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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Humanity is more important than money — it’s time for capitalism to get an upgrade

Humanity is more important than money — it’s time for capitalism to get an upgrade

Jul 13, 2018 Andrew Yang | TEDx 

What capitalism prioritizes, the world does more of. So how can we change capitalism so that it focuses on what humans really want and need? Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has a surprising proposal.

Think of the activities on the list below:
Parenting or caring for loved ones
Teaching or nurturing children
Creating art, music, dance
Working in struggling regions near our hometowns
Preserving the environment
Reading or writing for pleasure or personal growth
Preventative health care
Character-building for your kids, your team, yourself
Building community connections
Having a hobby
Becoming involved in local government

Most of us do some or many of these things — and usually, we don’t do them for money. What these activities add up to is what we might call a normal life, a well-rounded life of care and character, rich with community and creativity and balance. When you do these things, you don’t think of yourself as participating in capitalism.

But the fact is, capitalism moves and energizes the modern world. And what capitalism values, our world does more of; what it doesn’t, we do less of. Many of us feel like the activities of a normal life are becoming harder and harder to accomplish. So the question becomes: In a system where capitalism is a prime determinant of value, how can we preserve what we truly value as humans, what matters to us beyond money?

I’m someone who was educated to thrive and dominate in our capitalist system. And my deep conviction now is: it has to change. I’m an Ivy League graduate who followed the 59 percent of my peers into one of the four jobs we all take — lawyer, business consultant, finance, technology — in one of the four US cities we all move to, and in the process abandoning our hometowns and the dreams that first inspired our academic success. I watched the country’s best-educated young people fall into jobs that were designed to harvest and concentrate wealth, working insane hours to pay off insane loans. And my hometown friends who didn’t end up on the Ivy League track are facing a bleaker future, as automation destroys more and more jobs in towns across America, disrupting communities and families. No matter where we stand on the socioeconomic ladder, the future of the “normal life” doesn’t look good.

In the US, and in much of the developed world, our current form of capitalism is failing to produce an increasing standard of living for most of its citizens. It’s time for an upgrade. Adam Smith, the Scottish economist who wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776, is often regarded as the father of modern capitalism. His ideas — that the “invisible hand” guides the market; that a division of labor exists and should exist; and that self-interest and competition lead to wealth creation — are so deeply internalized that most of us take them for granted.

Today, many people contrast “capitalism” with “socialism,” the social ownership or democratic control of industries. The perception is that capitalism — as embodied by the West and the United States in particular — won the war of ideas by generating immense growth and wealth and elevating the standard of living of billions of people. By contrast, socialism — represented by the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991, and China, which moderated its approach in the 1980s — didn’t work in practice and was thoroughly discredited.

This assessment of capitalism triumphing over socialism misses a couple of important points. First, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist system. There have been many different forms of capitalist economies ever since money was invented around 5,000 years ago. The current form of institutional capitalism and corporatism is just the latest of many different versions. Similarly, there are many forms of capitalism in service around the world right now. For example, Singapore is the fourth richest country in the world in terms of per-capita GDP. It’s had an unemployment rate of 2.2 percent or lower since 2009 and is regarded as one of the most free and open, pro-business economies in the world. Yet the government in Singapore routinely shapes investment policy, and government-linked firms dominate telecommunications, finance and media in ways that would be unthinkable in America, Norway, Japan or Canada. Like Singapore, many countries’ form of capitalism is steered not by an unseen hand — but by clear government policy.

Imagine a new type of capitalist economy that’s geared toward maximizing human well-being and fulfillment. These goals and GDP would sometimes go hand-in-hand, but there would be times when they wouldn’t be aligned. For example, an airline removing passengers who’d already boarded a plane in order to maximize its profitability would be good for capital but bad for people. The same goes for a drug company charging extortionate rates for a life-saving drug. Most Americans would agree that the airline should accept the lost revenue and the drug company accept a moderate profit margin. But what if this idea was repeated over and over again throughout the economy? Let’s call it human-centered capitalism — or human capitalism for short.

Human capitalism would have a few core tenets:
1. Humanity is more important than money.
2. The unit of an economy is each person, not each dollar.
3. Markets exist to serve our common goals and values.

In business, there’s a saying that “what gets measured gets managed for,” so we need to start measuring different things. The concepts of GDP and economic progress didn’t exist until the Great Depression. However, when economist Simon Kuznets introduced it to Congress in 1934, he cautioned, “The welfare of a nation can … scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above.” It’s almost like he saw income inequality and bad jobs coming.

