Friday, September 19, 2014

The Impact Of Enviroment

An increased sense of personal well-being at work, in real and practical ways, contributes to a positive and enjoyable work environment.  A pleasant environment filled with happy associates, coupled with feelings of team accomplishment and personal fulfillment, can contribute as much as anything to increased productivity, greater efficiency, and decreased absenteeism.  All of these things working together will affect the bottom line by contributing in positive ways to overall cost savings.  It is not enough to only look at process improvements and best practices.  The impact of environment cannot be underestimated.  I believe creating such an environment begins with the leaders.  How do you do it?  It begins with honesty, truth, caring, and transparency.  This is stuff you can’t fake.  If you try to do so your associates will see right through it.  We’ve got to do it and be real about it.  In order to be real we must be authentic.  Lance Secretan in his book One…The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership actually suggests that leaders should love their people.  It probably would be helpful if they also loved one another.  In addition, it’s not enough for the leaders to care about their people.  The “people” need to care about their leaders.  We can’t treat one another like we are enemies.  The people who do the work and the people who manage the work are in a partnership.  It should not be an adversarial relationship.  This is where I would add trust to the mix.  I know that some of you probably think any talk about love and feelings is inappropriate in the workplace.  Some think we are here to get a job done, not love one another.  I’m not suggesting a phony and shallow pretending to care about one another.  I am suggesting the real deal.  Work is part of life and the caring that many of you show for family, friends, and causes dear to your heart should be expanded to include the work place.  What would the workplace be like if most people actually liked, or even loved, coming to work?  What would the workplace look like if we tried to outdo one another in kindness?  What would the workplace look like if there was more cooperation and less competition?  What would it be like to ride the elevators and hear more laughter and less complaining?  What I am suggesting, and what Lance Secretan writes about, is a oneness and unity that will heal the separateness that too often exists. 
“You may say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”.
-John Lennon in the song Imagine.   

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Voluntary Simplicity

There is a chapter in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book titled Wherever You Go, There You Are about voluntary simplicity.  Most people think that voluntary simplicity is simply about having less stuff.  That is certainly part of it.  It is also choosing a less complicated life and learning to say no.  A simple life also has a Zen element to it because one is able to be more present to their life because there is less life in which to be present.  When one attempts to live a simple life one strives to avoid distractions.  When you eat a bowl of cereal, you simply eat the bowl of cereal.   A distracted life is when you eat a bowl of cereal and while you are eating it you are also reading the list of ingredients listed on the side of the box.  The challenge of a simple life is to discern what is truly essential and what is not.  Think about all the things to do each day.  Many of these things are done in a mindless, not mindful way.  What is truly essential in life often gets out of whack because much of what we do is not really essential.  Much of what we do is the byproduct of our personal agendas which may or may not have any real meaning for us and, most certainly, not for others.  Today I challenge you to think about how you can simplify your life.  Pay attention to what you are choosing to do.  Is it really essential?  Does it have a meaningful purpose?  I understand that many of us have to do things that are created by other people’s agendas and we often to not have a choice about it.  Sometimes we just have to accept this.  However, as much as you can, minimize your own life by choosing to live simply, without clutter, and without unnecessary complication or distraction.    

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Engaged From The Heart

People are sick and tired of managers and business analysts taking about efficiency, waste, and compliance.  They want to be engaged from the heart.
-Jeremy Scrivens
It is virtually impossible to work for a large corporation and not hear about efficiency, waste, and compliance.  Inefficiency, waste, and being out of compliance can translate into millions of dollars of lost profit.  This is not pocket change.  How can we care about these necessities of modern business and still be “engaged from the heart”.  Many people, especially in the workplace, are driven by their intellect.  Others, less conspicuous, are driven by their hearts.  Generally the intellect driven people are focused on the bottom line, profits, compliance, technology, and staying competitive.  The heart driven people are usually more concerned about the needs of the customers and employees.  How can we balance these two needs?  A company that doesn’t care will eventually go out of business.  A company that cares too much, to the point of being impudent about basic business decisions, will also go out of business.  We need a balance of the intellect and the heart.  There is no doubt in my mind that my company has some of the smartest people in the world.  We also have some of the most caring people in the world.  Having said this, I think we place too much emphasis on numbers based performance over caring which is more challenging to measure.  Somehow we need to gauge how much our associates, and especially our leaders, are “engaged from the heart”.  We need to take care of business or we will have no business.  However, we also need to develop some authentic practices that promote the engagement of the heart within our business practices.  We need to place as much value on caring as we do on productivity.  Everyone has been evaluated at one time or another over numbers.  Have any of us ever been evaluated on how much we care and how much we are engaged from the heart?   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Spiritual Amnesia

