Friday, November 12, 2010

Sacred Passage 2010 - Flinders Island, Tasmania

I. Describing the Indescribable
II. The Life of John P. Milton, Creator of Sacred Passage and The Way of Nature
III. A Valiant Beginning to a Lifetime of Teaching
IV. Who Am I?
V. Your Call to Action, Leader of the Future World

I. Describing the Indescribable

What would happen if you camped on a solo site for five nights, nourishing your body on a liquid diet while undertaking a strict regimen of guided meditation and Qi Gong to forge a deeper connection to nature and all the interconnected forms of life?

Dig into your most profound memory of being human and bear with me.

It’s hard to condense 100 hours of profound experience in one blog entry. After attending Sacred Passage with John P. Milton on the recommendation of the Founder of Ensemble Partners, our CEO and five others including myself are left somewhere between navigating life as usual and dissolving completely into the ultimate sustainability of becoming one with nature.

If one man has become one with nature, a thousand years says Milton comes close.

No matter how many pictures I could take or videos I could record, nothing would begin to clearly articulate the whole picture. Because of Who I Am (explain of Caps later), I will share some drawings made during the experience to send you on your travels for the remaining four sub-headings.

II. The Life of John P. Milton, Creator of Sacred Passage and The Way of Nature

What’s the most engrossing film you’ve ever seen?

Remember it... Think about it... Relive that feeling of being completely engrossed...

Somewhere between Star Wars, Seven Years in Tibet, and Batman Begins lies the life of John P. Milton. The summary of John’s life goes from studying Zen Meditation in the 1950’s to becoming the first Ecologist at the White House under Nixon; from studying with Taoist Masters on Wudang Mountain in China to spending years with Buddhist Masters in the remote hilltops of Tibet.

There’s no way to summarise when just two in the list include following the Taoist lineage of Chang San Feng from the 13th Century and studying Vepassana meditation with the now deceased S.N. Goenka in Nepal, whose recorded voice remains the sole guide for all Vepassana meditations worldwide.

It’s better that I let John speak for himself, down to the details.

The following excerpt is taken from an interview with John P. Milton by Carla Brennan:

“Since the late 1950's, I have been honoured to work with fine teachers in Taoism and T'ai Chi, Buddhism, Dzogchen, Vedanta and both Hindu and Buddhist Tantra:

In 1958 I had my first teacher of meditative Qi Gong for spiritual cultivation; that opened an ever-deepening form of Taoist practice which I have continued with ever since. Then, in the late 1960's I was first exposed to T'ai Chi Ch'uan and immediately fell in love with that system of spiritual and energetic cultivation. From 1973 through 1980 I studied Cheng's Yang family style T'ai Chi - predominantly with Robert Smith and Ben Pang Jeng Lo - but also with Maggie Newman, Tam Gibbs and others. I also studied Qi Gong and Taoist yoga with Sifu Fong Ha, Mantak Chia and other Taoist teachers.

I have taught these systems since 1979.

In 1958, I also began practicing Zen meditation with Ed Maupin as his teacher. For many years, I practiced classical soto style zazen meditation between four and eight hours a day and Zazen continues until today as a core practice for me. Later on in the 1960's, I also became a serious student of the teachings of Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism and both Hindu and Buddhist Tantra. In the 1970's, I was deeply influenced by the blessings of shaktipat and Siddha Yoga with Swami Muktananda. As a result of all this spiritual cultivation, my first major experience of the arising of Kundalini Shakti and the opening of central channel came in the mid 1970's.

Also starting in the late 1960's and through the 1970's until now, I have been fortunate and very blessed to have many fine teachers from several Tibetan lineages, particularly Sogyal Rinpoche, His Holiness Dilgo Khentze Rinpoche, H.H. the Karmapa, H.H. the Dalai Lama, Lama Tharchin, Lopon Tenzin Namdak, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and many other wonderful Lamas. In particular, the blessings of opening and deepening Dzogchen contemplation have been at the heart of my personal cultivation.

