An Employee With Integrity

Today I experienced an extraordinary example of personal responsibility and integrity. A physician’s office initiated an unauthorized product order that caused an overdraft to my bank account.  I phoned the physician’s office to rectify the problem and was told by one of the staff that I would have to speak with the office manager who, after being put on hold, indicated she would call me back. In the meantime, no credit would be issued.

Because the manager had specifically not permitted the other staff person to issue my credit in advance of a call from her personally, I anticipated the rationale I was about to hear on the call back as to why the order had been shipped and that, unfortunately, no credit would be forthcoming.

Then the call came.

The manager began the call by saying she could not call me back until she had looked into all the facts surrounding the debit and shipment and spoken with other staff members. So I not so patiently, or calmly, awaited what would follow.

Imagine my shock when the next words I heard were, “You were 1000% correct. We were wrong. We made a mistake. I am so terribly sorry but we are going to make this right. We are issuing you the credit as we speak. When you know the full harm done to your account balance, please let us know. We are going to make this right.”

In a world so bereft of personal responsibility, of people who want to blame everyone but themselves for their own errors, of employees and staff being too busy, or too unconcerned, to care about customers’ or patients’ feelings and issues, it is totally appropriate that I call this adult, ethical and professional response “extraordinary.”

Perhaps this is the sad part of the story. That doing what is ethical, honest, and just plain “right” is now the exception rather than the norm. I am not about to wax nostalgic on “the good old days” as if there was ever a time when people always did the right thing. Its illusion to think perfection ever existed.

But is undeniably true that when rapid technological innovation and social media became the replacements for Judeo-Christian values and personal human interaction, we went down a slippery slope that has landed us in a world where the witnessing of personal responsibility and integrity deserves a blog post.

But it does.

Note:  Credit goes to the practice of Dr. Anthony Bazzan at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health of Jefferson Hospital located in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Particular honorable mention goes to his office manager, Jody.

 

 

Wonder Woman: Why Now?

The movie “Wonder Woman” officially opened on June 2nd.  At 8PM Central on June 1st, my twenty-four-year-old daughter and I were in our seats at an Austin, TX theater awaiting the pre-opening showing.  I’m not sure which one of us more eagerly had counted down to this moment. Since I can only speak for myself, I’ll share my eagerness and why.

I have had a Wonder Woman t-shirt (my favorite of all time!) for about 20 years. The particular shirt graphic that I have is no longer made (see the photo above). Throughout all that time, it seemed that whenever I wore the shirt something occurred that was noteworthy…or the basis for a good story. I’ve never tried to figure out if the shirt’s graphic simply acted as a catalyst to others, or whether I became empowered by all that it represented and then acted accordingly. Once, I actually stopped my car, stood in the middle of a four lane highway with a 60mph speed limit to help a paraplegic in a wheelchair to cross the road. Wearing the shirt at the time, I can only imagine the thoughts and comments of some of those drivers I held up, arms fully extended, from proceeding along their way as the young man in the wheelchair slowly wheeled himself from one side of the road to the other.

But there is more to my affinity with the Wonder Woman character than the shirt or acts of physical courage. I am a Divine Feminist, but before you groan and get off this page let me explain what that means.

We live in a world that attempts to resolve disputes by war and keeps masses enslaved with fear. It is both fair and accurate to say that men have run this world for more than two thousand years (perhaps five thousand according to Jewish history). It is a system that allows for technological and scientific progress but prevents social and spiritual development. When not preventing the latter, the system certainly inhibits and punishes them.

The reason for this is that any system out of balance lacks the means to moderate and modulate itself. A world run by male energy absent the input and countervailing force of female energy is doomed to look as ours does now: in perpetual repetition of an unsuccessful and self-destructive pattern.

Everything is energy.

Different energies vibrate at different frequencies. Different energies serve different purposes. When energies are correctly aligned or connected, positive outcomes result. Yet the opposite is equally true. Incompatible or inharmonious energies have the power to destroy.

Male energy was not meant to exist alone or without an equal and opposite energetic force. Hence, female energy. It is the Universal countervailing force to imbalance. It is what is called the Divine Feminine and why I call myself a Divine Feminist. This feminism is the polar opposite of political feminism, which would replace a world dominated by male energy with one dominated by female energy. Such a world would be as out of balance as the one we now suffer.

