at the latest), and seek how and what process to go about having it published; (any help or ideas are appreciated). Since I always believed (and even more strongly today) that this philosophy is so pragmatically correct and needed I feel that it will (not can) make a difference in the lives of the more powerful in the world of business, education, politics, and yes, even parenting. In other words, where power between people is an issue (and where is it not?) it will challenge the real and actual of this day; probably more than previously, and this due to the impact of technology. 

There are certain truths that exist no differently today than at the beginning of humankind. The one I focus on is that power is both a gift and a problem that takes place between each of us. To know this means to use power well and for good. To claim to know this, and to use power for ill and evil is madness. No one; in particular the one in power can avoid this truth. Using power as a tool to win over others as compared to using power to grow others is a disease insidious to all.

So, like the opening that is nothing but a “few thoughts” I wish you all good health and a better year for all of us and the world.

Sy

Signs of Our Times

The stuff that happens in Washington D.C. is absolute confirmation that “COMMUNICATION IS THE PROBLEM TO THE ANSWER.” It is so obvious that in the business world whenever decisions need to be made they are made.  They may not be good ones; they may be slow in coming, or even too hastily arrived at, but they are made. It’s the leader’s responsibility to get what needs to be done, done! In fact, all the work we did together over the years was aimed at facilitating communication and problem solving in an authentic way. That genuine dialogue was a stated goal so that the best and most honest opinions for the good of the whole could be brought to the table.  Our purpose was never to impede decision making, but to get the best suggestions on the table and to choose, and run with a consensus if possible, and without it, if necessary, but in a timely manner. On the other hand, businesses are not democracies, and the leader is not an elected politician whose primary purpose is to be a representative of his/her constituents.  So comparing political leadership with business leadership is as foolish as comparing the operation of a government with that of a business.  The political leader has many strings attached to what powers they appear to have, and these may be withdrawn if the constituents’ needs are not being met. The business leader “owns” both the power and the strings. They fear the loss of money and business, but not the voice and vote of their employees. And the point to this brief paper is that the politician does worry too much about the voice and vote of their constituents to the loss of the “greater good,” and the business leader does not understand how important the voices and votes of their employees are to their business success. The former is weakened by knowing they have too little power, and the other by believing they have all the power. Neither is true.

There are important similarities to leading as a politician and leading as a business leader. They both need the support of the people that for the one, voted them into office, and for the other that work for them. But if the politician is to move beyond the constraints of their limiting community to the larger and much more important view of the country they must also mentor their constituents to this “greater good.” This is never easy, but essential if democracy is to work. The alternative is bound to fracture any democratic country into hundreds of isolated and weakened camps. (Think Balkanization?)

The business leader needs their people, in a sense, to vote and support them also, but this is a challenge beyond what most understand, and are therefore incapable of achieving. Getting employees to a committed level of performance beyond that of earning a paycheck is probably every bit as difficult as teaching one’s constituents to understand and support the “greater good.” Neither is an impossible task, but does require courage to communicate genuinely, patiently, and clearly. “Being” is never easy. 

For every politician and every business leader “communication is the problem to the answer.” And what is communicated is experienced by each individual, and what people perceive (not necessarily what is actually said or done) turns out to be one’s own truth. So if a country’s “greater good” are the issues and a business’s “success and growth” are its issues, both type leaders need to be what they say and do. For the politician, this means knowledge of the subjects, ability to negotiate, to understand the other, to explain, to learn, to be willing to give a little in order to get a little, and to enlighten. For the business leader, are they really that different?                                                                                                                    Sy

Genuine Dialog

I may be the wrong one to attempt a paper on the joys, hopes, rewards and potential of technology, and its myriads of problems. On the other hand, since I am still partially in the cave, I have the sense of push and pull in both directions. I do want to learn how to use and benefit by this remarkable phenomena, and at the same time not to have it replace the “face to face” dialogue I have lived my life and work trying to understand, use and teach.

My thoughts shout at me that communication between people is not the problem. We are probably more in touch with each other than at any time in man’s history? But the “being in touch” is like walking on water. That is, we are communicating to each other, but not getting wet. Face to face dialogue is getting wet! And Genuine Dialogue is like having a spiritual (full immersion) experience. Today, our technology aided communication is a very dry experience; not only dry, but antiseptic. What we touch is not each other, but a tool. Too few are immersed in significant relationships that require, even demand, a sharing of space that is separated by a few feet, and often inches. Where eye to eye contact gives us a full bodied message as compared to only hearing and seeing words; how can this be when what is called communication takes place through small hand held objects and computers, and at distances that may cover the world?

