Wisdom Day 18 August 2016: Word Fast

Many words rush along like rivers in flood,
    but deep wisdom flows up from artesian springs. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 18, Verse 4, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

My son Anton and I went once to the Anza-Borrego desert. We camped. We did not eat. We did not speak. Have you ever stopped talking for 24 hours or more?

Some fast from food. Some fast from talk. Some never, from either.

The more talk, the less truth;
    the wise measure their words. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 10, Verse 19, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

 

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it. (Quatrain LXXI, The Rubaiyát, Omar Khayyam)

 

Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise;
    as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 17, Verse 28, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

 

3-5 A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

5-6 It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

7-10 This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! (The Letter of James, Chapter 3, Verses 3-10, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

I’ll never forget the desert and fasting from words with my son. Just sayin’.

Wisdom Day 5 September 2016: Bonehead Way?

You don’t want to end your life full of regrets,
    nothing but sin and bones,
Saying, “Oh, why didn’t I do what they told me?
    Why did I reject a disciplined life?
Why didn’t I listen to my mentors,
    or take my teachers seriously?
My life is ruined!
    I haven’t one blessed thing to show for my life!” (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 5, Verses 11-14, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

I relate, but not done yet!
Still time for another step.
Discipline or folly?
Lots left to gain
or lose.
Wisdom!

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Wisdom Day 2 September 2016: Life Patrol

Jocko Podcast 38 is a great primer on how to get from A to B, at least it is for me. When Jocko began talking about going out on patrol with his two older children, memories came flooding back of land navigation times with my two sons. We called it hiking and camping. I like Jocko’s vocabulary better. It sets the whole outing in an operational context. And that is great for kids, I think. It lends a greter sense of uniqueness and purpose to the outing.

As I think back on my outings with my boys, I think of dead reckoning vs. contouring. I think of how we learned in our minds and bodies the real challenges of getting where we wanted to go and the true joy of achievement when we got there on our own two legs. Our own two legs?

What if lots more kids in our country could know the joy of getting somewhere tough on their own two legs? What if they could learn, like my sons and me, in their own minds and their own bodies the difference between dead reckoning and contouring? How beautiful and dangerous nature can be? The science of a good compass and true north? All the marvelous information in a U.S. Geological Survey topographical map? Magnetic declination? Night navigation when the stars are out? The constellations? How the Pleiades lead Orion across the night sky and arrive at the western horizon near day break in summer in our northern hemisphere just before full dawn chases all the stars away?

Of course, I was not out on patrol with Jocko and his kids. But I am sure they learned even more than I surmise. Not just the profound science of how to get where you want to go. Also things about themselves, their dad, sibling interactions under stress, the joy of reaching a tough goal when you’re out in nature, something never known when sitting at home. The strong but invisible link between lessons learned on nature’s trails and the wisdom needed to traverse the trails of life. Some pretty fine gifts from a father to his children:

So now you can pick out what’s true and fair,
    find all the good trails!
Lady Wisdom will be your close friend,
    and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion.
Good Sense will scout ahead for danger,
    Insight will keep an eye out for you.
They’ll keep you from making wrong turns,
    or following the bad directions
Of those who are lost themselves
    and can’t tell a trail from a tumbleweed,
These losers who make a game of evil
    and throw parties to celebrate perversity,
Traveling paths that go nowhere,
    wandering in a maze of detours and dead ends.(The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 2, Verses 10-14, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

Further reading on life navigation:

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Wisdom Day 28 August 2016: Quo vadis?

Lead good people down a wrong path
    and you’ll come to a bad end;
    do good and you’ll be rewarded for it. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 28, Verse 10, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

Isn’t it amazing how right Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was?

L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. [What is essential is invisible to the eye.] (The Little Prince)

So what is important for a leader? Quo vadis? Where are you going? Actually, I should make it personal: Where am I going? Where am I taking folks? The real answer here is not some physical place. It may look that way, but it is not. It is not the top of the hill. It is not the end of the obstacle course. It is not graduation. It is not publication. It is not even money. Once I know why I am leading and where, only then should I focus on how.

A Sherpa guide isn’t just leading a climber to the top of Everest. The true goal is a thing of the heart. It indeed cannot be seen. Keep asking why. You will find out. If I ask, “Why are you climbing Everest,” and the climber says, “To get to the top,” we should both have a good laugh at the absurdity of the answer. Then we should keep going with the question “Why?” until why can not be asked any more.

Every day my five-year old daughter asks me why more times than I can remember. I either give her an answer that causes me to learn or an answer that is really no answer at all.

Whom do you lead? Why? “Quo vadis?”

