Monday, December 6, 2010

Connecting the Dots

Steve Jobs probably said it best. You can only connect the dots as you look backward. That as we reflect back upon our lives, we begin to see things clearly. The dots aren't visible to us as young people. The dots, or the decisions that we will make, are waiting for us. So it stands to reason that an individual's future can actually be kind of hazy, yet our past has the potential to be crystal clear.

I understand that now, in as much as I know quite a few young people that think they have life all sorted out. I don't waste much time trying to influence them. It annoys them and who am I to deny them some pain? Go ahead young man and piss on that electric fence. It is your right. Perhaps you are not bound to the same laws of physics that I must adhere to. Who am I to quench your thirst for knowledge?

Now I've seen and met quite a few talented and remarkable people in my lifetime. Movie stars, musicians, billionaires, hall of fame athletes. Religious leaders and politicians. Mutual fund managers, lawyers, car salesmen, miners, and farmers. Very intelligent cops and prison inmates. I have found many of these people to be quite interesting. Ted Bundy was incredibly intelligent and fascinating. Unfortunately, being a sociopath and a serial murderer were not really qualities I was searching for. I do not feel pangs of jealousy when it comes to the rich and famous. I do not oogle them or secretly wish I had their lives. Nor do I covet mansions, jets, trophy women, or hall of fame speeches made by men that batted .343 in the Major Leagues. I look for something a little different than all of those things.

There are many human qualities that I admire. Selflessness, compassion, tolerance, understanding. Patience, kindness, honesty, truthfulness, tact. These are some of the things I seek to possess and I constantly search for them. I know a few people who have many fine qualities. Yet there remains one quality that I hold in the highest esteem, a quality that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Obama doesn't have it, Warren Buffett can't quite find it, and most people don't even stop to consider it. The quality I hold in the highest regard is personal courage. The ability to stand true and correct in the face of overwhelming odds and pressure. Those people that refuse to bend. Those folks that know in advance, that they are about to take a terribly unpopular stand and to do it anyway. Because it is the right thing to do. That is personal courage.

Personal courage is selfless. People that employ personal courage have mastered their own fear. They set aside their wants for the needs of the many. When you see personal courage in action, it can be breathtaking. It might even astound you when it happens because you simply can't identify a selfish motive. People that display personal courage do so at great risk. They can be ridiculed and isolated. Made to feel like outsiders and shunned. Don't ever make the mistake of labeling personal courage as stupidity. It's not. It's well though out and planned. The risks are weighed. Some of those that come to mind are Peter Schiff, William Black, Ron Paul, Craig T. Nelson. Perhaps even, Julian Assange. What makes them different? Often, they are the FIRST to take a stand.

According to the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." Has Julian Assange suffered through ridicule and opposition? Does that make the truth any less evident?

Rahm Emmanuel had it right when talking about never letting a crisis go to waste. What Rahm cannot conceive, the part that he missed, is that a crisis can be a great opportunity for personal growth. A crisis isn't simply an opportunity to expand government. That's the superficial view. When a crisis meets great personal courage, a greater opportunity exists. An opportunity to tell the status quo, we are going to do the unthinkable. We are going to restore the leadership role of this country in the eyes of the world. We are going to do one right thing and perhaps more will follow. One selfless act of personal courage for the needs of the many- in spite of the wants of the few. Obama had that opportunity and had he seized it- our country might have re-established itself as an example for the world. There would be hope. You see, I don't think Obama is a sinister man. I think he simply has not connected his dots.

Congress may be the greatest collection of cowards ever assembled. Faced with no brainers such as term limits, campaign reform, tax reform, or even the audit the fed bill, they are frozen with fear. They can't even comprehend selfless acts of public service. They simply can't fathom the idea that productive public service may mean political death. That doing the right thing for the public at the potential cost of losing your job takes great personal courage. It's been so long since these folks had a civics lesson that they simply can't remember what that was. It may eventually take an act of complete anarchy, treason in their eyes, to force this crew to do the right thing. Other than Ron Paul, I don't think there is one ounce of personal courage in either chamber. I'd like to finish with a great story of personal courage that I had the privilege of witnessing a few years ago. The story I am about to tell is true.

Several years ago, the city I worked for hired a new city administrator. Almost immediately, I could tell this man had personal courage. I talked with him many times. He had an unflinching moral compass. It worked like this. Every action was well thought out and it had be the right thing to do. It had to be ethically, morally, and legally correct. He would then ask, "can I find a win-win for everyone?" Like a page out of one of Stephen Covey's books. One of his first acts on the job was to try and install a city wide drug testing policy. He said it would reduce insurance premiums, establish professionalism and credibility, and address some employee performance issues he had been made aware of. He came to me and asked how it would be received. I told him, based on my experience, it would not stand a chance. He found that hard to believe but did the usual "feeling out" and presenting, and watched that idea die an undignified death behind closed doors away from the public's eye- of course. He had done his best.

A few weeks later, he was asked to remove all of the yellow ribbons that had been tied on trees lining our Main St. by the families of soldiers deployed to Iraq. The ribbons had a depiction of a little wooden cross on them. His boss, some form of agnostic that saw this as a violation of church and state, wanted them removed. There were no public complaints. Our city administrator said that he could not do that. There was no win for anybody in that, he explained. He would either be seen as insubordinate by his boss or disrespectful of the families of service people serving in Iraq. He held true to his standards and held his ground. By this time, he was starting to anger his boss.

There was another series of events and good ideas that were killed and buried by his boss. He was now seen as an adversary. It was clear that the status quo regime did not like this agent of change and that his days were numbered. This whole saga took only six months to play out. I watched it intently. At no time did the city administrator ever criticize his boss, whine, or behave like a victim. He did not say one derogatory thing. He acted with dignity and grace. I had a fellow employee ask me, "Does that guy walk on water or what?" I told him that I had never seen anything like that, ever. When the time came to fire him, he simply told the city fathers he came to help our city not to detract from it and he resigned. I tried to rally what little effort I could to keep him but he was content. He accepted his fate- almost willingly.

The fastest horse does not always get to the finish line first. Maybe you think that life isn't fair but I'll tell you a little something. I know a former city administrator that knew the consequences of his actions and simply refused to do the wrong thing. He knew the difference. A special kind of guy that will tell you that life is brutally fair. That ultimately you will make choices and decisions and decide what kind of man you are going to be. That's a guy that has connected the dots.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if you know how good you are, Brian. Your most recent essays are nothing less than brilliant.I really enjoy reading them.

BTW, you might want to checkout my post today on Ron Paul. The banksters are trying to pull the plug on him.


Brian said...

Thanks Jim. I will read it.

I can't stand the Repubs. They see Paul as an outsider, extremist. They are going to try to carry the elite's water and I suspect they will. I'll bet the phones have been humming.

Anonymous said...

i absolutely loved this post!!!

Brian said...

Thanks X!

davecydell said...

Definitely, Julian Assange.