The measure of a life

Dad - 5-2008 Words of Wisdom from Ecclesiastes 3.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

I offer these words in recognition of the life of my father, Edwin Ranier Brenegar, Jr, who passed away the past Wednesday, April 21, 2010. 

In reflecting upon his long life, our family has realized that it is not the length of one's life that matters, but the impact of it. He was a quiet man who touched many lives by being a peace-maker, a facilitator, a mentor and a person of constant optimism and good cheer. He will be greatly missed. We thank God for his life and the difference that he made on us that will remain throughout the rest of ours.

Twisdom: Twitter Wisdom - by @TomVMorris - a Leading Questions review

(Welcome to friends and followers of Tom Morris, our Poet Philosopher of Twisdomville)

Let the tweeting begin!


The morning: Right after the fog, clarity comes.

Before engagements, prior to the mix, a brief, full moment of calm.

Bird songs begin the soundtrack for this docu-drama of life. A distant rustle. A buzzing bee.

The morning: This morning, never to be again. Attend to it. Relish it. Use it well.

A crunch of toast, a spread of jam, a topping of nuts, and I just am.

“Everything on earth is subject to change.” The I Ching

Lemons to lemonade: When the place burned down where the band Deep Purple was about to record, they wrote the hit “Smoke on the Water.”

“The loftiest towers rise from the ground.” - Chinese proverb. We all start from where we are.

Just wrote on our economic and political crises, “Living in Plato’s Cave.” Plato and Aristotle nailed it for us.

A thought: One half of human nature got us into our current troubles. It will take the other half to get us out.

These are the first tweets of Tom Morris.

Last spring, in an off-hand comment, I commented to Tom that he should be Twittering. I thought it was a good outlet for his congenial approach to ancient wisdom that he shares daily with people through his books and presentations.  Little did I know that a Twitter phenomenon of Vesuvian proportions would erupt. 

Partial proof is found in the pages of this marvelous book by Tom called Twisdom: Twitter Wisdom. The tweets you see above are his first ones. What is missing are his thousands of responses to the ReTweets and messages that came in response to his sharing of himself.  Tom Morris on Twitter is a picture of the joyous philosopher at work in the garden of life. After knowing him for almost forty years, I can say that this is some of the best work he has ever done, because it is built on his own personal interaction with people. The Tom you see in Twisdom, is the Tom that many of us have known over the years.

When I first picked up Twisdom, and begin to read, I thought: "Tom's a poet. Who knew?"

This is ancient wisdom as the great philosophers of Greece and Rome would have written. Read Marcus Aurelius and you find short bursts of insight, written down in the midst of the crush of being Roman emperor. Read Plato and Aristotle, and you'll find philosophy for living, not the dry, boring, over-written tomes written for the academy and not for the common citizen.

What Tom has discovered is a virtual Lyceum, a place to practice his profession as philosopher where he can reach out through the tools of social media and touch the lives of thousands of followering Twitterers. This isn't just a curious incident, but rather the convergence of the ancient art of the imparting of wisdom and a communication vehicle perfectly suited for one another, and the right teacher to make it work.

A few questions for Tom:

1. Today, what are your Twitter numbers? How many are following you, and how many tweets have you done.

I started on Twitter with two followers. Thanks to you, it wasn't just one!  Now, having done nothing to gain followers except to try to do interesting tweets about life, I have over 5,600, and the number is growing each day. (And Tom is approaching 22,000 tweets as I write.)

2. How have you changed since you started Twittering?

I think using Twitter has made me a more focused thinker and a succinct communicator. I have come to value more than ever the ability to distill wisdom into a small nugget that can expand in the reader's mind as they mull it over. I can wake up in the morning and within a few minutes bring a little ancient wisdom or some modern insights into the lives of thousands of people, an opportunity I otherwise have had only by flying around the country and speaking in the larger meeting facilities and convention centers.

