Archives for the month of: March, 2015


In life and in leadership having a vision is a keystone to success. A vision is an imaginary destination. The fruit of our creativity and our sense of possibility, a vision taps our longing for a sounder self and a better world. It inspires our attitude and guides and sustains our effort.

At some point in his life my father seized upon a maxim that became his signature admonition to his family: Be always kind, be always true. I have adopted it.

For me this vision is an aspiration that grows from two roots. One is nurtured in the spiritual soil of love and loving kindness. The other springs from a core value of integrity, captured in the advice of Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

Having a vision does not mean that one always achieves it. I am painfully aware of coming up short in fulfilling my own, as I am sure family and friends will attest. On the other hand, if we achieve our vision consistently such that we are not stretching, it may be that our vision is too small.

Our personal visions must be large enough to embrace those of others. The daily media bombardment of the abuse, violence and warfare we inflict upon each other and the primacy of deception in commerce, politics and foreign policy cries out for a vision of kindness and truth.

What is the vision that guides your life today or that of your organization? Does it spring from your truths, your gifts and your longings?

Bob MacArthur

The serenity prayer inspires us to change those things we can control, accept what we can’t change and cultivate the wisdom to know the difference. Often, we can take control over much more of life than we initially think possible. The question becomes, how do we take charge?

Over 30 years of research and practice conducted by the Self-Management Group yields two elements that do the most to affect performance: attitude and effort. A positive attitude coupled with sustained effort yields the highest performance. Those of us who have run marathons, launched businesses, learned to live with debilitating diseases, trekked or paddled in remote places, or lived with a host of other major challenges know the importance of optimism and perseverance.

The question becomes how? How do we cultivate a positive attitude? How do we sustain our effort? Charles Duhigg provides the key in his book The Power of Habit. Habits control more of our lives than we realize, and we can change them. Four of Duhigg’s conclusions struck me.

1) The brain seeks habitual responses in order to free itself either for rest or for more complex tasks.

2) More than 40 per cent of the actions we perform each day aren’t decisions but habits.

3) Habits can be changed if we understand how they work.

4) There are keystone habits that leverage significant change in individuals, organizations and societies.

We will explore more about habits in future posts. Meanwhile, what is one habit you wish to change? Is it related to your attitude or your effort or both? Developing new habits will enable us to take charge of our personal lives and inspire the teams and organizations we lead.


For many of us being busy is a badge of honor. We spend much of our lives doing. We define ourselves by the roles that we perform.

For many decades I have done the same, identifying myself by the function I played – student, athlete, spouse, priest, parent, CEO, coach, grandpa. Life was a to-do list of activities, many of which were linked to what I was taught men were expected to do; as Sam Keen described in his book Fire in the Belly – protect, provide and procreate.

Sometimes I “did” well; at other times, not so well. The defining by “doing” in and of itself is done, whatever impact it may have had for good or ill.

Today, I am shifting my focus from defining myself by living to do, to doing in order to be. No doubt, it is in part a reality check as the days remaining in this life grow fewer. I am choosing more activities that cultivate awareness of the simple beauties and complex dynamics of our journey. Meditating, being physically active, working and walking outdoors, writing and playing music are ways for me to develop awareness and attend more to the energy of the moment.

How do you define yourself? Is it the sum total of your activity and the roles you play? Is it the impact your activity generates on those around you? Is it the container you hold for yourself or others to receive the grace of each moment? Perhaps it is all of the above, a harmony of doing and being. We can be grateful and accountable for the fact that it is ours to choose.


Each day the media delivers a preponderance of news that is discordant to my values. I think of the polarization of gotcha politics; the insidious and blatant strains of racism; the persecutions of righteous fanaticism, secular and religious; the degradation of domestic violence; the myriad manifestations of a self-absorbed culture.

Trying to understand I turn first to what motivates us as human beings. Historically it has been to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. At the core of each is fear, fear of being hurt or not being worthy. Fear of not being hurt is certainly basic to our survival, but once we are safe does fear suffice? On the other hand, can the constant quest for pleasure supplant our fear of never being good enough?

Viktor Frankl and more recently Daniel Pink identify other motivators: the search for meaning (purpose), autonomy (independence) and mastery (control and the pursuit of excellence). For many of us having purpose in our lives and being able to control our destiny are inspirational motivators.

Whatever drives us as human beings, the code words for me are this: do we look at life as either/or, or do we embrace it as both/and? The former view says that one of is right and the other wrong; for one to win the other must lose. Both/and acknowledges that each of us holds a truth and that we are tethered; “winning” accrues benefit to both.

Embracing both/and is to appreciate paradox, the reality that two apparently contradictory assertions can be true at the same time. Both/and also recognizes nuance, the subtle layers of meaning that reveal a richer reality. Whether or not we are able to arrive as a species, the path to a higher consciousness follows the route of both/and.