Fear breeds war. Love breeds peace.

Wonder Woman depicts and stands for the principle of Love. Not only will it not destroy male energy but, combined, the two will manifest the proper balance of energies that are intended as the basis for a prosperous humanity engaged in harmonious existence. Kept apart, those energies cannot fulfill their intended purpose. United, they are the principle of Oneness in action.

The making of the movie “Wonder Woman” has taken decades. The movie’s message that love is the answer has been beautifully and successfully brought to life by the first female director of a super-hero film. There are no accidents. I believe the time is ripe for the emergence of the Divine Feminine energy and its corresponding message. That’s why the movie has finally been brought to the screen. Enough of us are ready to put down the pattern of self-destruction through division. Let’s seize the moment and the opportunity to understand, once and for all, what “United we stand divided we fall” really means.                     Carole

My Father and President Trump

I didn’t vote for him. But for heaven’s sake get over it!

Who knew going into this that candidate Trump was, to put it mildly, inarticulate? Who knew that he speaks before he thinks? Who knew that he uses catch phrases and adjectives from another era? Who knew that he was used to being in charge and doing things his way without consulting anyone? The answer to each of those questions is EVERYONE knew! And for half the country its why they didn’t vote for him. But for the other half it had little to do with why they did, in fact, vote for him.

No one voted for Donald Trump because he is a great orator or a diplomat.They voted for him because he was fearless. They voted for him because they were sick and tired of the lies. They voted for him because something about his total disregard for the establishment gave them a sense that maybe he could say and do what they were, and still are, aching to  say and do.

My father is deceased. He was a self-educated, self-made entrepreneur who became a millionaire through hard work and single-mindedness of purpose: to be a success. He was bighearted, brash, somewhat misogynistic (a sign of his era and upbringing), inarticulate when he needed to be articulate, lacking in both tact and sophistication. He was a father who believed his role in life was to provide for his family and he did that with excellence. He was a brilliant salesman, an invaluable mentor who inspired me to be the best I could be. He had an enormous ego, didn’t trust government and was certain he was always right. He was larger than life.

Its because of my father that I understand Donald Trump.

I repeat: I didn’t vote for him, I don’t like his manner of expression, I think he’s egotistical and arrogant to a spectacular degree. I also think he has a big heart, loves his family, his country and finds himself having awakened slightly beyond his wildest dreams.

I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I want to give him time to realize the responsibility he holds in his hands. I want to allow him what I would want for anyone in new and unexplored territory: time to get their bearings without having to watch their back.

The hunt for Donald Trump is the act of a poor loser. The Democrats, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton underestimated the damage they had done to the country in the preceding eight years. Damage to trust and unity. Damage to the middle class. Damage to a belief in our own goodness. I don’t know if President Trump, or anyone, can repair the scope of that damage. But what I do know is that those who drove us apart, who turned us into “us vs them” are still at work.

So, if I have to choose between those who have proven themselves to be greedy and deceitful or one who may yet rise to the occasion, I choose the latter with faith that anyone and any behavior can have a pivot point under the right circumstances. I suspect finding oneself the leader of the Free World holds the potential for being such a pivot point.

There is much more at stake than the making or breaking of a President. We are at stake. The nation is at stake. It cannot take take more division. I ask those who mock Trump for his need to win if destroying a Presidency will be worth the price of destruction of a nation. And if their answer is “yes” then their true intention is revealed for what it is: take down America. If that is the case, I prefer “Make America Great Again.”

Carole

My Son The Marine

A beautiful article about the son of a wealthy New England father and his son who elects to join the Marines. Having been a former Marine, I always feel remorse over the many sacrifices my brothers have made. Here is an excerpt:

“Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me. Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry…”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/john-my-heart-bob-jenkins

 

Steve

Movie Review: The King’s Speech

I may be a bit late to the party but last weekend I (Steve) watched “The King’s Speech” for the first time. I was blown away. The acting was extraordinary, the story true but more importantly, the life lessons profound.

The story is set in England just prior to World War II. It revolves around Prince Albert who would later become King of England. Albert has a speech impediment, a severe stammer, which causes him to be withdrawn and not at all eager to perform public duties. However, since he has an older brother Edward, Duke of Windsor, Albert takes comfort in knowing he will likely never be King.

