Archive for April, 2019


Medal for a Pali

A day after Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters title and 15th major tournament in a rousing resurrection of his career, President Trump said Monday he would give him an honor almost as exclusive as a green jacket from Augusta National Golf Club: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Just like hundreds of thousands glued to the television watching Tiger golf, I rooted for the man. And in many ways, I hoped there could be someone, like me and many others, that feel astonishingly from the stars into life’s gutter.

However, the Medal of Freedom? Why?

As you may know, The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, and is awarded to those who make outstanding contributions to national security or national interest, world peace, culture or other public or private endeavors. The medal has been awarded since 1963, and is typically given to a dozen or fewer people each year.

Thus, should one receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom simply because Mr. Woods has a longstanding relationship with Mr. Trump? They own property near each other, golf together both before and after Trump became president, and shared similar stories of reported bouts of infidelity.

Success for both has been overshadowed by stories of infidelity, payoffs, and for Woods, struggles with physical ailments. In 2017, Woods pleaded guilty to reckless driving, agreed to a diversion program, probation, and among other requirements, to avoid charges of driving under the influence.

My question doesn’t negate Tiger’s accomplishments. But as Op-Ed write Dan Solomon noted, the adversity Woods is famous for overcoming, in other words, wasn’t something that happened to him. It was something Tiger did, to himself. So, am I the only one who finds it weird to cheer Tiger in his Masters moment, while simultaneously finding Trump awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to a disgraced athlete justifiable?

Presidents, current and former, have diminished the medal’s honor. Former Presidents Bush and Obama awarded the medals to thinkers, writers and athletes, living and deceased. Even Joe Biden, received the medal, though I envision Biden’s service to American’s a solid testament.

I believe the Medal of Freedom should be saved for true cultural and social leaders, those morally inspiring, accomplished, and meaningful. From my view, that’s not Tiger. But, everyone needs a pal – Even Trump.

Maybe, just maybe, Trump will have Big Macs, Quarter Pounder’s and fries on the menu.

WaterExcept for accepting that I could depart this at any moment, I’ve lived a relatively good life. Quiet days of work rolled into quiet nights and quiet hours of sleep. I’ve traveled many parts of the world; some parts were I while others are splendorous. Only two occasions where I ever experienced danger: Once in South Africa and another time in Atlanta. Still, up through last week, I never believed an actual physical assault would visit me.

As Longfellow would write:

Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life, some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Longfellow’s 1842 poem basically means everyone will experience difficulty and heartache at some point. The “day” is a metaphor for “life.” So, when I reflect back upon the black four-door Ford pick-up that pulled alongside my parked car, I thought little of it. Moments later, I was targeted simply because I carried a cane as the assaulter perceived I was on ‘public assistance,’ “sucking money” from society.

Looking back, I presume that somehow the offender thought beating the crap out me would somehow motivate me to get a job. Turns out he was wrong. I have a job. I am actively employed.

The battle lasted less than twenty seconds, for since my back was sore, I carried a self-defense cane. After listening to how I was a leech on society, a quick flick to the offender’s left shin left him crumpled in pain. He quickly stumbled back to his truck and sped away.

The police report was ‘matter of fact.’ Comments such as, “you were lucky,” to I “was smart,” should have run. My mother gasped. Colleagues momentarily “wowed.” And the world quickly moved on. I sat. Alone. In thought.

The rate of nonfatal assaults on American men 60 and older increased by 75.4% between 2002 and 2016, a new government report estimates. For women, the assault rate increased by 35.4% between 2007 and 2016. Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the need to strengthen violence prevention among older adults.

There’s a small, tiny part of me that wants to meet this fellow again – not for bridging wounds, but rather, to simply wreck his day. However, as a Buddhist, I use several problem-solving or approach coping strategies. They center on direct action and planning. These are directed at solving a problem and mitigating sources of distress. These coping strategies include:

  • Meditation: For the development of love and compassion;
  • Self-Help: Collecting information concerning the justice system, community resources, common experiences amongst victims of violent crime, and so on; and
  • Activities towards empowerment: This includes taking self-defense classes to reduce the possibility of future victimization; activism, such as sharing one’s experience with others to advocate for the protection of future victims.

