Saturday, March 25, 2017


by Bryan Neva

trust (trəst)
A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. "relations have to be built on trust"
synonyms: confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence, reliance
A belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of. "I should never have trusted him"
synonyms: rely on, depend on, bank on, count on, be sure of

Trust is such a simple word with such a deep meaning. Think about this for a moment: without trust we cannot have meaningful relationships with others; we cannot conduct commerce with others; we cannot safely live our lives; we cannot even live in a civilized society without trust. Trust has all but disappeared in most underdeveloped countries. All of us who've lost friendships, romantic relationships, gone through divorces, or quit lousy jobs can agree that a violation of trust was a major factor. Trust is essential to everything we do.

Because too many people in our world are untrustworthy, countries must maintain a military to defend themselves; communities must maintain a police force to keep the peace; businesses must install burglar alarms and hire security guards to prevent theft; and individuals must lock their doors and arm themselves to remain safe. I'd guess that the world probably spends trillions of dollars every year protecting itself from the untrustworthy.

I believe the root cause of our lack of trust is primarily safety and security; we all want to remain physically, emotionally, and economically safe and secure. This is human nature and thousands of years evolution where our brains are hardwired for fight or flight. Until proven otherwise, it's best to be distrustful of others. Trust is very hard to earn, it's easy to lose, and it takes forever to repair. 

In organizations with low trust environments, I believe the cause is similar to people but it's probably more economically driven. When organizations have a survival-of-the-fittest mentality along with an inordinate love of money they tend to become distrustful of their employees, suppliers, and customers. They develop an over reliance on hierarchical management, bureaucracy, and redundancy. These, in turn, result in employees becoming disengaged in their work, productivity declines, and employee, supplier, and customer turnover increases. The bottom line is that it's very expensive to run a business when trust has gone out the window.

Stephen M. R. Covey (son of the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey) makes the case in his 2006 book, The Speed of Trust, that there are 13 behaviors individuals and organizations can do to build trust:

1) Talk Straightsay what you mean and mean what you say; don't be duplicitous; your word is your bond; show humility and intellectual honesty.

2) Demonstrate Respect - follow the Golden Rule: treat others the way you'd like to be treated; follow the Platinum Rule: treat others the way they'd like to be treated; be respectful even if someone is disrespectful to you (don't sink to their level); constructively deal with reality and differences with others; don't personally attack others if you have different points of view; embrace diversity; be a good team player.

3) Create Transparency - everything should pass the "Newspaper Headline" test; that is, would your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues be shocked if your activities were printed on the front page of the newspaper? Conduct all affairs with integrity just as if a reporter were looking over your shoulder. 

4) Right Wrongs - apologize and atone for the sins we've committed against others; forgive others for the sins they've committed against us; work at reconciliation; be a peacemaker. 

5) Show Loyalty - speak about others as if they were present; don't behave like high school kids by gossiping about others in the workplace; it's pathetic to see sophomoric behavior among adults.  

6) Deliver Results - or you'll lose your credibility and you'll get a reputation for being all talk and no action; your employer hired you to do a job, so do your job to the best of your abilities.

7) Get Better - lifelong learning and personal improvement are essential to staying relevant in your work and in your life; don't hang your brain at the door when you come to work; there's nothing more pathetic as an adult who never grew up nor could put their childish ways behind them.

8) Confront Reality - don't sweep problems under the rug; it shows real character and intestinal fortitude to admit when things have gone south; don't be a Pollyanna and believe that life is just rainbows and butterflies; face facts and be willing to call a spade a spade!

9) Clarify Expectations - or you'll leave people guessing; don't try to be a mind reader and try to guess what others are thinking; only they can tell you.

10) Practice Accountability - don't play the blame game; hold yourself and others to high moral and ethical standards; don't play favorites and look the other way; if it's in your power, then reward good behavior and punish bad behavior.

11) Listen First - a good judge listens to all the facts before rendering a decision; seek first to understand then to be understood; God has given us all two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we talk.

12) Keep Commitmentskeep your implicit and explicit promises; your word is your bond; be on time for appointments, and apologize in advance if you have to break an appointment; be reliable. 

13) Extend Trust - to those who have earned or are sincerely trying to earn your trust; don't be gullible, but at the same time don't be a control freak or micromanager who doesn't trust anyone; just because a few people violated your trust in the past does not mean that you should never trust anyone ever again.

