The Power of Thought – Circumstances and Health

QuestionJames Allen (1903) wrote a suggestive treatise on the power of thought called “As a Man Thinketh.”  Long has this topic been on my mind as I have witnessed how responsibility and accountability for one’s thoughts, as they become actions, is neglected, dodged, and avoided.  Every choice a person makes holds natural consequences; this is an incontrovertible truth.  Yet, many continue to think only their actions have consequences, so what occurs in their heads is nobody else’s business.  Except, thoughts become things; thus, the need to discuss controlling one’s thoughts.

Thoughts and Circumstances

I had the pleasure of working with a person, incredibly smart and ingenious with his hands.  As a singular point of reference, I have never met better in all my travels and interactions.  This man could read a blueprint, a CAD drawing, draw a blueprint, and then follow it to create masterpieces.  We got to talking one day about college; here he is, a successful middle-aged construction worker with a large family, who was worried he had not developed his mind enough and was considering college.  I hope one day he does go to college; I hope he takes his practical experiences, his lifetime of success and failure, his tenacity, and his chutzpah into a college classroom.  I want to be a fly on the wall the first time an instructor tries to tell him there is an academic way and a practical way to live life.  I imagine that conversation is very pointed and not won by the instructor.Calvin & Hobbes - Ontological Quandry

Because this man has understood a principle, control of thought leads to control of behavior, actions, and consequences favorable.  Let us be clear, and quote James Allen, “A mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth.”  Weeds or fruit, veggies or grass and thorns, the garden and the mind, are similar and easily understood by the actions of those tending or neglecting.

Consider the following, my wife’s Grandmother spoke no English when she came to America.  Her sons were almost immediately sent to war.  She learned to speak, read, and write English out of pride for her sons serving and honor America for giving her freedom.  She was well-read in English and her native tongue.  Some would have the audacity to call her unlearned; I have always called her a hero and counted her children and precious friends.  Her choice to naturalize into America was pivotal to her success in learning a new language to write to her sons serving in the military.  No excuses, no please for an interpreter, no whining for fairness, no looking back to the “Old Country” and living in America to spite America and Americans.  Her consequences were a mind well cultivated and successful children.

Calvin & Hobbes - EnmityChoices have natural consequences, enough consequences pile up, and a lifestyle is produced. For example, research reflects that the majority of Americans will never pick up a book, let alone read one after K-12 graduation.  Even those going onto additional education will barely read, and upon graduation, will still not pick up a book to read.  I had the misfortune of being treated by a Neurologist who last picked up a book in the 1970s when he graduated with his medical degree.  He never touched the research constantly flowing in his field, never read for fun, never read to his children.  When he treated me in 2016, I knew more about his field of study than he did.  Why? Because I desired to know what the neurological issues are in my body.  Here he is, chief of Neurology for the Albuquerque VAMC, and his residents and patients knew more about current issues in neurology than the chief.  Now, some may contend this is bogus or a singular incident; choose to believe as you will.  But, I talked to other patients who had similar experiences with this doctor and comparable results.  I sent this doctor research and was told the research was to be disregarded until another doctor, not a neurologist, suggested the same treatment as discussed in the literature.Non Sequitur - Classic

The circumstances related stemmed from a single choice, cultivating an inquisitive mind carefully or neglecting the mind, allowing all sorts of vile weeds to choke out the good and run amok due to negligence.  Worse, the choices of this doctor led to an entire department of medicine to reflect his preferences and neglect learning for personal opinion.  The mind’s thoughts provide as consequences the environment to abuse others and fail as a professional.  Ever see a garden in winter, the seeds replicating are on or under the ground, awaiting their time to germinate and grow.  Weeds or flowers, veggies of thorns, fruit or tree, and the seeds will bring forth more of the same.

Never forget, “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves and also that which it fears.  It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires – and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.”  Do we understand the consequences and circumstances bred from thoughts?  What will we do with this information?

Thoughts and Health

Non Sequitur - Dangerous TechnologyAs a kid, I chewed on everything.  Pens, pencils, markers, if I could fit it into my gob, I chewed on it. Then, as a teenager, I started smoking, and all of a sudden, I stopped chewing on things, stopped needing something in my hands to play with; cigarettes gave me a tool I needed, and my mind was clear for the first time.  I loved smoking; I wanted to learn how to smoke a pipe, for I thought that might be a better option than cigarette smoking, and I could move further along in controlling and quieting my hands, mind, and mouth.