From the late 1960's on until now, I have been very active in helping protect Himalayan forests and in setting up wildlife reserves and national parks in Nepal and Bhutan. I often hired large numbers of Tibetan refugees to help me in survey and parks work in the Himalaya Mountains along the Tibetan frontier. All this has given me some extraordinary opportunities to study and practice with Himalayan masters on their home ground and often in a very traditional way, with few or no other westerners around.

I was also fortunate to study Vipassana meditation with S.N. Goenka and his wife in Nepal. Another major teacher for me has been the great tantrika, and devotee of the Divine Feminine, Vasudev of India and Nepal. Over a number of years I was blessed with being able to study with him in mountain caves, at Nepal's great temple to Shiva as the God of All Nature, Pashupatinath, and in the cremation grounds of Nepal and Varanasi (Benares). His teachings, transmissions and direct initiation into the Sacred View have been an incredible blessing to my life and my ability to serve my students.”

III. A Valiant Beginning to a Lifetime of Teaching

Have you ever used a metaphor from nature to describe your life experience? In any deeply rooted conversation about what just feels right, there is an example of it in nature. From animals who mate for life to the industriousness of an ant colony, nature offers something for everyone to understand the world we have shared for thousands of years.

By Day 3 I began to feel accepted by Gaia on her own terms. On Day 4 I had a profound shift as I climbed to the top of Mt. Strzelecki. The three hour hike to the summit involved the buzzing of flies that would often drive a human into a fit. By the time I performed the 11 Direction Ceremony looking out over the Bass Strait, I came to feel at one between Sky and Earth and joined the flies buzzing around me as electrons in the the atomic connection shared between everything in the universe. The flies were my buddies, along for the energetic ride we all call life.

The profound responsibility that comes with the thoughts I’m having is not lost on me. Looking out over all of Flinders and the surrounding Tasmanian Islands realise what it will take to protect this island development from a population of 700 into the future of what’s to come. I believe this can be a place of Zero Impact similar to the plans for Masdar in Abu Dabi. It’s in alignment with the preservation of Tasmanian wilderness and what’s reasonable and possible in the current paradigm shift in global consciousness.

IV. Who Am I?

(Not to be confused with “Who Am I Now?”, a puberty video my brother will recall...)

I want to share one thing that happens when an updated contract is signed with Mother Nature, being accepted by Gaia on her terms. The name I sign with exudes a deeper understanding of Who I Am. As one of many teachings in Milton’s Sky Above, Earth Below, the “Who Am I” exercise borrowed from the Hindu Master Ramana Maharshi reminds us that we are not any of the trappings that normally form our identity. This profound realisation stops us then to ask, “Who Am I?”, and come up with a meaningful answer that transcends space and time.

The best I can come up with is that I Am The Happy Wandering Artist. I’m on the verge of adding Heterosexual, but nature takes care of that for me. Just as nature takes care of Homosexuals, I might add. It’s no surprise that Penguins can change their sexual orientation from breeders to non-breeders when their population balloons out of control. Almost 7 Billion humans are forever in gratitude to you Non-Breeders out there. But I digress.

Perhaps in a past life, (you know me, Egon Schiele) and in the current life, I am a filter for the human experience constantly on the move. This return to the deepest understanding of myself I’ve had in a decade reminds me of not only Who I Am, but also the weaknesses that come with it. As John so lovingly pointed out when I received his council on my return to buildings and humans:

It is the constant addiction to my own entertainment that drives me. This is a life out of balance when I realise after three days of being confined to peaceful meditation that I can’t sit still for that long and break out to climb a mountain. Nature requires an inner peace in all of us. The need for constant stimulation must be balanced with the personal mastery of meditating for hours and connecting to Deep Source.

I have a lot of work to do on that. I’ll let you know how I go.

V. Your Call to Action, Leader of the Future World

I first saw Milton speak at a Wake Up! Sydney event hosted by the resourceful Jono Fisher in 2009. Little did I know at the time that my future employer Ensemble Partners had brought John to Australia to form The Way of Nature Australia, an Oceanic subsidiary of his institute in Boulder, Colorado, which led in turn to Sacred Passage on Flinders Island.