Yes, trust is such a simple word, but a very hard thing to live by.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Evil That Men Do

The Evil That Men Do
by Bryan J. Neva, Sr.

"The evil that men do is remembered long after their deaths, but the good is often buried with them."  - William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2 - modern translation)  

Black Elk was born around December 1863 to an Olgala Lakota (Sioux) Native American family somewhere along the Little Powder River in present day Wyoming or Montana. He became a famous Lakota Medicine or Holy Man, was the cousin of the famous War Chief Crazy Horse, he participated in the Battle at Little Bighorn (aka Custer's Last Stand), and he fought at the Wounded Knee Massacre. After the Indian Wars, Black Elk went on to tour throughout America and Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and another lesser known western show; at one point he even performed for Queen Victoria herself.

In this award winning Biography of Black Elk, Joe Jackson recounts in great detail the life of this legendary Native American and the clash of cultures between the modern European Americans and the hunter-gatherer Native Americans of the Great Plains during the 19th century. Like Helen Hunt Jackson's 1881 book A Century of Dishonor, and Dee Brown's 1970 book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Jackson's 2016 Biography Black Elk puts a face to a name in this gut wrenching story of the sufferings of the Native Americans of the Great Plains. He recounts the systematic genocidal actions of the U.S. federal government and their agents to eradicate the Native American people and destroy their culture, way of life, and their spirituality through total warfare, the decimation of the North American buffalo, a string of broken promises and treaties, forced relocations, the denial of citizenship and constitutional rights, negligence, starvation, fraud, waste, abuse, and numerous other injustices perpetrated on the Native Americans.

With 20/20 hindsight we can look back and condemn that generation of Americans who perpetrated these grave injustices on the Native Americans in the name of Manifest Destiny and social Darwinism (the hidden agenda being power, greed, and racism). In the white man's eyes these aboriginal people were stone-age Neanderthals who needed to be brought into the modern age. The most notable of all these injustices was the Wounded Knee Massacre where around 300 men, women, children, and infants were slaughtered by the U.S. Army. Even after a formal investigation, shockingly no one was ever held accountable and over twenty men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor! (Their standards for awarding the Medal of Honor were quite low back then.)

However, we must temper our condemnation of that generation by taking into account the misguided culture of their times, and we need to admit that the Native Americans themselves were not innocent bystanders in all these disputes either. The various aboriginal tribes warred amongst themselves for centuries, and the Lakota especially were a dominate warlike people pushing the less powerful tribes like the Crow out. The Crow, as longtime enemies of the Lakota, worked as scouts for the U.S. Army.

At what percentage you place the blame is debatable, but it's safe to say that hatred and prejudice ran high on both sides of the dispute. Like all human beings, there were good and bad actors on both sides. For the Native Americans, it was a losing battle to continue fighting the overwhelming numbers of whites with their superior weaponry; their pride simply got in the way of their common sense. For the whites, it was an immoral war, and they proved time and time again that they couldn't be trusted to keep their promises as treaties were torn up at a whim, and like the Native Americans, their pride got in the way of their common sense, but more importantly, their basic humanity. Like most wars, this conflict was just senseless. But to the victor go the spoils and to the vanquished goes ignominy. 

Black Elk was a mystic who felt a deep calling since childhood to save his people. Maybe that was why he became a Medicine Man who administered herbal medicine along with a little hocus pocus to heal people. Black Elk's first wife, Katie War Bonnet, converted to Catholicism and raised all her children in the Catholic faith. After Katie's death in 1903, Black Elk converted to Catholicism too and took on the name Nicholas Black Elk at his baptism. He subsequently spent the rest of his life as a Catholic lay minister, teacher, and evangelist trying to heal men's souls. He also continued to practice herbal medicine and many times he was more successful than the physicians of his time. (Only in the last several decades has the west embraced traditional herbal medicinal cures as a viable alternative or adjunct to modern pharmaceuticals; in fact, many of the most successful drugs we have today were synthesized from herbs.)  

I'd like to believe that Black Elk somehow found peace and hope in the midst of all of his sufferings through his faith in Jesus Christ who, like Black Elk, also suffered at the hands of evil men. Black Elk was truly a great American. He died at the age of 86 at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on August 19th, 1950.

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