Brain Dump

Ruminations and Ponderings

The Business of Politics

by on May.09, 2012, under Ruminations and Ponderings

Politics has become an accepted means of conduct within government and has also infested most of the business arena as well. What is it really, and is this a good thing?

First we need to look at what it was, and then look at what it has become. In its conception, it was by definition  “the practice or study of the art and science of forming, directing, and administrating states and other political units; the art and science of government;” As time has progressed, its definition has not. In fact it has digressed to now mean something entirely different. Now politics is defined as ” any activity concerned with the acquisition of power, gaining one’s own ends” and might I add that this is often at the expense of others, those whom it was intended to protect.

With this in mind, gone are the days of a government for the people, of the people, and by the people. We now live in the days of a people for the government and the tail is waging the dog. We certainly are not a government by the people as the vast majority of politicians are lawyers. We face the high cost of insurance of every kind for one reason. Lawyers push us to sue each other so they can get a commission. It is to their advantage that we fight amongst ourselves. Nothing is our fault, but there must be someone else we can blame and get them to pay us money.

So someone spills coffee on themselves at a major fast food restaurant and a lawyer convinces them that it wasn’t their fault and wins a major settlement for himself and the person that made the mess in the restaurant. They said that the coffee was too hot and that the cup wasn’t labeled as hot. This same person, would have undoubtedly complained if it had not been hot enough. The other question that goes unanswered is what would have happened had the coffee been spilled at home? Who could be blamed in this case and would they sue themselves?

In any event, this is the mindset that is running the country. We promise the opportunistic parasites of our society “free” stuff for which others will have to pay, in exchange for their vote.

As a result, we will no longer get the best candidate for public office, but instead, only those who are willing to run the gauntlet of ridicule, turmoil and mud-slinging. It’s not about what each candid has to offer and how the country can benefit from what they can provide as much as their ability to eliminate the other candidates while determining what the public wants to hear. After the election, they proceed by working towards their own end. Catering only to those who can benefit them. We have political parties at fighting amongst themselves with very little, if any concern for those whom they were elected to serve.

What does this look like in business? The answer, and definition is much the same “any activity concerned with the acquisition of power, gaining one’s own ends“. It’s not about what is best for the company or even the customers they serve, but what is best for the political individual within the company. Unfortunately, many times this is just to feed egos and satisfy their cravings for power and control. As a side note, many times these are the same people that voluntarily relinquish control to a brown bottle or equivalent libation.

In order for this person to advance within the business arena, they have to eliminate the competition. It is no longer based on professional ability, but more of an act of taking from others. If you can obstruct, or by some means, impede anyone that poses a threat to your getting what you want, you can then paint them in a bad light. This compensates for your lack of professional ability and allows you to start the process of “promoting yourself at the expense of others”. In so doing, you have also reduced the effectiveness of a company asset which is by no means in the best interest of the company. Is this not sabotage?

A little leaven, leavens the whole loaf. Once this culture gets started, it requires everyone to expend energy outside of what the business prime directive is, to stay on top of who trying to promote themselves at your expense. A company should be one team working together for a common goal and that could be to stay in front of, or to get in front of a competing company, or just make the best use of their resources. This would mean that everyone within the same company is on the same team, but in fact with the infection of politics, they are competing with each other. In the New Testament book of Matthew, chapter 12, verse 25, Jesus tells us that “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

We have all heard the old adage of battle “divide and conquer “. This is self-inflicted on many businesses today and while they may survive, they have denied themselves the pleasure and profit of reaching their real potential that can only be achieved through self-appointed teams.  Unfortunately, such teams can not thrive, nor survive within the political environment. The sad fact of the matter is that one person, in the midst of an unsuspecting team, seems to be enough to infect a functioning team and bring it to its knees, rendering it impotent towards greatness.

I used to work for a large company of over 20 thousand employees and the CEO promoted what is referred to as the “Golden Rule” “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This is a paraphrase of Jesus sermon on the mount and is found in the New Testament book of Matthew, the 7th chapter and the 12th verse which says “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. . .

This proved to be an extremely valuable business directive which became evident after the CEO retired and the “new guy” took over. This was put aside, along with the practices that fell under this directive, and as a result, it was the beginning of the end. While they are still in business, they will never be what they once were.

The same holds true with the American government. We have tossed aside, or re-interpreted the principles on which this country was founded and as a result, this once great country will never again be what it was. It has become infected with a redefined form of politics.

In essence, politics has been redefined as the advancement of few at the expense of many.