In his book Falling Upward, Richard Rohr uses a great analogy for the spiritual life.  He says that “it’s like we are all born with amnesia and we spend the rest of our lives trying to remember who we are”.  I think this is a great analogy.  It really changes my whole perspective.  Most of my life I have felt like I have to change in order to become who I am.  The word transformation is often tossed around in spiritual conversations.  Maybe we don’t need to change at all.  It’s been said that we are born perfect.  Who doesn’t think a newborn baby isn’t perfect?  Perhaps all we need to do is remember who we are.  Most of what we show to others, and most of what they see, is not at all who we are.  I’ve always thought that the purest picture of who we are is who we are when we are alone.  How do you act when no one is looking?  What do you do when you can do anything you want?  Imagine that you really do have amnesia.  As you try to unravel the mystery of who you are, what connections do you make?  What feels right and natural?  It’s not always clear.  Amnesia has a cousin and their name is confusion.  We spend much of our life feeling confused and then in moment of light and clarity we feel a connection and we have a little better idea of who we are.  We begin to remember.  This remembering, this peeling away of the many layers of the onion, is a life long journey.        

Monday, September 15, 2014

We Are All Interdependent

One of my top five strengths, according to the Strength Finder test, is “connectedness”.  I wasn’t surprised when I discovered this.  My basic understanding of this strength is that I usually have the ability to see the big picture and to connect the dots.  It is easy for me to understand and to see how everything in life is connected and interdependent.  This way of seeing life is very Buddhist so now I also understand why I am so attracted to Buddhist ways.  The reality is that none of us are truly independent.  We are connected and we need one another to survive.  I could not survive in life purely on my own talents and resources.  There are people who take care of me and there are people that I take care of in many ways big and small.  We are all part of a giant mosaic.  Each one of us is a chip.  One chip by itself can seem insignificant.  All the chips together, working in harmony, can create a mural of great beauty.  We should all think more about the connectedness of life, our total interdependence with one another, and how none of us can survive without this awareness and acceptance.  Of course, we are more than worker bees in the great beehive of life.  We all have the ability to be great and to bring our greatness to life for the benefit of all.  Although we may be connected and dependent on one enough, our individuality can bring everything up a notch or two for all the people that we feel most connected to in our daily lives. 
Breathing in, I am connected to everyone else.
Breathing out, everyone else is connected to me.
Breathing in, I am connected to all of life.
Breathing out, all of life is connected to me.    

Saturday, September 13, 2014


My mother is almost 85 years old.  She’s mellowing in her old age but most of her life she hasn’t held back telling me what she thinks.  Much of the time I haven’t liked what she said, especially if it was criticism of me, but I held my tongue and even bit it a few times.  Why did I do that when my natural tendency is to fight back?  I do it because she’s my mother and I respect her even when I disagree with her or think she’s clueless.  There are young people in my office who insist on calling me Mr. Brown.  I believe they do it out of respect for my age since I am one of the older people in a work area dominated by much younger people.  Of course, respect is not just about age.  I personally believe young people should respect older people who have been around the block a few times.  There is a level of cordial respect that seems to be eroding in our society.  Deep respect, however, must be earned.  In my mind anyone who is continuously disrespectful of others is immature and ignorant.  Depending on the nature of the relationship they may also be ungrateful.  This all goes back to my basic belief about karma.  What you put out there comes back to you.  Be disrespectful to others and you will be disrespected.  Treat others with the dignity they deserve and you will be given the dignity you deserve.  If you are pompous and arrogant, don’t expect a lot of love in return.  If you’re loving and kind and respectful, you will receive love, kindness, and respect in return.      
I like the following thought from George Washington Carver.  What he describes is really what respect is all about.
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I once saw a picture of our galaxy.  The picture showed thousands, if not millions, of stars and planets.  There was a large arrow pointing to a tiny dot with the caption, “You are here”.  Keep in mind that each of us is a tiny dot on the tiny dot.  It took hundreds of millions, if not billions, of years to create our galaxy.  The average lifespan of a human being is approximately 75 years.  I am not telling you this to make you feel insignificant.  I am telling you this to make a point about the value of perspective.  The poet Robert Frost summarizes the meaning of life when he wrote that “it goes on”.  Time waits for no one.  Most days I hear at least one person, and sometimes it’s me, complain about how their day is just dragging.  Many of us seem to experience this on a regular basis.  Then you wake up one day and ten years of your life is gone.  The perception of time can widely vary from person to person.  However, I digress.  Let’s get back to perspective.  Considering that each of us is a collection of particles and that we are dots within a dot on a map of our galaxy, maybe we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously.  Maybe we need to re-evaluate the importance of some of the things we do along with how we spent our time.  This is not to say that our lives are not important.  Many people do many good and important things.  Lots of people make a difference in our lives regardless of how much we affect the entire galaxy.  Scientists believe that all of the particles that make up each of us will continue to be part of the cosmos even when we die.  Some believe that everyone who ever lived is still part of everything that is around us.  Particles just keep rearranging themselves.  The mysteries of the galaxy and of life are more than I can comprehend.  Maybe we’re just supposed to enjoy it?