Our economic system must shift to focus on bettering the lot of the average person. Instead of having our humanity subverted to serve the marketplace, capitalism has to be made to serve human ends and goals.

In addition to GDP and job statistics, the government could adopt measurements like:
Average physical fitness and mental health
Quality of infrastructure
Proportion of the elderly in quality care
Marriage rates and success
Deaths of despair; substance abuse
Global temperature variance and sea levels
Re-acclimation of incarcerated individuals and rates of criminality
Artistic and cultural vibrancy
Dynamism and mobility
Social and economic equity
Civic engagement
Cybersecurity
Responsiveness and evolution of government

It would be straightforward to establish measurements for each of these and update them periodically. It would be similar to what Steve Ballmer (TEDxPennsylvaniaAvenue talk: Our nation in numbers) set up at USAFacts.org. Everyone could see how we’re doing and be galvanized around improvement.

This could be tied into a Digital Social Credit (DSC) system, in which people who help move society in a particular direction might be rewarded. For example, a journalist who uncovered a source of waste or an artist who beautified a city or a hacker who strengthened our power grid could be rewarded with social credits. So could someone who helped another person recover from addiction, or helped acclimate an ex-convict into the workforce. Even someone who maintained a high level of physical fitness and helped others do so could be rewarded and recognized.

Maybe you smile in disbelief at the concept of “social credits,” but it’s based on a system currently in use in about 200 communities around the United States: Time Banking. In Time Banking, people trade time and build credits within their communities by performing various helpful tasks — transporting an item, walking a dog, cleaning up a yard, cooking a meal, providing a ride to the doctor, etc. The idea was championed in the US by Edgar Cahn, a law professor and anti-poverty activist in the mid-1990s as a way to strengthen communities.

Despite the success of Time Banks in some communities, they haven’t caught hold that widely in the US in part because they require a certain level of administration and resources to operate. But imagine a supercharged version of Time Banking backed by the federal government where in addition to providing social value, there’s real monetary value underlying it.

The government could put up significant amounts of DSCs as prizes and incentives for major initiatives. For example, they could allocate 100 million DSCs to reduce obesity levels in Mississippi or 1 billion DSCs to improve high school graduation rates in Illinois, and then let people take various actions to collect it. Companies could help meet goals and create and sponsor campaigns around various causes. Nonprofits and NGOs would generate DSCs based on how much good they do and then distribute it back to volunteers and employees. New organizations and initiatives could be crowdfunded by DSCs instead of money, as people ‘vote’ by sending points in.

We could create an entirely new parallel economy around social good.

The most socially detached would likely ignore all of this, of course. But many people love rewards and feeling valued. I get obsessed with completing the 10-punch card for a free sandwich at my deli. We could spur unprecedented levels of social activity without spending that much. DSCs could become cooler than dollars, because you could advertise how much you have and it would be socially acceptable.

The power of this new marketplace and currency can’t be overstated. Most of the entrepreneurs, technologists and young people I know are champing at the bit to work on our problems. We can harness the country’s ingenuity and energy to improve millions of lives if we could just create a way to monetize and measure these goals.

I’m no fan of big government. The larger an organization is, the more cumbersome and ridiculous it often gets. I’ve also spent time with people at the highest levels of government, and it’s striking how stuck most of them feel. One Congressperson said to me, “I’m just trying to get one big thing done here so I can go home.” He’d been in Congress for 7 years at that point. Another joked that being in DC was like being in Rome, with the marble there to remind you that nothing will change.

But I’ve concluded there’s no other way to make these changes than to have the federal government reorganize the economy. Even the richest and most ambitious philanthropists and companies either operate at the wrong scale or have multiple stakeholders that make big, long-term commitments difficult to sustain. We’re staring at trillion-dollar problems, and we need commensurate solutions. We’re in a slow-moving crisis that is about to speed up.

Excerpted from the new book The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future by Andrew Yang. Copyright © 2018 by Andrew Yang. Used with permission from Hachette Books. All rights reserved.
Watch Andrew Yang’s TEDxGeorgetowntalk here:


Monday, July 9, 2018

Just a Carpenter

Just a Carpenter
by Bryan J. Neva, Sr.
Jesus returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. The next Sabbath he went to the town synagogue to teach, and the people were astonished at his wisdom and his miracles because he was just a local man like themselves.
“He’s no better than we are,” they said. “He’s just a carpenter, Mary’s boy, and a brother of James and Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” And they were offended!
Then Jesus told them, A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and among his relatives and by his own family. And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
- Mark 6:1-6

Most all of us have experienced rejection, discrimination, and marginalization at some time in our lives (maybe even by our own families). Maybe we're society's outcasts, minorities, poor, unrefined, uneducated, unattractive, or unimportant. 

