Archive for December, 2018


Does Integrity Matter?

Every person is given either a moment or moments to shine, to show who they are and what they mean to the world and to oneself. The people we meet in life, allies, former lovers, friends and acquaintances, each have their own opportunity to become a sensei. These opportunities show the capability of how one uses their strengths, regardless of who they are to another.

It is in this light I thought of President Trump’s signed an executive order, a week into a government shutdown, that freezes pay for 2.1 million federal civilian workers in 2019. The Office of Personnel Management issued “salary tables” the same day that show “rates frozen at 2018 levels.” This action pours salt upon open wounds of 800,000 furloughed federal workers.

Does character matter? How would you define “good character” and has the meaning evolved in any way over time? One definition of good character, would include a cluster of qualities: integrity, trustworthiness, flexibility, understanding, empathy and a set of values from open-mindedness to concern for human rights.

For Trump? Nada. Doesn’t exist.

As Jennifer Rubin noted:

President Donald Trump has an uncanny knack for making a mess of simple, traditional functions every other president has managed to carry out with ease.”

I keep wondering, is Trump’s presidency really the presidency American voters envisioned?

In reviewing action, it’s hard not to see that the Trump administration likens most as movable pieces on a chessboard, serviceable only to political agendas. Through circumstance and systemic oppression, constituents voluntarily chose manipulation, as they are continually promised movement on issues of deepest concern without significant action in any measurable way.

As columnist Brandi Miller captured, over the course of several years, Trump:

“… simply cares about maintaining a base. He has put children in cages at the border, disregarded the value of Black lives, desecrated Native land with the Keystone XL pipeline, oppressed trans people in the military and regularly dehumanized people through his petulant Twitter tirades.”

From someone who’s traveled far and wide, Trump exemplified a slow migration from an NBC evening entertainer to irrational tweets positioned as policies. Such antics are nothing more than a prop for self-aggrandizement. Facts subordinated. Reputations be damned. Honesty dismissed. Integrity trashed.

From a Buddhist perspective, honesty and integrity are essential components of a good life. Integrity is essential in understanding ourselves, our relationships, our knowledge of the world, and most importantly, our efforts to help those in need.

This new year, take time to carefully examine your life – the life you are leading, your world-view, and that which you take for granted. Don’t over analyze others, for it’s easy to pick on mistakes and faults of others. Rather, note the world’s faults and your own.

So, does integrity matter? Should we care? Integrity is what you have when you speak and when what you speak comes from a position of love. Ask 800,000+ federal workers if they’re feeling the ‘love.’

However, if you adorn the current rhetoric of America’s leaders, you are witnessing that which is not harnessed in love. Rather, you are witnessing the death of integrity and the increase of power.

Time recently completed a review of 2018’s most influential people of 2018. Thus far, I’ve read only a handful. However, I want to take time to celebrate the life and legacy of those who brought hope and healing to the world we have lived. There are of course, whose values of truth and compassion radiantly defined the courage we often lack. There are those who’ve spread universal, unconditional love and forgiveness. We can celebrate those who’ve reached the masses with inspiration and vision. I carry these leaders in my heart, for I do not live in a ‘world‘ but the world lives in and through me.

We’ve heard such inspiration before. Having vision is important, but once you have it, being able to properly apply these characteristics is completely different. Too often we expect our vision to simply happen, but expectation will never one closer to vision. On the flip side, as a general rule, we shouldn’t embrace those that celebrate government shutdowns, diminish human dignity, or propose the value of monetary gain over life, reporter or otherwise.

All of the above is true, maybe even overly simplified. However, for me, 2018’s most influential aspect was not a person. It was love.

I garnered a truthful nugget from the movie Love Actually during recuperation this past several weeks. Maybe learning an entirely new language is over-the-top. That being said, situations such as struggling to communicate present very real obstacles for many. Still, in life, barriers can be overcome. And while love may not conquer all, love can successfully tackle an awful lot!