What is the takeaway from this? It’s a changing world around us and that may not be a good thing. We need to be aware of what politics is today. We need to know what it looks like and what it does to our government and businesses. Next we need to make sure that we are not propagating or participating in promoting one at the detriment of others.

We need to treat others as we would have them treat us, even when they aren’t looking, or may never be aware of. We need to look out for the interest of others and not just ourselves. We need to consider how our actions, or the lack thereof affects others. We are all born self-centered but with functional parenting, we are ushered out of our narcissistic state. Unfortunately, too many parents have been more concerned with promoting comfort than character rendering adult children who now promote themselves at the expense of others.

Politics, as it is practiced today, is one of the most destructive forces known to man as it silently cripples governments and businesses.

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. . .A Failure to Communicate.

by on May.01, 2012, under Communication, Ruminations and Ponderings

There is an extremely short list of things in life that do not depend on good communication skills, yet this seems to be a major area of weakness in much of the general populous today. By no means do I think I have this wired, in fact the majority of what is being done on this site is an effort to improve myself in this area.

In any event, like anything else that needs to be improved, we first need to recognize a need for improvement, then determine where to start, and what  we can do. In many cases, it might not be a big change, but minor things that make a big difference.

Imagine having a conversation with someone where you miss one word in each sentence, and in the age of cell phones, this isn’t hard to imagine. I believe, through my own experience, that this is one of the biggest areas of miscommunication. This can be for one of two reasons. The first reason can be that we think the other person knows an important detail already and therefore we see no need to tell them what they already know. The other reason is that we believe that we have already communicated the point which leads to the first scenario. It’s just like the combination to a lock. If you have all but one number, the lock isn’t going to open.

Many miscommunications I’ve seen are due to one small detail being left out. An example of that was someone who was making macaroni and cheese for the first time. They read the directions on the back of the box and got 99% of the directions spot on, they just missed one detail, just one word, the word “drain”. As you can imagine, it didn’t turn out as intended. Now lets say that it takes 200 words to explain this process and you get 199 words perfect but miss this one word, the end result is much different than the directions intend.

There are times that things are left out because we might feel we are insulting the intelligence of the hearer, perhaps this may be due to past experience with a particular audience. If I’m getting ready to jump out of a plane, and you know the ring I’m supposed to pull, the difference between the main shoot, the reserve and the cut away, I would much rather you insult my intelligence than let me jump with an ego that gets me killed. Naturally the gravity of the situation can determine the importance of this.

This leads to another problem often encountered which is just the ego issue. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen or tried to explain something to someone where they were so intent in convincing me that they knew what I was trying to tell them, that they didn’t hear a thing I said and left just as ignorant as they came.

Another common problem is that the hearer assumes they know what your going to say, or what they want you to say, and no matter what you say, they hear a preconceived thought process, and not what is actually said. Our minds are very powerful in this way and can convince us that things are very different from what they really are.

Another common problem is the use of the wrong terminology. Over the years I’ve seen many people transpose words like “then” and “than”, “brought” and “bought”. Context can usually sift this out. I wish I could think of more examples right now, but I’m drawing a blank.

Ambiguity is also a big culprit, once again, this is due to the transmitter of the message, assuming that the receiver knows the rest of the thought process. Many TV and movie scripts have been written based on this and the entertainment of watching both sides of the equation. A classic example of this is the old Abbot and Costello “Who’s on first”, and countless others by which we have been entertained. As entertaining as they are, they are undeniably based on real life situations that we can easily find ourselves in.

Communication is nothing more than a transfer of information. Like a radio, there is a transmitter and a receiver and they both have to share the same frequency and this is another problem with communication. Myers Briggs puts everyone in different categories based on personality and how we respond to the world around us. Some communicate more through feeling, some through sound and some through sight and so on. With this in mind, it is good to know how your audience communicates and one on one this is done by attention to their use of words and what area their vocabulary favors. Do they “feel”, did they “hear” or do they “see”? Now when speaking to a group or crowd, you have to assume that all are represented so there is a need to try and “transmit” in all frequencies so all “receivers” get the signal.

There are many different means of communication. Smoke signals, Morris code, and sign language are just a few besides the familiar oral and written forms. There are other subtle means that are being recognized a little more now days.

We all have neurological reactions to everything and our brain manifests this in physical ways by triggering different parts of our bodies to respond. Without going into this in detail, there are many things that we see every day that tells us how someone is feeling about something. When someone blushes, it is obvious that they are feeling embarrassed about something. There are other  things that we do as involuntary responses such as pacifying behavior. This, in many cases can be different for men than it is for women, but involuntary and often unnoticed. We also display “freeze, fight or flight” responses triggered by our amygdala, the almond shaped part of our brain that processes fear. This communicates our emotional reaction to our environment.