Being rejected means we're unacceptable:  unacceptable to a potential school, employer, client, friend, or love interest. It feels terrible being rejected. Imagine how a salesperson feels being told, "No!" a hundred times before they're ever told, "Yes!"? Imagine how an awkward, unattractive boy at a Junior High School dance must feel after every girl refuses to dance with him, or how that shy, homely girl feels when no one asks her to dance?

At work, people tend to tie their self-worth with being well respected and liked by their superiors and colleagues. They tie it to getting a promotion and moving up the corporate ladder. But when these don't happen, it can be quite discouraging even leading to poor job performance.  

An old carpenter had been helping to build houses his entire life. But he was tired and his body ached every day. Working in construction can be quite demoralizing when you're treated as a second-class citizen, your boss and colleagues don't respect you, and you're living from paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes you're even cheated out of your pay by dishonest contractors and customers. And there's usually no benefits or retirement. 

Finally, the old carpenter decided to hang up his tools and retire. It would be tough making ends meet only on his social security, but he and his wife would somehow get by. The contractor he had been working for was disappointed he was retiring because he actually believed he was one of the best carpenters he ever had. They were working on the last house in a new subdivision the contractor was building, and he begged him to stay on until they finished the last house. The old carpenter reluctantly agreed as it would only be a couple of more months.

Unfortunately, the old carpenter was so burned out and discouraged that his workmanship really suffered. When the house was completed, the contractor did a final walk-through of the house with the old carpenter. And then he did something completely unexpected: he handed the old carpenter the keys to the house and said, "This is your house now, it's my retirement gift to you."

The old carpenter was surprised and thankful, but secretly, he was ashamed because he knew deep-down that his work was shoddy! It was a blessing and a curse. If he had known he was building his own house, he would have put forth his best efforts in building the house.

So it is with us. We build our lives, one day at a time, but we feel rejected by others and our work becomes mediocre. We tell ourselves, "Why should I kill myself for these ingrates!" And then something happens and we are shocked to learn we have to live in the house we've built. If we could do it over, we’d do it much differently. But we cannot go back.

Our attitudes and choices we make today build the “house” we may live in tomorrow. So we shouldn't let rejection stop us from continuing to do good work.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Long View: Why “Maximizing Shareholder Value” Is On Its Way Out

