The Back To The Future Car

Back To The Future
OMG, so cool…the Back To The Future car.



It’s the DeLorean sports car on display by Smithsonian Magazine in Washington, D.C.



I love the winged doors that go up, the cool muscle body, and of course being able to time travel. 



The past–I’d like to stroll through the Garden of Eden, witness the splitting of the Red Sea and the giving of Ten Commandments, see Samson bring down the pillars on the Philistines, meet King David and worship at the Holy temple, shake hands with Ben-Gurion, and talk with and hug my parents and grandparents again.



For the future…its got to include space travel to other worlds, the eradication of disease and hunger (and by the way the national debt too), and the coolest technology to do everything. 😉



(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

We Are Driven!

Riots

We are driven to do what?

Some of us to succeed and others, seemingly, to various destructive behaviors that thwart our success.

In the book, The Charge, by Brendon Burchard, he argues that we need to harness our drives to increase our success rate.

Burchard categorizes our drives into baseline and forward drives–and has 10 of them–almost like the Ten Commandments (Cs)–five in each area (or on each tablet).

Baseline drives are those which he says make us happy:
– Control
– Competence
– Congruence
– Caring
– Connection

Forward drives are those which help us evolve:
– Change
– Challenge
– Creative Expression
– Contribution
– Consciousness

Wonderful–10 C’s, all nicely packaged.

While I generally agree with these human drives, something is not satisfying about these–they seem academic, stale, and the fodder of a marketing brochure.

Where is the energy of humans to live, love, and laugh?

Where is the longing for spirituality, purpose, and meaning?

Where is the drive to do good and occasionally, to do what we know is wrong.

Where are the vices–the drives to conquer, to own and to hoard, to go crazy at times,?

Burchard has provided a very one-sided picture of human nature–maybe the side, we would rather acknowledge and focus on, but in ignoring human frailties and tendencies to veer off to the other extremes as well, he is missing an important point–and that is the human nature is a fundamental push and pull.

Yes, we are driven to happiness and evolution, and on one hand these drives manifest in the rosier side of human nature such as care and contribution, but on the other side, people drives to happiness and evolution may mean their taking what they want, when and how they want it, and to the exclusion of others who are competing with them in a world of limited resources.

It is nicer and easier to envision a world, like the Garden of Eden, where there is plenty for the few, and everything is provided and just a pull from the fruit tree away.

But in the real world, it is wiser to recognize that our happiness and evolution may mean someone else goes hungry tonight–sad, but true; and only when we are real, can we work to overcome this and to provide plenty for all–through safeguarding of basic freedoms and human rights for everyone.

Happiness and evolution can be different for the individual and society–for the individual, one’s gain may come at another loses (e.g. the stock market, competing for a spot in top-tier school, or beating out the competition for that plume Wall Street job), but for society, success means creating win-win situations where everyone can go to bed with a full stomach and knowing that they have a fair shot at opportunity tomorrow.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Beacon Radio)

Which Five Do You Keep?

So my father used to teach me that the Ten Commandments were divided with the first five being between man and G-d (e.g. “thou shalt not take the name of the L-rd, thy G-d, in vain”) and the second five being between man and man (e.g. “thou shalt not Kill”).

Note: The fifth one of “Honor they mother and father” is viewed as between man and G-d, since we honor our parents as partners with G-d in our creation and upbringing.

My father said well that some people keep the first five and some the second, but very few keep both sets.

I am aware of many examples of this from the “religious” Rabbis and Priests who sickeningly molest children to “unreligious” people who give charitably and do good deeds to others in countless of ways.

I do not know why most people cannot be both faithful to G-d and good to other people–are these somehow mutually exclusive in people’s minds? Is it somehow blasphemous to both worship G-d and genuinely respect and care for our fellow humans?

Perhaps, some think that if they are close to G-d, then other people are sort of besides the point, while others believe that if they act kindly to their fellow “man”, then they will be considered righteous in G-d’s eyes anyway.

The funny thing is that both–the ones that follow the laws having to do with G-d and those having to do with other people–seem to think that they are the “truly” righteous ones.

Today, I saw a an event that reminded me of this whole lesson and spiritual question, as follows:

A car pulls up in front of the house of worship and in the driving lane, just stops and double parks, even though, right there–and even closer yet to the house of worship–is an empty oversized space to just pull into.

The driver gets out and his wife gets out on the other side.

The car behind him beeps to let them know they are waiting to pass.

The man throws his hand up in a gesture of “too bad” and proceeds to escort his wife into the house of worship–all the while leaving his car blocking the driveway and the car behind him.