Life is messy though. It’s often unexpected. And busy. Therefore, I suggest not spending a lifetime earning others adoration. Seek your own worth and accept that amidst hard times, do not forgot how beautiful love truly is. Anthony de Mellow brought a similar this message through the following story.

A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a barnyard hen’s nest. As a result, the eaglet grew up among the hens. Believing to be a chicken, the eagle did as chicks do – scratched for worms and insects, clucked and cackled, and thrashed his wings. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird in the cloudless sky. Majestically soaring among powerful wind currents with scarcely a beat, the old eagle looked in awe.

“Who’s that?” the eagle asked.

“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said a friend. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to earth. We’re chickens.”

The eagle lived and died as a chicken, for that’s all he thought he was.

The lesson? Never let any one man’s opinion of you become your reality.

Toward the end of Love Actually, a washed-up British rock star achieves the comeback he so desperately sought. Immediately, upon success, he’s swamped by invitations to a lavish lifestyle. Our rock star attends the party. Shortly thereafter, he returns to his manager’s apartment. Having realized that the only real personal connection he had was with his manager, in the end, he chooses to be with someone he really loved. And that someone, loved him.

Truth be told, 2018 was exactly like 2017, 2016 and all the years before. We are a culmination of what we observe. Yet, I’d not be the man today without the tangible presence and love of a few good friends. The most influential people of 2018 were the same as 2017 – they are those who can, and have, loved. Your’s should be as well.

In 2019, ensure love is not something you have; rather love is something that has you.

I awoke to stifling lower back pain. A quick glance of the clock, ‘1:46 AM,’ Christmas Day.

Stumbling to the bathroom, located some Extra Strength Excedrin, swallowed three and nursed myself to a rocker overlooking the valley below. “Christmas Day!” I squinted as my eyes adjusted to the sparkling lights from the valley below.

As a kid, there were many times I sat waiting to surprise Santa. Armed with a Pentax K1000 35mm camera, surely Santa would be doomed by my conniving nature, as I would be the first in a couple hundred years to snap artwork of ol’ Santa. And like those days of yesteryear, I sat shrouded in the mystery, briefly revealed by an occasional flicker from below.

In waning decades, not much has changed from such days. Even today, adorned by all our gadgetry, motion detectors, instant photo cams, city web cams, and Ring doorbell systems, Santa remains elusive. Today, I’m armed with the best of smartphones. But age has dulled reaction time as well as my ability to capture the red guy.

Ah,” I smiled. “Christmas Day.”

Looking back at the kid from years gone by, I was merely caught in gifts. Yet, by the age of 9, I started to keep the traditions of ol’ Saint Nick, having unknowingly moved from the spirit of Santa to a spirit of faith. What I had hoped for the world – more specifically, my world – was something bigger than just our world. I wanted to experience the beauty of love, in celebration and embracing one another. It was a world of faith that both Christ and Buddhist would have been proud.

In essence, all the presents in the world mean nothing without a faith for love and a faith for life. As such, the questions I reflect upon include ‘What difference did my faith and love for life make to me yesterday? What effect did my faith in love have on what I did yesterday?’ Much to the disparagement of some traditionalists, my personal faith is genuinely nourished by more than one religious tradition, by more than my home ‘root’ tradition.

One inquisitor queried, “What then, is your great way?

Love,” I replied. “Many people can follow a ‘great way.’ Only a handful understand and follow the small way.

Just as in years before, I fell asleep shortly after my search began. A welfare check from a friend wakened me early morn. Alas, Santa silently sleighed by in the night. There was no Mercedes-Benz in my driveway, no WeatherTech Floor mats, nor any diamonds from whatever jeweler. Just a new day … and new opportunities for love.

What I’ve realized though, is that Santa is bigger than any one person. His life of love has gone longer than any who’ve lived. What he does is simple, but powerful. He teaches how to have belief in something unseen or touched. As such, all of us remain students of the real Santa, the real Christ and the real Buddhist.

And the lesson?

Love.

Last night a friend texted, “Have you seen the moon? Beautiful, isn’t it.”

