Search results for “faith”

Ideas and Execution – It isn’t the What, it is the Why


Here’s a life lesson from the Franciscans.

I, along with a lot of other people, have gotten pretty curious about St. Francis.

To say St. Francis was an interesting guy is a mild understatement.  Born into affluence in the 13th century, Francis renounced his wealth and family to follow his faith in God.

And like for so many people back then who lived lives larger than life (did I just use a variation of “life” 3 times in a 5-word phrase?) it is hard to tell fact from fiction.   Biographer St. Bonaventure described St. Francis as the “second Jesus.”  As noted in Wikipedia, it has been argued that no one else in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitate the life, and carry out the work of Christ, in Christ’s own way.

So the BIG question for the Franciscan order after St. Francis’ death was simple:  “How do we be like St. Francis?”  Think of it as a Middle Age version of “I want to be like Mike,” or “what would Jesus do?”

On one side were literalists.  For them it was nothing less than doing everything EXACTLY like the good St. Francis.  On another side were the idealists.  For them it was less about having the habits of St. Francis (BTW, that pun was intended!) and more about having the mind or spirit of St. Francis.

The latter won and for good reason – both existential and historical.  On the existential front, doing everything EXACTLY like St. Francis presented numerous problems.  Let’s take something as elemental as geography.  St. Francis wore a simple robe with a rope belt.  So what do you do if you live in say, Sweden?  Live in subzero temperatures with only a cotton robe and belt?  I don’t think so.  Then there was the historical.  St. Francis walked everywhere.  Good luck with that if you find yourself in LA.

But there was another thing.  Those literalist Franciscans were following the wrong thing.  They were following the HOW.  What folks really liked about St. Francis wasn’t the HOW, it was the WHY.

The idea is always more important than the execution.  It is why I don’t read all those articles that start “X ways to …” fill in the blank.  People get obsessed about the HOW.  What they should be obsessed with is the WHY.

That is why (wordplay intended) Simon Sinek’s TED talk is one of the most popular of any online TED talk.  Sinek’s even made a business of it.  What?  You haven’t seen it?  Well you should.  (Not only because of the content but also because he does NOT use PowerPoint.)

After 20 minutes watching this you’ll understand.

So my question for you:  What is your “why” in your “golden circle?”



I read an article today in the New York Times on the budget standoff.  In justifying their position on insisting to attach conditions to a budget, Rep. Stephen King of Iowa said simply, “Because we’re right.”  His colleague, Steve Pearce of New Mexico went further to say, “At times, you must act on principle and not ask what cost, what are the chances of success.”

That phrase, “act on principle and not ask what cost” struck me.

Consequences exist.  Really.  They do.  I think that is where you have to start.  We all like to ignore them.  We pretend they aren’t there.  We forget about Newtonian physics (the old “equal and opposite” action thing).  We pass over the “reap what you sow” evidence.  But once we step out of our delusions, we look around and see, yes, there are consequences to things.

And consequences have, well, consequences.  Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, nor does it necessarily make you a better person.  I find any one who would say, “I’m going to do what I think is right and I don’t care who gets hurt in the process” to be a potentially dangerous person.

That is what is so disturbing to me about Mr. Pearce’s comments.  It seems that he recognizes consequences but chooses to ignore them.

Now here’s my rule for ignoring consequences:  it should be for a greater good and the downside risks should only involve the person who chooses to ignore the consequence.  Some examples:

  • I’ll protect others even though I may get hurt.
  • I’ll provide for others even though it means suffering for me.
  • I’ll give to others even though it means I won’t be able to spend for myself.

It is the story of the soldier that lays down his life for his country.  It is the story of the philanthropist that gives his or her money away to help others.  And in the case of my faith, it is a God who sacrifices of himself for those whom He loves.

All good reasons to ignore consequences.

But to ignore consequences just because you are “right”?  Ignore consequences that could harm others and not yourself?  Ignore consequences because there are people encouraging you to do so without regard for others?

