Summertime and the Living Ain't Easy

July 27, 2021

Sitting at my patio table in the morning is my normal routine this time of year.  I’m an early riser, and my Honey Bear would prefer to sleep in a little, so the backyard becomes my office for a couple of hours most mornings.  It’s pretty nice, I must say, the chickens are scratching and pecking, I’m shaded from the early morning sun by our maple tree trunk, and my goldfish pond fountain is bubbling away nearby.  Aside from the sound of traffic on Laporte, it’s as peaceful and quiet as can be - and before 7 am, traffic is pretty light.  

I’m an auditory learner - if I sit through a lecture and take notes - I’ve pretty much got it. What I’ve been hearing lately from some of you, and from my team, is that some of my musings - the May blog most recently - On Liberty, Anti-Vaxxers, and the Free Rider Problem - were viewed as insensitive and irresponsible by some of our readers, and therefore divisive and counterproductive to our mission at LoCo Think Tank.

“What is your mission at LoCo Think Tank?”, you say - and so I’ll share:

The mission of LoCo Think Tank is to help create abundance in the world by connecting diverse small business owners, business veterans, and community resources in everybody-wins relationships aimed toward the advancement of economic opportunity and individual liberty in local communities everywhere.

The key terms my team helped me to focus on were diverse, and everybody-wins - if I chase off members or prospects or facilitators with my comments on vaccines or politics or liberty, we become an organization of the less-diverse, and fewer people win. And yes, people have been chased off - or turned off more accurately - and yes, it’s been painful - especially to my team, who work hard every day to build an organization welcoming to all.  

My team is right - we are a big-tent organization, welcoming small business owners of all sizes, types, colors, and creeds - and I’m a big-tent kind of guy by nature.  I’m also an opinionated guy, and a philosophical guy, and I find a lot of value in wisdom books and wisdom phrases, and respectful dialogue.  There’s a few principles of leadership that I’ve been thinking about as I process this topic, and I’d like to unfold them with you - exploring tensions between truths in a way.  The next segment leads with an apology, but you’ll have to click over to the blog to read it.  The principles I’ll leave here as a teaser though - 

  1. Say what you mean, and mean what you say
  2. Do what you say you’re going to do
  3. Treat others the way they want to be treated

First things first - an apology.  This is directed toward my/our members, facilitators, advisory board, and also to my wife - the stakeholders at LoCo - and also to our host partners and community advocates.  

I apologize if I’ve caused you shame, made you angry, risked your financial security, taken advantage of your loyalty, or wounded you in some other fashion, by focusing too much on #1 above - say what you mean and mean what you say - to the neglect of #2 and #3. I compromised LoCo’s core value of encouraging open dialogue, and for this, I am truly sorry.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say  

“Where’s this come from?” I know you’re wondering, and so I’ll share a bit of wisdom from Lewis Carroll:

'Then you should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on.

'I do,' Alice hastily replied;

'at least -- at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know.'

'Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter.

'You might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see!'

Oh, Lewis - you are a wordsmith and philosopher after my own heart!  I think leadership is about both of course, and more especially, your team has to feel safe enough to do the same.  This phrase is well aligned with our first value at LoCo - Ask of Your Needs and Share of Your Abundance.  My team was nervous about confronting me on this topic - they invited me to an innocuous “PR Strategy” meeting - where I learned about their key suggestion for our PR Strategy - STOP WRITING DIVISIVE SHIT!

The learning for me in this area is that to improve psychological safety for my team, and within our chapters and for our members, we need to be always open to one another’s perspectives and opinions.  My tone in some of my writings has been more authoritarian than invitational of discussion, and that’s not the LoCo Way.  

So - while I won’t say that I’ll always stay away from touchy subjects in the future - I will say that the things I write will seek to invite discussion and avoid intentional division.  FWIW, I’m not married to my ideas, and I do enjoy changing my mind from time to time.  With regard to spoken language I like to say “Just because I say something doesn’t mean I think it!” - and the metaphor works even or especially with writing on these touchy topics - my writing about them is an act of processing - I’m still chewing, it’s not digested fully, and yes - I’m happy to go and have a cup of coffee and talk more about it in person.  