Some resources for finding answers to where, why, and how leadership questions:

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Wisdom Day 28, July 2016: Chaos Country Bear

When the country is in chaos,
    everybody has a plan to fix it—
But it takes a leader of real understanding
    to straighten things out. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 28, Verse 2, The Message, translation by Eugene Peterson, audio by Kelly Ryan Dolan, BibleGateway.com)

Does this get to the point? Is the country in chaos? Where is the leader of real understanding? Might he be found on the Jocko Podcast? God, grant us a miracle. And, Lord, if you can’t help us, please don’t help that bear: Russian bear, ISIS bear. The world is full of bears, at home and abroad it seems. It’s a tough job, baptizing bears!

Oh Lord, you delivered Daniel from the lions den,
Delivered Jonah from the belly of the whale, and then
The Hebrew children from the fiery furnace,
So the Good Book do declare!
Well, Lord, Lord, if you can’t help me,
For goodness sake don’t you help that bear.
(The Preacher and the Bear, The New Christy Minstrels, In Person, 1963)

 

Wisdom Day 27, July 2016: Honor the Boss

If you care for your orchard, you’ll enjoy its fruit;
if you honor your boss, you’ll be honored. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 27, Verse 18, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

Jocko Willink really hammers away at this point on the Jocko Podcast and in Extreme Ownership: Serve your boss. Does your boss want to take the credit? Good. Do you find your boss difficult? Good! Show respect. You want to be a leader? Good: Learn to follow.

Had I understood the principles involved here and lived by this advice as a junior officer, I would probably be a general today. I had so much going for me, except the wisdom of humility. My early success had made me haughty, even arrogant, but I didn’t see it.

However, I’ve decided it is never too late to change. Are you young? Get humble! Not so young? Get humble. As Ryan Holiday writes in Ego is the Enemy, ego is the enemy. Holiday’s book is a great primer for practical humility. The Jocko Podcast is a great pulpit from which to hear the message of active, creative, productive humility.

One other thought on my own early pride: I was a Christian. I was arrogant without realizing it. Yes, I had learned some truth. Yes, I did have some important insight not shared by all. I was even a spiritual leader of sorts. All well and good. But like certain religious leaders, of much greater stature than I, my behavior eclipsed important guidance that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for pride:

1-3 I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.

4-5 When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for—

God has had it with the proud,
But takes delight in just plain people.

6-7 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. (Peter’s First Letter, Chapter 5, Verses 4-7, The Message, BibleGateway.com, underlining by the blog author)

Yes, pride and ego can surely do us in:

18 First pride, then the crash—
    the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 16, Verse 18, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

So I had a big ego and took a big fall. I’m back on my feet a bit wiser. It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Meanwhile, the following books offer help in cultivating humility, controlling the ego, and weeding out pride:

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Wisdom Day 22.a, July 2016: 30 Precepts of the Sages

I’m giving you thirty sterling principles—
    tested guidelines to live by.
Believe me—these are truths that work,
    and will keep you accountable
    to those who sent you. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 22, Verses 20 & 21, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

Thirty Precepts of the Sages, Thirty Sterling Principles! It just struck me this morning that I’ve sought for years to learn a myriad of principles, some by sevens, some by threes, and even 21 immutable laws. These are all great, so great, in fact, that they brought to mind the really immutable laws, the Big Ten, the ones that are so controversial they are more and more often banned from public display. When bureaucrats decide something is so dangerous it should not be available to the public, that becomes even more important to me, knee-jerk rebel that I am, or is that just Jerk Rebel? Rebel Jerk? Hmmm? Maybe all of the above.

Anyhow, such was the inspiration this morning, that I wanted to see what you think of this list of thirty that is much less in the bureaucratic cross hairs than the Big Ten are. These Thirty Sterling Principles, the Thirty Precepts of the Sages, begin in Chapter 22 of the Book of Proverbs.

One thing that really surprised me was the fact that the very first Precept of the Sages deals with the poor and the weak:

Don’t walk on the poor just because they’re poor,
    and don’t use your position to crush the weak,
Because God will come to their defense;
    the life you took, he’ll take from you and give back to them. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 22, Verses 22 & 23, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

In none of the many other lists of principles for success have I found the top item to be something about how to treat the poor and/or weak. This is a bit of a puzzler. By comparison to the tech leaders of Silicon Valley, among others, I am poor. But actually I can look all around and see people much worse off than I, both nearby and far away. Am I somehow walking on them, using my position to crush them, without realizing it? I don’t think so, but then maybe I deceive myself. I heard one time from a clergyman that “The terrible thing about self-deception is that it’s so deceptive.”

Taking Extreme Ownership may be one way of overcoming self-deception. Hearing The Message might also prove helpful, especially for grasping the Thirty Precepts of the Sages. The following are some resources to those ends:

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Wisdom Day 20, July 2016: Clean Sweep

Hi, Jocko troopers! Today’s chapter from The Book of Proverbs is just an awesome spring of understanding and insight, especially when it comes to leadership. I hope you can find time to enjoy the whole chapter. As I have said before and will likely say again and again, I just love The Message translation of Proverbs by Eugene Peterson.