The only reason this is becoming important is that people no longer communicate like they should, making it necessary to use other means of supporting what it is they’re trying to say, or in some cases, trying not to say.

One other communication problem is completely different in that it provides too much information and as a result, the main points become buried under all the other unnecessary stuff. I’ve told people before that a conversation is like climbing a tree. You use the base of each branch to pull you to the next, but there isn’t any need to go out to the end of each branch in the process.

This leaves us with the fine line of transferring enough, but not too much causing the main points to get buried or missed.

When giving instruction to kids, it’s helpful to make them repeat it back to you. This will help them pay attention as well as making sure you are communicating properly too. If what they repeat is not what you thought you said, then something went wrong on one end or the other.

Another way, as the receiver, is to repeat back what you received in one form or another, and hopefully get confirmation that all was understood well.

Going back to the line from “Cool hand Luke”, “What we have here, is a failure to communicate” and this is where many of the problems start. As we go forward, we can try not to assume what is being said but listen for what is being said and hear what is being communicated using more than just the audible channels.

Can you hear me now?




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Emasculation in the Media

by on Apr.19, 2012, under Ruminations and Ponderings, The Emasculation Nation

We went with some friends to see a movie the other night. It had been so long since we’ve been to a movie that we were there more for the experience of the over priced pop corn and drinks, than the movie. In any event, after the 30 minutes of previews and preliminary mess, the movie “Hunger Games” started.

The whole concept of the movie was somewhat disturbing. The concept of children killing children apparently struck someone as entertaining  enough to write a book about it and then to produce a movie about it. As it unfolded, it also assumed the template of portraying men in a less than desirable light.

This reminds me of the story written by Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery” where every year all the town’s people get together and draw slips of paper out of a box. One slip of paper has a bold black dot on it and the person that draws it is stoned to death by the other town’s people. Then there was the Roman Colosseum where people were entertained by watching others meet death by brutal means. Why do we enjoy others discomfort? What is wrong with us? This will be discussed in future posts.

I believe this is so common today that we don’t even notice it. You don’t have to watch TV for long to see commercials portray men as being just one step above primates.

“Married with Children” was a show I found very offensive until a few years ago when I realized that Hollywood saw what was going on and merely embellished it for entertainment. Now I see how men are portrayed in this manner and in fact I’ve even heard it referred to as the “Al Bundy syndrome”.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? In 0ther words, have men become how they have been portrayed? Is this viewed as normal? Or has the portrayal followed a decline in what it means to be a man?

What does it mean to be a man today? There seems to be a plethora of material for writing on this topic, more than will be covered in this post, but future post will discus men at home, at work and in the church. The goal here is to identify how it is, compared to how it should be, and what has led to the deficiencies and what can be done to facilitate positive changes for the benefit of both men and women.

This is just a brief look at media portrayal of men. A more current example of this is “Everyone Loves Raymond” where the husband is emasculated to the point that he no longer resembles a man and we laugh at it, but this is becoming more and more the norm and that’s not funny at all.

With “Hunger Games”, the hero is a female and that, in and of it’s self is not a problem, but when she ends up having to protect the guy in the movie, that’s where the problem lies. It wasn’t a joint effort were they were at least equal peers, but she was the alpha and that is at the root of the problem.

There are particular rolls that men and women are supposed fill. You shouldn’t use a wrench for a hammer and you shouldn’t use a hammer for a wrench if you want a desirable end result, but this is exactly what we do when men and women reverse rolls. The fact of the matter is that many times this is done by default because the men just aren’t filling their rolls, but there may be a reason for that which can stem from current or past experiences, causing skewed perspectives.

I know of a wife who complains that her husband doesn’t take charge, but she tends to be so much of an alpha that he has learned that life is easier when he doesn’t compete with her for that alpha role. This scenario will be explored further in future posts.

Women being in the military is fine, but should they be in combat? Men are made to be warriors and risk takers and this is what makes men suited for combat. Women are made to be nurturers and function best within a secure environment.  These are primary roles along with many other roles that will be discussed later. These roles are subject to cross at times, and this could be seen if a mother’s child is being threatened by something or someone. You will see a bit of a warrior come out towards the source of danger as part of her nurturing role towards the child. The only time this becomes a problem is when mom continues to do this past a certain age, especially for boys. This can greatly hinder the maturing process and perspective of men and women. This is part of intentional parenting that will also be discussed in later post.