When I joined the US Army and went off to Basic Training, quitting smoking was hard!  I yearned for something to chew on, not possible.  I longed for something to play with for my hands, not happening.  But the most challenging aspect of Basic Training and not smoking was not the lack of tobacco, the heart racing when I walked through second-hand smoke, but the mental addiction.  Smoking had given me liberty, and then it was taken away, and I did not know what to do with myself.

Anton Ego 4Thus I learned a valuable lesson, and when James Allen discussed the power of thoughts on health, I knew the lesson well from personal experience through smoking.  “The body is the servant of the mind.  It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed.  At the bidding of unlawful thoughts, the body sinks rapidly into disease and decay; at the command of glad and beautiful thoughts, it becomes clothed with youthfulness and beauty.”  Continuing, James Allen reinforces the following idea, “Disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought.”

My mother-in-law fell, breaking a bone near her hip, requiring surgery, and she spent the rest of her life in a long-term care facility for she struggled to recover.  I respect my mother-in-law as a knuckle-fighting, butt-whooping, hard-charging no prisoners taking person.  She fought from her first day of life until she softened due to circumstances in the long-term care facility.  She struggled to change her mind and thoughts as a 90+-year-old woman of incredible experiences.  One of her roommates was nearing a century, she was blind in both eyes, but she shone with dignity, power, and the happy experiences and choices of a well-cultivated mind across a lifetime.  The difference between my mother-in-law and her roommate in health, mental ability, and physical ability was palpable; two women I deeply respect and admire, but who perfectly reflect the principle of the power of health being connected to thoughts.Calvin & Hobbes - Irony Hurts

James Allen expresses this connection thusly, “Strong, pure, and happy thoughts build up the body in vigor and grace.  The body is plastic … which responds readily to the thoughts by which it is impressed, and habits of thought will produce their own effects, good or bad, upon it.  Thought is the fount of action, life, and manifestation; … Clean thoughts make clean habits.”  My wife’s uncle and his spouse reflected the opposites in this statement from James Allen. Nevertheless, the wife always had something kind, friendly, good to say about anyone, as an extension of her choices of thought and a well-cultivated mind.

On the other hand, the husband struggled with the thoughts of WWII and his actions in the war, which made him susceptible to every cough and cold; he was miserable and very irritable, as an extension of his refusal to cultivate his mind.  The wife read books, the husband watched TV.  The wife engaged in society, and the husband hid at home.  The wife had clean thoughts and positive consequences; the husband struggled with addictions; when he finally overcame the physical addiction, the mental addiction made him more irritable.

Knowledge Check!If you would perfect your body, [first] guard your mindIf you would renew your body [first] beautify your mind.  Thoughts of malice, envy, disappointment, despondency, [etc.] rob the body of its health and grace.  A sour face does not come by chance; it is made by your thoughts.”  Let us take this advice to heart.  Let us begin today cultivating an inquisitive mind, filling it with carefully selected thoughts, memories, and feelings. Then, we can choose to be better people by committing to changing our thoughts.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

14 Rules on Leadership – Gen. George Washington: Shifting the Leadership Paradigm

General George Washington wrote “Rules on Civility” (1887) and helped to mold and model a growing social environment in America.  These 110 rules for civility also encapsulate good advice to leaders applicable still today and fourteen of them are discussed below as they bear direct application to the current societal ills.  The hope remains that in pointing out these rules leaders may become more of an example, business improves, and American Society as a whole begins to lift itself up to a higher level of performance.

Rule 19:

Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

I worked with a manager who made the following statement about the director we both answered to, “I never know whether he is joking, jesting, or simply being serious.”  This is a failure of leadership and can cause disharmony, chaos, and no end to trouble.  Model and exemplify pleasant emotions.  Never try to confuse your audience, never adopt an emotion without a purpose, and never make your audience to think or wonder about your emotional state or demeanor.  More importantly, looking pleasant builds confidence in those around you to act with pleasantness and harmony; so smile, speak softly, and generate pleasantness.

Rule 25:

Superfluous compliments and all affectation[s] of ceremonies are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected.

This speaks to offering sincere praise, showing gratitude, and returning credit to the source for things that are progressing well and accepting failure when poorly.  I had the displeasure of working with an officer who gave insincere praise making a great ceremony out of giving that insincere praise and then laughing at the person being singled out for the praise for not knowing how to proceed correctly.  The morale of the unit was disastrous and deadly.  Several members of that group held a deep desire for a “friendly fire incident” involving this officer as the victim.  The same problems arise in business and if left to fester potential is wasted, and money follows lost potential.