At the time, I couldn’t see it.

However, pushing and pulling the bed, just past 1:00 AM Christmas Eve, I was able to maneuver near the window. Wow. It was a beauty. Over the years, the moon has been my true companion. It’s always there. Steadfast. Guiding. Loving. I suppose this year be no different. I’ve never heard its rotational voice, but I’ve always understood its imperceptible power.

Christmas Eve. Made nearly another year. Not sure how, but I did. Gazing at the brilliance, I remember astronaut Bill Anders looking out a window of the Apollo 8 spacecraft on Christmas Eve, 1968 and snapping a photo of earth (titled Earthrise)– to which the poet Archibald MacLeish offered:

To see Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence as it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in that eternal cold.”

I thought of MacLeish’s elegy after reflecting upon my last 12 days – 12 days since my last blog. Many remain unaware how difficult the last 12 days have been. A single cell phone calendar note states it all, “Awoke – unable to move.” Cheating life’s natural wavelength, I’ve out-maneuvered spinal and heart problems for three decades. Until December 13.

As the days wore on, I regained use of my body, I remember my father battling like mad to fight from going mad – he never quite recovered from surgeries a year earlier. The anesthesia seems to have spun his brain like an emcee spinning balls on Catholic Bingo night. He never came out quite ‘right.’ Thus, upon discharge, I caught an American Airline flight to Tucson, AZ to visit my father.

It doesn’t matter who he is, it matters only how I remember him. Doesn’t matter if I die first or should he. We are unified in love. He is my father, but he is my brother. We are riders on the same earth.

Contemplating Anders’ photograph, noted authors and dignitaries attempted to invoke a similar sense of humankind’s spirituality. Not sure we succeeded. Alas, the Christmas Eve message from 1968 and today remain the same – that Christmas is not solely about a child in the manager. Of course, it is. And it isn’t.

Christmas is about the unity my father and I have – about the unity humankind should have. Millions of people saw Anders image, with Gary Lovell saying, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” And what we have is awesome. It’s awesome, because you help make it awesome.

During this Christmas (and any other time), let us adopt a similar attitude. Let us follow after real courage and understanding. Lay aside whatever may be disturbing us today and forevermore and attune ourselves to all that the Christ within represents – we are loved. And we are one.

Reaffirm your faith. Remember MacLeish’s “To see Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence as it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in that eternal cold?” There’s a smidgen more, often omitted “… brothers who now know they are truly brothers.”

This Christmas, be the ‘brothers who now know they are truly brothers.

Get Past Dog

A friend of mine visiting her home country was staying at her sisters’ and called me at just the right time.

I can’t believe it,” she muttered.

Believe what?” I inquired.

My sister is just like my mother.”  Continuing, “She is constantly telling my nephew how much everything costs. She’s teaching him the exact same thing she taught me. I hate it.”

I see,” I noted. “Maybe? Just maybe? He’ll be able to grow past it. That, just because he is experiencing this today, doesn’t mean he can’t overcome it.”

Frustrated, she lashed out, “No. He’s just like a dog. He’s learning only what he’s trained.”

Yeah. Maybe.” I noted. “But maybe just like other kids today, he’ll become resourceful, interact with others and become something better than that being taught.”

No.” she replied. “Impossible. He’s only being groomed into being guilted into caring for his mother.”

But maybe ….” Pause.

Click.

If you want to make a call …

She hung up.

The messages children learn are powerful, with most being planted before we discover the capacity to challenge and reject them. Such a message is found in Harry Chapin’s song Flowers are Red, released some 40 years ago.

In the song, Chapin offered a warning to those who would abuse privilege. As such, a little boy is delivered to school full of life. He sees a world full of colors with no rule as to which should apply to what. The crayons dare him to draw. The teacher intervenes for the boy’s “own good,” as she’s seen this before. It’s bad. A child’s view of a world offering flowers of different colors brings only trouble. Eventually, the teacher punishes the child until he surrenders and tells the teacher that “flowers are red, and green leaves are green.”