At the same time, Hitler has risen to power within Germany and its army is on the march to conquer Europe.  The stammering Prince must face the emergence of radio as a means of communication. His stammer is now for all the world to hear. Undeterred, Albert gives speeches as best he can, often so terrified he freezes up during their presentations. He has hired and fired a variety of speech coaches to help overcome the problem but to no avail. Nothing seemed to work. None-the-less his wife, Elizabeth I, remains intent on helping him and stumbles upon an Australian speech therapist who looks promising. This is where the movie begins.

Colin Firth plays Prince Albert and Geoffrey Rush the part of, Lionel, the speech therapist. Lionel is a self-possessed man who is not intimidated by the Prince. He sets the terms and conditions of therapy and demands the Prince come to his office.  He says within those walls the two would be equals. Lionel calls Albert “Bertie,” a family nickname. It infuriates Albert as do many of Lionel’s methods. Lionel acquiesces to but one of Albert’s demands: that therapy be limited to vocal exercises and breathing techniques with no delving into personal matters. This despite Lionel’s certainty that they would eventually have to get at the emotional trauma that caused the stammer to begin with, as was the case with all stammers.

Somehow, during the process of therapy, an unlikely trust and friendship develops between the two men.  Such that when their father, King George V dies and Prince Edward ascends to the throne, the unlikely becomes Albert’s greatest nightmare. His brother abdicates the throne to marry an American divorcee. Albert visits Lionel at his office and the two share a cup of tea and the soon-to-be crowned King reveals his past. A nanny who deprived him of food, inflicted physical pain and favored his brother. Further, parents so disengaged that it took them a year to notice he was emaciated. There was the origin of the stammer. Finally revealing this long buried shame, Prince Albert becomes King George VI.

There are two remarkable messages from this movie that can serve us all. Carole and I share them both here.

Steve

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins speaks at length about working on oneself. For example, he has had many clients who made fortunes only to lose them. When Robbins probed to find out why some achieved great success only to lose it, he discovered that he could teach them techniques but if the client did not make the deep and lasting changes in their thinking, success would be temporary. One example was a client would repeatedly make money only to lose it a short time later. Robbins discovered that his client had grown up very poor. Making money made him uncomfortable so he reverted to what was comfortable and what he had been, poor.

George VI knows the stakes are huge. Hitler’s Germany is on the march and many lives will be lost if the King is not able to rally his people. He must address the nation on the eve of war. Faced with the challenge of his life, George succumbs totally to the speech therapist’s direction.  He does the necessary deep work and discovers where his stammer originated. He takes to radio and inspires a rapt nation. Humility and courage. These are the tools of greatness.

Carole

Helena Bonham Carter plays Elizabeth. The supportive strength that Queen Elizabeth provides her terrified husband cannot be overestimated. While Albert, as both Prince and King, wants to throw it all away, give up or run and hide, it is his wife who shares her own fears and secrets that give her husband the will to prevail.

The most poignant scene between the two occurs the night before Albert is to appear before the counsel of Lords to assume the naming of him as King George VI. Prince Albert slumps at his desk weeping over how little he knows of kingship and its responsibilities. He says he was not “meant to be King”…his brother was. Elizabeth wraps her arms around her troubled husband and shares that she, too, never wanted a public life. She says that falling in love with him caused her to wonder if she could survive such a marriage. But she reveals that she took comfort in the fact that he had “such a lovely stammer” she would never have to worry about the likelihood.  Elizabeth was showing him that she, too, was about to face an unintended life but face it, none-the-less, with grace.  She was his rock.

Much is made of the “divine feminine” aspect of God; but, much of it misses the mark. The divine feminine is that aspect of creation that supplies nourishment in every aspect of life. It is not just about child bearing or motherhood.  Whether in the bedroom, boardroom or corridors of government, the divine feminine is the support and counterbalance to the divine masculine. It is power not force. It is compassion not pity. It is the courage to be “love in action.”

Both of us

The “King’s Speech” received 12 Oscars. It deserved them all.  Of greater and more lasting importance are the life lessons learned from from two people faced with circumstances they preferred not to encounter. Courage and humility go a long way in conquering the unanticipated and the unknown. They go even further when true power is used as it was intended: as unconditional love in action.