Yes! The amount, speed, and kind of data that is transferred between people are not simply remarkable, but is shaping our world as we live this moment. The miracle of Egypt was precipitated by this technology; without which their many issues may have simmered for another 30 years. So what nation, business, community, religious institution, family is not in some way at the effect of this technological revolution?  People movements from the Tea Party to those on the other side of the spectrum know of the power, but hardly of its possibilities because it changes, metamorphoses’ before our eyes. It is a tool that may even, one day in the not too distant future, control us as its controller.

So my point, before I run beyond my allotted space (one page) is that if we are to hold on to our humanity, and the primary purpose of our being, it must be through our relationships with each other, and what I still believe evolution is about. That is, moving towards being there for each other, hearing and understanding each other; respecting individual differences, and yes, loving our neighbors as we also need to be loved. We must be present with each other when we do meet face to face, or how else do we confirm each other? And candor in the safety of distance and technology is not the candor of Genuine Dialogue.  And this must happen in at least a minimum of our relationships.

 It has been said that if one can count five friends in a life time they will have lived a rich, full life. We may call the multitudes we reach on Twitter, Face book, E-mail our “friends,” but I don’t think so. And, I venture, either do you. So put aside, as often as possible, all the technology you are using, and begin anew with your truly select friends, a dialogue that is genuine. Be with each other when with each other, show respect for the uniqueness that is brought to the table. Listen and confirm what is being said, and this has nothing to do with agreement, and express your truth; not as a definitive truth that wins over their truth, but simply your truth versus their truth. Finally, look into the other’s eyes as they look into yours. It is amazing this oldest and most permanent of communication “tools” I label GENUINE DIALOGUE.                       Sy        

Events Dictate

I would guess I’ve used the words, “Events dictate the exercise of power” for well over 30 years. I know the words to be true, even if, for too many, their response is way out line, that is, either too strong, too weak, or nothing (and doing nothing is still a response). My seeking has always been for the appropriate response, and made by the appropriate person, which may or may not be the actual leader. But the words need to be understood before we deal with the issues presented by any event.

What do I mean when I speak or write these words?“Events” are those daily “happenings” that make our days unique, different from every other day that passes us by. The breakdown of communication, software, hardware, people, misinterpreted words, and the multitude of good and not so good things that can occur, and usually do in the lives of those of us that face more than” what do I wear” for the day’s big decision. And “dictate” as intended here means to demand that something be done; if not now, then soon, and by one that can handle the issue that calls. This requires some degree of “power” to take charge or to designate another to take on the task, has the authority, and resources to deal with the event at hand. Many mistakes are made at this point.

Problems become evident quickly (that is, to the keen observer) that too often “events” are not picked up in a timely manner, passed over, swept under, too weakly acted on, or too strong, and over the board, efforts to handle. To match the right person, and response, to an event is rare, and another considerable problem to lay on top of the event that dictates the exercise of power.When “things” happen to us we either run, stand and fight, embrace it, or freeze. Rare is the event that calls for a “this instant” response. Stopping to dialogue and assess an event is rare. Most people do not live in the present, and events need to hit them in the mid-section before they become aware that a response of some kind is called for. And here is where a master leader is called for. Master because they are quick to see events coming, respond appropriately, and exercise their power in ways that both save the day, and grow their people.             

The Best Kind of Leadership

What is the best kind of leadership? This is a tough question because what is best for one kind of follower is not going to work for another. There are those that believe they need to be left alone to do their job, or whatever needs to be done, and actually do better given the space and resources necessary to do the job. In other words, let them be, and all will be well. Or the good leader, soon enough, discovers that a person may want freedom, but handles it badly. In this case the good leader applies constraints like time, quality, quantity, etc., in order to either “grow or go” the follower.  A good leader does this quickly so that damage is minimized, or that growth is facilitated. Inadequate leaders are either too firm, too quickly, or too lax for too long. Timing has much to do with whether leadership is effective. Good leadership and teachable moments are as connected as are ears to the head. Hiding o-seek is not a game good leaders play.  They say what they mean to say, and do what they say. No confusion between words and action.  And the wiser employees know this to be true.

Also, the better leaders accept that differences are a good thing, is desirable, and that this needs to be nurtured both for the benefit to the individual, and to the group. And here is where quality leaders separate themselves from the not so capable leaders. Growing individuals to be more capable, creative, productive, means also to grow them as members of the group they work with. Competition between people within groups, and competition between groups, is eliminated as much as possible, and cooperation becomes the mantra that is spoken as well as felt between one and all. 

This is what a quality leader does: They are role models, they are students, they are teachers, they resource, they facilitate, they are accessible, they listen, they work hard to understand, and when they make decisions they are made in the best interest of all involved including the individual, the group, and the client/customer. Finally, they are consistent, firm, fair, and most of all are accountable and responsible.