The Long View: Why “Maximizing Shareholder Value” Is On Its Way Out

    • In 1986, Peter Drucker warned of a severe threat to our “long-term economic future.”
      “Corporate managements,” he wrote, “are being pushed into subordinating everything (even such long-range considerations as a company’s market standing, its technology, indeed its basic wealth-producing capacity) to immediate earnings and next week’s stock price.”
      In the decades since Drucker sounded that alarm, the problem of short-termism hasn’t abated much, if at all. A recent global survey by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and McKinsey & Co. found that 63% of business leaders indicated that the pressure on their top executives to demonstrate strong short-term financial performance has increased in the past five years. Meanwhile, 55% of chief financial officers said that they would pass up an attractive capital investment project today if the investment led them to miss their quarterly earnings target, even by a little bit.
      Still, amid this sorry state, one thing would surely gladden Drucker: The backlash against short-term corporate thinking is becoming more powerful all the time, thanks to the efforts of a broad range of individuals and organizations, including the Aspen InstituteConscious Capitalism, the Stoos Network, the Management Innovation eXchange, the CFA Institute, the Purpose of the Corporation Project, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and many more.
      Last week, 14 people who are passionate about making long-term thinking the new normal of business met in Claremont, Calif., at the Drucker Institute, the social enterprise that I run. Many in the room expressed that we’re getting closer to altering how capitalism operates. “The big challenge,” said Bill Densmore, coordinator of the Rules Change Project and one of the participants, “is how do we get to that inflection point quickly?”
      Our agenda was threefold: to learn what each other is doing to counter corporate myopia, to see where we might be able to form natural alliances and support each other’s work, and to determine whether our various actions might somehow add up into something much larger. It was this last notion—of sparking a social movement—that seemed to prompt the most excitement.
      To help us better understand how movements are born, we brought in Marshall Ganz, a senior lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who served as a key aide to Cesar Chavez at the United Farm Workers and is widely credited with forging the grassroots strategy that catapulted Barack Obama into the White House. Ganz urged us to begin by determining who cares the most about the perverse effects of corporate short-termism and to then zero in on the “dissonance” they feel—that is, points of tension resolvable only through action.
      “Sometimes what’s required is to ratchet up the dissonance,” Ganz advised. As we continued our discussion, we identified at least two groups that are likely to be receptive to what Ganz described.
      First, there are graduate students, many of whom are passionate about changing the world—and not just getting rich. The trouble is that all too many business and law schools undermine this spirit by teaching traditional classes that reinforce a short-term mindset. As Cornell law professor Lynn Stout, one of those at the Claremont gathering, has made abundantly clear, by the time these students hit the job market, they’ve come to falsely believe that the primary purpose of the corporation is to “maximize shareholder value.”
      One way to ratchet up the dissonance, then, is to end-run the system. In fact, some of those in Claremont said they would try to launch a series of massive open online courses or other alternative training that will instill more of a long-term outlook.
      The second group where there’s dissonance can actually be found in the executive suite. Yeah, sure, some people will always be greedy and manipulate short-term financial results because it’s in their narrow self-interest. But to be cynical is to miss a major opportunity: Most people go into business because they’re eager to offer a product or service that provides customers—and, by extension, society as a whole—something of value. They hate the pressure, from Wall Street and elsewhere, to focus on short-term financial metrics.
      With this in mind, several of us pledged to step up our attempts to devise unconventional, but highly credible, measures that give a more holistic picture of what a healthy company looks like—how such an enterprise is not only profitable, but also fosters customer satisfaction, treats its employees well, continually innovates and plans effectively for the future.
      At the same time, we vowed to call even more attention to those corporations—like Unilever, for example—that are doing the right things. “People need to see that they’re not alone,” said the University of Toronto’s Roger Martin, a leading voice for long-termism who also took part in the event.
      Our nascent movement—if I may be so bold to call it that—faces many hurdles. The damage from short-term thinking can seem distant and is difficult for the average person to discern (making our movement more akin to environmentalism than Civil Rights). Building a company to be sustainable, and assessing its progress toward that end, is complicated; “maximizing shareholder value” is, by contrast, seductive in its simplicity.
      Despite all of this, I am confident that everyone in Claremont—and many, many others—will persevere. We are, after all, in it for the long-term.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

THE CRITICAL (BUT TRICKY) IMPACT OF FRIENDSHIPS AT WORK by Dr. Emma Seppala, Ph.D.

THE CRITICAL (BUT TRICKY) IMPACT OF FRIENDSHIPS AT WORK

written by 

Emma Seppälä, Ph.D.

   March 22, 2018
(This article was first published in Harvard Business Review)