 

 

 

Curing Depression, Anxiety and Fear

Depression, anxiety, and fear are symptoms not causes. So when I read today that recently compiled statistics show that “one in 10 distressed Americans in 2014 did not have health insurance that would give them access to a psychiatrist or mental health counselor” I understood the point… but think it overshot the mark.

We have a tendency to treat symptoms not causes. I think its because as awful as symptoms can be they usually arise from causes we’d rather not confront. Whether it’s a lesion on our body or our psyche, we instinctively know that it will take less effort, and require less honesty and introspection, to treat the symptom rather than the cause.

The article went on to say each of these stress related conditions has escalated since the 2008 financial crisis. That the economic hit people took, the careers that were eviscerated overnight, the enduring personal debts that accrued due to loss of income have all been contributing factors. Well, yes.  And so it’s why I understand the concern for inadequate health insurance to address the symptoms, because psychiatrists and mental health counselors treat symptoms.

Only the individual can treat causes, and treating causes requires courage and honesty rather than government assistance or health insurance.

Of course the financial crisis of 2008 was hard on everyone (well, nearly everyone except those on the inside who are still profiting from their foreknowledge and connections) but even the near collapse was a symptom of a deeper cause. It was a symptom of a culture where values and principles have been discarded in favor of materialism and technology.

If you want to treat the cause of depression, anxiety and fear you have to look at the quality of your life, the choices you make, the things to which you aspire, the love in your heart for yourself and others. You have to put those you love before the things you want. You have to find gratitude in everything you have…not mourn or resent that which eludes you.

We went way off track decades ago. It began in the 1960’s in an innocent enough way. It began with the rising phoenix of individualism, no better exemplified that by four, hot-looking musicians from Britain with outrageously long hair and lyrics that dared speak truth about life as they saw it.  It was an exhilarating time when anything went and love, or at least sex, was a free-for-all.

Much could have come from that innocence but what, in fact, followed were decades of ever increasing self-absorption, self-indulgence and separation. We became a culture that wanted everything bigger, better, faster.

The millennials, who think they have their priorities on straight and are opting out of the “bigger” are still enslaved to the better and the faster. That is because they were raised by technology not human hands and hearts. In the world of technology, newer and faster are the “un-status” status symbols. Every generation has them…the seductions of the material world. It’s just that in each generation they are cloaked somewhat differently.

An appreciation for the material is not a sin. We live in physical world with things of beauty all around. Some are creations of God and some are creations on mankind. Both are here for our enjoyment not our enslavement.

I know firsthand about materialism and depression, anxiety and fear. I was raised with money. My parents had lots and, therefore, I had lots of things that were the status symbols of my generation. Three corvettes before the age of 20 paints an accurate picture. I was also riddled with depression, anxiety and fear. So, between the ages of 20 and 30, I saw a psychiatrist and a couple of mental health counselors. Its why I feel the authority to write about symptoms and causes.

I had stomach problems (symptom) that led to intestinal surgery at age 16.  At age 23, I was very depressed (symptom) so Triavil was prescribed. I used those to try to commit suicide (symptom). I was married and divorced in 11 months (symptom) followed by a series of unsuccessful relationships (symptom). I developed fibromyalgia (symptom) in my 30’s and struggled with it for almost two decades until I had enough of symptoms, their treatments and their cures.

I decided to address the cause, which turns out to be a full time job of being honest with myself and others, holding myself accountable for my actions, finding a connection to God, birthing my creativity and generally living life as an adult with principles and values that I live by not just espouse.

I have come to believe that most physical and psychological illnesses are the result of a spiritual imbalance. A soul at odds with higher laws. So, looking to government or the medical community often turns out to be an excuse for not looking within and up. I think we could cure a lot of our nation’s ailments by a willingness to look into the causes of our individual discontent and righting those aspects of ourselves that have gone belly up.              Carole

MOAB Then and Now

Today the United States dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat. It was dropped in Afghanistan on the caves used by ISIS affiliate Khorasan to attack U.S. troops. The bomb is a GBU-43 named “Massive Ordinance Air Bomb, or MOAB. Am I the only one who was riveted by that acronym?

Moab is a name I am very familiar with since it is on the mountain Nebo, in the Land of Moab, that Moses gazed upon the Promised Land and died without ever having entered it. Why? Because Moses disobeyed God’s direction.  During the Exodus, while the Israelites were wandering in the desert on their way to the Land of Canaan, God instructed Moses to “speak to” the rock so that water could be brought forth to show the people that God would provide for them. Moses “struck” the rock instead and the water poured out.  The consequence of Moses having disobeyed God was that Moses would bring the Israelites to the land but never enter it himself. He died there.