This isn’t “right”.  It is even beyond “wrong”.  It is an attitude that leads inevitably to very, very bad things.

Thanks, Dad.


Today is Father’s Day.  And it happens to be two days after my father’s birthday, June 14th, ninety-four years ago.  It has been over twenty years since my Dad passed away.  But I think of him often.  I owe him a lot.

Among the many things Dad tried to show me, I am thankful for three.

First, his love of family.  Now that may not sound particularly unique or special.  People should and do love their family.  But there was a sacrificial ferocity about Dad’s love for his family that in some ways defies description.  He would do everything in his earthly power to help his children.  And he was totally devoted to his wife.  Indeed I remember sharp lectures on how I should treat my Mom, if not for the fact she was my mother at least out of respect that she was his wife.  Dad wanted little and gave much.  His family was everything.

Second, his passion for truth.  Dad had this incredible curiosity.  Moreover, he had an insatiable thirst for getting at the heart of any issue – personal or political.  In the process, he didn’t mince words.  Some people found him blunt (including even his children!).  Call it what you will, Dad brought a refreshing honesty to any conversation.  He didn’t shy away from the “elephant in the room.”  In fact, he was the first person most likely to say, “Hey, there’s this big elephant in the room!  Before we talk about all this other unimportant stuff, let’s talk about what we’re going to do with this big elephant … ”  He forced hard discussions.  It wasn’t for the sake of argumentation. It was a desire to get at the heart of an issue.  And it was his way of showing his love for someone.  As he told me once, “if you love really love others, you’ll eventually talk about things people may not want to talk about … but should.”

Finally, his faith.  Dad was a passionate Christian.  He would remind me that life is not things.  Life is not experiences.  Life is not a random act.  Life has a purpose and that purpose is to serve He who created us and sacrificed for us.  If Jesus was just a smart guy and the Bible is just a book, then life is one big crap shoot.  But if it is all true … then that changes everything!

Family, truth and faith.

Thanks, Dad, for showing me how to have a passion for all three.

Happy Father’s Day.

Reason and the Reason Rally

Today being Sunday, I thought of the Reason Rally.  That was the rally for atheists on the Mall yesterday that headlined scientists Dr. Richard Dawkins, comedian Eddie Izzard, and magician James Randi.  That and yesterday a good friend sent me a piece that appeared in the New York Times by Gary Cutting with the provocative title, “Does It Matter Whether God Exists?”

The event and the article got me thinking about all my atheist, agnostic and theistic friends and as a Christian, the many wonderful and oftentimes impassioned conversations we’ve had about God, faith and religion.  As I thought about my friends and read through Gary Cutting’s article I also thought about how many things atheists and Christians can actually agree on (that is of course, putting aside the question of whether there is or is not a God.) and how silly it was that we can’t embrace our agreements and move on to more interesting discussions and do so as Peter admonished Christians in “gentleness and respect”.

Here are at least three things on which I think many Christians and atheists can agree.

  • You can be religious and spiritual without a God.  This is most certainly true.  There are many people who are religious and spiritual and don’t have a belief in a God.  At least not the God that I know.  Now I’d be quick to say that most Christians wouldn’t advise this.  Jesus criticism of the Pharisees was, in part, that religiousity and spiritualism absent God quickly leads to legalism.  But  people can be spiritual and have a sense of ethic and moral rightness without a belief in creator God.  I know because I’m friends with many!
  • You can be a “good person” without believing in God.  Absolutely!  I know a lot of great, wonderful, decent people who are atheists.  They are honorable, trustworthy, and people of integrity.  Moreover, I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of people who believe in God (e.g. Christians) and who fall woefully short in this category – that is, behavior.  You have to go no further than me.  I’m a really good example.  There are a lot of people I know who are not Christians and behave much better than me.  I’ll be the first to admit that.
  • “Being good” is important.  Or as philosopher John Gray closes in the BBC article, “What matters is how we live.”  Totally agree.  (Note that Christians would challenge the prior statement  – that what we believe doesn’t matter – but that’s a whole different issue.)  A good part of the book of James talks about behavior.  What we do.  And if anyone wants to read the Gospels they can count how many times Jesus said that “if you love me you’ll do what I say”.  He said that a lot.  I don’t think he was kidding.  And what did Jesus say?  “Love your neighbor as yourself” – a pretty high standard of “being good” in anyone’s book.