The take-away from his 2009 speech before a sold-out audience was the vision of what would happen if all the world’s leaders, CEOs, and top thinkers decided to spend at least three days immersed in nature, focused in deep meditation guided by the past thousand years of enlightened human experience.

It was a profound vision of the future then, and it remains profound now.

I urge you, Leader of the Future World, to go out into nature for as long as you can until you begin to feel that Gaia accepts you on her terms. When the world understands you with a Universal common denominator, you will start to understand yourself in ways I am only beginning to see in me.

When you get back, give me a call. Learning from each other, it will start to make sense.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck in Right Wing Radio Duck

This video was on my friend's facebook page and I think it is pure brilliance. Goes to show that Disney had his finger on the pulse of a timeless sense of what matters to Americans and that video editors alive and well today harness the pure genius to match Disney's foresight with the comical rantings of one of Fox News biggest cartoons, Glen Beck.

Nice work RebelliousPixels! Hat's off ;)

Monday, August 30, 2010

What Teachers Make

This post offers the following:

1. My heart gushing appreciation for Teachers
2. An email forward worth posting (how often does that happen?)
3. An inevitable call to action

1. My heart gusheth over

I've never been a teacher. I have all the respect in the world for teachers and hope to be more like them. My mother has been a teacher all of her adult life. Even while she was a full-time mother taking care of my brother and sister and me, she taught us half of everything outside the classroom. Thanks to my Mom, who also sent me this forward. I love you!

2. What Teachers Make (I hear that credit is due to Brad Wolf for the following. Thanks!)

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

To stress his point he said to another guest;
"You're a teacher, Bonnie . Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make? (She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make? (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table):

I make kids wonder. I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn't everything.

I make them read, read, read and read some more.

I make them show all their work in math. They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, One Nation Under God, because we live in the United States of America .

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make?


What do you make Mr. CEO?
His jaw dropped; he went silent.

3. Don't just sit there, sit there and click that little mousey!

Send this to every teacher, every CEO, every person you know. Even all your personal teachers like mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, coaches and your spiritual leaders/teachers.

Thanks to the big Coach in the sky. Put me in there, Coach!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Australian Elections and USA on AUS

In my ritual of reading The New York Times, I was charmed to find my current home finally made the headlines. The frontpage story addresses last night's cliffhanger in the Australian Federal Government Election.

Seeing Australia in the morning news triggered a reaction from me I wasn't expecting. In addition to my personal perspective on the election itself, I'm prompted to share more about Australia's general newsworthiness.

In the following few paragraphs, then, dear reader, I will cover the following three topics:

1. Australia's 2010 Federal Government Election
2. The United States 2000 Presidential Election
3. Promotion of Australia in the US and abroad

1. Last night I was pleased to attend an election party thrown by my dear friends a generation ahead, also known as my girlfriend's parents. In their living room, the big screen TV showed the results of Labour (government) and the Coalition (opposition) in a dead heat for the seats in Parliament necessary to win the election.

The focus was primarily on the House of Representatives, (the lower house) as the members of the lower house determine the party of the Prime Minister, while the Senate (the upper house) determine, by majority, which party has an easier time getting bills through parliament. The NYT article mentions the official tally still in the low 60's on either side, while the final number of seats will reach into the 70's once all mail-in votes are counted and the Independent and Green parties reach their final numbers.

Julia Gillard represents the Labour Party after her party ousted Kevin Rudd, and Tony Abbott represents The Liberal Party. If your paying attention and less familiar with Australian politics, you may ask, "What about the Coalition?" as I did, spoiled as an American with the simplicity of a two-party duopoly between Republicans and Democrats, or Democrats and Republicans the way I see it. We share Independents and Greens as well, however Australia gives greater weight to their third parties than the United States.

The Coalition, dear reader, is made up of the Liberals and the Nationals, who pooled their votes together for the first time between the Labour leadership of Bob Hawke and the Liberal leadership of John Howard. The Nationals serve rural districts in the northeastern inland regions of Australia while the Liberals populate the metro areas 'right across Australia' to use the local parlance.

2. The uncertainty of the results reminds me of the US 2000 Presidential Election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. As an outsider looking in I'm not sure exactly how Australians feel about the 'hung parliament'. I can express, however, how distraught I was in 2000. Not only was the result less satisfying, but it actually seemed to threaten the system of democracy that keeps hopeful progressives like me sane, focused on the potential of honest and continuous improvement.

I have no doubt in Australia that the result delivered will be more honest and upstanding than the shame Jeb Bush in Florida shed upon the United States and all democracies 'right around this planet' when the dangling chads were used to cover up what I believe was the worst offense to US Government since the ratification of the sixteenth amendment in the early 1900's.

The US 2000 Election I feel was unlawfully stolen, as is the individual federal income tax collected from US tax payers every year, ratified in the 16th amendment when the Robber Barons, in the middle of the night, pushed it through Congress while the majority of elected US politicians were on recess.

The year 2000 was only the beginning for what I endured as the longest eight years of political shame I think any Americans like me could have imagined. No protest in Washington or anywhere else I rallied in the streets could have prevented the rape of democracy I remember.

As the US officially, and quietly, removes combat troops from Iraq next week, I can only hope that all's well that ends well. Thank God for Barack Obama and the integrity he has restored to the White House, the United States, and to democracies around the world.

My thoughts and prayers are with Australia to come to a fair and upstanding election result, free of the incestuous theft of the Bush dynasty. I love both countries, and want only the best for both moving forward.

3. Which brings me to how it felt reading a rare article about Australia in the New York Times: Why stop now? I witness daily in this country news that's fit to print. In fact Australia is in the future of the United States, not only in time zones but in the technology in practice, both social and technical.

While some leaders in the United States boast our country is a beacon of freedom and democracy, I question their judgement. Given the social errors of preventing a Muslim community center in Manhattan and all the bigotry I am altogether too aware of, Australia has a lot to teach those in the US. The Land Down Under matches the international melting pot of New York on a national scale, with levels of tolerance generally higher than the US average.

Let me end on a technical note of newsworthy progress. To all politicians in both the United States and Australia, I offer your destiny to fulfill all the promises you make. Everything we need can be delivered with the advent of renewable energy and the supporting technologies it brings.

To frame that statement I'll close with the five pillars of democracy I refer to as "Effigy", or EEFGHI:

Foreign Policy
Health care
Information freedom

Educate people about the Environment and they will embrace renewable energy. Leverage global sources of technology with a tolerant Foreign policy that allows Governments to work together towards a carbon neutral reality.

If people needn't fear their access to Health care and can work more effectively, the freedom of Information on the Internet and elsewhere can be leveraged by all individuals motivated on a path global peace and sustainability.

Despite Presidential races and the divide of political parties, we are all in the same human race and I want it to feel like one big party. So I urge you, dear reader, to embrace the unity between the United States and Australia.

I feel the most tangible way to create opportunity in this mindset is to promote renewable energy using Australian photovoltaic technology with implementation in the United States. Please comment and we'll keep the conversation moving in the right direction.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Friday, August 6, 2010

First of Many Mobile Updates

Let it be known that the fun in the surgery theatre was short-lived. As much as I enjoyed meeting the doctors and nurses in the initial experience, I must close the chapter of skin-cancer surgery on a sober note.

In retrospect the $400 I payed to the anesthetist lasted about four hours, after which I began the most painful and humbling experience of my life.

If you've ever undertaken an MBA course you will know it can already be a painful and humbling experience in and of itself, so this seemed like insult to injury.

The surgery got infected and by Friday I ended up spending three nights in hospital on an intravenous antibiotic. I was released in time for Services Marketing class on Monday morning at AGSM.

The humbling experience of the MBA now seemed less humbling in comparison, and I completed the degree under the cover of many hats, protecting my tender skin from the harsh Australian sun.

The final hat of the MBA was the ubiquitous mortar cap with tassel (rented at a premium of $150 for 3 hours in Australia as opposed to purchased for considerably less in the States).

This hat's matching gown was a great improvement over the backless hospital gown, and I feel my life will continue with subsequent improvements.