Don’t forget to limit ceremony, pomp, and procession to the level needed to honor the awardee without allowing the ceremony, pomp, or procession to exceed the degree of the award or the awardee’s comfort level.  Know the audience and limit the service to the comfort of the audience.  Thus allowing those being awarded and those in attendance to celebrate in a manner conducive to the award and their individual comfort level.

Rule 35:

Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.

We have all heard, and many live by the axiom, “Time is money.”  This rule from Gen. Washington speaks to the need for comprehension, timeliness, and specificity.  Limit the words, tone down the tone, restrict the emotional content, and get to the point; thus saving the audience’s attention and exemplifying respect for the other person in the communication.

Rule 39:

In writing or speaking, give to every person his due title according to his degree and the customs of the place.

Did you work hard for your title, yes; thus, reflect the respect for your title to others.  I met two different people in authority, 180-degrees apart from each other that saw this principle from opposing extremes.  One manager refused to use titles calling the whole thing meaningless while demanding respect for their personal rank and title.  20-year employees who had obtained great honor and respect amongst their peers received no respect from the leader who demanded respect.  The other leader cared a great deal for their title because of those who had held that title before them and respected others who had earned titles for the same reason.  The second leader had higher morale, less behavioral problems, and loyal people who achieved greatness.  The first leader had nothing but trouble, never could reach goals and objectives, and passed the failures to produce onto others.

In our global working environment, knowing the culture where titles and showing respect is critical to creating success.  More importantly, if you as a leader have not already cultivated respect for titles, the ability to show genuine respect for those of titles will place you at a disadvantage and harm the businesses you represent.  Make time to learn and practice showing proper respect for those with titles.

Rule 44:

When a man does all he can, though it succeed[s] not well, blame not him that did it.

How many times has success been snatched from the hands of those trying and the leader then berates, castigates, and derides those who tried?  Since measuring individual effort is not possible, first presume everyone did their best, then promote a spirit of learning from failure and build people.  Even if the actions were thought to be malicious and vengeful, praise and support people, you never know and in not knowing, do not assume!  I would also interject the following thought, Juran’s Rule details that when problems arise, 90% of the time the process is failing and only 10% of the time are people failing.  Thus, look to the processes, the procedures, the methods of work for answers, employ training, and only blame people as the ultimate last resort; this includes blaming yourself.

Rule 45:

Being to advise or reprehend anyone, consider whether it ought to be done in public or in private, and presently or at some other time; in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of cholar but do it with all sweetness and mildness.

(Please note, the term “cholar” has had a spelling update and is now spelled “choler” and is defined as showing irascibility, anger, wrath, or irritability.  From Latin is the origin cholera.)

There is great truth hidden here; this rule mimics another axiom, “Praise in public and reprimand in private.”  While speaking to timeliness, this rule allows the leader to select when and where praise and reprimand occurs.  Do not forget Rule 19 emotion is a leadership tool, not a weapon; tools guide and instruct, weapons destroy and demoralize.  Use emotion wisely or choose to not use emotion at all per the rule above, but make emotion a conscious choice!

Rule 48:

Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself, — for example is more prevalent than precepts.

During my military service, I had a mid-level officer that hated and punished severely those who slept on watch, for a good reason.  The problem, the officer regularly slept on watch.  The example was more prevalent than the precepts taught and destroyed morale.  Rules 19, 45, and 48, all discuss powerful leadership principles along with a general theme and should be considered both individually and collectively to make the lessons more powerful.  First, know yourself, then know those you aspire to lead, and finally lead well.

Rule 49:

Use no reproachful language against anyone; neither curse nor revile.

In the world today, many confuse reprimand (rebuke or admonition) with reproach (finding fault, upbraiding, blaming, censure, disgrace or discredit) and this has led to a lot of confusion in communication.  More to the point, the language of leaders has coarsened, hardened, and plasticized or transitioned into bluster and buffoonery instead of calm and controlled.  I know a brilliant person, photographic memory, incredible mental ability, no people skills, no technical expertise, and there is great pride in not having these skills.  This person was promoted to the level of senior officer in the US military.  Who, during an inspection, wept uncontrollably when the plan went to pieces, machinery broke down, and the inspection failed.  This brilliant person could not speak to inferiors without an attitude of superiority cursing and reproach everyone and anyone.  Leaders, especially those placed in command through rank, must understand this communication principle and the power of this principle for good and ill.  Failure to communicate remains the sole variable upon which organizational cancer metastasizes into a full-blown case of organizational chaos leading to destruction (Dandira, 2012).