So on this Christians and atheists can agree:  (1) you can be religious and spiritual without a God; (2) you can be a good person without believing in God; and (3) how you behave is pretty important.

On this, we agree.

All I’d ask of friends at the “Reason Rally” to consider, is that belief in a God is a quite reasonable and logical conclusion when working through the answers to three important questions about life.

  • How did life come from non-life?  This is a tough one if you exclude a Creator.  We can say we don’t know.  But the conundrum of how animate, sentient, spiritual life came from a big blob of earth, water and air is a tough one without injecting a Creator God.  String theory?  Sure.  But isn’t it reasonable to think belief in string theory is as much of a faith leap as believing in God?
  • Are there objective, irrevocable, eternal moral truths?  Is it right to tell the truth?  Is is bad to murder someone?  Is love the highest ethic?  And are these things all true regardless of when you were born or where you lived throughout history regardless of our evolutionary state?  God explains eternal truths in a very compelling way.  Without God we are left to genetics, evolution, and societal norms which by their very nature have and continue to change over time.  Without God eternal moral truths are hard to reason or logic.
  • Is there a purpose and coherence in life?  Absent a God, purpose and coherence become a struggle.  That’s not just me.  It is everyone from Darwin to Nietzsche to Sartre to Betrand Russell.  They understood, recognized and openly spoke about it.  One can conclude that purpose and coherence is self-made.  But then man becomes the measure of all things and its reasonable for some to worry which “man” becomes that “measure”.

You can disagree with ALL of the above.  All I’m trying to do is suggest to atheists, agnostics and those who challenge faith in God that (a) we agree on more than you might think we do; and that (b) while you may not agree or believe that a God exists, belief in God is indeed a quite reasonable thing.

And if you’re interested, read the thinking of legendary British philosopher and former icon for atheism Anthony Flew – “My Pilgramage from Atheism to Theism.”  We’re not that far apart.


Valentine’s Day: What is love? Part I

What is love and what does love have to do with brands, organizations and business?

Good question. I don’t know for sure but that’s never stopped me before.  Plus the Sunday lesson this morning was love and we’re closing in on Valentine’s Day.  I got inspired.

At the risk of violating rules for both civil and faith-based discussion in post-modern society I thought I’d try and answer the question by combining Christian scripture, secular business principles and a bit of humor.  And to make the risk greater, I’ll use one half of perhaps the best known verse of scripture , John 3:16.  For those averse to matters of faith and religion, don’t worry.   No moralizing.  I just hope you’ll still find something here that you agree with and find mildly insightful.

With that, here’s part one of three.

John 3:16 starts: “For God so loved the world …”.

Such a simple statement.  God loved the world.  Actually, John wrote “so” loved the world which I’ll interpret to mean that He loved it a lot.  What does that tell us about nature of love?

For me, it is this:  Love is a decision.

Love is not something that happens to you. Love is something that you make happen to yourself and others. It is not an emotion, feeling or phase in your life for relation.  It is a decision you make. I think what John is saying is that God “decided” to love the world.  Some may challenge that and say, “Hey, Jerry, the world’s a pretty awesome place!  God just fell in love with it!”  Maybe it went something like this:

“Oh!  Look at that pretty little blue place that I made!  It is so cute and adorable.  Everything there is so beautiful and lovely.  It is my favorite vacation spot.  The people are so nice.”

I don’t think so.

Sure, we’ve got the Grand Canyon and all. And there are a lot of very wonderful people in the world. But peel back the layers of our planet earth – the world – and the place is pretty terrifying.

