History in the Service of Victimhood

Dr. Thomas Sowell of Stanford’s Hoover Institution’s collection of essays, (2005,) discusses how history is being used to claim victimhood, rather than as a tool to move on:

Race and rhetoric have gone together for so long that it is easy to forget that facts also matter—and these facts often contradict many widely held beliefs. Fantasies and fallacies about racial and ethnic issues have had a particularly painful and deadly history, so exposing some of them is more than an academic exercise. The history of intergroup strife has been written in blood in many countries around the world and across centuries of human history.

The Ideal of Female Grace

Travel writer Rick Steves on how Venus de Milo’s well-proportioned body personified the balance and orderliness of the Greek universe:

Split Venus down the middle from nose to toes and see how the two halves balance each other. Venus rests on her right foot (that contrapposto pose so popular with classical sculptors.) She then lifts her left leg, setting her whole body in motion. It’s all perfectly realistic: As the left leg rises, her right shoulder droops down. And as her knee points one way, her head turns the other. Despite all this motion, the impression is one of stillness, as Venus orbits slowly around a vertical axis. The twisting pose gives a balanced S-curve to her body. The balance between fleeting motion and timeless stability made beauty.

Other opposites balance as well, like the smooth skin of the upper half of her body that sets off the rough-cut texture of her dress. She’s actually made from two different pieces of stone plugged together at the hips (you can see the seam.) The face, while realistic and anatomically accurate, is also idealized—like a goddess, she’s too generic and too perfect. This isn’t any particular woman, but Everywoman—all the idealized features that appealed to the Greeks.

Leadership in Four Short Sentences

Pascal Finette quotes an important leadership lesson from VISA’s Dee Hock:

Get Your PhD in Leadership in 30 Seconds

Dee Hock, architect of payment juggernaut VISA, inventor of chaordic organizations and visionary-extraordinaire once summarized his most important leadership advice as:

Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don’t do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.

It truly summarizes a PhD in leadership in four short sentences.

The next time you find yourself with a tough decision to make—take a deep breath and think about what you would like to happen if it were you on the other end.

Retailers Abusing Workers

Karin Klein in Los Angeles Times says that Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the only time to care about poorly paid and abused retail workers:

I’m no fan of the Thanksgiving shopping trend, but the outrage over holiday work hours seems like one of those easy hits, full of the symbolism that gets people posting on Facebook, talking boycott or calling for new work laws. Yes, the creep into this family and national tradition is a sad sign of greed, but it’s a smaller one than the really damaging effects of greed on low-wage retail workers all year long. Let’s not allow the easy outrage to distract us from the bigger picture.

How Leaders Overcome Adversity

Executive coach Ed Batista summarizes Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas’s Crucibles of Leadership:

A crucible is a vessel used in chemistry and metallurgy in which substances are transformed through the application of extreme heat and pressure. We can think of the current global crisis as a ‘crucible experience’—a chapter in our lives that will undoubtedly transform us, for better or for worse. In ‘Crucibles of Leadership’ Warren Bennis and his co-author Robert Thomas employ this metaphor as they explore the lives of leaders who went through such an experience, ‘a trial and a test, a point of deep self-reflection that forced them to question who they were and what mattered to them.’

Studying a number of leaders who overcame adversity in such circumstances allowed Bennis and Thomas to identify the four (five, really) characteristics identified above that these leaders shared.

Put Nature First

Sereno Sky writes in Lonely Traveller (2014,)

The beautiful and natural usually isn’t far away. Even if you happen to live in an ugly industrial or commercial city, it usually doesn’t take much to get out of town and show admiration to beautiful nature. Or you can plant cacti, all kinds of flowers, herbs and weeds right on your balcony. Put nature first, and your spiritual benefits will follow, and the universe will respond with gratitude.

Music Stars and Their Un-sexy Real Names

The Futility Closet notes,

  • David Bowie—David Robert Hayward Stenton Jones
  • Eric Clapton—Eric Patrick Clapp
  • Alice Cooper—Vincent Damon Furnier
  • Dido—Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong
  • Bob Dylan—Robert Alan Zimmerman
  • Jewel—Jewel Kilcher
  • Mama Cass—Ellen Naomi Cohen
  • Marilyn Manson—Brian Warner
  • Meat Loaf—Marvin Lee Aday
  • George Michael—Yorgos Panayiotou
  • Nelly—Carnell Haynes, Jr.
  • Lou Reed—Louis Firbank
  • Busta Rhymes—Trevor Tahiem Smith
  • Cliff Richard—Harry Webb
  • Sade—Helen Folasade Adu
  • Seal—Henry Olusegun Olumide Samuel
  • Gene Simmons—Chaim Witz
  • Cat Stevens—Steve Georgiou
  • Sly Stone—Sylvester Stewart
  • Ice T—Tracy Marrow
  • Randy Travis—Randy Bruce Traywick
  • Shania Twain—Eileen Regina Edwards
  • Frankie Valli—Frank Castelluccio
  • Eddie Vedder—Edward Louis Severson

Pragmatic Buddhism

Patricia Anderson writes in Spring 1999 issue of Tricycle, the Buddhist Magazine:

I became enamored of Buddhism when I realized its basic tenet began by saying, essentially, “Life sucks and then you die, so what’s that all about? This was the religion for me. This was a framework I could use to examine my actual experience. Far from the promise of pie-in-a-big-sky afterlife, this was about dealing with the fear that comes when you realize nothing is going to save your ass.”

Marvelous Healing in Wonder

Charlotte J. Beck, Everyday Zen: Love and Work:

Our only freedom is in knowing, from years of observation and experiencing, that all personally centered thoughts and emotions (and the actions born of them) are empty. They are empty; but if they are not seen as empty they can be harmful. When we realize this we can abandon them. When we do, very naturally we enter the space of wonder. This space of wonder—entering into heaven—opens when we are no longer caught up in ourselves: when no longer “It is I,” but “It is Thou.” I am all things when there is no barrier. This is the life of compassion, and none of us lives such a life all the time. In the eye-gazing practice, in which we meditate while facing another person, when we can put aside our personal emotions and thoughts and truly look into another’s eyes, we see the space of no-self. We see the wonder, and we see that this person is ourselves. This is marvelously healing, particularly for people in relationships who aren’t getting along. We see for a second what another person is: they are no-self, as we are no-self, and we are both the wonder.

Why You’ll Never Reach Your Potential

The American entrepreneur and investor Sam Altman writes on persistence and luck,

A big secret is that you can bend the world to your will a surprising percentage of the time—most people don’t even try, and just accept that things are the way that they are. People have an enormous capacity to make things happen. A combination of self-doubt, giving up too early, and not pushing hard enough prevents most people from ever reaching anywhere near their potential.