“Brave Heart” and “Gladiator” were both excellent movies portraying men in their roles. Mel Gibson’s character, William Wallace was more of a man while wearing a dress (Scottish Kilt) than the majority of the men we have today. One review complained about it being “distractingly violent”. Further investigation revealed that the reviewer was in fact gay. Could it be that a male that is extremely lacking in testosterone is offended, or should we say, threatened by a focused presents of it?

If this is the case, it does not bode well for some of the producers of modern movies like “Hunger Games”. Before we go further, it needs to be clarified that the presents of testosterone also needs to be accompanied by the ability to apply it right. Without proper application, testosterone, unbridled, does nothing more than degrade anyone in it’s company.

There was another subtle message in the movie that was good, but I’m sure it was missed by most. It seemed that food was in short supply and every time you went to buy, or in some way receive food, your name was entered into the drawing from which names were drawn, like a lottery, for your chance to kill or be killed. Apparently this future version of us forgot how to garden and provide anything for themselves. They had become completely dependent on a system to provide for them.

We need to get back to the garden and learn how to grow, compost, can and preserve food. We are loosing our “hunter gatherer” abilities. This movie should at least be a wake up call to get back to the basics and stop eating out of boxes. We need to reduce our intake of prepared foods. Pretty soon, we won’t even know how to cook, but will become experts at the drive through and microwaves.

This topic will be discussed in future post as well as we discus gardening and canning, along with equipping our bodies with the right foods.

While this was a deviation from the title of this post, I did want to communicate that there is a good message in this movie if you know where to look. Some times you just need to chew on the meat and spit out the bones. . .


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Reinventing the Wheel

by on Apr.05, 2012, under Ruminations and Ponderings, Uncategorized

A while back, I was working on a project with an associate and while addressing a potential concern, a solution was responding to with the infamous “no need to reinvent the wheel”.

Now let’s just think about this for a second. History has shown us what early wheels look like and what they must have felt like to ride on. They were generally boards nailed together, perpendicular to each other forming a wooden mat. This wooden mat then had its corners cut off and rounded to make a wheel with a hole in the center for an axle of some sort.

While wheels are still round, the process for making them has changed just a little bit. Those first carts equipped with these early wheels were generally one horse power in the form of one horse pulling it, and top speed was probably pretty slow compared to the average car on the road today.

Now lets take the Bugatti Veyron, manufactured by Volkswagen Auto Group, which does in excess of  300 miles per hour. Just imagine what would happen if wheel construction hadn’t changed any since the early wheels of wood.

It takes someone with the insight to realize that something can be improved and willing to take the chance of it not working and then trying it again. It seems that constructive creativity is starting to dwindle as we become comfortable with the way it’s always been done.

It takes the ability to construct independent and intelligent thought rendering the source as a minority. With this also comes the chance that it might not work and the responsibilities thereof, and this, I believe, is what does the sorting.

If I do what everyone else does, the way that everyone else does it, and it doesn’t work, it’s not my fault.

A classic example of this is represented in 90% of the residential yards out there. Studies have shown that cutting yard grass longer helps keep the weeds out and helps the roots go deeper for water. Studies have also shown that mulching the grass back into the yard is better than bagging and does not result in having to de-thatch. In spite of this, everyone cuts too short and then bags the grass because that’s what everyone else does. Then they also follow in paying to fertilize to replace what they just put out to the curb in bags.

Last year I bought a plastic leaf rake that touted not to clog. I applaud the person that had the creativity to look at a simple rake and find a way to improve it.

The point is that while the wheel is still the same general shape it has been for over a thousand years, how it’s made has changed dramatically, along with its capabilities.

If you can’t get outside the box, get out of the way of those that can and don’t stifle, hinder or ridicule them because they could very well be getting ready to make your life better in some small way.

And that’s all I have to say about that. . .

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Oblivions unaware…

by on Jul.25, 2010, under I've Come to Understand

I have come to understand that the percentage of oblivions is increasing at a faster rate than ever. Who are these oblivions? They are all around, in the store, at work, and I’m sure we’ve all seen them in traffic. They’re the folks that seem to be totally unaware of the world around them. Now we all “zone” out once in a while and become so consumed with the task or issue at hand that we tune everything else out, but what we’re talking about here are those that make a lifestyle of ignoring of the world around them, not just a temporary ignorance.