Animal world? Check out a NatGeo video of some tiger methodically stalking, catching and bloodily piece-by-piece tearing apart the flesh of a baby zebra while it writhes in pain. You can have all the Disney talk you want romanticizing the ‘circle of life’ stuff, but in the real world what you’re really talking about are animals savagely stalking and eating each other.   Nature = strong eat the weak.  Fascinating, yes.  Even beautiful?  Perhaps.  Something that you’d decide to love?  Not so much.

Then turn to the world of people.  Sure there are some nice people out there.  You and me, right?  But even we do some horrific things.  Here’s a test. Take two perfectly wonderful, pleasant, well-behaved and lovingly adorable three year olds. Put them together on the floor in a room.  Now set evenly between them a very cool toy to share. Stand back and watch.  Trust me. It is going to get ugly in a hurry.  Within five minutes, screams.  Within ten, grabbing, biting, and gouging.  Anyone who has had children will confirm this.   And as for adults and all our own private neurosis and objectionable behaviors? Let’s not go there. No, people can be pretty hard to love. Even the ones that on the outside seem nice.

And nature? Forget about it! For every beautiful sunset and mild ocean breeze there’s a Jakarta tsunami and Hatian earthquake. Nature may be a lot of things but three things it totally lacks are compassion, forgiveness, mercy. No, nature is about as far away from love as you can get.

No. I’m thinking that what John was writing about was a clear, concious decision by a God to love the world. However it was, love was a decision.  It was a choice.  It is not something that happened   It is something that was made to happen.

So what in the world does any of this have to do with brands and business?

Think of it this way.

Loving your employees or loving your customers does not just happen.  In business, love does not come naturally.  Sometimes employees and customers can be a handful (remember the story of the three-year-olds?).  If you’re going to really care about what you do and who you do it with – I mean REALLY care about them – it is going to be something that you’re going to have to decide to do.  If you wait for it to happen, it won’t.  Trust me.  This stuff isn’t like a scene from The Titanic. Real love, the love that matters and lasts and changes lives and is meaningful – that love is something you choose to create. It is a decision that an organization or brand makes a conscious effort to act upon.

Companies that are consistently voted as the best place to work have DECIDED to be the best place to work.  Companies that have the most ardent and loyal customers have DECIDED to show their customers respect, affection and support.  If an employee or customer says they LOVE this or that brand, organization or company … you can bet that long before they realized or said it, someone made a decision that this is what they wanted to have happen.

They made a decision that the relationship they were building was not just based on making the most money, getting the cheapest price, or being a matter of convenience.  It was going to be more than that.

Love doesn’t just happen.  Love is a choice.

Tomorrow:  love is a verb.

“You have to do this, before you can do that”

My wife and I were reading the paper the other day and noticed a movement afoot in Virginia that would require women to get a sonogram and receive a picture of the fetus before having an abortion.

That got me thinking.

What if we applied the same concept in other areas?  What if we looked at all the decisions that people make that could have a significant impact on them and those around them, and required them to watch, receive or do something before they took action?

Here’s a short list that I came up with.  Feel free to add yours:

  • You must watch a fatal car accident before getting a driver’s licence (when I was young, they used to do this).
  • You must go and watch cows being slaughtered in a slaughterhouse before eating a burger.
  • You must look at pictures of chicken farms before ordering chicken tenders.
  • You must view a vaginal birth before having sex.
  • You must look at pictures of overweight people before eating sweets.
  • You must review your bank account, credit statement and IRA before purchasing anything over $100.
  • You must watch “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” before getting married.
  • You must go to an AA meeting before purchasing alcohol.
  • You must spend time in a restaurant kitchen before going there to order a meal.
  • You must watch videos of someone unclogging a (a) garbage disposal; (b) toilet; and (c) gutters, before buying a home.
  • You must watch people clean the nightclub on Sunday morning before going there Saturday night.
  • You must visit an inner-city faith-based charity before giving up on God.