Rule 58:

Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for ‘tis a sign of tractable and commendable nature, and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern.

The above “rule” is a choice, rather two options.  The first choice is choosing to speak without malice and envy as a sign of your personal nature.  The second choice is to restrict passion.  Leaders only show emotion as a tool, not a weapon.  Conversation requires restricted passion to convey to the audience logic and confidence in the leader.

Rule 59:

Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules before your inferiors.

I used to think this was common sense, and then I met two Chief Petty Officers (CPO’s) in the US Navy and discovered that common sense is not very common.  These two CPO’s remarked upon everything they saw, verbally spewing whatever occurred between their two ears, and were always examples of what not to do and how not to act.  Feeling their rank and position secure, these CPO’s then punished those who did not act in their manner severely and those who replicated their actions were rewarded and protected from the consequences.  With the result being that the followers exceeded the examples displayed by the CPO’s with noticeable results for morale, good order, and discipline.

Rule 65:

Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor in earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.

I worked with a brilliant and incredible person who took a little time to learn and was very clumsy.  Once the topic being taught was then known, this individual knew that task and performed it in an exemplary manner.  Because of the clumsiness and time, it took to learn, this person was always the butt of his command’s jokes, jibes, insults, and was on every single petty detail possible, and performed those tasks poorly.  When respected, honest and sincerely praised, this person performed incredible feats.  The difference amazed and shocked his command and division, but did not silence these voices of derision to the detriment of the quality of work performed.  Did my friend give occasion to be laughed at, certainly!  Did he deserve to be laughed at, certainly not!  Leaders need to be doing better at controlling themselves and exemplifying the behaviors they desire to see in others.

Rule 67:

Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commanding.

While much of this rule can be considered to be part of Rule 65, detracting from others goes beyond verbal haranguing of Rule 65.  Detract is to reduce in value usually with the intent of making yourself larger.  Managers detract from their workers by taking credit for all the good and passing off all the blame.  Leaders attract the blame and detract the praise to the source.

The final aspect of this rule is necessary to understand, excessive commanding.  Commanding with excessive commands is nothing more than dominating in an authoritarian manner to the destruction of others.  Even commanding without excessive commands but with an attitude of domination can destroy.  Commanding well is an attitude of servitude coupled with a desire to build, grow, and develop people to meet their individual potential and doesn’t generally need commands, but always needs guidance or if you prefer, coaching.  Consider the life of a tree planted in good level ground.  The tree spends the first 10-15 years of life with a guide wire to help the tree grow straight.  Not a command and forced growth, but a guided growth into growing straight and true.  People are like the tree; the leader is like the guide wire, build people through guidance or coaching, not commands.

Rule 73:

Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

I was raised in a home where pronunciation and annunciation were as critical to speaking as spelling, grammar is to writing well, and the rules included proper and logical thinking, before speaking.  The process of communication is aided and abetted by properly pronouncing and announcing your words when speaking, after carefully thinking and crafting your desires into coherent thoughts.  In the US Army, I did not have trouble with my upbringing interfering with communication.  In the US Navy, I had nothing but problems with how I was raised interfering with communications.  One day, I spent 45-minutes being verbally upbraided by a second-class petty officer that choose to speak with no regard for the rules of the English Language, no understanding of grammar, and no logic, where Ebonics were displayed as a symbol of pride intended to confuse the receiver.  I was then referred to the CPO for not listening and being disrespectful.  I explained I could not understand what was being said and was told that my understanding of language is not his understanding of language and that I am in the wrong for not working harder to show empathy to a higher-ranking person.  Remember, the second-class petty officer chose, while on duty, to speak in a manner that intentionally could not be understood and always spoke in an understandable style when off duty.  If placed into a position of authority, managerial or leadership, that role comes the expectation of communication using logic, common rules of English pronunciation and annunciation, and proper grammar to ensure mutual understanding has the potential to be achieved.  When confusion in language occurs, it is the leaders, or managers, job to then rephrase and change language to meet the understanding of the listener.

These rules as mentioned form the bedrock upon which long and fruitful careers of leadership are built upon.  If weak in a particular rule, choose to obtain training and counsel in how to improve.  Find people exemplifying these rules and support them in their good works.  Train and develop those not employing these rules into better people, and our entire society improves.

