Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Life is a Journey

Yesterday, I was reminded life is a long and uncertain journey.  There many roads we may take, there are super highways, divided highways, main roads, small roads, paths and trails.  Each has its own twists and turns, but for us the final destination is certain, it is only the rest stops that are in question.
It is the choice of your roads that will, in the end, make the final determination on how you, and the life you live, will turn out.  In today’s world we seem to be crowding more and more onto that super highway that seems to lead in a straight line quickly to some perceived destinations, but in reality they are mirages.  For as you approach - they disappear, and some new illusion takes its place.
If we spend all our time on the super highways of life do we really see life, or do we see only the billboards of what life has to offer?
So much of who we are seems to be governed by the choice of road we drive.  The words of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” ring quietly in my mind.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Monday, October 7, 2013


What is Leadership and Where is if Found?
Is it the quality to inspire through great speech, or is it the ability to translate great speech into affirming action?
Is it found in celebrity, or in the act of a concerned individual?
Is leadership inherited, a natural gift, or something learned?
Can it be found hidden away in the simple words of a humble servant?
Does leadership require great trappings of power, or is it manifest in servitude?
Do you have to travel to centers of power, of business, or the arts, or can you discover it next to a stream on a quiet mountain?
Can you lead if you see your role as one to be obeyed, and not as someone to inspire and build?
There is a man I know, someone I respect and consider an inspirational leader.  He is someone who is bold and brash in his style, but simple and serving in his approach.  One day, I was asked to move into a position that expanded my responsibilities.  I now had to work with a new team of professionals.  As I considered this new role it seemed only natural that I would attend their weekly meeting to listen to the issues they had, the problems they faced, and the way they developed solutions.  I sat quietly in the meeting, absorbing their group dynamic.  I had little advice to offer, for I had much to learn.
At the end of the meeting, as this team split apart to pursue their individual challenges, this giant of a man, this inspirational leader, who was working as a support contractor approached and said something that has both flattered me, and left me bewildered for a number of years.  He asked why I had attended this meeting?  I gave him the only answer I had.  I was now supposed to help make decisions, and I couldn’t do that if I didn’t know the issues, know the people, and allow them to know me.  It seemed the only option, or only sensible option available to me.  His next comment set me back just a bit, and I’ve wrestled with it since then.  Con’s said in the three years he had been with this team, it was the first time, the only time, a supervisor had bothered to sit in with the entire group to participate in their effort.  Usually, those in charge would have their own meetings and the team lead would be expected to attend.  Con’s thanked me for showing an interest in the team, and their work.
I had long believed if you wanted to know what was going on you couldn’t lead from your office; you had to get up, get out, and walk around.  What I found so bewildering, and a bit troubling, is how few grasp what I view as an essential fact.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

An Open Letter: To My Representative and Senators

For the last 20 years I’ve listened to you squabble back and forth about how bad the other side is and how they are out to ruin this country.  I’ve seen the dirty tricks; I’ve watched the grandstanding and the mockery of each other for far too long.  What is the point of electing or reelecting you?  We are becoming a nation of me, so I have to ask, what’s in it for me?
I mean seriously.  Since Al Gore lost the 2000 election I’ve watched as the good of the nation has been placed on hold as each party accuses the other of malfeasance, trickery, or some crime against humanity.  The only time you seem to work together is in the face of an obvious attack on the nation, and then it seems more geared towards expanding the reach of the government then to ensuring the freedom of its people.
When it is convenient, you forget resolutions that passed the Congress with a bipartisan vote and shift the blame to the other side.  When you have a majority control of one house or another you work to destroy any potential for future bipartisan support of pending legislation.  When was the last time you actually did your J O B without worrying about sound bites, CSPAN time, or your next election?
We have now reached a point where your rhetoric is unacceptable.  If you were our children we would speak sternly to you and say it is not nice, and if you don’t stop we are going to put you into a serious 15-minute time-out. 
Is there some law you’ve passed that says you have to act as ridiculously as the talking heads on TV who are the modern version of the Carnival barkers?  YOUR GOVERNMENT IS SPYING ON YOU!  THE GOP HATES BLACKS!  WE WANT A CLEAN BILL!  ONLY 1% SIGNED UP!  GET A FREE PHONE!  THE QUEEN OF SHEBA -- JUST INSIDE THE TENT!  SEE THE GIANT DWARF!  Is that how we are to be led from now on?
I guess you are really in a fortunate position, for while I won’t vote for you again, it is likely the other 50.5% of the 36% who show up at the polls will.  But for the sake of the country, I want you to sit in the corner and think about how badly you've behaved until the timer goes off!

Friday, October 4, 2013

It's the Law!

Today’s argument from the Administration and supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the Congress must fund it - it’s the law.  There are at least two problems with this statement.  First, and foremost, just because it’s a law does not mean Congress has to fund it.  The government has a long history of passing laws, or mandates, without providing the funding to implement them.  These unfunded mandates place the burden of implantation on the States.  For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Medicaid are both unfunded mandates.  Now, while the Congress has tried to clean up its act with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, it is still legally and constitutionally capable of passing a law and not funding it.  The fact the administration is unwilling to compromise on its funding or implementation is a political decision, as is the fact the Republican Party insists on a strategy to chip away at it.  In reflection, it might have been just a little bit better if the Democrats had chosen to govern rather than rule in 2009.
I said there were two problems with the statement, coming from the Democrats and the Administration.  The second is the irony.  “It’s the law… it must be complied with.”  There used to be a law called the Defense of Marriage Act.  Whether it was a good law or bad is irrelevant, until the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, it was a law.  This administration made a choice – it would not defend it when it was challenged in the court, as was their responsibility.  So clearly it is the Administration’s position that support of the laws is only applicable if they agree with them.  Therefore, how can you hold Congress to a different standard?
There are outstanding provisions in the ACA, things we should have done before, but as long as both sides play to their extremist supporters with this act I am afraid we will never move beyond the political gamesmanship. 
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