So now it is your turn.

What other things should people have to see (or do) before making decisions that could impact them and others?

Thinking about Steve Jobs

The remembrances have poured in.  I even wrote one for a client.  So you may wonder (at least I do) why I would spend time writing something about Steve Jobs at the JuiceBar.

Well, for a couple of reasons.

First, Steve Jobs was a genius.  He did change things – in computing, music, entertainment.  God knows I supported him.  I bought the Macintosh soon after it came out.  Then another.  Then another. When he came out with that wedge computer thing, I was there wallet in hand.  Over the years I’ve purchased a truck load – no, shipload – of Steve Jobs’ stuff not only for me but for my family.

I bought iMac laptops for each of my children after they graduated from high school.  In fact, the amount of other Apple ‘i’ variations that I’ve purchased for my wife and family could … well … let’s just say that if I hadn’t I may have been able to retire by now.  (I was rummaging through the desk and basement the other day and came across a stack of a half-dozen of the old, bulky, and expensive! pre-historic iPods … yes, they’ve only been around for ten years but it seems a lifetime).

Second, he was just one really interesting guy.  If you haven’t read his Stanford graduating address, you should.  It is daring, sharp, challenging, and exciting.  A reflection of the person himself.  And if you haven’t read the Apple story, you should.  Go to Amazon and type in “Steve Jobs” and “Apple”.  Here.  I’ll save you the keystrokes.  Click this.  You can spend the next year of your life reading about him, his story, and his “secrets” that people claim Jobs had.

Funny.  Get secrets for a few bucks.  Guess they’re not so secret are they?  And believe me, if it were up to Jobs the secrets wouldn’t be selling for so cheap.

I’ve never met Steve Jobs.  And because I’m in the profession that I’m in I have a healthy suspicion that the person we read about and hear about in the media is likely very different than reality.  But hey, the mythology of Steve Jobs is our reality so let’s go with that.

Here’s what Steve Jobs’ life taught me.

To do great, transformative things in business you need to have a unique combination of vision, daring, and resilience.  It takes all three.  Without the vision you’re boring and are just making money.  Without the daring you’ll be improving on what is, not creating the new.  And without resilience, you’ll never survive the failures that inevitably come.

Few people have all three of those qualities to the extent that Steve Jobs seemed to.  I know I don’t!

Not many of us out there are going to ever create the next Apple.  Few of us will either have the opportunity or ability to change and create new categories like Steve Jobs did.  But we are people and we do live in a community.  What if we took what meager measures of what we do have – our vision, our daring, and our resilience – and applied them not just to a company or a product or a piece of business … but to our faith, our family, our friends and the people around us.

In other words, what if we took these exemplary attributes of Steve Jobs and just applied them to our everyday stuff.  We could all do that, couldn’t we?  And if we did, what would that look like?

Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited.  Don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”


The myth of independence

Happy Independence Day.

This is the day that we celebrate those who went before us some 200+ years ago who sacrificed everything to gain independence from Britain and King George.  In America, we LOVE independence.  We idolize the rebel.  We venerate the ‘self-made’ individual.  We mythologize the pioneer spirit that accepts no limits, little authority, and absolute self-determination.

But of course the idea of independence – at least as it is known in popular culture – is a myth .   We all exist in a state that is “in” dependence.  Dependence from King George was simply traded for dependence on a band of vagabond (but quite erudite, stubborn and opinionated!) colonists.  It wasn’t that we suddenly became independent.  Rather, we simply shifted our dependence from King George to each other.  Consider the last line of the Declaration of Independence:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Independence from George.  But “reliance” on God.  And a mutual pledge of our money, honor, and life.  Sounds like a lot of dependence to me.

No, dependence is inherent in the human condition. More than that, dependence is something we strive for.  If you’re in business you’re hoping clients depend on you for goods and services.  If you’re part of a family or community you hope you can depend on them for support.  If you’re a spouse you’re hoping that your partner is dependent on you for love and affection.