References

Dandira, M. (2012). Dysfunctional leadership: Organizational cancer. Business Strategy Series, 13(4), 187-192. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17515631211246267

Washington, G. (2009). George Washington’s Rules of Civility (and decent behavior in company and conversation). Retrieved December 30, 2016, from http://www.digireads.com

© 2017 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

Organizational Contention – Or, Fostering the Case to Shift the Employment Paradigm

Medical doctors call any condition that progress slowly into advanced stages before manifesting itself openly a “silent killer.”  Organizational Contention (OC) is one of the deadly ‘silent killer’s’ rampant in business today.  Organizational contention can be as simple as when employees disagree with each other, or as complicated as when whole departments antagonize, hate, and actively work against each other.

Below are some examples of OC the author has knowledge of:

  1. A senior operations employee instigates a fight with a junior supply chain employee.  The senior employee picks up a metal rod and strikes the junior employee.  The resulting company investigation shows the junior employee at fault.  The junior employee leaves the company.  The contentious response of the senior employee will result in a repeat of this incident again.
  2. A manufacturing company whose labor union is so anathema to change that adding equipment to improve the manufacturing process almost initiates a strike.  A production supervisor added a fully anchored roll table to the output side of a machine.  The table sped up production 25% per part.  The owner averts the labor union’s strike.  The supervisor forced to apologize, the table removed, and the labor union fakes pacification until the next attempt to initiate change.  This animosity cycle to change repeats itself repetitively.
  3. A call center and business unit in one geographic area is despised by the other call centers and business units.  Actions initiated to show the value of the call center at fault is to no avail.  Enough employees at the other call centers and business units run down the other call center causing action by senior management to investigate the call center for possible closure.  The investigation uncovers that the call center is performing above company standard in all aspects measurable, the call center remains open, the dislike and discord continue unabated.
  4. A supervisor, to a fellow supervisor, describes a new employee as “unstable.”  Examples include “slamming papers down,” “scowling,” not making eye contact, and the supervisor invokes those action demanding words, “workplace violence,” to the other supervisor.  The second supervisor conditionally concurs based upon the reputation of the first supervisor; neither supervisor notifies human resources; no corroborating investigation occurs.  The second supervisor makes copies of the employee handbook, takes the offending employee aside, explains the observations, details the employee handbook sections applicable, all in an effort to “raise awareness.”  The employee expresses amazement that the first supervisor is receiving this perception and asks for specific instances, specific guidance, and situational training for the new corporate environment to “make the right first impression.”  No underlying causes, discussed in the meeting receive attention, no further training or guidance was received, and shortly after this incident, the employee was terminated.

Reality check, these are not fictitious examples.  Even in a down economy people remain people, organizational contention continues to cost valuable resources, and without significant change to organizational cultures the contention wins.  Even with massive interdiction changing the organizational culture, contention can still win.  Not all is without hope.  People do change, contention does lose, and the pressures feeding contentious responses mitigated.

At this point, some would argue for tougher business policies against employees on employee violence or human resources taking a more aggressive position regarding labor control and/or calling for more professionalism in the workplace towards other employees, ramping up existing or creating new incentive programs, etc.  The list is as endless as customizable solutions for specific incidents.  Others argue that since each organization is unique, unique solutions are required, that the one-size-fits-all or most approach will not be successful, that allowing people to express themselves is all fine and good within certain limits.

Change has come of age, essential and demanding change in thinking and actuality, for success in current market environments.  These former, unsuccessful arguments fail to address the core issues of individual employee responsibility, accountability, and organizational needs, to address organizational contention and foster safe working conditions.

Correcting organizational contention and fostering safe working environments do have a universal answer:  change the employment paradigm.  Traditional thinking on employees imply they “must be managed, controlled, and persuaded to act in a specific manner.”  Because the concept and reality of changing “employees” to “contractors,” specifically those choosing to affiliate with an organizational brand, prepares people to come fully equipped to work with a proper more prosperous mindset to do the job.  They do not need or want managing, controlling, and persuading.  As a result, organizational trust in people to make good decisions is realized when they have a stake in the organization that demands responsibility and accountability.

            Introduced in the article, “Shifting the Employment Paradigm,” are the support for the need of shifting and the reconstruction plan to shift.  This plan rectifies many of the diseases silently killing today’s business organizations through the process of ‘shifting the employment paradigm’ from traditional thinking to new and innovative levels of employee responsibility and accountability.  Employees are smarter, more engaged, and less needful of the expensive pampering traditional thinking forces upon organizations where employee relations are concerned.  It is time to make the change, shift the thinking, and reconstruct the business environment.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved