This article describes a situation that occurs over and over during the growth of any company. It might seem that, once out of the cottage stage, companies are free of this syndrome but nothing could be further from the truth. The battle between traditionalists and futurists never ends.
I sometimes work with companies that are on the verge of leaving the ‘cottage stage’ and pushing into the great uncertainty of corporate adolescence. This push, and the stress which often accompanies it, is one of the seminal periods in the development of any company. By the time I arrive on the scene, battle lines often have been well formed and the organization has divided into two camps. The coming battle will present severe challenges for the founders, team and the company. The prevailing camp will get to decide what the future will hold for all involved Continue reading →
I came of age during what might be considered the flowering of the American educational system. The Lockean ideals dominated. The purpose of education was to help us learn how to think. Whether it was a civics class, English studies or science, our high school and university teachers were almost uniformly focused on developing our ability to think critically and question what we were told. We were individuals and the educational system saw, as its primary purpose, to help bring out those unique qualities within each of us that would make us exceptional members of society.
But there was a counter vision of the purpose of education which was rising towards hegemony. A group generally referred to as the Hegelians put forth an entirely different vision of the role of individuals in society. Unlike Locke, who believed that every individual is unique, that their value lay within themselves and each had a potential that should be cultivated, the Hegelians believed that the value of most individuals to society is measured by their utility – their suitability as draft animals.
The difference in the two perspectives is stark. But the implications of their flowering are even starker. While the Lockeans contended that the purpose of education was to teach people how to think, the Hegelians countered by saying that the purpose of education was to teach them what to think. The Lockeans saw each individual as an eagle in training. One that could be taught to soar. Hegelians saw everyone, or at least the vast majority of them, as just another member of an ant colony – as draft animals in training.
One of the most notable assaults on the Hegelians’ agenda came in 1940. In that year Robert Heinlein, the American science fiction writer, published a short story titled The Roads Must Roll. He pointed out the inherent limitations of teaching people what to think rather than how to think. But the deep insight was lost – over mastered by the self-appointed masters of the herd.
So, the Hegelians prevailed and the entire educational the system became, except for the schools dedicated to serving the needs of the aristocracy, simply an extended series of trade schools.
But in the late 90s something unexpected began to happen. A rule, when it comes to complex systems, is that unintended consequences are most likely to over-master primary goals. As the information age began to flower, the Hegelians began to lose control over the ‘what to think’ agenda. Their educational system had produced an entire population of individuals who had never been taught to think critically and who expected – no, needed – to be told what to think.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie
The assumption on the part of the Hegelians was that they would be the people who did the telling. Hegemony was nearly within their grasp. The Hegelians, allied with Randian advocates of the new world order, saw themselves as the equivalent of the Dark Lord from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Puppet masters of the Universe. But the rapid flowering of the information age consigned that pretense to the dustbin.
The founders of the internet were children of the middle of 20th century America. They were Lockeans who believed that their creation would extend the ability of everyone to flower uniquely. But the creation of the children of light was used by the children of the undifferentiated herd – the Hegelians’ spawn. And, as they experienced the vast openness of the information super highway, the vertigo they felt drove them to towards simple-minded ideologies and explanations.
For the first time in American history, most of the population was ripe for addiction to fortune cookie ideologies and demagoguery. They desperately needed someone to tell them what to think but found even thinking about who that might be as beyond their abilities.
So, many of the children of the Hegelians became cult followers. Unable to think for themselves, these undifferentiated members of the American ant colony drifted towards anyone who would reduce the world to a finite set of fortune cookie sayings and, as a messiah, promised to lead them out of the wilderness of their own in-capacities.
With such yearnings so prevalent among a growing segment of the population, it came as no surprise that there were individuals who sought to take advantage of an opportunity for both self-aggrandizement and enrichment. The first waves were mostly snake-oil salesmen selling one or another form of religion. Evangelism emerged as a highly profitable scam. People who felt lost and disconnected would readily send most, if not all, that they had to be ‘saved’. Unthinkingly they would train their money for a bit of ‘holy wood’ that had been chipped from the evangelist’s outhouse – or for a piece of cloth clipped out of his discarded underwear. Unable to think for themselves, they were prepared to sacrifice all that they had in exchange for the illusion of certainty and salvation.
The success of the evangelists was not lost on many political operatives and advisers. The dumbing down of the American population presented an opportunity for demagogues, and their media consultants, to manipulate the beliefs and allegiances of a large percentage of the population. Much like Madison Avenue developed and exploited the idea of manufactured demand during the middle of the 20th century, these actors developed and exploited the idea of manufactured belief.