It works the other way around as well.

I want to depend on the people I work with.  My wife and family.  My faith.  You don’t even have to go high concept.  I want to depend on my car.  The mailman.  My dentist.

Dependencies are what make societies (and economies) function.  So it isn’t a question of being independent or not.

Rather, it is a question of upon what and whom you depend.

A lot of people tell me, “I’m not going to depend on anyone but myself.”

Good luck with that.

Even the Founding Fathers were smart enough not to go there.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

This is a post about being a Christian.

Today there are a lot of people writing a lot of posts and articles about the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

And well they should.  He was a great man whose vision, oratory, writings and tireless work inspired a nation to turn away – albeit slightly – from bigotry, racism and hatred.

And it is his social and political accomplishments that you’ll likely read most about today and tomorrow.  His speeches.  His marches.  Lunch counters. Protests.  Non violence.

But I want to remind others – as I remind myself – that Dr. King was a Reverend.  A preacher.  A man of faith.  A Christian.

Funny how most of us gloss over that.

I bought my wife one of Dr. King’s books for Christmas.  It sits on the coffee table.  The title of the book is Strength to Love. According to Dr. King’s wife:

“If there is one book Martin Luther King, Jr. has written that people consistently tell me has changed their lives, it is Strength to Love.  I believe it is because this book best explains the central element of Martin Luther King, Jr.’ s philosophy of nonviolence: His belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life. … By reaching into and beyond ourselves and tapping the transcendent moral ethic of love, we shall overcome these evils.”

Read the book.  If only a chapter or two.

And if you do I challenge you to try and divorce Dr. King’s vision of a world where ‘a man would be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin’ from his Christian faith.

His understanding of racism and bigotry was an understanding of how profoundly sinful we all are.  And his belief in non-violence and sacrifice was tightly linked to his meditations on Jesus and the cross

Read Dr. King.  And be reminded of the real meaning and spirit of the Christian faith.

You might find it very different from the Christian faith you see in popular culture or hear in political dialogue.

Jesus said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains.  Dr. King’s faith moved an entire generation.

Read Dr. King.   And pray that more will be inspired to, like Dr. King, recapture the revolutionary loving spirit of the Christian faith.

Sticks, Stones, and Words

When I was young, like many I learned the little maxim “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

It was a phrase tossed around to try and convince ourselves (and others) that the mean, horrible, and hurtful things that people said about you didn’t, well, hurt.

But of course we knew better.  Even back then when we were little.  We knew that regardless of how many times we told ourselves that words would never hurt us, words hurt.

Words do hurt.  In fact, words are more painful than sticks or stones because the hurt and damage they cause can last a lifetime.

Want proof?

Think back ten years to the last time you sprained an ankle while running; hit a finger after missing a nail; stubbed your toe; or taken a fall and broken something?

Remember?  It healed, right?

Now think back ten years to the last time someone you loved said something mean to you; to the time when Mom or Dad or brother or sister made some crude, careless remark; to the time when your boss or colleague cut you down; the last time you were publicly rejected or humiliated.

Still hurts, doesn’t it?

Words are doubly dangerous because they hurt you then AND they hurt you now.

But wait, there’s more.

Words are man’s most dangerous weapon because they can spread.  They are the world oldest pandemic.  They can create fear.  They can foster hate.  They can incite action.  Every mob, every pogrom, every instance of mass hysteria starts with words.

I am in the business of words.  I have a healthy respect for them.  I respect them because I know that in the right hands they can change people’s minds and motivate people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do.

So those in the business of words, take note:

  • Call a person a Nazi
  • Say that what someone is doing is evil
  • Claim that certain people are a threat to faith and family
  • Compare those in office to Fascists, despots and mass murders
  • Assert that a person, party, or policy must be stopped at all costs

These words will eventually have their effect.  At some point, someone, will listen and will be motivated to act.

If not in Tuscon, somewhere else.

And when they do, know that you did your part to help.