Since becoming a Buddhist, I have tried to have a deep commitment to love and compassion – it is a commitment to nonviolence. In reality, should I ever meet my attacker again, I will borrow the Dali Lama:

I am reminded that all of us are basically alike. Therefore, I neither speak with a feeling of anger nor hatred. Yet, as a member of the world’s community, I recognize how dependent we are in one another. The injuries you wished to cause would not have fed one person, would not have given a home to a homeless man or provide shelter from a Winter wind. Your act wouldn’t have extinguished the level of hope within me, for I have crucified myself far worse than you ever could have achieved. Simply put, I ask only to walk and understand your pain.

My attacker claimed I was weak. He sees not the living water within. What is more yielding than water? If you beat a pail of water, can you destroy it? The pail, maybe yes. Yet the water escapes. Over time, water (love) wears upon the strongest – few can withstand its strength.

So, I am water … that which is both elusive and stronger.

A ‘No’ Man

As a consultant, I’ve had the privilege of traveling across the world and serving well over 1,500 clients, from CEOs to company Vice President’s, Senior Directors and managers. Yesterday afternoon, a CEO called and asked if I could join him for a drink. We met at a local Irish bar that both of us has, at one time or another attended.

“Sorry for calling on short notice. I needed to vent,” he said after ordering a beer.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Had an HR meeting two days ago over an alleged sexual harassment claim.”

“And,” prompting him further.

“Well,” lowering his head and staring at his whiskey. “A female employee claimed harassment by our Sales VP.”

“Well,” I sighed heavily. “I’m sorry.”

“Wait,” he interrupted. “She claims a year ago that the offending employee ‘winked’ at her.”

“Winked?”

“Winked,” he offered. “But under questioning, it turned out not to be a wink, but a ‘raised’ eye brow?”

“What the hell is a raised eyebrow?”

“Have no clue,” he muttered. “Have no clue. The entire management team was in the sales meeting and she claims he raised an eyebrow to her. And she felt violated by this.”

“Anyone else see this?”

“Oh hell,” he pounded his fist. “We were all there. And not a single one of us saw what she was referring to.”

A long pause swallowed his long face.

“Our Sales VP called today and resigned – claimed he felt humiliated.” He momentarily starred through me. “Where is all this going?”

By October 2018, the #MeToo movement derailed over 200 careers. As I’ve said before, most of those men needed to go. In nearly half the cases, the replacements were women. Joe Biden may be the latest casualty.

However, one unintended consequence, executives and analysts say, companies seeking to minimize the risk of sexual harassment or misconduct appear to be simply minimizing contact between female employees and senior male executives.

Most of the consulting firms I have worked with have told me that they will avoid going to dinner with any female employees, or that they’re concerned about deploying a women and men consultants onsite. People are concerned and have questions.

The CEO I had a drink with openly admitted to becoming a “No” man. He simply says no to most meetings. He ran off a business list to which he says no.

“If there’s a meeting with a female employee, I intentionally broaden the issue so I can include as many others as possible.”

“Having dinner at restaurant ABD. Want to … “No, thanks.””

“Going for coffee. Would you like … “No thanks.””

“Lunch at … “No thanks.””

“Grabbing a beer at … “No thanks.””

“Ordering tickets for the hockey game … “No thanks.””

“Texting female coworkers … “No thanks.””

“College internship programs … “No thanks.””

“Business Travel … “No thanks.””

“I grabbed a rental car, what to share … “No thanks.””

“Stay at the same hotel … “No thanks.””

“Same flights … “No thanks.””

My CEO friend placed a palm against his forehead. “My God. I’ve become a “No Man.

He is not alone. Lean In partnered with SurveyMonkey to look into the possible negative effects of the #MeToo movement for women’s advancement. Promoting mentorship is one of Lean In’s key priorities. Nearly half of male managers they surveyed reported being “uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together.” Senior men were five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior level woman than with a junior level man.

More recently, the MeToo movement has been credited for canceled office holiday parties, radio stations refusing to play the classic song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” after many claimed that the singer is trying to persuade a woman to stay with him by offering her a drink and company wide trips.