At the same time, those who had benefited from the increasing divide between the wealthy and the rest of the population saw an opportunity. By backing shallow-minded demagogues who could induce individuals to act against their own self-interest, they sought to increase their advantages, power and wealth. As one of these individuals told me, “If I am going to back someone, the first requirement is that they be fundamentally stupid. The second is that they must be so in love with themselves that they can be convinced that they are necessary. The third is that they must be controllable in important areas and unpredictable and others. And finally, I have to have a rope connected to a ring in their nose that I can jerk hard in order to get their attention.”
This strategy can clearly be observed in the evolution of the fourth estate. After Watergate, the establishment decided on a strategy that would make sure that Woodward and Bernstein never happened again. Newsgathering was defunded and investigative reporters were replaced with talking heads. The job requirements were relatively straightforward. You had to be so in love with the sound of your own voice that you insisted on dominating any conversation. And so, in order to take full advantage of the opportunity that the Hegelians had given them. Those that controlled the media dumbed down the press to the point of self-indulgent irrelevancy.
So, what does it mean to be a child of the Hegelians in modern America? It means that you are prepared to go to a political rally and chant “lock her up” and be completely oblivious to the fact that the individual leading the chant has absolutely no intention of doing so. It means that you can support a demagogue when every proposal that is made eviscerates the social safety net that you and your family rely upon while delivering massive benefits to the wealthy. It means going on and on about “fake news” while dining on a constant flow of news that is clearly fake. And it means not having the ability to think critically about what it is you are being fed. In short, it means being a useful idiot.
So, Johnny can read – but he can’t think! As the US falls behind in one category after another, the Hegelians are beginning to realize the true implications of turning what was the most intellectually alive society on the face of the globe into a flock of sheep. Generations are going to be lost because of this stupidity. And it’s going to take decades to return the American educational system to its true purpose. In the meantime, other countries are going to take advantage of the opportunity. As with climate change, the detractors can only spread their lies for so long and then the sea rises and washes them away. In this case, the sea is not rising; it has risen.
Mentoring is a guided search for the true path. People come to me when they have some to believe that “there has to be more to life”. Many have trod the same path for years and even decades. The accumulation of sameness rubs up against the question “is that all there is?” Well, the truth is that there is so much more to life and so little time to explore it. Helping a person to find that new path to a more fulfilling life is what I do.
Mentoring is a guided journey in search of a person’s true self. Whether it is the echoes of the vision that their parents gave them, the trends and fashions of the time, the result of decisions made years ago or a series of events that occurred randomly, the feeling of dissatisfaction is the same. Years of grasping – holding fast – to a vision of life that has not proven satisfying build to an uneasiness that can create a downward spiral or a wandering in smaller and smaller circles.
Mentoring is helping a person find a new path and a new life. It’s not a journey to paradise but a journey inward to the true source of a person and the life force that flows within them.
Mentoring is preparing the way for change – for leaving the same old path and finding a new one that leads to the life that a person was always meant to live.
Working with a real mentor is hard work and not for the faint of heart.
“Grant me the wisdom …” That’s how the old saying starts off. The rest makes a distinction between ‘what I can’t and can change’. Wisdom, it is posited, is knowing the difference – accepting what can’t be changed and changing what can. Clear enough as it is but these is a wrinkle – an oversight – that most people routinely make – one that flies in the face of such ‘wisdom’. They focus almost exclusively on what can’t be changed. Continue reading →
One of the most common challenges that my mentoring clients face is coming to terms with lost opportunities and broken connections. Many times the focus of our early conversations is on the number of years or decades that have been lived and the relatively meager accumulation of experience, lasting contacts and reputation that has resulted. Again and again I have begun work with someone only to find that one of their deepest fears are that the cumulative results of their life amounts to far less than they had hoped it would. Continue reading →
Socrates observed that ‘a life unexamined is not worth living’. Nowhere is that more true than when we act against our own self-interests and suffer the consequences – pay the bills for our own rash actions.
“It’s what you do without realizing it that can really mess things up.”