I feel lucky to be alive and cancer free, and happy to be working and living in Australia, hat permanently in place! More information to come on where I've hung my hat.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sex, Drugs, and Money: Fun in the Surgery Theatre

From the sexy voice of Tracey Thorn to Twilight Anesthesia and finally the attractive price of Australian Health Care, this story will fuel your health care controversy for the week. The stars of this show will remain anonymous. Their names have been changed but the situation is real. Real FUN!

My anesthetist, we'll call him Dr. Feelgood, my surgeon, Dr. Rasta, and his assistant, Dr. Zissou, all made my one-hour sun-spot removal a barrel of laughs and a moment in time that I didn't want to end. It might be the drugs talking, but I think I'm a good judge of character and I imagine I will be hanging out with these cats again.

To make this story really interesting I should start at the beginning, and move quickly - stick with me! I developed a sun-spot on my forehead that needed to be removed. A kind young Fox pointed me in the direction of a dermatologist, who appointed me with Dr. Rasta.

There was a snaffoo with my appointment the day before the operation. The surgeon's office canceled due to lack of approval from my insurance. Only in Australia will the doctor's office cancel your appointment! I confirmed that I would pay first and file for reimbursement later (past history shows I'll get close to 50% back) and the appointment was on, no doubt.

I got a plastic bracelet with my name, a backless gown (racy!), and, again, only in Australia, a white fluffy robe and slippers! I've never seen fluffy robes and slippers in US hospitals, have you? I boarded my gurney, (trolley if you're Commonwealth), and my Irish orderly drove me around to the staging area of the surgery theatre.

There I met Dr. Feelgood. Like the most benevolent of dictators, Dr. Feelgood informed me that his services would lie outside of the $2,000+ for the hospital fees and $2,000+ for Dr. Rasta. For a bargain price of $300 or so I would be drugged up to a projected level of satisfaction. It's one of my life's best investments!

Dr. Feelgood wheeled my Healthcare Chariot to Dr. Rasta's operating theatre while the initial drugs took their effect. Wondering if the drugs induced aural hallucinations, I asked Dr. Rasta, "Do I hear Reggae?"

"Yes", replied Dr. Rasta. "We are listening to Reggae." He added a little chuckle, like I didn't get an inside joke. The conversations continued over my head while they covered my eyes as nurses crowded in and conversations engaged to set up the operation.

"How many people are around me right now?" I was wondering if Twilight Anesthetics tripled my three people into nine.

"Seven" responded a British voice that I didn't recognise. "There are seven people taking care of you."

Good to know. "Lucky number", I added. "Who said that?" I knew Dr. Rasta from the consultation weeks earlier, but who was this Bloody Pom? :)

"Dr. Zissou." His name wasn't really Dr. Zissou, but you'll see why it fits.

"Dr. Zissou is my assistant" quipped Dr. Rasta, sharpening his scalpel to my left.

They met my curiosity with some questions of their own, and soon their questions became more pointed. "So what do you want to do with the MBA?"

"Make boatloads of money." I waited a few seconds to see their reaction. "I'm not really in it for the money. I'm all about the triple bottom line of Financial, Social, and Environmental Responsibility." They were waiting for me to impress them. "The end game is to be able to fund my second film." Is that good enough?

"Tell me about your first film". I've gotta be on drugs to think talking about myself is so interesting, and I take the bait, telling them about Louvst and the visual allegory of Love, Lust, Lose, and Lost. "Who is your favourite filmmaker?" I mention Wes Anderson and start giggling about The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

"What's your favourite film, Doc?" I was happy to duck out of the limelight and focus on whether or not I could actually feel the carving going on with my forehead. I couldn't feel a thing.

"The Life Aquatic was pretty good. It's my favourite!" Dr. Zissou was a true explorer into the Austin Avante Garde! You've snagged another fan, Wes Anderson ;)

As our conversation flowed effortlessly, the tugging on my face came to an end, and Dr. Zissou stepped up to the plate. "Can you hand me that magical spray can?" Relieved that he was talking to the nurse, I had to ask.

"Did you say magical spray can?" Where WAS I? What the harumpf is a magic spraycan? As it turns out they were preparing my bandage...