How often have you had the following conversation at work?
How are you?
Good. You?
Fine.
It is a script we stick to even if we are dying inside.
It’s hard to build real connections with your colleagues if you never get beyond superficial chit-chat. And yet people who have a “best friend at work” are not only more likely to be happier and healthier, they are also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. What’s more, employees who report having friends at work have higher levels of productivity, retention, and job satisfaction than those who don’t.
Many companies have tried to support office bonds through perks like ping-pong tables, free lunches, or corporate retreats, but the reality is that most of us don’t have close friends at work. In a survey by Pew and the American Life Project, just 12% of respondents’ closest ties were with people from their professional life. If we expand this to people who were significant in the respondent’s life, the results aren’t wildly different. Only 19% of the people surveyed had a significant relationship with a workmate.
This phenomenon seems to be particularly American. Going on a vacation with a coworker is virtually unimaginable in America — less than 6% of workers have taken their relationship with colleagues to this level. Research by Stanford professor Hazel Markus, author of Clash: How to Thrive in a Multicultural World, suggests that this fact is probably due to our cultural propensity towards fierce independence — rather than the interdependence characteristic of many other cultures. More than one in four Poles and close to half of Indians have vacationed with a coworker. Is there something that American workers are missing?
Research shows that, after food and shelter, belonging is a fundamental human need. Given that we spend between 8 and 9 hours of our day at work (not including commute time), we have significantly less time to fulfill our social needs outside of work. When we’re not working, we’re either dealing with family, errands, or trying to grab some rest when we can. The workplace, where we spend such a large portion of our time, is an ideal place to foster the positive connections we all need — not just for our well-being but also for our productivity and health.
That said, friendship at work is often tricky for a reason. It can be a mixed blessing; people who are friends with coworkers tend to perform better at work but they also report being more emotionally exhausted and having difficulty maintaining their friendships. When conflict (inevitably) arises among work friends, relationship conflict leads to negative outcomes in teams composed of friends, but positive outcomes among teams without prior friendships.
The difficult truth is it just may not be possible to have friendships at work without some degree of fallout. There are real entanglements that can arise when the boundaries between work and friendship become blurred. Work responsibilities need to take precedence over socializing. Managers and leaders need to continue being able to assign tasks and role hierarchy does need to be respected. Performance evaluations need to happen authentically and honestly. Competition is often part of workplace culture — will you or your peer get promoted? — which can lead to lack of trust or willingness to get too close. After all, how would your friendship fare after you become their manager?
Alongside these factors is a fear of being vulnerable, of disclosing too much in case this disclosure makes you look weaker or less competent — worse yet, you might get thrown under the bus for it.
Finally, the need to look and act professional creates a desire not to get too informal or familiar with anyone else — after all, “professional distance” ensures that people will maintain respect for you. All of this can make friendship at work hard — or at least somewhat scary.
Maybe that’s why, despite the benefits of having friends at work, some people still choose to avoid it. Some just aren’t comfortable having real friends at work. They may benefit from a more formal relationship with their colleagues. And that’s OK. Many of the benefits that come from having friends at work likely emanate from values like vulnerabilityauthenticity, and compassion. Emphasizing these values, rather than the relationships, can allow workplaces to feel “friendly” even if there aren’t real friendships. Moreover, research by John Cacioppo, professor at the University of Chicago and author of Loneliness, shows that the true health and happiness benefits of social connection stem less from how many friends you have in your circle and more from how connected you feel to them (after all, you can feel lonely in a crowd). So nurturing that internal and subjective feeling of connection and friendliness is really most important.
While some people will always be hesitant to make friends at work, for these or other reasons, social connection is a basic human need. All friendships have hard moments. Work friendships just have different ones.

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Hero’s Journey Feels A Lot Like The Loser’s Journey by Callie Oettinger

The Hero’s Journey Feels A Lot Like The Loser’s Journey


Saturday, June 23, 2018

25 cents an egg

25 cents an egg
- Author unknown
She asked him, 'How much are you selling the eggs for?'
The old seller replied, '$.25 an egg, Madam.'
She said to him, 'I will take 6 eggs for $1.25 or I will leave.'
The old seller replied, 'Come, take them at the price you want. Maybe, this is a good beginning because I have not been able to sell even a single egg today.'
She took the eggs and walked away feeling she has won. She got into her fancy car and went to a posh restaurant with her friend. There, she and her friend ordered whatever they liked. They ate a little and left a lot of what they ordered. Then she went to pay the bill. The bill cost her $45.00 She gave $50.00 and asked the owner of the restaurant to keep the change.
This incident might have seemed quite normal to the owner but, very painful to the poor egg seller.
The point is,
Why do we always show we have the power when we buy from the needy ones? And why do we get generous to those who do not even need our generosity?
I once read somewhere:
'My father used to buy simple goods from poor people at high prices, even though he did not need them. Sometimes he even used to pay extra for them. I got concerned about this act and asked him why does he do so? Then my father replied, "It is a charity wrapped with dignity, my child”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Did He Allow It? A Response to a Question after the Father’s Day Flash Floods in the Keweenaw

Did He Allow It?  A response to a question after the Father's Day Flash Floods in the Keweenaw
 by Todd F. Neva

Eagle River Falls, MI, Sunday, June 17, 2018
A friend called me because her daughters were distraught with all the damage in the Keweenaw, and she was struggling to answer their question. “Why did God allow it to happen?”

Wow! That’s a good one. Some of the greatest minds in history have wrestled with this question.

St. Augustine wrote about this in about 400 A.D. Theologians debate this today. And sometimes Christians say things that are in some ways true, but lack context or they’re not appropriate for the situation.

First, let’s be clear in that God is not punishing you. Jesus said that the Father makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Whether we are good or bad, we’re all subject to the forces of this world.
Did God allow it? Is he not in control?

In a broad, cosmological sense, yes. But this is where we need context, and an answer that’s appropriate for the situation.