What does this look like? Ever been in a store and there is someone that could take one step to the side and let you by while not disrupting what they are doing. I would like to think that if they knew you needed to get by, they would gladly step aside and let you pass, but they don’t even realize that you’re there. Maybe they need to try implementing their peripheral vision a little more. Many public places have high traffic areas of ingress and egress and this is no secret, but it always makes me wonder what  goes through the minds of those that pick these areas to congregate making others trying to either get in or out, run the gauntlet of oblivions unaware of the impedance they are imposing. One that always gets me is when I’m driving through a parking lot and people walking across vehicular traffic areas never looking to see if any traffic is coming or if what is coming is even stopping for them. This seems like it would be a matter of self preservation, but for some reason they are still oblivious.

The paradox of this whole issue is that these folks, ever increasing in number, are also oblivious of this whole phenomenon. As I’ve come to see and understand this phenomenon, I’ve also come to understand that it will take a major disruption in the lives of these oblivions to snap them out of it and while I’m not about to try to change anyone (been there done that, lost my T-shirt) I am going to endeavor to reduce the frequency of my own visits to the land of oblivion. Here’s the rub… the more aware you are of those around you, the more you will be aware of their state of oblivion which can in turn cultivate an attitude of frustration (ask me how I know..) but what I have had to do and what I recommend, is to use these observations as reminders of what we need to avoid in ourselves thus removing ourselves as being part of the problem.

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Personal Paradox

by on Apr.28, 2010, under Ruminations and Ponderings

I find myself at a place in life that is far from where I thought I’d be as well as far from where I was headed only eight years ago. I’ve experienced many things in life, some rendering feelings of euphoria and some rendering doubt that life could continue, and naturally many other things within the range of that  spectrum. I’ve come to understand that you need to be happy with your self and by yourself before you can ever be happy with anyone else. I’ve also come to understand that having achieved solitary happiness, there are also many outside influences that affect this happiness. Preferable are the ones that enhance this status, but inevitably the inverse also lurks about looking for an opportunity to get a foothold on us.

As a rule, and rightfully so, it seems that people are at the top of the list of influences in either direction. Naturally we should keep those with negative influences at a distance and those that have an encouraging and positive effect, in closer proximity. Now, this sounds like a fairly binary approach, but the fact is we don’t always have the ability to compartmentalize these opposing forces. We can find ourselves having to deal with, and interact with those who seem to drain the life out of us, at work or school. Even though it is necessary to deal with these folks during the course of our day, we can look forward to going home to a sanctuary of solitude or better yet, encouragement.

The past eight years have not afforded me many positive influences and it seems that most of the folks I came in contact with drained the life out of me faster than I could compensate and like a battery being discharged faster than it can be charged, I became extremely drained. As a result, I have assumed a life of as much solitude as I can. Now knowing that this is not the best thing for me I am trying to force myself to reach out and interact with others a bit more than I have but for the time being, I have a strong tendency to keep everyone at arms length. Naturally, the more you open yourself up to someone, the closer you get to them, the more control, or influence they assume over your state of mind. I don’t think this has ever been an issue for me in the past, but it has become very apparent to me that this is having  a big influence on me now. I know for a fact that I am not alone in this and in fact you could also be faced with this same issue. This seems to cause caution when any type of emotional vulnerability is perceived.

So, here is the rub . . . I crave emotional intimacy but seem to be very reserved about it right now. In fact it seems so long since I’ve even experienced emotional intimacy, and like somewhere that you’ve not been for a long time, you wonder if anyone still lives there. The fact of the matter is that I believe that what I’ve described could very well be used to describe the vast majority of people out there and they go through their lives never experiencing emotional intimacy either as a result of having been hurt in the past as I have, or in efforts to avoid ever being hurt.

So, the paradox is that people have the potential to enhance our happiness above anything on earth (reserving the happiness that only comes through Christ) but we impede this potential in efforts to mitigate the possible negative effects that could also result.

In light of all this, I am forced to look back and take an honest inventory of how I have affected others, both good and bad. I would like to think that I have always had good intentions, but the fact of the matter is that good intentions don’t guaranty a positive effect.  Romans 12:9-11 tells us to “9Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; 11Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;”. In verse 10, it says “in honor preferring one another” and the truth of the matter is that as much as I would like to say that I’ve done this, I in fact have not. There were times when I was concerned for myself more than others and with this I fear that it was not always a win win.

I guess it’s the balance between emotional self preservation and allowing ourselves to be enriched by others while also enriching them.

To be continued . . . as this is a dynamic process that unfolds more every day.

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