3. Has this impacted your business ventures? What are you doing now that you were not when you started?

Twitter has broadened my sense of business opportunity. For example, in connection with the new book, some accomplished Twitter friends started a Twisdom Store on Zazzle, with various of my tweets available on shoes, mugs, T Shirts, postage stamps, cards, and other items. This is something that literally might never have occurred to me.  

4. Where does this Twitter thing go? How can it grow to be more substantial in linking people together?

I think we'll be coming up with more and more ways to integrate Twitter and the Twitter community into larger communities and enterprises, for social good, personal growth, and business opportunities. I don't think anyone anticipated a year ago how big Twitter would become and how fast it would grow. Now, almost anything seems possible.

Twisdom is filled with "really good stuff." More importantly, it shows how a simple media tool like Twitter can be a vehicle for influence and impact. If you are not on Twitter, you should be, and even if it doesn't make sense to you, at least join up, and follow Tom.  It is the Twisdom way.

Here are three random samples to give you a further taste of this special book by Tom. 

Continue reading "Twisdom: Twitter Wisdom - by @TomVMorris - a Leading Questions review" »

A Conversation about Constant Change - 3

Here is my response to Steven Devijver's questions (below) author of the free ebook, The Strategy of Constant Change

Q1: You’re this amazing guy with a really special view on leadership and human relationships. What’s your view then - with all this background - on the three human universals? I ask this because you’ve only just recently written on your blog about The Golden Rule. I would like to understand why you think these tree human universals are novel.

Steven, I'm not sure that these universals are novel. I think your identification of them is insightful. They are what I observe in my dealings with people. They want to be treated with respect, kindness and given the opportunity to grow. Yet, at the same time, as people, we make mistakes.

There are two aspects of this worth identifying. There are mistakes that come from a lack of knowledge or ability. These can be corrected by instruction and training. The other kind of mistakes are ones of character.  These are more serious because they are not so easily subject to being changed by training, but by disciplined action. If what I say sounds like Aristotle, you'd be correct. I believe of all the ancient philosophers, his perspective on how we are to live is the closest to what people raised within an institutional context need today.  The parallel insight is of the management philosophers (Say and Schumpeter, especially) of the past couple hundred years who described entrepreneurialism in similar ways. From Aristotle through to Peter Drucker, the virtuous, happy person is the one who acts and creates new things.

I see in your identification of these human universals an ancient truth that is emerging in discussions about organizations and institutions in our day. I point most specifically to my good friend Tom Morris who has been writing and speaking on the value of ancient wisdom in the context of modern corporate institutions for almost twenty years. His perspective informs much of my own.

To be human is to create, and this comes from action, from taking initiative to transform abstract ideas into concrete realities. I believe that this is why God made us, and is God's most indelible mark upon us.

Q2: You mention the human point-of-view on organizational change. How important are human beings and relationships in organizations according to you, and what else should we pay attention to to help organizations thrive?

What I wrote above is about the individual person. Every person, however, exists within a social context, or, rather, many social contexts. There is our family, our neighborhood, our associations whether they are religous, political, or interest based, and then, of course, our work context. What I find is that social organization leads in one direction without intentional human intervention. I find that most organizations grow towards minimizing ambiguity, resist change, exclude outside influence, and become uniform,closed systems of relationships that squeeze out human initiative in favor of social compliance. One of the unintended consequences of universal education is to remove human initiative in favor of comformity. We treat education as a management exercise where efficiency is valued over effectiveness. This is true in every institution that I have had contact with during my lifetime. I do not think that this is intentional, but rather a logical result of how we think.

We think like managers who do not own the work we do. We simply have organzed our lives around the performance of certain activities. Ask people what their purpose is, and rarely does it have anything to do with the work they perform. We think like managers instead of as leaders because we have been taught to work within an institutional environment. I heard yesterday that a million people have lost their jobs in the United States over the past year. Those businesses that lost those people are now more efficient, but are they more effective. Are they capable of taking advantage of opportunities that still exist? I don't think so. Now, imagine, all those million people starting new businesses. Imagine the creative energy that will be released into world as a result.