The last stanza of the song indicates the child moves to a new school. A new teacher claims ‘… painting should be fun. And there’s so many colors in a flower, so let’s use every one.” However, one student paints flowers only red and green. When asked why, he quotes his previous teacher.

“… flowers are red, and green leaves are green. There’s no need to see flowers any other way than the way they’ve always have been seen.”

The point I was trying to make was that we must get past children being nothing more than trainable dogs. Yes, maybe her nephew (and her sister) are having a difficult time. However, there should be nothing that summarily dictates the future – that our current opinion of any child should not become that child’s life.

Instead, maybe life has a different, yet unseen purpose. Maybe, her nephew will cure some form of cancer, become a recognized mathematician, create a solution to global warming, write great novels, a wonderful chef, an honest and trusted business owner, husband, lover and father. The possibilities are endless.

Enthusiasm should be our vehicle for education and love. As a Buddhist, I believe Chapin’s real message might better be directed toward the second teacher. Will the second teacher give up? Can the second teacher be successful? And, should she be successful, would not the lesson be that life still remains a place of endless possibility?

This Christmas I ask each parent to look at their children with love. Do one thing … get past dog.

I haven’t watched much of the news since starting my publication of the last 18 letters. I found three remaining letters, all addressed to God, written back in 2009. I may dare myself, open the letters, and publish one or two.

Sorry, I digress – back to news.

I haven’t listened to Trump in some 20 days. All-in-all, seems rather damn refreshing. However, I’ve read tidbits of the New York Times (NYT). One item that caught my mind was that worldwide voter turnout peaked in the late nearly 30 years ago, back in the 1980’s.

Unfortunately, the percent of electoral success in building and redevelopment is abysmal. To highlight, in February 2018, President Trump released a $1.5 trillion infrastructure financing plan that called for spending $200 billion over 10 years to repair and rebuild highways, bridges, airports, seaports, and water systems. But a relatively small amount of that funding would come from the federal government. This plan shifts the burden for raising infrastructure money onto state and local governments.

Likewise, import tariffs imposed by President Trump are adding thousands of dollars to the cost of building homes. That squeezes homeowners seeking to rebuild quickly after natural disasters, such as the California wildfires.

Compare that to the destruction. Trump wrecked any semblance of an immigration policy right out of the gate. Trump also filled two Supreme Court nominees. Significant Judicial accomplishments were processed since the GOP refused to confirm Obama’s lower court nominees for the last two years. The administration took significant steps to chip away at the foundations of the Affordable Care Act and suspended payments to insurance companies that helped control the costs of insuring poorer, sicker Americans. Changes to the tax code has been estimated at $1.5 trillion over 10 years with individual tax reductions expiring after eight years.

We cannot count on the Trump’s of the world to invest in us. As a whole, America has not invested in their most important asset: the incredible diversity of its people. Both GOP and Democrats discuss empowerment every few years during an annual/biannual election. But while all that happens, in the backdrop of ballot boxes, one third of the earth’s population lives in slums.

Where’s our humanity?

People … our global citizens are dying. As I, myself, dies, I’ve looked back upon my 58 years and witnessed so many amazing souls who live a life of service, adding massive value to the lives of others, yet they neglect to take care of or know how to handle adversity in their own lives. Thus, the trick to rebuilding is moving people from a ‘must serve mentality’ to ‘serving globally.’

Whether we’re aware or not, we’re all mentors. If the Trumps of our world will not invest in us, then we must. Only through global living will the halls and windows we’ve looked through would will change. It’s requirement? Invest in ourselves and each other. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.

In this place where time stands still it seems like everything is moving. Including me. I can’t say I know where I’m going nor if my bad deeds can be purified. There are so many things I have done that I regret. But when I come to a full stop I hope you understand that the distance between us is not as great as it seems.

~ Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet ~

Humanity is about movement. So get moving. Invest and make the world you want.