What was so terrible? So he struck it instead of speaking to it. Wasn’t the purpose to get the water out to show God’s willingness to provide? Well, no. The purpose was to be humble, witness faith and be an example of patience with a doubting people. Moses brought forth the water in anger. Faith and patience know not anger. Then, to add insult to injury, he took credit for the miracle!

I don’t want to get all religious on you here. I write about energy not theology. From that perspective, different energies have different frequencies and effect different ends. The type of energy you use has a direct impact on the end you affect…on the outcome.

I remember what a teacher once told me when I was taking a class in Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. He said, “Of course you have to discipline your child. And sometimes it’s necessary to appear to be stern or even angry. That is fine as long as you are angry in appearance only, not in your heart. When you seem angry to that child, you must be holding love in your heart.”

It’s a nuanced approach but I get it. What originate from love can only create good. What originates from anger can only create more anger. Speaking to the rock would have done it without anger. When Moses struck that rock he was angry. So what began in anger ended poorly…for him.

We live in troubled times and, too often, we think we have all the answers. In our hubris, we act precipitously and take credit for the outcome, conveniently forgetting that there is a higher power that provides us with the basics of how we are to live our lives and who assures victory.  Have faith and be love. Its simple. We are still allowed to defend ourselves, or the oppressed, but we must do so with an awareness and circumspection of what is in our hearts. We must understand our connection to all that is. If evil was set back today, and good comes of it, let us understand that it was divine intervention that succeeded not egoic politicians.

So what’s the connection between Moab and MOAB?  I sure hope those pilots had love in their hearts when they dropped that thing.                     Carole

The Heart of the Presidency

I abhor war. Any sane person does.

I also don’t support the concept of nation building or think it is the job of my country to impose its culture or form of government upon other nations. I am not a nationalist or isolationist. I’m just an American who knows she is blessed to have been born in the United States.

I am also a Jew.

So when I watch Syrian children writhing in pain and unable to breathe because a barbarian named Hafez al-Assad used nerve gas on innocents, I am vividly reminded of the abhorrent use gas played in the 20th century history of my people. It reminds of a world that stood by silently and watched. And it makes me surprisingly proud of President Trump.

Why?

Because at the very least, bullies only understand an equal and opposite force. They don’t understand diplomacy, they don’t care about public opinion, and they mock “red lines in the sand” that are all talk and no action. In fact, they call it cowardice.

Such was the case with Barack Obama and Assad. What every Arab, and every Israeli, knows is that in tribal cultures such as exist throughout the Arab world, the failure to meet force with force is perceived not only as cowardice but also as an invitation for even greater brutality. Barack Obama invited the growing chaos of the Middle East and the spread of ISIS precisely because his repeated inaction was taken as weakness and he would not, or could not, see the damage he was doing due to his own ideology and ego.

Some are saying that in raining Tomahawk missiles down on Syria Trump was finally “Presidential.” It reminds me of Michael Douglas’s line from the movie “American President” when he orders a retaliatory bombing strike against a munitions warehouse in Libya, knowing he would, in the process, kill the innocent night watchman who was just doing his job. One of Douglas’ staff remarks,”Mr. President, what you did tonight was very Presidential.” To which Douglas replies, “What I did tonight is the least Presidential thing I do.”

Killing is never something to be glorified.

What President Trump did last night had nothing to do with being presidential. It had everything to do with being human. Regardless of your politics, we are Americans and do not stand by and watch children’s lungs incinerated in real time while we stand frozen in either ineptitude or fear. We do not make political calculations or take a poll to see what the popular response should be. We aspire to elect people who, in such moments, understand what is at stake and have the personal fortitude to stand and say, “No. Not on my watch.”

I watched a Syrian man interviewed on CNN who had suffered the chemical attack by Assad’s forces and survived. He was thanking President Trump for his action last night. He said it brought hope to the Syrian people who have been pleading for 6 years for some sign of support from the United States. He begged our President not to stop. When the CNN anchor then asked him what he thought of the President’s immigration ban, he said, ‘We do not want to be immigrants. We want safe zones in Syria. We want to live in our own country without being slaughtered.” So much for the anchor’s failed attempt to invite criticism into a moment of praise.