After about 5 minutes, the first driver finally comes back to move his car.

The second driver–of the car that has been waiting–goes up to driver of the first car and asks why he just left his car in the driving lane and didn’t even bother to pull over.

The first driver says that his wife can’t walk well and he wanted to escort her into the house of worship, and so the other car could wait until he returned.

The second driver is startled by this and says “but you saw I was behind you waiting and wanted to get in with my family to pray as well–why couldn’t you either circle back around or pull into the empty spot right there at the entrance?”

The first driver says, “well, you were the only other car behind me.”

By this time the second driver is clearly annoyed and says, “but I am a human being too!”

He continues clearly amazed at the callousness of the first and says, “how is it that you go to the house of worship, but you don’t care about another human being–how can you be so selfish?

The first driver raises his hand and flips it again indicating that he just didn’t care –going full circle to how this event began when he first stopped his car–and then he simply says as a matter of fact and sort of sarcastically “good day” and just walks away.

What an encounter with the first driver on his way to worship G-d, yet completely callous to his fellow human being waiting to do the same–he was following the first five commandments, but brushing aside the second five.

I wish for the day that people could embrace both sets of commandments! So that faith and decency could coexist, rather than battle in the hearts and soul of humans.

What a better world it could be…

(Source photo: here)

The Truth About Lying

Lies

House MD said it first “Everybody lies; the only variable is about what.”

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal (26-27 May 2012)–states that research confirms this as truth.

“Everyone cheats a little right up to the point where they lose their sense of integrity.”

According to the article–“very few people steal to a maximum degree, but many good people cheat just a little here and there.”

They pad their billable hours, underreport their earnings to the IRS, claim higher loses on insurance claims, pocket a little from the cash register, walk out of the store without paying, copy test answers, plagiarize someone’s intellectual property, and the list goes on and on.

Already in the Ten Commandments, we see the fundamental precept of “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

Yet according to the research, people’s dishonesty is enabled by their disposition to:

– Rationalize away the crime.

– Overshadow it with previous immoral acts.

– Excuse the behavior by stating that everyone does it.

– Minimize the significance of the wrongdoing.

– Claim it is necessary or for the greater good.

Interestingly, factors that we would think would have a big impact on dishonesty, don’t–such as either the amount of money to gained or the probability of being caught.

Apparently, the cost-benefit calculus is not the driving factor in wrong-doing, but rather the absence of “moral reminders” and of enforcement/supervision is what creates the fertile ground for people to do the wrong–whether because they can, for the thrill of it, or because in their minds it “levels the playing field.”

Everyone has the capacity for evil and to do wrongdoing, but the vast majority of the people with the right moral guidance will do mostly the right things.

“Except for a few outliers at the top and bottom, the behaviors of almost everyone is driven by two opposing motivations”–these are greed and fear.

One one hand, greed drives people to push themselves and work hard, but it can also be used to go overboard to the point of acting dishonestly–to take what is not theirs and to lie about it.

On the other hand, fear of losing our integrity keeps people’s unbridled desires in check and perhaps even motivates us to give back to others, but fear can also can inhibit people from giving it their all.

The ongoing interplay between greed and fear long known to drive financial markets are the underpinnings for our own moral tug-of-war.

Balancing greed and fear is a powerful embrace that can propel humankind powerfully forward with drive and motivation or undermine its very existence through inhibition and dishonesty.

Reading the article and the underlying research was upsetting to me to see that so many people can be swayed seemingly so easily to have such little integrity.

And while most situations in life are not “black and white”–they are complex shades of gray–people can be tempted to rationalize even when they really know what they are doing in misguided.

This is the ultimate personal challenge for all of us–to maintain our integrity in the face of all temptations and readily available excuses out there.

G-d speed in making good moral and productive choices.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Gerard Stolk)

Google+ And A History of Social Media

Ten_commandments

Bloomberg Business (25-31 July 2011) tells in biblical terms the history of social media leading up to the recent release of Google+:

 

In the beginning, there was Friendster; which captivated the web’ites before it was smitten by slow servers and exiled to the Far East. And then a man called Hoffman begat LinkedIn, saying “This name shall comfort professionals who want to post their resumes online,” and Wall Street did idolize it. And then Myspace lived for two thousand and five hundred days and worshipped flashy ads and was subsumed by News Corp., which the L-rd hath cursed. And Facebook emerged from the land of Harvard and forsook the flashy ads for smaller ones and welcomes vast multitudes of the peoples of the world. And it was good.”

