Archive for December, 2018


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.

Letter 15 was written on ‘Mentoring Day.’ I attribute my entire success and my multi-decade career to mentoring. The reason I believe so strongly in mentoring is because those key individuals will tell you the truth. If you have a good mentor, they are brave enough to tell you what you don’t necessarily want to hear but need. For me, those key mentors helped me see a clearer path by clearing out the noise.

There is a saying, alternately attributed to Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni and the Theosophists: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I first heard the phrase from Wayne Dyer. Regardless of who came up with it, I think it’s a key concept. In my own life, I “went it alone” for years. “I am a rock. I am an island” was my mantra. Even though I had friends to lean on, I never did. Not only that, when I felt challenged in my life, it took years to realize that’s not what I needed. As such, over the decades, even the most unintentional connections turned into mentoring situations.

For me, my mentors lit the way. However, I had to walk the path. As a Buddhist, I have realized that anything and everything is a teacher in this world. I wrote this letter to my love in an effort to reminded others when they made a positive impact. The role my love had in my life, regardless of how long or how brief, how positive or negative, how ordinary or extraordinary, shaped my world for the better. Some would claim spirituality guided me. Maybe. But not quite. In truth, it was her that guided me through the ebbs and flows of life, and made an irrevocable impact on who I am.

A mentor should be life’s samurai. Cut the crap, “separate the wheat from the chaff.”

Always thank your mentor. This letter was meant for that.


My Dear Friend:

I am no longer the island seen from afar. It’s neither because God called me for a higher purpose nor for missed adventures. Simply understood, it’s because I know you are my port of worship.

Your willingness to expand horizons – to include me – ensured my existence. You are, bar far, the most influential person of my life. I am surprised to hear the multitude confused by your compassion. However, I can hear your heart from thousands of miles. Your eyes shine. Your heart beats. Your care sparks raging infernos. You make everyone possess the “well of possibility.”

I didn’t have enough life experience to know how special you were. You provided a wealth of growth that encouraged me to be the best person possible. You’d ask deep personal questions. And even though I didn’t know how to answer, I wish someone would ask me the same today. I was an unlovable monster. Yet you loved. I was often confused. still, you guided. At times, I was heartbroken. And you comforted. When I was me, you proved that was enough. You got so tangled up in my life’s web that you became my mentor, my love, and my friend.

I’ve been open and drank every glass of wisdom. I tasted your ups and downs, glory and peace. You peered into the crystal ball and gave me your best advice. I only hope my brain properly recorded and stored these thoughts forever.

I promise to continue chasing my dream, but I understand it will be hard. My journey will not hand success without sacrifice. I will be humble, charismatic, reserved, and learn to blend in. I will ensure the world sees my heart, mind, and yearn to understand how the flame within will be harnessed and used wisely.

You have influenced me to transform lives. I will transform lives.

You have influenced me to transform communities. So. I will transform communities.

You influenced me to transform myself. Yet, I hope I can transform you.

God hadn’t called for a higher purpose. I called myself.

With Love, …. W

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