On failing, with style and grace

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

I have many heroes.

Two of them are Kevin Spacey and Aaron Sorkin. They offer classes on the field of their great talents. As Mr. Spacey tells us, if you reach success you are obliged to send the elevator back down.

Mr. Sorkin says the great sin of an author is to tell the audience what they already know. Mr. Spacey says the big challenge is to stop thinking your way, and go with the character you are playing.

I have not written scripts for The West Wing, nor have I won two academy awards. I’ve been laid off three times by big-name companies. That counts for something.

I have only reached the second floor of this skyscraper I am in, but I am still committed to sending the elevator back down. That what this blog is about.

Our collective challenge, as I understand it, is to embrace the love and wisdom that are offered to us, and to shout out our discoveries so we attract the attention of others.

I am more or less failing at my chosen assignment. I am not Kevin Spacey, or Aaron Sorkin, but I match them in their caring and sincerity. That matters to me.

Please shout out your gifts. The world needs that from you.



An epiphany of sorts


My theory is that angels pervade all four levels. What varies is our awareness of angels and the degree to which we see ourselves as being separate and intrinsically different.

There are many different theories about levels of consciousness and how many there are. Ten is a popular number.

I recently read some advice that based its model on four levels.

In that system the lowest level sees the universe—and the lives in it—as “out there” relative to us. This view breeds adversarial relationships and defensiveness. It is easy to feel victimized at this level of consciousness. On this level we assume that Nature does not confide in us.

epiphany: a moment of sudden revelation or insight

The next level invites us to replace anger with a willingness to bargain. This seems to me to encourage the development of religion. It encourages prayer and humility. The power still seems to be externally based, but it is less inclined, we hope, to harm us. Rules are still imposed on us. Our sense of being separate still has a keen edge. This level encourages us to keep score.

The third level of consciousness, according to this model, opens a willingness to see life as a partnership. We sense deep harmony, and we set aside fear to some extent—perhaps completely. We learn to confide in a structure larger and wiser than we knew previously. We move past neediness, and compassion becomes our norm. We sense nature as a source of nurture. We no longer, the model says, feel excluded.

The fourth and highest level opens us to the perception that we are life itself. Nothing is external at this point. We recognize that what once appeared to us as contradictions are simply relationships that were beyond our understanding based on the level of trust that ruled our decisions. We no longer seek a god separate from our own experience. We see divinity in everything.

I am presently endeavoring to move into level three. For me the transition appears a bit startling. It involves opening my mind and heart to a trusting relationship with Life. I have, until now, been skeptical of Life and its embrace of me. I caused myself a great deal of anguish by doing this.

Do you have a model you use? Do you know where you are in it?

Why we think we suck

DanWe live in a nation and world where most people think they suck. I’ve made a study of this in order to recognize the forces at work, and how, possibly, I could have a better relationship with my own sense of self.

In this post I share what my study has revealed to me.

Number 1: Other people pass binding judgments on us. This starts in grade school with letter grades and playground monitors. It continues with employers and annual reviews, and the IRS with tax filings and audits.

This thinking is embedded deeply in our culture. They tell us who we are, and they assess our value, if we have any.

Number 2: We judge ourselves on our ability, or lack of it, to “read” the universe. Who is God? Does God love us? We assume God to be male. That is a clue to our deeper problem. God, we are told, is distant and judgmental.

Number 3: We appoint authorities who we empower to make us feel helpless and guilty. I was given this message about Jesus when I was not yet logical. It was imprinted deeply on me, and by many people. The messages put me on the defensive, both about his suffering, and the possibility of my own.

Number 4: We are told of the superiority of the male point of view. We men exaggerate our importance, and we discredit the feminine spirit. The consequences are tragic.

We are always at war because we claim to know more than anybody who would ride a camel, or run short of drinking water. We are profoundly condescending, making the world we live in today the painful place it is.

Number 5: We endorse wealth at the total expense of wonder and curiosity. Day dreaming is considered a vice and a distraction. Wonder is proof of foolishness. We are expected to have direct, simple answers to the mysteries of life.

Number 6: We scorn physical enjoyment. We categorize physical delight as a fondness for pornography. We drink too much alcohol. We put people in jail for experiencing marijuana. We are entirely anti joy and amusement.

Number 7: Our first choice is to rebuke people. We see this particularly in our bulging prison population. There are alternatives, but we judge them as weak and evasive.

Number 8: We lack appreciation for conversations. Bosses are expected to know it all, and to take charge. Our organizations demand and reward that behavior. We hold the opinion that rank equates with knowledge and competence. There appears to be no remedy for this.

