Tuesday, December 28, 2004

You Just KNOW

I'm just beginning Tom Peters' latest work Project04: Snapshots of Excellence in Unstable Times. Every time I read something by Tom Peters, I'm inspired. I found out, in this latest book, that he and I share a literary hero: Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Like many areas of my life, it's only been recently - in retrospect - that I am beginning to understand why I've been drawn to certain authors, philosophers, books, thoughts, songs, people. I've never been confident enough to trust my own knowing about anything, and have sought desperately, for as long as I can remember, to find others through whom I could express my own thoughts and beliefs.

Emerson has been one of my heroes since my sophomore year in college when I read "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." He's also the one who said "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiam" and "Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow."

Ironically, he even said "Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say 'I think,' 'I am,' but quotes some saint or sage." Is there a lesson in there for me?

I find it incredible that he lived and wrote in the mid-1800s and I find so much wisdom today in what he lived back then. In fact, Tom Peters says that Emerson's "Self-Reliance" is Tom's view, circa 2000, of Brand You.

No wonder I'm drawn to both of them.

Self-Reliance and Brand You both require us to know ourselves - really KNOW, deep down. Once we know and trust who we are, we are able to get beyond quoting some saint or sage and sharing our true essence - that which no one else can share.

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you you are wrong. There are alway difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to the end, requires some of the same courage which a soldier needs." -Emerson

"Brand You is not about ego-centrism, at least in a pernicious way. It's about recognition. Recognizing that lifetime employment is dead. Perhaps recognizing that lifetime white-collar employment wasn't that great a ride to begin with....It's about recognizing that there is no alternative except to grab the reins of one's career - grab the reins out of the hands of an inconstant employer! We may stay with that employer, but no longer with a naive belief about the perpetuity of our 'employment contract.'" - Tom Peters

I really do KNOW it when I hear it ... now the challenge is to KNOW it without having to hear it from someone else.

Thanks for the inspiration Tom - and Ralph. You're both my heroes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Oh the Suspense of being Suspended

I feel lately as if I've been missing something.

Do you ever get that nagging feeling that something is going on around you and you're not in on the joke? Or how about the feeling you get when you walk into a room and people immediately stop talking?

I'm existing in two very different worldviews right now and it's kind of freaky. I've got people around me embroiled in tiny little details about things that matter so very little in the big picture (my friend Cary calls this manurtia (a combination of minutia and manure - get it?)) while at the same time people in the universe are examining really important thoughts like identifying networks of hope and recognizing the yearning for meaning. I'm not quite comfortable in either world right now so I almost feel that I'm suspended somewhere in the middle.

My friend Gail gave me some really thought-provoking cards from the International Futures Forum. Talk about an enlightened organization! In fact, the cards are called e-squared (or second enlightenment) and they consist of short little phrases like:

"What drives the system is belief"
"Connecting rather than isolating"
"Deliberately cultivate enabling conditions"
"Don't get stuck critiquing the darkness. Light a candle."
"Don't look for the edge, find the center"

Wow. Each of those phrases (and there are many more) cause me to see things on both sides of this suspended animation in which I find myself in a whole new light - with appreciation instead of disgust or awe.

Think about how different our worldviews could become if we could elevate our small talk from the weather to statements like those. That's my hope for 2005, and I'll do my part. Care to engage in that kind of dialogue? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Social Harmony

I sing in a barbershop chorus. This is much more than a hobby - it's really become a passion. There's nothing like singing four-part acappella harmony with people who share the passion for ringing chords and expressing themselves through the universal language of music.

I've attended several international chorus competitions where people from different countries come together to share in this amazing craft. One of the really cool things about barbershop harmony is that it is one of the four original American musical art forms, so all songs are sung in English, even though there are choruses all over the world. It's so amazing to sing the same songs with people who may not even speak English as their first language, but to share the power of the language of music.

Even if you're not a music fan, you can still be a proponent of harmony. Here is a great definition of Social Harmony from the book "If Aristotle Ran General Motors" by Tom Morris:
Social harmony is not only a state of the absence of conflict but one of positive, vibrant consonance and interpersonal strength, a relationship within which individuals can attain the development of their highest gifts and enjoy the fullness of life together.

What are we doing to promote harmony in our lives - social, musical or otherwise?