That’s the way one of my early mentors used to put it. Jim was constantly pointing out those things I did without thinking – and the effect of my having done them on future prospects. Now don’t get me wrong, Jim was not an advocate of “staying low and not making waves”. Far from that, he made more than his share of waves and was a real change agent in his business and personal relationships. He insisted that you had to realize the likely impact of doing this or being that way on what you wanted to get out of life and the people around you. Continue reading →
What is the one thing in your life that is that certain? It has a reality and significance unlike anything else. Your thoughts, memories and aspirations are manufactured realities. The one thing that is certain is that you are alive in the moment and experiencing what it brings to you. Continue reading →
Mentoring is always a combination of abstract concepts and practical action. It’s the complexity of the thoughts involved that makes it different from coaching. With coaching we might be focused on the refinement of a particular skill or capability. The question is competence with a tool – skill with an instrument. But, with mentoring, we are dealing with a life and the path that it is on. There is nothing simple about that.
In the beginning there was only One and that One knew itself as all that there was. There was no other. Thought, that great chicanery, had yet to arrive on the scene. Rationality was an unconsidered possibility.
Within the womb of that eternal Oneness, the Self experienced the wonder of Being. No permission being asked, what was and always had been flowed forth in yet another manifestation of Being. Nothing of significance occurred. Nothing of significance changed. Every moment was perfect and just as it should be. Continue reading →
Most behaviors are patterns – recurring tendencies – rather than one-off acts. People tend to do the same thing over and over even though it generates unsatisfactory results. They don’t seem to be able to take the most common sense advice.
If hitting yourself in the head with a hammer is causing you pain, put down the damn hammer!Continue reading →
When you find yourself struggling with a challenge you often turn to someone you perceive as being able to give you the advice you need. This is true in business as well as personal life. Entrepreneurs and corporate leaders are not immune to needing to seek out experienced advisers. Challenges may be the need to develop a new business strategy, new leadership styles, leadership development, improving corporate finance growth or even prepping for a critical meeting. This is when I generally come in as a mentor. Continue reading →
My approach to mentoring formed during my years as a founder and CEO of six businesses. I had a range of mentors and advisers who made substantial contributions to my life and career. I also encountered people who were not very helpful – even though they contended that they were trying to be. What I noticed was that the ones who saw me as a person – even a friend – were generally contributive while those who saw me as a client were not.Continue reading →
In this series I have been writing about some of the major breakthroughs that my mentoring clients have managed. While it is true that most of my mentoring work involves slow and steady efforts towards major successes, it’s those successes that make the efforts truly worthwhile. The truth is that you cannot have one without the other. No matter what somebody tries to tell you, there are no shortcuts to epiphanies – no magic bullet that will solve all your problems. There is no such thing as a panacea. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can start on a meaningful journey that will substantially change your life. Continue reading →
It’s one of those questions that comes up regularly at networking events. People take turns introducing themselves and describing what they do for a living. And then it gets to be my turn. “I’m a mentor.” Continue reading →
This volume is written as a series of ‘thinking pieces’ that are to serve as points of meditation on important matters. Think of them as rocks leading to the shore. I’ll leave you to figure out what and where the shore is, what the canoe signifies and what’s the reason for the journey. All I intend to do is provide a general map of where the stones are. I wish you well on your journey and hope that my map is of some use to you.Continue reading →
Business Development: The Right Way: More energy and effort is put into trying to figure out how to make business development work than any other management function; including advancing the technology that is at the heart of a company’s value proposition. There are plenty of books out that that deal with the technologies and tools of business development. This is not one of them. My focus is on the human interactions that accompany the development or expansion of a business development component of your senior management team.
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All the proceeds will go to support cancer research
Over the years, I have worked with dozens of CEOs. The vast majority of them have felt more confident about their company’s technology and technological edge than about its ability to generate an expanding customer base. One client put it this way, “Sure, there is always competition but the core of our management team is focused on delivering advances that keep the company’s value proposition ahead of its competition.”
Business development is another thing altogether. Most CEOs that I have worked with have, sooner or later, had a similar experience. Their value proposition was significantly better than the competition’s but they still ended up losing the business. In fact, very often the company that is best at business development is well back in the pack then it comes to innovation and cutting edge value propositions. But they win while other companies lose out to them. This is a CEO’s worst nightmare. “We were better than them but we lost out.”
Business Development the Right Way shows you how it is done and, more importantly, that it can be done for virtually any company.
Business Development the Right Way shows you how a well-run business development team coupled with an advisory board, properly structured and populated by highly influential, committed and well-connected individuals can drive a company’s revenue. In this book I describe the design, population and management of these boards and show how they can increase the effectiveness of a company’s business development process.
Or buy directly, get a PDF version
All the proceeds will go to support cancer research
Praise for Business Development the Right Way
“Five stars! Must read for anyone in sales, marketing or business development.”
“Not your typical business development BD book! This one is highly useful and revolutionary. Five stars”
“I’ve been in business development for many years and learned a great deal from this book.”