Dr. Zissou was downright cheeky, "There might as well be magic in this little can. It'll make the sticky tape we're putting on your face even stickier!" He wasn't kidding. It's still there now as I type to you, faithful reader.

The party was starting to break up, and the music transitioned to the familiar, soothing sound of Tracey Thorn. "Is that Everything But the Girl?", I asked. Dr. Rasta laughed affirmatively from across the room.

What is this place where I've consumed Narcotics, Reggae, Film, and Tracey Thorn? I wanted to invite them all to dinner. I'm saving that for the follow-up consultation next week.

"This is the infamous iPod mix of Dr. Rasta." Dr. Zissou beamed with pride, as though he were defending a title.

I should have asked practical questions like 'How many stitches did I get?' or 'Will I get more pain killers?', but instead I left the theatre on my back, the four wheels of my gurney being guided by the doctors' rastafarians, and, like St. Nic's "...and to all a good night", declared "Your taste in music's all right!".

I was taken to a nice little chill out area, given some munchies, and, like a geisha at the end of entertaining, obligated to return my clothing and make myself presentable for the next encounter. A kind yet resistant Irish lass, we'll call her Lassie, refused me pain killers but jovially arranged my follow-up visit.

Over the next hour my Twilight waned in reverse, back into the unforgiving Australian Sun. I headed straight for the insurance office, hoping for whatever sympathy I can get with my oversized bandage. When it comes to getting paid back by an industry who cheats the sick for profit, everything counts.

Since a delivery by the Mother of Fox, I've been eating Codeine like SweetTarts and wondering why Australian health care has to be so hard core!? No pain killers? Who are these blokes? Well if one thing can be said of Australians, they are certainly fun. I enjoyed the procedure. The pain afterwards is another story. Away from ignorant bliss and back to happy reality.

With my new friends Dr. Feelgood, Dr. Rasta, and Dr. Zissou I learned three important lessons. Don't let life's pains get you down, avoid stress with some relaxing music, and, when given the opportunity, explore a new friendship with someone who could have otherwise remained anonymous.

the author, pictured with a hole in his head

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Long and Short of Hard and Soft. Thanks Wes!

Based on a flood of recent experiences I'm writing to share my perspective on the line between Hard and Soft. When it comes to directing imperfect humans, unfortunately it is only imperfect humans who can guide the way, and depending on how much needs to be achieved, different levels of pressure and discipline compete with the status quo. What I say aims to be universal for life in general, but take into consideration I am looking through an MBA filter. Apply what I say to management at your own risk, thought it's a risk I happily share.

This post opens with a sketchbook image from July of 2002 that serves to contrast between the hard and soft. After returning to the US from the trip across Asia and Europe that changed my life, I studied "Christ Presenting the Ring to Alexandria" by Peter Paul Reubens in contrast with a Mastodon skull, both on display at the Museum of Texas Tech University while I was visiting my parents back in Lubbock, Texas. I thought the contrast between the ultimate empathy of Christ and the skull of a prehistoric beast was fitting.

As we all attempt to transcend our inner prehistoric beast to achieve the enlightenment of Christ's teachings, this blog post will take you from a quote from the Dalai Lama to the closing chapter of Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change by Alex Nicholls. Then we jump into the priceless American Express ad by Wes Anderson as a metaphor for what a potential solution looks like.

"If the basic human nature was aggressive we would have been born with animal claws and huge teeth - but ours are very short, very pretty, very weak! That means we are not well equipped to be aggressive human beings. ... So I think the basic nature of human beings should be gentle." - His Holiness the Dalai Lama
(sketch above from the Dalai Lama's talk in Sydney, Australia, December 3, 2009 entitled "Our Future: Who is Responsible?")

As the Dalai Lama points out, it is not in our nature to be violent. Fair enough. But where do you draw the line between a productive sense of assertive dominance and its negative twin, violent energy? I'm reminded of how Giorgio Vasari describes the expression Michelangelo gave to the face of his David sculpture. The expression on David's face is known as terribilitá. It is a savage expression of focus and determination. It is the look of someone's sheer will, held up as heavy artillery against the opposing odds.

Now that we are talking about Michelangelo's David, I can bring Gianlorenzo Bernini's David into the conversation. If Michelangelo's David has terribilitá, Bernini's David has verriterribilitá. Keep in mind that David is facing down Goliath. Michelangelo's David looks like he's trying to pick up at a gay bar, while Bernini's David looks like he's in the middle of fighting the odds and actually battling a giant. The point is that there is classical beauty in the ferocity of determination, and that I have a preference for Bernini. I struggle with the first part (you rock, Bernini!), as I decide when to express my own inner ferocity or terribilitá.

As much as the religious right may hate to admit it, often there are shades of gray, and I think that's the answer to how terribilitá can be expressed. As Alex Nicholls compiles in Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change, there is a sliding scale between hard and soft when it comes to business. As much as my American mush-mouth makes it harder for me, it remains true: money talks and bullshit walks. Money can shout or whisper, but bullshit is just bullshit. Whether the energy regards the soft edge of a non-profit business or the hard-edge of a financially driven hedge fund, shouting may carry substance, and a whisper can hold great value. If the business isn't sound, then a shout becomes a tantrum and whisper a zephyr.

In David's case, terribilitá expresses the business of defense. And when it comes to the general business climate in the world today, it's a war zone out there. If I don't defend myself and my ideas through vigilant action, someone can overpower me and determine my reality. Those who work the hardest and create the most give the rest of us something to consume in our relative passivity.

To show you what I'm talking about without wasting more words, you gotta see the American Express commercial with Wes Anderson. I love this man. He has the ferocity of someone on a mission from God, and is surrounded by creative people who take his call to action seriously. This is terribilitá at its best. You can see the hard and the soft in a brilliantly orchestrated balance of creative bliss. Thanks for pointing the way, Wes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day for Americans Like Me from Texas, North Carolina, New York, and California

As Australia Day on January 26th is the equivalent to the 4th of July for Americans like me, I wanted to celebrate Australia in a way to share with you, my Universal friend, who has taken the time to read this blog. And so, in a cozy blanket of sweeping generalizations, I attempt to frame my Australian experience for you, wherever you are coming from, in order of appearance. Whether you relate more to Texas, North Carolina, New York, or California, I aim to draw you closer to my current home.

For my Texas homies:

As Texas is the Lone Star State, Australia is the Lone Star Country. They call it the Lucky Country, but we know what they really mean. The two Lone Stars share the same pioneering spirit, and with it the strong work ethic of Texans. They have windmills, we have windmills. They have barbed wire, we have barbed wire. Where there is barbed wire, there is cattle, and where there is cattle, there are barbeques! While the 4th of July is centered around the fireworks, Australia Day huddles around "the barbie", and the real firepower seems to be in the advertisement to cook Australian lamb! A "lambifesto" if you will...

Like Texas, Australia has plenty of space (it's quite dense in the Metropolitan areas in both TX and AUS, but the open space mentality is inherently Texan and Australian) and like Texas, this allows a sense of accommodating anyone and the sense that you can get as close as you want to your neighbors, as there is always more space out there that you can put between each other. I love Texas, and as a Texan I love Australia for the same reasons I love my hometown of Lubbock. West Texas reminds me of the Riverina in New South Wales, home to Wagga Wagga, or "land of many crows". With every BBQ sparked up today to cook Aussie meat, I share with my fellow Texans a warm and hearty YEEHAW!

To North Carolina, my Ultimate Bliss:

North Carolina is my home away from home. My home away from home (away from home) is New South Wales. NSW and NC are like geological cosmic cousins. They both have mountain ranges in the west. NSW has the Blue Mountains, NC has the Blue Ridge Mountains. Both have healthy farmland and temperate climates across their heartland, located at about the same latitude, approximately 37º degrees off the equator. Both NSW and NC have appealing and unique coastlines. NC has the outer banks and signature lighthouses located on some of the most peaceful beaches I've known. NSW and the rest of Australia are peppered with beach paradise up and down the coast.