Also - let it be known, and documented with our new disclaimer - that the thoughts I write in this blog are my own, and don’t necessarily represent the thoughts or values of my team, our members or facilitators, and any of our other stakeholders.  LoCo Think Tank is a whole lot more than just Curt - but the thoughts in this blog are mine alone - but influenced heavily, as yours are, by the thoughts and writings of others. 

Do What You Say You’re Going To Do

“Where’s this one come from?”, you ask and so I’ll tell you - it’s Jimmy Dean!  Yes - the sausage magnate - but also an actor and musician who had an incredible career and an amazing number of insightful quotes - here’s the headline, plus a few more just for fun: 

“Do what you say you're going to do. And try to do it a little better than you said you would.”

Poverty was the greatest motivating factor in my life.”

“You gotta try your luck at least once a day, because you could be going around lucky all day and not even know it.”

Being a Baptist won't keep you from sinning, but it'll sure as hell keep you from enjoying it.

Lest I distract myself with too many Jimmy Dean quotes, let’s jump on the topic at hand - Do What You Say You’re Going To Do.  I told my team, maybe back last May, that I’d stay away from third-rail topics on my blog and on my Facebook page, and then I wandered back into the mix and got in trouble again in June or July.  I dropped my Facebook account as a penance of sorts after that - which has been amazing for my mental well-being and screen time - and had been mostly staying out of trouble since then - until now.  

Truth is, it’s sensitive times, and there are far more third rail topics than there used to be!  We even had some criticism of our light-hearted Twelve Months of 2020 video - apparently saying the words “novel Chinese virus” is racist and not acceptable speech despite being highly precise and with no hint of racism.  Was the Spanish Flu a racist term? - or a flu that originated in Spain?  Of course, this was before the newly speakable (despite being obvious) concern that covid came from the Wuhan labs, because that notion was previously a racially motivated (though obvious) fact to observe...

Anyway, all this to say - and the thing I’m most apologetic for - is that a leader has to do what they say they’re going to do if they want to establish and keep trust over the long haul.  Now, we all make mistakes - we forget to return calls, we neglect an important family occasion or work anniversary, we hire someone who turns out to be a total ass and it takes us months to remove the cancer from the team...but we have to be reliable if we people who rely on us for their purposeful work and their livelihoods. 

Treat Others the Way THEY Wish to be Treated 

This one is of course - The Platinum Rule - a principle developed by Dave Kerpen, author of The Art of People - which he positions as superior to the ancient Golden Rule, which is of course “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You”.  Basically, Kerpen argues that rather than treating people as you would wish to be treated - treat them as they would wish to be treated. 

We had an educational conversation that brushed on this as a team just a couple of weeks ago, when we had Steve Roskamp of Achilles Consulting Group in to unfold our team assessments in an SDI report - Strengths Deployment Inventory. We learned so much I can’t share it all right here, but I will say that one part of the talk was especially enlightening in this area - which I share here with permission. 

On my team, Deb is our LoCo Experience Coordinator - she’s here to make sure new leads, prospects, and eventually members have a great experience on their way into and during their membership. She’s a people person, all about relationships.  Alma is our Everything Associate - she’s effectively our marketing manager, my executive assistant in training, and supports Deb in the administrative realm. She’s all about the details and bringing the chaos into as much order as can be. 

For Deb, good kudos are timely, and reflective of the impact she has on someone’s experience - making connections, building relationships and feeling appreciated are what fuels her fire.  As she observed to me long ago - give me an “atta-girl Debbie!” on a regular basis and I’ll work hard every day!  For Alma, an “atta-girl” is fine, but what really helps her to feel it is knowing the specifics of what she’s being appreciated for.  I’m wired a lot more like Deb - all about the relationship - and less inclined for the details, so I’m good with an “atta-boy” - but it is important for me to know what feeds Alma if I want her to feel appreciated - and I do. 