“Business development is the future of my company. This book helped me unlock it.”
“Winning against your competition begins with driving revenue. Read and learn from a master.”
“I’ve learned a lot from this book. It’s brought me a higher salary and a big promotion.”
Table of Contents
Five Reasons Why Business Development Is So Difficult To Get RightSeven Reasons Why Advisory Boards Don’t Produce
Battle at the Cottage Gate
Dysfunctional Advisory Boards – A Family of Problems
Advisory Boards as Business Development Engines – The Beginnings
Turbocharged Business Development
Benefits and Costs
John’s Questions – Round Two
The First Board Meeting
Planning for Two Journeys
The Board – Design and Population
A Working Board
Conflict, Renegotiation and Removal
Managing Mt. Rushmore
The challenge of encouraging employees to do their best at work is a major part of many of my coaching engagements. Here are three ways that CEO’s routinely sabotage themselves and accomplish the opposite: Continue reading →
I was discussing business relationships with a couple of long time friends and associates last evening. The discussion turned to the question of ‘what makes for a good business contact?’ In a relatively short time we agreed on three characteristics that were the ‘first screen’. Continue reading →
Doggerel you say? Incoherent mutterings. Nothing much to pay attention to. Foolish person – there is all of life – the whole deep meaning of it – in the fart of a flea. You just have to learn how to listen!
There is no freedom like being able to say what you truly mean – not what others want you appear to mean – nor what you might say in the throes of an adolescent tantrum – but to clearly say in a measured fashion exactly what you mean. Here’s the rabbit hole – down we go. Continue reading →
Realization often takes more time because ego and hubris interfere. Presumption is a challenging adversary when it is self-deployed. In an effort to avoid the implications of impermanence, we often work hard to convince ourselves that we are the architects of our lives and the framers of reality. Continue reading →
An old friend was fond of saying that most people begin at paragraph two. The point he was making was that the foundational assumptions of any argument tend to be taken as givens by the person advancing it and, as a result, they feel no need to explain them. Continue reading →
According to many modernist social theorists, questions of identity center on an ‘authentic knowledge’ of the ‘self’ and of the shelves of others. It was generally accepted that there was a unique core within each person which formed the very foundation of who they ‘were’. According to these theories, most of that foundation was laid down during the early or ‘formative’ years. Those early ossification constituted the fountainhead from which the mature individual arose. Continue reading →
It is a strange thing, this life that many choose to live. A combination of grasping and self-delusion brings about a strange relationship – a kind of disassociation – from the truly glorious experience of being alive. Continue reading →
My Mentoring work brings me in to contact with one of the major impacts of the information age, social media and rise of virtual reality. That impact is the the prioritization of imagining doing over actually doing. Continue reading →
You are busy. There is so much happening around you. People, events – the general coming and going that makes up your day. All of these keep you distracted – sociologists and psychologists would describe you as engaged and involved.
Your mind is busy. It jumps around from idea to memory to concerns about the future. In Zen, we refer to it as the ‘monkey mind’. It decorates your experience with stories about the past events and apprehensions about the future and pushes away the treasure of the moment.
As a result, you end up looking outside this moment for happiness, an escape from grief or pain, satisfaction or any of a wide range of coping strategies. If you are not careful, these distractions can become your entire life.
But it is important to realize that all of them are illusions – stories that your mind has made up. When you look outside of what is happening in this moment, all you ever find are stories and fantasies. In Zen thinking, we called this not being present in the moment.
You are not somewhere else; but you are looking somewhere else.
To be clear, there are times when looking somewhere else is helpful. When crossing a busy street it is useful to look both ways. When you are walking along a busy sidewalk, it is useful to be aware of the people around you. Situational awareness has its benefits. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
It’s the present moment and the treasure it brings that is my focus. The strange thing about memory and fantasies about the future is that we accept them as real. But they are not. Memories are almost surely inaccurate. Fantasies about the future may or may not come true. But your experience in the present moment is always accurate and real. That is, if you are living in the present moment and paying attention.
You don’t have to wonder if it’s going to come true. You don’t have to wonder if it is real. In fact, it’s the only thing in your life that you can be absolutely certain of. The moment that is happening is real. It is not a story or a fantasy. And there is another thing. The experience of the present moment is always true.
Every experience that you are having right now, including reading these words and the thought that are arising in your mind, is real. You don’t have to question whether you are reading. You experience those thoughts intimately. That is the treasure of the present moment. Certainty. When all else around you is provisional, the bedrock of your life is that certainty.