 

With the “genesis” of Google+, there is now a new contender in virtual land with a way to share posts, pictures, videos, etc. with limited groups–or circles of friends–and an advance in privacy features has been made.

 

According to the article, even Mark Zuckerberg and some 60 other Facebook employees have signed up for Google+.

 

With all this confusion brewing in social media land, one wonders exactly why Randi Zuckerberg (Mark’s sister) recently headed for the exits–a better offer from Google? 🙂

 

Google+ has many nice features, especially in terms of integration with everything else Google.  On one hand, this is a plus in terms of potential simplicity and user-centricity, but on the other hand it can be more than a little obtrusive and scary as it can \link and share everything from from your profile, contacts, pictures (Picasa), videos (YouTube), voice calls (Google Voice), geolocation (Google Maps), Internet searches, and more.

 

Google owns a lot of Internet properties and this enables them to bundle solutions for the end-user.  The question to me is will something as basic as Circles for grouping friends really help keep what’s private, private. 

 

It seems like we are putting a lot of information eggs in the Google basket, and while they seem to have been a force for good so far, we need to ensure that remains the case and that our privacy is held sacred.

 

(Source Photo, With All Due Respect To G-d: here)

>What We Lose When We Lie

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If you watch House MD on TV, House always says something sort of striking: “everyone lies.”

Today, an article in the Wall Street Journal, 20 October 2009, says something similar, that we all lie even (some, not me, would say “especially”) in our closest relationships, marriage.

“We fib to avoid conflict. To gain approval. To save face. Or just to be kind.”

Some claim lying is a survival mechanism because “they [lies] allow us to avoid conflict.”

Others feel that it’s okay to lie in order to be tactful with others. For example, a retired financial executive explained that “when his wife ask how she looks, he always tells her she is beautiful. ‘A bad hair day isn’t going to change your life. What’s to be gained by saying something negative to someone that is of such fleeting importance.’”

Even those who supposedly don’t lie, have all these little twists:

One man when asked about lying said: “I don’t lie, I tell the truth…slowly.”

George Costanza on Seinfeld used to say: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

In society, we’ve even come up with a terms for lies that are small or harmless and we call those “white lies.”

Even in court rooms, we don’t trust that people will tell the truth, but rather we have to literally ask them “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you G-d?”

Many people have pointed out that even in the Ten Commandments, we are not commanded directly not to lie, but rather “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”—Hey, just for the record, that’s close enough for me!

Not surprisingly, the mixed thinking about whether it is okay to lie in certain “charged” situations carries over into our organizations.

On one hand, many of our organizations, especially in the public sector, have wonderful core values such as truth, justice, integrity, and so on. Moreover, for certain national security positions, we even give people lie detector (polygraph) tests to ensure their personal truthfulness.

Yet, on the other hand, we all have heard of project managers who lie in order to cover up failing or failed projects—and many implicitly accept this behavior.

I read that the Standish Group recently reported that 82% of our organizational projects are failing or seriously challenged i.e. they are over budget, behind schedule, or not meeting customer requirements. Moreover, we have for years, seen numerous projects end up on watch list for failing projects and even have websites that track these.

Yet, ask many project managers how their projects are doing and you get the spectrum of whitewash answers like “everything is great,” “we’re right on track,” “no problem,” “everyone’s working hard,” or sometimes simply “nothing to report.”

Perhaps, project managers are afraid to tell the truth for fear of retribution, punishment, or other negative impacts to their career, those that work for them, or others who are “implicated.”

As one psychologist says about little white lies: “If you don’t fib, you don’t live.”

How unfortunate this thinking is—rather than encouraging honesty, we develop cultures of fear, where cover-ups are routine and truth in reporting is a practically a misnomer.

By creating a culture where lying is endemic to reporting, we are harming our people and our organizations. Organizationally, we can only manage if we can measure, and we can only measure if people are honest as to what is working and what isn’t. Personally, we hurt our own integrity as human beings by lying (or being dishonest, deceiving, whitewashing or whatever you want to call it) and then justifying it in so many little and big ways.

Sure, there is such a thing as tact, but you can be tactful and truthful at the same time!

Some of this may come down to improving communication and people skills and this needs to be emphasized in our training plans. Of course, we need to work with each other in socially appropriate ways.

But at the same time, at the end of the day, people need to maintain what is really important—their integrity, and at the same time move the organization to make the right decisions, and this can only be done by being frank and honest with ourselves and with each other.

My suggestion is for leaders to surround themselves with those who are not only “the best and the brightest,” but also those with the most honesty and integrity around.