At Biblegateway.com I can listen for free as Kelley Ryan Dolan reads The Message a chapter at a time. I can follow along in the text. I can highlight, star, and add notes. It’s a pretty impressive site. Hope you can enjoy.

And hey, this is not just for “Christians.” After all, King Solomon was not a Christian, and he was the primary author. Shucks, he didn’t even speak English. Pretty crazy, huh? Well, on to one great passage on leadership from Chapter 20 (There are several others. Hope you ferret them out on your own):

After careful scrutiny, a wise leader
    makes a clean sweep of rebels and dolts. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter  20, Verse 26, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

Well, here I am trying to figure out how this applies to me. I am not leading any company or military unit. I can see how this applies to high level leaders like Jocko Willink, Leif Babin, Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreesen. But to me?  Well, what comes to mind is that I am a follower of these men and many other purveyors of wisdom, including Jesus. So I guess I can start with scrutiny of myself. Yep, that works.

If I were working for me, I might have to fire me, given my high rebel and dolt quotient. OK. So today, I’ll see if I can’t line up better with operational wisdom, like being on time and catching up on my accounting. Then I can be better as a leader for the sons and daughters who call me Dad or Daddy, respectively.

Meanwhile, for improving skills as both leader and follower, I’ve found the following to be useful guides. May they also prove worthwhile for you:

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Wisdom Day 14 July 2016: Flee Fools

First of all, Bonne fête de la Bastille, i.e., Happy Bastille Day! Lots of fireworks in France tonight, which on the French clock is just about now. My older son and his family are in Paris to enjoy it all. Would love to be with them, but here I am with you, which is not all bad. So here goes.

Escape quickly from the company of fools;
    they’re a waste of your time, a waste of your words.

The wisdom of the wise keeps life on track;
    the foolishness of fools lands them in the ditch. (The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 14, Verses 7 & 8, The Message, BibleGateway.com)

The take away? Roll with the wise. Let fools roll with fools. As Tim Ferriss warns:

“ . . . you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.” (Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek, Amazon.com)

At this point in my life, it seems I associate most with Jocko Willink and Tim Ferriss, maybe sometimes even more than with my immediate family, i.e., wife and children. I invest numerous hours weekly listening to Jocko and Tim Ferriss podcasts and hours more on Twitter following Tim, Jocko and Jocko’s colleague, Leif Babin. These guys seem to be diminishing little by little my native foolishness. Some actual face-to-face would be even better. I’ll work on that.

In addition to the Jocko and Tim Ferriss podcasts, the following are some resources  that have helped in the quest to enhance strength and wisdom:

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Wisdom Day 7 April 2016: R-Rated T-Shirt

Hey, guys, collecting T-shirts can be great. There is one to stay away from though if you value your life. It is inscribed “I slept with Loosey Lucy!”

Loosey Lucy will take you down. You think it will be fun going down with Loosey? Think again. You are not the first. You will not be the last. But like all, you will pay the price. Loosey’s soul is linked to all the others who came before you. Your soul becomes linked through hers to theirs. She will have many after you. And for every one, a little of the best of your soul gives way to a little bit of the worst of the collective soul of a growing throng of  partners. And you will have no control over the choice of your new soul mates, just as you had no say in the choice of the ones who were before you. But they will gain more and more control over you if you choose this path. So what’s the take away? Paul of Tarsus puts it plainly:

16-20 There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.(Paul of Tarsus, 1 Corinthians 6:18, The Message, biblegateway.com)

And whether you believe in God or not, at least honor yourself. Honor your body, mind, and emotions. Don’t go with Loosey. As I’ve heard, “Sin takes you further than you mean to go, keeps you longer than you mean to stay, and costs you more than you mean to pay.” Ever had that experience? Or maybe you don’t believe in sin? If not, at least consider that STD’s are real, regardless of your beliefs.

There is hope though. There is a way out and a way back.

13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. (Paul of Tarsus, 1 Corinthians 10:13, The Message, biblegateway.com)

And the way back? Admit you were wrong. Determine that you want to change direction. Realize you can’t do it by yourself. Ask for for help. And whom do you ask? I asked Jesus.

How to ask? Some people call it prayer. If you don’t believe in prayer, than just address your request to “Whom it may concern.” When I first got started with prayer, it was conditional: “If you are real, I want to know. I need help.”

Even stoics sometimes end up with problems their philosophy can’t solve. I did have to set aside some pride, but at that point my intense need to really be good was greater than my desire to appear good.

So happy hunting in your quest for good. Better and great are better and great, but good is not bad for starters. It surely beats bad. If, though, you happen to believe that good and bad are irrelevant or all the same, I can’t help you there, unless of course you ask.

Meanwhile here are some good resources on the path to good, better, and best:

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