The blend of big city life and rural bliss (dare I say ignorance?) is evident in both places, and I love it all in the delicate balance that makes life interesting. I can't say much for North Carolina BBQ, (sorry), but I can say that North Carolina is light years ahead of other places in racial integration and how this affects tolerance in daily life. I'm mostly talking about Durham here (give yourself a hug, Durhamite!), but it's that racial integration that I want to bottle, sell, and import into Australia. Good on ya, Durham! Australia needs you!

Helloooo Brooklyn! Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten, from the Battery to the top of Manhattan:

Everybody wants to be a New Yorker, and in a sacrificial display of territoriality, I burned my brain cells in Brooklyn. Australia gave their island paradise a mainline injection of NYC highrise and financial business, and the Frankenstein's monster has survived the Global Financial Crisis like no other. Similar to the financial virility NYC will always wield around the world, Australia's highly regulated banking is wondering what all the GFC fuss was about. As New York was being settled between the Five Boroughs by Sam the Butcher, Melbourne was being settled by, get this, John Batman! That's right, the ORIGINAL Gotham City! The work hard / play hard mentality knows the names Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium, just like Moore Park is the central focus of the Sydney Cricket Ground and Aussie Stadium.

To all you New Yorkers, Sydney is your sister city. It's like Manhattan with more sprawl and better beaches. New York is the inspiration for a lot of what goes on around the world. Sydney is no exception, taking inspiration from where it is due, but Sydney does things in an inherently Australian way. There are more running festivals, charity events, and general "mateship" goodwill here than can be found in any other city of comparable size and influence.

California ... knows how to party ... In the city ... of LA

Cali has always held a special place in my heart. Commonly referred to as a progressive country all its own, California in the west represents the US to the political left! Australia's political spectrum has left and right. These political positions are found in the left side of politics in California. The rightwing in the United States stays distinctly east of the Pacific, while Australia, sharing the Wavy Gravy waters of the Pacific, takes our political left as their political right and keeps going left until you reach, well, Perth ;) We have both the iconic California Sun and the slightly more dangerous Australian Sun. Consistent with natural world in Australia, even the Sun is out to kill you! The beaches and hills and red tile roofs are ubiquitous in both places, and the Wine Country! Let us not forget about the Wine.

The Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, and Yarra Valley are just a few Australian Wine Regions to make Australia the fourth largest exporter in the world behind France, Italy, and Spain. I don't understand it entirely, but California Wine would be the fourth largest global producer if it were it's own country (and a bankrupt one at that, Cali!) so thankfully it is not and makes up 90% of US wine production. Needless to say, there is plenty to enjoy in California and Australia and the "no worries" lifestyles are quite similar, in part due to California only waking up by the time New York has been busting ass for four hours, and Australia eeks out a living while the United States is either done working or sound asleep!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Broader MBA Horizons

In response to the concepts of Roger Martin in the Harvard Business Review, the expansion of depth and breadth along a dynamic axis in current MBA programs is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Knowing that the days of business as usual are over, the world is searching and waiting for solutions to the problems we face. Given the current crisis in Haiti, we need all the help we can get. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

With all business problems that are more easily surmountable than providing aid to Haiti, it doesn't need to seem so drastic. All Roger Martin is really asking for is that MBA students maintain their own identities rather than becomes cogs in the wheel.

With a little help from enlightened thinkers, this current generation of MBA's can become the solution the world needs. It means we must collectively find the middle road. The hard-hearted must soften and the soft must harden to survive.

An MBA should feel comfortable when speaking his or her mind, primarily when it comes from an understanding that we are all in this together. We must collectively create the paradigm shift necessary to pull us out of the negative cycles now commonly known as the GFC.

A new generation has arrived, here to provide solutions to the problems of the past, but only if we position ourselves as having the power to do so. We give our power away if we fit too easily into the machine as it stands. The machine needs an upgrade. We are the repairs.

I wouldn't advise anyone completing an MBA to be content fitting into a predefined job description for long. If we aren't actively changing the language of business as we mold it in our image, we are doing the world a disservice.

Be bold and thoroughly yourself. It's what the world is waiting for.