Several days have past since my last post. I’ve felt ill these past several days – not from the previous eighteen letters – but from my body. A body zooming past the highest point of life’s roller coaster. I will soon bid adieu and go forth in nature. With that being said, someone asked via private email if I learned anything from opening and reading my previous work.

Of course. Yes.

First. I keep thinking just how badly I constructed those early letters. Like most writers, I don’t have the benefit of an editor. Never been paid for writing. Thus, it’s hard to write, rest, edit, write, rest, edit and publish. But I think all who write – anything – should take the time between writing and submission. Editing is critical. It’s the key to success.

Second. Maybe it was good these letters were never written. Ha! At times, I thought of Harry Chapin’s quote:

“In the sixties I wrote about four hundred songs before anybody even paid any attention. They were my protest songs – to which, I was known, as ‘Gapping Chapin”’

And, uh, my songs had the implications that if only the world was as truly wonderful as I, there’d be no problems …”

Reading through, I sometimes thought I appeared as Mr. Wonderful. And truly, in all confession, eight years ago, I was not all that wonderful.

Third. Most importantly, there were some brilliant expressions of love I wished she could have read. Who knows? Maybe she will. Or, maybe she does.

So, what happened?

In reality, people breathe their own work, their own life. And often times, in our world, one cannot sustain anything that one cannot make use of – relationships included. Often, a weaker personality gives way to the stronger. This dominant personality can work flawlessly in life’s macro-level. However, such divisiveness is not endearingly palatable at the micro-level. Thus, those eagerly willing to please initiates the downfall.

Humans are complex beings. Each of us has inner conflicts, both with life and in our relationships. Truth be told, not every relationship works. Not every boy gets the girl. Not every girl gets the boy. Sometimes, you end up with someone else – someone better. As such, in her world, I know I would have been out of place.

The fact that I (maybe even we) still think of her (of each other) shows our relationship had some level of substance. And yet, like most sea-bearing Captain’s whose lost a love, I was too stupid to return to harbor, too fearful of sailing dry land. Yet, as I give way to nature, I accept that the extraordinary days of loving her will probably be my last. She could pierce my eyes, and cleanse my soul. I miss the beauty of her hair, its wave against gentle summer breezes and her radiant smile.

I recently visited the home I stayed in upstate New York during the Fall of 2010 and Winter of 2011. Looking past the Hudson River, up upon a Waxing Gibbous, I remembered the changes of fortune in both our lives, thinking of the many people who worked to make us whole, to return us to our inner home.

And … I wonder what tomorrow may bring.

When I started this project (opening all these unread letters from yesteryear), Letter 18 was held for last and remains the last handwritten letter written.

I never heard from her again.

After reading the message, the message remains true. Maybe, I should have posted it sooner. Thematically speaking, it’s a holiday message – God is love. That’s all my letters were about – Love.

Fast forwarding from eight years ago, I happened to catch to what I believe was a 1999 rerun of the cable TV show “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” If you’ve seen it, you know the basic idea: James Lipton invites celebrities to talk about their careers and how they do what they do. He always ended each episode with the same question:

If you believe that God exists, what do you think He will say to you when you finally see Him?

It can make for an interesting examination of conscience.

Lipton asked Spielberg, “What do you hope God will say to you when you finally see Him?

Thinking for a moment, Spielberg replied, “Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening.

So much of the Christmas story is, truly, about two things: listening and loving. In essence, that’s what this blog is about – ‘listening’ to my thoughts and understanding the love I tried to instill.

If any one of the past eighteen letters help any of you, then my words were not for naught. I hope all these letters add some value to your holiday. Each reader, each follower, is important and I honor each one of you so very much.

So, I thank you for listening. And I thank you for all your love and inspiration.


My Dear Love:

When I was younger, I used to be enriched by the holiday spirit. Eyes sparkled with the excitement of the season and as Christmas carols played in the background. I had an overview of Baby Jesus, a lowly manger, and a couple of shepherds. Not sure if the real things were as glorious portrayed.