Paul said God subjected all creation to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

And the writer of Hebrews said, “Now in putting everything in subjection to [Jesus], [God] left nothing outside his control.”

But then he said, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”
So, yes, God allowed it in so much as he exposed us to the forces of nature and even the consequences of free will. And he is in control, but the plan is bigger than what we see on a day-to-day basis.

And what we see on a daily basis is a soul factory here on earth.

By one estimate, there has been over 100 billion people born on this planet. About 7 billion of those are alive today. Maybe God could have allowed the first 20 or 30 billion to be born and then ended it all, but I’m glad I had an opportunity to be born. I’m thankful to live in a community that was built long before I was here, safe in a society whose institutions were developed through much trial and error.

We’re here for a time, but our souls live on. And those who know him can spend eternity with God in heaven where all will be made perfect.

In the meantime, we get to see glimpses of heaven — when we love and when we’re loved, when we marvel at the beauty of his creation.

It’s a miracle any of us are alive in the first place. The complexity of life is such that scientists have only begun to scratch the surface in understanding it. The average adult body is made up of an estimated 30 trillion cells. If you line up all of the DNA molecules in all the cells, it would reach 34 billion miles. It takes the earth 60 years to cover that distance when traveling around the sun.

Anybody who’s owned a car knows that the more features are on a car, the more can go wrong. And as such, in the most complex machine ever designed, one little glitch in the human body — one little protein missing, one little DNA chain broken, one bad chromosome, one little contamination — we have sickness, disease, and suffering.

My point is not to make you anxious of all that can go wrong, but to point out the miracle of all that goes right, day in and day out for so many people for so long a time.

The human body is not the only complex machine God designed. He also designed an incredibly resilient ecosystem that has sustained life for thousands and thousands of years. A combination of lifeforms that trade oxygen for carbon dioxide. The water cycle that sustains life.

We inhabit a complex, and sometimes dangerous, machine. Sometimes we don’t have the foresight or knowledge to understand all that could go wrong, such as exposure to hundred-year floods. There’s no possible way to know all that can go wrong, and there’s no way to live a life completely free of risk. Sometimes things just happen.

But when things do happen, we have an opportunity to show God’s love to those who are suffering. We can work to bring order out of chaos. Find a way to help somebody. Grief needs action.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Mhatma Gandhi's Seven Deadly Sins