This so-called “Platinum Rule” is all about semantics, and selling books of course - to my logical mind the Platinum Rule isn’t really fresh material, but a slight semantic twist from the Golden Rule that essentially means the same thing. “Do unto others as you would have them do” - ok, so I would have you ask me how I would wish to be treated, and then do that - boom, Platinum Rule. 

“So - where’s the Golden Rule from?” you say - and I’ll share of course - even if you don’t say! 

The book of Matthew, 7:12, is where you’d find the most direct reference - So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”   

And, you see much similarity in what is known as The Great Commandment - also from Matthew (22:36-40), quoting Jesus of course:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  

I sometimes struggle with the love your neighbor as yourself line - mostly because sometimes I don’t always love myself very much and so I wonder how appropriate that would be.  But Jesus loves me, and I do my best to love my neighbor at least as much as I love myself, so I get the gist of it alright I think.  

What’s up with that ending similar to both? - “All the Law and the Prophets”?

Well, basically it’s a reference back to the 10 commandments, and everything else that the Jews wrote down along their long history of being in a special covenant with God.  In the 10 commandments, 4 of the commandments deal with our relationship with God (no idols, Sabbath, etc.) and 6 of the commandments deal with our relationship with others (don’t steal, honor your father & mother, don’t commit adultery, etc.)  The Law in its whole would be the commandments plus hundreds of other major laws, and about a bazillion minor laws, and a system of tithes and sacrifice as repentance for sin that was required to stay in the right relationship with God.  

In the Old Covenant, the people gave some of their best young animals to God, or the first grains from their harvest, or sacrificed their strongest bull.  As an economist, this makes backward sense, but for the Jews, it worked - when they were good with God, they flourished, and when they started slacking or worshiping other gods, they suffered.  The Jews as a people were eventually taken captive abroad by the Babylonians, (eventually returned to Israel by the Cyrus the Persian), and later ruled by the Greeks under Alexander the Great (kinda - they revolted heavily when pressed to worship Greek gods, and were basically left semi-independent after that).  When the Romans took over a place, they took over hard, and that’s the setting the Jews found themselves in when this fellow Jesus started preaching shortly after BC turned into AD - but you know about that, at least a little.  After AD 70, the temple was destroyed and the Jews were dispersed throughout the Roman empire as slaves because kept in large groups they just couldn’t be controlled properly - and that was the situation until 1948 when Israel was re-established post-WWIIl, which drew many back to the ancestral homeland.  An underappreciated positive aspect of Hitler’s legacy, I suppose you could say - but one shouldn’t say such things in print or risk being called a Nazi!  

So that’s a quick breakdown on “all the Law” but what’s this about “and the Prophets”?  

“The prophets” is reference to those individuals in history who see things more clearly, and often in advance.  Something I learned not too long ago is that the prediction of the future isn’t the main defining thing about prophets - it’s what helps people to later identify them - it gives them cred.  The main defining thing is that they see things clearly, as God reveals to them, and they speak His truth, not that they are fortune-tellers.  Prophets were the folks along the way who called out God’s people, saying things like - “he doesn’t want your sacrifice, he wants your obedience!”, and “stop worshiping other gods or the Babylonians gonna come and drag you off!”  (paraphrasing)

While we’re talking about prophets, we gotta talk about Isaiah, because he’s kind of the OG of the prophets, and that’s where I’m going to trail off today, with one more quote, and an encouragement to consider again a New Covenant, one that doesn’t require countless principles of leadership, rules of conduct, nor a system of sacrifice, but only faith in the one who shared the Golden Rule and an intention to be more like Him - that you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Much love, joy, hope, and faithfulness to you this day, and all days. 

As previously mentioned, I welcome any and all respectful conversation and spirited dialogue in response to my individual perspective. Ping me or ring if you want to share some thoughts and time together.

Here’s Isaiah 53 for your reading pleasure, written 700+ years BC -

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant,

    and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

    and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,

    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs

    and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

    smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

    and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

    we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

    yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

    so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

    and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

    stricken for the transgression of my people?

And they made his grave with the wicked

    and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

    he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

    make many to be accounted righteous,

    and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,

    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

because he poured out his soul to death

    and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,

    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

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