Number 9: We tell people, often indirectly, what interests of theirs are acceptable. I have long had an appreciation of ladies’ feet, and I have chosen to conceal it. There are countless photos on the Internet that show me that other people share my interest. I finally give myself permission to be me.

Number 10: We expect lists to have 10 entries. I offer you this. Do what excites you. Take that chance. My two college degrees have zero value, but they cost Yvette and me a lot of money.

And Number 11? Say something on this blog if you are so inclined.






Thanks, Opie


Andy Griffith and Ron Howard.

Ron Howard loves life, and by extension, his creativity. Or maybe it is the other way around. I don’t know.

I loved him as Andy Taylor’s young son, Opie, along with Aunt Bee, in The Andy Griffith Show. He is seven years younger than I am, and very successful.

This video is inspiring. It’s about caring, kindness, and self-expression. It contains a quote that advises forgetting about happiness and pursuing what we love. That probably is happiness.

Mayberry RFD was the sequel to TAGS.

Mayberry R.F.D. was number four in the Nielsen ratings the first two years of its run. While its ratings were strong enough for renewal at the end of its third season (#15), it was canceled despite public complaints. That year CBS, seeking a more urban image, canceled all its rural-themed shows including Green Acres, Hee Haw and The Beverly Hillbillies in what became known as the “rural purge“.—Wikipedia

Men are devoted to purges. It makes them proud of their vigor and authority. They purged “rural themes” in 1971, and we are still looking for things to reject.

Creating a better future starts with a conversation. —Bryce Dallas, daughter of Ron Howard

It’s well worth 10 minutes of your time.

An executive’s guide to pornography

My second favorite teaching site online is YouTube. The first is TED Talks.

img005YouTube ventures wide and far in terms of subject matter. I have a master’s degree, and I have been treated as if I were a practitioner of pornography, and on more than one occasion.

I have been viewing YouTube videos of porn stars. It is extremely informative, and to me inspiring.

I learned, for example, that people outside the business are categorized as civilians. Porn stars do not, generally speaking, become jealous if their spouse performs for pay in sex scenes with other people. It’s viewed, so the interviews say, as just a day at work.

The YouTube site contains videos that feature topics such as:

  • What would you do if you were not in porn?
  • What drew you to this line of work?
  • Do you enjoy your work?

I have never been asked those questions by an executive at any of the name-brand companies where I have worked. We can learn some valuable lessons from pornographers.

I suspect that many executives view their employees as being pornographic. I was, even though I have a college degree, spoke in proper English, and always wore shoes. And a tie, when appropriate.

I want to emphasize that executives would do a great service to their organizations by asking more questions, exercising more curiosity, and setting aside hardened definitions of what people do and their value to the organization.

A lot is at stake. Our economy is in trouble, and I attribute it to rigid and brittle attitudes. As Robert Greenleaf reminded us, the role of bosses is to serve.

Your thoughts, my silent readers?

Good ideas

An embarrassment of riches.

An embarrassment of riches.

I earned a graduate degree in leadership at Chapman University only to discover that managers do not aspire to leadership capability. Just look at our government for evidence. People who are in charge simply want to continue being in charge.

The best sources of leadership guidance, in my opinion, are some of the authors of books and some of the speakers in TED Talks. Simon Sinek operates in both categories.

If you are as ancient as I am you might remember Peter Drucker. He introduced the idea of treating employees with some credit for their intelligence and good intentions. It was a novel idea in 1964. It still is.

Click the links to view some wonderful TED Talks.

How to Run a Company With (Almost) No Rules. This is a potent talk by Ricardo Semler, an amazing fellow from Brazil.

Richard Branson offered us lessons in this many years ago. So did Jan Carlzon and Tom Peters. Mr. Peters wrote the forward to Carlzon’s Moments of Truth, New Strategies for Today’s Customer-Driven Economy.

How to Help Refugees Rebuild Their World. Melissa Fleming. Remarkable.

Refugees are as close to us as the median strip on our high-traffic roadways. They are the social issue of our century. This talk puts the challenges in perspective.

Do Schools Kill Creativity? Ken Robinson tells it like it is. Of course they do, and what we learn at school we apply on the job. This is one of my favorite TED Talks by far.

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe. Leaders do not allow themselves to feel threatened, or if they do, they shrug it off. The result is they recognize anxieties among the people in their circle, and they work to relieve them.

When I was in school we did not have TED Talks. That series is perhaps the greatest innovation in learning in my lifetime.

My readers say little on these pages, but let me know if any of these TED Talks move you.

Ciao, baby.