Mahatma Gandhi's Seven Deadly Sins
© 1990 Dr. Stephen R. Covey 
excerpts from The Seven Habits and Principle-Centered Leadership
Mahatma Gandhi said that seven things will destroy us. Notice that all of them have to do with social and political conditions. Note also that the antidote of each of these "deadly sins" is an explicit external standard or something that is based on natural principles and laws, not on social values.
Wealth Without Work
Pleasure Without Conscience
Knowledge Without Character
Commerce (Business) Without Morality (Ethics)
Science Without Humanity
Religion Without Sacrifice
Politics Without Principle
Wealth Without Work
This refers to the practice of getting something for nothing - manipulating markets and assets so you don't have to work or produce added value, just manipulate people and things. Today there are professions built around making wealth without working, making much money without paying taxes, benefiting from free government programs without carrying a fair share of the financial burdens, and enjoying all the perks of citizenship of country and membership of corporation without assuming any of the risk or responsibility.
How many of the fraudulent schemes that went on in the 1980s, often called the decade of greed, were basically get-rich-quick schemes or speculations promising practitioners, "You don't even have to work for it"? That is why I would be very concerned if one of my children went into speculative enterprises or if they learned how to make a lot of money fast without having to pay the price by adding value on a day-to-day basis.
Some network marketing and pyramidal organizations worry me because many people get rich quick by building a structure under them that feeds them without work. They are rationalized to the hilt; nevertheless the overwhelming emotional motive is often greed: "You can get rich without much work. You may have to work initially, but soon you can have wealth without work." New social mores and norms are cultivated that cause distortions in their judgement.
Justice and judgement are inevitably inseparable, suggesting that to the degree you move away from the laws of nature, your judgement will be adversely affected. You get distorted notions. You start telling rational lies to explain why things work or why they don't. You move away from the law of "the farm" into social / political environments.
When we read of organizations in trouble, we often hear the sad confessions of executives who tell of moving away from natural laws and principles for a period of time and begin overbuilding, over-borrowing, and over speculating, not really reading the stream or getting objective feedback, just hearing a lot of self-talk internally. Now they have a high debt to pay. They may have to work hard just to survive - without hope of being healthy for five years or more. It's back to the basics, hand to the plow. And many of these executives, in earlier days, were critical of the conservative founders of the corporations who stayed close to the fundamentals and preferred to stay small and free of debt.
Pleasure Without Conscience
The chief query of the immature, greedy, selfish, and sensuous has always been, "What's in it for me? Will this please me? Will it ease me?" Lately many people seem to want these pleasures without conscience or sense of responsibility, even abandoning or utterly neglecting spouses and children in the name of doing their thing. But independence is not the most mature state of being - it's only a middle position on the way to interdependence, the most advanced and mature state. To learn to give and take, to live selflessly, to be sensitive, to be considerate, is our challenge. Otherwise there is no sense of social responsibility or accountability in our pleasurable activities.
The ultimate costs of pleasures without conscience are high as measured in terms of time and money, in terms of reputation and in terms of wounding the hearts and minds of other people who are adversely affected by those who just want to indulge and gratify themselves in the short term. It's dangerous to be pulled or lulled away from natural law without conscience. Conscience is essentially the repository of timeless truths and principles - the internal monitor of natural law.
A prominent, widely published psychologist worked to align people with their moral conscience in what was called "integrity therapy." He once told me that he was a manic-depressive. "I knew I was getting suicidal," he said. "Therefore, I committed myself to a mental institution. I tried to work out of it, neutralize it, until I reached the point where I could leave the hospital. I don't do clinical work now because it is too stressful. I mostly do research. And through my own struggle, I discovered that integrity therapy was the only way to go. I gave up my mistress, confessed to my wife, and had peace for the first time in my life. ""
Pleasure without conscience is one of the key temptations for today's executives. Sometimes on airplanes, I'll scan the magazines directed at executives, noting the advertisements. Many of these ads, perhaps two-thirds of them, invite executives to indulge themselves without conscience because they "deserve it" or have "earned it" or "want it," and why not "give in" and "let it all hang out"? The seductive message is, "You've arrived. You are now a law unto yourself. You don't need a conscience to govern you anymore." And in some ads you see sixty-year-old men with attractive thirty-year-old women, the "significant others" who accompany some executives to conventions. Whatever happened to spouses? What happened to the social mores that make cheating on spouses illegitimate behavior?
Knowledge without Character
As dangerous as a little knowledge is, even more, dangerous is much knowledge without a strong, principled character. Purely intellectual development without commensurate internal character development makes as much sense as putting a high-powered sports car in the hands of a teenager who is high on drugs. Yet all too often in the academic world, that's exactly what we do by not focusing on the character development of young people.
One of the reasons I'm excited about taking the Seven Habits into the schools is that it is character education. Some people don't like character education because, they say, "that's your value system." But you can get a common set of values that everyone agrees on. It is not that difficult to decide, for example, that kindness, fairness, dignity, contribution, and integrity are worth keeping. No one will fight you on those. So let's start with values that are unarguable and infuse them in our education system and in our corporate training and development programs. Let's achieve a better balance between the development of character and intellect.
The people who are transforming education today are doing it by building consensus around a common set of principles, values, and priorities and debunking the high degree of specialization, departmentalization, and partisan politics.
Commerce (Business) Without Morality (Ethics)
In his book Moral Sentiment, which preceded Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith explained how foundational to the success of our systems is the moral foundation: how we treat each other, the spirit of benevolence, of service, of contribution. If we ignore the moral foundation and allow economic systems to operate without moral foundation and without continued education, we will soon create an amoral, if not immoral, society and business. Economic and political systems are ultimately based on a moral foundation.