I rest easier tonight not because my President bombed a country and flexed a muscle. I rest easier because he saw those children, as did I, and his heart hurt.  Oh yes, and because last night he said to bullies everywhere, “No. Not on my watch.”                 Carole

Why You Matter

It’s so easy to blame the politicians and the media. It’s always easiest to blame someone, or something, other than ourselves. But the dire situations we find ourselves in, politically and socially, are no one’s fault but our own.

For decades we have turned a blind eye to wrong doing. For those same decades we have become dependent upon, even expected, government to take care of us.  We have abdicated personal responsibility in almost every aspect of our lives for the corners we cut, the white lies we tell, the principles we say we believe in yet neglect to be heard in their defense.

Politicians are not our masters. They are simply individuals in public service who reflect the health or sickness of the society they serve. Our leaders have not been forced upon us. We have stood by and allowed the inept, the dishonest and the corrupt to seek and obtain positions of power. We have willingly enslaved ourselves to them and those who keep them in power.

After 2008, ask almost any trader on Wall Street and they will tell you they saw it coming. They saw it coming but did nothing about it. It was too lucrative. Mortgages and private school tuition had to be paid. Vacations were booked. Cocaine was costly.

It’s easier to go with the flow than swim against the current. Isn’t that always the case? But what happens when the current is carrying you to your destruction? Blame the current…or your unwillingness to fight against it?

A group of boys and young men of various ages, raped a 14-year old girl in Chicago this week and they did it on Facebook. Live. At least 40 people watched it and not one called the police.

It seems like a long way from the banking collapse of 2008 to live rape…but not really. The perpetrators in both cases knew what they were doing was wrong and so did those who watched. It’s a slippery slope when you give up conscience and all that is decent about human behavior; when self-satisfaction is the ultimate goal and any means to getting there is acceptable.

Every day we read about the corruption in Washington and fake news by the media. It’s all a distraction. The real news and what we should care about is how each of us in our daily lives lays another brick in the foundation of cultural destruction as we justify the corners we cut, the blind eyes we turn and the irretrievable and precious time we deny friends and family because we are addicted to our iphones.

It’s never about someone else. It’s always about ourselves. While none of us may have any control over what Washington or the New York Times does, each of us has total control over what we do in our own lives. Where we invest out time, what principles we stand for, what we value all define, in a very literal sense, our immediate world.

You comfort and excuse yourself because you are, after all, just one person and so what can you do?

Last year I moved into a condominium in Austin, Texas. I quickly learned that there was corrupt management that had drained the finances of the community and neglected the maintenance of the structures. I also learned that for 12 years, various homeowners had tried, unsuccessfully, to do something about it. So , everyone had given up and acquiesced to the corruption and neglect.

I spent a year investigating and compiling evidence of both the corruption and the neglect. I uncovered a privileged relationship between certain owners, the Board of Directors included, and the corrupt management company. I presented the findings at association meetings. I endured an organized effort by those involved to discredit me, including being sued, individually, for my efforts. But I  knew that what was occurring was wrong and I was determined to, as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In spite of it all I endured.

It took 12 months, several court appearances and all the energy and skill I could muster. But the Board resigned and, as new President of the Board, I fired the corrupt management company. We now have exceptional, new management and a law suit against those who depleted or finances and neglected our physical assets.

Was it hard? About as hard as anything I’ve done in my life. Were there times I thought I could not go on? Absolutely. Was every conceivable effort made to stop me? Yes. So why did I keep at it?

The whole is no more than the sum of our parts. I am a part of my community, my society, my country, my species. If I do no stand for what I know to be right, what hope is there that others will do the same?

It’s never about anyone else. It’s always about ourselves. In humanity, it’s not top down. It’s what we as individuals are willing to put on the line for what we believe in. This is what makes the difference and that is what ultimately defines us.

A Christian Polish woman who fed Jews and kept them alive less than than a mile from a concentration camp was asked, recently, how she came to do the right thing given the behavior of those around her. Her reply was simply, “The righteous didn’t suddenly become righteous. We just refused to go off the cliff with everyone else.”