Let’s face it, I didn’t have great Biblical story role models. Ha. So, I settled upon a vision of God and Christmas Eve drawn from movies. My best all time movie? A classic. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ There’re several lessons I learned many years ago. One. When we are in pain, we tend to feel we are suffering alone. But that’s rarely the case. When someone we love hurts – we hurt. Two. Character speaks louder than cash. Always. Third. There’s always a Mr. Potter. Don’t let the buggar win.

In truth, there’s always someone who’s going to be different. May even put up a sign, “Bah, humbug” or “Go Grinch.” I read of a little girl who climbed onto Santa’s lap. When Santa asked, “And what would you like for Christmas?” the girl looked up and replied, “What do you mean? Did you not get my email?”

I really did envision angels coming to help the average soul. In fact, Christmas Eve 1978, God gave me His greatest gift – himself. I saw his transcendent beauty of faith and love. His purity of light and grace remains amazing. There were, of course, doubters for my experience. However, over the years, I learned to never let another man create your world for he always creates it too small. And neither should we create God’s world, for we always tend to create God’s too narrow.

My vision of God’s world evolved significantly, yet remains absolute. Many years had passed before learning God does not appear in the grand hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable. Not in power – but simplicity. And maybe as I write this, I just learned that’s the angle portrayed in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Funny how God’s angle is never our angle, nor is God’s angel ever like our angel.

God does come on Christmas Eve. He’s in that recovering alcoholic who walks by a bar, hears the laughter, but keeps walking. He’s there in the silence, when the one who used to share your life and your home is no longer there, and you find your heart full of sorrow and longing and memory. He whispers “You are not alone. I am with you.”

This Christmas, I am so blessed for you, someone so beautiful, so capable of delivering love without condition. You seem to overcome any obstacles. I meditate and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. When I am with you, I am home, full of humility and gratitude for having shared this life, my life, with you.

This Christmas, regardless what anyone else does, be true to what’s inside – the goodness, kindness, a loving nature and joy. Ultimately, God knows these qualities cement real change. Christmas exists to remind the world of His love. He gives us His love so we can be part of the solution.

You, my love, are my Wonderful Life.

With all my love … W

Sometimes, regret is dead weight carried through life. Other times, its fuel. Let’s face it, our life is full of crowns. But most forget to leave the ‘crown’ at work.

Remember, you may be a CEO, but when you enter home, you’re a wife, a husband, a son or daughter, daughter-in-law, or son-in-law. And no one can take that place. As such, the it is important to understand that each positional choice is its own sacrifice and its own peacefulness. It’s highly improbable to “have it all.”

Which should be chosen? It’s never easy. Letter 17 was written from such thoughts.


My Dear Love:

The other day, we discussed the pros and cons of ‘should have.’ Should have is a pseudo for regret. All of us have them. In truth, entrepreneurs seen to just hold onto broken dreams. “What if I would have moved faster?”  “What if I would have moved slower?”  “What if I would have risked more?”  “What if I would have risked less?”

Every executive has their regrets. I remember a former CEO once discussing balance.

Upon hearing that CEO’s desk would be replaced, the CEO’s daughter protested, explaining she’d slept beneath that desk while growing up, “How can you give this desk away?”

Reflecting on that moment, the CEO said: “My God! What a memory for her to have.”

For many, our leaders climb the tree, surveys the situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!” Without hesitation, the managers, in unison, yell back, “Shut up! We’re making progress.”

Truth be told, everyone leaves a legacy. Mostly, that legacy is either “It’s all about me,” or “I’m going to do something worthy for someone else.” You’ll have few regrets if you aim high and miss. However, most aim low and hit. Settling for second best, every annual performance review received, the willingly open and accept the gift called ‘regret.’ In truth, God bestowed upon many a healthy mind, a healthy body, fruits of the field, the garden, the corn, the wine, the oil. All, tokens of favor. But because these bountiful gifts are so selfishly utilized, they lose them all.