From my perspective, I see a need to reconceptualize not only what it means to live an authentic, happy, virtuous human life, but also what this means within a social and insititutional environment. As a result, I'm interested in the nature of human relationships. Let me give one example of what I see.

Over the past decade there has been an explosion in the level of social interaction that takes place on line. You and I met through our involvement in the Triiibes online social network. I see in the growth of social media an expression of the basic human need for companionship.  However, I don't see all this social interaction as necessarily their purpose. Instead, taking my lead from Aristotle, I believe that our human interaction should lead to collaborative human action. Through these social media tools, we should be forming relationships where we work together to achieve some impact. If all they are is a place to talk, they will not be sustainable. They will degenerate into a narrow clique built around a few strong, influential voices, and a circle of people who compliantly go along. It is a picture of all social institutions in microcosim.

What is the solution? I return to Aristotle and entrepreneurism. We must become virtuous people who act to create new ways of meeting needs and opportunities. My personal responsibility is to be a person that others can trust. This trust is built upon not only personal integrity, but openness, honesty, humility and the recognition that we each have a role to play within every social context. Sometimes it is to lead, others times to follow, some moments to give and others to receive.  It is from this philosophical perspective that was born my Johnny Bunko 7th lesson - Say Thanks, Every Day. Giving thanks in this perspective is an act of creative openness that affirms the connection that exists between us.

Q3: What’s your view of change is bad, and should be avoided?

I don't see change as either bad or good. I simply see it as the context of how we live. Every change has within it some good that can be identified. For example, suffering is a kind of change. We can view suffering as something to be avoided or we can see in it the opportunity to gain strength.  We have a choice in how we deal with change. We either see it as an opportunity or as an inconvenience. The choice we make determines whether we will find happiness.

We need to develop our capacity to adapt to change. Returning to Aristotle, I believe that this is what he writes about as becoming habituated to doing virtuous acts.

Okay, my next question for you.

Q. Why is it important for human beings to experience discovery? How can we do this on a daily basis? And how do businesses and organizations develop ways to discover?

Quick Takes: The Prudent Leader

Alan Jacobs, in his commonplace book, quotes David Brooks on prudence in leadership.

From Brooks via Jacobs

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t.

And Jacobs comment

David Brooks is exactly right. However, he should add one more point, a point which complicates everything immensely: experience does not guarantee prudence. The Senate is full of people with many, many years of legislative experience who have no wisdom or discernment at all. One of them may even be a candidate for Vice-President. So the Big Question is: How do we identify, among the experienced, the marks of prudential wisdom that will translate well into the executive arena?

The ancients included prudence in a list of virtues under a larger category called wisdom.  Experience is not simply living long enough to have a lot of influential relationships and stories to tell. Experience that produces prudence is born from suffering and struggle.  It is the result of seeing the world as it is, not as we wish would be. Only from this more "stoic" perspective does prudence emerged to be the wisdom that leaders need.

Quick Takes: The Wisdom of Grandpa Jones

Grandpa Jones was an old country singer. A couple days ago I heard his song Fallen Leaves sung. I thought the simple wisdom of the last verse is worth sharing.

Grandpa Jones

Falling leaves that lie scattered on the ground,

The birds and flowers that were here cannot be found.

All the friends that he once knew are not around.

They're all scattered like the leaves upon the ground.

Some folks drift along through life and never thrill,

To the feeling that a good deed brings until,

It's too late and they are ready to lie down,

There beneath the leaves that's scattered on the ground.

Lord, let my eyes see every need of every man,

Make me stop and always lend a helping hand,

Then when I'm laid beneath that little grassy mound,

There'll be more friends around than leaves upon the ground.

To your grave there's no use taking any gold,

You cannot use it when it's time for hands to fold,

When you leave this earth for a better home someday,

The only thing you'll take is what you gave away.