To Adam Smith, every business transaction is a moral challenge to see that both parties come out fairly. Fairness and benevolence in business are the underpinnings of the free enterprise system called capitalism. Our economic system comes out of a constitutional democracy where minority rights are to be attended to as well. The spirit of the Golden Rule or of win-win is a spirit of morality, of mutual benefit, of fairness for all concerned. Paraphrasing one of the mottos of the Rotary Club, "Is it fair and does it serve the interests of all the stakeholders?" That's just a moral sense of stewardship toward all of the stakeholders.
I like that Smith says every economic transaction. People get in trouble when they say that most of their economic transactions are moral. That means there is something going on that is covert, hidden, secret. People keep a hidden agenda, a secret life, and they justify and rationalize their activities. They tell themselves rational lies so they don't have to adhere to natural laws. If you can get enough rationalization in a society, you can have social mores or political wills that are totally divorced from natural laws and principles.
I once met a man who for five years served as the "ethics director" for a major aerospace company. He finally resigned the post in protest and considered leaving the company, even though he would lose a big salary and benefits package. He said that the executive team had their own separate set of business ethics and that they were deep into rationalization and justification. Wealth and power were big on their agendas, and they made no excuse for it anymore. They were divorced from reality even inside their own organization. They talked about serving the customer while absolutely mugging their own employees.
Science Without Humanity
If science becomes all technique and technology, it quickly degenerates into man against humanity. Technologies come from the paradigms of science. And if there's very little understanding of the higher human purposes that the technology is striving to serve, we become victims of our own technocracy. We see otherwise highly educated people climbing the scientific ladder of success, even though it's often missing the rung called humanity and leaning against the wrong wall.
The majority of the scientists who ever lived or living today, and they have brought about a scientific and technological explosion in the world. But if all they do is superimpose technology on the same old problems, nothing basic changes. We may see an evolution, an occasional "revolution" in science, but without humanity we see precious little real human advancement. All the old inequities and injustices are still with us.
About the only thing that hasn't evolved are these natural laws and principles - the true north on the compass. Science and technology have changed the face of most everything else. But the fundamental things still apply, as time goes by.
Religion Without Sacrifice
Without sacrifice, we may become active in a church but remain inactive in its gospel. In other words, we go for the social façade of religion and the piety of religious practices. There is no real walking with people or going the second mile or trying to deal with our social problems that may eventually undo our economic system. It takes sacrifice to serve the needs of other people - the sacrifice of our own pride and prejudice, among other things.
If a church or religion is seen as just another hierarchical system, its members won't have a sense of service or inner work-ship. Instead, they will be into outward observances and all the visible accouterments of religion. But they are neither God-centered nor principle-centered.
The principles of three of the Seven Habits pertain to how we deal with other people, how we serve them, how we sacrifice for them, how we contribute. Habits 4, 5 and 6 - win-win interdependency, empathy, and synergy - require tremendous sacrifice. I've come to believe that they require a broken heart and a contrite spirit - and that, for some, is the ultimate sacrifice. For example, I once observed a marriage where there were frequent arguments. One thought came to me : "These two people must have a broken heart and a contrite spirit toward each other or this union will never last." You can't have a oneness, a unity, without humility. Pride and selfishness will destroy the union between man and god, between man and woman, between man and man, between self and self.
The great servant leaders have that humility, the hallmark of inner religion. I know a few CEOs who are humble servant leaders - who sacrifice their pride and share their power - and I can say that their influence both inside and outside their companies is multiplied because of it. Sadly, many people want "religion," or at least the appearance of it, without any sacrifice. They want more spirituality but would never miss a meal in meaningful fasting or do one act of anonymous service to achieve it.
Politics Without Principle
If there is no principle, there is no true north, nothing you can depend upon. The focus on the personality ethic is the instant creation of an image that sells well in the social and economic marketplace.
You see politicians spending millions of dollars to create an image, even though it's superficial, lacking substance, in order to get votes and gain office. And when it works, it leads to a political system operating independently of the natural laws that should govern - that are built into the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness . . . . "
In other words, they are describing self-evident, external, observable, natural, unarguable, self-evident laws: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident." The key to a healthy society is to get the social will, the value system, aligned with correct principles. You then have the compass needle pointing to true north - true north representing the external or the natural law - and the indicator says that is what we are building our value system on: they are aligned.
But if you get a sick social will behind the political will that is independent of principle, you could have a very sick organization or society with distorted values. For instance, the professed mission and shared values of criminals who rape, rob and plunder might sound very much like many corporate mission statements, using such words as "teamwork," "cooperation," "loyalty," "profitability," "innovation," and "creativity." The problem is that their value system is not based on a natural law.
Figuratively, inside many corporations with lofty mission statements, many people are being mugged in broad daylight in front of witnesses. Or they are being robbed of self-esteem, money, or position without due process. And if there is no social will behind the principles of due process, and if you can't get due process, you have to go to the jury of your peers and engage in counterculture sabotage.
In the movie The Ten Commandments, Moses says to the pharaoh, "We are to be governed by God's law, not by you." In effect, he's saying, "We will not be governed by a person unless that person embodies the law." In the best societies and organizations, natural laws and principles govern - that's the Constitution - and even the top people must bow to the principle. No one is above it.

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