We are each confronted daily with personal cliffs. Now more so than ever with the rapid pace of technology and the warp speed at which AI is developing. If, in hindsight, you can see why it wasn’t such a long way from 2008 to live rape…wait until you see what’s just around the corner. One voice, one person, one principle upheld can save the world. Remember, the next corner you cut, blind eye you turn, or principle you fail to uphold… could be our last.                Carole

No Acronyms Allowed!

“We have to depart the LZ by 0500 so that the recon can be complete by 0600.”  That was about all I remembered from the briefing…or all that I could understand.

The briefing was given in the mess hall of a navy ship in the middle of the Mediterranean. I was part of a Marine unit that was deployed to the Middle East for six months. Given the instability in the world, the MEU Commander had to develop contingency plans for all types of situations.

These types of briefings are normal during a float. For example, if an embassy had to be evacuated, the Colonel of the deployment had to formulate a plan on how to accomplish the evacuation. Logistical complexities of such missions require that the Marine Officer would have to brief the Colonel, in a single meeting, on the strategy to employ. If any of the proposals seemed out of whack, or needed to be fixed, this was the platform where it was done.

Briefings usually lasted about an hour.  It was not uncommon to have thirty or so people presenting. Air officers, helicopter pilots, infantry officers, ordinance officers, radio specialist, etc. would all have their say. In order to make the briefings quick and keep them moving along, acronym’s were used to speed things up.  But given the number of groups inputting their perspectives and expertise, each with its own lexicon, it was like listening to a cacophony of terms that, for the uninitiated, was super confusing.

The U.S. Marines have been around for over 200 years. To their credit, they have been able to successfully orchestrate the system that brings all this diversity of information together. Luckily for me, I was able to figure out what was being said!

When I transitioned to finance and started working at an emerging markets desk, I had to once again learn a new language: this time it was “finance speak” and the acronyms used in that world.

The nature of the finance world is that it is secretive and cut throat. I did the best I could with the new language, but it was close to impossible to understand all of the jargon. In the Marine Corps, the officers would go out of their way to make people understand what they were saying (afterall, lives were on the line). But in finance, it was common for people to give vague and unhelpful answers.

Michael Burry, who made millions of dollars shorting the housing market, said one of the reasons he looked into the trades with greater scrutiny was the sheer number of acronyms and jargon used to describe the housing market. When he called bond salespersons to walk him through the details of the structures he was thinking of buying, he realized that for all of their pedigree they understood very little about what they were selling.

So, to educate himself on all the terminology, he ordered a variety of prospectuses and started combing through them to understand all of the terms. He created a dictionary of those terms and acronyms until he understood everything that was being marketed and sold to investors.  Armed with that knowledge and understanding he bet against Wall Street… knowing that the firms selling those instruments had no idea what they were doing.

Ray Dalio, the hedge fund manager of Bridgewater, does not allow any acronyms to be used in meetings or reports. Everything has to be explained down to the last detail, so that everyone within his firm understands what they are doing. He has stated that acronyms become like a code and secret language behind which people hide.

True knowledge comes from being able to explain things;  even the most complex things.

Part of the reason most of the major financial institutions went under during the last crisis was because information was hidden and guarded. Many of the employees at the banks had no idea the extent of the recklessness of their mortgage departments.  At the time, I worked at Merrill Lynch on a bond desk.  We were having a great year and had no idea the damage the mortgage department was causing. We were shocked by the amount of risk they had taken.  Be assured that had more people been informed of the risks the mortgage area was taking, the positions would have been wound down and the bank saved.

In reading memoirs written prior to the crash about working at a bank and trading for one,  what stands out for me is the lengths to which employees, as well as management, guarded their trading secrets. The mindset was, “If show people how I am making money, the firm will fire me and do it for themselves.” So the information was never shared.

Contrast this attitude with Google which gives away all of its information for free.

Part of the reason Bridgewater is so successful is because it shares its information. Bredgewater is relentless in getting at the truth…even down to the language it uses.  No abbreviations.  No acronyms. If you work for Bridgewater and want to share something, you must explain your thoughts fully…down to the last detail. Imagine if that same rigor and search for the truth had been the standard for the banking industry prior to 2008. How different our lives would be  today!

It really makes you wonder why its ever done otherwise.  Truth is inevitably revealed and when it is, it also prevails. Both companies and individuals willing to embrace that fact are the ones that will survive and prosper this time of cultural transition.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com