Thus, while it’s critically important that women who’ve been assaulted are heard, we cannot forget about the fundamental right to due process that our great country was founded upon. As Op-Ed writer David Oscar Markus noted:

If it’s the subjective feelings of the accuser that we prioritize over the intent of accused, then we will have flipped our presumption of giving the benefit of the doubt to the well-meaning. We will also put at risk coaches and teachers who encourage their students with a reassuring pat on the back. The same for business colleagues with a handshake. What’s next, criminalizing the close-talker? The list goes on. Let’s not send the message that there is to be no touching at all without fear of false accusation that it was “uncomfortable.”

Unfortunately, the side effect of men getting intimidated by the #MeToo movement won’t serve women well in neither the short term nor long term.

The real change will only occur at the grassroot level, which, in this case, is each one of us. However, I fear the only real change is that more men will become “No” men.

Buddhism and Baseball

I wasn’t feeling well throughout the weekend, so I limited my activity. Fortunately, Saturday was a rainout. And although I did perform a lot of household chores, neck strain and pain limited my activity. Yesterday, was cold. Thus, I satyed quiet, stayed indoors, and completed taxes.

However, I did watch some of Major League Baseball’s opening day and weekend. Prior to the season, I had read several columnists claiming the Cubs would do no better than third in the NL Central. However, after watching the Cubs first three games, last or next to last might be apropos.

I will say it straight: It appears the 2018 Cubs got on the bus from Spring Training. They suck.

Yesterday, the Cubs started great, as they built up a 4-0 lead in the first four innings. The Rangers immediately erased that lead however, as Delino DeShields crushed a grand slam off Hammels in the bottom of the fourth, giving Texas a 5-4 lead. In the bottom of the 9th, Texas Ranger Gallo hit a double off the left field wall and after advance to third on a groundout. He scored Cubs Pedro Strop threw a wild pitch that bounced so high, it came down 47 minutes on Ms. Felcowitzh’s old Oldsmobile Wagon as she drove home from evening church.

I figured Pedro Strop got pitching advice from Carl Edwards Jr. or Yu Darvish. Darvish lit up the baseball diamond Saturday. In short, Darvish ended up throwing 75 pitches to retire eight batters, and had to be saved. According to Baseball Reference, Darvish is the fifth Cub starting pitcher to give up seven or more walks in a start, joining Tyler Chatwood, Carlos Zambrano, Jeff Samardzija, and Jake Arrieta. The Rangers’ first 10 batters of the game did not put the ball in play, which set a new record for the club.

Despite Darvish’s struggles, the Cubs led 6-5 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, when another pitcher remaking himself, Carl Edwards Jr., took over. Edwards subsequently gave up a single and a walk, before Gallo netted a three-run home run. It proved to be the game winner.

All of this was topped by Sunday’s Cardinals – Brewer game. In the first inning, Matt Carpenter doubled. Upon safely reaching second base, he stood, placed his left hand over his crotch, raised his right hand and wiggled his hips.

“What the hell was that?” I mumbled.

However, in the 7th, with two outs, Cardinals pitcher Miller got Travis Shaw to pop up into shallow left field for what should have been the final out of the inning. However, with the shift on, the ball managed to find a hole between Carpenter and Ozuna, enabling the Brewers to pull within 4-3. Yet Carpenter, for whatever reason, did not stand place his left hand over his crotch, raised his right hand and wiggle his hips.

A friend called five minutes later, “Why didn’t Carpenter dance?

“Maybe because there was no dollar bills?”

Eventually, the Brewers won in 9, sending the cards to a 1–3 start.

In Buddhism, there’s an endless cycle of suffering—we are always winning and losing the same game, somehow expecting to make progress. We spend part of our life trying to get it together, and the other part watching it fall apart. We don’t realize that if we try to gain something, we had better be ready to lose it. As soon as we have time—“I have a whole hour free”—we are losing it. We work hard to have a relationship, and then it breaks up. We come together for a holiday party, and then it’s over. We buy a new car, and the fender gets a dent.

What’s interesting is that just like baseball, life is really about the competition within ourselves. We rise to our own challenge. As I watched this weekend’s MLB games, I thought about all the things I did to get to this point, through snow and rain, heat and cold, management failure and my own.

When my time ends, maybe God will ask who won. Should He, I will say, “No one and everyone.”

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