So, a few thoughts. First. Living life too cautiously and keeping the status quo leaves regrets. Remain outside of your comfort zone and watch zone expand. The more risks you take, the easier it becomes. Second. You always have yourself. So, work on it and make it your best relationship. Third. As long as you are loved, respected, and treated well, I will always be happy. Fourth. Faith is God’s hotline to you. Honor yourself by walking in faith. Rest in faith, work in faith and love in faith.

There’s one last lesson … Honestly, of all the places I’ve been, I never imagined earth had so much love. How that moment shines for me still when I hold your hand. Know that I love you and will always be there for you. No matter what, I’ve got your back. I love and adore you. There is nothing you could possibly do to change that.

With you, there are no regrets.

None.

Several years ago, while traveling through Florida, my dear friend called with a business dilemma. “How do I handle this ethical problem with a client.”  Sarcastically, I scanned my iPhone and found no app for ‘moral compass.’ Nope. Nada. Didn’t exist.

In essence, business leaders, generals, foreign dignitaries and presidents alike have found can’t simply Google search ethical doctrine, mouth a political sound bite, and appear real. So, I asked, “If everything went south, would she eat the peanut butter?”

Huh?” she replied.

To highlight my intent, I referenced the peanut butter salmonella case.

In 2009, a salmonella outbreak killed nine people. The ninth fatality, an elderly Ohio woman, occurred during a congressional hearing. At one point in the hearing, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) held up a gallon-sized bucket wrapped in yellow crime-scene tape, presumably containing some type of recalled peanut butter product, and asked the business leader whether he would be willing to “take the lid off” and eat any of it.

Sometimes, real leadership is about having to eat the ‘peanut butter.’

Letter 16 was written as a follow-up to that conversation. Unopened since, I found some meaning leaders could use today.


My Dear Friend:

Most business leaders are forever searching for a leadership secret that will vault their company to the stratosphere. Likewise, ever notice how many self-help gurus claim to have the magic bullet for which only they have discovered. At the end today (and every decade) leadership greatness is rare.

In truth, the values that shape what we, as individuals, decide is right or wrong can’t be digested, instantly researched or found in a corporate weekend seminar. The degree to which values and principles arise and again, and the degree to which people accept and live in harmony to those values will either create survival and stability or disintegration and destruction. We see this far too common from political leaders and followers alike willingly and freely accepting disunity.

Lincoln once said “… if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Decisions should not be judged as ‘good politics’ where ‘the path of the least resistance’ has firmly rooted like moss on trees. These types of decisions often lead to ‘peanut butter,’ i.e., a breach of trust.

It’s hard to describe good values. However, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami offered a glimpse.

Rescue Teams searched for the missing along hundreds of miles of the coast, and thousands of hungry survivors huddled in darkened emergency centers cut off from rescuers and aid. Japanese citizens patiently waited and passed whatever available water there was, to those who needing it first.

Values are written over centuries. They were created over lifetimes. They were challenged during World Wars, renewed on September 11th, revisited during times of economic uncertainty and political fear, and celebrated during annual harvests, reaping leftovers from a drought-ridden field.

Stephen Covey stated we must develop our value system with deep respect for “true north” principles. If you need a hint, ‘true north’ is about people. Love for thy neighbor is unarguable. As such, for all the years I have known and loved you, your principles are proven. They endured and quite often mirror by young mentors.

From a religious perspective, going back to my theological days, the six major world religions all teach the same basic core beliefs – “you reap what you sow” and “actions are more important than words.”  In today’s world, those professing freedom, are men who want crops without plowing, rain without thunder, the of joy Spring without the heat of Summer. They want ocean breezes but not its storms.

Cloak your decisions in love and you’ll weather most storms. Yup. May have to rebuild a roof here and there, bandage a knee, and morn, but your friends, coworkers, employees, community and I all walk with you.

Truth is, that real life … real values … and real love … is about struggle. There is no ‘true north’ without struggle. However, real love overcomes struggle. And that, my love, is what I believe Christ referenced.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Real love is always with us. And like His, my love is always with you.

Don’t have that? Well, prepare to eat ‘peanut butter.’ Ha!

With all my love … W.

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